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Radical Reactionary

The Politics of William Le Queux

Harry Wood

Abstract

This article provides a detailed examination of the politics of William Le Queux. It argues that he is best understood as a product of the Edwardian radical right. Firstly, through exploring the politics of pre-1914 invasion anxieties and invasion-scare fiction, the article will question the idea that such literature was fundamentally Tory in quality. Instead, this emerging genre of popular fiction will be placed to the right of Edwardian Conservatism. Approaching Le Queux through his position as the most prominent author of British invasion literature at this time, the article will re-examine the available biographical evidence, highlighting the challenges scholars face in pinpointing his political leanings. Le Queux's numerous invasion-scare novels will be interpreted through the disparate ideas of the radical right. Although Le Queux's writing had little intellectual influence on radical right thinking in Britain, his novels provided this developing ideology with a prominent popular platform.

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Introduction

‘William Le Queux, Master of Misinformation’

Ailise Bulfin and Harry Wood

Abstract

The Introduction prefaces a double special issue of Critical Survey examining the work of controversial popular author, journalist and amateur spy William Le Queux from 1880 to 1920. Known as the ‘master of mystery’, Le Queux was prominent in transmitting exaggerated fears about British national security before, during and after the First World War. The Introduction provides a historical and literary framework for the special issue and outlines its central premises: that cultural production in Le Queux's era was intimately connected with contemporary socio-political forces; that this relationship was well understood by authors such as Le Queux, and often exploited for propagandist purposes; and that the resulting literary efforts were sometimes successful in influencing public opinion. The Introduction also outlines the overall finding that Le Queux's work tended to distort his subject matter, misinform his readership, and blur the lines between fact and fiction in pursuit of his defencist agenda.