A SEXTON BLAKE TIMELINE
by Mark Hodder
Much of what you'll find on this page is based on information presented in the Sexton Blake stories, to which I have added a hefty dose of pure speculation and, dare I confess, a modicum of invention. As an "official" Sexton Blake author (I humbly refer you to SBL6 #1), I think perhaps I can claim a licence for the liberties taken.
14 January 1827
BIRTH OF BERKELEY BLAKE
Berkeley Blake, Sexton Blake's father, is born into a family of medical practitioners of Irish ancestry. He is a second child; the first, his sister Frances (known as "Fannie"), is two years his senior. Berkeley will train in medicine at the Franz Joseph Hospital in Vienna, and will specialise in chemistry.
16 October 1833
BIRTH OF HUXTON RYMER
Huxton Rymer is born. He will receive medical training alongside Berkeley Blake and Frederick Lanchester at the Franz Joseph Hospital in Vienna, and will become a master surgeon, one of the most celebrated in all of Europe. His treatise on The Emanations of Radium in Relation to their Action on Cancer and the Curative Power Thereof will be groundbreaking; referred to well into the 20th Century. Rymer will be counted among Berkeley Blake's closest friends and, in due course, will become one of Sexton Blake's three guardians ... but he'll also turn out to be the Blake family's greatest betrayer, and over the ensuing decades, he'll make his mark as an ambitious and intelligent crook.
7 February 1834
BIRTH OF FREDERICK LANCHESTER
Frederick Lanchester is born. He will study medicine in Vienna with Berkeley Blake, Huxton Rymer, and an as yet unidentified gentleman who will henceforth be referred to as "X." He'll form a deep bond of friendship with all three men. In time, Lanchester, Rymer and "X" will become Sexton Blake's guardians.
28 April 1849
DOCTOR BERKELEY BLAKE MARRIES LADY ANN BLAKENEY
22-year-old Doctor Berkeley Blake, already a skilled chemist, marries a girl from the fenlands of East Anglia. She is a distant cousin of his, named Lady Ann Blakeney, and is descended from the Blakeney family to which the Scarlet Pimpernel belonged. Though attractive and intelligent, she suffers frequent bouts of melancholia.
DOCTOR BERKELEY BLAKE'S FORMULA
Doctor Berkeley Blake formulates and begins to experiment with what promises to be a lifespan-enhancing drug. However, he faces significant problems. The primates on which he tests the potion all stop ageing but they also develop severe psychosis and become ferociously violent. He considers it possible that a human subject might be capable of controlling these impulses but he can't be certain and would rather find a way to eliminate the side-effect.
4 November 1849
BIRTH OF HENRY BLAKE
Henry Blake is born prematurely. Lady Ann suffers severe postpartum depression and, believing that her child will die, attempts suicide. She is saved by her husband, and the child — nursed assiduously by him — survives. The family recovers from the trauma but, over the ensuing years, it rapidly becomes apparent that Henry has a "kink" in his personality that makes him prone to erratic behaviour, dishonesty and theft.
15 May 1859
BIRTH OF SEXTON BLAKE
Lady Ann despairs over 10-year-old Henry, who is becoming increasingly disobedient. Berkeley insists that the family should be expanded, believing the presence of a younger sibling will temper Henry's excesses and lighten his wife's increasingly dark moods. Lady Ann reluctantly agrees (though she states, "This new child will be the death of me!") and a second son is duly born. In a show of morbid humour, Lady Ann names him Sexton. He is nicknamed 'Tony' by Berkeley.
Berkeley Blake, frustrated by the continuing failure of his life-extension formula, for the first time reveals the subject of his research to his colleagues, Frederick Lanchester, Huxton Rymer, and "X." Despite the seemingly insurmountable problems he is faced with, they are astonished by the progress he's so far made and enthusiastically encourage him to persist with his experiments.
Some weeks later, Berkeley receives a threatening letter from a criminal gang that has somehow got wind of his project. It states that he is under observation and — when the time is right — will be required to hand over all his research papers and materials. If he refuses, harm will be done to his family. This, together with his wife's emotional instability — which is becoming more severe — puts Berkeley under immense psychological pressure.
4 April 1864
HENRY BLAKE'S "SUICIDE"
15-year-old Henry Blake falls in with a gang of delinquents led by Louis Eckhardt, otherwise known as The Baron. When Eckhardt makes Henry his "catspaw" through which to steal money from Berkeley Blake, the inexperienced youth leaves evidence, is accused of the theft by his father, and is banished from the family home. He responds by faking his own suicide. Her first-born's wickedness and apparent death, together with the lack of a body to bury, cause Lady Ann to suffer a severe emotional breakdown.
26 July 1866
BIRTH OF NIGEL BLAKE
To address Lady Ann's undiminished grief over Henry, Berkeley again pressures her to bear another child. He hopes for a daughter but after a difficult pregnancy a third son is born. They name him Nigel Blake.
Berkeley takes a significant step forward in his research and concocts a second version of the formula. It holds great promise, with tests suggesting that the psychological side-effects have been eliminated. There remains a single hurdle: the drug's potency needs to be somehow tempered as, in its present form, it invariably causes cancer. Despite this being a major issue, it is one he feels confident that he can solve.
Over the course of the past eight years, Berkeley Blake has been the recipient of occasional letters from Francois Leroux, all reminding him that he is being watched. Now, a demand for his papers, research materials, and formula is made, and the harassment becomes more frequent and much darker in tone. The Blake residence is four times broken into and ransacked, though its safe remains impregnable. Berkeley Blake is kidnapped by hooded men, beaten, and released. Lady Ann receives a letter stating that Sexton and Nigel will be abducted and sold into slavery unless her husband hands over his work.
THE BLAKE FAMILY FLEES TO FRANCE
After stubbornly enduring direct intimidation for almost a year, Berkeley gives in to Lady Ann's insistence that the family should flee to France. It is done, neither of them realising that they have, in fact, placed themselves and their children much closer to Francois Leroux and his gang. The continuing pressure from the crook has by now turned Berkeley Blake's hair white. This year, Sexton Blake is ten years old and Nigel is three.
20 October 1869
THE MURDER OF BERKELEY BLAKE AND LADY ANN
Francois Leroux murders Berkeley Blake and Lady Ann in front of Sexton Blake. The criminal flees from the scene with the life-extending formula in his possession. However, he has mistakenly made off with the original version, which causes psychosis. The Blake family housekeeper, Mrs Balustrode, escapes back to England with Sexton, Nigel, and a box containing Berkeley Blake's research notes and the most recent variant of the drug. She delivers the children and the box to Berkeley's friend, Dr. Lanchester.
SEXTON BLAKE TRAINED BY DOCTOR LANCHESTER
Berkeley Blake's sister Fannie becomes Nigel Blake's guardian. The brothers are separated so that Nigel, who did not witness the murder of his parents, can be raised as normally as possible. Sexton, on the other hand, is in deep shock and requires special attention. Doctor Lanchester becomes his legal guardian. It takes the boy nearly three years to recover from his trauma. His memory develops a massive fault-line, and soon he is unable to properly recall his parents, brothers, or the terrible events of 1869. He studies obsessively, acquiring new knowledge and skills with apparent ease. He also spends considerable time being trained by Lanchester in the arts of bush-craft, observation and deduction, self-defence and martial arts. These "distractions" are initially designed to heal him but he quickly shows immense aptitude for them and they develop into his raison d'être.
28 May 1873
BIRTH OF GEORGE WILLIAM COUTTS (II)
George William Coutts (II) is born. From 1916 onwards, as Detective-Inspector Coutts, he will feature in a great many of Sexton Blake's cases.
10 March 1874
DR LANCHESTER MURDERED
For the past three years, Dr Lanchester has been collecting evidence against Francois Leroux. Realising that this puts his life in danger, he and the young Sexton Blake relocate to Martello Tower in the remote Millhove district on the south east coast of England. However, Leroux discovers their location and murders Lanchester.
RYMER'S SECRET TRIUMPH
Lanchester's friends, Dr Huxton Rymer and "X," take responsibility for Sexton Blake. However, unknown to anyone, Rymer was behind Francois Leroux's interest in the senior Blake's work, and through that villainous agent, he has gained possession of the first batch of formula. Impulsively, he swallows the potion and — at 38 years old — stops ageing. However, over the course of the next few years, in addition to what appears to be "eternal youth," he will also develop psychosis, which he will attempt to keep at bay through the use of alcohol and drugs.
DEATH OF FRANCOIS LEROUX
Huxton Rymer and "X" arrange for Sexton Blake to board at St. Anne's Public School, Ashleigh, near Winchester. There, the youth meets and forms a close friendship with Richard Losely, and together they investigate and defeat the Leroux gang. Francois Leroux burns to death, which is fortunate for Rymer, as it eliminates the one person who could have identified him as the mastermind behind the crimes that have robbed Blake of his family. Sexton Blake reads a letter from his dead father. It reveals his lineage and the nature of Berkeley's research. Shortly afterward, before Blake can ask him any questions, Rymer drops out of sight and is not seen again until 1913.
2 October 1875
BIRTH OF GEORGE MARSDEN PLUMMER
George Marsden Plummer is born in Melbourne, Australia. Two distant relatives stand between him and the Earldom of Sevenoaks with its rent-roll of sixty thousand a year. Very early in his life, he forms a burning resentment toward the accident of birth that has consigned him to "commoner" status.
SEXTON BLAKE AT VARSITY
Sexton Blake leaves St. Anne's School and attends Oxford University to study medicine and law. His tutors, impressed by his mental faculties, fast-track him through his courses.
THE "TEST CASE"
Scarcely out of his teens and still at university, Sexton Blake takes on his first case to test his mettle as a detective. During the summer recess, he lands a temporary job as a clerk in a lawyer's office before then undertaking a short stint at Farrow's Detective Agency.
SEXTON BLAKE & CO.'S FIRST CASE
With money made available from his inheritance by Aunt Fannie, Blake forms "Sexton Blake & Co." with his college friend William Bastable (later known as Bathurst). They work from an office in St. Martin's, London. After bringing their first case to a successful conclusion, Blake is keen to continue. However, Bastable finds it difficult to balance the venture with his studies, considers the business of detection too unnerving, and so departs.
26 July 1880
SEXTON BLAKE GRADUATES
Aged 21, Blake graduates from university with medical and law degrees and loaded with honours. He once again sets up business as a consulting detective, working this time from offices in New Inn Chambers on Wych Street, Strand. He lodges nearby in Norfolk House, Norfolk Street.
THE MISSING MILLIONAIRE
The events of THE MISSING MILLIONAIRE and A CHRISTMAS CRIME occur (these cases won't be made public for another 13 years). Sexton Blake and French detective Jules Gervais — known to Blake through Doctor Lanchester, who'd hired Gervais during his investigation of Francois Leroux — go into business together. Gervais's commitment to the venture is half-hearted at best, but being older than Blake and much more experienced, he is able to teach the advantages of a patient, methodical approach.
Blake proposes marriage to Myra Finch, who gives him a 'half promise'. The union never occurs.
After his short business partnership with Sexton Blake, Jules Gervais recognises that a new breed of detective has arisen. Feeling old-fashioned and outpaced, he retires.
4 April 1886
The case recorded as BRAVO BLAKE occurs this year. (It is clearly stated in the published account that Sexton Blake is 27-years-old, which supports the information given in SEXTON BLAKE'S FIRST CASE and HOW SEXTON BLAKE WON HIS SPURS).
BIRTH OF EDWARD 'TINKER' CARTER
Edward 'Tinker' Carter is thought to have been born this year, though he has never known his exact date of birth. His early childhood was a harsh one. When he was eventually introduced to Sexton Blake, he was working as a newspaper boy and living in an attic.
17 March 1891
COUTTS JOINS THE POLICE
George William Coutts, aged 18, joins the Metropolitan Police Force.
6 April 1892
COUTTS GETS MARRIED
George William Coutts, aged 19, marries Jane Grant, a 'Shropshire lass,' who he met when she was a lady's maid in Meriden Hall, Salop. Their union will be an enduring one.
7 April 1893
PLUMMER JOINS THE POLICE
Having immigrated to England from Australia (motivated by the desire to locate and eliminate the two relatives who stand between him and the family fortune), 18-year-old George Marsden Plummer joins the Metropolitan Police Force. He will frequently encounter George Coutts but the latter takes an instant dislike to him and their relationship never develops beyond a "nodding acquaintanceship." Plummer's sharp intellect will have him rising very rapidly through the ranks — far more quickly than his contemporaries. Perhaps unsurprisingly, bribery will also play a major role in his advancement.
NALDA THE NIHILIST
Sexton Blake travels to Russia while pursuing the case of NALDA THE NIHILIST. His detective consultancy is already generating sufficient income that he is able to take on a maid — Sarah Ann — at his Norfolk House lodgings.
1 December 1893
FIRST PUBLISHED CASE
Sexton Blake is given the opportunity to have his case notes written up and published by Amalgamated Press, albeit with much exaggeration. He realises that this — when supplemented by entirely fictional cases — is a method through which he can confuse, threaten and misinform his enemies. He supplies material from his "Index" and THE MISSING MILLIONAIRE is the first case to be presented to the public, though it occurred 13 years earlier.
4 May 1894
DEBUT IN UNION JACK
A Sexton Blake case — SEXTON BLAKE: DETECTIVE! — is featured for the first time in the UNION JACK story paper. This boosts Blake's reputation and intensifies the process wherein he "mythologises" himself, wrong-footing criminals before they've even encountered him.
BLAKE FORMULATES HIS PHILOSOPHY
Sexton Blake forms his philosophy: "We do not interfere in disputes between man and wife, nor do we pursue defaulting clerks. But if there is a wrong to be righted, an evil to be redressed, or a rescue of the weak and the suffering from the powerful, our hearty assistance can be readily obtained. We do nothing for hire here; we would cheerfully undertake to perform without fee or reward. But when our clients are wealthy we are not so unjust to ourselves as to make a gratuitous offer of our services." This marks a departure from his attitude just ten years ago when, during cases, he would occasionally assess with considerable glee the considerable fees he could charge his clients.
11 May 1895
SEXTON BLAKE GETS MARRIED
Sexton Blake, hopeful that amid the excitement of crime fighting he might lead a "normal life," impulsively proposes marriage to Muriel Lane, met during the case recorded as THE LAMP OF DEATH. She accepts. They have a summer wedding followed by a honeymoon at a rented villa overlooking the sea at Swatley Cove.
Second Half 1895
In addition to his maid, Blake now employs a valet, an ex-constable named Kennedy. When Kennedy expresses his opinion that Blake is "playing at domesticity," Blake dismisses him and replaces him with a man named Wallace. Blake continues to work as an investigator, little realising the degree to which he is putting his wife at risk.
25 November 1895
Thomas George Coutts is born to George William Coutts and his wife, Jane. Tom will later be killed at Ypres, during the Great War.
Sexton Blake takes on a case that involves a voyage to China where he saves a 9-year-old child named We-wee ("Little Beagle") from a beating. We-wee returns with him to London and is taken on as houseboy and assistant.
With the Norfolk House rooms beginning to feel cramped, Blake starts to look for a suitable family home. He finds a suburban house that may be suitable for him and his wife. To assess its security, he rents and lives in it for a few weeks. He hires a street urchin named Nipperty Chris to assist him in a particular case while We-wee looks after business at the New Inn Chambers office. Nipperty introduces Blake to one of his friends, a 9-year-old ragamuffin named Tinker. The detective takes a shine to the lad and pays the fees for Nipperty and Tinker to attend Telford College. Nipperty quickly bridles at the discipline and returns to the streets, but Tinker keeps up with his studies.
Richard Losely returns from an African expedition (his most successful; it earns him a knighthood) bringing with him a remarkably intelligent great ape and an "elixir of eternal life." He delivers both to Sexton Blake, who names the ape "Griff" and trains it to assist him. Ultimately, this experiment fails and by the end of the year Griff is returned to his native habitat.
The elixir has no potency, perhaps having lost it during the voyage from Africa. However, one of its ingredients, when combined with Berkeley Blake's second formula, balances its effects so perfectly that it can be taken without cancerous side effects. From this point in his life (he is 42 years old), Sexton Blake's ageing slows to a near stop and various people with whom he shares a close relationship ("X," Losely, Tinker, and Mrs Bardell, for example) begin to display the same timelessness. Once the initial batch of formula is used up, Losely mounts frequent expeditions to Africa to search for the vital ingredient that had made such a miracle possible. He never again finds it.*
*Further details pertaining to the species of ape to which Griff belongs, as well as to the elixir, might be found in the series of novels written by Edgar Rice Burroughs concerning the adventures of Lord Greystoke, aka Tarzan of the Apes.
Sexton Blake, still restlessly seeking a suitable partnership, takes on a secretary and pupil named Wallace Lorrimer.
NEW OFFICE BOY
With We-wee now in school, Sexton Blake and Wallace Lorrimer employ a new office boy, who is variously known as Raffles, Praggles or Raggles.
We-wee, now dedicated to his studies, leaves the employ of Sexton Blake. The detective will sponsor the Chinese boy through school and university.
Business has been brisk for Sexton Blake but he now suffers a setback when Wallace Lorrimer departs to take up farming. Shortly after this, utter disaster strikes when, in an act of revenge, one of his opponents murders Muriel Blake (née Lane). The loss of his wife pushes Blake to the brink of an emotional breakdown. He considers retiring, but first disbands his household and office before pursuing the murderer to India and on to South America. There, he kills the villain (in an act of self-defence).
Blake refuses Amalgamated Press access to his notes pertaining to these events and issues an edict that his wife — or even the fact that he had ever been married — should never again be mentioned in print.
A further blow occurs when Aunt Fannie, possibly due to her distress at Blake's grief, passes away.
TINKER ... AND VENGEANCE
The grief caused by his wife's murder unlocks many repressed memories and, determined to draw a line under all his family tragedies, Blake hunts down the man responsible for his elder brother's suicide (he is unaware at this time that Henry's suicide was faked). In his fight with Louis Eckhardt (the Baron), Blake is assisted by 14-year-old Tinker. It is the start of a lasting partnership and the conclusion of this case marks a new beginning for Blake.
Tinker joins Sexton Blake on a permanent basis and they relocate to Baker Street. The house is owned by Mrs Martha Bardell. She, however, is at this point living in a nursing home to be with her husband, Tom, a former policeman, who is slowly dying from tuberculosis.
One of Blake's clients, a man named Rafael Calderon, upon moving abroad, makes a gift of his dog — Pedro the bloodhound — to the detective. Although it is never stated, this Pedro is the first of a long line, all of them carefully bred to retain the temperament, appearance and talents of the original. Each descendant is given special training that they might take up the duties of their forebears. All share the original name.
21 January 1905
LOSELY MEETS HIS MATCH
Sir Richard Losely marries (his spouse's name remains unknown). In October, he and his wife have their one and only child. They name him Leonard.
AN ACTOR REJECTED
At the Theatre Metropole, New York, Leon Kestrel, an actor of immense promise, is spurned by the singer, Charmain Connellan. He never sets foot on the stage again, and is reported missing.
SEXTON BLAKE IN THE CONGO
Sexton Blake and Tinker travel extensively in the Congo during a mission to rescue Sir Richard Losely. Further searches for the elusive elixir of life, undertaken at this time, prove fruitless.
Upon the death of her husband, Mrs Bardell joins the Blake household.
THE RETURN OF HENRY BLAKE
Blake discovers that his eldest brother's suicide was faked and that Henry is still alive ... and a criminal. Already weakened from fever caught while in Africa, Blake's battle with Henry — and Henry's subsequent death — cause him to suffer a second, and long-overdue, nervous breakdown. Leaving Baker Street in Tinker's hands, he rests in Aston Villa, Surbiton, before then moving to Messenger Square. A workaholic, he loses himself in a large number of rapidly solved minor cases. In these endeavours, he is assisted by his old friend and business partner, William Bastable, who for some undisclosed reason has altered his surname to his mother's maiden name of Bathurst.
Blake meets his first ally at Scotland Yard. Detective Inspector William Spearing is abrasive and impatient, and shows Blake only grudging respect. However, though he'll never admit to it, he expresses considerable enthusiasm for Blake to his colleagues in the Police Force and is largely responsible for improving relations between that establishment and the detective.
SEXTON BLAKE IN AMERICA
It's by no means Blake's first visit, but the detective spends a considerable part of this year in America. Tinker accompanies him and is taught tracking by native Americans. Blake has a tendency to escape to America when he's at a low ebb. This year, it works wonders, and he returns to Baker Street much rejuvenated.
GEORGE MARSDEN PLUMMER
Sexton Blake has his first encounter with George Marsden Plummer, whose villainous nature is finally exposed after more than a decade of surreptitious crime.
Sir Richard Losely is made Her Majesty's Governor of the Province of Musardu and the Bambarra hinterlands in East Africa.
A BRIEF ROMANCE
Blake is briefly engaged to Lady Marjorie Dorn but they break it off after he realises that any relationship brings with it the potential for criminals to target his partner, as had happened with his late wife.
PARTNERS IN CRIME
George Marsden Plummer teams up with crooked financier John Marsh for a series of daring crimes.
William Spearing retires from Scotland Yard and goes into private practice as a consulting detective. His career as an independent investigator is successful but not lengthy.
Constable George William Coutts is promoted to Sergeant. He meets Sexton Blake for the first time while dining in a French restaurant. The Baker Street detective admires the young policeman's dogged determination and spirit.
In China, the stealthy machinations of Prince Wu Ling result in the overthrow of the Manchu Dynasty. Wu Ling has his puppet, Sun-Yat-Sen, made provisional president.
NIGEL BLAKE GONE BAD
Blake learns that his seldom-seen younger brother, Nigel Blake (now aged 46), has developed the same criminal tendencies as the eldest of the siblings, Henry. Concerned that this might adversely influence his own reputation, he pays Nigel to leave Britain for Africa, where he will begin a new life. Nigel takes with him his lover, a woman named Clare. They are married aboard the ship by its captain.
COUNT IVOR CARLAC
Blake has his first encounter with Count Ivor Carlac, a physically powerful, intelligent, and exceedingly vicious Polish Jew. Originally a pilot — one of the very first — Carlac is a wanted man in Vienna and Paris, Madrid and St. Petersburg.
14-15 June 1912
Sexton Blake survives the sinking of the Titanic. This event was recounted in a thinly disguised form in the UNION JACK story entitled THE LAW OF THE SEA, in which the ill-starred vessel was renamed the Paleta.
RYMER IN RUINS
Sexton Blake is taken, with other survivors of the Titanic, to New York aboard the Carpathia. A few days after his arrival there, he encounters Doctor Huxton Rymer, and is shocked to find that his one-time guardian has become a borderline psychotic, an alcoholic, and a drug addict. To the detective's further dismay, Rymer is also involved in an ambitious criminal enterprise. Blake foils the plot (an unrecorded story; the detective did not want it published) but Rymer escapes on a boat that is smuggling weapons to the small Republic of Salnarita in South America.
3 November 1912
BIRTH OF GARRY BLAKE
Nigel and Clare Blake's son — Sexton Blake's nephew — is born. They name him Garry. Nigel, by now a chronic drug addict and ridded with tropical diseases, almost immediately abandons his family.
Perhaps in response to the peculiar zeitgeist of the approaching world war, an extraordinary breed of super-criminal emerges, and some of Sexton Blake's greatest enemies now make their debut, including Professor Kew and Prince Wu Ling.
IF ONLY ...
Mademoiselle Yvonne Cartier arrives on the scene, having left her native Australia. Her relationship with Blake starts on a sour note. She is on a mission of vengeance that frequently causes her to stray across the boundaries of the law. Furthermore, she misguidedly assists Dr Huxton Rymer in his attempt to rob Salnarita — a tiny South American country — of its bullion reserves. Ultimately, Yvonne will mend her ways and become a valued ally to Blake ... and a great temptation. Now, though, it is Rymer who falls for her charms, and her rejection hits him hard. He flees to the Far East and there gives himself up to the opium pipe.
A BAD ENEMY TO MAKE
Huxton Rymer is saved from potential opium addiction by Prince Wu Ling, head of the Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle. However, the two criminal egos clash, Rymer betrays his rescuer, and after being tortured, he flees back to South America. There will be future occasions where he and Wu Ling ally themselves in opposition to Blake or in pursuit of criminal gain, but despite these exceptions, they will remain lifelong enemies.
Ezra Q. Maitland, Broadway Kate, Aubrey Dexter, and the Council of Eleven all begin their crime sprees. Sexton Blake, busier than ever, is fortunate to find an ally in Hon. John Lawliss (later Lawless).
WU LING INCAPACITATED
Sexton Blake faces Prince Wu Ling in hand to hand combat and defeats him. The leader of The Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle is pronounced dead. His right-hand man, San, takes over leadership of the cultish organisation. In truth, Wu Ling has sustained critical injuries but will survive and resume his position by the end of the year.
THE NADIR OF NIGEL
Sexton Blake visits his 48-year-old brother, Nigel Blake, in West Africa. Nigel, in misguidedly seeking to replicate their father's work has encountered the same challenges. He has injected himself with his own version of the life-prolonging formula and is now psychotic. Like Huxton Rymer, he seeks control of himself through alcohol and drugs. Having abandoned his wife, Clare, and baby son, Garry, Nigel is scraping a living by practicing medicine illegally. Despairing, Sexton Blake leaves him to his fate and returns to England with Clare and the boy. He ensures that they have a place to live and the means to support themselves.
After less than a month back in London, Blake has a change of heart, turns around, and heads back to Africa. He and Tinker join Sir Richard Losely and Lobangu on an expedition. Blake means to discuss with his oldest and most trusted friend what might be done to help Nigel. However, a message from the British government informs them that war has been declared and they are asked to gather an army of natives to hold the Kana Pass against the Germans until British troops arrive. From this point on, Blake's services are so often called upon that he can find no time for his wayward sibling.
It should be here noted that in 1955, Sexton Blake will present to Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden a dossier containing clear evidence that Prince Wu Ling manipulated political events in Europe during the lead up to the war and must be held in no small part accountable for the outbreak of hostilities.
22 October 1914
COUTTS'S SON KILLED
Thomas George Coutts, son of George William Coutts, is killed by mortar fire at Ypres, aged 19.
Prince Wu Ling works assiduously against allied interests as the Great War rages. By the end of this year, satisfied that Europe is self-destructing and the British Empire falling, he and his organisation retreat to monasteries and are not heard from for the next seven years.
THE GREY PANTHER
Blake designs and builds his own monoplane and names it the Grey Panther. At a later date, he'll fit the engine into a Rolls Royce car, which he'll give the same name.
THE MASTER MUMMER
Leon Kestrel emerges from his decade-long retreat and commences his criminal career. As The Master Mummer, he is able to achieve his nefarious ends by means of disguises and impersonations. As leader of the Kestrel Syndicate, he will pose a significant threat to Sexton Blake.
Blake brings the activities of The Council of Eleven to a close.
RYMER'S WARTIME SERVICE
War, paradoxically, gives Doctor Huxton Rymer one of his rare interludes of inner peace. In the guise of "De Loulay," he labours assiduously in field hospitals, saving hundreds of lives with his remarkable surgical skills.
THE GREATEST ALLY
Detective-Inspector Coutts has his first reported case with Sexton Blake. In the past, Blake had worked well with Detective-Inspector Spearing (and other police officers) but they had never enjoyed a close bond of friendship. With Coutts, who proves himself one of the finest men Blake ever encounters, a different sort of relationship is established. They form an alliance and friendship that lasts for all of Coutts's life.
The case in question introduces Dirk Dolland, an ex-music hall artist turned expert cracksman. Dolland will eventually reform and become another great ally.
31 March 1917
George William Coutts III is born to Detective-Inspector Coutts (aged 44) and his wife, Jane.
Mr Reece makes his debut. Blake manages to thwart his villainous plans after being given crucial information by Dirk Dolland. Reece will, however, be back ... and more powerful than ever!
Sexton Blake is instructed to take a rest by his doctors who are concerned that he is on the verge of a nervous collapse. These periodic near-breakdowns may be more than stress-related; they are possibly a side-effect of his father's formula, an echo of the psychosis caused by the first iteration of the potion. Either that, or he has inherited an aspect of his mother's temperament.
After a murder is committed at a circus, Blake for the first time encounters Waldo the Wonder-Man. With his extreme strength and immunity from pain, Waldo eludes capture and sets out on a campaign of crime.
11 November 1918
THE CRIMINALS' CONFEDERATION
Though it's been operating for some time, the existence and activities of the Criminals' Confederation finally come to light and Sexton Blake embarks upon the most demanding conflict of his long career. In this, he is frequently assisted by the reformed Dirk Dolland.
For three years, Blake has been advised to rest by his doctors. Now, his exhausted state causes a full breakdown, which is made worse by a dose of the Spanish Flu that's currently rampaging through Europe.
THE NEW PRESIDENT
John Smith, the president of the Criminals' Confederation, is usurped by Mr Reece. A few months later, Smith is strangled to death in prison.
Zenith the Albino makes his debut in typical style by bombing Sexton Blake's Baker Street home. Of all the detective's opponents, none will earn from him such a degree of grudging respect as does Zenith.
For much of the year, Blake is involved in intensifying battles with the Criminals' Confederation and Zenith (who is counted among its many members).
Blake begins his association with Granite Grant, the Secret Service man.
ZENITH'S FIRST DEMISE
During a ferocious storm, Monsieur Zenith is crushed by a falling wall. He bids a final farewell to Sexton Blake, and dies. However, after the detective departs the scene, a member of the Criminals' Convention revives the albino with a blood transfusion.
Blake discovers that Zenith has survived and their duel will continue.
THE THREE MUSKETEERS
Algy Somerton, Archie "Fairy" Pherison, and Reggie "Cupid" Fetherston begin their wicked career. Beneath a veneer of vacuousness, the Three Musketeers are thuggish criminals. They will soon be sponsored by the crooked art and antiquities collector, Mathew Cardolak.
THE THOUSANDTH CHANCE
Doctor Huxton Rymer, The Three Musketeers, Prince Wu Ling, Mary Trent, The Black Duchess, Leon Kestrel, Zenith the Albino, George Marsden Plummer and Professor Kew team up to rob Sexton Blake of his valuable collection of arts and antiquities. At this point in time, the detective is again so overworked that he's on the brink of a breakdown. Nevertheless, he manages to defeat the gang of super-crooks.
THE PERIL RESURGENT
The dastardly Prince Wu Ling and his The Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle re-emerge and begin to once again meddle in Western affairs.
After having kept himself out of trouble for some considerable time, Dr Huxton Rymer is once again driven by his psychosis to commit crooked deeds. Suffering delusions of power, he teams up with Marie Galante — the "Voodoo Queen" of the Caribbean — with the intention of forming a "black empire." Sexton Blake defeats the scheme.
GILBERT AND EILEEN HALE
A glamorous young couple, Gilbert and Eileen Hale start to commit crimes against the manufacturing industries of northern England.
THE BLACK EAGLE
Artist David Stone escapes from Devil's Island where he was serving a life term for a crime he didn't commit. He sets out on a mission of revenge and has his first encounter with Sexton Blake.
Adapting the methods used by the Criminals' Confederation, but adding to them a greater degree of secrecy and a willingness to assassinate anyone who so much as whispers its name, The Black Trinity (aka The Nameless Three) moves in on Blake, who has suspected its existence for a couple of years. He evades its brutal attempts on his life and foils a number of plans to discredit him.
12 March 1925
STRINGS ARE CUT
In China, Doctor Sun-Yat-Sen, accused of betrayal by Prince Wu Ling, succumbs to secretly administered toxins and dies. The official diagnosis identifies liver cancer as the cause.
Tinker's first true romance begins when he meets Nirvana, a dancer who's being pushed into crime by her wicked elder sister.
Madam Goupolis, on behalf of the White Flag Society, commissions Prince Menes, the Black Eagle, Mathew Cardolak, The Three Musketeers, Prince Wu Ling, and George Marsden Plummer (representing Abdel Krim) to blow up the Suez Canal. Blake foils the plot ... but his enemies remain at liberty.
CARLAC AND KEW DEFEATED!
After a decade and a half of audacious criminal activity, including an extended period in which they worked together, Count Ivor Carlac and Professor Kew finally pay their dues. Both are sentenced to death by hanging and are executed on the same day.
THE END OF ADVENTURES
The Hon. John Lawless has his final adventure with Sexton Blake before retiring from the fray.
THE GREAT ROUND-UP!
An eight-year-long struggle of epic proportions comes to an end when Sexton Blake finally defeats the Criminals' Confederation. It is, perhaps, the greatest triumph of his career.
LORD OF THE APE MEN
A second generation of of super-criminals emerges, and while they may lack the endurance of their predecessors, they make up for it with their extreme eccentricity. Doctor Satira is typical of this bizarre new breed.
EXIT STAGE LEFT
The Prince of Pretence, Leon Kestrel retires from his life of crime.
The Chinese Civil War causes severe problems for Prince Wu Ling, and from this point forward, his power and influence steadily diminish.
THE THREE DEFEATED
With the assistance of Secret Service agent Julia Fortune, Blake defeats The Black Trinity.
THE INVISIBLE MAN
After Professor Ian Craig is left hideously disfigured during a laboratory accident, he uses his "Invicta Ray" creation to render himself invisible and begins to commit misguided crimes as Mr Mist. Sexton Blake puts an end to his schemes and Craig, reformed, emigrates to Africa, there to dedicate himself to good causes.
Blake engages in battle with Paul Cynos.
When Diana Temple learns that she has just six months to live, she disguises herself with a skull mask and, as Miss Death, sets about righting wrongs with no regard for the law. Blake opposes her until her sad demise.
THE END OF SATIRA
Doctor Satira is executed by hanging at Pentonville Gaol.
THE END OF THE MUSKETEERS
While attempting to break into a secret vault in the heart of the Rock of Gibraltar, The Three Musketeers are washed out to sea and, not ever being seen again, are presumed dead. Their sponsor, Mathew Cardolak escapes but is never heard from again.
Echoing what, sixteen years ago, had befallen Mademoiselle Yvonne Cartier, Roxane Harfield is cheated out of her family business and sets forth on a trail of vengeance.
Master cracksman Aubrey Dexter has his last confrontation with Sexton Blake and ends up serving a long stretch at Her Majesty's pleasure.
After losing to Sexton Blake for the final time, The Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle condemns its leader, and Prince Wu Ling is assassinated. Shortly afterward, the organisation falls into disarray, and its members are rounded up, imprisoned, tortured, and executed.
The League of the Onion Men runs amok in London until brought to heel by Sexton Blake.
BID LOSELY FAREWELL
Sir Richard Losely, now 75-years-old but, thanks to Blake's formula, appearing and feeling very much a man in his prime, retires to his beloved Africa with his family.
THE RETURN OF NIGEL BLAKE
67-year-old Nigel Blake (appearing considerably younger despite being ravaged by his addictions to alcohol and drugs) returns to England and indulges his criminal tendencies. Sexton Blake does battle with him, defeats him, and has him committed to a sanatorium.
LEON KESTREL STRIKES BACK
Emerging from retirement, 50-year-old Leon Kestrel strikes at his nemesis, Sexton Blake, by entering the sanatorium where Nigel is being treated and shooting the detective's brother in the chest. Nigel is rushed to hospital but, en route, is replaced by an actor, skilfully made up to exactly resemble him. This man, already dying from tuberculosis, performs a final service for Kestrel in the knowledge that the criminal will reward his widow with a considerable sum of money. In the guise of Nigel Blake, he repents and dies. Sexton Blake is fooled. Nigel, meanwhile, is set to join the Kestrel Syndicate as soon as he is recovered. However, before Kestrel's plans reach fruition, Nigel balks at the idea of working for a man who would recruit him with a bullet. He really does repent and, escaping from the Master Mummer, flees the country.
R. S. V. PURVALE
Blake gains an ally in the form of the Honourable Ronald Sturges Vereker Purvale.
A NEW LEAF FOR NIGEL BLAKE
Still presumed dead by Sexton Blake, Nigel Blake embarks on a restless trek from country to country and slowly learns to discipline his unpredictable nature. Six years from now, he will settle in India where he'll dedicates himself to his own reformation, using meditation techniques and a restricted diet to control his psychosis.
DONE WITH CRIME!
With Waldo the Wonder-Man having gradually reformed over the years since his first encounter with Blake, the two men have their final escapade together. After this, Rupert Waldo mysteriously vanishes without a trace and Blake's attempts to discover what happened to him come to nothing. However, two years from now, the detective will be intrigued by reports that a new adventurer is waging war against injustice. His name is Norman Conquest, and by all accounts he bears an uncanny resemblance to Waldo. Blake, happy that his old adversary is now so firmly on the side of good, leaves him to it.
27 May 1936
GEORGE WILLIAM COUTTS III JOINS THE POLICE
Detective-Inspector Coutts's son, George William Coutts III, joins the Metropolitan Police Force.
WHERE IS RYMER?
Doctor Huxton Rymer drops out of sight. Twenty years will pass before he and Blake face each other again.
Detective-Inspector Coutts retires, in good health, aged 65.
1 September 1939
13 December 1939
SEXTON BLAKE RECRUITED
Sexton Blake is approached by Eustace Craille, who works for a shadowy British secret intelligence service. For the duration of the war, Blake will willingly undertake many perilous missions for Craille.
A LESS AMIABLE YARD MAN
Blake begins his prickly association with Superintendent Venner of Scotland Yard.
NIGEL BLAKE RECRUITED
Unknown to Sexton Blake, who still thinks him dead, Nigel Blake — now completely reformed — is, like his sibling, recruited by Eustace Craille. Craille's motive is a selfish one ... he has deduced the existence of Berkeley Blake's formula and hopes to get information about it from the younger of the Blake brothers.
THE ROLLING SPHERE
Sexton Blake and Tinker team up with Hoo Sung, the Chinese inventor of a top secret war machine known as the Rolling Sphere. They undertake a number of missions in this extraordinary machine, all of which would later form the basis for the strips in KNOCKOUT COMIC, though in a much exaggerated and simplified form. When the sphere was eventually destroyed, its existence was covered up and records shredded.
16 February 1942
A NEW COUTTS
The son of Detective-Inspector Coutts, George William Coutts III, is promoted to Detective-Inspector aged just 25. From this date forward, Sexton Blake's cases featuring "Detective-Inspector Coutts" (later, Detective Chief Inspector) are with the son rather than the father.
13 March 1942
DEATH OF NIGEL BLAKE
In Calcutta, Nath, a power-hungry revolutionary, burns Nigel Blake alive in a funeral pyre, believing him to be Sexton Blake. Eustace Craille shocks Sexton Blake with the revelation that the man the detective had seen die nine years ago was not his brother but a cleverly made up actor. Blake, incensed, once again finds himself hunting someone responsible for the death of a family member. (All mention of Nigel's previous fake death, orchestrated by Kestrel, were excised from THE ANGRY NIGHT, the fictionalised account of this case.)
THE LAST OF ZENITH
Monsieur Zenith is killed while battling Blake during an air raid. His death marks the end of the era of super-criminals (though Rymer, Plummer, and Kestrel linger on). From this point forward, most of Blake's cases become considerably more mundane than they have been for the past two decades.
Blake pays a rare visit to "X" to report Nigel's death. "X" is one of the few individuals to whom he'd given a dose of his father's life-extension formula, but by then "X" was already advanced in his years and while his ageing — like Blake's — slowed to a crawl, it didn't entirely stop. He is now infirm and resident in a nursing home. This will be the last time Blake sees his one-time guardian. The identity of "X" is perhaps the greatest secret in the entire Blake saga. (In the story THE ANGRY NIGHT, "X" becomes "Dr. Barclay Blake," an alteration made to maintain his anonymity and to confuse Blake's potential biographers.)
DEATH OF KESTREL
After surviving a last confrontation with Sexton Blake, Leon Kestrel, aged 60, succumbs to a brain tumour.
THE HALES PAY THE PRICE
Having kept out of sight for some considerable time, Gilbert and Eileen Hale commit their final crime. They are caught and are given life sentences.
20 May 1944
ARTHUR PAGE SHOT DOWN
While serving in the Airforce, Arthur Page (son of journalist Derek "Splash" Page) is shot down over France. He is captured by pro-German French police and tortured by an officer named Barras before being handed over to the Germans. For the remainder of WW2, he is a prisoner of war.
11 October 1944
"X" IS KILLED
A German bomb hits the nursing home at which "X" is resident. There are fifteen fatalities. He is one of them. The staff had presumed him to be in his seventies. He was actually 116 years old.
2 September 1945
THE END OF WORLD WAR II
EUSTACE CRAILLE VANISHES
With his wartime service completed, Eustace Craille drops out of sight. A decade will pass before Blake encounters him again.
Tinker begins to use his real name, Edward Carter, and develops an enthusiasm for red heads along with a rather more unfortunate one for American slang. Sexton Blake gives him an increasing number of cases to investigate independently.
MAKING A SPLASH
Reporter Derek "Splash" Page retires. His son, Arthur, who writes under the pseudonym "Arthur Kirby," becomes Sexton Blake's "go to" journalist, and earns the same celebrated sobriquet as was used by his father.
THE NEW ORDER
Blake retires his Baker Street Consulting Room and opens an office in Berkeley Square. He takes on staff: Paula Dane, Marion Lang and Louise Pringle, and the new operation is run along much more businesslike lines. Tinker moves out of Baker Street into a flat of his own but continues to work side-by-side with his "Chief" (apparently, the nickname "Guv'nor" is no longer "hip"). Superintendent Grimwald becomes Blake's principal contact at Scotland Yard.
CRAILLE IS BACK!
At the behest of Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden, Eustace Craille quietly founds a counter-espionage service that is independent of and considerably more secretive than either MI5 or MI6. Eden gives him this role on the condition that he discontinues his investigations into Blake and Tinker's longevity. Eden has, ever since receiving Blake's dossier concerning the pre-WWI activities of Prince Wu Ling, been one of the detective's most ardent supporters.
15 December 1956
GREY PANTHER DESTROYED
Blake's Grey Panther Rolls Royce car is destroyed by a hand grenade. Though he'd preferred more modern vehicles in recent years, Blake rues its loss. Its engine had been the original, which he'd designed and built himself for a monoplane back in 1915.
RYMER IN A STRAITJACKET
At 125 years old, Doctor Huxton Rymer still possesses the physical health and fitness of a man a third of that age. However, his mental state has deteriorated terribly, leaving him an empty-eyed shell of the man he used to be. Now, after attempting a final crime (working for a second rate crime syndicate), he is again defeated by Blake and is imprisoned pending trial. By the time he appears in court, he is almost catatonic, and is committed to an asylum for the criminally insane.
After many years spent behind bars in Dartmoor and Alcatraz, 83-year-old George Marsden Plummer — still remarkably powerful and spritely for his age — escapes, steals four million pounds worth of diamonds, and flees to Mexico. Tinker, operating independently, catches up with him and Plummer is sent back to prison. He dies there — peacefully in his sleep — on Christmas Day, 1958.
17 June 1960
EXCITEMENT FOR MRS BARDELL
After decades as Blake's long suffering housekeeper, and with her house devoid of the action seen in former years, Mrs Bardell decides it's time she experienced the high life. She retires and relocates to Las Vegas. Blake purchases the Baker Street house from her but it feels so empty — only he lives in it now — that he soon sells it. The new owners convert it into commercial offices.
Blake and Paula Dane contemplate marriage but ultimately decide against it. For Blake, it has been proven (very painfully) that any spouse would become a target, but he also has to consider the fact that there's no more life-extension formula, and he can't face the prospect of watching a romantic partner grow old and die while his own ageing inches along at a vastly reduced pace.
BACK TO BAKER STREET
Blake has felt thoroughly unsettled since he moved out of Baker Street four years ago, so he now buys the property back and has its attic converted into a small but comfortable apartment. The floors below stay as offices, which he rents to the businesses that occupy them. To his immense delight, Mrs Bardell returns from her sojourn in America. She settles in a house overlooking Regents Park but resumes her role as Blake's housekeeper and cook.
8 August 1968
DEATH OF "GOOD OLD COUTTS"
The original Detective-Inspector Coutts — George William Coutts II — passes away in his sleep, aged 95. His wife, Jane, dies two weeks later.
DAWN OF A CYNICAL AGE
Sexton Blake concludes that the publication of his cases in fictionalised form is no longer advantageous. Where once they served to intimidate and confuse his enemies, they are now regarded as so completely unbelievable that he himself is generally thought to be a fictional character. He withdraws from all publishing deals.
The asylum in which Doctor Huxton Rymer is incarcerated burns to the ground with the loss of twenty-seven lives. Human remains are so thoroughly reduced to ashes that identification is impossible. Rymer is presumed to be among the victims.
WHERE IS SEXTON BLAKE?
Sexton Blake closes his practice and retires from the public eye. His and Tinker's subsequent activities remain shrouded in mystery.