Pint-Sized Sex Symbol Thrills between the Covers

Daily Mail (London), May 18, 2012 | Go to article overview

Pint-Sized Sex Symbol Thrills between the Covers


Byline: CHRISTOPHER HUDSON

WILKIE COLLINS

by Peter Ackroyd (Out now, [euro]15.99)

WHY is it that short men are so attractive to women? '

Examples range from the late Dudley Moore to Nicolas Sarkozy, but a man who also comes to mind is Wilkie Collins, the brilliant author of The Woman In White and of The Moonstone, one of the very first detective novels.

Happily, Collins did not have a Napoleon complex to match.

He was genial and good-natured, with tiny feet, a broad body and a large head on which were perched gold-rimmed spectacles.

All his life he was interested in deformity and it often appeared in his novels. Born in 1824, Collins loved women and women loved him back. Ackroyd thinks he lost his virginity at the age of 13 when he sneaked off during a family trip to Rome. Fifty years later he was still admiring bottoms, says Ackroyd fondly, and his admiration of women shines through in many of his stories.

In Collins' time no such thing as a thriller existed. A good book was a thrilling experience in itself. What Wilkie Collins did was to make it a genre, transfixing his readers with the ingenuity of his plots.

He had briefly enrolled as a student at law school, and his calm, almost legalistic prose could make the most terrifying stories appear possible. Sensational tales were what the public wanted.

As the press at the time bewailed, they were devoted to 'Harrowing the Mind, Making the Flesh Creep, Causing the Hair to stand on End, Giving Shocks To The Nervous System, and generally destroying the Conventional Moralities. …

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