Sexton Blake Bibliography: 2013

Publishing: Finally, after all these years, a new Sexton Blake novel is published! New? Well, not according to Indian historian Gyan Prakash, who claims THE TOWER OF SILENCE to be a previously unreleased tale dating from 1927. Whether that is true or not (I have my doubts), what is true is that this novel was released without permission from the Sexton Blake rights holders.

by Phiroshaw Jamsetjee Chevalier 'Chaiwala' (Gyan Prakash)

NOVEL · Dec. 2013 · HarperCollins Publishers India · £11.99 (varies)

Illustrator: None

Other content: Looking for Mr Chaiwala by Gyan Prakash

Notes: A press photographer, Young, commits a sacrilegious act by taking an aerial picture of the inside of a sacred Tower of Silence, where the Parsee communities of India leave their dead to be consumed by vultures. A man named Beram sets out to assassinate him as retribution. Stephens, the editor of the paper in which the photograph was published, calls Sexton Blake after receiving death threats. Knowing that Beram is probably watching the press office, Burton allows himself to be followed, being sure to set Tinker on the trail of his shadow. With one on the heels of the other, the party travels to Liverpool where Young lives. He, however, is currently in India. His family have been threatened, and Blake receives a note from Beram warning him to protect them. The Parsee, meanwhile, sets out to find the photographic negative, and starts by killing the pilot who flew Young over the tower. The game of cat and mouse continues, with Beram planting false clues that lure the detective first to India and then to Burma, where is captured and almost burned at the stake before being rescued. When he returns to Britain, the back and forth continues as they each try to outwit the other. There are disguises, traps and kidnappings in quick succession until an inconclusive end is reached.

Trivia: According to Gyan Prakash of Princeton University, this is a previously unpublished Sexton Blake tale dating from 1927 tha he discovered, incomplete, in the British Library. He apparently spent three years searching for the remainder of it, eventually succeeding, though he was less successful in his hunt for information about its mysterious author. I have to confess, I’m not convinced. I have two problems with Mr. Prakash’s claim. The first is that, from a stylistic point of view, the story in no way resembles the Blake material of that period. Perhaps this is because it was written by an Indian author of the time, but to me it feels more like the work of a modern writer. Secondly, I find it very odd that a historian of Mr. Prakash’s stature makes no mention of the 1907 Blake tale, THE FIRE-WORSHIPPERS (UNION JACK issue 194).

Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ Confusing, repetitive, and just not very good.