Sherlock Holmes’ Neighbor

Sherlock Holmes was not the only detective to reside in Baker St. He shared both that now famous street and even some of his own popularity with Sexton Blake, a private detective based in no small way upon the Master. Often referred to as “the office boy’s Sherlock Holmes”, Blake’s career actually began in the penny dreadfuls of the late 19th century (specifically, the Halfpenny Marvel), continued with the pulp magazines of the early 20th century, and persisted in cheap paperback editions. Truly, Blake’s trajectory from 1893 to 1970 spans almost the entire history of pulp fiction publishing.

Like Sherlock Holmes, Blake utilized his superior deductive abilities while solving his cases and was assisted by his sidekick, Tinker. Where he differs from Holmes is in his equal reliance upon his physical abilites. Though Holmes was no weakling (see The Speckled Band) and was an excellent boxer (The Solitary Cyclist), his cases are not nearly as action-packed as the average Sexton Blake thriller, which typically relies on the conventional pulp fiction cliff hangers and daring escapes. While Holmes has his Moriarty (in 3 stories), Blake grapples with a variety of Dick Tracy-style villians. My paricular favorite (and evidently the favorite of many others, as well) being Zenith, an elegant, opium smoking albino (trust me, he’s more intimidating than that suggests), introduced in the Oct. 25th, 1919, issue of The Union Jack Library, which was Blake’s home at the time.

Many of Sexton Blake’s exploits can be found online, and the best place to begin is here:

Mark Hodder’s Blakiana page contains a wealth of e-texts, information, and links and is beautifully designed, as well. It is a perfect tribute to one of England’s most popular, fictional sleuths.