This is a bit of a deviation from my usual spy themed rambling, although I am sure I could argue, that Sexton Blake, much like Sherlock Holmes and Bulldog Drummond, was a proto-type action adventure hero – one that would the lay the groundwork for the literary spies that were to follow. I first read Sexton Blake And The Demon God when I was stranded in rural New South Wales a few years back. There had been a bit of a stuff-up with a train booking and I found myself without a seat and a day to kill in the small town of Quirindi. As I didn’t know anyone, and the town isn’t large enough to wander off and explore (not for very long, anyway), I adjourned to the nearest pub; pulled up a barstool, ordered a schooner of Toohey’s Old and allowed myself to be drawn into the world of Sexton Blake.
For those unfamiliar with Sexton Blake, allow me to throw a bit of light on the character. Sexton Blake is a detective, who happens to live on Baker Street in London (like another very popular fictional detective). Blake first appeared in the late 19th Century, but the character really took off in the golden age of pulp fiction in the 1920’s and 30’s. This quote from the Introduction of Sexton Blake Lives (J. M Dent & Sons Ltd) by Jack Adrian describes the basic difference between Sherlock Holmes and Sexton Blake:
“Holmes was of course no stranger to the fistic of defensive arts (he’d boxed at college and had even mastered “baritsu’ before it had been invented), but his adventures on the whole were physically undemanding. During the course of an investigation rarely was it the case, for instance’ that a skilfully wielded blackjack caused a Stygian pit of black unconsciousness to rear up and engulf him till he knew no more. Blake on the other hand, in case after case, went through the mill. He was slugged, clubbed, chloroformed, gassed, knifed, dynamited, run down, gunned down, injected with poison, ejected from planes, hurled over cliffs, pushed in front of trains, almost devoured by man-eating plants, virtually sucked dry of his ‘life essence’, nearly shot to the moon in a rocket – and the number of times the floor suddenly dropped from beneath him must run into four figures.”
In this instance though, this Blake adventure is not from the golden age of pulp fiction. It is an adaptation of an episode from the Sexton Blake BBC television series from 1978. I have never seen the series, but most reports from Blake aficionados regard the series as a travesty. I, on the other hand found the book to be a rip-snorting adventure. Of course time has eroded my memory of the story, but it begins with a stolen mummy from the British museum, and ends with a ritualistic virgin sacrifice to The Demon God – Horozohorus – in an ancient temple. The book is only a measly 144 pages so it can be devoured pretty quickly, and as the page count is small, very little time is wasted on boring stuff like character development. It’s adventure all the way.
I have read that Sexton Blake And The Demon God is the last original Sexton Blake story. My source is 20 years old – so that may not be the case, and I truly hope that it isn’t. Sexton Blake survived as a popular literary character for nearly a century. Unlike James Bond or Holmes, Blake has never really been the creation of one author, and as such I believe he is the perfect fodder for continuation novels. But somehow I don’t really see this as happening. It would be a shame if now, he is forgotten and relegated to history.
From the back:
‘Goodbye, Mr Blake!’
Suddenly, two arms pushed him violently from behind, plunging him forward into the darkness of the lift shaft. Clinging desperately to the cable, Sexton Blake looked up in horror. Slowly but surely the giant lift wheel was approaching…
The legendary Sexton Blake, master sleuth, returns to solve one of the most baffling mysteries of modern – or ancient! – times:
Who has stolen the mummy of Tu Fu Edas from the British Museum – the only Egyptian to come back alive from the Red Sea after the Exodus?
Where is the Marvel of the Demon God Horozohorus that will give power greater than man has known since time began?
What is the curse of the mummy?
Why is the evil Hubba Pasha so anxious for the beautiful Zigiana to remain a virgin?
Sexton Blake, the most British of the British detectives, and his cheerful young assistant – the trusty Tinker – are back in this cliffhanging, adventure-packed story of the new Simon Raven TV serial.