Friday, August 02, 2013

The Curse of Rathlaw

 After I posted my review of the Sexton Blake supernatural thriller SORCERERS OF SET, writer Chap O'keefe (Keith Chapman) left a comment about the book's author, Thomas Martin, mentioning that while Chapman worked as editor W. Howard Baker's assistant on the Sexton Blake Library books published by Fleetway Publications, Martin had been the writer most interested in supernatural themes. I did a little digging and turned up a second Martin occult Sexton Blake, LAIRD OF EVIL, which I have acquired a copy of and will be reading in the near future.
   Chapman also mentioned that Martin had been involved in the creation of The Guardians, a series of six books about a team of paranormal investigators written in the late 1960s. More digging turned up the fact that Thomas Martin had authored one of the series, THE CURSE OF RATHLAW. Beyond that, Martin had probably helped come up with the series characters and basic concepts. A clue is that two of the Guardians are Gideon Cross and Anne Ashby. The occult specialist who assists Sexton Blake in SORCERERS OF SET is named Gideon Ashley. Rather close.
   Anyway, THE CURSE OF RATHLAW concerns a couple of Scottish brothers, Fergus and Cosmo Trayle, who share supernatural powers. After being humiliated by Sir Alistair Rathlaw over a woman, Fergus casts a curse over the Rathlaw family. At first Sir Alistair and his son Donald dismiss the curse, but when the prophecies that Fergus made about future events begin to come to pass, Sir Alistair begins to fear for his son's life and contacts the Guardians for help. Martin seemed to know his stuff, both about occult rituals and Scottish legends. I was impressed with Martin's writing in SORCERERS OF SET and I like it here as well. The book has the feel of a crime novel mixed with the supernatural and we know this is a favorite genre of mine. I know a lot of folks think that paranormal crime is a genre of recent vintage, but trust me, it's not. The Guardians has much in common with Simon R. Green's Ghost Finders series and I think modern readers would enjoy THE CURSE OF RATHLAW.
   According to various internet sources, Rathlaw is the only Guardians book by Martin. The other five were written by other writers, but all were published under the house name of Peter Saxon. The Saxon byline was also used on a ton of other supernatural books. The American editions of The Guardian books mostly have nifty Jeff Jones covers and as a result can be fairly collectible, but most of them can be had at reasonable prices and still turn up in used bookstores. The series is as follows:

Dark Ways to Death (1968)
Through the Dark Curtain (1968)
The Curse of Rathlaw (1968)
The Killing Bone (1969)
The Haunting of Alan Mais (1969)
The Vampires of Finistere (1970)


Chap O'Keefe said...

Small misunderstanding in your post ... I was never a sub-editor at Mayflower-Dell. I worked as editor W. Howard Baker's assistant on the Sexton Blake Library books published by Fleetway Publications, the company (as the Amalgamated Press)which had originated the earlier series featuring the detective character.

Chap O'Keefe said...

You might also like to track down two other Sexton Blake Library novels by Martin Thomas that featured Gideon Ashley "financier, philanthropist, and occult Adept." They are Bred to Kill (SBL No. 448 and Assignment Doomsday (SBL No. 485). Both predate the Guardians series.

The prices for these old books vary considerably, and not always according to condition. Some can be very expensive, even when available from charity booksellers like Better World Books. Other dealers (or their online intermediaries) also charge overseas customers "handling" and shipping fees out of proportion to real mailing costs.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Keith and I'll fix the post!