Saturday, July 27, 2013

Sexton Blake and the Sorcerers of Set

 I bought this book for the title. Seriously. Sorcerers of Set just appealed to me as a Sexton Blake title, probably because of the very tenuous connection to Robert E. Howard's Conan. Set, the snake god, is worshiped by the Stygians, the proto-Egyptians of the Hyborian Age.
   The Set in this book is, of course, an actual Egyptian mythological god who has nothing to do with snakes. In fact, though Set has the typical animal head of Egyptian gods, no one is exactly sure what animal the head is supposed to be. Looks like an ant-eater to me.
   So yeah, I bought the book for the title, even though I'd heard that the 1960s era Sexton Blake books were pretty bland. Being me, though, I had to read it. Turned out to be a lot of fun but...weird.
   See, Sexton Blake was originally a Sherlock Holmes style detective. Though, as I've said before, he also had a lot of pulpish action to his adventures, he still spent a lot of time in his dressing gown, making deductions based on his vast knowledge of crime and his attention to details that everyone else either missed or misinterpreted.
   This book picks him up, more or less intact, and drops him into a seamy murder investigation in the swinging sixties. So it's almost like someone inserted the Victorian Sherlock Holmes into a gritty crime story. Blake's assistant tinker, now known by his real name Edward Carter, does most of the legwork and he's not above using his blond boyish good looks to get information from the ladies as he dashes about a London of mod shops and hip nightclubs. Gear, baby. Fab.
   Meanwhile Blake still performs chemical experiments in his consulting room and his landlady, Mrs. Bardell still murders the English language and Pedro the bloodhound still sleeps in the corner. Makes for a slightly schizophrenic reading experience. The plot is pretty good however, and there's a lot of fun, 1960s references in the dialog. Might have to read a few more of the swinging sixties Blakes.


Chap O'Keefe said...

Thomas Martin (to put his name round the way it really was) belonged to the small team of writers editor W. Howard (Bill) Baker took with him after Fleetway Publications had dumped its long-running Sexton Blake Library. Working for Baker's Press Editorial Services, they produced most of Sexton Blake titles issued under the Mayflower-Dell imprint, plus other books like the Peter Saxon horror novels featuring The Guardians. I believe Martin played a considerable part in the creation of The Guardians. My own small connection to this was that, as a sub-editor at Fleetway, I had worked with the writers involved: Martin, Rex Dolphin, Wilfred McNeilly, etc. At that time, Martin was the writer whose work showed the most interest in supernatural themes. Later, I bought stories from Martin, Dolphin and other Sexton Blake writers when I was editing the Edgar Wallace Mystery Magazine for Micron Publications. I maintain an interest in this kind of fiction to this day and have recently published the eBook Witchery: A Duo of Weird Tales, which comprises the novelettes Black Art in Vyones and Wildblood and the Witch Wife.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Chap, thanks for the fascinating information. I was taken enough with Martin's stuff to read some more and it's good to know some of the history of the book. I have all the Peter Saxon Guardian novels. Love those Jeff Jones covers. I just purchased your ebook from amazon. Sounds like my sort of thing.

Chap O'Keefe said...

Thank you, Charles. I hope you enjoy the stories. I can see from your blogger profile that we have many of the same interests. Alas, markets for the fiction we like are no longer as plentiful as they once were, and getting the word out about the niches where new material can still be found has become increasingly difficult. Amazon is awash, of course, but too much is badly edited and formatted. I fear this will make readers wary of any author name they don't immediately recognize.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Very true, Chap. While ebooks offer the return of certain niche genres, the sheer quantity of them and the lack of quality control makes it hard to find the good stuff. I make it a point to try new writers all the time. Some turn out pretty awful but then there are some gems. All we can do is recommend the books we like to others who share out interests.

Anonymous said...

Dig this, Charles.


Charles R. Rutledge said...

I dug it indeed. Some great covers. Thanks, John!