The case that made Sexton Blake’s reputation…
“At the time of which we write, Sexton Blake, the famous detective, was only on the threshold of his brilliant career. He had already made his mark in one or two minor cases, but the opportunity for which he longed—the chance to distinguish himself and to show what was in him—had not yet presented itself. In other words, the “tide which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune,” had not yet set in the direction of the bachelor apartments in Fitzalan Square, where Sexton Blake had established himself with an Army Reserve man—Sergeant O’Flaherty—as his butler, valet, and general factotum..” ~Maxwell Scott, Sexton Blake: The Clique of Death, 1905
London, 1889. The Ring of Death, a powerful secret society of criminals, is at work in the metropolis. Clever, daring, and highly-organised, they perpetrate all manner of crime: forgeries, burglaries, arson, blackmail and even murder. Enter Sexton Blake, a young man trying to establish himself as a private detective in London. When one of his friends is murdered by The Ring, he vows to avenge him and “rid the world of this infamous league of murderers and thieves.”
Sexton Blake: The Clique of Death was published in twenty installments in The Jester, a British boys' story paper and comic magazine. It ran from issues #174 to 193, from March 11 to July 15, 1905. It was written by Maxwell Scott, the creator of Sexton Blake rival Nelson Lee.
Maxwell Scott was the pseudonym Dr. John Staniforth (1863-1927), a Yorkshire medical doctor. Scott was the Stan Lee of the late Victorian and early Edwardian era. The boys' story papers were filled with tales of daring detectives and no one created more tropes and detectives than he did. In the early 1900s the most popular detectives in boys fiction were Sexton Blake, Nelson Lee, and Kenyon Ford (not necessarily in that order) and the latter two were created and penned by Scott, who by then was one of the most popular and beloved story paper contributors.
His first creation, Nelson Lee, was one of the longest-running detectives in the Amalgamated Press papers, perhaps second only to Sexton Blake in popularity. He first appeared in A Dead Man’s Secret in The Halfpenny Marvel #46, in 1894. Kenyon Ford ‘The Up-To-Date-Detective’, Scott’s second most popular detective, made his debut in Big Budget #1 in The Secret of the Ruby Ring in 1897. He appeared in some forty tales in Big Budget until his exit in 1902. Unique to his cases were the gizmos and gadgets he employed to bring criminals to justice.
By 1901 Scott had moved away from writing short stories and had begun writing detective serials starring his most famous detectives. Sexton Blake: The Clique of Death is the only serial that Scott wrote where he did not create the main character. Interestingly, it was never properly recorded in the Blake canon. It's practically a lost tale, and, for Blake fans, a potentially interesting one. Not only does it shed light on the beginning of the great detective’s career, it foreshadows what was to come in the golden age. The Council of Seven, the organizing body of The Ring of Death, predates G.H. Teed’s Council of Eleven by almost a decade. La Mascotte, the Council’s sole adventuress, is easily one of Blake’s deadliest female foes, unrivaled in deed throughout the Edwardian era. And of course there is plenty of action. Scott liked to ensure that his detectives earned their fees and filled his tales with exciting incidents. Blake gets put through the wringer, every installment ends with a cliff-hanger.
The Detective Club is a series of seven anthologies that collect Maxwell Scott’s most popular works. In Volume 1, in addition to the lost Blake serial, you’ll find the origin tales of Nelson Lee and Kenyon Ford. Each tale includes all of the original illustrations! Enjoy!
“Maxwell Scott did see to it that his detectives earned their fees.” ~ Herbert Leckenby, Memories of Old Boy's Papers, 1943
|Imprint||The Criminals' Confederation Series|
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