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Sexton Blake: The Early Years


“We do not interfere in disputes between man and wife, nor do we pursue defaulting clerks. But if there is a wrong to be righted, an evil to be redressed, or a rescue of the weak and the 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.” ~Sexton Blake, Sexton Blake’s Peril

Who is British fiction’s greatest-ever consulting detective? By fame alone many would probably answer Sherlock Holmes. By number of cases solved: Sexton Blake.

“The prince of the penny dreadfuls”, “the office boys’ Sherlock Holmes,” “the Edwardian James Bond”. For most of the 20th century, his name was known the length and breadth of Great Britain, the British Empire and around the world. Blake was a publishing phenomenon. He appeared in penny dreadfuls, story papers, dime novels, novels, comic books, plays, radio shows, television shows and movies.

From 1893, the appearance of the first Sexton Blake tale The Missing Millionaire in the Halfpenny Marvel to his last appearance in 1978’s Sexton Blake and the Demon God, the legendary detective appeared in over 4500 tales penned by such notables as Edwy Searles Brooks, George Hamilton Teed, William Murray Graydon, Brian O’Nolan (Flann O'Brien), Jack Trevor Story, John Creasey, Michael Moorcock and more than a hundred and fifty others.

Over his long career, Sexton Blake went through several distinct phases. He began his career partnered with an older, wiser French detective named Jules Gervaise. The pair solved a couple of cases together, then Gervaise retired and Blake began to work on his own. In the early 1890s Blake was modelled on the typical detective characters of the 19th century Victorian era. Then, for the next fifteen years or so, he was heavily influenced by Sherlock Holmes, though much more action-oriented and well-travelled. From 1919 to 1945, Blake’s Golden Age, the action intensified and Blake went through his ‘Indiana Jones meets Batman phase.’ In the post-war era, Blake was revamped for the nuclear age and became more like James Bond with dashes of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler thrown in for good measure.

This Sexton Blake anthology is a collection of tales from Blake’s ‘Victorian detective phase’, originally published in the Halfpenny Marvel, Illustrated Chips, and The Union Jack between 1893 and 1895. All but one of the tales in this collection have been made available for Kindle for the very first time. Each case is a milestone in the detective’s career.

Sexton Blake's Earliest Cases
The Missing Millionaire, The Halfpenny Marvel #6, December 13, 1893
A Christmas Crime, The Halfpenny Marvel #7, December 20, 1893
A Golden Ghost, or, Tracked by a Phantom, The Halfpenny Marvel #11, January 17, 1894
Sexton Blake’s Peril! The Halfpenny Marvel #33, June 20, 1894
Sexton Blake Detective, Union Jack #2, May 4, 1894
Sexton Blake's Triumph!, Union Jack #15, August 3, 1894

Sexton Blake's First Serialized Adventure
The Lamp of Death, Illustrated Chips, #225-245, 1894-1895

The collection also includes Christmas Clues, the first Sexton Blake crossover with rival detectives Nelson Lee and Gideon Barr. To give the tale more context, we have include Lee’s and Barr’s first cases as well as other tales from the early days of their careers.

Nelson Lee Cases
A Dead Man’s Secret, The Halfpenny Marvel #46, September 19, 1894.
Nelson Lee, Detective, The Halfpenny Marvel #52, October 30, 1894
The Jewel Thief, The Halfpenny Marvel #74, April 2, 1895
A False Scent, Pluck #24, May 4, 1895
The Thief of the Black Ruby, Pluck #52, November 16, 1895

Gideon Barr Cases
The Hidden Hand, Pluck #9, Jan 19, 1895
Brought to Justice, Pluck #18, Mar 23, 1895
Hunted Down, Pluck #28, June 1, 1895
Run to Earth, Pluck #42, September 7, 1895

The First Sexton Blake, Nelson Lee, and Gideon Barr Crossover
Christmas Clues, Pluck v2, #56, December 14, 1895

We’ve also included, where possible, reviews and previews of each tale from the magazines of the era. Enjoy!

The Lamp of Death: “One of the most bloodthirsty Sexton Blake stories ever written.” Mark Hodder, Sexton Blake Bibliography, Blakiana

Christmas Clues: “The most unique and enthralling production of its kind that ever was issued from the British press.” ~The Editor’s Weekly Word, Pluck v2 #55, December 7, 1895

Christmas Clues: “The most unique offering so far, this is the first story to confirm that Nelson Lee, Gideon Barr, and Sexton Blake all share the same reality. Their gathering is very well realised, and though the cases they recount are slight affairs— Blake's the most atmospheric, Lee's the best, and Barr's rather illogical— the entirety leaves a very positive impression.” Mark Hodder, Sexton Blake Bibliography, Blakiana

Imprint ROH Press legendary Detectives
Published 12/05/2020
ISBN 978-1-987886-63-4
Length 716 pages
Legendary Detectives
Sexton Blake: The Early Years
Sexton Blake: The Answers Casebook Sexton Blake: The Yvonne Cartier Files
Sexton Blake: The Wu Ling Files
Sexton Blake and Nelson Lee
Nelson Lee: The Black Wolf Files
Nelson Lee: The Pluck Casebook
Nelson Lee: The Landmark Cases
Moriarty’s Rivals: 12 Female Masterminds
Miss Brandt: Adventuress


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