Who exactly is Sexton Blake? People under the age of 45 might ask that question, but anyone older is likely to have read one of the 4000 stories by over 200 authors, or seen the films, the stage adaptations, the many TV shows, or listened to his adventures on radio.
Sexton Blake is one of the most famous and long-lived fictional detectives and adventurers of all time, who battled opium smugglers, bandit chiefs and the Kaiser. In his heyday he was more widely read than Sherlock Holmes - enjoyed by working people all over the British Empire - and whilst Holmes features in very few stories, Blake appeared in thousands.
In this hour long profile and exploration of Blake's impact, David Quantick talks to author Michael Moorcock, who used to edit the Sexton Blake Library; Jack Adrian a former writer; and comic book illustrator Kevin O'neil, who co-created The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and other heroes.
That Blake didn't have the same critical recognition, could be attributed to the fact the stories were published in cheap magazines, rather than in proper books. Or because the writers themselves didn't move in the right circles, to make friends and influence people. While Ian Fleming had been to Eton and Sandhurst, the Blake authors were a rag tag bunch of eccentrics, whose own lives were worked into the tales. Michael Moorcock tells David that the Blake writers were puzzled at how James Bond was liked by critics, when the early novels were badly plotted and featured cartoon-like villains hiding in volcanoes.
David also hears about the Blake author who vanished under mysterious circumstances. The writer's wife sent in his remaining Blake manuscripts without saying he'd disappeared, and then passed off her new partner's work as that of her dead husband. It wouldn't take Sexton Blake to tell you there was something fishy going on there!
Britain's iconic sleuth explodes back into action in a new series of thrilling adventures beginning this Friday at 9.15pm.