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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The return of Sexton Blake

There's good news for fans of old-style detective yarns with the announcement that Sexton Blake will be back on our shelves and in our ears in the spring of 2009.

The Casebook of Sexton Blake, edited by David Stuart-Davies, is to be published by Wordsworth Editions on 7 March as part of their cheap line of paperbacks—the retail price is £2.99 and it's already being offered cheaper by Amazon. Here's the publisher's blurb, to which I've added a couple of notes:
Welcome to the breathtaking adventures of Sexton Blake! For the greater part of the 20th century, the countless escapades of super sleuth Sexton Blake kept millions of readers on the edge of their seats. Together with his faithful sidekick, the youthful Tinker, and his intelligent bloodhound, Pedro, he stood firm against an onslaught of crime and villainy, defeating his enemies with his extraordinary powers of deduction, iron fists and unyielding determination. This thrilling collection presents seven exploits from his 'golden age'.

"The Slave Market" by Cecil Hayter (1907)—In the dangerous depths of Africa, Blake races to the rescue of an old school friend!
"A Football Mystery" by W. J. Lomax (1907)—Blake and Tinker join the England team to beat the cheating opposition!
"The Man From Scotland Yard" by Ernest Sempill (1908)—Blake has his first encounter with the greatest super-villain he would ever meet!
"The Law of the Sea" by W. Murray Graydon (1912)—Blake goes down with the ship in his own version of the sinking of the Titanic!
"The Brotherhood of the Yellow Beetle" by G. H. Teed (1913)—Blake grapples with oriental cunning in the form of Prince Wu Ling!
"A Case of Arson" by Robert Murray Graydon (1917)—A master crook is at work but Blake is on his trail!
"The Black Eagle" by G. H. Teed (1923)—A wronged man is out for vengeance. Can Blake stop him before it's too late?
The book will have additional notes by Mark Hodder who runs the excellent Blakiana website. It's a good line-up, with some fine choices: (Teed is one of my favourite Blake writers and Sempill's "The Man From Scotland Yard" is acknowledged as one of the best Blake tales ever penned.

Add that to the announcement that Radio 2 are to broadcast a Sexton Blake radio drama at Easter and it's a bit of a revival for the detective who entertained millions with his stories from the 1890s to the 1960s. Maggs' involvement in a Blake project was announced back in 2006 when it was described as "a tongue-in-cheek series" featuring Simon Jones (star of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy) as Blake, Wayne Forester as Tinker and other characters played by Andrea Sadler and Graham Hoadly.

The show is being produced by Perfectly Normal Productions and BBC Audiobooks and an audiobook version (ISBN 978-1408410547) has already been announced by BBC Audiobooks for release on 7 May. Here's the blurb from Perfectly Normal Productions:
SEXTON BLAKE! A name that spells thrilling adventure for fans across the world,many of whom are still alive.

SEXTON BLAKE! A name that spells certain doom for villainy, no matter how fiendish or dandied.

SEXTON BLAKE! A name that spells mild, lingering confusion for country vicars advertising for a general officer.

A baffling crime — a hapless victim — the cry goes up, “Call SEXTON BLAKE! also some kind of medical representative.”

Now, exactly thirty-eight years, four months and eleven days after his final broadcast,the world’s mightiest and most popular detective returns to the air in the all-new THE ADVENTURES OF SEXTON BLAKE. Accompanied in his breakneck hurtle to justice by doughty (not doughy) assistant Tinker, Sexton Blake battles diabolical masterminds — beautiful jewel thieves — mechanical Stalins — in locations as exotic as a portable Congo — a second, secret London Underground — an uphill avalanche. Encountering peril at every turn, only Blake can save the day and solve the case by outwitting his enemies in the head and outpunching them in the jaw.
(* Sexton Blake © IPC Media.)

3 comments:

Chap O'Keefe said...

Splendid news, Steve. As a reader of Sexton Blake stories from the age of nine and a member of the Sexton Blake editorial staff at Fleetway House in the 1960s, this book (publishing coincidentally on my birthday!) will have my support. It is fascinating how all this way-back-when AP material is gaining an audience while the successors to its creators face a struggle in convincing publishers to take on their work. I know that back in the '50s and '60s, the Golden Age Blake stories were regarded generally as "old-hat" and the idea of re-publishing them for a "modern" public to enjoy would have been met with scoffing derision. Now is the time for the revivalists, if no one else, to make a bob or two.

Over the years, I have tried to give a nod or two in the direction of detective-adventure yarns, particularly with the Joshua Dillard stories. Dillard is an ex-Pinkerton detective working as a "gun for hire" in the Old West. I completed his seventh book last March and it will be published by Robert Hale on February 27. Called Blast to Oblivion it is very much "retro detection", being set in the 1880s and sharing some plot elements with the classic Sherlock Holmes novel, Valley of Fear. But all this will be explained in "Blast from the Literary Past", an article I have written for the edition of the Black Horse Extra webzine which will appear mid-February. Sexton Blake is given a mention, too, the link being Arthur Wontner's starring role in the 1935 movie version of Valley.

Meantime, anyone interested can read a sample chapter of Blast the novel at www.geocities.com/chapkeith

Best wishes for 2009,
Keith

Michael Martin said...

Oh jesus christ, must all good characters from the past get these horrible re-makes done by smug new media scum?

Steve said...

Hi Michael,

We'll have to wait until Easter to see if it's "horrible" or not. And you can hardly call radio a "new media".

Personally, I've enjoyed Maggs' productions of other comic strips and he did an excellent job bringing Hitch-Hikers back and Dirk Gently to the radio. I think that, as long as he hasn't confused Sexton Blake with Dick Barton, he should do OK.