Publishing: Author Andrew Murray dies aged 49 after suffering a severe mental illness. He wrote his last Sexton Blake story in 1924.
The tradition of author anonymity ends with UNION JACK issue 1,360.
Blake: Miss Death indulges in her brief crime spree.
Notes: Story features George Marsden Plummer and Vali Mata-Vali.
Notes: None at present
Notes: Story features Dr. Huxton Rymer and Mary Trent.
Notes: What was behind the strangling of a British Secret Service man in a London motel bedroom? Sexton Blake, the world's most famous detective, tackles the problem and finds himself opposed to the Thugs of India — the vast sinister organisation that strangles its victims. How he penetrates their secret stronghold in disguise, and staking all, becomes a Thug himself, is vividly told in no. 189 of the Sexton Blake Library.
Notes: My copy is missing its cover. A dark night — a man with fear in his heart waiting upon a lonely heath! From a closed car a masked figure emerges. No sound is heard, but the young man drops dead and the silent slayer fades back into the car. Who is this terrible masked avenger? How Sexton Blake solves this sensational and baffling problem is told in "The Silent Slayer".
Notes: Murdered for reading a play. This is the strange motive behind the series of baffling murders Sexton Blake is called in to solve. The author of the play, a wealthy recluse, is the first victim. Then follows the murder of the typist to whom the play is sent, and finally London is shocked by the discovery of a well-known theatrical producer found stabbed in his office. He also read the ill-fated play, but the manuscript has disappeared. The mystery deepens and Sexton Blake finds himself up against a big problem. The story of his triumph and the amazing revelations he discloses, involving a famous actress, makes one of the most thrilling dramas featuring the famous detective.
Notes: When the young typist told Sexton Blake of the robbery of a piece of parchment containing a concession for an oil well, he little knew of the dramatic events that were to follow. It was only when, utterly worn out, he and his assistant stumbled under a blistering sun over the African desert, that he realised the terrible nature of the case he had undertaken. To the perils of hunger and thirst were added those of native bandits and English crooks.
Notes: In the South of England, hidden away in the wooded depths of its spacious grounds, stood an old-world mansion holding a strange and terrbile secret. The brutal murder, in a South-Coast express, of a well-known local resident brought Sexton Blake upon the scene. He realised that he could know no rest until he had solved the baffling mystery. From the start he was faced with an impenetrable wall of mystery — mystery terrible and dangerous, for death stalked the countryside. But grimly Blake stuck to the trail, till at the end the grisly solution of a terrible secret came to light.
Notes: 'A famous West-End doctor, house-surgeon at one of London's largest hospitals is involved in a dramatic mystery surrounding the illicit trading in radium. Here is a vivid story of an unscrupulous crook, setting an intricate problem for Sexton Blake. The duel between the two provides a succession of thrills and excitement as the detective relentlessly brings to light all the details of an astounding plot!' Story features Zenith the Albino.
Notes: 'The huge glass-domed building of Olympia is packed with a seething crowd of car-lovers, the band blares forth a popular air, the brilliant arc-lamps shine down upon the laughing, chattering throng - and then comes tragedy. On one of the stands a man in murdered and his body is found in a demonstration car - yet the killer had left his victim in the little office where the crime had taken place! Who moved the dead man? Why? Who was the real murderer? There are a hundred baffling questions for Sexton Blake to answer in this sensational novel of detective adventure in London and the south of England.' Story features Gilbert and Eileen Hale.
Notes: Little did the young naval officer dream of the tragic events in store, when on a wild winter night of wind and storm he took shelter in a desolate old house on a bleak stretch of the coast. In a passage lay the body of a man, the finding of which proved the start of a mystery sinister and astounding. Sexton Blake, flung accidentally into the strange case, faces desperate peril before at last he unravels the tangled skeins of a most amazing plot.
Notes: On the scene within ten seconds of the murder! That was the boast Professor Larsen made about his crook-catching device - and it came true! In a deserted mill a man lay dead and the police arrived in time to arrest a young man as he was leaving. What connection had this murder with the strange house where the professor ran a school for engineers? This was the secret Sexton Blake set himself to probe.
Notes: This story is narrated in first-person by Sexton Blake.
Notes: Diana Temple is a Yorkshire lass from a poverty-stricken background. When a specialist reveals to her that she has just six months to live, it brings a reckless quirk in her character to the surface. Donning a skull mask, she becomes Miss Death, a criminal who has nothing to lose. She approaches a man named Hammerton Grice, a crooked lawyer, with the intention of robbing him. When she draws her weapon, he draws his at the same time. The lights go out, a shot is fired, and Grice is killed. However, neither he nor she had fired the shot; a third person, heard running away, is responsible (it later emerges that the murderer was one of Grice's victims — he confesses to the crime in a suicide note then shoots himself). Miss Death leaves with Grice's notebook, which is filled with the secrets of the rich and famous. It soon becomes known as The Book of Death. She establishes her base — The House of Secrets — in Leeds and gathers around her a gang of crooks, including Charlie the Chat (thief), Monty Lane (con man), Egloff the Peterman, the Bishop, the Cosher Kid, Civility Smith, Big Pete, Agronsky (the 'Arson King') and Kid Louis (forger). With the exception of Charlie, these men are all unwilling recruits blackmailed into working for her. Their departure from London for Leeds is noticed by Detective-Inspector Coutts and their crimes soon give reason for Sexton Blake to head north. Miss Death is using the criminals to rob from the rich so that she can give to the poor ... but they are a vicious lot and when Tinker falls into their hands he is threatened with torture. Blake comes to the rescue and, after a chase — and despite taking a bullet in the shoulder — manages to round up Cosher Kid, Big Pete and Egloff. In return for his efforts, he receives a warning message from Miss Death.
Notes: Splash Page travels to Sheffield to see what Sexton Blake is up to. His arrival is noticed by Charlie the Chat and reported to Miss Death. She is concerned about Blake's continued presence in the city and begins to plot against him. Meanwhile, Martin Rutherford, head of the Rutherford Razor empire, receives a visit from a Honduran, Dr Ramon Salvador, who brings with him a native South American named Zapotec. Dr Ramon offers Rutherford an ancient Atzec formula for a depilatory cream — Ica — which is so efficient it could make razors obsolete. His price is five million pounds. Unbeknown to Rutherford, his visiter is actually Monty Lane, the arch con-man. Rutherford arranges to meet Ramon again that evening along with some other leaders of the razor manufacturing industry. When he learns that Blake, with whom he is acquainted, is in town, he asks the detective to attend. Blake agrees and suggests that he should come along in disguise as 'Professor Browne'. Unfortunately, Miss Death's spies learn of this and her gang of crooks set a trap for the detective. They kidnap him, drug him, and replace him with a disguised villain named Bishop who arrives at the Rutherford meeting pretending to be the detective. There he supports Dr Ramon's assertions about Ica and the razor tycoon is persuaded to invest in the cream's development to a tune of £20,000. However, the scheme starts to go awry when the gang discovers that their captive isn't Sexton Blake at all but a disguised Splash Page. At this point, one of their own men suddenly reveals himself to be an impostor — it's Blake, and he quickly releases Splash in time for the newspaper man to join the subsequent free-for-all. During the fight, Miss Death escapes, though a great many of her gang are rounded up. The tale ends with Sexton Blake receiving a threatening letter from the lady crook.
Notes: Forty-eight hours have passed since the events of THE TRAIL OF THE BANDAGED MAN (UNION JACK 1,251) and Dr. Satira is still on the loose. While driving near the village of Sixstreet, he accidentally runs over and kills a man. Placing the corpse in the coffin he used to escape at the end of the previous story, he leaves it in the middle of the road. A few miles farther on he is stopped by a man named Mitch Emden who claims to have been robbed of twenty thousand pounds and valuable jewels. Satira realises that it was the thief he had killed, so he leaves Emden and turns back to retrieve the treasure, only to discover that the coffin has vanished. Concluding that it must have been taken to the local police station, he goes there with his two henchmen — Cruller and Dingle. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake, Tinker and Detective-Inspector Coutts — who suspect that Satira is in the area — encounter Emden and hear the same story. They take him to the police station and are immediately imprisoned by Cruller, who masquerades as the local constable. The criminal allows Emden to depart, then Satira sets fire to the station and flees in the Grey Panther, later dumping it in favour of a stolen removal van. Eventually arriving in London, he visits a villain named Black Brogan and asks for help in escaping the country. On his behalf, Brogan takes the stolen jewels to a fence named Dieman, who promises to bring payment for them to Satira's hideaway. However, Dieman is, in fact, Mitch Emden, who has a double identity for his less-than-honest dealings. Recognising his own jewels, he decides to tell Sexton Blake where Satira is. Before he can make the call, Blake arrives on his doorstep, having traced him. Later, the disguised detective accompanies Dieman to the doctor's hideout and slaps handcuffs onto the villain. He summons the police but before they arrive Brogan shoots Dieman and activates a trapdoor through which Blake falls into the Thames. The criminals try to escape in a boat but Blake capsizes it. Brogan drowns but Doctor Satira is finally captured and sent to prison where he will be hanged for his crimes.
Trivia Sexton Blake purchased the Grey Panther for nearly three thousand guineas.
This story was reprinted in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 306 as DR. SATIRA TAKES IT ALL (1938).
Notes: Posters asking ARE YOU PAUL CYNOS? suddenly appear all over London. It turns out to be a publicity stunt by a new story paper entitled Sensations. Between twelve and one o’clock, twenty men made up to accurately resemble Paul Cynos will roam the streets, each with £100 in his pocket. Any person who approaches, asks “Are you Paul Cynos,” and shows an issue of Sensations will receive five pounds. Blake realises that for that hour the real Cynos will be free to go wherever he wants. Detective-Inspector Coutts, having already mistakenly tried to arrest Cynos only to find that it was an imposter, accompanies Blake to the magazine’s office. The editor flatly refuses to end his marketing gimmick. Later, after Blake has identified him as a well-known crook, he sets fire to the office and flees. That night, Cynos disguises himself as Chief Commissioner Fairfax and is let into Scotland Yard by Detective-Sergeant Siburn, who happens to be one of his sons. Siburn telephones the various district stations, gives the addresses of houses supposedly identified as Cynos’s hideaway, and orders that large numbers of policemen should be gathered to raid the places. Next, Cynos plants a time bomb in Scotland Yard’s wireless room. A little later, Sexton Blake receives a telephone call from Judge Swain, who had overseen Cynos’s trial. Swain is convinced that he’s in danger. Blake and Coutts race to his house where they find that he has died of fright. Cynos appears and tries to shoot Blake but his gun jams. He escapes. By now, all over London, large teams of policemen are raiding the supposed hideaways and are finding nothing. While they are thus diverted, Cynos’s gang pulls off a number of big bank robberies. The bomb then half destroys Scotland Yard. With the police crippled, Blake vows to catch Cynos within the next eight hours.
Trivia: This was reprinted in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 316 as JUSTICE AT BAY (1939).
Rating: ★★★★★ A brilliant story!
Notes: In Bradford, Lord Fairleigh, a major player in the wool industry, employs villains to rob Jem Stapler of a formula he has developed to aid wool processing. They murder the young inventor by pushing him under a train, then they deliver the formula to Fairleigh. Stapler's fiancee travels to London to ask Sexton Blake to investigate the killing. Meanwhile, Miss Death has fallen in with Sir Hector Jarman, an insane surgeon who has a grudge against the wool industry. While Miss Death intends to extort money from Fairleigh to give to the poor, Jarman's motives are altogether more ambitious and deadly. Sexton Blake visits Fairleigh's home only to learn that its owner has departed with Miss Death and 'Blake' — a man impersonating the famous criminologist. This impostor is Bishop who, with Charlie the Chat and Miss Death, escorts the wool tycoon to Greystoke Towers, home of Jarman. Here they force him to write a cheque for twenty-five thousand pounds. Meanwhile, Lady Fairleigh is terribly injured in a car crash. She is discovered by Jarman's African servant who, recognising her as the woman to whom his master was once engaged, carries her to Greystoke Towers. There, she dies, sending Jarman into a berserk rage. He rampages through the grounds with an axe and sets free his pet, a giant lizard — a Komodo Dragon — named Sohag the Terrible. Blake and Tinker arrive, having been led to the house by Pedro who has followed Mrs Fairleigh's scent from the scene of the car crash. They shoot the lizard dead. Jarman kills Lord Fairleigh then breaks free from the detectives and jumps into a pool of piranha fish that eat him alive. Miss Death and her cohorts escape from the house which, when searched by Blake, offers up a secret: Jem Stapler! The mangled body on the train tracks had never been his — it was placed there by Miss Death's gang to fool Fairleigh into thinking he was guilty of murder. The formula handed to him had also been fake and Stapler had been kept safe and out of the way by the strange villainess.
Notes: This issue marks the end of Miss Death. In Doncaster, a new locomotive — The Black Prince — gains an evil reputation after two of its drivers drop dead on the footplate. On both occasions, a young man named Jack Laidlaw was left to drive the train, making him something of a hero in the newspapers. Splash Page is covering the story, as is Abel Zorn, an American journalist from a rival newspaper owned by Hogan Flint, a millionaire. Flint has set up a coach service to rival the railways and is stirring discontent among the railway unions. When Laidlaw sees a skeletal figure at the rail yard one night, he approaches Sexton Blake, who agrees to investigate after surmising that Miss Death might be involved. He's correct; Miss Death and her cohorts, The Bishop and Monty Lane, are out to get Hogan Flint. Tinker shadows Monty to Miss Death's hideaway and overhears their plans to extort money from the evil millionaire. Unfortunately, he then trips over Miss Death's cat and is captured by the criminals. Miss Death visits the rail yard to leave a note warning that Flint has sabotaged the line, intending to wreck the The Black Prince. However, she's interrupted by Blake who arrives on the scene having worked out Flint's plan. Miss Death flees from the detective but her weak heart finally gives out and she dies, just managing to reveal Tinker's whereabouts before succumbing. Hogan Flint, upon hearing that his plans are exposed, commits suicide. The Bishop and Monty Lane are rounded up by Detective-Inspector Coutts.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ The story is marred by a rather too contrived plot.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: A magistrate, Mr Stanhope, asks Sexton Blake's advice after his black cat, Juno, is poisoned and posted to him. He suspects that the deed was done by a man named Thomas Brand, who he'd convicted some five years ago. Brand, now released from prison, had been accused of being the notorious 'Black Cat' — a cat burglar — though he always maintained his innocence. Clifford Scott K. C. and a judge named Sir Charles Row also receive dead black cats in the post, and they, too, had been involved in the Brand case. The next event is a murder: Sir Howard Denison is found poisoned, dressed in the skintight black suit used by the cat burglar. Detective-Inspector Lennard is at the crime scene and, with Blake, finds a note stuck to the dead man's forehead: Black Cat! You have taken your last prowl! Blake visits Scotland Yard and, upon emerging, finds a dandified young man sitting in the Grey Panther who introduces himself as Eustace Cavendish. Eustace tells the detective that he witnessed a man capturing and poisoning a cat. The man, Eustace later discovered, was Rev. Smiles, whose background is obscure. Thanking the amateur detective for his information, Blake visits the scene of Denison's murder and concludes that Lennard is on the wrong track in his pursuit of Brand. Returning to Baker Street, he finds Eustace there. The 'swell' young man reveals that he has been shadowing Smiles and overheard him enquire after a financier named Harland — another character whose history is mysterious. Blake and Eustace break into Smiles' house and they find evidence that he has been maniplating shares on the stock market. Denison's death made him a profit in that respect — and Harland's would do so too. Blake visits the financier the next morning to warn him that he is probably Smiles' next target. He finds himself looking down the barrel of a pistol. It turns out that Harland and Smiles are one and the same man! Blake locks him in his own strong room and summons Lennard. However, when the room is opened, Harland has vanished through a secret second door. Eustace, however, has seen and followed him, and calls Blake to inform him that Harland is currently hiding out in a bungalow in Twickenham. The police surround the premises but are held at bay when Harland starts shooting at them with a machine gun. Blake climbs through a skylight and pounces on the crook but as he does so a police marksman shoots Harland in the chest. As he dies, the criminal confesses that he used to work with the Black Cat — Denison — but had been betrayed by him. He had killed him and tried to frame a petty crook — Brand — for the murder.
Trivia: Sexton Blake dons a bullet-proof chain-mail vest during this case. This item of clothing has been mentioned in other adventures.
Notes: With this issue, the long tradition of author anonymity in the Blake saga comes to an end. From here on in, authors are identified (though often by a pseudonym). This story features Splash Page.
Notes: An aristocratic family with a curse, a perilous marsh, and a hideous beast bringing death to those unfortunate enough to encounter it. There's a definite touch of HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES about this one. But of course, it's Blake not Holmes, so H. H. Clifford Gibbons throws in as many extra ingredients as possible: a thrilling aeroplane chase that ends in a mid-air collision, a lake-bottom hideaway that floods with our heroes trapped inside, a raging inferno and plenty of fist fights. The story begins with Warrender, a hulking great man, observing the comings and goings in a disreputable drinking den. In fact, he is a leading West End actor studying for a role. Unfortunately, things get out of hand and a fight erupts during which he retrieves a roll of canvas. To his amazement, it's a painting by Van Dyke; a portrait of a beautiful girl. He takes the painting to Sexton Blake who immediately recognises it as the recently stolen property of Lord Carham. Blake, Tinker and Warrender set off for the Fens, a large expanse of extremely flat land in the east of England. The author does a great job of creating a still and silent, mist enshrouded landscape. Before they've even had a chance to meet him, Lord Carham is murdered, his chest punctured by huge wide-spread claws. Through the mist, Blake captures a glimpse of a hunched, animal-like figure. It is, the house servant tells them, the gnomid, a legendary creature that has cursed the Carham family for generations. A painting of it hangs on the wall, hidden behind a tapestry. Every time the painting is shown, so the legend goes, something terrible happens. Before Blake has time to investigate further, there's another shock. A girl comes crashing through the glass of the patio doors. Fortunately, she is not badly hurt and is able to explain that she was on her way to an appointment with a local landowner when she was chased by the creature. Bizarrely, she bears an uncanny resemblance to the girl in the Van Dyke portrait. How does she relate to the mystery? What is the creature? And who's behind the deadly conspiracy? Of course, Blake gets to the bottom of it (and, simultaneously, to the bottom of a lake).
Trivia: The artwork on the cover of this edition of UNION JACK is a superb rendition of the monstrous beast.
This was reprinted under the same title in DETECTIVE WEEKLY issue 342 (1939) and anthologised in THE CASEBOOK OF SEXTON BLAKE (2009).
Rating: ★★★★★ There's plenty of chasing, shooting and fighting in this adventure, with Warrender getting a big slice of the action, proving to be a strong, resourceful and likeable character. Unfortunately, this means that Tinker gets rather pushed into the background. You even forget he's there until he pipes up and says something. Nevertheless, The Gnomid is an excellent and highly entertaining example of Blake at his best.
Notes: Though this story is attributed to Gwyn Evans in the official records, George Rees informed W.O.G. Lofts that he actually wrote it as a favour when Evans was ill.
Story features Splash Page, Ruff Hanson and The Robin Hood League.
Notes: R. C. Armour's pen name is spelled incorrectly in this issue (should be Reid Whitley).