Edgar Wallace's Plot Wheel


Android Futureman
Aug 7, 2002
Has anybody ever seen one of these? From a Stephen King interview:

Question: Do you ever use any of these new software for making up characters or plots? Do you think these story writing softwares take away from the imaginative process?

Stephen King: Nah. Plot software is just a high-tech version of Edgar Wallace's plot-wheel, invented in the '20s. I use what comes out of my head, or what I see happening around me.


It sounds like it would be interesting to see what the creative process of an early pulp writer would be like.... here's an Edgar Wallace page:

Just found a much better site on Edgar Wallace, devoted to the German slasher films made off his books in the 50's-60's era, many with Klaus Kinski:


Edgar Wallace (1875-1932) was one of the most popular authors of the 20th Century. He wrote a prodigious amount of criminal thrillers, written at a rapid pace (some started and finished in just a weekend!). Understandably, film producers took an early interest in his novels, and Wallace himself, fascinated by the new medium, became a director and screenwriter.

As an author of international repute, his books were popular in Germany in the 1920s onward, though banned during the Nazi years. Germany had already begun filming Wallace titles in 1927, but the Nazi era stopped any further production of such films. In 1959, inspired by the British Wallace film THE RINGER (1952), Preben Philipsen A/S and Rialto Film began making their first Edgar Wallace film, DER FROSCH MIT DER MASKE, based on Wallace's THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE FROG (1925). The German Edgar Wallace "krimi" was born. (A criminal or mystery thriller is called "krimi" in Germany.) Soon a familiar cadre of actors was inhabiting the Wallace krimi world: Joachim Fuchsberger, Heinz Drache, Siegfried Schurenberg, Siegfried Lowitz, Eddi Arent (providing comic relief), and that lovable maniac Klaus Kinski, best known to American audiences for his many films outside of the krimi genre. The jazzy, innovative music, provided by such composers as Martin Bottcher and Peter Thomas, added a contemporary hipness to stylish updates of stories decades old. It is these series of Rialto films, and a couple of other films made at the same time but from different producers, that represent "The German Edgar Wallace Films," and not any productions made in the 1920s or after the early 1970s.

Because of their national and international popularity, the Wallace krimis had many imitations, some involving Wallace's son, Bryan Edgar Wallace. In articles, online sites, discussions, and video catalogs, the Bryan Edgar Wallace krimis are frequently mistaken for films based on his father's work.

There was a substantial quotient of chilling and gruesome elements in many of these krimis, and it's not surprising that several were promoted in other countries as horror films, a sales pitch likewise used in the distribution of the Dr. Mabuse films, which shared stylistic elements and certain filmmaking talent with the Wallace thrillers. By the 1970s, the Wallace films began to merge with Italian thrillers (gialli), which clearly sought inspiration from their earlier German counterparts. Soon thereafter, the German Wallaces disappeared, done in, partially, by the competitive high production rate and unrepentant exploitation of the Italian filmmaking business.

Almost all of the German Wallace films were made available in English-dubbed versions for American audiences. Though a few saw theatrical exhibition, most were first seen on American television in the late 1960s and early 1970s, pruned of any nudity and a few distinctive elements, such as the typical introductory credit sequence of gunshots and a voiceover announcing, "Hallo, hier spricht Edgar Wallace! (Hello, this is Edgar Wallace speaking!)" Subsequently, public domain video companies released these edited films on video, sourced from 16mm elements, which did not do the films justice, but which at least kept a watchful flame burning for these important films. Germany has already released a fine video series of these films, and is beginning a superior DVD presentation. Unfortunately, all these have been presented without English-subtitles and, of course, in the European PAL format. Fortunately, American DVD releases of a few of these Wallace krimis loom in the distance, either as announced projects or speculation.
There was a comedy film in Germany recently which is a pastiche of all the Edgar Wallace, it was called der Wixxer (the Wanker) and was quite funny, with some rather obscene English surnames for the characters and a butler with a toothbrush moustache and side parting called Hattler.
It's funny, until you mentioned it, I had forgotten all about The Plot Wheel. I can't remember where I first heard mention of it (though I don't think it was ever attributed to Edgar Wallace.) I made mention of this to my creative writing professor at university (some ten years ago now) and he had never heard of it, either (which is a little surprising, in retrospect, as he was very much into the writers of that era.)

Great. Another 'Grail Quest' rekindled. Another item to hunt for on E-bay. :)


P. S. Thinking about it, I want to say it was in Orson Scott Card's 'How to Write Science Fiction' or something like that, that I may have first heard mention of it. I'm sure it was in a 'How to Write' book, at any rate.