Frank Packard and Sexton Blake

Halfpenny Marvel Dec, 1893

Halfpenny Marvel Dec, 1893

The first Sexton Blake story appeared on 13 December 1893 in issue 6 of The Halfpenny Marvel.[1]  From these modest beginnings, “The Missing Millionaire” by Hal Meredeth (in actuality Harold Blyth), spawned a character that would endure for more than a century. The story, by all accounts, is nigh on unreadable for the modern reader.

That same December, in 1893, is when Sherlock Holmes took his swan dive over the Reichenbach Falls, never to return as far as his author was concerned. By the end of 1904 Blake had truly arrived.  Nearly 60 Sexton Blake stories had been published and Sexton took up lodgings in Baker Street. Mr. Holmes had reappeared in 1903.  Sexton Blake and Sherlock Holmes never met in their time.

There are literally thousands of Sexton Blake stories.  One source[2] reports that over 175 authors have written Sexton Blake stories.  The Union Jack published 1535 stories.  The Sexton Blake Library (series 1, 2, & 3) produced an aggregate 1653 stories.  Between the two publications, that’s over 3000 stories, and this doesn’t even count the other publications that printed Sexton Blake stories (Detective Weekly, The Penny Pictorial, The Marvel Library, The Boys’ Friend, The Boys’ Realm, to name just a few.)  The Sexton Blake Library was a weekly publication which began in 1915 and continued through to 1963.  Sexton Blake stories also appeared in French, Italian, Spanish and German.

 

Union Jack, 28 July 1923

Union Jack, 28 July 1923

Sexton Blake travelled widely.  His adventures took him around the world.  The 28 July 1923 issue of Union Jack (No. 1033) Blake was on holiday in Paris.  Elsewhere in Union Jack, a new serial story started, The Wire Devils, by Frank L. Packard.  The Wire Devils first appeared in The Popular Magazine in 6 parts, 20 March-7 June, 1917.  In 1918 the book appeared, published by George Doran, with Canadian (Copp, Clark) and British (Hodder & Stoughton) editions following right along.  The Wire Devils is Packard’s only full length railroad novel. While not as good as his railroad short stories, Packard was at his very best with stories of the railroads, it is still an entertaining tale of mystery and mayhem along the rails of the US west coast.  The Union Jack serial reprint appeared weekly for 29 issues, ending on 9 February, 1924 (No. 1061).  The first installment was fairly substantial, but subsequent installments could filled only a single page of the magazine.  The Union Jack was only composed of 28 pages, some of which were given over to a Detective Magazine supplement and the bulk of pages devoted to a Sexton Blake story.  For those following the serial, they got a bit of a taste each week.  If I can ever obtain enough copies of those Union Jack issues, I’ll do a comparison between them and the book version.  There are some variations between the Doran book version and the Popular Magazine serial version. My previous review of The Wire Devils is here.

In these issues of The Union Jack is as close as Sexton Blake came to meeting any of Frank Packard’s characters.  It would have been interesting to see what Blake could have done with the gentleman outlaw Jimmie Dale.  Sexton Blake did have a few run-in’s with Raffles[3].  I don’t know how those turned out.

I particularly like the cover art for the start of The Wire Devils serial.  It is uncredited. As a side note, the Sexton Blake story in this issue is “The Hyena of Paris” by G.H. Teed.  It turns out that Teed is also a Canadian, born around 1886 at Woodstock, New Brunswick.  Teed would write over 300 Sexton Blake stories and has been considered to be “one of the best writers to chronicle the adventures of Sexton Blake, if not the best.”[2] The Wire Devils is currently the only Frank Packard book in print.  The University of Minnesota Press recently produced a reprint of that novel.

 

 

Hodder & Stoughton, 1930s

Hodder & Stoughton, 1930s

University of Minnesota, 2013

University of Minnesota, 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1]    Hodder, Mark. Blakiania: The Sexton Blake Resource. n.d. Web. 31 July 2014.
http://www.mark-hodder.com/Blakiana/year-1893/
[2]    Holland, Steve. G.H. Teed: A Life of Adventure. Norman Wright: Oxford, n.d. Print.
[3]    see Perowne, Barry “Raffles vs Sexton Blake”,No. 577, and “Raffles’ Crime in Gibraltar”, No. 601.  The Sexton Blake Library, series 1. 1937 for some examples.

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2 Responses to Frank Packard and Sexton Blake

  1. Brian Busby says:

    The Union Jack illustration is a thing of beauty – easily the best of all illustrations I’ve seen for The Wire Devils. But it was your reference to G.H. Teed that really caught my attention. A New Brunswicker, just like Charles Ross Graham (David Montrose), I’m left wondering whether the latter just might have taken the former’s surname for his hero Russell Teed. I’m grasping at straws here, of course.

    • Wollamshram says:

      Interesting thought. Graham’s dates were 1920-1968. Teed’s dates were 1886-1938. While he [Teed] did write hundreds of Sexton Blake stories, it wasn’t until the 1930s that his name began to appeared on them. Everything in The Union Jack and the Sexton Blake Library was anonymous until 1930. I have no idea as to the availability of these sorts of British boys publications, like Union Jack, Sexton Blake Library, Detective Weekly, Nelson Lee Library and Thriller, were in Canada, but Graham would have been about the right age to be reading them.

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