Blake: 'TWIXT GALLOWS AND GOLD plainly takes place this year, as one of its protagonists has just returned from the Klondike Gold Rush which began in 1897. The problem is that this adventure occurs right in the middle of the period where Blake was assisted by We-wee ... yet, in it, he has a new boy assistant named Nipperty Chris. Maybe We-wee was away for a period? Furthermore, it is also stated that Nipperty, 'like some of his predecessors, had been rescued from gutter-life for his shrewdness.' What predecessors are these?
Notes: Sexton Blake 'for purposes of his own' is living in a rented villa in a well-known London suburb. A train embankment passes by his house and, one day, a passenger train derails from it. Among the people the detective rescues is a man named Count Arno. Blake takes an immediate dislike to him. A couple of months later, Frank Swale is shown into Blake's office by the detective's assistant, Nipperty Chris. The previous year, Swale had joined the Klondike Gold Rush in the hope of raising enough money to marry his sweetheart, Lily May. He struck gold but fell ill and asked his friend, Jack Hackett, to deliver a considerable amount of money to the girl. Hackett vanished, and so too did Lily. Blake discovers that Hackett and Count Arno are one and the same. He and Frank trace him to a hotel room. As they approach, a shot is fired. Frank races after the gunman, both men disappearing via the balcony. Blake ties to follow but his way is blocked when the window slams shut. The murdered man turns out to be the real Count, who had been blackmailed by Hackett. While trying to find Frank, Blake is attacked outside the house where Lily May had once lived. His assailant escapes in a carriage with two men, one of whom is identified as Tony Quelch, an ex-boxer. The detective corners this man in his lair and forces him to take him to Hatchett's hide-out. Quelch turns on him but, with Nipperty's help, Blake survives and is able to confront the main villain. After a terrific fight, which sees them both plunge into the river, Blake is rescued from drowning by Frank Swale while Hatchett attempts a getaway in a steamship upon which Lily is held as prisoner. Blake saves the girl and, with his plans foiled, Hatchett flees only to be killed while crossing a railway line.
Trivia: Blake's boy assistant in this case, Nipperty Chris, is very much a Tinker prototype: 'The speaker was "Nipperty Chris", the great detective's latest juvenile assistant, who, like some of his predecessors, had been rescued from gutter-life for his shrewdness. He was a broad, bright, snub-nosed little fellow, with short, yellow hair, growing so coarse and close that he would often facetiously declare that if all else failed he could let himself out as a broom.'
Rating: ★★★☆☆ Harry Blyth keeps the plot simple, for a change, and delivers a story that works far better than his previous efforts.
Notes: Sexton Blake receives a visitor at his office in Norfolk House; a youth named Raymond Truman. Though born and raised in India, Raymond is heir to the Truman estates in Northamptonshire. Upon learning of his father's death, he had set sail from India to meet his grandfather, Sir Jasper Truman, but was attacked and waylaid. Now he's arrived in England with no proof of identity and needs Blake to help him. The detective, however, is suspicious of his visitor and, after instructing We-wee to follow the youth, he makes some enquiries and discovers that the Raymond Truman who set off from India is not of the same appearance as the one who arrived in England. Then a chance encounter in the street leads him to meet another youth who also identifies himself as Raymond; there are now two claimants to the estates. Raymond number two describes to Blake how, on his journey from England, he was thrown overboard by his scheming servant, Muley Hassan, who is now living with Sir Jasper in the guise of Raymond Truman — a third claimant to the title! Meanwhile, We-wee has learned that the first individual is really named Hamid Hassan; Muley's brother. The siblings had schemed together but quarrelled and went their separate ways, each hoping to fool Sir Jasper. Sexton Blake travels to Truman Towers disguised as a professor of botany and meets with Sir Jasper who is oblivious to the fact that his nephew is an impostor. Remaining as a guest, Blake begins to unnerve Muley Hassan, who makes several attempts on Sir Jasper's life. Later, a final murderous attack is foiled and the Hassans are exposed. The real Raymond takes up his position as true heir to the the Truman estates.
Notes: One night, while crossing Hyde Park, Sexton Blake splits up a fight between two men. His suspicions aroused, he sends We-wee to investigate one of the participants. His assistant discovers that the man, Handel Glossop, is apparently a well-to-do photographer, though none of his work has ever been seen. Later, Blake spots Glossop in the company of his former attacker and a criminal known as Big Frank. He begins to suspect that this gang might be responsible for a recent flood of counterfeit money but, before he can get on their trail, Frank drops an 'infernal machine' into the detective's pocket and warns him that, should he move within the next fifteen minutes, the device will explode. Blake remains frozen while the three men make their getaway. Over the next few days, the detective shadows Glossop and, when the latter is involved in a road accident, manages to get proof that he is a forger. Blake gets a warrant from Scotland Yard and arrests the crook but makes the mistake of turning his back. Glossop pushes the detective into a large safe, locks the door and makes his escape. We-wee rescues his master and informs him that his quarry has taken a train to Hammerton. Blake follows and finds Glossop at a circus. The forger releases a lion and vanishes amidst the panicked crowd. Two days later, Blake traces him to a Scottish town and sets off in pursuit. Glossop races away on a bicycle but the detective chases after him in a fire engine, only to lose him when the crook dives over a high wall. Two more days pass before he re-emerges in another town where he has boarded a foreign ship with Big Frank. Blake arrives in a seething storm and helps a lifeboat crew as they struggle to assist the stricken vessel. Big Frank falls into the sea and drowns. Glossop is captured.
Trivia: This was reprinted (with Tinker replacing We-wee) in PENNY POPULAR issue 76 as THE FORGER (1914).
Notes: Sexton Blake receives a visit from Sir Derek Dunloe of Daggerlands, an estate which can only be held by the Dunloe family so long as they retain possession of an antique knife. One of the family ancestors had saved a general from assassination by this weapon and received the estate as a reward, with the proviso that they produce the knife once a year as evidence that they are still entitled to the land. Now the knife has been stolen. Sir Derek believes that his recently employed valet, a Spaniard named Rodrigo Gaspoli, is responsible, for he vanished at the same time as the knife. Blake's sole clue is a photograph of this man. The detective tracks Gaspoli to Palma, Majorca, and attends a bullfight hoping to spot his quarry. When an 'espada' — a female matador — named Senorita Leonora Dorez is distracted by a man in the crowd — a man who proves to be Gaspoli — Blake leaps into the ring and saves her from the bull. The next day she visits the detective and reveals that Rodrigo Gaspoli's full surname is Gaspoli de Llosetta — the same surname as that of the assassin who had tried to murder the general so many years ago. He is one of her rejected suitors and now she fears that he will harm her betrothed, Pedro Cantado. Gaspoli has demanded that she meet him at sundown — but Sexton Blake goes instead. The villain tricks Blake into following him into Palma's famous cave system ... and abandons him there. Fortunately, though, the detective is able to find his way out of the labyrinth. Gaspoli, who turns out to be the leader of a group of bandits, next kidnaps We-wee and holds him to ransom. With Spanish troops, Blake raids the bandits' hideaway and frees his assistant. Gaspoli escapes and later challenges Pedro Cantado to a duel. Responding to a plea from Senorita Dorez, Blake races to stop the fight and arrives just as the villain stabs his opponent in the side before then taking his own life. Blake recovers the dagger of Dunloe. Cantado's wound eventually heals and he and Dorez marry.
Trivia: Sexton Blake's 'business apartment' is in Norfolk House. We-wee is described as now being a youth rather than a boy. This case takes six months to complete. Rating: ★★☆☆☆
Notes: While taking an early morning stroll, Sexton Blake witnesses a car going out of control. He leaps to the assistance of the two young men aboard the vehicle. After they are safe, one of them, Harold Fenfield, asks the detective to help him with another matter, so they retire to Blake's apartments after bidding the other man, Slipton Bale, farewell. Fenfield reveals that he is soon to be married to Miss Ethel Challoner, who Bale had also been pursuing. Even though she chose Fenfield, the two men have remained friends. Fenfield, who is rather irresponsible, has bet more than £30,000 on 'Spinaway', a horse that'll be running in the Fenfield Stakes in two weeks time. This, however, is not what Fenfield wants to consult Blake about. He has inherited his family's famous diamond tiara — currently in a safe at his home — and has received a note from a crook named Sam Shise informing him that he'll lose it unless he pays £50. Sexton Blake goes to meet Shise and learns from him that there's a scheme afoot to steal the tiara. Three men are involved; Shise (who is happy to betray his companions for £50), a cracksman, and the leader, a 'man about town'. Blake and Shise are interrupted by the arrival of the cracksman, Egbert Trewolf, a criminal who Blake had dealt with during his first ever case (see HOW SEXTON BLAKE WON HIS SPURS, Union Jack, 1st series, issue 125, 1896). Trewolf attempts to shoot the detective but Blake flees to the roof and slides down telephone wires to make his escape. He goes with We-wee to stay at Fenfield Abbey where the race meeting is to be held. Discovering clues that suggest an attempt on the safe will be made soon, Blake lies in wait and catches the three crooks in the act. They make a rapid getaway but, in the Abbey's grounds, capture We-wee and try to hang him. The Celestial escapes without being able to identify the third man — the leader. Some days later, We-wee overhears Shise and Trewolf plotting to nobble Spinaway. The youngster watches them place drugged straw in the horse's manger. When they depart, he removes it. The next day — the day of the race — the crooks attack and wound Fenfield's jockey. We-wee takes over and rides Spinaway to victory. Blake spots Slipton Bale returning to the Abbey in company with Shise and Trewolf. He and Fenfield follow and upon arriving at the house discover that the tiara is missing — except it isn't ... because some time previously Sexton Blake had secretly removed it from the case and hidden it in a hat box. The thieves have stolen an empty case! From the next room, Trewolf leaps to attack the detective and is promptly shot dead. Slipton Bale is exposed as the leader and is banished from society. Shise is taken into custody.
Trivia: Norfolk House, off the Strand, is once again given as Sexton Blake's address. The detective — always keeping up with new technologies — has recently learned how to drive a car. Egbert Trewolf reappears in a rare early example of continuity. Though he was sentenced to death at the end of HOW SEXTON BLAKE WON HIS SPURS, it is explained that his sentence was commuted and he was then mistakenly given further remission. THE THIRD MAN was reprinted in PENNY POPULAR issue 71 as THE FENFIELD CONSPIRACY (1914).
Notes: A young heiress, Maud Mercombe, cousin to Ethel Challoner from THE THIRD MAN (see previous issue), commissions Sexton Blake to locate her missing fiancé, Algar Atheling. He had stepped out of his lodgings, gone off arm in arm with an unidentified man, and never returned. The only clue Blake can find is that Atheling was fascinated by Saga Shaboral, a mesmerist currently performing at the Hall of Isis. The detective visits this location and there spots a man who matches the description of Atheling's mystery companion. He gives chase but the individual eludes him. The next day, as prearranged, Blake calls on Miss Mercombe in the guise of an elderly German professor. To his surprise, there is another visitor: the man he had pursued! This proves to be Ralph Danvers, the nephew of Miss Mercombe's chaperon. He has come to invite the young lady to the theatre but Blake interjects, telling her that there are "udder arrangements for you that I haf made," and so Danvers departs in a huff. The other arrangements, the detective reveals, involve a visit to the Hall of Isis. There, they watch the show which culminates in a stunt whereby a hypnotised young man performs a dangerous trapeze act of which he would be incapable under ordinary circumstances. The subject proves to be Atheling who, at Miss Mercombe's cry of alarm, loses his handhold and plunges into a safety net. The hall's lights go out and the audience panics. Amid the tumult, Blake intercepts Shaboral and the mesmerised Atheling as they make their getaway. He tries to stop them but is rendered unconscious by a red powder thrown by the hypnotist. With his quarry gone, Blake switches his attention to Danvers, who is trying to seduce Miss Mercombe. The detective arranges matters so that We-wee becomes that man's valet. The lad reads a telegram received by his new master. It reveals that Shaboral is in Holland. Blake travels to Rotterdam where he encounters the missing duo on a bridge. When he tries to convince Atheling to accompany him back to Britain, Shaboral causes the young man to leap into the river below. Blake dives in and rescues him but the Dutch police interfere and Atheling once again slips out of the detective's grasp. We-wee intercepts another message, this summoning Danvers to Rotterdam. However, he is caught reading the missive and Danvers frames him for theft. We-wee escapes, follows Danvers to Holland, then leads Blake to the man's destination, an isolated house. Here, Blake finds Shaboral and demands that he hands Atheling over. Shaboral shows the detective a coffin in which the young man lies deceased. Protesting that he's innocent of any crime, Shaboral suffers a brain haemorrhage and drops dead. Danvers confesses that he paid the mesmerist to keep Atheling out of the way so he could pursue Miss Mercombe with a view to marriage. Atheling recovers from what is, in fact, a cataleptic trance. Danvers isn’t charged with any crime and steps aside to allow his rival to marry the heiress.
Trivia: This was reprinted in PENNY POPULAR issue 72 (1914) under the same title.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ A straightforward but fairly entertaining tale.
Notes: Herbert Fillingdon, a lowly clerk at the Bank of England, is delivering a wallet containing twenty thousand pounds to a cashier when he is distracted by a Frenchman who, standing behind him, makes a fuss after burning his fingers on his cigarette. The money is, in this brief moment, stolen. Fillingdon consults Sexton Blake who recovers the Frenchman's cigarette stub and identifies it as a rare brand. This leads to him to the only supplier, who identifies his customer as Monsieur Pierrot. Blake traces this man to a lodging house and takes a room in the premises next door. The window of his room faces that belonging to Pierrot. Fillingdon joins him and, when they see the chamber opposite is unoccupied, Fillingdon crosses to it by means of a plank placed to span the windows. He recovers the stolen wallet but when the Frenchman unexpectedly returns Fillingdon rushes back and falls from the plank. Blake saves him. While he is thus occupied, Pierrot clears his room and escapes. The wallet, it turns out, contains nothing but folded newspaper. However, pencil marks on the sports pages suggest that Pierrot is interested In a particular race meeting. Fillingdon goes to it and there spies the villain betting with the stolen bank notes. The clerk attempts to apprehend the man but only succeeds in angering the crowd with the result that he is forcibly ejected from the race course. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake has spotted the word "catacombs" in the newspaper. It's a clue he's unable to fathom until a chance event makes him think of London's sewers. While scouting the horrendous tunnels, he and Fillingdon witness Pierrot with another man, the two discussing a meeting of their criminal gang, which will occur the next Sunday in the sewer tunnels. On the appointed day, Blake and Fillingdon again descend into the sewers and there watch as Pierrot meets with his gang in a secret chamber. The villains discuss how the stolen money is to be distributed. Unfortunately, Blake and Fillingdon are detected and attacked. Just as all appears lost, a flash flood roars through the tunnels. The criminals are swept away and drowned. Blake and Farringdon manage to escape with the stolen money in their possession.
Trivia: Mention is made of the case entitled THE PHANTOM PHOTOGRAPHER. We-wee makes a very brief appearance. This story was reprinted in PENNY POPULAR issue 68 (1914) under the same title.