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Sexton Blake Library 1958 - 1963

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  • Sexton Blake Library 1958 - 1963

    Mike and everyone: I have updated my Jack Trevor Story website with a few new pages about the Sexton Blake Library.

    On the page linked to below there is an editorial which has more than a whiff of Moorcock about it. I'd be grateful if you'd take a look and see if it rings any bells (or sets off the whiffometer!).

    http://www.jacktrevorstory.co.uk/sbl_potpourri_2.htm

    There’s also a Sexton Blake short by Jack which I only recently discovered, and several other bit’n’bobs from the Library around that time, some of which may be the work of that famous Moorcock typewriter (the flying one) including some of the letters from the Mrs Trellises of the day.

    All the new pages are linked to from the Potpourri Page 2 link above, as “SBL short� and “Potpourri� pages 1 to 4.

    As you know I’ve previously published the history of Sexton Blake which ran in the SBL in June 1961, and which may have been the only piece actually credited to you, Mike:

    http://www.jacktrevorstory.co.uk/new_page_6.htm

    Caribbean Crisis was no 501, June 1962, but could have been written a fair bit earlier.

    Some of this may help date your involvement with the SBL.

    The new “Magazine section� started in January 1958. At first it was given over to a series of short features about True Crime(s) (Bonnie & Clyde, Pearl Hart, Rasputin (!)) often with really good illustrations.

    The letters page (“Mail Bag�) starts in December 1958 (no.420, same issue as the Xmas party feature which I’ve published as “Potpourri part 1"). I recall you saying that one of your first jobs was getting the Mail Bag going by writing letters (standard industry practice, of course!).

    The Magazine section disappears sometime between 442 and 461 (big gap in my collection here).

    The Pop Poll (a form to fill in and send to the editor listing your favourite types of story and fave authors kicks off in Jan 1961, and the results are first discussed in March 61, no. 473, 474 (not final results yet). Maybe you had the job of counting up and reporting on the poll results (?).

    Around this time the Mail Bag disappears, and there is a rather shirty editorial comment in 471 criticizing the readers for always writing about missing back issues, and never with any publishable comments or opinions. Ring any bells?

    I don’t know when the final results of the poll were published.

    After the spring of 1961 there are no Mail Bags, no magazine sections, no chatty editorials, for a long time. Possibly because you weren’t there any more and the new regime (or was it just Baker himself then?) couldn’t be bothered. Looks as if this era runs at least up to no.497, April 1962.

    By 501, June 1962, the Mail Bag is back, and in the SBL’s last months (I have 523 and the final issue 526, June 1963) the Mail Bag is still present.

    The last issue has a page or two of chatty editorializing. There’s even a gag about how no-one on the SBL has met Desmond Reid yet (forgetting the Xmas party of 1958, where he is a guest !).

    So… does the coming and going of the Mail Bag reflect the coming and going of Mike Moorcock? Did you write the editorial asking SBL readers if they would welcome “S.-F.� into their hearts?

    I suspect it wasn’t you who wrote Mrs Bardell’s gag about “scuffle groups� in the Xmas party story 1958, but it could have been Baker inspired by your interest in scuffle.

    Any how, since Demos is trying to pin down dates, and you’ve responded positively to the idea, I thought I’d join the fun !

  • #2
    Fascinating stuff Guy. Full details of Mike's involvement in SBL are shrouded in mystery, I'd like to know more. What was that SF story anyway? Did it appear? Who wrote it?

    You sent me scurrying to the set of SBL's I bought off you ages ago, and found I had 429 with the editorial. I hadn't spotted the 'letter' on page 61 from Mike J. Moorcock from Surrey before. Have you scanned it? The one from 'Mr R. E. Kingsley-Poynter' sounds a bit suspicious too. This has livened up a drab Sunday morning for me :)
    'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

    Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

    Comment


    • #3
      Good gravy, I'd forgotten all about Mike's letter! Thanks, Aral!

      I've scanned it and put it up here:

      [link expired]

      Two possibilities spring to mind: it could have been a genuine letter from a fan, may even have helped Mike get the job.

      Or: it was a plant, hoping to get other readers writing in in support of Sexton Blake getting involved in SF stories.

      Given the date (May 1959) I suspect the latter.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Aral Vilsn
        What was that SF story anyway? Did it appear? Who wrote it?
        No idea! But I'll keep my eyes open for it.

        Comment


        • #5
          It was 'a leading SF author' according to the reply to the letter in 429, although possibly it hadn't been commissioned then and was just building readers up to a story that might appear. Funny there should be two SF letters and an SF editorial in the same issue, with one letter being from Mike.
          'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

          Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

          Comment


          • #6
            By good luck, today was the latest of Geoff West’s Art/Books/Comics events at Bedford Square, and I picked up SBL 443, 499 and 500 for a quid each, plus a few others.

            443 reveals that the SBL’s first SF story was by Arthur Maclean; not exactly the major SF author as promised, more of a Blake regular. The story was called A Touch of Evil (wasn’t that a Welles movie?) and seems to have had an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers storyline.

            You can read about t here, including a letter in response from that Mike J Moorcock character.

            [link expired]

            I’ve included a couple of other bits from no.429 and from today’s haul. One is a letter saying SF should be left to the comics, a sentiment with which the letters editor begs to differ.

            Comment


            • #7
              Guy, this is great stuff. Really useful to trying to flesh out what Mike may have been doing at various time between 1958-62, but I'm having a little trouble working out the frequency of SBL.

              SBL clearly wasn't a monthly publication, and more likely came out on a bi-weekly schedule, but a simple 1 month=2 issues doesn't quite line up with issue 420 being out in December 58 and #501 coming out in June '62.

              Based on my simple spreadsheet calculations, I reckon SBL had 23 issues a year, 2 issues a month between Jan-Nov, with a single issue in December (allowing the staff to have a break over Christmas presumably). That would then allow #501 to come out in the second half of June '62.

              Can you confirm if that's correct?
              _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
              _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
              _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
              _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

              Comment


              • #8
                “Two new volumes of THE SEXTON BLAKE LIBRARY appear on the first Monday of every month� is what it says inside no. 430 (May 1959). 429 is also May 1959.

                Thus 431 and 432 should be June 1959, etc. I can confirm that 432 is dated June. Thus July should be 433 and 434 (but I don’t have these issues).

                I’ll state firmly the dates only of issues I have, so we know they are as actually dated in the magazine.

                435 & 436 are both dated September 1959, whereas they should be August. Was there a gap in July or August 1959? Or was only one issue published in each of these two months?

                441 and 442 are both dated Dec 1959. This fits with the dates of 435 & 436. 442 still says “First Monday of the month.�

                Likewise 443 is dated Jan 1960, which fits. But now it says “2 new volumes appear on the third Monday of every month.�

                458 is dated August 1960, as it should be.

                461 & 462 are dated Oct 1960, which fits.

                463, 464, November.

                465, 466, Dec. 1960.

                467, 468, Jan 1961

                469, 470, Feb.

                471, 472, and, er, 473 all dated March 1961.

                474, April, a house ad describes as “companion title to" 473; we may assume 473 is wrongly dated, and is really April. Shame really, since it’s one of Jack’s and I’ve documented it all over the place as March 1961! Ooops!

                477 = Jun, 482 = Aug, & 487 Nov 1961, as they should be.

                Likewise 491, 492 = Jan 1962. 493, 494 = Feb. 496 = March. 497, 498 = April. 500 = May.

                This fits with 501 being dated June 1962; 502 should also be June, but I don’t have a copy to check.

                By 506, the SBL is still stating that two new volumes appear on the third Monday of every month.

                In this period, then, only July/August 1959 and March 1961 seem to be anomalous.

                Anyone got those crucial July or August 1959 issues?

                Comment


                • #9
                  Remind me when I get back to Texas, Guy. Although I didn't keep many copies, it was 'my' period at SBL. I don't remember any discrepencies but we always, as far as I recall, published two a month, 24 a year at that period. We always had spare stories standing by just in case something didn't come in on time.

                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                  The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                  Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                  Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                  The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                  Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    As we all know, there are many writers who work across the crime/SF boundary, but I didn't know this...

                    Arthur Maclean, who wrote Touch Of Evil (vide supra) is, according to ABE, in fact...

                    E.C. Tubb!

                    So Mike's (?) proud assertion that SBL had commissioned a leading SF writer to write their SF story was not as wild as I thought... only Tubb (or SBL) wouldn't actually admit to it being Tubb (?) Too radical a step for the times...? Or were there further complications...?

                    I had no idea if all SBLs by "Maclean" were really by Tubb... or if Maclean was just another house name. So I turned to Steve Holland's indispensable booklet, The Case Of The Perplexing Pen-Names.

                    Steve says that Maclean was mostly a pen-name for one man, George Paul Mann, except for 2 books which were by other hands, revised by Mann. One of these is of course the Tubb (the other by a Mr T. C. P. Webb).

                    Maybe Tubb didn't want a re-written book going out under his name?

                    Any memories of this Mike?

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I had a look in Sean Wallace and Phil Harbottle's bibliographic volume on Tubb, The Tall Adventurer , which I have, and can't find any mention of him writing for SBL. Not sure if Mike knows any different.
                      'You know, I can't keep up with you. If I hadn't met you in person, I quite honestly would NOT believe you really existed. I just COULDN'T. You do so MUCH... if half of what goes into your zines is to be believed, you've read more at the age of 17 than I have at the age of 32 - LOTS more'

                      Archie Mercer to Mike (Burroughsania letters page, 1957)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I don't think Ted had much choice, since Bill would have done one of his usual rewrites. Ted shared something with Steve Frances in that he was a great story teller but a pretty hairy speller... It was a fairly self-serving scam, of course, because an author offered the choice between fifty quid for his book or nothing is going totake the fifty quid, especially since there was always the chance of rewriting it sans Blake.

                        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in Europe:
                        The Whispering Swarm: Book One of the Sanctuary of the White Friars - The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction
                        Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles - Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - Modem Times 2.0 - The Sunday Books - The Sundered Worlds


                        Pre-order or Buy my latest titles in the USA:
                        The Laughter of Carthage - Byzantium Endures - London Peculiar and Other Nonfiction - The Sunday Books - Doctor Who: The Coming of the Terraphiles
                        Kizuna: Fiction for Japan - The Sundered Worlds - The Winds of Limbo - Modem Times 2.0 - Elric: Swords and Roses

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I think I can now answer one of my own questions about the Sexton Blake Library. We were discussing how in 1959 there should have been 2 editions every month, but there seemed to be a gap in Summer 59:

                          Originally posted by GuyLawley
                          435 & 436 are both dated September 1959, whereas they should be August. Was there a gap in July or August 1959? Or was only one issue published in each of these two months?
                          I have now got a copy of SBL 441. On the letters page, a correspondent says how much they missed the SBL during the recent printers' strike.

                          Here's a bit I found from the summary of an oral history CD, telling thre story of a man who worked on a local newspaper at the time:

                          The Press was unionised in those days. It came in in 1948. All the hours worked were worked with a national agreement. In 1959 they did have a National Strike and they were out for about 5 / 6 weeks then. That was over a wages dispute. The only people that were allowed in were apprentices and they did manage to get out a four page Free Press to keep it going. Everything was settled in the end. There was no ill feeling when they went back. Nobody brought pressure on them. The strike was in the summer and to augment their strike fund money they went picking fruit. The weather was very nice at the time
                          How unlike the picketing life of our own dear miners in 1984.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Over the past few days I've been having a very pleasant email discussion with Chap O'Keefe, author of a number of Black Horse Western novels. His real name is Keith Chapman and when he was in his late teens he worked as Bill Howard Baker's assistant on the Sexton Blake Library, taking over after Mike Moorcock left. With Keith's permission, I'm going to post some of his comments here, as they cast light on the kind of work Mike did before Elric turned us giddy:

                            'The writing was already on the wall for the SBL, but for a year or more I read manuscripts and proofs, came up with new titles (e.g COME DARK, COME EVIL; DANGER'S CHILD; BULLETS ARE TRUMPS, etc) wrote all the blurbs, ran the readers' letters page; kept the editorial ledgers and liaised with the accounts department over payments to contributors.

                            'The system for titles was this: Baker would ask me for a list of as many as I could think of for a particular book that didn't clash with what had already been used. Since I'd read every single SBL since before 1956, I was a handy candidate for the job. I also had to head the chapters, too.

                            'Authors' "working titles" for their books were seldom used and once abandoned were quickly forgotten, which must have made it very hard for company accountants to trace what was bought from whom and how it was used. Of a late afternoon -- or perhaps a morning after a "heavy" night -- even Bill Baker could be confused. It must have been a help to have had someone on hand who at that stage, with the ledgers in front of him, could remember what had started out as what, and how it could be made to "balance".

                            'Payments to authors were made on an ongoing, weekly basis and the items went into the editorial stock or inventory. A "whole" book was 150 guineas, and for our regulars progress payments were made of smaller sums -- averaging, say, آ£50 -- "on account". A "rewrite" could often be paid for under a different title. Once a month, when the two new numbers of SBL were published, you had to go through the ledgers and reconcile/write off the 150 guineas' worth of relevant payments that might have been made as much as a year earlier under the working title(s). The system was open to abuse, allowed embarrassments to be struck off against published titles with which they had no connection, and so on.

                            'I don't know when Mike Moorcock joined Fleetway, but I do know he left in 1961, possibly under something of a cloud. In those comparatively sedate times, he stood out as a rather wild, hippy/beatnik character and things like turning up barefoot at the office (well, maybe open sandals without socks) didn't go down too well with the hierarchy. As well as his chores on SBL, he got roped in for Thriller Picture Library, which I believe Bill Baker was also responsible for at the time it was running Robin Hood and Dick Daring of the Mounties stories. I'm sure Mike wrote some of the scripts - it kind of fits with the adventure-fantasy which was his early mأ©tier.

                            'Rumour of the time had it Mike threw a typewriter out of a fifth-floor window of Fleetway House before deciding it was time to tour Scandinavia as a modern strolling minstrel. It was also about this time that the first Elric stories were appearing in Ted Carnell's Science Fantasy.'

                            Fascinating stuff, I'm sure you'll agree!
                            --- Sexton Blake ---
                            "If there is a wrong to be righted, an evil to be redressed, or a rescue of the weak and the suffering from the powerful, our hearty assistance can be readily obtained."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Absolutely!

                              Thanks very much.

                              Comment

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