COUNT IVOR CARLAC

by Mark Hodder

  • An introduction to this popular old character for the benefit of new readers.

Count Ivor Carlac is utterly ruthless, violent, cunning and devious. He is tall, well-built, and extremely deep voiced. He is a talented disguise artist. He frequently teams up with Professor Kew.

Count Ivor Carlac

Perhaps one of the most villainous of Sexton Blake's opponents, Count Ivor Carlac is a Polish Jew with very few redeeming qualities. Created by Andrew Murray, he made his first appearance in 1912. It was a time when political correctness hadn't even been dreamed of and the large influx of Jewish immigrants into England — especially London — was giving some sectors of the population the jitters. In consequence, Jewish villains were extremely common in the story papers of the early years of the 20th century.

Originally a pilot — and one of the very first men to fly in Europe — Carlac soon found crime to be more profitable and made Vienna and Paris, Madrid and St. Petersburg his hunting grounds before turning his attention to Britain's capital. In addition to his own many nefarious schemes, Carlac is more than willing to accept commissions from others and is often to be found working as a paid 'criminal consultant.'

When we first meet him, he is disguised as a tramp on crutches; armless and with stunted legs. Underneath is a broad-shouldered man built along the lines of an athlete; a man with a hard jaw, sharp cheekbones and cruel lips.

After a number of solo ventures, which fail thanks to interference from Sexton Blake, Carlac forms an unlikely partnership with Professor Kew. This results in more extravagant and imaginative crimes. It also lands the pair in Bleakmoor Prison.

Chronology:

1. The Regent Street Robbery UNION JACK issue 468 (1912)
Count Ivor Carlac, disguised as a crippled tramp, steals a diamond necklace and hides it among a colony of gypsies. Sexton Blake eventually recovers the jewels and corners the crook but cannot prevent his escape.

2. The Case of the Borgia Bronze UNION JACK issue 470 (1912)
Carlac is hired by an unscrupulous art dealer to steal a priceless bronze statuette. But, after the crime, he believes that one of his henchmen has betrayed him, then the dealer who commissioned the crime tries to back out of the arrangement. With his plans going awry and Sexton Blake on his tail, Carlac just manages to get away but not before the detective strips him of his crippled tramp disguise.

3. The Opium Smugglers UNION JACK issue 472 (1912)
Carlac leads a gang of opium smugglers and plots to send a massive shipment of the drug from London to Hong Kong. After the master criminal kidnaps an interfering clergyman, Sexton Blake begins to investigate and Carlac quickly finds that his scheme is falling apart. A confrontation on the River Thames finally destroys the plot and Carlac barely escapes.

4. Carlac — Gun-Runner UNION JACK issue 474 (1912)
Carlac continues his career as a smuggler, having fled to the Indian continent. After bribing the young commander of a fort on the Indian frontier by holding his mother and sister hostage, he clears a route through which he can smuggle a shipment of guns to a rebellious hill tribe. Sexton Blake intervenes and defeats the plan but, once again, Carlac escapes.

5. The Mad Millionaire UNION JACK issue 478 (1912)
A millionaire hires Carlac to kidnap his grandson from his estranged daughter-in-law. The master-criminal succeeds and is paid. He then abducts the child again intending to gain a large ransom from the millionaire. Blake foils his scheme and reunites the family but fails to capture the villain.

6. The Great Boxing Fraud UNION JACK issue 483 (1913)

7. The Ten Millionaires UNION JACK issue 486 (1913)

8. The Case of the Emigrant Slaves UNION JACK issue 489 (1913)

9. A Rogue at Large UNION JACK issue 494 (1913)

10. The Wandering Baronet UNION JACK issue 497 (1913)

11. The Sugar Planter's Secret UNION JACK issue 500 (1913)

12. The Great Conspiracy DREADNOUGHT issues 61 to 67 (1913)
An American millionaire offers to pay Carlac £200,000 if he obtains the famous Lovelace diamonds. Carlac's first move is to kidnap Sir Henry Lovelace's daughter and hold her for ransom. This scheme is foiled by Sexton Blake. Next, Carlac teams up with George Marsden Plummer and John Marsh and, by impersonating William Spearing, they manage to steal the gems. Plummer, though, betrays his companions and absconds with the loot. Carlac mobilises his forces, who capture the traitorous villain. However, before Carlac can torture Plummer to death, the ex-Scotland Yard man is set free by Tinker. Carlac and Marsh narrowly escape a police raid and are forced to flee, empty-handed.

13. The Case of the Suffragette Raid UNION JACK issue 503 (1913)

14. Ill-Gotten Gains THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 2 (1915)
Carlac escapes from prison with Professor Kew and tries to extort money from a banker who once committed a crime. Their victim flees to an island off Alaska where evidence that proves his innocence is hidden. The criminals get there first but their plot is foiled by Sexton Blake. They manage to get away.

15. The Rajah's Revenge THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 4 (1915)
When Carlac and Professor Kew attempt to steal treasure from a Rajah, they are captured and held prisoner in the palace where, day after day, they are tormented by a half-starved tiger. Sexton Blake comes to their rescue and, after fleeing from the Rajah, they then escape from the detective.

16. Victims of Villainy THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 8 (1916)

17. His Excellency's Secret THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 19 (1916)
Carlac and Professor Kew gain a hypnotic hold over a South American diplomat and use him to discover of the location of a fabled silver mine. Sexton Blake ruins their scheme but Kew trades stolen documents for his and Carlac's freedom.

18. The Secret of the Draker's Folly THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 25 (1917)

19. The Catspaw THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series issue 29 (1917)
Carlac and Professor Kew fool Hon. John Lawless into helping a convict escape from prison. This man, Melvale, had hidden a hoard of stolen jewels before being imprisoned for their theft, and has promised to divide the spoils with the two master crooks in return for their liberating him. The trio make for the Norfolk Broads where the treasure is concealed on an island — but are pursued by Lawless, Sexton Blake and Tinker. After failing to kill Blake, Carlac and Kew are betrayed by Melvale, who is subsequently killed when a mine explodes beneath his boat. The fate of the two crooks remains a mystery to Sexton Blake.

More to come ... ...