Saturday, 15 March 2014

Walter the Wordsmith

This blog is always happy to hear from writer and editor Keith Chapman.

Once a member of the editorial team at the Sexton Blake Library and later editor of the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, Keith now writes westerns in the Black Horse series under the name Chap O`Keefe and has recently been involved in re-issuing his O`Keefe titles as e-books ( ).

His main reason for contacting me was not to plug his own works, but to discuss a recent discovery he had made concerning Walter Tyrer, a writer we both admire.

Walter Tyrer circa 1956

Tyrer cut his literary teeth writing schoolboy fiction and later turned his hand to romance, westerns and detective fiction. It is his work in the latter category that interests me, in particular the many stories he contributed to the Sexton Blake Library in the post-war period.

While many regard him as something of a `pulp` writer (not necessarily in a bad way), I personally feel that Tyrers`  Blake tales are works of great craftsmanship, featuring as they often do an array of outlandish characters and giving full rein to his rather quirky sense of humour.  

That`s enough background details. We return now to Keiths`  missive. Going through old papers relating to his tenure as editor of the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine, our man had discovered correspondence and a short story from one J T Lang, which was a pseudonym used by Walter. The story is believed to have remained unpublished, probably because Micron, the firm which employed Keith and at that time published the EWMM, was about to go under.  There is also evidence that Mr Lang/Tyrer had had some difficulties obtaining payment from Micron for stories already published, which may also have been a factor.

To his credit, Keith decided to see to it that this story (it`s a suspense/crime story called A Professional Job) saw the light of day. Clearly it was necessary to establish who, if anyone, held the rights to Walters` works. Steve Holland at Bear Alley ( )  was helpful and provided general advice but it was beginning to look as if the trail might go cold.

Just then an almost-forgotten memory emerged  from the dark recesses of  my tiny mind. Some time ago, author Ray Elmitt had contacted me via another blog of  mine, . He had been researching  the history of his home and had found that it had previously been the address of a fellow-writer - Walter Tyrer. At around the same time he had some contact with Walters` daughter Jennifer who had paid a visit to the house. Could he help ?

Indeed he could, and the upshot of this story is that Walter Tyrers` two daughters have raised no objection to this previously unavailable work being brought into the public gaze.

The purpose of this article is not to over-emphasise my own miniscule contribution to the matter, but to pass on the information that , due largely to the efforts of Keith (Chap O`Keefe)  Chapman, A Professional Job will soon be appearing both online and in print courtesy of David Cranmers` webzine .

I`m sure Keith would join me in thanking Ray Elmitt and Walter Tyrers` daughter Jennifer for their warm support and enthusiasm.

It goes without saying that it is enormously gratifying to see this story book brought out of the shadows, and to have played a part in that, however small. Any enquiries would be best directed either to David at his site, or to Keith c/o .


The black and white photo of Walter Tyrer circa 1956 was supplied by Ray Elmitt. The other illustrations are of Tyrer SBL titles from my own collection. Although A Professional Job is not actually a Sexton Blake title I thought they would give a bit of added interest. Anyway, I`ve gone on far too long and I`ll shut up now.

1 comment:

  1. I certainly do join you in your thanks to Ray Elmitt and Jennifer De Fries. And let's not forget the other parties who have helped along the way, not least yourself, Nick, for providing the all-important contact details.

    Other helpers were Gary Dobbs, of the Tainted Archive blog, whose post about a Tyrer book was the catalyst, researcher Steve Holland who gave advice, and David Cranmer.

    David has just emailed me that he plans to be publishing A Professional Job (what an apt title!) very, very soon.