Image of E. Phillips Oppenheim


Lifetime: 1866 - 1946 Passed: ≈ 78 years ago


Novelist, Writer



E. Phillips Oppenheim

Edward Phillips Oppenheim was an English novelist, a prolific writer of best-selling genre fiction, featuring glamorous characters, international intrigue and fast action. Notably easy to read, they were viewed as popular entertainments. He was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1927.

Edward Phillips Oppenheim was born 22 October 1866 in Tottenham, London, the son of Henrietta Susannah Temperley Budd and Edward John Oppenheim, a leather merchant. After attending Wyggeston Grammar School until the sixth form in 1883, his family's finances forced him to withdraw and he worked in his father's business for almost twenty years. His father subsidized the publication of his first novel, which proved just successful enough to break even. He published five of his novels between 1908 and 1912 under the pseudonym "Anthony Partridge".

Around 1900, Julien Stevens Ulman (1865–1920), a wealthy New York leather merchant who enjoyed Oppenheim's books, bought the leather works and made him a salaried director to support his writing career.

He quickly found a successful formula and established his reputation. In 1913, John Buchan, launching his career as a suspense novelist, called Oppenheim "my master in fiction" and "the greatest Jewish writer since Isaiah". As early as that year, his publishers were bringing out new editions of some of his earlier works to meet, in the words of one trade publication, "the insatiable demand of the public for more stories by him". It added: "Readers of the author's recent books will find these first stories of life sketches full of interest, their very crudeness being positively amusing in light of his present finished craftsmanship."

In 1892 Oppenheim married an American, Elise Clara Hopkins of Easthampton, Massachusetts. They lived in Evington, Leicestershire in what is now The Cedars pub until the First World War and had one daughter. During that war he worked for the Ministry of Information.

He described his method in 1922: "I create one more or less interesting personality, try to think of some dramatic situation in which he or she might be placed, and use that as the opening of a nebulous chain of events." He never used an outline: "My characters would resent it." When he needed villains for his diplomatic and political intrigues he drew on Prussian militarists and anarchists, enough for one reviewer to lament "the baldness of his propaganda". For example, in A People's Man (1915), a socialist discovers that his movement is secretly run by German spies.

An assessment that appeared in The New York Times upon his death said: "As he recalls in his pleasant and modest autobiography, all his books were easy to write. They were equally easy to read, especially on a summer vacation, when escapist literature is most welcome." He composed by dictating to a secretary and once produced seven works in a single year. His social set included the characters that populated his novels, where he created "a glamorous world of international intrigue, romance and plushy society galloping along in swift action and suspense". One academic study calls him "a talented entertainer".

Books by E. Phillips Oppenheim

The Curious Quest Cover image

The Curious Quest

Fiction Novel
Young Mystery Adventure Friendship Honesty Humorous Fiction

A rich young man, Earnest Bliss, has a number of physical complaints that bring him to Dr. James, a physician who bluntly and brusquely dismisses his complaints as the consequence of "eating, drinking, and making merry." His only Rx is to challenge E...

The Box with the Broken Seals Cover image

The Box with the Broken Seals

Crime Fiction Novel
Mystery Intelligence Thriller Deception Suspense Betrayal Dangerous Secret Twists Intriguing

Originally published in 1919, this captivating story has stood the test of time and continues to captivate readers with its gripping narrative. The book follows the life of an ordinary man named Stanley Lashbrook who unexpectedly finds himself entang...

The Black Box Cover image

The Black Box

Action Crime Fiction Novel
Detective Mystery Thriller Struggle Suspense Espionage political Betrayal Secret Twists Curiosity

Created a technological marvel—an impenetrable black box with the power to change the course of nations. Its contents are shrouded in mystery, its purpose known only to a select few. As rumors spread and various factions vie for control, the world te...

The Double Life Of Mr. Alfred Burton Cover image

The Double Life Of Mr. Alfred Burton

Fiction Novel
Marriage Murder Mystery Death Revenge Deception Suspense Determination Life Greed Fantasy

Mr. Alfred Burton is a respectable businessman with a seemingly ordinary life. But when he is found dead in his office, it becomes clear that he was leading a double life. The Double Life of Mr. Alfred Burton is a mystery novel by E. Phillips Oppenh...