Monday 6 July 2020

If You Can Walk With Kings by David Ian Chapman

Chapman David Ian - AbeBooks

William Le Queux was a famous name in his day, a bestseller whose influence extended far beyond his readers. It may be argued that his warnings about the threat of invasion in the period leading up the First World War was of great benefit and may have led, at least indirectly, to the creation of the modern British secret service. For most of the past century, however, his reputation has been in serious and sustained decline.

David Ian Chapman has set out a revisionist view in If You Can Walk With Kings: a view of William Le Queux, seeking to put forward a more balanced assessment of a writer and public figure who was undoubtedly a talented entertainer. Like many writers, he lived a great deal in his imagination, and his liking for fiction extended to accounts of his own life. I've never, for instance, found his account of an encounter with Dr Crippen plausible, and David Chapman doesn't cover it in this book, perhaps for that reason.

But he does cover a great deal, and in an accessible style. The text is supplemented with illustrations, some of them in full colour, as well as extensive quotations from Le Queux's correspondence. A good deal of painstaking research has gone into this book, but even more importantly, David Chapman has thought carefully about his subject, and has avoided the trap of simply repeating the standard criticisms of Le Queux.

At the same time, he doesn't overlook the man's faults. Le Queux's personal life was complicated,and although he made a great deal of money, he also spent extravagantly. As a result, he was declared bankrupt. He is best-remembered as a leading proponent of "invasion fiction", but as this book explains, he was highly prolific and wrote detective fiction as well as thrillers. I found this a very interesting and readable study, a nicely produced paperback from Janus Publishing which first came out four years ago.

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