Publishing: Having gained control of the Sexton Blake franchise, Rebellion Publishing now tests public interest by releasing a series of anthologies in which classic tales are introduced by author Mark Hodder, who "interviews" Sexton Blake.
Blake: Sexton Blake is still alive, still active, and warns that a new breed of master crooks is imminent.
Notes: In Germany, Kaiser Wilhelm II discusses with military officers the forthcoming naval manoeuvres that are to be undertaken in secret in the North Sea by more than three hundred British ships. He muses that the British may have become aware that the Shetland Islands would make a fine base for an attacking force. He notes that the German navy has thoroughly familiarised itself with those waters. His words are leaked to the press, and when they find their way to the British Prime Minister, Sexton Blake is summoned. The detective is ordered to investigate the extent of German influence in the Shetlands. The next day, Blake, Tinker and Detective-Inspector Spearing travel north to the islands. That night, while Blake is on the cliffs, an airship passes overhead and he spontaneously grabs a trailing rope and is swung out to sea. Climbing it, he enters the gondola, which is occupied by twelve Germans. One of them proves to be the Kaiser, who attempts to bribe the detective to remain silent about the dirigible's presence. Blake refuses and, as the vessel approaches land, dives overboard into the sea. The airship descends to just above the water to search for him, which gives him the opportunity to surreptitiously secure himself beneath its gondola. He is in that way taken to the German base on one of the small uninhabited Jersey islands where he is able to spy undetected. When he sees that one of the crewmen bears a resemblance to him, he pounces on the man, leaves him bound and gagged, and dons sufficient of a disguise to masquerade as him. Joining the other Germans, he accompanies the Kaiser to a cave that contains a chart outlining all the coastal areas of Jersey that Germany has selected to use as ports. The Kaiser makes it clear that he has no real intention to attack Britain but must have precautions in place in case international relations deteriorate. When the man Blake is impersonating is discovered, the detective flees, dives into the sea, and after a long swim is picked up by a boat containing Tinker and Spearing, who have been searching for him. They take him to the British fleet's flagship where he reports what he has seen, though he omits to mention the presence of the Kaiser. A ship is sent to the island, the base is destroyed, and the Germans are captured. Blake, Tinker and Spearing, however, smuggle the emperor away, across to the mainland, and head south by train. En route, the Kaiser twice tries to escape and is twice foiled. Then, when London is reached, he is kidnapped by Anarchists who leave him bound hand and foot in a burning house. Blake performs a daring rescue, almost losing his life in the process. He then takes the Kaiser to meet with the Prime Minister. Terms and conditions are discussed, announcements are made in Parliament, and the Kaiser heads home after having received a lecture from Sexton Blake concerning the consequences of war.
Trivia: This story was first published in UNION JACK issue 253 (1908). The version presented here has been very slightly edited to excise racially insensitive language. The original had previously been reprinted in two parts in PENNY POPULAR issue 101 as THE IMPERIAL SPY and PENNY POPULAR issue 102 as THE KAISER'S RANSOM (both 1914).
Notes: The Foreign Office commissions Sexton Blake to deliver a document concerning a shipment of armaments to an agent named Schmidt in Holland. Even before he's left England, the detective is assaulted by enemy spies, but he fights through and, with Tinker, crosses the Channel and makes his way to the rendezvous in Antwerp. They find Schmidt dying, having just been attacked, but he lasts long enough to tell them that the papers must be given to Captain van Zyl in the frontier town of Stiltz. A company of Germans arrive. Blake and Tinker take refuge on the roof but, when the enemy sets the house ablaze, are forced to flee across a beam to the next building. In that house, a Belgian assists them by guiding them through underground passages to safety. The next morning, disguised as Dutch peasants, they team up with a trader named Jean and are able to pass through the German barriers that surround the city. Out in the countryside, en route to Stiltz, they are set upon by three cavalrymen, who pierce their disguises and expose them as Britishers. Blake has no option but to shoot them dead. He hides the bodies and horses and then Jean leads the way across country in order that they avoid all the checkpoints. That evening, they rest in the loft of a farmer's barn, eat a makeshift meal, and are about to sleep when eight troopers arrive and stable their horses below. After eavesdropping and learning that a five thousand mark reward is being offered for their capture dead or alive, Blake, Tinker and Jean steal the horses and flee. They now have no choice but to use the main road to their destination and, inevitably, it is patrolled. When they are stopped and challenged, they put up a fight and are separated from Jean in the darkness and confusion. They make a dash for it, swimming across a canal in the dark to gain the towing-path on the other side, along which they proceed until they come to an inn. Two American agents are inside — working to aid the Germans — and, with the landlord's cooperation, Blake and Tinker quickly overpower them, have them bound and gagged and locked in a cellar, and steal their clothes and passports. When cavalry troops show up, the detectives masquerade as the Americans and are offered an escort to Stiltz. They accept, and, in that town, Blake locates Captain van Zyl and hands over the precious document. The next morning, the two real American agents turn up and Blake and Tinker are taken prisoner. They face a firing squad but are saved at the last moment by van Zyl who, as Burgomaster of the town, has the authority to take them in his charge. He does so and locks them up, promising to assist them to the coast in the morning. Later, a vengeful German officer enters their cell to murder them but Blake tackles and kills him. Van Zyl arrives via a secret tunnel and guides them through it to a canal. They sail to the coast and out to sea where they board a British destroyer and bid the Dutch agent farewell. Mission accomplished!
Trivia: This story was originally published in UNION JACK issue 645 (1916). As with all the stories in this anthology, it has been very slightly edited for racially insensitive language.
Notes: With war raging in Europe, Blake and Tinker are being kept busy hunting unregistered aliens, many of whom are spies. One day, in London, they encounter a naval lieutenant who is on his way to deliver to the Admiralty an important despatch from the commander of the fleet. However, the man is weak from injuries suffered during his previous tour of duty, and when he nearly collapses, he agrees to let Tinker carry the message in his stead. This, however, is witnessed by a German spy who a few minutes later steals the document from Tinker. The lad is distraught and imagines Blake's disappointment with him. When he meets a friend, Jack Rokeby, who has joined up but can't go because his wife has been taken seriously ill, Tinker impulsively takes his place, leaving a brief letter for Blake. Some days later, the detective is occupied at a recruitment post, where he's watching for enemy agents, when Rokeby, whose wife has by now died, tries to join up under an assumed name. Blake quickly gets to the bottom of it and realises where his assistant has gone. The following day, the detective is commissioned to locate a soldier, Colonel Chumleigh, at the Front, and have him sign a will. Tinker, meanwhile, is in a truck that's been separated from a convoy, has drifted close to the enemy lines, and is almost hit by a shell. His companions are killed with the exception of his commander, Lieutenant Drake. They flee into nearby woods and make their way to a cottage where they shelter with a French peasant. The next morning, they steal a motor-omnibus packed with German supplies and drive it back to the British lines. Sexton Blake arrives at the Front just as heavy fighting commences. He is caught by a bullet, which passes through his silver cigarette case and lodges between his ribs. He recovers consciousness in a field-hospital with Tinker at his bedside. When the detective explains his mission, his assistant tells him that Colonel Chumleigh is missing and presumed to have been taken a prisoner. While Blake remains in hospital, Tinker joins with Drake, who has been ordered to fly a reconnaissance mission. Their plane is shot down and crash lands behind enemy lines. They evade cavalry troops, board a train carrying supplies to the German Army, set fire to it, then jump clear, leaving it to crash into a troop-carrying train, causing much loss of life. Later, they find an abandoned chateau and settle down for the night. In the morning, German troops arrive with prisoners — all French but one, who happens to be Colonel Chumleigh. When the company sets out to search the region for the two fugitives, leaving only a couple of guards, Tinker and Drake manage to overpower them. The French captives are set free. The three Britishers appropriate a car and race away with cavalrymen in pursuit. Chumleigh takes a bullet to the shoulder just as they reach a river and escape in a boat. They make their way back to British troops. The colonel is left with a medical unit while Tinker travels twenty miles to be reunited with Blake. He then drives the detective back to Chumleigh only to find that the colonel is now on a hospital train heading north. They speed off to intercept the train but are captured by Germans who have planted a bomb on the track. Blake and Tinker break loose and save the train. Chumleigh signs the will. Tinker's real identity is exposed but, due to his heroics, he's permitted to return to Baker Street without being charged for his deception.
Trivia: This story first appeared in UNION JACK issue 589 (1915). It has been very slightly edited for racially insensitive language.
Notes: Sexton Blake is invited to fence with a master swordsman and finds himself crossing epées with Zenith the Albino. After the mocking repartee that always marks their encounters, the master villain declares that he's off to steal a diamond and evades the pursuing detective. During the subsequent car chase, Blake manages to catch a glimpse of a clown sitting beside the albino. The next morning, the clown is found dead in a solicitor's office. Blake realises that the body has been placed there to look like the victim of murder when, in fact, the clown died elsewhere after falling from a height. He deduces that he was climbing to the window of an adjoining building when he fell. The window leads to the rooms of an eccentric inventor, Professor Lees-Cranmer, who has been receiving death-threats demanding that he hands over a worthless glass goblet that was given to him by his now-deceased uncle. The most recent note states that, since he won't give up the goblet, it will be destroyed at precisely twelve o'clock. Blake, Tinker, Pedro, Inspector Coutts and the professor stand guard around it but, at twelve sharp, it shatters. The professor's untrustworthy servant had planted a tiny radio-controlled explosive in the decorations around its base. It seems as if Zenith's criminal organisation has won. Back in Baker Street, Blake ponders over the case. He can't understand why the goblet is considered so valuable. He sends Tinker to recover the fragments but his sidekick reports that they have already been collected by the disposal men and are now heading for the city dump where they will go into the incinerator. Sexton Blake rushes to the dump and comes face to face with Zenith. They fight, precariously balanced on a gangway above the incinerator. The albino manages to elude the detective but, later, they meet again. They are both on the marshes where the ashes from the incinerator are spread. Blake now knows that a diamond had been concealed in the base of the goblet. It would have survived the processing and must be somewhere here on the marshes. Both he and Zenith have come to search. This time, they both have men in tow and the numbers are evenly matched. Instead of fighting, they agree to a truce. Zenith and his men will not start a fight if they are left to search the marshes for 24-hours. To his companions' astonishment, Blake agrees to this. Bending to tie a knotted handkerchief to Pedro's collar, he leads the hound away from Zenith and returns to Baker Street. There he reveals that he has the diamond. Having spotted it at his feet, he had picked it up and concealed it in the handkerchief. What a fabulous coincidence that he happened to be standing in exactly the right spot! Zenith has lost.
Trivia: This story first appeared in UNION JACK issue 844 (1919). It has been very slightly edited for racially insensitive language.
Rating: ★★★★★ This is Sexton Blake's third encounter with Zenith the Albino and it's the best one so far. With thrilling scenes, mysteries and the characteristic polite but threatening banter, it shows both the hero and the villain at their most charming, dangerous and determined. Their game of cat and mouse, begun in A DUEL TO THE DEATH and continued in THE TENTH CASE, is much more deadly now. Zenith seems genuinely affronted by Blake's incessant interference, while Blake is resolute in his quest to put the pale villain behind bars.
Notes: Peter Alletson, a Labour member of Parliament, is drawn into the clutches of Leon Kestrel by Fifette Bierce. He is held prisoner while Kestrel masquerades as him and travels to France. Alletson is unaware that he has won one million francs in the French State Lottery, and Kestrel is now en route to claim the winnings. When he is dumped on Hampstead Heath, Alletson makes his way to Baker Street and Sexton Blake. The detective gets to the bottom of the plot and wires a message to the Chief of the Paris Prefecture. He, Tinker and Alletson then set off in pursuit of the master crook. While crossing the Channel, their boat is sabotaged by one of Kestrel's agents, delaying their arrival in Paris. They hire a fast car but are again delayed, this time by sabotaged tyres. When they finally make it to the outskirts of Paris, Blake is arrested by gendarmes who believe him to be wanted in London on charges of forgery. By the time he has proved their mistake, which was based on a false message sent by another of Kestrel's cohorts, hours have passed. Blake and Tinker leave Alletson at a hotel and hurry to the lottery office. The chief of police meets them there and confirms that Alletson and his daughter — in other words, Kestrel and Fifette — claimed the prize money and were arrested. However, with assistance from members of the Kestrel Syndicate, they broke free and were driven away. Defeated, Blake and Tinker return to the hotel. There, Alletson reports that he received a visit from Kestrel, lured him into a room, and locked him in. As he gives this report, there is a desperate hammering against the door of the room in question. Blake instructs Tinker to fetch as many armed policemen as possible. When the lad returns with the men, Blake pounces on Alletson and holds him while the police snap on handcuffs. The detective snatches away the man's wig and exposes Leon Kestrel. The locked room is opened to liberate the real Alletson ... but is found to be empty! As the Prince of Pretence is carted off to be held in prison pending trial, Blake examines the room and concludes that Fifito Madrano had been inside and had escaped via the window. The real Alletson is now a captive of the Syndicate. Blake and Tinker visit Beaudelaire in the city's Latin Quarter. The hunchbacked dwarf — Blake's best agent in Paris — informs him that Fifette and Madrano are holding Alletson prisoner in a house with vaults that connect to the city's catacombs. Beaudelaire had already sent this information to Blake by messenger. Concerned that the Syndicate might intercept it, the detective sends Tinker back to the hotel. His assistant, though, is kidnapped and a letter is left for Blake in which it is stated that Alletson and Tinker will be killed if Kestrel is not released within twenty-four hours. Blake enters the catacombs and encounters Alletson who, having broken free, has been wondering around lost. Madrano is spotted and followed to where Tinker is being held prior to being walled up alive. Blake rescues his assistant, captures Madrano, retrieves the lottery winnings, and has the villain lead the way out. Madrano joins Kestrel in a French prison but, shortly after, a crooked warden enables their escape.
Trivia: This story first appeared in UNION JACK issue 929 (1921). It has been very slightly edited for racially insensitive language.
Notes: After committing an audacious bank robbery, Rupert Waldo visits Sexton Blake and issues a challenge: prevent more of the same! He then escapes through the consulting room window, accidentally leaving his glove behind, and makes his way to an airfield. The Wonder-Man steals a biplane and lands it in the grounds of Lord Scarfield's estate. Feigning illness, he is carried into the manor, where he makes a startling recovery, renders the aristocrat unconscious with a puff of knock-out gas, and calmly pilfers the safe of a valuable necklace before climbing back into his plane and flying off. Later, Blake receives a letter from him in which he is challenged to recover the stolen item. He learns from the aerodrome that the stolen plane has been found on Bexley Heath. Blake, Tinker and Pedro go to the landing site where they are told by one of the aerodrome officials that Waldo left money to cover damage done to the biplane's undercarriage. With the aid of Waldo's glove, Pedro picks up a scent and leads the detective and his assistant along a three-mile trail and to the middle of a railway bridge. There, the track is lost, and Blake surmises that his quarry must have jumped from the bridge into the wagon of a passing goods train. However, he also realises that Waldo left his glove behind on purpose and that the trail is false — which changes his view of the matter: Waldo didn't jump on the train ... he is somewhere nearby! Pedro traces the master crook to a public house. Blake confronts him, Tinker picks his pocket and gains the necklace, but catch him they can't ... Waldo makes his getaway up the chimney! From the pub's roof, he makes a prodigious leap to that of a factory next door, and from there he climbs to the top of the tall factory chimney. Uncoiling a rope from around his waist, the Wonder-Man lassos a projection on a bridge over the railway line that runs alongside the building, swings down in a tremendous arc, and drops onto a passing train. Blake has won the challenge but Waldo is still on the loose!
Trivia: This story first appeared in UNION JACK issue 948 (1921). It has been very slightly edited for racially insensitive language.
Notes: A Frenchman calling himself Falcon asks Sexton Blake to locate a key — inscribed with the number 7 — that was picked from his pocket along with some other items in Hackney. Blake agrees but is suspicious and muses that Falcon is actually a Czech. In Hackney, he bumps into an old lag named Mick Kelly and tasks him with tracing the pickpocket. The old crook manages to retrieve the key and a wallet but is set upon by thugs who make away with the items. Blake realises that Falcon followed him to Hackney and saw him conversing with Kelly. Kelly tells him that the wallet contained an envelope from the Rutland Hotel on which was written the name Lipsky. There was also a newspaper cutting about a crown. Blake sends Tinker to the press offices to trace the article. At the hotel, he learns that Lipsky is a waiter who had collapsed the night before while holding a note on which was written "The Seventh Key." Blake goes to the man's apartment and finds him murdered. Lipsky's hand is near a seam in the wallpaper behind which the detective discovers a deposit receipt issued by a bank in Prague in 1916. However, as he is reading it, he is attacked, the paper is snatched from him, and his assailant gets away. He returns to Baker Street where Tinker reports no success. Believing that Lipsky's killer will now journey to Prague, Blake sets off in pursuit. The next morning, Tinker encounters Granite Grant who turns out to be in possession of the newspaper article. It concerns the Bohemian crown jewels, which have been locked away since 1625, secured by seven locks with seven keys. Grant reveals that Falcon belongs to a gang headed by a man named Blenkoff, and they are after the keys. He and Tinker try to rendezvous with Blake on the Orient Express but miss it. Meanwhile, having arrived at Vienna, Blake has a meal at a hotel while he waits to catch the connection to Prague. A man sits opposite him and poisons his wine, causing him to miss the train. Upon recovering, he catches another but is followed aboard and knocked senseless. Grant and Tinker trace his movements and realise that something has happened to him. They eventually find him unconscious, tied up, and left on a railway line. After they save him, the three of them commandeer horses from a local farm and race for Prague knowing that the two men who attacked Blake are on the same road. Indeed, the villains set an ambush but, encountering three instead of one, are easily overpowered. Leaving their enemies to fend for themselves, Blake, Tinker and Grant continue on to Prague and arrive at the bank just as Blenkoff and Falcon, carrying a deed box, are leaving the manager's office. The two gangsters are captured and the deed box is revealed to contain a part of the crown jewels.
Trivia: This story first appeared in UNION JACK issue 1,115 (1925).
Rating: ★★★★★ Some instances of clumsy writing mar an otherwise very entertaining tale.
Notes: After seven years in jail, a gangster named Gat Masters has vowed revenge against Rainy Day Freece, a fellow member of the Double Six gang who allowed him to take the rap for a bank raid while he, Freece, made off with the proceeds. Freece fled to Europe, and Masters now follows, accompanied by a gang leader known as the Spieler. At the Daily Radio, Splash Page is told to investigate a series of car crashes near Mandeville and the rumoured presence of a "ghost lorry." Colonel Hannibal Smith, who presides over that village, is unnerved when he receives an envelope containing a double six domino. Page arrives at the local inn, as do the Spieler and Gat Masters. Meanwhile, in Baker Street, Sexton Blake receives a telegram from Ruff Hanson, who is due to arrive in England to hunt Spieler. He then gets a call from Page: the "Ghostmobile" has claimed another victim, a man Blake knew — the ex-governor of Bleakmoor Prison. Blake, Tinker and Hanson drive to the village in the Grey Panther and are almost run off the road by the Ghostmobile. Colonel Hannibal Smith meets with an inventor and psychologist named Novak in his observatory, and it is revealed that the colonel is, in fact, Rainy Day Freece. Together, they are planning to rob a bullion lorry but are interrupted when Gat Masters, having attacked a police constable and taken his uniform, bursts in and tries to kill Freece. They manage to overpower and kill him. Tinker, Page and Hanson are instructed by Blake to wait by a certain bridge at midnight. They do so and there witness the Ghostmobile materialising out of thin air and driving straight at the bullion truck. Three of Freece's cohorts come down an embankment. Hanson draws his guns on them and bullets fly. A bright light suddenly illuminates the scene and the phantom truck appears to explode. The trio of crooks is captured. In Freece's observatory, he and Novak have been guiding the Ghostmobile by remote control when Blake and Detective-Inspector Coutts break in and arrest them. The Baker Street detective explains to his friends how the trick of the phantom truck was done.
Trivia: This story first appeared in UNION JACK issue 1,467 (1931).
Notes: Mademoiselle Yvonne Cartier and her uncle Graves return to Binabong, her family home in Australia, which is now owned by a man named John Treherne. However, during a terrible drought, Treherne has been swindled out of ownership by his unscrupulous neighbour, Edward Jameson. Yvonne quickly recognises Jameson's methods and vows to assist Treherne. In Melbourne, Sexton Blake and Tinker are taking a holiday when they run into Captain Brien O’Brien, one of Blake's 'varsity mates. He invites them to join him at Walla-Walla, which is owned by another of their friends, "Dumpy" Campbell. Blake agrees, and thus finds himself on the ranch that adjoins Jameson's property. One night, the latter arrives and asks Campbell to help him to discover how so many of his sheep are disappearing. The circumstances suggest an enormous rustling campaign, but how it functions is a mystery, and so Blake is quickly roped into the investigation. While riding on guard duty, Tinker is kidnapped by Yvonne's men and taken to a well-concealed canyon where the stolen livestock is being kept. Yvonne is startled to find him in Australia but nevertheless continues to organise the campaign against Jameson. When Tinker escapes, he becomes lost in the canyon, discovers a stash of gold, and falls over a ledge. Meanwhile, Blake learns of Yvonne's presence, confronts her, and hears the whole story. She allows him to take command of the situation, and he exposes Jameson's dirty dealing. Cornered, the villain withdraws all claims to Binabong, which once again becomes a Cartier property. Yvonne employs a grateful Treherne to manage it. Blake then leads the search for Tinker, who is discovered hanging in a tree over a precipice. He is rescued. The gold is divided among those who can rightfully claim it, Tinker being among them.
Trivia: This story first appeared in UNION JACK issue 528 (1913).