Publishing: Due to a strike in the printing trade, no issues of THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY are published in November. For the first time, issues of KNOCKOUT appear with no Sexton Blake content.
While the KNOCKOUT stories continue to deteriorate, there's some superb character work appearing in the SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY. Walter Tyrer, in particular, offers very convincing incidental characters, pithy and full of heart and soul.
Blake author D. H. Parry dies, aged 82.
Notes: Sylvester Stone instructs his henchman, Paul, who's taking part in the race, to run the Red Rapier off the road. Meanwhile, Sexton Blake, who is acting as John Best's relief driver, takes over at the wheel of the Red Rapier. At a part of the course named Suicide Corner, Paul shunts him from the road onto a rocky slope. Other members of the gang drop a tarpaulin over Blake and, unable to see, he narrowly avoids hitting a rock. Bullets start to fly around him.
Notes: Sexton Blake reverses into his attackers and they scatter — only to find themselves having to avoid Tinker, who at that moment drives to his guv'nor's rescue. Sylvester Stone escapes with his assistant, Pierre, but Lucas — John Best's mechanic and secretly a member of the gang — is left behind. He reveals to Blake that he made a secret compartment in the Red Rapier and the plans for the atomic gun are concealed inside it. Blake continues with the race and eventually catches up with Paul, the driver who had forced him off the road. Paul panics and in a reckless attempt to escape he heads for a terrific smash!
Notes: Sexton Blake returns to the KNOCKOUT after a four-issue break (his first absence from its pages since the comic launched).
Notes: King Rudolf of Ravonia is returning to his country after years of exile. He sends the crown jewels ahead in an armoured train, which will transport them to Liverpool, where a destroyer is docked. En route, the locomotive is diverted onto a track laid by a criminal gang. They use a crane to lift the armoured carriage from the line and they tow it to a quarry. They then remove the track. The next morning, Sexton Blake is consulted.
Notes: Tom Willis, a speedway motorcyclist, and his brother, Dick, are road-testing their new Mercury bikes when they are attacked. Tom and his bike are bundled into a van and driven away. Dick is found injured at the roadside by Sexton Blake and Tinker who happen to be passing. The detectives take Dick to the nearby motorcycle factory where the Mercury was designed. Its owner, John Jerome, explains that Tom was going to enter the first Krukanian race. Blake offers to ride in his place. Meanwhile, Tom and his bike are smuggled aboard a boat bound for the ruthless East European state.
Trivia: Blake returns after a five-issue break.
Notes: Tinker leaps onto the lorry and captures Krukanian agent X29. Sexton Blake questions him and learns why Tom Willis has been kidnapped. At the spy's headquarters, he forces the man to radio his superiors, informing them that the plan has succeeded and an inferior motorcyclist will be sent to race in Willis's place. However, X29 sends the message in code and warns his chief — Colonel Lakov — that Sexton Blake is on his way.
Notes: Sexton Blake reveals to Tinker that he knows the message sent to the Krukanian Colonel was a warning. He predicts that they are expected to arrive in Krukania via road and rail, so instead they travel by airplane, accompanied by Dick Willis. However, Lakov predicts this move and sends a fighter pilot to intercept them. Blake & Co are shot out of the sky and hurtle towards the ground. Blake tries to pilot the stricken craft to a crash landing.
Notes: With a Krukanian driver hot on his tail, Tom Willis speeds towards the trap laid by Colonel Lakov. On the other side of the tunnel, Sexton Blake and Tinker pounce on Larkov who, in desperation, pushes the boulder off the ledge. It crashes down narrowly missing Willis as he emerges from the tunnel but, behind him, the Krukanian rider smashes into it. The detectives clear the boulder from the road just in time to allow Dick Willis safe passage. He catches up with his brother, coming in second place as Tom wins the race.
Notes: A helicopter lands on the liner Begonia and a gang of crooks disembark. They force the purser to open the strong room and rob it of a trunk containing gold plate. This same gang had previously boarded the Mystic and stolen diamonds, including the famous Royal Star. After they depart in the helicopter, the captain of the Begonia reveals to the crew that Sexton Blake is hiding in the stolen trunk. The helicopter lands in an underground base on Cat Island where Sexton Blake holds the gang at gunpoint before going into hiding with Miss Black Cat, the gang leader. She, though, gets the better of him by means of a hidden trap door. Blake plunges through it into an underground river and is washed out to the beach. There he is met by Larry O'Gorman who has responded to a signal sent by the detective. In diving suits, they follow the course of the underground river and climb up a well into the crooks' camp where they capture the Black Cat and recover the Royal Star. They radio to an aircraft carrier and call for reinforcements. When the gang attacks, Blake plays the same trick on them as was played on him, sending them tumbling through the trap door. He and O'Gorman then escape in the helicopter with the Black Cat as their captive. Behind them, the booby-trapped island explodes.
Notes: By fooling a typist, Miss Ruby Smith, into thinking she is being groomed for Hollywood stardom, small-time crooks Cass Denby and Les Scarfe manage to get her into the orbit of Prince Johan of Sitapur, who has a weakness for blondes. They tell her that her new employer, U.P.K. Pictures, needs to know whether the prince's father, a deposed maharaja, has a half-severed ear, though they don't reveal why this bizarre item of information is necessary. Miss Smith travels with the prince and a doctor, Maitland, who's an alcoholic, to a villa in San Merlin, France. On arrival, she is introduced to the maharajah who immediately reveals that he has had her investigated and knows that she is not a star-in-waiting, merely a common typist, and U.P.K. Pictures does not exist. She is ejected from the villa. Travelling back to London, the young woman confronts Denby and Scarfe and attempts to turn the tables by withholding the information (which she doesn't actually have) until they pay her ten thousand pounds. The two crooks try to borrow the money from a hoodlum named Slim Stringer. Stringer, a much more dangerous crook, decides to get in on the game. He wants to know what the information is that Miss Smith is withholding, tries to torture it out of her, then murders her. When her death is reported, Prince Johan asks Sexton Blake to investigate. The detective and Superintendent Venner start work and quickly discover that Doctor Maitland has fallen victim to the same murderer. Venner, who knows Denby and Scarfe as petty criminals and recognises them as the men that Miss Smith was seen with, learns that the former tried to kill Slim Stringer in Paris, both shooting each other dead. It appears that Stringer got the information he wanted from Maitland, and it sent him to Paris en route for San Merlin. Blake deduces that Denby killed Stringer to keep him out of the game. What, though, is the game? Blake consults the former British Resident at he Court of Sitapur and discovers why Denby and Scarfe had been so interested in the maharajah's ear. Plots unravel and, in a last attempt to keep a secret, Prince Johan tries to shoot Scarfe but is prevented by Blake. The Indian goes free, the crook goes to prison, and the case is closed.
Notes: A circus arrives in the town of Ruddleston and its proprietor, Mr Pettifer, pays a visit to the local bank manager, Mr Grimes. He inveigles his way into what appears to be a mutual friendship but, in fact, he is casting a hypnotic spell over Grimes. Without realising what he's doing, the bank manager is soon consorting with loose women, gambling, and generally making a fool of himself in public. Days later, in Baker Street, Sexton Blake is visited by the president of the bank company. Reports of Grimes's uncharacteristic behaviour have reached head office. The detective sends Tinker to investigate. The lad discovers that Grimes has been sending money to the empty offices of a London bookmaker. His correspondence has been collected by a different 'glassy-eyed' person each day. Meanwhile Grimes finds his life spiralling even further out of control when his younger brother, Norman, turns up on his doorstep. Something of a reprobate, he tells Grimes that he saw him at a local club with a young lady but will keep quiet about it in return for fifty pounds. The siblings fight and Norman knocks Grimes senseless. When he recovers, he's astonished to find that six hours have passed. The next day, inspectors from head office find that valuable securities are missing from the bank's strong room. Grimes concludes that while he lay unconscious his brother 'borrowed' his keys and committed the robbery. Norman, though, has an iron-clad alibi. Angry that he has been accused, he storms into his brother's office and punches Grimes in the face. When Blake learns of this and discovers that Grimes has gone home, he follows and finds him lying on his bed, nursing his bloodied nose. Blake injects a soporific into the bank manager's arm and Grimes falls into a trance. The detective commands him to complete the other portion of his assignment. The bank manager walks out to the garden and retrieves the stolen securities from a summerhouse. He gets into his car and drives to the moor just outside of town. Blake and Tinker hide in bushes until another car arrives and a figure takes the package from Grimes. Blake swoops and Pettifer, caught in the act, is so shocked that he dies of heart failure.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ The plot is fairly straightforward but, as an observation of the kind of pompous and frustrated man so often found in minor positions of responsibility, it's utterly beguiling. The cheap but cheerful variety acts described by the author give a lovely insight into the kind of entertainment common in Britain during the late '40s. The bill includes jugglers, a comedian, acrobats and a fat singer who "brought Sexton Blake nothing but acute misery, for he had a sensitive ear."
Notes: Danny the 'Dip' is a small rat-faced man who 'earns' his living by picking pockets. This tale begins with him lifting a wallet from Sam Garnet as the latter, an average sort of working man, climbs aboard a bus. Unfortunately for Danny, the strong prey upon the weak and no sooner has he claimed his prize than a thug called Lou Starkie takes it off his hands. Starkie finds that the rewards are hardly worth having. The wallet contains a couple of pound notes and a filled-in football coupon. On impulse, he writes his own name and address on this latter item and puts it in the post. Meanwhile, Sam Garnet has arrived home to his pretty but rather dominating wife and has discovered that his pocket has been 'dipped'. He even remembers the fellow who brushed against him; the small guy with the ratty features. If he ever sees that guy again, he vows, he'll teach him a lesson he'll not soon forget. To make matters worse, a couple of days later the coupon comes good, scooping a prize of £13,000. Sam wants his money ... and so does Danny the Dip — after all, he stole the coupon fair and square, so he should get the winnings! Meanwhile, the newly enriched Lou Starkie has gone to see 'Mr Big' to pay off a debt and ask how he should invest the money. Mr Big is a frail old man, but a cunning one too. He recommends that Starkie invests in a certain pub he knows of ... an investment that, through various ways and means, will lead to Mr Big getting his hands on the money. He also recommends that Starkie does away with Danny to break the chain that links him to the original theft. Starkie follows all this advice and is soon behind the bar of his very own pub while Danny lies dead on an old bomb site. When Sam Garnet is accused of the murder and jailed, Sexton Blake steps in to uncover the truth ...
Rating: ★★★★☆ The scenes in the first half of the book are simply wonderful. Acutely observed, the lives of working class people and petty thugs spring off the page in living breathing monochrome (there was no colour in those days). Their hopes and dreams, frustrations and grievances make each character so real that you can visualise them in stunning detail. Their rhythms of speech are also convincing and often very amusing. The story is more than half over before Blake enters the fray and, in many ways, it's slightly less enjoyable from the moment he appears. This is because you always know what to expect from the great detective, whereas the earlier part of the tale is entirely new territory.