Le Queux, William

Tagged: Author

(1864-1927) UK journalist and author (his father was French), active contributor to newspapers from the mid-1880s, and author of over 200 books in a variety of genres. Most of his most popular works were espionage thrillers in the vein of E Phillips Oppenheim – a notorious confabulator, he claimed, unconvincingly, to be a spy himself – and detective novels, often with oriental colouring, beginning with Guilty Bonds (1890), about Russian nihilists. He wrote several Lost Race titles – including The Eye of Istar: A Romance of the Land of No Return (1897) and The Veiled Man: Being an Account of the Risks and Adventures of Sid Ahamadou, Sheikh of the Azjar Marauders of the Great Sahara (coll of linked stories 1899), in parts of which the adventurous Ahamadou discovers a fierce culture Underground – all very much in the vein of H Rider Haggard, with some immediate but no lasting success, and a number of romances, like Stolen Souls (1895), whose generic definition shifts between suspense and the occult.

He is best remembered today for his two Future-War/Invasion novels: The Great War in England in 1897 (December 1893-2 June 1894 Answers as "The Poisoned Bullet"; 1894) and The Invasion of 1910: With a Full Account of the Siege of London (14 March-4 July 1906 Daily Mail; 1906; cut vt The Invasion 1910), the latter written with the anon collaboration of H W Wilson (Herbert Wrigley Wilson, 1866-1940). Both books aroused considerable stir, particularly the latter, with its letter of commendation from the distinguished soldier and statesman Lord Roberts (1832-1914), who shared Le Queux's anti-German views (and collaborated with him on two nonfiction dreadful-warning books, The Great War [1908] and Spies of the Kaiser [1909]). Though both novels were told with every trick Le Queux had acquired in his years of journalism, and though the latter is replete with diagrams of the threatened invasion from Germany, the ultimate effect of each book is of a laboured turgidity of effect. Le Queux persistently utilized Germany as the opponent in his work, as in tales like Number 70 Berlin: A Story of Britain's Peril (1916) or The Zeppelin Destroyer: Being Some Chapters of Secret History (2016), in which the Invention of a Ray Gun makes it possible to destroy the dread Airships; even after World War One, during which he "served" as an amateur spy detector, and which served as the occasion for his greatest pomp as a scaremonger, stories like The Terror of the Air (1920) attempt to present a world in constant danger of Teutonic aggression.

Novels that eschew Germany as a target hint similarly, all the same, at external threats. England's Peril (1899) is fundamentally an espionage thriller, with warnings; The Unknown Tomorrow: How the Rich Fared at the Hands of the Poor, Together with a Full Account of the Social Revolution in England (3 July-9 October 1909 Black and White as "The Red Rage"; 1910), typical of his later work, also portrays any hint of Near Future social change in lurid hues. The sf of Le Queux's last years is generally routine, though a few titles – like "Cinders" of Harley Street [for subtitle see Checklist] (coll of linked stories 1916), featuring a doctor with Psi Powers; or The Rainbow Mystery (coll of linked stories 1917), about a conspiracy to gain world dominance; or The Gay Triangle (1922), which features a car with collapsible wings (see Inventions) – aspire fitfully to intrigue. He is fundamentally a figure of pre-World War One interest. [JC]

see also: Dystopias; Weapons.

William Tufnell Le Queux

born London: 2 July 1864

died Knocke, Belgium: 13 October 1927

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