Sunday, 19 October 2014

Desmond Reid - High Heels and Homicide - Sexton Blake Library 4/405 1958


Two beauty contestants are kidnapped and Blake is asked to investigate. Along the way he uncovers an espionage ring and encounters again a face from the past.

This story, actually written by John Purley and revised by George Paul Mann (aka Arthur MacLean), is another example of the `Reid` name being attached to work by (one presumes) an unknown writer. It is interesting in that it marks the return of one of the pre-war Blake villains, Huxton Rymer.

Criminally-inclined former surgeon Huxton Rymer, the creation of writer G H Teed, appeared in various Blake stories 1913 - 36, with a short break while Teed served in the army during World War One. Some question whether the last of the Rymer stories was Teeds` work but as he died in 1938 we can`t very well ask him.

I have done a bit of checking and find that an earlier SBL, the Mansion on the Moor (3/43), was credited to John Purley and during that year Collectors Digest magazine described him as a 43-year old Worcester-based freelance journalist contributing on a one-off basis.  

The return of Rymer enables Blake to expand on the mans` character and attitudes ;

"If you`d blundered in on him he would have killed you. You know that as well as I do ! He`d have done it regretfully, but he`d have done it just the same. I think he`s fond of us - both of us - in his own odd way, but if it was your life or his liberty, it would be your life !"

On that cheerful note the investigation begins in earnest.

Does it work ? Not 100%. There is considerable humour to be extracted from the opening chapters, in which a bevy of petulant starlets and their over-ambitious parents and managers descend on a long-suffering hotel manager, but that joke is soon run into the ground.

There are one or two changes of pace and mood, all of which seem to breeze in out of nowhere. Various fruitful directions are indicated, particularly as Blake and Tinker begin to show signs of strain, and even to despair of saving the kdnapped girls, but none is really explored. The story lasts well under the usual 64 pages but still seems over-long.

It`s not too bad, but one wonders why George Paul Mann couldn`t have ironed out a few faults.

It`s certainly not the worst story I`ve read, but equally, it`s not the best either.

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