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Sussex home of forgotten author is discovered
The secret home of a cult gothic horror writer who outsold best friend Bram Stoker’s Dracula has been unearthed.
Prolific author Richard Marsh wrote 76 horror, crime and popular fiction novels, mostly from his Sussex home.
Masterpiece The Beetle and Stoker’s Dracula were subject to a wager between the men for the most popular book, with Marsh outselling Stoker for years.
But while the vampire tale became a Hollywood favourite, Marsh faded into obscurity by 1930.
After pain-staking detective work, Dr Graeme Pedlingham, of the University of Sussex, is hoping to bring Marsh’s other-worldly fables to a new audience.
The English tutor tracked down the writer’s home in Three Bridges, Crawley, after a trawl through the National Archives at Kew.
Marsh’s former large detached house has now been pinpointed to New Street in the town – then a tiny village known only for its railway station.
Dr Pedlingham said: “It was a bit of a needle in a haystack search so when I found the address it was difficult not to jump in the air and have a Eureka moment.
“About 100 years ago he would have been a household name. He was named
‘most popular living author’ in 1910 and in reviews he was compared to Charles Dickens.
“But in the late 1920s he’d disappeared and went out of publication. It’s only now that people are talking about him and there’s a buzz around him again.”
While The Beetle in 1887, about a shape-shifting bug taking revenge on an MP was bizarre, his personal life was just as strange.
Born Richard Heldmann, he had expensive habits and travelled Britain and France as a young man living fraudulently as an aristocrat.
When police caught up with him he was sentenced to 18 months’ hard labour, with prison and dual identities cropping up in his fiction.
Three Bridges became a setting for The Crime and the Criminal in 1887, with a murder committed in Tilgate Forest and the culprit fleeing to hide at the station.
He kept writing up until his death of heart disease in Haywards Heath, with a backlog of novels released for five years after his death.
A blue plaque has now been put up out- side his home.
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