Saturday, 4 December 2010

Walter Tyrer - The Strange Affair of the Shot-Gun Sniper - Sexton Blake Library

Walter Tyrer - The Strange Affair of the Shot-Gun Sniper - Sexton Blake Library - 3rd Series - Number 339 - July 1955

Once again, I`ve neglected posting a review of this title until some weeks have passed since reading it !

While that inevitably compromises this review a tad, I do have some general observations that may be of interest. 

I have to say that this story demonstrates the late Walter`s versatility. Having cut his teeth writing schoolboy stories during the `30s, he pursued a lucrative career as a freelance writer of short stories, embracing a number of different genres as he did so. While it`s true he penned a number of novels, it was actually his work for short story magazines that financed our lad`s move from humble origins in a tough part of Liverpool to a decidedly swish home in Kingston Upon Thames.

Many of his post-war Blakes do show the influence of his earlier styles, their humour a little dated for the time, and the plots often rather quirky.

As I`ve commented before, there were occasional departures from the standard Tyreresque territory and this `50s thriller is a case in point. While the two principal villains are rather Machiavellian and one is arguably larger than life, this is quite different in many ways from  previous Tyrer tales and the plot is free from sinister hypnotists, cantankerous recluses, Dickensian lawyers and missing anglers.

In their place we get an intelligently-plotted 1950s thriller that would have seemed pretty much bang up to date to SBL readers of the time, with interesting characters and an ingenious story. There are points that could have been made a touch more convincing  with only a little more attention to detail, but in general it is not carelessly written.

I`ve looked at the review of this story on Blakiana and see that your man Mark gives it only 2 out of  5. There we must differ as I thought rather highly of it. My only real reservation
would be that if your taste runs to `Tyrer doing what Tyrer did` then you might be disappointed. I myself am no purist in these matters and would describe this as a pretty classy `50s detective story with a touch of romance thrown in for good measure.

The cover design , you may be interested to know, is my favourite piece  of  SBL artwork but at present I gather the artist remains unknown. A pity. If anyone does know, I`d be glad to hear from you.


  1. It is an particularly nice cover.

  2. Nick, I've only just learned about your blog via a link (one of dozens!) at Martin Edwards' blog. So I have some catching up to do.

    I read my first Sexton Blake book, John Hunter's The Case of the Crooked Skipper, in 1952 when I was nine years old. From July 1961 to August 1962 I worked at Fleetway House on the editorial staff of the Sexton Blake Library. These days, following in the footsteps of many SBL authors sadly deceased (see , March 2007, "Detectives in Cowboy Boots"), I write mainly western novels, including the Misfit Lil and Joshua Dillard series.

    Although I never met him, I had correspondence with Walter Tyrer when editing the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine. He also wrote romance and western scripts for the same publishing company, Micron Publications, contributing under the name J. T. Lang. Tyrer was nothing if not versatile, prolific and long-established. He last wrote to me from Hove, Sussex, on 10 May 1964:

    "My last hardcover was Such Friends Are Dangerous and 20th Century Fox have an option on this. A Lancastrian, I have contributed to Coronation Street. Also I seem to be one of Holland's favourite serial writers. De Geillustreerdre recently sent a writer and photographer to do a feature about me ... about one of me."

    Please feel free to email me via if you'd like to ask any questions. I can't guarantee to answer more than a little, but I can give clues about some of the "Desmond Reid" and "Richard Williams" mysteries. Also about the bylines W. Howard Baker, Peter Saxon and W. A. Ballinger, which in the latter Fleetway days were also largely used as "house" names.

    Keith (Chapman aka Chap O'Keefe)