Monday, October 22, 2007

Happy birthday to the "Prince of Storytellers."

E. Phillips Oppenheim, often called the father of the thriller and "the Prince of Storytellers," was born today in 1866. He wrote 150 novels, starting off in 1887 with Expiation, and inspired fellow writer John Buchan. His immense success with works that combined espionage, romance, and mystery supported a luxurious lifestyle on the Riviera.

According to Michael Korda's Making the List, Oppenheim first hit the U.S. bestseller list in 1918 with The Pawns Count. His best known work is probably The Great Impersonation (1920), in which the reader is uncertain if the main character is a nasty enemy spy or a good guy until the end. His detective works include The Cinema Murder (1917); Nicholas Goade, Detective (1927); General Besserley's Puzzle Box (1935); Advice Limited, featuring sleuthing baroness Clara Linz (1935); and Curious Happenings to the Rooke Legatees (1937). I liked The Adventures of Joseph P. Cray (1925), in which the ex-YMCA volunteer Cray confronts and usually bests con artists and World War I profiteers. Oppenheim died in 1946.

The Great Impersonation was filmed in 1935 and 1942 and dramatized for radio in 1949. Go here to see a list of films of other Oppenheim works. Secrets and Sovereigns, a collection of Oppenheim's lively short stories, is available from Stark House Press.

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