THE BLACK EAGLE
(also known as John Hasford, A. Long, and David Stone)

by Mark Hodder

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

The Black Eagle is artistic, sympathetic and tragic but also implacably vengeful. He possesses enormous strength in his arms and hands. He is the author of The Confessions of a Professional Criminal.

The Black Eagle

In his youth, as an art student, John Hasford ran with a wild crowd in the Latin Quarter of Paris. His companions were Bramwell Chester, Joe Thurlston, Ricardo Gospert, Geoffrey Howland, Freddie Buckford (who later became Lord Baymore) and two models, Camille Desmoulins and Helene Merchardier. The latter was his lover but Camille was wildly jealous of their affair and, during a drunken evening of ferocious arguments, she murdered her rival. With help from Thurlston and Gospert, she then framed Hasford and he was convicted of the crime. For twenty years, he was incarcerated in the notorious prison on Devil's Island. Here he learned carpentry and built up the strength in his arms, wrists and hands to an astonishing degree. He became known by the other prisoners as 'the Black Eagle'.

After two decades in prison, Hasford was given day release and took the opportunity to escape. He made his way to South America where he joined diamond prospectors and mades a small fortune. After shooting dead Ricardo Gospert in Cuba, he travelled to London where he established dual identities.

As "A. Long," he owned a furniture shop on Seven Sisters Road. He created high quality furniture in the workshop at the back of the premises and led a quiet and unobtrusive life.

At weekends, he lived as artist David Stone, inhabiting a bizarrely designed house just off the Edgware Road with his brother, an ex-sailor whose body is scarred and misshapen.

Hasford continued his campaign against the group who betrayed him. However, after breaking Geoffrey Howland's neck, he came to the attention of Sexton Blake. The detective investigated Hasford's background and eventually confronted him, revealing the fact that Camille Desmoulins committed the crime for which he had been convicted and that she was now a drug-addled wreck living in abject destitution in Paris. Blake allowed Hasford to go free, believing that the truth would be enough to keep the Black Eagle from a life of crime. This, it turned out, was a miscalculation.

Chronology:

1. The Black Eagle (UNION JACK issue 1,048, 1923)
Having escaped from Devil's Island at the end of his life sentence for murder, John Hasford — aka the Black Eagle — sets out to revenge himself against those who framed him. However, his activities attract the attention of Sexton Blake who investigates his background and discovers the real killer. After confronting him with the truth, Blake allows Hasford to go free, hoping that he will lead a law-abiding life despite the great wrong that he has suffered.

2. The Secret of the Bottle (UNION JACK issue 1,092, 1924)
When the Black Eagle learns that a petty criminal has been framed for the theft of jewels from a jeweller named Dubois and sentenced to imprisonment on Devil's Island, he determines to get to the bottom of the affair. Sexton Blake is also pursuing the truth and, when both men discover that Dubuis faked the crime to claim the insurance, both seek to deliver their own brand of justice. Blake wins, Dubuis confesses, the innocent man is set free, and the Black Eagle, who has not committed a crime, remains at large.

3. The Case of the Pink Macaw (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 1st series, issue 371, 1925)
The Black Eagle seeks to revenge himself on a ship's Captain named Barnfield 'Bully Blood' Gore who had once killed a lad with whom John Hasford was travelling. Gore is now the rich owner of a shipping line which Hasford infiltrates in the guise of a clerk. After poisoning Gore and terrorising him with a vicious pink macaw, the Black Eagle strips the company of its assets. His victim's ruination is only prevented from becoming a murder by the intervention of Sexton Blake.

4. The Monte Carlo Mystery (UNION JACK issue 1,122, 1925)
Madam Goupolis commissions The Black Eagle to kill a man — Prince Parvenov — in return for information about, Vabour, one of the men David Stone is hunting. The Eagle kills the wrong man but later corrects this, though Parvenov is later proven by Sexton Blake to be a fake (the real prince's ne'er-do-well half-brother). David Stone and his brother head to Egypt to find Vabour ... ...

5. The Great Canal Plot (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series, issue 19, 1925)
In Cairo, The Black Eagle is joined by Madam Goupolis and persuaded to take part in a daring plot to blow up the Suez Canal. The deed is to be undertaken by a gang of super-criminals, led by Prince Menes, which includes George Marsden Plummer, Mathew Cardolak and The Three Musketeers, and Prince Wu Ling. However, The Black Eagle is captured by Tinker and later sent to prison. The plot is foiled by Sexton Blake but Menes remains free and arranges a successful prison breakout for all involved.

6. Under the Eagle's Wing (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series, issue 21, 1925)

7. The Case of the Mummified Hand (SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY 2nd series, issue 35, 1926)
The Black Eagle plays host to the gang of super-crooks who had previously been involved in THE GREAT CANAL PLOT. When Prince Menes loses control of the gang and George Marsden Plummer rebels, the Black Eagle is forced to intervene to prevent Menes from harming Mademoiselle Yvonne. Sexton Blake leads a police raid on the Eagle's house and Menes commits suicide to prevent capture. No charges are brought against The Black Eagle.

8. The Adventure of the Bowery Tar Baby (UNION JACK issue 1,170, 1926)
The Black Eagle murders a mysterious financier who is, in fact, an ex-convict, one of a group of six men with whom he'd feuded during his years of incarceration. Sexton Blake and Bryant Kennedy catch up with him but are held captive while the Black Eagle escapes.

This marks the final appearance of the Black Eagle. We never learn how his vendetta against the remaning five of his former tormentors develops ... or what happened with regard to his difficult relationship with Sexton Blake.