Publishing: Author Robert Murray Graydon dies aged just 47.
The first of Anthony Parsons' Blake stories is published. Born in 1893, Parsons was easily the tallest of all Blake authors, standing at 6'5". He did military serivice in India during the First World War and was drafted into the Royal Flying Corps, which took him to North Africa. The 1920s saw him still on the 'dark continent' shooting elephants for a living. He then returned to England and started writing, becoming one of the most important Blake authors during the SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY's difficult Second World War years. Parsons took over responsibility for the Blake villain Gunga Dass and created Superintendent Venner. In all, he wrote exactly 100 Sexton Blake tales. He died in 1963, aged 69.
Blake: In PILOT issues 73 to 91, a revised version of the 1908 serial SEXTON BLAKE AT SCHOOL reveals that Sexton Blake's real name is Ronald Blakeney!
Notes: None at present.
Notes: This is an extraordinary rewrite of Cecil Hayter's SEXTON BLAKE AT SCHOOL which was originally serialised in THE BOYS' REALM issues 238 to 262 (1908), then reprinted in THE BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY issue 102 (1909), then again, in a slightly rewritten form, as SEXTON BLAKE'S SCHOOLDAYS in THE BOYS' FRIEND LIBRARY second series issue 388 (1933). In the original story, our hero, as a boy, has a mysterious background and is raised by a mentor named Dr. Lanchester. When the doctor is killed, the boy visits two men at 'a certain embassy', one of whom decides "We shall call him Sexton Blake." Blake's true identity and background is never revealed in that initial version of the story. In the 1933 revision, details about his father, Dr. Berkeley Blake, are added, matching information revealed in SEXTON BLAKE'S SECRET, which was published in the first issue of DETECTIVE WEEKLY the same year. However, these subsequent revisions are turned on their head by what's revealed in the story as told here, in PILOT. Expanding on the initial version, this tells us that, rather than being murdered, Lanchester was kidnapped. Blake visits his two other guardians, who are named as Sir Charles Durex and Burton, and they send him to Claverton Abbey School (rather than St. Anne's). The focus of the story is much more on Blake's search for his real identity than in the earlier versions and it eventually emerges that he is the son of Lady Ann Blakeney and Sir Ronald Blakeney who were killed in an accident which also caused the death of the Duke of Karenberg and his wife. The latter's son, Prince Rupert became heir to the throne but he was mentally defective. Blake, as part of a political plot, had been raised to replace the prince. But the plot fails and, by the end of the tale, all the conspirators, including Lanchester, are killed. Sexton Blake's real name is revealed as Ronald Blakeney. Though there is no suggestion of it in the story, this revelation opens up the possibility that Blake is descended from Sir Percy Blakeney aka The Scarlet Pimpernel.
PILOT · Issue 76 · 20/3/1937 · Amalgamated Press · 2d
Other content: Will Hay at Bendover by Anon.; Wanda of the Wilds by Anon.; Alex James' Schooldays by Anon.; The Laughing Bucaneer by Anon.; Meet the Staff (ed.); The Early Adventures of Leonard Henry by Anon.; Tales of Warder Strong by Anon.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: None at present.
PILOT · Issue 102 · 11/9/1937 · Amalgamated Press · 2d
Illustrator: Harry Lane
Other content: Mike, Spike and Greta (strip); Will Hay at Bendover; Leonard Henry at the "Mike"; The Laughing Buccaneer; Tarzan by Edgar Rice Burroughs; "Bluey" Wilkinson - the Bush Broadsider; Houdini - Magic-Maker No.1; Tales of Warder Strong.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Millionaire Earle Latham is an insomniac. He quite simply never sleeps at all. According to a Harley Street doctor, he has a form of shell-shock after serving in the war and won't recover. He is given, at most, six months to live. Latham resigns himself to his fate and wonders how to spend his last days. When he gets home, inspiration strikes in the form of a rather inept first-time burglar. This is Kennedy King, a young man who's fallen on hard times after his invention — a sort of neon light — is stolen by an unscrupulous businessman. Latham catches King breaking into his apartment and recognises that he's a fundamentally decent sort. An idea quickly forms. He strikes a deal with King, paying him to exchange names on the understanding that King — now called Latham — will travel abroad for the next half year. From that moment on, the insomniac millionaire embarks on a life of crime. He doesn't steal for profit; instead he becomes a sort of Robin Hood figure, performing daring heists against those who don't deserve their riches and giving the profits to good causes. Initially, Latham — in the guise of Kennedy King — is a fascinating character who's rather reminiscent of Zenith the Albino. His daring is equally as breathtaking and his character has the same quality of haunted sadness about it. And like Zenith, he manages to run rings around Blake on a number of occasions. Unfortunately, though, the story starts to get very unconvincing when all the protagonists resort to disguise as their main tool for crime or crime-busting. It's unbelievable that after just one meeting, Latham could pass himself off as Blake with such skill that even Tinker is fooled! When the real Kennedy King is captured by bandits in Spain, Latham goes to his aid but ends up a prisoner as well. Blake eventually rescues them both. The trouble is, this leaves behind what had been the central theme at the start: a good man driven to reckless deeds by his bizarre ailment. All of that is virtually forgotten. In fact, Latham simply announces at one point that he has slept and his insomnia appears to have cured itself.
Trivia: This is a reprint of THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 9 (1925).
Rating: ★★☆☆☆ The first half of the book feels like it's shaping up to be a memorable entry in the library but the plot unravels in the second half, almost as if the author was crafting a tale but was unexpectedly given a new, tighter deadline and had to rush to meet it. A great shame. Incidentally, the cover illustration is one of the best in the library. The portrait doesn't match the description of Latham but it hardly matters; the play of light across the haunted features is incredibly atmospheric.
Notes: Story features Granite Grant and Mlle Julie. This tale was filmed as SEXTON BLAKE AND THE HOODED TERROR, starring George Curzon as Blake, Tony Simpson as Tinker, David Farrar as Granite Grant and Tod Slaughter as The Snake. It was the final entry in a three-strong series of movies featuring George Curzon as the detective, the other two being SEXTON BLAKE AND THE MADEMOISELLE and SEXTON BLAKE AND THE BEARDED DOCTOR.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: None at present
Notes: A. J. Raffles and his companion Bunny Manders have rented a property near the estate of the Earl of Welland. The Earl owns a priceless bracelet known as the Fetter of Buddha, which Raffles intends to steal. When the local authorities become suspicious about the circumstances surrounding the death of a local adventurer named Cyrus Lazenger, they order that his body be exhumed for examination. With this event distracting the police, Raffles, aided by Manders and a villainous butler named Bagge, burgles the Earl's house and steals the Fetter. However, after hearing a noise in the grounds, the trio discover a gang of men in a gravel pit who appear to have stolen Lazenger's body. The gang makes off when the side of the pit collapses, burying the corpse. Next day, Raffles learns that Sexton Blake is staying as a guest with the Earl. Blake has been hired by Lazenger's niece to investigate the mystery surrounding the dead man. Of course, when it's discovered that the house has been burgled, Raffles soon finds that the world's greatest detective is on his trail. In an attempt to keep Blake away from the truth about the robbery, the 'gentleman thief' tries to help discover the real facts about Lazenger but the mystery deepens when mysterious Russians start appearing, leaving a trail of murders in their wake. Suddenly, Raffles finds himself in danger from the law ... and the lawless!
Trivia: This is the first of four confrontations between Sexton Blake and A. J. Raffles.
Notes: My copy is missing the cover. Story features Gunga Dass
Notes: After enquiring for a Madame Defage at a hotel on the French coast — and learning that she is not a guest there — a man named Paul Rudolphe books a room and waits for her. He is followed by Martin Dubois who, during the night, breaks into his room and murders him, taking an envelop from the body. When Rudolphe's corpse is found beside a golf course on the south coast of England, the club manager becomes Inspector Frenton's top suspect. The accused man consults Sexton Blake who, upon examining the body, finds a patch pasted against the sole of one foot. Inscribed upon it are five parallel lines and six black dots. The detective realises that the dead man was dropped from an aeroplane and learns that a plane owned by Dubois made a crash landing in France the same night the corpse was discovered. Furthermore, he deduces that the dots are musical notes, which spell out D-E-F-A-G-E. Blake and Tinker cross the Channel to Boulogne where they discover that Rudolphe — whose description matches that of the corpse on the golf course — vanished after staying in a hotel room next to Dubois. Also now arrived at the hotel is the mysterious Madame Defage. Associating her with the three black dots, Blake meets her only to discover that she is, in fact, Mademoiselle Julie of the French Secret Service. She reveals that Rudolphe had been a courier for the Corps Diplomatique who was on a mission to pass to her top secret information concerning the political situation in Russia. The detective, his assistant and the secret agent drive to Dubois' estate where they confront him and demand the return of the stolen document. He calmly admits to its theft before making a getaway in his biplane. Tinker, though, has stowed away aboard the machine and ends up in Paris, captive of Dubois and his partner, Baron Rodanoff (who first appeared in THE CASE OF THE KING'S SPY, THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 110, 1920). These two have the secret document but not the keyword required to decipher it. So, after making a copy, they come up with a scheme: Rodanoff should contact Julie and sell the document back to her, learning the keyword when she decodes it in his presence. Following this plan, the Baron approaches Julie only to discover that she doesn't know the keyword either. However, Sexton Blake works it out in Rodanoff's presence and the villain makes a quick getaway with the information. Tinker escapes from the villains and makes his way to Madam Julie's house where he reveals Dubois and Rodanoff's plan. The detective, Julie and Tinker race to intercept Rodanoff before he can pass the keyword to Dubois but the latter spots them and runs them off the road. He then tries to escape in his biplane. However, Tinker catches up with it and leaps aboard as it's taking off. He causes it to crash and Dubois is badly injured. The secret document is recovered and Blake and Tinker begin their journey back to Baker Street. As for the Baron, he lives to fight another day.
Trivia: Tinker is unusually dense in this tale. He doesn't speak French and he acts as if this is his first experience of flying when, in fact, he's been in the air many times by this point in the saga. Blake also seems rather out of sorts. It takes him ages to work out how Rudolphe's body came to be beside the golf course (it's rather obvious to the reader), he reveals a codeword in front of the villain who's after it, and he even forgets that on the continent they drive on the right rather than on the left!
This is a rewrite of THE SECRET OF THE SIX BLACK DOTS which appeared in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 169 (1921). The story was also previously released as THE MISSING SPY in THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 423 (1934). The review is taken from the original story.
Notes: In Cairo, Madam Goupolis reports to Prince Menes the events recounted in THE MONTE CARLO MYSTERY (UNION JACK issue 1,122, 1925). The Black Eagle is now in Cairo, as is Mathew Cardolak and The Three Musketeers, Prince Wu Ling and George Marsden Plummer. All these have been gathered by Madam Goupolis on behalf of the White Flag Society to plot a great coup against Britain. However, as Wu Ling says to his sidekick, San, they all have their own motives. When Goupolis dines with The Black Eagle that night, they see Tinker in the restaurant. He is ill; his arm in a sling, several bones healing, and his breathing affected after a rib punctured his lung. This, though, is a ruse; in fact he is in perfect health and working with Sexton Blake (disguised as a beggar) to counter the machinations of the White Flag Society. The duo also have Secret Service agents Mossop and Malone on their side. When Blake discovers that the society aims to assassinate an English official named Lushington, he passes the information to Malone, who is able to save the Englishman and capture the assassins. Blake and Tinker then leave for Alexandria, where the super-crooks are gathering on Cardolak's yacht, The Sultan. Blake watches as they board the vessel then, with Tinker and under the cover of a sea mist, he rows out and eavesdrops on their meeting. Narrowly escaping capture, the detectives return to Cairo and Malone later brings them word that the criminal gang is also heading back to that city. Blake reveals that Menes has gathered the master-crooks in order to carry out a plan to blow up the Suez Canal. Plummer, meanwhile, is acting as emissary between Menes and Abdel Krim, their aim being to establish a North African empire to push the European countries back across the Mediterranean. While The Sultan sails to Tangier to pick up a shipment of a new type of bomb, Blake heads to El Adid oasis in the desert, where Plummer has his camp. Tinker returns to his hotel where he and Mossop find themselves held at gunpoint by The Black Eagle. However, they manage to overpower the crook and hold him prisoner. They then trick Madam Goupolis and capture her too. Tinker summons Malone, who takes charge of the crooks and transfers them to a place of safekeeping. The young detective and the Secret Service agent then ride out to meet Blake and find him with a bound and gagged Plummer. With Blake's oldest enemy defeated, they now turn their attention to the rest. Blake sends for Alan Rayne who arrives in Alexandria with two planes fitted with bombs. With these, they intercept The Sultan and drop two warning bombs near her. A number of her crew and passengers take to the lifeboats. The planes then return and bomb the yacht. Her cargo explodes, tearing her to pieces. Cardolak and the Three Musketeers either die in the blast or escape in one of the lifeboats. Wu Ling, who wasn't aboard, is protected by diplomatic immunity. The Egyptian authorites dare not prosecute Prince Menes and he arranges for Goupolis, The Black Eagle and Plummer to break out of prison. Blake has foiled the plot ... but his enemies remain at liberty.
Trivia: Madam Goupolis reports to Menes that The Black Eagle successfully murdered the man he came to Cairo to kill — Jean Poiret. However, in THE MONTE CARLO MYSTERY this man is referred to as Jules Vabour. George Marsden Plummer has, by this point in his long career, been the right-hand man of Abdel Krim — The Lion of the Rif — for eight years. Wu Ling, Blake reveals, was the real power behind Sun-Yat-Sen.
This is a reprint of THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series issue 19 (1925). It was also published as a non-Blake book entitled BOTTOM OF SUEZ with the names of the characters changed.
Notes: My copy is missing the cover. Story features R.S.V. Purvale
Notes: Author Anthony Parsons makes his Sexton Blake debut. When the clerk of a shipping company is murdered, it soon emerges that a permit for the collection of transported goods — ten bales of cotton — has been stolen. The bales were meant to be delivered to a company in India but were picked up by someone else. They then became involved in a bandit raid during which they were searched. It seems obvious that something was smuggled in them — but what? An Indian named Khan is the only suspect, so Sexton Blake follows his trail to India. There he meets with a secret service officer who tells him that unrest has been rife on the borders since the bales arrived and anyone who enquires after them ends up dead. The detective takes a train to the troubled area — Famipur — accompanied by Tinker and an agent named Ali Singh. At a frontier station he meets Captain Winfield of the frontier police and Doctor Kershaw and his daughter Judy. He also becomes acquainted with a gun-runner named Bir Beg who, he learns via a double-agent, got to the bales and looted them before Khan could recover them. Under the cover of a funeral procession, the content of the bales is to be smuggled across the border but, after a number of betrayals and double-crosses, Khan regains control and kills Bir Beg. He also captures Tinker and Winfield. Blake rescues them and, using information they have overheard, organises an ambush against the arms convoy. The raid is successful and the content of the bales is finally revealed — as is the unexpected identity of Khan. The villain flees but Blake and Tinker follow in a plane and parachute down for the final confrontation.
Trivia: It was reprinted as a hardcover novel with the same title in 1968.