The Sexton Blake Page

by Jess Nevins

The text here, except where otherwise credited, is © copyright 2003 Jess Nevins, and may not be duplicated, in part or in whole, without my permission.

Thanks to: Alicia, as always; John Burt; Rick Lai; Guy Lawley; Mark Hodder.

Updated 20 October 2003
Added a new link.

Dear Reader:

You'll have noticed by now that this site does not get updated all that often. I apologise for this, since I do want to make this the best Sexton Blake site on the Internet, and I certainly have enough material to add to this site.

However, this site is strictly a hobby and sidelight. When I had no paying work besides my day job I was happy to devote hours to this site. But now that I have writing which I'm being paid for, or will be paid for, I'm forced to cease work on this site and spend my time elsewhere.

the cover to The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana So, I'm sorry to say, there won't be any substantive update to this site for the next couple of years. Instead, I've written the The Encyclopedia of Fantastic Victoriana (cover to the left) based on my Fantastic Victoriana site, featuring a 1500-2000 word entry on Blake, and published by MonkeyBrain Books in November 2005. I'm currently writing The Encyclopedia of Pulp Heroes, based on my Pulp Heroes site, featuring a smaller entry on Blake as well as an entry on Zenith the Albino, and coming out from MonkeyBrain Books in fall 2008. After that I'll write The Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes, based on my Golden Age Heroes Directory site, and (probably) coming out from MonkeyBrain Books in fall 2009.

I will try to sneak in some more information while I'm writing the books, but there won't be anything major until I've finished my paying work. I trust you'll understand this.

-- Jess Nevins, 20 September 2004.

Sexton Blake is one of the most famous detectives in the English language. He has appeared in penny dreadfuls, story papers, dime novels, slicks, novels, movies, plays, radio shows, tv shows, comic books, and quite possibly hieroglyphics. This site is meant to provide some information on him. (There's no other site on the Internet devoted to Blake, so why shouldn't I do it?)

A portrait of Sexton Blake by Eric Parker. Blake was created by "Hal Meredith" and debuted in "The Missing Millionaire" in The Halfpenny Marvel #6, appearing on 20 December 1893. "Hal Meredith" was actually Harry Blyth, but Blyth, who died in 1898, only wrote a few Blake stories and was not responsible for the stories which gave rise to Blake's enormous popularity. Really, the creator of Blake isn't so important as the character itself; after all, the character and franchise has passed through so many hands that credit for the character should go to the writers in toto, rather than just to its creator. Around 177 authors wrote Blake stories, including Blyth, Edwy Searles Brooks, Robert Murray, George Hamilton Teed, Gwyn Evans, Anthony Skene, Lewis Jackson, John Hunter, John G. Brandon, Mark Osborne, Coutts Brisbane, Andrew Murray, William Murray Graydon, Cecil Hayter, Walter Tyrer, Anthony Parsons, Donald Stuart, Rex Hardinge, Gilbert Chester, John Creasey, Jack Trevor Story (an excellent site about whom, done by a gentleman named Guy Lawley, I highly recommend),  Lord Berners (!) and Bill O'Nuallain, aka "Flann O'Brien" (!!!). Blake appeared in The Halfpenny Marvel, Chips, Union Jack, Answers, Boys' Friend Library, Boys' Herald, Penny Popular, Penny Pictorial, The Jester, Boys Journal, The Sexton Blake Library, Sports Budget, Pilot, Knockout Fun Book, London Evening Standard, Thriller, and undoubtedly still more magazines I'm unaware of. His adventures were published more or less continuously from 1893 through 1968; he's appeared in just about every medium there is; and he's been translated into at least 15 languages that I know of. Blake is most likely the third-most published character extant, Nick Carter being the most published. (W.O.G. Lofts has said that Blake only had 3848 original stories, but that Dixon Hawke logged over 5500, making Hawke the most published character of all time. This, obviously, bears further studying.)

Sexton Blake's Origin

The following is largely taken from the writings of W.O.G. Lofts, one of the foremost scholars of Blakiana.

In 1893 Alfred J. Harmsworth, the publisher of the Amalgamated Press, decided to start a new magazine. This new boys' paper, The Halfpenny Marvel Library, was intended to contain stories of a good quality, so that no parent could object to it. This was in contrast to the penny dreadfuls whose stories could be quite gruesome and which Harmsworth so detested. Although Halfpenny Marvel had an editor of its own, Somers J. Summers, Harmsworth was the real power behind the magazine, and it was Harmsworth, rather than Summers, who was looking for new talent, especially a writer who could write a new series. Harmsworth, reading the London Sunday People, noticed the "Third Class Crimes, or, The Undiscovered Crimes of London" series, written by Harry Blyth. The two hit it off when they met, and Harmsworth commissioned Blyth to write detective stories for him.

What happened next remains a matter of some dispute. Blyth and his son Harry always maintained that they were responsible for naming Blake. The story both always told was that Blyth asked his son which name he liked better, "Sexton Blake" or "Gideon Barr." The son, then a teenager, said that he preferred the former, and so "Sexton Blake" was chosen as the name for the new character. Blyth, unfortunately, sold the rights to Blake to Harmsworth for £9.9s, this being in the days before authors customarily retained the rights to their creations, so Blyth never profited from his character's phenomenal success. And, as mentioned, Blyth died of typhoid fever in 1898, before Blake really took off, so he never saw his character become popular, either.

The Blyths' story of Blake's creation was disputed, however, by former members of the Harmsworth Press group, including William H. Maas, the second editor of the Halfpenny Marvel. Maas stated that the

original intention was to call the detective Frank Blake, but somehow the first name did not seem 'lurid' enough, and so either Somers J. Summers or even possibly Alfred J. Harmsworth changed this to 'Sexton' Blake, which sounded so much better!
The last name of "Blake" was not chosen at random, however. At the time the Aldine Publishing Company, Amalgamated's chief rival, was publishing reprints of the American dime novel hero the Fresh of Frisco, whose real name was "Jackson Blake" and who appeared in stories entitled "Jackson Blake, the Bouncer Detective." These stories were quite popular, and it is quite likely that Alfred Harmsworth, by giving his new character the same last name as the more popular Jackson Blake, hoped to confuse Aldine readers into buying his new character's stories.

Whichever story of the creation of Blake is the true one, however, the facts remain that the final product was a successful one. Not immediately, however.

Sexton Blake, the Man

Blake is sometimes unjustly described as a "Sherlock Holmes rip-off," although this ignores the fact that when Blake began he had none of the characteristics of Holmes. He wore a curly-brimmed bowler, not a deerstalker, was muscular rather than tall and lean, and used a heavy walking stick. He was more mercenary than Holmes, having a (quite reasonable) interest in what his clients were going to pay him. (This isn't to say he wasn't a good man, though. In his very first story he expressed his creed: "If there is a wrong to be righted, an evil to be redressed, or a rescue of the weak and suffering from the powerful, our hearty assistance can be readily obtained. We do nothing for hire here; we would cheerfully undertake to perform without fee or reward. But when our clients are wealthy, we are not so unjust to ourselves as to make a gratuitous offer of our services.") Blake rode a bicycle around London, rather than taking a hansom. He lived not on Baker Street but in New Inn Chambers, with his offices on Wych Street, off the Strand. And he was not a lone investigator, but was rather paired with Jules Gervaise, a French detective. (To quote E.S. Turner, whose wonderful Boys will be Boys provided a good deal of the information here, "in those days it was a privilege to be linked with a French detective, so well had Messrs. Gaboriau and Leroux done their work.") It wasn't until a few years later, at some point in the mid- or late 1890s, that Blake became more Holmesian.

In most of the important ways, however, Blake was never truly Holmesian. Jack Adrian, in the anthology Sexton Blake Wins, has a very good essay on Blake's history and character, and makes the following point regarding Holmes-v-Blake:

In sheer longevity Blake wins hands down, having outlasted Holmes by upwards of forty years, and in feats of physical prowess there is really no comparison. While Sherlock pondered, Sexton rolled up his sleeves. Holmes was of course no stranger to the fistic or defensive arts (he'd boxed at college and had even mastered 'baritsu' before it had been invented), but his adventures were on the whole physically undemanding. During the course of an investigation rarely was it the case, for instance, that a skillfully wielded blackjack caused a Stygian pit of black unconsciousness to rear up and engulf him till he knew no more. Blake, on the other hand, in case after case, went through the mill. He was slugged, clubbed, chloroformed, gassed, knifed, dynamited, run down, gunned down, injected with poison, ejected from planes, hurled from cliffs, pushed in front of trains, almost devoured by man-eating plants, virtually sucked dry of his 'life essence,' nearly shot to the Moon in a rocket--and the number of times the floor suddenly dropped from beneath him must run into four figures.
Blake, as mentioned, started off in an office on Wych Street, partnered with Gervaise. He was supposedly based on a famous, real life detective. He was a good detective and fighter. Although he had a certain amount of fame he was distrusted by the police on account of his amateur status. Apart from these features, he was mostly colorless. As time went on, however, he was fleshed out and made more interesting. His early stories, in the Halfpenny Marvel in 1893 & 1894, kept him on the dull side, but when his stories began appearing in Union Jack, in issue #2 on April 4, 1894, Blake started to become more distinctive. He became an outspoken and devout patriot ("I would rather work for nothing for a naval man like yourself, one of the best protectors of our precious flag, the pride of England, than I would take bank-notes from those who are careless of the honour of old Britain"), his features grew "hawk-like," he became tall and lean (his official weight was thirteen stone), his intellect "incisive," and he began wearing a dressing gown and smoking a pipe in order to help himself think. His dialogue became less Johnsonian and more...Holmesian, it must be admitted. He gained Mrs. Martha "Hevvings!" "Lawks-a-mussy!" Bardell, mistress of the malaprop and housekeeper of his new house at the north end of Baker Street. A "Mrs. Blake" was occasionally mentioned, although this never seen individual soon disappeared from the Blake stories, leaving Blake a committed bachelor. (See below for more on this.) Likewise, Jules Gervaise quickly faded from the pages, leaving Blake a lone operator. (Gervaise appeared in at least one story at about this time in which he was the hero and Blake was referred to only in passing.)

During these early years Blake went through a few assistants. The first was a (possibly Chinese--the secondary sources are contradictory on this point) boy named We-Wee or We-Wee Griff; his first appearance was in the Union Jack on 1 June 1895. The second was either a street waif named Griff or, according to W.O.G. Lofts, "a sort of half-beast boy" not named Griff. The third was a British boy (or man) named Wallace Lorrimer (who appeared, as we'll see below, in 1901). The fourth, if such it is, appears in "Nalda the Nihilist," Union Jack v3 n69, and is described as "the household terror" and

the young person who smuggles away the choicest of my cigars to give to her 'young man,' who breaks my valuable bits of old Chelsea and maligns the cat, who condescends to receive my Christmas-boxes, in season and out of season, and who is supposed to attend to my needs and generally wait upon me--who is supposed to do so, but doesn't.
This may be Blake referring to a housekeeper, perhaps the predecessor to Mrs. Bardell, but in context Blake seems to be referring to an assistant, which if true makes this unnamed woman Blake's fourth pre-Tinker assistant. It wasn't until 1904 that he settled on the assistant who was to side-kick and fag for him for the rest of his fictional life: Edward Carter, better known as "Tinker," an intelligent, cheerful looking youth of indeterminate age with curly hair. Tinker, a Cockney, had been left on the street due to the deaths of his parents. He'd hovered on the fringes of the underworld (later revisions of his history had him become a full-time crook, and then a soldier) before becoming, in the words of Josie Packman, "one of the apparently homeless but sharp Cockney newsboys of the period" (see: Nelson Lee's Nipper, Dixon Hawke's Tommy Burke, Falcon Swift's Chick Conway, and so on). He was able to help Blake in a case, and Blake, in term, rescued Tinker from a Life Of Crime in London's East End. Tinker was, in the words of E.S. Turner, "irrepressible, resourceful, susceptible to female charm, addicted to suits `which would have made Solomon want to retire from the glory business,' and possessing a fathomless admiration for the `Guv'nor.'" Blake educated Tinker himself rather than sending him to school, but Tinker was in need of less education than many teenagers of his age. By the 1920s, in Blake's Golden Age, Tinker was a tough, wise-cracking young man who could drive a car, fly a plane, fire a gun, and detect crimes nearly as well as Blake himself.

Tinker arrived in Blake's life on October 1, 1904, in "Cutting Against Skill," issue #53 of Union Jack. Blake had appeared fairly steadily, in Union Jack, from 1894 through 1902, but sometime in November or December of 1902 he was dropped from the magazine and did not appear again until Union Jack #107. William H. Back, the editor of the Union Jack in the early 1900s, decided to bring Blake back; his hunch paid off, with the new Blake being quite popular. In some ways the post-interregnum Blake was very new. He had Tinker, for one thing. For another, some (needed) change was introduced fairly quickly into Blake's world. Only two months after Blake's return he "retired." To quote Howard Baker,

Feeling unable to cope any more, wishing only to escape from the monstrous regimen of success which his brilliance as a detective had created, Blake dismissed all his staff and repaired to the country to live out the rest of his life in retirement under the assumed name of Henry Park.

Tinker, alone, escaped the axe.

'Tinker would always remain,' the chronicler tells us. 'They were part and parcel of each other's lives.'

But Blake could not stay away from the game for good, and was drawn back to London to continue fighting crime; "Henry Park" was accused of theft, and Blake was forced to clear his own name. Once back in London Blake resumed his practice as a consulting detective. He gained Mrs. Bardell. He began smoking other kinds of pipes as well as cigars and even the occasional cigarette. In Union Jack #100, 9 September 1905, he acquired a faithful, wise, and ferocious bloodhound named Pedro; Pedro was originally owned by Rafael Calderon, ex-president of a South American State, but after performing various services for Calderon Blake was given Pedro by Calderon, under the guise of "Mr. Nemo." Blake bought a bullet-proof Rolls Royce called the Grey Panther--this, at a time when most other sleuths were still taking cabs. (For a short while Blake flew a Moth monoplane, which he had designed, also called the Grey Panther, though this did not last for long.) He even, for very short periods of time, took on other assistants besides Tinker, such as Barry and the Chinese boy Ah Wo.

Biographical information on Blake was somewhat skimpy. He was a very good chemist, a specialist in poisons, an authority on fingerprints, inks, and firearms. He had various hobbies: microphotography, the study of religions, and the unravelling of codes and ciphers. He was proficient (from continual practice) at shooting, boxing, jiu-jitsu, and fencing. He was "famous" at various sports, including cricket. He was always working on his magnum opus, the Baker Street Index, the definitive encyclopedia of crime. He was, like Holmes, an accomplished author of monographs (from the classic work on German crime, Der Verbrecherkreig [Criminal War]). Among his works were such titles as "Some information on the use of methylene blue as an anti-toxin," "Single-print classification," "Finger-print forgery by the chromicized gelatine method," and "Speculations on ballistic stigmata in fire-arms." Blake was an honored figure at the police congresses of Europe, and was world-renowned for his skill as a detective. Blake had trained as a younger man as a doctor and was educated at either Oxford or Cambridge (there are conflicting reports on that), and graduated "loaded with honors." (Reginald Cox says, "I am assured by a correspondent that this [attending both Oxford and Cambridge] is precisely what did happen--'after a time at Oxford Blake got enough money to enable him to take the medical course at Cambridge.'")

After graduating Blake moved to London and took cheap lodgings near the Angel, Islington. And then...well, nobody knows. Darkness descends for a period, as Reginald Cox says. However, as Cox goes on to point out, there is an explanation for this. He got married. Cox quotes Maurice Bond to the effect that in 1901 and 1902, in one of the companion papers to the Union Jack Library, a serial entitled "The King of Detectives" portrayed Blake as being married and being assisted by Wallace Lorrimer, a younger assistant. W.O.G. Lofts identifies this serial as beginning in the Union Jack Christmas Number for 1901, and states that Blake (and presumably his family and Lorrimer) was living at Norfolk Street on the Strand. Neither Blake's wife nor Lorrimer were ever mentioned again, however.

Of Blake's family, little was known, and that, contradictory. In the pre-Baker Street days, that is, before 1904 and the commencement of the Blakeian Golden Age, Blake's parents were said to have been murdered before he enrolled in St. Anne's, the school in which he was educated and at which he was known as "Bravo Blake." (There are conflicting texts (Union Jack v6 n138, for one) which state that he was educated at the Public School of Ashleigh. Or at "Ashleigh Public School, St. Annes."(sic)) In the first issue of Detective Weekly, however, he was given a new origin. His father, Berkeley Blake, was a Harley Street surgeon, from a long line of doctors; his mother was...rarely mentioned. Both were said to have lived long enough to see Blake give up medicine for criminology, a choice that Blake's parents disapproved of (although they eventually applauded him for it). The dark secret of the family, though, was Blake's brother Nigel, a forger and general rotter, who brought their "old father's grey hair in sorrow to the grave." Berkeley had hoped to see both Sexton and Nigel practise medicine and join him on Harley Street, but Blake went into the law, and Nigel failed his examinations. (As it happened, Nigel's son, once grown, became a policeman and set off in pursuit of a forger in Pardue, only to catch him and find that it was his own father. Sexton, heart wrenching, sheltered Nigel, only to have Nigel steal Sexton's Magnetic Picklock and begin using it to steal from everyone in sight. Thus Sexton himself had to go after Nigel, and eventually captured him and had him confined to a private home in Buckinghamshire.) Blake actually had a second brother, Harry, who appeared in “Sexton Blake’s Honour.” (When and where that story appeared is another question. F. Vernon Lay claims that it was in Boys’ Friend Library n10 in 1905, but that not be possible, since n10 of the Boys’ Friend Library New Series appeared in 1901 and didn’t contain any Blake stories. My best guess is that Lay meant the tenth issue of volume 5 of the Boys’ Friend Library New Series, which appeared on 12 August 1905 and is properly numbered #218. I’ve seen another  source credit the issue to 1907, but I prefer my own supposition. Further complicating matters is that Lay speculates that this may have been a reprint from an earlier story.)  Like Nigel, Henry was a crook. Sexton does not initially know Henry’s identity, but Sexton’s life is saved by the criminal he is chasing several times, and the two finally confront each other. Sexton wrestles with his conscience and his love for his brother, even allowing Henry to twice elude Inspector Spearing. Spearing, for his part, realizes what is going on and shows a surprising sympathy for Blake’s dilemma. Henry, alas, comes to a bad end, just as Nigel did.

Blake lives, as mentioned, in a large house at the north end of Baker Street. The house has a consulting room, a sitting-room, various bedrooms, a laboratory, a dark room, and several offices. It also has a garage in which is housed the Grey Panther. His morning routine usually consists of an early walk in Regents Park or Hyde Park, dressed in a soft hat and heavy Harris tweed overcoat, and then back to his house, to read the morning mail, making appointments, and filing correspondence, while Tinker pastes news clippings into the Baker Street Index. In the words of Reginald Cox, "At the end of a days work Blake loves to stand at the window in the gloaming, peering down at passers-by or at the black shapes of cars and listening to the beat of the traffic, which is dearer to his urban soul than the sound of the sea."

As time passed Blake went through the usual activities that most famous detectives go through, although as with most things Blakeian his adventures were like others', only more so: he arrested his double (Leon Kestrel, the Master Mummer); was framed and thrown in jail, nearly being lashed at Bleakmoor; arrested and helped convict the crooked chief of Scotland Yard; lost his Baker Street lodgings to dynamitards; went undercover in the French Foreign Legion (alongside Tinker, naturally) to winkle out a thief; got stuck in the Gobi Desert with a bullet-riddled water bottle and no help within a ten-day march; fought with, in Jack Adrian's words, "a crazed, sabre-wielding aristo atop a plunging Alpine cable-car with a thousand feet of nothing below and the cables fraying;" went back into the French Foreign Legion, this time in search of Tinker, who had been offended by Blake's unjustly harsh words and who had joined the Legion, but who ended up finding not just a murderer he'd previously let go free but also the corrupt French General Chanrellon, a former enemy of Blake's; dealt with a lunatic cult run by a con man who committed an Impossible Murder using infra-red, all with the backdrop of a complete eclipse; he turned down a knighthood; was offered the job of Chief Commissioner of Police by no less than the Home Secretary; acted as the Lord Mayor of London; was given the number 11 in the British Secret Service, with Tinker bearing number 12; had the British Secret Service invest him with an authority above that of even Scotland Yard; went to America's West, met Kit Carson, tangled with a black-masked Robin Hood type, and deduced that Carson was the masked thief; discovered The Secret of Monte Cristo; and was reported dead, to universal grief and mourning, by his Fleet Street collaborator and friend, Derek "Splash" Page after an enemy, disguised as a blind beggar, stumbled into him in the street and injected him with poison.

Blake's Friends

Page was one of Blake's friends, one of the many who helped him and who he helped. Blake teamed with Nelson Lee on a number of occasions; see the Nelson Lee Page for more information on their crossovers. Another of Blake's friends and fellow detectives was Ronald Sturges Vereker Purvale, aka "R.S.V.P.", who was later turned into Arthur Stukeley Pennington. Another of Blake's friends and helpers was Granite Grant, a "King's Spy...a Secret Service man...high in the confidence of the British government." Grant was in turn often helped (and occasionally hindered) by the beautiful Mademoiselle Julie, ace agent of the French Secret Service, and the pair usually worked together (and, it was implied, were lovers), aided by Pompom, Julie's Ethiopian servant. There was Bertrand Charon, top agent of the French Crime Bureau; he, too, sometimes worked with Granite Grant and Mlle Julie. Another Secret Service agent--British, this time--was Julia Fortune, who was similar in several respects to Mlle. Yvonne Cartier (see below). Still another of Blake's friends was Havlock Preed, Solicitor. There was Topper, introduced in the early 1920s, who was an extra assistant to Blake and a sort of rival to Tinker. And, of course, Blake was friends with and occasionally collaborators with Sir Richard Losely, who had been Blake's fag in school and remained a close friend, and Lobangu. There was the American detective Jefferson Hart. There was Captain Christmas, a British officer representing the Empire in Africa. There was Captain Dack, the crooked (but good-hearted) and very strong and tough captain of the tramp steamer Mary Ann Trinder; Dack made uneasy alliances with Blake on a number of occasions, all of which ended with the real bad guys in jail or dead. There was Edward Hector "Big Ted" Flanagan, six-foot-three of muscle, ham-sized fists, and a jaw of granite, an unsubtle and good-natured man who helped Blake out of a few tough spots, fights being the thing Big Ted was best at. There was Matthew Quin, the "wild beast agent," whose life Blake saved (and vice-versa) and who Blake encountered in several different situations. There was the Honourable John Lawless. There was Archie Pherison, Algy Somerton and Reggie Fetherston, three do-gooding vigilantes who went by "The Three Musketeers." There was Sir Gordon Saddler, aka "Hsui Fai," the "Mystery Man of Frisco." There were Kit and Cora Twyford, brother and sister detectives who had their own series in Pluck but helped Blake out in Union Jack. There was the Zulu king Shumpogaas, whose life Blake saved and who saved Blake’s life in return. And there was Gordon Lindsay, Blake's "Montreal correspondent," who traveled to England to carry on at Baker Street when Blake took one of his infrequent vacations.

There were, of course, a number of Scotland Yard officers who assisted Blake. As it happened, many Blake writers created their own Scotland Yard officers and featured them in their stories, so one way to tell who wrote a Blake story is to see which Yard man is helping Blake. The most popular of Blake's "Friends at the Yard" and the longest lasting was Chief Inspector Coutts of Scotland Yard, who eventually became so popular that other authors besides Robert Murray, Coutts' creator, began using Coutts; this was not usually the case with Blake's police contacts. Coutts was tall and broad, with a small gut and an awful taste in cigars. Although he was initially quite begrudging in his consulting of Blake, as time went by he became more and more willing to unapologetically ask Blake for help. There was a real affection between the two, and Coutts even went so far as to propose Blake for a knighthood. Coutts, in the words of Rex Dolphin, was "a typical averagely-good man who plods steadily along with no flashes of brilliance, doing a difficult job to the best of his ability, assisted by nothing more extra-ordinary than common sense and training."  There was also Detective Inspector Harker, whose longevity exceeds Coutts but whose popularity was less. Harker lacked Blake's logic and observation but had, in Lewis Jackson's words, "singular determination, vast experience, and the somewhat rare gift of sheer commonsense." Harker is cheerier than the dour Coutts and is a better hand-to-hand fighter.

Besides Harker there was...well, I'll let Rex Dolphin tell it:

There is E.S. Brooks' Chief Inspector Lennard, a burly, square jawed officer, who is quick-witted, patient, and a relentless questioner of witnesses....G.H. Teed's Detective Inspector Thomas, astute, sympathetic, tactful, and like Coutts, a lover and borrower of Blake's cigars. Hylton Gregory's Detective Inspector Rollings, a deep-chested, sandy-complexioned man with twinkling blue eyes and a sarcastic manner. W.M. Graydon's Detective Inspector Widgeon, a tall man with a big fair moustache--who dislikes Blake's "high-handed methods."
There was the conceited Superintendent Venner and his assistant Detective-Sergeant Belford. And, finally, there was Sir Henry Fairfax, the Chief, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis.

Blake's Women

Women played a far larger role in the Sexton Blake Universe than they did in the Holmesian universe, or even in that of Nick Carter, who is the figure most apposite for a Blake comparison. Blake, as you might imagine, encountered a fair number of women during his cases, but many of them were not in the roles you might expect. There were very few simpering women wringing their hands on the sidelines and waiting for Blake to save them. Women, in the Blake stories, were active, and while it was usually Blake who ultimately saved them, and the day, from danger, it was hardly unheard of for Blake and Tinker to be rescued by them. Many of these women were adventuresses, a figure with connotations to the Victorian audience that we today would have a hard time imagining. Many of them developed feelings for Blake, and their interactions were charged with rivalry and romantic feeling. Some of these adventuresses included:

More History

Blake's cases took him around the world, to nearly every country on Earth. Blake served every kind of leader and client, from the very small (he was hired to save a "Highland laird" who was falling prey to alcoholism) to the very large (the P.M., concerned over Red Agitators, granted Blake "all powers over all and sundry of our subjects whatsoever" for twenty-four hours on 11 January 1925). Blake went to all the large cities of England, taking on the criminals and gangs that plagued Manchester etc and defeating them all. Blake went into countries inimical to England on a number of missions for the Crown. Before World War One Blake was very friendly with Kaiser Wilhelm, rendering him services on a number of occasions and turning down the offer of a position as head of the German Secret Service. (Blake was a patriot through and through, though, and always remained faithful to Queen/King and Country.) During the War he was mostly busy stopping both German spies and madmen intent on gassing London and kidnaping P.M.s, but he did spend some time in the Low Countries in disguise, engaging in some guerrilla work.

In 1921 Harold Twyman became editor of the Union Jack, and it was under Twyman that the Golden Age of Sexton Blake came about. Twyman was an editor with a great amount of drive and energy and an even greater number of ideas, and it was under his stewardship that Blake reached his zenith. In Jack Adrian's words,

It was Twyman who, more than any other writer or editor connected with the saga, created the Blake of the Golden Age: the lean, limber manhunter, by turns implacable and compassionate, by no means humourless, capable at one moment of lightning-fast and ferocious action, the next displays of dazzling deductive pryotechnics. It was Twyman, too, who sorted out the Blake image by talent-spotting a young artist, Eric Parker, in the early-1920s, whose Blake (tall, spare, high-browed, lantern-jawed, with the eyes of a hawk, the profile of an eagle) so triumphantly out-Holmesed Holmes that Parker grew old with the character.
The image at the top of the page is an Eric Parker image I scanned from Boys will be Boys, so now you know what Adrian means about Parker's Blake. W.O.G. Lofts states that Parker based Blake "on a commercial traveler he once knew at a club. He used to sit alone, a tall distinguished figure, making a big impression on his mind. He was also lean, smoked a pipe, and had slightly receding hair."

The stories of Blake's Golden Age are quite fine, indeed, but after WW2 he changed, becoming much more like the disillusioned American detectives, at which point I lose interest in him and will leave the chronicling of his adventures to someone else. The basics are that in the late 1950s he gained female assistants, including the delectable Paula Dane, and that his firm suddenly had stringers in various cities around the world. It was an attempt to update Blake for a more modern era, and while it was somewhat financially successful the charm, I think, went out of the series. (Most of the older Blake fans seem to have agreed with me, for what it's worth.)

Blake's Enemies

Michael Moorcock, among others, made the point that Blake, on his own, was not particularly interesting, but what made the Blake stories so much fun were the villains. And, indeed, Blake had one of the all-time great Rogues Galleries, full of villains any self-respecting hero would be proud to face. Many of them were despicable and vile and wicked and all the rest, but as Rex Dolphin points out a few of them, including Dr. Ferraro, Monsieur Zenith the Albino, Waldo the Wonderman, and Dr. Huxton Rymer, were "sportsmen." The sportsmen played by the rules of the game and conducted themselves with a sense of honor; their word was good. There was a respect between Blake and the sportsmen, and at certain times truces were declared and they allied against a worse opponent.

My favorite among Blake's enemies is Zenith the Albino. Zenith, though, deserves a page of his own, and since I have enough material on him that including him here would greatly expand this page beyond reasonableness, I've gone ahead and given Monsieur Zenith his own page, the Zenith the Albino Page. So if you're curious about him--and you should be--go there. Suffice it to say that, as the Sexton Blake saga is a great one, so too is Monsieur Zenith one of the great creations of pulp fiction.

Zenith, of course, had plenty of company in Blake's Rogues Gallery, and many of his fellow criminals were only a little short of his equal.

There was Prince Wu Ling and the Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle. Prince Wu Ling was one of a number of their Fu Manchu-like Yellow Peril characters that Blake, Nelson Lee, Dixon Hawke, Dixon Brett, and similar story paper detectives faced. Prince Wu Ling was the "descendant of a dynasty which could trace its philosophy back to the time when the Anglo-Saxon race was unheard of." Ruler of five million Chinese and possessor of the legendary Ling Tse Vase, Prince Wu Ling longed "from the innermost depths of his princely nature to feel the hell of the East on the West, to carve a path of saffron through a field of white, to raise on high Confucius, Buddha, and Taoism across all the world." (Somewhat confused, that, but oh well.) The Prince was not completely despicable, though, because, in Blake's words, he was "honest in (his) purpose and--by his own lights--honourable in his methods." And, of course, he admired Sexton Blake, telling him "I have for you the love of a brother, Sexton Blake." Not that this ever stopped him from trying to kill Blake, but as with Zenith the Albino there was a weird kind of respect and affection between Blake and the Prince. After Blake recovered the Ling Tse Vase from the Prince, Wu Ling became obsessive and relentless in his efforts to recover the Vase. Of course, Prince Wu Ling had other goals besides the recovery of the Vase. During WW1 Wu Ling allied with Germany and attempted to undermine the British war effort, working from the Chinese quarter of the Cardiff docks. In this battle he and the Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle fought viciously against the British and against Blake, with the struggle becoming so bitter that Baron Robert de Beauremon and the Council of Eleven, who had initially been the Prince's allies, finally turned against the Prince. Later, in 1927, Blake takes the battle to the Prince, in China itself. The Prince was controlling a rebel Cantonese army backed by Bolshevists and was planning a mass uprising on the day of an eclipse. Blake and Nipper go to China and make their way into the Temple of Many Visions; they do this with the help of Kan Tse Wen, a notorious river pirate and a member of the Four Lakes Tong, of which Blake was a blood brother. In the Temple of Many Visions they have an interview with a 140-year-old prior who demonstrates clairvoyance as well as the Temple’s advanced, world-viewing television.

The Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle were the Si-Fan-like organisation who served Prince Wu Ling unto death; they were headquartered in Boston, of all places. The Prince's lieutenant was San, a very capable and deadly figure in his own right. On occasion, Prince Wu Ling and the Brotherhood fought against Mlle Yvonne Cartier. On two occasions ("Threatened By Three," Union Jack #956, 11 February 1922, and "In League Against Him," Union Jack #969, 6 May 1922) the Prince teamed up with Monsieur Zenith the Albino and Leon Kestrel to fight against Blake and Mlle Yvonne. (It didn't work, naturally.)

There was George Marsden Plummer. Although as mentioned my personal preference is for Monsieur Zenith, other Blake fans often rate Plummer as Blake's most important criminal opponent. Created by Mark Osborne, he was used by other Blake writers, which was not usually the case with those creating the Blake stories. Moreover, he was, I believe, the only criminal to appear in Union Jack Library, Sexton Blake Library, and Detective Weekly. Plummer was a Scotland Yard inspector turned renegade and become a master criminal. He was a son of the Earl of Sevenoaks, but was born too late to receive the title’s annual £60,000. Instead he became a Scotland Yard inspector, and by dint of natural ability and hard work rose to the rank of detective sergeant. Unfortunately, his investigations often gave him information about the nobility and the wealthy, and he used this information to blackmail them. Blake exposed him, leading Plummer to go fully rogue.

Plummer was a tall, burly, bearded man with emerald eyes. Like many of Blake's enemies, he had a number of female accomplices. It was never explicitly stated that they were lovers, but it's the obvious assumption to be made. Originally, Plummer teamed with Kathleen Farland, aka Kitty the Moth, who prided herself on being the only woman Plummer had ever worked with. (That didn't last.) After Farland Plummer went on to team with Muriel Marl, Plummer's own daughter, and most memorably Vali Mata Vali. Plummer wasn't as ferocious or bloodthirsty as many of Blake's enemies; Plummer was more the sort to impersonate a dead man to get his fortune, or conspire to marry an heiress to get her oil fortune, or pretend to be Sakr-el-Droog, a Bedouin chieftain, for his own ends. He was an adventurer and a super-crook, rather than a vicious mad scientist or criminal mastermind. He was also a master of disguise, not quite on the level of Leon Kestrel, but as good as Blake. Plummer also teamed up with Huxton Rymer on a few occasions. Another of Plummer’s allies was Rupert Forbes, who fagged for Blake at school and whose life Blake had saved; this created a bond between Blake and Forbes, with Forbes helping Blake on several occasions before he died.

There was Mademoiselle Yvonne de Cartier. While not one of Blake's sportsmen criminals, Mlle. Yvonne was still one of Blake's most important adversaries. She was The Woman to Blake, his Irene Adler. She was also the model on which a number of other opponents for Blake were constructed. She was, in many respects, the archetypal adventuress, and while she was not as personally appealing as some of the sportsmen criminals she was still pretty darn neat.

Mademoiselle Yvonne de Cartier was actually an Australian. Her parents had been swindled by eight crooked financiers when she was very young. Bankrupt and humiliated, and convinced that they had no way to recover, they died of heartbreak. Mlle. Yvonne grew up grew up gripped by the conviction that the best and only way to achieve real justice was to work outside the law. Of course, her idea of real justice was vengeance against the men who had ruined her parents. By doing this, she became Blake's opponent. She cheated her way to her first fortune by becoming a jockey, cheating to win and using her ill-gotten gains to drive the first of the financiers to suicide. After that it was robbery and other means to her ends. During her quest for vengeance she gained a great deal of respet for Blake, and vice-versa, but despite their growing attraction they were opponents. After all of her enemies were dead she began to more closely toe the line of righteousness, and during this phase she became oh-so-briefly romantically entangled with Blake. (It didn't work out; he couldn't give up his mission.) (Well, that, and Blake was what we would think of today as a sexist, to whit: "It is the old story. A woman is at the bottom of every piece of mischief. It has been so since the days of Delilah, and it will always be the same.") In these post-vengeance stories Mlle Yvonne pretended to be French and worked about half the time as a spy (Agent No. 6 of the British Secret Service) and the head of a detective agency ("Mademoiselle Yvonne, Consultant"), on the side of the angels, fighting against Prince Wu Ling, Dr. Huxton Rymer, the Criminals' Confederation (who caused the destruction of her beloved yacht, the Fleur de Lys), Zenith the Albino, Leon Kestrel, and the Council of Eleven, among others. The other half of the time she was the head of an international crime cartel, bent on becoming filthy rich, and teaming up with the likes of Nirvana, and, in Australia, the Lone Horseman. Like Blake, she had a rotter, Bob "Spike" Carter, for a brother; he was a diamond-digger and gold-seeker who made his criminally-gotten money in Canada. Unlike Blake, Mlle Yvonne had a helpful uncle, "Uncle Graves," who assisted her in her crimes and in her good deeds; in the words of Harry Homer, he was a "lazy-seeming aristocrat and lover of the good and luxurious way of living who can yet rough it and scrap with the toughest at the call of duty." Yvonne's home base was a refuge on a remote and unknown island deep in the South Pacific; Yvonne was the undisputed ruler of this island, which she attempted to turn into a socialist/communist paradise--but real communism, and not the corrupted, evil Soviet version of same. It didn't work, of course, human nature being what it is, but on the island Yvonne's true sympathies, for the workers against the exploitive rich, were clear. Eventually Jim Potter, a young and attractive Canadian man whose family was ruined by crooked bankers, just as Yvonne's was, appeared on the scene, and the two were paired off, if only momentarily.

And there was Dr. Huxton Rymer. Dr. Rymer came from a good family and had been sent to Vienna for his medical and surgical training during the early 1900s. While there he had flourished as a surgeon, making a number of innovations and discovering the special hip operation which made his name. In Blake's words Rymer "was one of the ablest surgeons living, and medical men flocked from all parts of the world to Vienna to hear him lecture and to see him demonstrate at the Franz Josef Hospital there." Unfortunately, Something Went Wrong. Rymer suddenly disappeared, to reappear as a criminal as brilliant in his crimes as he was in his operations. He never entirely abandoned medicine, and was still an accomplished surgeon as well as the author of several well-regarded monographs and treatises; when intent on medical and scientific work, he could focus so much that his surroundings--in one case, the deck of a deserted ship on a raw, cold December day--are completely forgotten about. And he is never completely lost to evil; during WW1 he went to the front and served honourably as "Lt. Colonel de Loulay," winner of the ribbon of a Chevalier of the Legion of Honour and the saviour of countless injured French men and women. Most of the time, though, he was a criminal mastermind. He was also an opium addict, an alcoholic, a compulsive gambler, a doctor to the underworld, and even a vivisectionist; he sometimes indulged his penchant for getting lovely young women put into his care and then mutilating him. He was assisted in this by various beautiful (and not a little twisted themselves) surgical assistants, foremost among whom was the well-educated, well-heeled artist Mary Trent. (The implication was that he was romantically involved with her, as well, but there were other surgical assistants and other women for him, too.) Among the people he teamed with were Marie Galante, Mlle Yvonne Cartier, Council of Eleven, George Marsden Plummer, and Hammerton Palmer. (He was romantically involved with Galante in a few stories and fell in love with Mlle Yvonne.) He also teamed up with Prince Wu Ling, but that was more out of desperation than mutual affection; Rymer was addicted to opium and only the Prince held the cure to his addiction. Interestingly, Rymer was brought in to no less than three Nelson Lee serials to act as a Lee foe and companion to Mlle Miton, the Black Wolf, Lee's version of Mlle Yvonne Cartier. (See the Nelson Lee Page for more information on these stories.) In Union Jack #1000, 9 Dec 1922, Rymer hosts a convention of Blake's foes at his home, Abbey Towers; every big name (and many of the little ones) attended, though their combined efforts to kill Blake and steal his art treasures failed.

Later, as the stories went by, Rymer became more involved in high diplomacy, turning himself into a global threat. He also became more mellow, saving Tinker on several occasions and becoming more of a sportsman, as mentioned above, towards Blake. Rymer was "deep of chest and broad of frame. His shoulders were built with a sweep of extraordinary power, and his limbs were as thick and strong as the trunks of small trees...his eyes were dark and full of fire, while his face showed deeply tanned above the neatly-trimmed, pointed beard and moustache. His hands...reflected as much strength as the face...." In scientific circles he was known as "Professor Andrew Butterfield," the mysterious author of the landmark treatise "The Emanations of Radium in Relation to their Action on Cancer and the Curative Power Thereof;" Mary Trent was the world's only contact with "Professor Butterfield," and it was through Trent that Rymer was able to publish the research that was his first and truest love. For a long while Rymer's stated goal was to gain enough money to retire to his beloved home, Abbey Towers, a large estate in the South of England, and live a quiet and fulfilling life, but somehow he never quite achieved this, and that goal was forgotten as time went by. Unfortunately, Rymer ended badly; in his final appearance, in Sexton Blake Library (Second Series) #608, January 1936, Rymer went insane, turning into a mass and serial murderer, finally dying in the flaming ruins of Abbey Towers. Or so it was thought for two decades, until Rymer (or more likely his son, going by his name) reappeared in 1958, albeit in a much more limited and frankly disappointing way.

Some of the other notable members of the Rogues Gallery were:

Team-Ups and Crossovers

Blake, of course, never lost when fighting all of his enemies. He had temporary set-backs, and sometimes the best he could manage was a draw, but in the long run he always won and the villains always lost. Sometimes, though, he had help, and engaged in team-ups and crossovers. By "team-ups and crossovers" I mean that characters from other series appeared in his stories and helped him beat the cads and bounders. I mentioned some of these other characters above, and gave links to their individual entries in my Pulp Heroes and Fantastic Victoriana sites, in the Blake's Friends section: Nelson Lee, Matthew Quin, R.S.V.P. (who later became Arthur Stukeley Pennington), Sir Richard Losely & Lobangu, Havlock Preed, and Captain Christmas, among others. There were also, on some few other occasions, crossovers with other, non-Blakian characters. In Boys' Best Weekly #54 the dime novel detective Jeff Clayton specifically requests a bloodhound to help him: "Yes...I've wired to Tinker to send Pedro down by the next train." Jeff Clayton appeared as a Jesse James foe in Adventure Series #42 & 43, and then went on to star in Adventure for almost 50 issues as a detective in his own right. Blake also crossed over with Raffles twice, in Sexton Blake Library: Second Series #577 & #601; in both stories, each written by Barry Perowne, the two jousted inconclusively. Blake teamed up with Ferrers Lord, the first time taking place in Union Jack #742, 29 December 1917. Lord Peter Wimsey, in Whose Body?, says that he's "Ready to tackle Professor Moriarty or Leon Kestrel or any of 'em." (Wimsey, for what it's worth, apparently was based on Arthur Augustus D'Arcy, who apparently appeared in a couple of Blake's stories.)

The Criminals' Confederation

While there were more than a few Sexton Blake stories that should be described at length here, the one that is generally regarded as Blake's best is the fifty story Criminals' Confederation sequence, a pulp fiction epic worthy of the name. Lucky me, I've found two excellent descriptions of it, one written by Harry Homer and one by J. Edward Leithead, and so I'm going to summarise it here.

The Confederation was a criminal organization which had branches around the world, with hundreds of the most clever criminals on its rolls. It was led by several very clever and dangerous criminals, and Blake lost most of his battles against them except for the very last one. The series, which was written by Robert Murray, began with "The Missing Crooks," Union Jack Library #806, 22 March 1919, and ran, as mentioned, for fifty issues, finally ending with "The Great Round-Up," in Union Jack Library #1196, 18 September 1926. (Fourteen issues of the sequence were reprinted from 1931-1933, but they were only reprints, and not a sequel.) As you might suppose, the series didn't usually appear one after the other; some stories appeared in sequential issues, while some others appeared after a space of months.

The Criminals' Confederaton series really began with the debut of Mr. Reece, in "The Mysterious Mr. Reece," in Sexton Blake Library First Series #41, June 1916. In that story, and in the stories which followed in the Union Jack Library and the Sexton Blake Library, he was simply a master criminal, sometimes working alone and sometimes with a gang of men. In SBL #41 Dirk Dolland, the Bat, makes the mistake of breaking into a safe that Reece's men had their eyes on. Dolland is therefore sent for by Reece and forced to abase himself in front of Reece, thus adding to Dolland's dislike for Reece. (Dolland's first reaction to Reece was revulsion, and his actions and statements only confirmed it. This would be important later.)

In "The Missing Crooks" Reece not only confronts Dirk Dolland, but the hints about the organisation behind Reece begin to appear: gold buttons on a dead man's "queer uniform" which bear the letters "C.C." and the Morse code signal "CRIMCON" being repeatedly broadcast towards London. In the following stories of this first part of the Confederation series, the Confederation emerged and became a real thing, a world-wide criminal conspiracy with branches and members everywhere. Mr. Reece was captured by Blake and then escaped. Sir Philip Champion was introduced. Tinker was kidnaped. John Smith was introduced and built up as the President of the Confederation. Disgusted with the evil of Reece, Dirk Dolland finally gave up his life of crime and joined the Confederation as a way to find the Tinker; Dolland traveled far out to sea, to the great white liner Liberty that Sir Champion had hijacked and which was used as the Confederation's headquarters, and rescued Tinker. Dolland, Blake, and Tinker returned, and in battle the Liberty and Champion's personal yacht were both sunk with Champion and Reece on it, leading the Confederation to relocate their headquarters to the volcanic Sinister Island, deep in the untracked wastes of the South Atlantic.

This ends the first part of the Confederation saga. A few months pass, and then part two begins. Tinker disappears down an old tin mine in Cornwall, a prisoner of the Confederation, but manages to get a message out to Blake telling him that the Confederation are back in England and that they have him prisoner. The Shadow, the vicious son of Mr. Reece, is introduced. Mlle Yvonne comes on stage to join the fray. Blake is checked for a time, all his inquiries and efforts in London defeated by the Confederation, whose tentacles extend not just across England but also the Continent, from the lowest dock bar to the highest of high society; even Blake's disguises do him no good. Finally an informer, Simon Martin, gets word out about the Confederation, but he is killed and Blake and Mlle. Yvonne captured by the Confederation, and Tinker and Coutts are helpless to do anything against the Confederation. Finally Blake escapes via a sewer and is swept out into the Thames. He rejoins Tinker and Coutts, and they go after the Confederation, who are temporarily lodged in the poshlust Hotel Argent. Many criminals are captured, but the chiefs escape.

Then the Confederation begans to rot from within. Mr. Reece begins to make a bid for the Presidency of the Confederation, working against Sir Philip Champion and John Smith. Reece, using the Tip-Top film company as a cover, manages to capture Blake, Tinker, Coutts, Dolland, and Mlle. Yvonne, but Sir Champion & John Smith do not want the five put to death. Reece overrides them and are left to a very gruesome and horrible death. They are saved at the last moment by Pedro, which frees them to go after Reece. Dolland is arrested by Coutts, who never really trusted the Bat. Reece is captured and put on trial. The Shadow reappears and begins to demonstrate his own malignity, among other things killing Mr. Smith. Sir Champion temporarily (and ineffectively) dissolves the Confederation following the murder of his friend, Mr. Smith. Colonel Elias B. Quartz, Confederation Member #444,444, is introduced and begins working as Reece's agent. Reece escapes from prison and begins using a circus as his cover, working as a cripple on stilts. Reece is again arrested, but escapes the gallows due to the declaration, by the "famous alienist Sir Huxley Webb," that Reece is insane. (It is later revealed that Webb is, of course, a Confederation agent.) Ned Hatton, a cracksman and ally of Col. Quartz, briefly takes charge of the Confederation, but then betrays the Confederation and absconds with £500,000. He is pursued both by the Confederation and the police, and he shifts the blame on to Dirk Dolland.

The Black Duchess is introduced. Mr. Reece is killed off, and Professor Jason Reece, the brother of Mr. Reece, escapes from a chain gang on the French prison island of Tutea, returns to civilization and takes command of the Confederation. Col. Quartz disappears. Blake and Tinker hound Reece out of the British Isles, pursue him across Central and South America, and finally capture him. They bring him into court, he receives a death sentence, and then, nearly at the last possible moment, discover that the real Professor Reece had escaped and put a double in the prison cell. Blake and Tinker repeat the chase. The great competition for the Presidency of the Confederation begins, with Ysabel de Ferre, Max Vogel, and Hoang Ho now vying for mastery. Blake et al continue to have difficulties defeating the Confederation, but the battle for the Presidency takes its toll on the Confederation's membership. Ryan Saul tries to hire the entire Confederation for his own purposes. John Fade joins the Confederation out of world-weariness. Dr. Deeming Stain allies with the Confederation. The C.C. moves its headquarters to the island of St. Madros. Hoang Ho and Max Vogel are killed off, leaving a three-sided competition for the Presidency, between Ysabel de Ferre, Fen Too, and Professor Jason Reece. The Duchess and John Fade fall in love. Blake saves Professor Jason Reece's life when Fen Too tries to kill him, and in gratitude Fen Too frees Blake, Tinker, Coutts, Dolland, Fade and Ysabel.

The battle for the Presidency dwindles down to West versus East, Professor Jason Reece versus Fen Too. Reece, having recovered the million-pound C.C. reserve fund, instigates a revolution in the small South American republic of Santa Costa and has himself installed as President. He then repudiates all extradition treaties and makes Santa Costa a haven for criminals from around the world. Fen Too begins moving against Prof. Reece in Santa Costa, and Blake travels there to foment a counter-revolution. Blake's counter-revolution succeeds, and Prof. Reece is toppled from power, falling into the hands of Fen Too. Fen Too brings him into the hinterlands of South America, pursued by Blake. The Black Duchess is captured by Reece's men, and John Fade pursues them. Coutts captures Reece and the Duchess, and both are put on trial. Reece escapes, as his late brother did, and gains control of a due-to-be-scrapped R.N. cruiser. Reece uses it to hijack the liner Andillaria, which was on its way to N.Y.C. with five million pounds of war debt repayment. Reece, pursued by every navy in the world, flees to the Arctic. He returns to London to briefly marry the Black Duchess in an attempt to weld together the various components of the Confederation, but this fails and he goes back on the run.

The series ends disappointingly on Jorsica, where the island's volcano blows up. Blake et al escape, but Reece, Fen Too, and the rest of the Criminals' Confederation are killed.

That was Sexton Blake, the hero of one of pulp fiction's great sagas. I'm always interested in learning more about Blake, so if you know something that I don't, or if I made an error, please write me and tell me about it.


In the time since I've started this page a few other Sexton Blake sites have sprung up. I find this quite gratifying, really. I had nothing to do with their existence, naturally, but I find it gratifying that other people are also translating their interest in Blake into web sites. I recommend each of these sites without hesitation.

The British Juvenile Story Papers and Pocket Libraries Index
This site, primarily composed by Steve Holland, is a goldmine of information for those interested in the subject. Simply, it's a massive listing of which stories and which authors appeared in which issues of which magazines. So, for example, if you want to know which issues Anthony Skene stories appeared in, you simply click on the Authors link and then follow it to Anthony Skene. The Index is incomplete, as there's a nearly incomprehensible number of magazines to be index, but Steve and his contributors, of which I'm proud to be included, have made substantial progress. Steve is also the compiler of the Encyclopedia of Children's Literature, which I'm even prouder to say I've contributed to.

Jack Trevor Story
This site, compiled by Guy Lawley, is a very thorough and quite well-done look at Jack Trevor Story, one of the later Blake authors. It's got images, quotes, and lots of biographical and bibliographic information.

Sexton Blake (I)
This site is an excellent look at Blake. It's got scads of illustrations, far more than I could ever manage here, and lots of good information on Blake. It also has, and this is just as important (to me, at least), information on the publishing history of Blake. In all, an invaluable site for Blake aficionados.

Sexton Blake (II)
Mark Hodder's amazing Blake site. Its recent revision has made it not only the best Sexton Blake site on the Internet but the model for all other author and character sites. "Impressive" does not begin to describe this site.

Write me!

Go back to my Victoriana site