The Blakiana website returns after a long absence.
History professor Gyan Prakash claims to have recovered a "lost" Sexton Blake story dating from 1927. However, he presents no facts concerning its supposed author, Phiroshaw Jamsetjee Chevalier 'Chaiwala', and neither the story—THE TOWER OF SILENCE—nor its writer are mentioned in Amalgamated Press records. Furthermore, the style of the tale is very dissimilar to stories from that period (though this could be attributed to English being Mr Chaiwala's second language). If it is genuine, this probably qualifies as 1927 fan fiction that has now found a publisher. If it is a hoax (that is to say, actually written by Gyan Prakash, which is what this commentator suspects), then it is an unlicenced Blake novel.
By contrast, after a near 40-year gap—and fully licenced—The Sexton Blake Library returns. Series 6 kicks off with THE SILENT THUNDER CAPER, authored by yours truly, which sees the reappearance of G. H. Teed's creation, The Three Musketeers. The new story is accompanied by a reprint of the first ever Musketeers tale, THE WIRELESS TELEPHONE CLUE. Blake is back!
NOVEL · 2014 · Harper Collins · Various prices
THE TOWER OF SILENCE
by Phiroshaw Jamsetjee Chevalier 'Chaiwala' · Illustrator: None
Other content: Looking for Mr Chaiwala by Gyan Prakash
Notes: A press photographer, Young, commits a sacrilegious act by taking an aerial picture of the inside of a sacred Tower of Silence, where the Parsee communities of India leave their dead to be consumed by vultures. A man named Beram sets out to assassinate him as retribution. Stephens, the editor of the paper in which the photograph was published, calls Sexton Blake after receiving death threats. Knowing that Beram is probably watching the press office, Burton allows himself to be followed, being sure to set Tinker on the trail of his shadow. With one on the heels of the other, the party travels to Liverpool where Young lives. He, however, is currently in India. His family have been threatened, and Blake receives a note from Beram warning him to protect them. The Parsee, meanwhile, sets out to find the photographic negative, and starts by killing the pilot who flew Young over the tower. The game of cat and mouse continues, with Beram planting false clues that lure the detective first to India and then to Burma, where is captured and almost burned at the stake before being rescued. When he returns to Britain, the back and forth becomes ever more complex as they each try to outwit the other. There are disguises, traps and kidnappings in quick succession before Blake scores a doubtful vitcory.
Trivia: According to Gyan Prakash of Princeton University, this is a previously unpublished Sexton Blake tale dating from 1927, which he discovered, incomplete, in the British Library. He apparently spent three years searching for the remainder of it, eventually succeeding, though he was less successful in his hunt for information about its mysterious author. I have to confess, I’m not convinced. I have two problems with Mr. Prakash’s claim. The first is that, from a stylistic point of view, the story in no way resembles the Blake material of that period. Perhaps this is because it was written by an Indian author of the time, but to me it feels more like the work of a modern writer. Secondly, I find it very odd that a historian of Mr. Prakash’s stature makes no mention of the 1907 Blake tale, THE FIRE-WORSHIPPERS (Union Jack issue 194).
THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY · 6th series · Issue 1 · July 2014 · Obverse Books · £19.95
THE SILENT THUNDER CAPER
by Mark Hodder · Illustrator: Mark Manley
Other content: Consulting Room Chat (ed.)
Notes: During a diplomatic mission to Abyssinia, Blake discovers the fabled Ring of Solomon. Commissioned by the government to transport the artefact to the securest vault in the empire, a vault deep in the Rock of Gibraltar, he and Tinker set out aboard an experimental airship, the General Gordon. Unknown to them, Mathew Cardolak has an operative in the British Museum who has alerted him to the ring's existence. After the agent fails in his attempt to steal the ring, Cardolak commissions The Three Musketeers to recover it. They hijack a secret weapon and the airship ... but Tinker is hidden aboard, and Sexton Blake is on his way to intercept them at Gibraltar.
Unrated I can't rate this. I wrote it!
THE WIRELESS TELEPHONE CLUE
by G. H. Teed · Illustrator: None
Notes: This is a reprint of THE UNION JACK 977 (1922). Algy Somerton, Archie "Fairy" Pherison, and Reggie "Cupid" Fetherston are three of the most harmless and vacuous socialites on the London club circuit. Known as The Three Musketeers, they are seen at practically every dance and race meeting and are generally well-liked. But beneath their rather idiotic exteriors they are three ruthless and brutal criminals. They are also extremely efficient, as they demonstrate when they burgle Sir George Crossett's house of its treasures. Sexton Blake is commissioned to investigate but first he has to make a private trip to Paris. While there, he spots a candlestick stolen from Sir George in the window of an antique shop. Not long after, someone shoots at him while he is sitting in a car. Meanwhile, back at Baker Street, Tinker indulges in his hobby of listeining in on wireless signals. He picks up a strange coded message which, upon his return, Blake decodes. It is a warning about him being in France and the detective is able to trace it to The Three Musketeers. After establishing that the suspects are out for the evening, Blake and Tinker break into their home. They attempt to capture the three crooks but are tricked by a cunningly designed booby trap. Most of the stolen goods are recovered but the Musketeers get away.
Rating: ★★★★☆☆ An interesting tale which is let down by a hurried ending which leaves the story hanging.