Publishing: Prolific Blake author William Murray Graydon dies aged 83.
Blake: The SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY is by this point deep in its most "realistic" phase, with (for the most part) believable characters and situations.
Notes: None at present.
Trivia: KNOCKOUT drops the hyphen from its title.
Notes: Sexton Blake's friend, the Chinese inventor Hoo Sung, calls at the detective's Baker Street home. He has invented a 'stratoplane' that can reach higher altitudes than any other existing craft thanks to its revolutionary 'atom egg' power source. But on a recent flight, the plane's cameras had filmed five strange bat-like aircraft flying above it. Hoo Sung believes that either the secret of his atom egg invention has been stolen or a hostile foreign power has developed the technology independently. Blake promises to fly down to Hoo Sung's secret aerodrome on Gull Island to begin his investigations. As the inventor leaves the house, his movements are watched from an autogyro hovering ovehead ... and a report is radioed to a strange and sinister figure in a distant land!
Notes: Zanadu enters the control room of the mechanical god and finds himself held at gunpoint by Tinker, who has captured the guard and donned his uniform. Tinker forces Zanadu to take him to the place where Sexton Blake and his friends are held prisoner. Blake decides to hold Zanadu hostage until all the atom eggs are destroyed. However, the capture of Zanadu is observed by Balu, who releases gas into the prison chamber.
Notes: Overcome by the gas, Sexton Blake and his friends collapse into unconsciousness. While, Zanadu is taken to his palace to recover, the rest are bundled into a helicopter and lowered by rope into the pagoda of the Golden Cage — finding themselves atop a tall tower with no means of escape. When Zanadu regains his senses and is told of this, he rages at Balu: "The pagoda overlooks the Square Tower ... had you forgotten who is prisoner in the Square Tower?" Meanwhile, Blake looks down onto the neighbouring tower and sees there a men wearing a golden dragon mask.
Notes: The man in the dragon mask claims that he is also a prisoner of Zanadu and asks to join forces with Blake & Co. The detective and his friends use their shirts to braid a rope and, as darkness falls, they throw one end across to their new ally. Blake begins to swing across.
Notes: Sexton Blake deduces that the Super-Clipper has been a victim of sky piracy. Suddenly, a plane roars past and drops a blackmail note which informs Sir Douglas Wand that he must leave £10,000 in gold on the top of Mount Snowdon each Saturday in order to guarantee the safety of the missing passengers. It is signed 'The Black Eagle'. Blake recommends that the Duke complies with the demand but, meanwhile, the detective visits Hoo Sung and asks the inventor to help. Sung's new Rolling Sphere has the ability to fly, so the following Saturday, it takes up position in the clouds above Snowdon and awaits the Black Eagle's arrival.
Notes: The Rolling Sphere uses its jets to cushion its fall into the ocean. The Black Eagle orders his fighters to attack. Tinker dives overboard to loosen a plug in the Sphere's hull. This allows water to flood into the lower compartments and the giant vehicle submerges as the fighter planes fly overhead.
Notes: None at present.
Notes: Hoppy Knight is a cockney lorry driver. One evening he reluctantly gives a woman a lift. She's running away from her husband and wants to get to Leicester. During the journey she starts to fall asleep and Hoppy insists that she move to the back of the vehicle and sleep under the canvas covering his small load. She does so. Later, he too becomes sleepy and pulls over to rest. When he wakes up, the girl has gone. Farther along his route, Hoppy stops at Leary's way station for food and rest. His vehicle is surreptitiously inspected by two members of the Palmer gang who want to involve him in a black market racket. They find one of the girl's discarded stockings. That same night, the girl is found in a ditch, strangled. The investigation, led by Detective-Inspector Harker suggests that it may be a case of sexual assault and the evidence soon identifies Hoppy as the killer. Sexton Blake learns something of Hoppy's history: he isn't a cockney at all, but an ex-R.A.F. man who spent considerable time in German prison camps. He'd suffered a bad head injury and has been a loner ever since. The detective is convinced that the man is innocent and so begins to trace his movements. This soon leads him to the Palmer gang. Smashing their racket becomes an essential part of the investigation and, as Blake pieces together the jigsaw, a picture of the real killer soon emerges.
Trivia: This is a surprising story for the period due to its sexual element. It wouldn't seem strange to find a sex crime dealt with in the post-1956 'New Order' Sexton Blake Library, but this is 1949 and the subject comes as something of a shock. There's no sensationalism though; instead we get psychological depth and a very logical piece-by-piece investigation that rings true. This story is a good example of how the Blake saga changed over the years. It's a very long way removed from the early UNION JACK tales.
Blake admits: "I'm beginning to feel, at times, I'm not so young as I used to be."
Rating: ★★★★☆ A story that, perhaps, marks the peak of the Sexton Blake saga's 'realistic' phase.