William F. Deeck

EDGAR WALLACE – The Green Archer. Hodder & Stoughton, UK, hardcover, 1923. Small, US, hardcover, 1924. Reprint editions include: W. W. Norton, US, hardcover, 1965, revised edition for The Seagull Library of Mystery and Suspense. Serialized in 14 parts in The Detective Magazine, UK, 20 July 1923 through 18 January 1924. Silent film: Pathe, 1926. Sound film: Columbia, 1940 (Victor Jory, Iris Meredith).

   Briefly, which is the kindest way to treat this work, The Daily Globe receives word that the Green Archer of Garre Castle, hanged in 1487, is back again haunting the castle. The castle’s owner, Abe Bellamy, late of Chicago and one of the world’s worst (in more senses than one) villains, wants no investigation of the haunt’s return.

   Bellamy, the author says, never has spent a night away from the castle since he bought it. This is contradicted in the first part of the book, but never mind. The first victim of the Archer, killed by an arrow somewhere in his waistcoat, is a man who had recently had a quarrel with Bellamy. The body is found by Spike Holland, an American reporter who is working for The Daily Globe:

    “Spike knelt down at the dead man’s side and sought for some sign of life…” Sure. Spike turns over to the police a second green arrow that he finds at the scene of the crime, although the author doesn’t tell us how or where he found it. But don’t worry; it has nothing to do with anything.

   James Lamotte Featherstone is the Scotland Yard man — a captain, if the Yard has such things — who investigates Bellamy. He becomes involved after he is hired by a millionaire to keep an eye on his daughter. If that strikes you as odd, you’re definitely not going to enjoy this book, because it is replete with such oddities.

   Bellamy gets his just desserts, but not because of Featherstone, who, you will not be surprised to hear, gets the girl whose body he was guarding. Featherstone is vigorous but lack-witted. The same can be said for the heroine. They deserve each other.

   The purpose of the Seagull Library of Mystery and Suspense was to “restore to print hardcover editions of famous favorites and classics regarded by connoisseurs as indispensable collectors’ items… P.G. Wodehouse once said that nine hundred of every thousand books by Wallace were worth the money. Why did the publishers have to select one of the other hundred to reprint?

— Reprinted from The MYSTERY FANcier, Vol. 9, No. 6, November-December 1987.