The Stories



A great many artists illustrated Sexton Blake stories and, due to the long period of publication, the detective’s portrayal in illustrations changed as time passed. The greatest Sexton Blake artist is generally considered to be Eric Parker. For more than 30 years he drew for various magazines featuring Blake stories, starting with the Union Jack in 1922. His work also featured in the Detective Weekly and The Sexton Blake Library. The latter had a colourful front cover and a black and white illustration inside on the first page, both depicting incidents from the story. Arthur Jones deserves special mention for his illustrations which featured mainly on the covers of the Sexton Blake Library in the early years. His work was highly atmospheric and conveyed darkly brooding situations. Although it must be said that the proportions of his figures were not good, he managed to succeed in conveying the feel of mystery. Other artists who portrayed Blake well were Val Reading, H.M.Lewis, Fred Bennett and A.J.Valda.

An example of the artist Arthur Jones’s work. This colour picture of Sexton Blake was published in 1922 with the 1000th issue of the Union Jack.
The front cover of the 1940 Sexton Blake Annual was produced by Eric Parker.
The Council of Eleven artwork by Eric Parker. The WANTED notice for George Marsden Plummer.

Sexton Blake did battle with many adversaries, including strongly drawn individuals and also criminal gangs. Amongst adversaries who featured regularly in the pages of Union Jack, Sexton Blake Library and the Detective Weekly were George Marsden Plummer, Huxton Rymer and his beautiful female accomplice Mary Trent, Leon Kestrel, the Master Mummer (whose real life features no-one knew), Rupert Waldo (the Wonderman), Professor Kew, The Raven, Doctor Satira, The Shadow, Zenith (the Albino), and Prince Wu Ling. Criminal gangs whose exploits Blake thwarted included The Criminals’ Confederation headed by Mr. Reece, The Black Trinity, The Council of Eleven, The Double Four, and The Three Musketeers.

Red Tower.
The Hulk.
Sexton Blake has an encounter with Plummer in a restaurant.

The geographical settings of the Sexton Blake stories are not the product of the authors’ vivid imaginations. The countries, cities, towns and buildings are real and accurately drawn. The many authors who wrote Sexton Blake stories drew from knowledge based on their own travels in this country and abroad.

The infinite variety adds greatly to the enjoyment of the reader, and extra interest is kindled when the reader is familiar with the locations portrayed. So there are stories set in the fog-shrouded, gaslit, cobbled streets of Victorian London and the capital’s docklands, others are set in the Essex Marshes or the Scottish Highlands, or some exotic holiday resorts overseas.

Castles and stately homes abound, with their hidden panelling, secret rooms and passages. Then there are quaint villages, country pubs, old churches and churchyards, smugglers’ caves, disused mines – an amazing variety of settings for the detective’s adventures.

Gwyn Evans was one of the top Sexton Blake authors

The leading authors were G. H. Teed, Pierre Quiroule, Gwyn Evans, Anthony Skene, Robert Murray, Donald Stuart, and E.S.Brooks. It is of course arguable as to which writer was the greatest.

The Teed stories were well structured and carried depth of experience because the author had done much world travelling. His characters were well defined. Gwyn Evans was also very popular because his stories often had exciting themes with outlandish plots. Gwyn Evans was responsible for producing the very best Christmas Stories in the Sexton Blake saga.

These featured mainly in the Union Jack in the late 1920’s and early 1930’s.