From the Peter Haining papers, this typed manuscript by the great researcher and expert on British comics and periodicals W.O.G. ('Bill') Lofts (1923-1997). It is interesting that Fleming got even close to writing a Sexton Blake, a bit like J.K. Rowling deciding to do a new Secret Seven adventure (actually not a bad idea..)
Sexton Blake and James Bond
I must confess that I greatly enjoyed the James Bond novels by Ian Fleming. Alas, there were only about sixteen of them as he died a premature death in 1964. Since then a number of other writers have penned them, but never read as well as the creator.
The first in 1955 was entitled 'Casino Royal' when the author an ex-M.I.5 man, certainly was authentic in every detail. The films that commenced in 1963 with 'Dr. No'*. I also greatly enjoyed, especially those featuring Sean Connery. Roger Moore his successor was just as good, though even more suitable to the Saint character, with his type of humour.
Likewise I enjoyed all the Sexton Blake stories in my younger days, as this world famous character must have entertained millions in his day, now alas seemingly put on the sideboards for quite some years. I must also admit that probably now doing so much detective work one can see the limitations in this field, by sloppy plots, as well as faulty backgrounds by some writers.
As well known, despite the myth of Leslie Charteris, Sax Rohmer, and Edgar Wallace supposed to have cut their eye-teeth early days of penning Blake yarns (records show they did not) there was once a time, when none other than Ian Fleming was contemplating writing a Sexton Blake story, but whether he was going to use his world famous character of James Bond in the plot is now unknown.
Monty Haydon, a Managing Director of Fleetway Publications was to many a creative genius, always brimming over with ideas to boost the circulations of papers under his control. He had created the famous detective/thriller/paper The Thriller in 1928. That contained tales by some of the world famous crime writers including Edgar Wallace and Leslie Charteris. He had met an old friend Ian Fleming at the Press Club one lunch time; 'Monty' as he was nicknamed was a former Major in the army winning the M.C. Their friendship had started in that connection. Over lunch when all sorts of topics were discussed the subject of Sexton Blake cropped up, then 'Monty' suggested that Fleming would be big boost to the library that was then going through a sticky patch. To his surprise Fleming thought it a good idea, and would think about it. Being strictly correct, and always letting his editors deal with such matters, Monty told his he would inform W. Howard Baker about this, when he returned to Fleetway House get him to ring him say in a few weeks time when he (Fleming) had a chance to think about it properly.
When Bill Baker phoned Fleming a few weeks later at the Press Club after his return from his home in the West Indies, he found that Montague Haydon had unfortunately forgot an important thing. Writer of Sexton Blake stories were paid a set fee due to a very strict budget. Whereas he could have by higher authority paid twice or several times this to obtain an exclusive story, ten times was out of the question, so any deal fell through.
This was a great pity as it would have been fascinating to see how Fleming would have portrayed Sexton Blake of course in his 'new look' role, and whether James Bond was featured. Older readers may recall that once Blake worked alongside Raffles the Gentleman Crook in the late thirties in a couple of stories, being well written at that.
Sexton Blake and James Bond were of course completely opposite in every respect, thought curiously I have noticed a similar pattern in solving cases between Bond and a more famous sleuth - Sherlock Holmes! Holmes nearly always received a visitor at Baker Street, who poured out their troubles, where after much meditation Holmes solved the mystery. Bond also had to visit his chief 'M' who instructed him in a sort of reversed role of the recent attempt by someone contemplating taking over the world, instructing Bond to stop this happening, bringing it all to satisfactory conclusion.
Blake of course was at Baker Street, whilst 'M' was at the headquarters of M.I.5, the films showing the headquarters at Admiralty Arch just off Trafalgar Square.
Actually a number of Sexton Blake writers did serve in the Secret Service, some actually relating real life adventures in their stories. As all have long passed on there is no harm in revealing some of them. Rex Hardinge in S.B.L No.130 (third series) 1946 titled The Man from Chun King, relates of a man parachuting into China, which was actually his own adventure during the last War. 'Warwick Jardine' (Francis Warwick) who died in 1975 aged 73 even introduced his own Secret Service man in the shape of Cliff Gordon M.I.5. in his Sexton Blake stories, based on War time exploits. 'Hilary King (James Grierson Dickson) wrote a few really excellent stories in the S.B.L. prior to the New Look, when he wrote text books on espionage and spying, being an expert in this field. There were several others including the New Look writer and film/T.V. script writer Philip Chambers whom I knew fairly well, and was trained at the School of Military Intelligence.
But what a great pity that Ian Fleming could not have been included amongst them. His story or stories would certainly by much sought after today.
*There was a sort of spoof film of Casino Royale earlier.