Belgian Georges Simenon published over 200 novels and almost as many novellas. Best known for his books about Paris flic Jules Maigret, at one stage of his career Simenon used to rent a houseboat on the Seine, have himself thoroughly checked by his doctor, load up on coffee and Benzedrine, and write a book in 48 hours.
English writer Edgar Wallace wrote 175 novels as well as plays and screenplays. He dictated his work into a recording machine. At some points in the 1900s Wallace produced as many as eight books a year. He was so prolific that an English newspaper published a cartoon depicting a railway-station bookstall-owner offering a customer a volume and saying, ‘Have you read the midday Wallace?’
Alan Yates, who published as Peter Carter Brown and later as Carter Brown, wrote pulp paperbacks that sold millions of copies worldwide. The precise number of books he wrote cannot be determined, because some books written by others appeared under his name, but it might have been 300. His mysteries were set in fictionalised American locations and had titles like Murder is My Mistress and Kiss Me Deadly.
A Carter Brown book typically featured a busty blonde on the cover or a smoking gun or both, and followed a tried and tested formula. Critic Stephen Knight interviewed Yates in London and found him puzzling about how to resolve a plot: he claimed to be stuck. Knight later read the book and found that the matter had been resolved in precisely the same manner as in dozens of other Carter Brown books.
But these big producers are dwarfed by English writer John Creasey, who published more than 600 novels. He did not start writing until he was in his thirties and died at 65. Remarkably, he was also active in British politics. He contested several elections, first as a Liberal and later as an Independent.
Creasey wrote under a multiplicity of pseudonyms and his bibliography in John M Reilly’s Twentieth Century Crime and Mystery Writers runs to sixteen closely printed pages. He had numerous serial characters. As a kid, I read and enjoyed books in his lightweight ‘Baron’ and ‘Toff’ series. Later I read several of his Chief Inspector Gideon novels, which were more substantial and competent police-procedurals.
Another popular serial character was Inspector Roger West, on whom a long- running radio serial was based. I enjoyed the serial when young and later, out of curiosity, read a Roger West novel set in Sydney. It was thin in every respect and the attempt at capturing the Australian idiom was lamentably bad.
As far as I know there is no biography of Creasey and the few short articles on him I’ve read fail to explain how he could write so much. It would be nice to know.