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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Gwyn Evans: The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet

Gwyn Evans was one of the most popular authors to write stories featuring Sexton Blake. From his pen flowed two-dozen novels and seventy novelettes featuring the famous detective, each filled with mystery, humour and off-the-wall ideas. Collectors have long-sought his tales of Blake's battles against the Double Four, Mr. Mist, The League of Robin Hood, Miss Death, the Shadow Club and the Onion Men; his Christmas stories were legendary amongst readers and an Xmas yarn from Evans would be a guarantee of a merry, mysterious tale that would entertain and baffle readers at the same time.

But Evans created no characters more remarkable than himself. As a journalist and author, he had a talent that could — and occasionally did — earn him riches and recognition. But his Bohemian lifestyle, a daily round of visiting pubs and parties, meant that earnings were soon spent, deadlines were missed and his typewriter often pawned in order to buy another beer. He relied on tricks to raise cash, revamped old stories into new ones and was a notorious womaniser. At the same time, while some thought him irresponsible, others saw his other side: a carefree spirit, generous and charitable with whatever money he had. "One of the major tragedies of Bohemia," as one friend recorded.

Gwyn Evans: The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet charts the ups and downs of Evans's career, cut tragically short at the age of 39.

As well as revealing the story of Evans' remarkable life, this volume also includes three short stories—"The Idol of Isis", Evans' first foray into fiction, "Hang It All!", a tale with a twist about how a murderer meets his fate, and "Kensington Cavalcade", a romantic rumination on the naming of a famous London tavern—and two previously unpublished poems.   

The book is illustrated with a superb selection of illustrations and book covers from the golden era of "pulp" crime illustration in the 1920s and 1930s. Artists include Leo Bates, Kenneth Brookes, Scott Calder, Tom Cottrell, F. R. Hibbs, F. E. Hiley, E. F. Hiscocks, Arthur Jones, Warwick W. Lendon, Jack Long, G. P. Micklewright, Eric R. Parker, Frank Pashley, Leonard Potts, J. H. Valda and H. G. Wolfe.

Gwyn Evans: The Lunatic, the Lover and the Poet is published in perfect bound format, 92 pages b/w with a stunning colour cover by H. G. Wolfe.
ISBN: 9781907081606

Publication Date
Published on 13 April 2012. Available now.

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  1. Hi Steve

    I almost didn't buy this book, what with having no interest in Sexton Blake. Sure, I knew that it would be thoroughly researched, well written and beautifully illustrated, but I was dubious about buying a whole book about a writer I'd never heard of, best known for writing a character I have very little interest in, and no experience of beyond the Valiant Book Of TV's Sexton Blake and the Blake copy Victor Drago in Tornado.

    However, your Approaching Fifty series of posts and your decision to quit smoking convinced me to give it a try. I'm glad I did. It's a fascinating book, well up to your high standards.

    Oh, and it also made me want to buy at least the first of your Sexton Blake Annual reprints, since the only thing I didn't like about your Gwyn Evans book is that there was so little of his writing in it.

    David Simpson

  2. David,

    I'm very pleased to hear that you enjoyed the book. There are a handful of authors I have an obsessive relationship with, Gwyn Evans being one of them. I don't consider him the best author of the period - he wasn't even the best Sexton Blake author, in my opinion - but he was a writer of massive potential, had he not drunk himself to death.

    Putting the book together was more of a jigsaw puzzle than normal and I thoroughly enjoyed piecing it together (hopefully that shows).

    That there isn't a single book by Evans still in print is a problem I'm hoping to resolve shortly.

  3. Hi Steve

    If antone reading this wants to read some Evans, they should go to http://www.friardale.co.uk/Thriller/Thriller.htm where several issues of The Thriller have been scanned in, three of which contain stories by Evans. The relevant issues are 6 (featuring The Croucher), 75 and 564 (part one of Hercules, Esq).

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have some reading to do

    David Simpson


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