Master List

Harold Blyth, the creator of Sexton Blake, dies of typhoid.
THE GHOST OF STRANDGAP PRIORY UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 250 · 4/2/1899 · Amalgamated Press · ½d
by William Shaw Rae · Illustrator: Unknown
Other content: Dan Darrel by Henry T. Johnson
Notes: Stanley Strand has inherited Strandgap Priory only to find that it's haunted and he can't get any staff. He appeals for Sexton Blake's help. Blake and We-wee take up residence in the priory and, before many hours have passed, the detective is warned away by a ghostly figure. The next day, Squire Roscar, who lives nearby, suggests that Blake, We-wee and Strand come to stay with him. They politely decline. He also reveals that there have been a number of burglaries in the area; a fact of great interest to Blake. The following night, the ghost appears again and Blake, while chasing it, plummets over a cliff and falls into the sea. Swimming ashore, he climbs the cliff and rests on a ledge. Meanwhile, We-wee has discovered a secret passage which leads to hidden rooms carved into the rock beneath the priory. One of these opens onto the ledge, where We-wee finds Blake. Investigating the rooms further, they discover ghostly shrouds and luminous paints ... the materials by which a man can be made up as a ghost. When the apparition next appears, Blake pursues it. The villain abandons his shrouds and takes to horseback. The detective gives chase on a bicycle. He loses his quarry but, in the morning, is able to identify the criminal. The latter has been using the secret chambers to store the proceeds of the burglaries and used the 'ghost' to keep people away. Blake sets a trap and the villain pays the ultimate price for his crimes. This was reprinted in PENNY POPULAR issue 66 as THE HAUNTED PRIORY (1914) with We-wee replaced by Tinker.
Rating: ★★★☆☆☆ An average tale; not particularly memorable but entertaining enough. The bicycle v. horse chase is the definite highlight!
THE LANCER LAD UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 261 · 22/4/1899 · Amalgamated Press · ½d
by William Shaw Rae · Illustrator: Unknown
Other content: Dan Darrel by Henry T. Johnson
Notes: Blake is commissioned to find Rolf Breakspear, the heir to the Breakspear estate, and return him to his home. Rolf, in defiance of his father's wishes, has joined the Army and is currently fighting on the Sudanese front. Blake, after discovering that the lad briefly encountered his cousin—next in line for the inheritance—prior to enlisting, follows the runaway to Egypt. There, he saves the Army camp from an attack after Rolf is tricked away from his sentry post. It quickly emerges that there's a traitor in the camp—a man who apparently resembles Rolf and is trying to frame him. However, Rolf's heroics earn him the trust of the commanding officer, especially after the lad undertakes a perilous aerial survey (in a balloon towed by four eagles!) that gives the Army the upper hand in a subsequent battle. When the main conflict erupts, Rolf comes face to face with his treacherous counterpart and is almost killed by him. Blake comes to the rescue, kills the traitor, and identifies him as Rolf's cousin. All ends well, with the villain exposed as the one who stole the money and with Rolf gaining the approval of his father.
Rating: ★★★★☆☆
SHADOWED BY SEXTON BLAKE UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 283 · 23/9/1899 · Amalgamated Press · ½d
by Christopher Stevens (Julian Rochfort) · Illustrator: Unknown
Other content: Dick Valling's Adventure by H. S. Warwick.
Notes: While searching for his missing "dearest friend" and fellow investigator, Tom Danton, Blake explores a wharf called Deepster's Den, which he knows Danton was watching. There, he finds his friend's bloodstained bowler with a bullet hole in it. Next, Lady Curburn commissions him to investigate the ruination of her son at the hands of a card sharper named Carl Christiani. This individual, it turns out, was also being followed by Danton. Infiltrating Christiani's illegal gambling den, Blake rescues Viscount Curburn and returns him, a reformed man, to his family. He then pursues Christiani, adopting one disguise after another, finally facing off against him atop the burning wharf.
Trivia: In Blake's Norfolk House apartment there is a large safe. A door in its back wall opens onto a corridor that runs through the adjoining houses to a nearby hotel. This allows the detective to come and go in disguise. The apartment also contains a false ceiling that conceals a cage rigged to drop onto intruders. Blake is aided throughout this case by a faithful cab driver named Jiggins.
Rating: ★★★☆☆☆
THE HERMIT OF TEXAS UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 285 · 7/10/1899 · Amalgamated Press · ½d
by Campbell Brown (G. W. Brown) · Illustrator: Unknown
Other content: From the Quarterdeck (ed.); Dick Valling's Adventures by H. S. Warwick.
Notes: A daring jewel robbery takes place in Hatton Garden, resulting in the death of the jeweller and the theft, among other stones, of the famous "Death Gem." Sexton Blake is on the scene but fails in his attempt to prevent the robbery and capture "The Terrible Four." He learns, however, that the Death Gem is to be delivered to a man known as "The Hermit" in Texas. Boarding the same ship as the four villains, he dons a disguise, plays cards with them, and deprives them of a considerable sum. In America, he teams up with a young man known as Rosey and chases the gang to Texas. There, he falls in with a group of Hindoos who are seeking to recover the Death Gem. After a series of fights, captures and escapes, Blake confronts the hermit, who turns out to be the notorious criminal, Jack Sheppard. The villains are rounded up. Rosey is revealed to be the dead jeweller's son.
Rating: ★★☆☆☆☆ A rather nonsensical sequence of barely related events stirred together with silly coincidences. We-wee is captured near the start of the tale, forgotten about by Blake and the author, then reappears in the conclusion to explain how he escaped.
THE SECRET HAND UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 289 · 4/11/1899 · Amalgamated Press · ½d
by William Shaw Rae · Illustrator: Unknown
Other content: Dick Valling's Adventures by H. S. Warwick; From the Quarterdeck (ed.)
Notes: Sexton Blake is in Leeds to keep an appointment with a moneylender named Moses Leech. In the office, he meets Charley Everton (who he first met when Everton was a boy in BRAVO BLAKE!, UNION JACK 1st series issue 138, 1896). The young lad, now in the army, has been maneouvred into a hefty debt with exorbitant interest. Even worse, he has forged his brother Harry's signature as guaranteur. Blake promises to help him, then goes on into Leech's office for the appointment. The moneylender wants him to act as courier, bringing a twenty-thousand pound diamond necklace up from London. Blake accepts the commission on the grounds that it might help him to investigate Leech. He travels back to London and sends We-wee to Leeds to keep an eye on Leech. After picking up the necklace, Blake is attacked by a gang of thieves and held prisoner on Canvey Island off the Essex coast. He manages to escape from most of the gang in a small boat but not from the leader who jumps aboard just as the craft drifts away. Taken by the tide out to sea, the pair spend a perilous night together before being rescued by a steamer. In Leeds, We-wee, after spending time studying Leech, befriends his alcoholic clerk and manages to get the man to reproduce the bill recently served to Charley Everton. Later, the Chinese lad makes an exact copy of this reproduction with one exception: he makes it for £150 rather than £500. He then has Everton sign the bill. Next, he disguises himself as Leech, tricks the clerk into opening the moneylender's safe, and swaps the real bill for the forgery. The next day, Blake arrives in Leeds and, with Everton, confronts Leech and demands the bill. When it is handed over, Everton pays it in full, much to the astonishment of Leech who receives a fraction of what he'd expected. Blake then delivers the necklace, which, as he had always suspected, is a fraud. He exposes Leech's attempt to cheat the insurers and the villain is arrested.
Rating: ★★★☆☆☆
VAL HILTON'S VOW UNION JACK · 1st series · Issue 292 · Dec. 1899 · Amalgamated Press · ½d
by Anon. (Unknown) · Illustrator: Unknown
Other content: The Phantom Cruiser by Alec G. Pearson; Dick Valling's Adventures by H. S. Warwick; The Weird Story of Dead Man's Pool by Anon.; The Palace of Death by S. Clarke Hook; For Britain and the Right by Anon.; From the Quarterdeck (ed.); Dick Denton's Double by Anon.
Notes: As the school captain at Dr Biggleby's Academy for the Sons of Officers and Gentlemen, Val Hilton is popular with all except his fellow pupil, Archie Hargreaves. The latter, dressing in Hilton's grey suit, steals diamonds from Biggleby's study, ensuring he is seen so that Hilton is blamed. Accused and expelled, Hilton vows to clear his name but, before he can act, he is kidnapped by the four crooks to whom Hargreaves intended to sell the diamonds. Sailing away in an old fishing boat, the villains are dismayed to learn that they've got the wrong lad—it was Hargreaves they'd meant to betray. Arguing over what to do with their prisoner, they fight and one of them is killed. At this point, the author, who appears to have begun a boy's tale of adventure, suddenly ends it very prematurely with a short conclusion in which Sexton Blake considers the case, solves it (it's not clear how) and Hilton returns to the academy where he tells his schoolmates (but not the readers) how he escaped the criminals.
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆☆ Plainly an unfinished non-Blake tale brought to a fast and totally unsatisfactory conclusion by means of the detective's inclusion.

Master List

© Mark Hodder 2014