HUGH CLEVELY - THE HOUSE OF EVIL - SBL - 3RD SERIES, ISSUE 331 - MARCH 1955 (ILLUSTRATOR UNKNOWN)
Wing Commander Hugh Clevely (1898 - 1964) was a prolific writer of detective stories for periodicals like The Thriller in the `30s. He had considerable success with his own characters John Martinson, Tod Claymore* and Inspector Williams and on his return from the World War Two wrote a number of Sexton Blake Library titles.
The use of prominent short story writers of previous eras to write SBLs during the `40s and `50s has led some to regard them as simple hackwork, penned by writers now past their prime for the benefit of a dwindling Blake fan base.
An intelligent thriller like House of Evil completely contradicts this image. Well-told and well-plotted, this is one of the better SBLs of it`s time. The murderous machinations contained therein bring together characters from the worlds of fashion, business and organised crime, and the story also incorporates elements of a country house mystery. I did wonder if it was wise to have the reader made aware of the identities of the principal villains and their relationship to each other from the start, but in light of some plot developments later on, I think it was the best approach to take in this instance. Clevely`s experience as a writer stands him in good stead and he introduces some strong characters, particularly two with wartime SOE experience who stand out as particularly interesting.
This is the only Clevely story I`ve read so far, but I would happily try some of his other work.
*Clevely`s work was normally issued under his own name, with the exception of the Tod Claymore stories. These were written in the first person as if told by the character himself and were credited to the fictitious Claymore.