Sexton Blake Bibliography: 1900

by William Shaw Rae

UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 299 · 13/1/1900 · Amalgamated Press · ½d

Illustrator: Unknown

Other content: Dick Valling's Adventures by H. S. Warwick; For Britain and the Right by Anon.

Sexton Blake Notes: Nearly 12 months ago, £60,000 went missing from a drawer in Fox's Bank. During a search of the staff, cardboard strips which had divided the money were found in the coat pocket of Hilary Mantel, a young clerk. A cashier named Anton Defaux, who had discovered the loss, remembered seeing Hilary at the drawer shortly before the young man went out. Mantel was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to five years in prison. As for the money; that was never recovered. Defaux, meanwhile, proposed marriage to Mantel's fiancé, Dorothy, and was summarily rejected. Now the girl, in desperation, pleads with Sexton Blake for help. The detective travels to Dartmoor with We-wee to interview Mantel but just as they arrive, the prisoner escapes onto the moor. That night, Blake finds the fugitive and agrees to help him. He arranges for We-wee to smuggle Mantel off the moor in a turf wagon and soon they are all ensconced in a house in Plymouth. After some days have passed, Mantel decides to blend in by becoming a milkman. Two weeks later, while doing his rounds, he is recognised by an off-duty prison warder. He makes his escape but loses much of the milk and, in consequence, his job. We-wee takes Mantel in a yacht out to a secluded islet where he is to live in a cave until Blake can prove him innocent. The young clerk later discovers a smuggler's den on the other side of the island. Blake returns to London and, at the bank, examines a typewritten note which had arrived together with £20,000 of the stolen money. His analysis leads to the real thief, Anton Defaux, who also turns out to be in cahoots with the smugglers. Back at the isle, the aforementioned bootleggers arrive and attack the hideaways. We-wee is shot in the shoulder but, before any further damage can be done, a police boat arrives and the bad guys are rounded up. Further evidence, found in their vessel, implicates Defaux. Cornered, he commits suicide. Mantel is given a free pardon and marries his girl.

Trivia: There is a suggestive passage which seems to indicate that Blake's fees are quite high. Reference is made in this story to UNDER THE SMUGGLER'S FLAG, which appeared in UNION JACK 1st series issue 186 (1897).

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ We-wee steals the limelight and has plenty of excellent scenes in this story. However, other scenes are unnecessary and totally illogical. Why on earth does Hilary Mantel decide to become a milkman? Why does Anton Defaux return a third of the stolen money to the bank?

by Paul Herring

UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 336 · 29/9/1900 · Amalgamated Press · ½d

Illustrator: Unknown

Other content: From the Quarterdeck (ed.); Boys of the Belvedere by Reginald Wray.

Notes: In South Africa, Sidney King falls in love with Edith Vernon, a circus rider, but his father—owner of a diamond mine—objects to the liaison and an argument erupts. Edith departs and, though King wants to follow her, the Boer War breaks out, prevents him from joining his love, and he loses track of her. After distinguishing himself by scouting enemy lines in a balloon, he is invalided out of the Army and travels to England where he takes work as the "Parachute King" in a circus, the idea being to move among circus people until he locates Edith, who he is certain is also in the country. However, when his father is robbed of diamonds worth £200,000, King is considered the chief suspect. He, however, believes the crime was committed by two refugees from the Cape, Grimwood and Jacobson. Sexton Blake, commissioned to investigate, agrees with this assessment and is on the trail of the crooks. He goes to the isolated farmhouse they're using as their base and in a nearby field discovers Detective Farnsdale of Scotland Yard, who is lying injured having been attacked by Grimwood. After seeing him to safety, Blake approaches the house, knowing that Farnsdale's colleague, Detective Calderon, is somewhere nearby. Inside, the villains argue with one another and Grimwood knocks Jacobson unconscious before making off with the diamonds. Too late, he realises the stones are counterfeits that Jacobson had intended to use to betray him. He vows to kill the other man. Blake finds Jacobson who, upon recovering his wits, pleas for mercy. Blake agrees not to arrest him and to help him evade Detective Calderon providing he hands over the real diamonds. This is done and the criminal sets off intent on starting a new life. Meanwhile, Sidney King makes a parachute jump at the circus, is blown off course, and lands in a field. Close by, unaware of King's descent, Grimwood ambushes Jacobson, shoots him, and flees. Calderon arrives on the scene just as King stumbles upon the near-dead crook and arrests him for attempted murder. Sexton Blake turns up in time to demonstrate that the young daredevil is innocent. Furthermore, he reveals that Grimwood has just been captured. The case is closed ... but, a few days later, King's father arrives by ship — with Edith Vernon! — and there is a happy reunion. It is also revealed that Edith's father is Vincent Vernon, a well-known inventor of airships ... a rival to Germany's Count Zeppelin. Many weeks pass, in which time Vernon tests a prototype airship — the Falcon — and Grimwood is released from gaol after serving a paltry sentence. In Paris, the crook learns that the Falcon will undertake a second test flight, this time with rich guests aboard it. He and a couple of French villains plot an act of piracy. They board the ship disguised as visiting dignitaries. Blake, however, is onto their game and sends a warning by wire to the ship. Sidney King apprehends the criminals ... with the exception of Grimwood, who falls overboard and plummets to his doom.

Trivia: Sexton Blake owns a cigarette case that was a gift from Cecil Rhodes (there is much South Africa-related beating of the British Empire's drum in this tale, which was written just a few months after the infamous siege of Kimberley).

Sherlock Holmes receives a couple of mentions (or, rather, his printed adventures do. The suggestion is that he's a fictional character).

Blake is, at this stage of his career, at odds with Scotland Yard but his generosity in giving credit to Farnsdale and Calderon does much to improve the relationship.

Paul Herring wrote the first story to ever appear in UNION JACK: 'THE SILVER ARROW' (Vol. 1 Issue 1, 1893).

Rating: ★★★☆☆

by G. W. Brown

UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 344 · 24/11/1900 · Amalgamated Press · ½d

Illustrator: Unknown

Other content: Boys of the Belvedere by Reginald Wray; I Will Avenge Him! by S. Clarke Hook; Captured By Castaways by John G. Rowe; The Editor's Christmas Chat (ed.)

Notes: 'The Story of Sexton Blake's Christmas Case.'

Sexton Blake
On the Cornish moors, in Trebovir House, built atop a mound known as Smuggler's Rock, the will of Edgar Stanhope is read to his daughter, Mabel, and his nephews, Jack and Arthur. The bulk of his fortune is left to Jack on the condition that he marries Mabel within a year and visits the manor for a week every Christmas to sleep in its "haunted room." If he fails in any of this, the estate will go to Arthur. Jack and Mabel are already well into a courtship, which Arthur is jealous of, so this has been a bad day for him. The following morning, the two men journey to London to pursue separate business interests. Jack is tricked into returning later than anticipated, and when he finally gets back, it's to find that Mabel has disappeared. Jack returns to London to see Sexton Blake and the detective and his new client travel by rail to Cornwall. En route, a man named Philip North leaps into their carriage claiming to have just escaped confinement, though he has no idea why or by whom he’s been imprisoned for two months. He puts up at an inn while Blake and Jack continue on to Trebovir House. That night, the Masked Captain, who leads a smuggler gang, visits Mabel in a cell beneath the manor and tells her she will be freed only if she marries him. She refuses. Blake takes a midnight stroll and witnesses the smugglers at work. The next morning, he and Jack explore the smugglers’ cave but are set upon. Blake manages to wound the Masked Captain before being beaten to the ground and tied up. He and his companion are taken to an abandoned tin mine and lowered into it. They are eventually rescued by Philip North, who accompanies Jack back toward the house while Sexton Blake keeps watch for the smugglers. However, en route, North twists his ankle and, when Jack runs ahead for help, he is intercepted by the Masked Captain, knocked out, and imprisoned again in the mines. Blake finds North and takes him to the manor. Jack escapes and reunites with Blake at the house. They discover the smugglers' hideaway and liberate Mabel from her cell. The detective captures the Masked Captain and exposes him as Arthur. However, he then produces North who turns out to be the real Arthur. The imposter is Jasper Maddock, who has been trying to lay claim to Trebovir House in order to protect his smuggling activities.

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Typical pre-20th Century melodramatic fare.