The Returning Officer

Book club

In 1892, Anthony Hope (Hawkins), author of The Prisoner of Zenda, failed to be elected as a Liberal for South Bucks. Unfortunately his publishing success did not come until 1894.

Despite having published his best known works (such as King Solomon's Mines) and standing in his native county at East Norfolk, Henry Rider Haggard failed to win election as a Tory at the 1895 election. Arthur Conan Doyle was probably the country's best- known author when he stood as the Liberal Unionist candidate for Edinburgh Central in 1900, but he still lost. He tried again at Hawick Burghs in 1906 but was defeated for a second time.

Edgar Wallace's The Four Just Men (1905) describes a group who threaten to kill the home secretary if he passes legislation that would endanger British agents. By 1931 he had enjoyed huge success and stood as a Liberal in Blackpool. He lost by 33,000 votes. The following year he wrote the screenplay that became King Kong.

This article first appeared in the 31 May 2010 issue of the New Statesman, The war on the veil