Sunday, 8 May 2022

Pierre Quiroule (W W Sayer) - The Vanished Millions - Sexton Blake Library 330/1924 and 467 Feb 1935


Pierre Quiroule (W W Sayer)- The Vanished Million - Sexton Blake Library 330/1924 (reprinted as SBL 467/Feb 1935)

Author`s pseudonym sometimes misprinted as Pierre Quirole

This is not one I have in my own collection, I read it online on the Comicbookplus site. 

It is some time since I read it, but I remember it tolerably well hopefully.

This story features not only Sexton Blake and Tinker but also Mr Sayer`s own characters Granite Grant and Mademoiselle Julie. The action is set in both England and Latvia. 

The plot is sufficiently involved to hold the readers` interest, but not so involved as to become convoluted. 

The portrayal of Blake is very much as it should be - both a man of action and a thinking man, a determined purser of wrongdoers but also a man capable of compassion. 

As a general thing, my particular interest is in the Blake of the post-war years but it doesn`t pay to be dogmatic about these things and I would say this was an enjoyable read for me and one I would like to revisit at some point. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

Rex Dolphin -Walk in the Shadows - Sexton Blake Library 437/Oct 1959


Rex Dolphin - Walk in the Shadows - Sexton Blake Library 437/Oct 1959

Cover art by Fratini (Renato Fratini)

An enjoyable and absorbing tale from Rex Dolphin (actually Reginald Charles Dolphin).

The strangely-named Mr Dolphin was not prone to enlivening his prose with unexpected literary flourishes, evocative descriptive passages or an array of quirky characters.

His strength is in his "keep the reader guessing" approach to his craft. 

Walk in the Shadows sees Sexton Blake investigating a murder in a workplace. As his enquiries continue, almost everyone he encounters has something to hide, a motive to have committed the murder or both.

A second murder, that takes place while his investigation is ongoing, does little to provide clarity. 

I very much doubt that many readers will arrive at the solution to the case ahead of Blake. 

Recommended reading, which made me want to seek out more of Rex`s writings. 


Wednesday, 23 March 2022

Arthur Kirby - High Summer Homicide - Sexton Blake Library/Fleetway - 503/1962 - Hank Janson


Arthur Kirby - High Summer Homicide - Sexton Blake Library 503/1962 - Fleetway

Credited to "Arthur Kirby as told to Richard Williams". In fact, it was written by Stephen Frances (aka Hank Janson) with revisions by W Howard Baker and George Paul Mann.

Artwork credited to `Camps` (full name Angel Badia Camps)

High Summer Homicide reads like two stories welded together. I can`t help thinking that too many authors were involved in this, seemingly with no-one taking an overall view.

The first section begins in a mildly Chandleresque vein, slightly laughable as the story is set somewhere near Worthing. 

Quite quickly this gives way to plain bad writing ("her long, silver-blonde hair jogged provocatively in a pony tail with every step that she took") as the fictitious storyteller, Blake`s journalist friend Arthur `Splash` Kirby leers lasciviously and longingly over an assortment of females. He seems surprised to find that women have legs, and this gives him great pleasure, though in my experience, it`s not that unusual  for them to possess these appendages. 

Unfortunately all this excitement doesn`t progress the story, which concerns a friend of Kirby`s who is missing, presumed murdered. 

I was about to give up, but on page 26 Blake takes charge of the case and the style of writing changes, so much so that one character has a complete personality transplant.

The story that emerges from this point on is really not too bad - maybe not great, but good enough.  There is a very well-written account of an undersea search for a body which gives a glimpse of the story this could have been. 

Really, it would have taken very little time effort to have made a better job of this. It`s not the worst story I`ve ever read, it`s certainly not the best. It could very easily have been better. 



Monday, 23 March 2015

A Sextonian Apology (and a Promise of Good Things to Come)

A thousand apologies for the lack of anything new on this blog in recent times.

I will be back with more Sextonianism (including further instalments of my Mark Hodder interview)
as soon as I possibly can.

Keep the Faith !


Sunday, 7 December 2014

Vintage Villainy ; Angela Rigley and Keith Chapman

Before we return to our look at the life and work of Mark Hodder, I`d like to think laterally  and bring to your attention two writers who`ve produced mysteries set in the nineteenth century.

The first is Angela Rigley. Ms Rigley resides in Langley Mill on the Notts/Derbys border - not too far from Chateau Hoonaloon as it happens - and has a number of novels to her credit. She is best known for her historical fiction but has also produced novels aimed at young adults and has recently diversified into editing manuscripts for her publisher.

An interview with Angela can be found at

Whilst remaining in the world of historical fiction, Lea Croft is the first novel of hers to feature a murder and mystery motif. "An everyday tale of muder and life in a Victorian village" say her publishers and indeed the author does bring a healthy dollop of murder and intrigue into the fictional Derbyshire village that gives the book its` title.

Keith Chapman is an old friend of this blog. His writing career has included stints with the Sexton Blake Library and the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine. After working for many years as an editor and journalist in recent times he has written a number of novels, mainly Black Horse Westerns (under the name Chap O` Keefe), though with occasional deviations into other genres, notably Witchery ; A Duo of Weird Tales.

A two-part interview with Keith telling the fascinating story of his writing career was posted at on 8 and 14 Nov 2014.

In a recent e-mail , Keith commented on his fictitious Pinkertons` Detective Joshua Dillard, central character of The Lawman and the Songbird and others ;

"You could say that after all these years I`m still trying to fly the flag for hardboiled mystery, albeit my detective Joshua Dillard, unlike Sexton Blake, operates only in the 19th century !"

Saturday, 15 November 2014

The Mark Hodder Interview Part Four

For some time now I`ve been posting my recent interview with Sexton Blake author Mark Hodder on this blog in instalments.
Parts 1 - 3 apppeared on 8, 15 and 19 October respectively so now it must be time for Part Four !
Q)  From comments you`ve posted online* I would think you have a very different worldview to that of Blake, yet you clearly have an enduring fascination with his world. Why do you think that is ?
A) Yep. There you have Blake upholding the superiority of the British Empire and British principles and British character...and here you have me putting the boot in at every opportunity.
Here`s the truth. When you look at propaganda it tells you more about what it`s seeking to defeat than what it`s striving to support. It`s that old truism of psychology : listen to how people insult others, for it reveals what they`re most deeply afraid of. 
Blakes` world is intriguing to me because, in the early years, it is so crammed with self-confidence : this is right, that is wrong, end of story. That unquestioning attitude then gets a kick in the teeth with the First World War , and we have this sudden explosion of super-criminals most of whom can be read as physically or psychologically damaged, or as people who can no longer understand how they fit into society.
The Second World War knocks the Blake world even harder. Now the adventures are suddenly about ordinary people effected by crime, as if all the big world-spanning ideas and conflicts have been relocated to the average persons` kitchen. Aristocracy becomes an irrelevance. And on into the `50s and `60s , during which time Blake hardly represents anything but himself, in a manner that often feels rather empty and soulless.
So for me, the Blake saga, from beginning to end, is a historical document, but rather than examining history from on high, as historians tend to do,  it observes it from pavement level  and so gives a far better feel for how the world was.
That concludes Part Four of my interview with Mark Hodder, author of The Silent Thunder Caper and one of the contributors to the short story collection Zenith Lives. Both titles can be acquired from publisher Obverse Books at .
Part Five will be along soon, so watch this space !
* "The capitalist system, in divorcing itself from social responsibility, has so undermined itself that people are now waking up and fighting back." Mark Hodder - `More Thoughts on Steampunk` -  Mark Hodder Presents, 27 Feb 2012 ( ).

W Howard Baker - Walk in Fear - Sexton Blake Library 4/396 1957

W Howard Baker - Walk in Fear - Sexton Blake Library - Series 4, Number 396 - 1957

A very classy performance from SBL editor W Howard Baker here, not necessarily the kind of thing I associate with him.

Walk in Fear is partly a  mildly humorous detective story, partly a satire on the publishing industry. More than once I wondered if some characters were drawn from life, especially the more scathing portrayals.

The writing is often witty, with some very keen insights here and there, as in this portrayal of one characters` wartime RAF service ;

"They had been boys in 1940, contemptuous of death because they did not truly understand it ; unafraid because they were unable to appreciate that they were not immortal. They had taken risks because they hadn`t really divined the risks they were taking. They had lived dangerously, and the business of living had been a grand and glorious game.

But 1940 was seventeen years behind them now. They were all mature, reasonable, thinking men. Only John Bovis remained.

He was not mature. Often he was not even reasonable. Rarely did he consciously think."

There are one or two in-jokes here and there ; at one point Blake comments "I had some dealings with Edgar Wallace long ago." Shortly afterwards, one character expresses what may be Bakers` own experience of editing the SBL ; "Most of the trouble in my life, it seems to me, has been caused by one damned writer or another."

The plot is quite ambitious in its` scope, and the writer seems reluctant to stay within the confines of one genre - is it satire ? comedy thriller ? traditional whodunnit ? . I thought I detected the hand of Jack Trevor Story here and there, an impression re-inforced when a character from his The Season of the Skylark makes an unexpected appearance. Having said that, better men than me accept WHBs` claim to sole authorship, and I am far from being an expert on either mans` work.

Perverse though it may sound, I would not like every Blake story to be like this, but it is a personal favourite.

Footnote - after Amalgamated pulled the plugs on the SBL, WHB carried on with the series for a time. During this period an expanded version of Walk in Fear appeared with the title Every Man an Enemy (SBL Series 5, Number 22, 1966).

Every Man an Enemy was published repeatedly - by Mayflower in 1966, by Zenith Publishing (London, date unknown) and in the US by MacFadden-Bartell. It was also included in The Fifth Sexton Blake Omnibus (Howard Baker Books, 1969).