“In the first decade of the twentieth century, Michael Storm, still very much the mystery man of the Blake saga, came along with some really outstanding yarns, such as The Man From Scotland Yard, The Mervyn Mystery, and above all The Master Anarchist, and on the strength of these, he was, to my mind, the top Blake writer of the period. The latter story, a most remarkable narrative, was certainly among the best ever published in The Union Jack.” ~Walter Webb, Collectors Digest, #223, 1965
Little is known about Ernest Sempill, the British author who wrote Blake tales under the name Michael Storm. He was born between 1850 and 1865 and died in 1910. He started writing detective, school and mystery stories in the early 1900s and penned over 120 tales featuring Sexton Blake, for The Penny Pictorial, Boys’ Friend, Answers Weekly, and The Union Jack. Blakeologist Walter Webb, writing in Collectors Digest #100, stated that Storm “possessed a powerfully descriptive pen” and in the matter of description “had no equal among Blake authors.”
Though not the most prolific of the Blake authors, he was nevertheless highly influential and is considered one of the best authors of the pre-golden age. Perhaps his greatest addition to the Blake saga was the creation of the recurring super villain, a foe who would appear time and again to match wits with Blake. George Marsden Plummer, a Detective-Sergeant at Scotland Yard turned criminal made his debut in The Man from Scotland Yard, Storm’s first Blake tale, in January of that year. Rupert Forbes appeared ten months later in The Mystery of the Egyptian Bonds, a short story published in The Penny Pictorial. The two would team up to fight Blake in The Mervyn Mystery, published in The Boys’ Friend Library in September 1909. (Check out Sexton Blake: The First Super Villains for the complete collected works).
Lesser known, but still highly entertaining, were master criminals Marston Hume and Mlle Justine de Chevrac. Hume, a highly successful criminal defence lawyer turned criminal, made his debut in 1909 in Well Matched!, a short story for the The Penny Pictorial. He appeared in 12 tales in all, the last being Found Guilty! in 1910. That same year Storm also created Blake’s first female recurring foe: Mademoiselle Justine de Chevrac. She appeared in a six issue run in Answers Weekly and was then never seen again. Blakeologist S. Gordon Swan, writing in Collectors Digest in 1969, posited that Mlle Justine may have been the inspiration for Mlle Yvonne, the legendary adventuress who G. H. Teed created three years later. Having read all six tales, I think Mlle Justine bears more of a resemblance to The Black Wolf, the great female nemesis that Teed created for detective Nelson Lee.
This anthology collects for the first time the complete Marston Hume and Justine de Chevrac sagas in digital format. It also includes three full length tales from the pages of The Union Jack: The Master Anarchist, an Empire in peril tale considered to be among Storm’s finest, The Vendetta!, a revenge tale that begins on the island of Corsica, and The Road Hog, a classic tale about a couple of scoundrels determined to swipe a young woman’s inheritance. Enjoy!
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