Saturday, 18 September 2010

Walter Tyrer - The Mystery of the Swindler`s Stooge

Walter Tyrer - The Mystery of the Swindler`s Stooge - Sexton Blake Library - 3/299 -  Nov 1953
Illustrator - Eric Parker

I must admit I read this some weeks ago and have only just got round to penning a review. While it isn`t entirely fresh in my mind I do recall enough about it to merit jotting down a few obsevations.

Firstly, this story was something of a departure for our Walt. The plot, and in some ways the writing style, is markedly different from what I would call `classic Tyrer`.

The first and most obvious difference is that his trademark wit is noticeable by it`s absence. That`s not to say that the story is written in a particularly dour style, but the little flashes of rather old-fashioned humour which give his other Blakes such a distinctive favour is nowhere to be found.

Also unusual is that, although we see the principle villain and his associates going about their activities, we are quite a way through the story before the crime contemplated is fully apparent, and the full explanation of motives etc takes even longer to appear.

Compared to some other Blakes we see rather more of the villains than we do of Sexton and Tinker, though that is not so unusual for SBLs of the immediate post-war period.

Does it work ? In my view, yes it does. Although the style of storytelling is not as Tyreresque as the reader might have expected,  his talent for creating eccentric characters is given it`s full rein ; catankerous recluse Barney Howlett is the first character we meet and hot on his heels come Machiavellian solicitor Josiah Symes, his alcoholic clerk Potter, aspiring thespians Cedric Courtland and Elise Howlettova (real names  Willie Brown and Elsie Howlett), explosives- expert- turned- criminal Joe Lowden and deluded would-be businessman Willie Langford, along with a host of minor characters. This impressive cast-list  could be a bit overpowering, but because of the way in which the story unfolds it never seems too `crowded`.

For admirers of the mighty Walter`s SBLs, this title will provide a welcome chance to encounter him doing something a little different. For those who are new to Walt-watching, or to Blake generally, this would no doubt be a cheap and cheerful introduction.  It`s good fun, and that`s what counts !