Sunday, September 08, 2013

Sexton Blake: Star Crossed

 I read two books yesterday. First was a reread of Robert B. Parker's Spenser novel Paper Doll, which was, of course, a first person private eye novel. The second was Star Crossed, which oddly enough, was also a first person private eye novel. See, the majority of Sexton Blake stories, old and new, were written in third person. There are notable exceptions, especially the stories from 'Tinker's Case Diary' a series from 1913 or so, where the adventures were told from the point of view of Sexton Blake's young assistant, Tinker. However for the most part, Blake stories are written in third.
   This one is told by American private eye Matt Mead, whose name is also on the cover of the book. Shades of Ellery Queen. The detective is also the author. Mead is very much a hard boiled PI, more in the tradition of Shell Scott than Raymond Chandler though. A breezy wise-ass with a quick trigger finger and an eye for the broads. He's crossed the pond to investigate a possible insurance scam and the company teams him up with Sexton Blake.
   At first Mead doesn't quite know what to think about Blake, but soon the two detectives are swapping bullets with kidnappers and the Mafia and Mead learns that Blake bows to no one in a scrap.
   There are some very funny bits where Blake gets all kind of cooperation from people who won't give Mead the time of day just because Blake is Blake. The London cops salute Blake. They watch his car for him when he parks on the street. They basically treat him the way the New York cops treat Doc Savage. Reluctant witnesses suddenly turn talkative when they learn they are talking to Sexton Blake and criminals quail at the mention of the great detective's name.
   Mead, on the other hand can't get a break. However, he does bed a couple of lookers and makes the usual expected smarmy remarks about the figures of the women he and Blake encounter. It's all very 60s like a toned down Mike Hammer book. Truthfully though it's not toned down that much. The inclusion of a tough guy private eye seemed to inspire the writer, whoever he was, to levels of violence beyond what I've normally seen in these books. There's one particularly bloody gun battle in an old house with both Mead and Blake blazing away.
   By the end, the two detectives are fast friends and Mead makes a vow to return to England when he gets the chance. Unfortunately, as near as I can tell, that never happened. Really too bad because the combination of Holmes style and Hammer style heroes was quite a lot of fun.


James Reasoner said...

Any idea who really wrote this one? It does sound like an interesting idea.

Charles R. Rutledge said...

No clue, James. Maybe Keith Chapman can shed some light.