William Tufnell Le Queux[a] (2 July 1864 - 13 October 1927) was an Anglo-French journalist and writer. He was also a diplomat (honorary consul for San Marino), a traveller (in Europe, the Balkans and North Africa), a flying buff who officiated at the first British air meeting at Doncaster in 1909, and a wireless pioneer who broadcast music from his own station long before radio was generally available; his claims regarding his own abilities and exploits, however, were usually exaggerated. His best-known works are the anti-French and anti-Russian invasion fantasy The Great War in England in 1897 (1894) and the anti-German invasion fantasy The Invasion of 1910 (1906), the latter of which was a phenomenal bestseller.
Le Queux was born in London. His father was a French draper's assistant and his mother was English. He was educated in Europe and studied art under Ignazio (or Ignace) Spiridon in Paris. He carried out a foot tour of Europe as a young man before supporting himself writing for French newspapers. In the late 1880s he returned to London where he edited the magazines Gossip and Piccadilly before joining the staff of The Globe as a parliamentary reporter in 1891. In 1893 he abandoned journalism to concentrate on writing and travelling.
His partial French ancestry did not prevent him from depicting France and the French as the villains in works of the 1890s, though later he assigned this role to Germany.
Le Queux mainly wrote in the genres of mystery, thriller, and espionage, particularly in the years leading up to World War I, when his partnership with British publishing magnate Lord Northcliffe led to the serialised publication and intensive publicising (including actors dressed as German soldiers walking along Regent Street) of pulp-fiction spy stories and invasion literature such as The Invasion of 1910, The Poisoned Bullet, and Spies of the Kaiser. These works were a common phenomenon in pre-World War I Europe, involving fictionalised stories of possible invasion or infiltration by foreign powers; Le Queux's specialty, much appreciated by Northcliffe, was the German invasion of Britain. He was also the original editor of Northcliffe's War of the Nations.
The Invasion of 1910, which originally appeared in serial form in the Daily Mail newspaper from 19 March 1906, was a huge success. The newspaper's circulation increased greatly, and it made a small fortune for Le Queux, eventually being translated into twenty-seven languages and selling over one million copies in book form. The idea for the novel is alleged to have originated from Field Marshal Earl Roberts, who regularly lectured English schoolboys on the need to prepare for war. Le Queux was reportedly less than happy about an abridged German translation (with an altered ending) appeared the same year: Die Invasion von 1910: Einfall der Deutschen in England translated by Traugott Tamm.
At the beginning of World War I Le Queux became convinced that the Germans were out to get him for "rumbling their schemes" and from then on became involved in a continual struggle with his local police force and the Metropolitan Police over his request for special protection from German agents. The authorities, however, in the words of Edward Henry (head of the Metropolitan Police) saw him as "not a person to be taken seriously" and saw no need to fulfill his request.
Le Queux was interested in radio communication; he was a member of the Institute of Radio Engineers and carried out some radio experiments in 1924 in Switzerland with Dr. Petit Pierre and Max Amstutz. That same year he was elected the first President of the Hastings, St. Leonard's and District Radio Society, whose inaugural lecture was delivered on 28 April 1924 by John Logie Baird. Le Queux was eager to help Baird with his television experiments but said that all his money was tied up in Switzerland. He did however write an article, Television-a fact which appeared in the Radio Times in April 1924 which praised Baird's efforts.