Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mr J.G. Reeder of Brockley

Mr J.G. Reeder is the private detective hero of a number of stories by the phenomenally popular inter-war novelist Edgar Wallace. Reeder is an expert in financial crime who proclaims himself to 'have the mind of a criminal', all the better to move through the murky underworld of 1920s London.

Perhaps of most interest to Transpontine readers, he lives on Brockley Road. In fact the fictional location can be narrowed down further, as we are told that from the window of his home, the Daffodil House, 'he regarded a section of the Lewisham High Road and as much of Tanners Hill as can be seen before it dips past the railway bridge into sheer Deptford'.

J.G. Reeder is a fan of 'transpontine drama' no less, liking nothing more than a melodrama where 'to the thrill of the actors' speeches was added the amazing action of wrecked railway trains, hair raising shipwrecks and terrific horse-races'.

He is also enamoured of his Brockley neighbour, Miss Margaret Belman who he treats to a guided tour of South London: 'They crossed Westminster Bridge and bore left to the New Kent Road. Through the rain-blurred windows J. G. picked up the familiar landmarks and offered a running commentary upon them in the manner of a guide. Margaret had not realised before that history was made in South London. "There used to be a gibbet here-this ugly-looking goods station was the London terminus of the first rail­ways- Queen Alexandra drove from there when she came to be married - the thoroughfare on the right after we pass the Canal bridge is curiously named Bird-in-Bush Road..."'.

As for the neighbourhood, 'if there is one place in the world which is highly respectable and free from the footpads which infest wealthier neighbourhoods, it is Brockley Road'.

Edgar Wallace knew the area well. He was born in Greenwich (at 7 Ashburnham Grove) in 1875 as the child of an unmarried actress Pollie Richards, and then brought up by adoptive parents in Deptford. There is an Edgar Wallace Close in Peckham, where he went to school. He was one of the creators of the King Kong story.

All quotes from The Mind of J.G. Reeder (1925). There is also a second collection of stories, Mr J.G. Reeder Returns, which I haven't read. The Mind of... was made into a film in 1939, as well as as a 1960s TV series.


David said...

"Unmarried actress" ... what a wonderful use of the biographical euphemism.

Steve Grindlay said...

You don't mention it, so perhaps I should... Edgar Wallace actually lived in Brockley, at 6 Tresillian Crescent where the is a plaque (a Lewisham Council one, I believe) recording this fact. And, of course, JG Reeder must actually have lived at the Deptford end of Upper Brockley Road.

Transpontine said...

Thanks Steve, must admit I didn't know about the Tresillian Crescent plaque. He and his adoptive family also lived in Norway Court in Deptford (Creek Road area).