Sexton Blake was called the "prince of the penny dreadfuls" and "the office boys' Sherlock Holmes."
He first came to life in 1893 in the pages of 'The Halfpenny Marvel' shortly after a certain Mr. Holmes had toppled off Reichenbach Falls. Blake's cases were stronger on action rather than deduction but there were parallels to be drawn with Conan Doyle's detective; substitute a cigar for Holmes' pipe, a landlady called Mrs. Bardell and his own Watson in the form of street smart Tinker Bell, who was not adverse to rolling his sleeves up and getting 'stuck in' whenever the fists were flying. Blake also had a pet dog, a bloodhound called Pedro. In the early stories Blake dashed about town on a bycicle but this was later traded in for a Rolls Royce nicknamed 'The Grey Panther'. The character was created by Harry Blyth and the great detective was initially called Frank Blake. Blyth received nine guineas for the first story before signing away his rights to the character. Since then it has been estimated that Blake's adventures have been penned by over 200 different writers before he was retired in the 1970s.
In 1967 Rediffusion Television bought Blake's adventures to the small screen in a regular weekday tea-time series. However, the move angered Blake's legion of loyal fans many of whom were unable to watch because they were at work! The programme was eventually moved to a Sunday slot. Laurence Payne played the lead with Roger Foss starring as Tinker and Ernest Clark (Professor Loftus in Doctor In The House) was one of the many Scotland Yard detectives who called on Blake's services. The series proved popular enough for Thames Television to take it on board when they took over Rediffusion's franchise and the BBC reintroduced the character in a one-off story, Sexton Blake and the Demon God, in 1978.
Published on January 28th, 2019. Written by Laurence Marcus for Television Heaven.