Edgar Wallace is an interesting guy whose works turn up in places you might not expect, and I've been meaning to try to get into at least a few of his books. As I had a trip recently, I loaded the audiobook of the promisingly-titled The Angel of Terror from LibriVox onto my phone, and managed to listen to the first ten chapters or so, and the last two chapters, having fallen asleep through the middle portion of the book.
This was not the book's, nor the reader's, fault: I was dead tired, and simply put it on as company, or background noise. So the fact that I made it through a quarter of the book before nodding off could be seen as a credit to the story.
Wallace, if you go by his Wikipedia entry, was somewhat famous for dashing off novels in three days. Well, not actually "dashing", he used a dictation machine, and other people typed them up. And apparently, the books he did quickly have more energy and fun in them than the ones he took his time with. So I'm going to guess that this was one of the quick ones, because while any given part of it is creaky, the story breezes right along, the characters don't stop long enough for you to realize how thin or trope-y they are, and the parts that I recall, while in no sense believable or realistic, were enjoyable.
It is interesting that this might be the first book with the spider-woman trope that hard-boiled American detective fiction made such use of. The titular angel is beautiful, to the point that people looking at her cannot imagine her having any negative qualities whatsoever, and she is just utterly evil. Wallace may have been only slightly ahead of the curve on this (Hammett and Chandler were working on Black Mask magazine right around the same time, perhaps a bit later), but first is first.
In fact, given the sometimes absurd situations, and the sheer force of nature quality of the main antagonist, I'm a little surprised that Jess Franco, who made something like half a dozen "adaptations" of Wallace's writings, and possibly more, never used this novel as the source for one of his films. It would seem to have the elements that appealed to him, with room for his typical injections of sleaze and nudity. Perhaps he never knew of this book. But the spider-woman character is one you can easily imagine being played by Soledad Miranda or Lina Romay or Brigitte Lahaie or a number of other actresses who worked with Franco regularly and delivered performances far better than normies expect from low-budget, quickly-produced exploitation.
The audiobook version is interesting. LibriVox audiobooks are all done by volunteers, and this means the quality can be wildly variant from others. The reader did a good job, but... well, the book is set in England, and has English stereotypes as some of its characters. And the reader is very Southern, and poured on the Southern accent for the most stereotypically English of the characters. I can't say that's a bad thing, because it was very interesting to me as I was listening. But it was definitely very strange.
At some point, when I have time, I need to go back and listen to or read the entire thing.
Sometime after I first embarked on this somewhat demented quest to bring public domain pulp and genre fiction back into "print" in ebook editions that are reasonably proofread, I came across the advert posted below. It was in several issues of Picture-Play Magazine, a Hollywood promotional rag of the 1920s. I'm not even entirely sure why I was going through it. Research for something, possibly related to production of "race films" on the west coast. Or possibly something else.
Anyway, something about this ad nagged at me, and probably several things all at once. First of all, "Popular Copyrights" is just a terrible name for a line of books ("oooooh, I just love that copyright!" ), but knowing the initial purpose of Chelsea House (which I'll get to), it makes some sense in a 1920s sort of a way.
Then there was the fact that one of the authors (with only one book, oddly) was William Wallace Cook, who wrote the very interesting "how to write" guide The Fiction Factory (https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/47455 ) , which ...
So the other book I read a big chunk of on recent journeys was the first Star Wars Expanded Universe novel. I've never read any Expanded Universe books, not because I'm a snob about media tie-in fiction (plenty of writers I like and respect do them, and I know full well they put as much effort into them as into their own IP), but simply because at the time I was not looking for that kind of fiction at all. I was exploring Dostoevsky, for example.
However, it recently came to my attention that one of my favorite under-famous authors, K.W. Jeter, wrote the Bounty Hunter Wars trilogy, and I figured, well, the Star Wars Fandom is so rabid about Zahn's trilogy (and Zahn is definitely a good writer) that I should give it a shot before I explored any nooks or crannies of the EU.
It's going to sound like I was disappointed with it, and that's not really true. But what is true is that the most interesting parts of it for me were the parts that didn't quite work, or else showed me clearly that Zahn was struggling ...