One of my many enthusiasms and pet obsessions is the fictional detective Sexton Blake.
Blake was created by 19th century writer Harry Blyth, using the pen-name Hal Meredeth (sic). The first Blake story was The Missing Millionaire, which appeared in a short story magazine, The Halfpenny Marvel, during December 1893.
Blyth/Meredeth apparently sold the rights to his creation and Sexton appeared in numerous publications including The Union Jack, Detective Weekly, The Penny Pictorial and, of course, The Sexton Blake Library. Blake was not the `property` of any one writer and this meant the series could continue and indeed evolve and adapt over an unusually long period of time. The SBL itself ran from `I don`t know when` until 1963, when publishers Fleetway pulled the plug, though there were occasional reincarnations of the celebrated sleuth, notably the book and TV show Sexton Blake and the Demon God (1978).
As a long-standing fan I was of course delighted to learn recently that Obverse Books have been in touch with copyright holders IPC and have acquired a license to produce a new, re-invigorated Sexton Blake Library.
I am all the more pleased because Obverse main man Stuart Douglas is something of a Blake buff himself and acknowledges that the new project will fulfill "a long-standing personal ambition to bring the longest-running detective series in literary history back to life."
The new SBL will commence with a new example of Sextonian sleuthing, penned by Nottingham-based writer George Mann*, combined in one volume with a reprint of a classic Blake tale from between the wars.
Mann confesses himself to have been "an avid devotee of Sexton Blake for many years" which is all to the good.
While we await the next exciting instalment, I thought I`d wet your appetite with images of cover art from the original SBL, all drawn from my own collection.
If you`re feeling philosophical, you may want to reflect on the way in which the artwork evolved to reflect changing times. Or you may just want to enjoy the pictures.
I favour the latter myself.
On the web ;
Obverse Books - www.obversebooks.co.uk
George Mann - http://georgemann.wordpress.com
Sexton Blake - http://thesextonblakeblog.blogspot.com
* Trivia Corner ; the modern George Mann will in fact be the second writer of that name to contribute to the SBL. `Arthur Maclean` who wrote a number of Blake stories in the early `60s (see picture number 3 above) was in fact a pseudonym of writer George Paul Mann. In addition to his own contributions, GPM was also sometimes paid to revise stories by other writers which for one reason or another did not meet with the editor`s complete approval.