BBC Radio 7, 18 June 2009
This Edgar Wallace story, read by David Horovitch, evoked a class-conscious Britain
of the late 1920s, in which villains were truly villainous and anyone lacking true breeding had to be treated with suspicion.
A best-selliing author in his day, Wallace had genuine popular appeal. Partly this
was due to his unique grasp of mass literary tastes; his stage thriller On the Spot premiered in London at a time
when Chicago gangsters monopolized the headlines on both sides of the Atlantic. Charles Laughton played the leading role
to great acclaim; the play was later filmed. Wallace embarked on a Hollywood career soon afterwards with less success, but
he did collaborate on the screenplay for the original King Kong (1933).
The eponymous hero of The Mind of Mr. J.G.Reeder pursues a humdrum
existence in a large company, but possesses both the clarity of judgment and the steeliness of will to solve the most complex
mysteries. Less ostentatious than Sherlock Holmes, lacking the aristocratic bearing of Dorothy L.Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey,
or the insouciance of Margery Allingham's Campion, Reeder is the middle-class hero par excellence. In The Troupe
Reeder was on the trail of an American conman/actor who devised an elaborate scheme to fleece the English aristocrat Bertie-Claude
of his wealth. The story revolved around a series of stereotyped premises: Americans are mostly money-obsessed,
ever willing to sacrifice their integrity in pursuit of a quick buck, while English aristocrats are basically air-headed.
It is left to the practical middle-class intellect of Reeder to ensure that everything turns out fine in the end.
Given the amorphous nature of today's middle class (which encompasses both the members
of the professions and the nouveaux riches beneficiaries of the Thatcher and Blair eras), I am not sure that The
Mind of Mr. J.G.Reeder would have too much appeal to contemporary listeners, except as a period-piece, an evocation of
a time when everyone knew their place in society. The story was adapted for radio by Neville Teller.