Serial chiller: Wilkie Collins, master of the cliffhanger

When it was first published 150 years ago, The Moonstone came out in weekly instalments. Read as a novel today, Collins’ page-turner has lost none of its power

Wilkie Collins wrote The Moonstone at a time of personal trauma and physical agony. But his professional life was going much better: with four bestsellers published in a decade, Collins was one of the best-paid writers working at the time. When The Moonstone came out in 1868, he netted a tidy £750 for the UK serial rights, plus the same again in the US. This was already a much larger sum than most literary novelists can expect today – equivalent to about £168,000 in 2018 – with more to come from sales of the complete edition. Collins was as acclaimed as he was popular, fully aware of his powers and thoroughly enjoying them. In an 1871 preface to The Moonstone he said: ...