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Gaston Leroux - The Creator Of The Phantom Of The Opera

Born in 1868 - six years before the New Paris Opera was completed - Gaston Leroux had a colourful life. If his account is to be believed he was "a lawyer, a legal chronicler, stage critic, writer on hygiene, dramatist, newspaper correspondant, globe-trotter and novelist". His travels took him from Finland in the north to Morocco, and from England to the Caspian Sea. According to Leroux, he faced death no fewer than twenty times whilst in Morocco, disguised as an Arab! Inventiveness was his hallmark, as a journalist no less than in his fictional writings. Sent to interview Joseph Chamberlain during the gloomiest days of the South African war, Leroux managed to gain access not only to Chamberlain's house in Birmingham, but even to penetrate the Colonel Minister's private study. His audacity, however, was not rewarded; he was thrown out.

Undaunted, he submitted to his paper a three-column article: HOW I FAILED TO INTERVIEW CHAMBERLAIN which was not only printed, but is regarded to this day as "a little masterpiece of good humour and wit".

He began writing fiction (although it should be noted that Leroux inists, in his introduction to the book, that PHANTOM OF THE OPERA is NOT fiction...) around 1900. Notwithstanding the enormous popularity of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA, his literary reputation rests mainly on a short series of detective stories featuring his creation Joseph Rouletabille which have been called "among the finest examples of detective stories we possess". The innovative first in the series, LE MYSTERE DE CHAMBRE JAUNE, has "seldom been surpassed in the genre for plot manipulation and ratiocination". Although now comparatively rare in English, most of Leroux's major writings are still in print - in paperback - in his native France to this day, over half a century after his death in 1927. But in the English-speaking world there is no doubt that his most enduring creation is THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. Republished as recently as 1975 by Sphere Books (in their "Dennis Wheatly Library of The Occult"), it has been staged many times and no fewer than three full-length feature films have been made.