Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Irving Wallace, Jeremy Beadle, Sex and Death

Born on this day in 1916 was the megaselling American writer Irving Wallace. I don't think any of his novels ever crossed my path, even in the days when I would read anything that came to hand, but from what I can gather, he seems to have found a highly successful formula: underdog story, diligent factual research, liberal spicing of sex - how could it fail? And there's a curious dash of prescience in one of his novels, The Man, in which a black man becomes President - however, this is only as the result of a freakish cluster of deaths, and the unfortunate President is soon targeted by white racists and black activists alike, ends up being impeached on false charges, and understandably decides against standing for re-election. Not quite a prerun of Obama then...
Later in his career, Wallace's writing developed into something of a cottage industry, with his wife and sons joining in. They produced three editions of The People's Almanac - which I do remember, a wonderfully eccentric collection of out-of-the-way facts and lists that was actually a useful and browsable reference book in its day (I wish I still had my copy) - and three editions of The Book of Lists. Wallace was a pioneer listomaniac and The Book of Lists did much to fuel the craze in the Seventies. In the course of his researches, he advertised in the London Times for listomamiacs to declare themselves, and among those who responded - with the best lists of all, Wallace reckoned - was TV prankster and fact magnet Jeremy Beadle. He and Wallace had long telephone conversations, and Beadle became London editor of The People's Almanac 2. He was the biggest contributor to the Sex and Death chapter in the Book of Lists, and also helped the Wallaces with another publication, The Intimate Sex Lives of Famous People, which drew heavily on Beadle's extensive library of erotica. At which point, I think we'd better let the curtain fall... 


  1. I knew little or nothing of the prankster Beadle until one of my sons started 'stepping out' with his daughter Bonnie - in fact they are still together. What it gave me, one afternoon last year, was the opportunity to explore one of the biggest collection of books I had ever seen in private hands - all meticulously catalogued and filed. His widow kindly invited me to 'take what I wanted', but although I had in fact arrived in a van, good manners determined that I just removed a few volumes. I learned a few weeks later that truck-loads had been taken away for a song. Sad, but who wants books these days? You Nige, and me - and the bloke who lives at number 13. Can't think of anybody else.

  2. Good Lord Mahlerman! I'm tempted to say, small world. Shame you didn't avail yourself of more from the Bibliotecha Beadleana...

  3. Hmmm....it felt good that I resisted the cult of 'more' - it is what(among other things)steers me away from Kindles(ten-thousand books a click away)and toward paper. I don't want ten-thousand books. I want one book, made from a tree somewhere, in my hand, complete with coffee stains and the odd tram-ticket to use as a bookmark. Am I asking too much?

  4. Quite right, MM - it really is possible to have too many books.

  5. The memory of a favourite book i have often found to be better than the book itself.....same with places...

  6. https://community.ebay.com/t5/Shipping-Returns/%D8%B4%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A7%D8%AA-%D9%86%D9%82%D9%84-%D8%B9%D9%81%D8%B4-%D9%88%D8%A7%D8%AB%D8%A7%D8%AB-%D8%A8%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%85%D9%84%D9%83%D8%A9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AA%D8%AD%D8%AF%D8%A9/qaq-p/26768794#M143546