Created by Max Afford
(1906 – 1954)
“I wonder if the old bird would be interested in buying a few antiques from this family? A .45 automatic, rusty through disuse, an unused set of brass knuckles and an out-of-date private eye, sound in wind and limb except for a pickled liver!”
— Jeffrey ponder his net worth, in The Sheep and the Wolves
Australian freelance sleuth JEFFREY BLACKBURN straddles the line here, between public and private, given that his only client seems to be his old buddy, laconic Chief Inspector William Read of the local police, who calls him in on a regular basis when the going gets tough. Blackburn also occasionally stretches the boundaries of credibility, as the two of them solve one bizarre and impossible crime after another, and apprehend assorted criminal masterminds who come off like misplaced comic book villains.
Still, a few things worthy of note: there’s a Mrs. Blackburn, the long-suffering Elizabeth, who pops up occasionally to chide her husband about his drinking and his general lack of manners; the settings are unapologetically Australian, flitting from Sydney to Melbourne, and I have to admit the solutions to the crimes are delightfully screwy (but fair).
Even better, though, is the self-conscious attempt to fold Blackburn into the Shamus Game, and those cheesy, awkward covers on the Magpie Books editions leave a wonderfully pulpy aftertaste.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Malcom R. Afford was born in Adelaide in 1906, and left school when he was sixteen. He became a acclaimed Australian journalist, playwright and an “ace radio writer,” which lends a bit of extra ooopmh to The Dead Are Blind (1937), which some consider a locked room masterpiece. In it, Blackburn and Read visit the recording of a radio show called “Darkness in Danger” when a murder is committed on-air. He wrote more than sixty radio and stage plays, six crime novels and two books of plays, and there’s the Max Afford Playwrights’ Award, given out every other year to young Australian playwrights between the ages of 18 and 40 “to promote interest in Australian drama and to encourage the writing of plays in Australia, to help and give incentive to young writers of plays.” Not surprisingly, the Blackburn series was adapted for Australian radio.
And that would have been that. A series of pulpy, almost-forgotten traditional locked room-type mysteries, set in Australia and featuring a semi-boiled gumshoe (and his wife), but in 2007, Ramble House dragged Afford’s books, kicking and screaming, back into daylight.
- Blood on His Hands! (1936; aka “An Ear for Murder) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Dead Are Blind (1937) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- Death’s Mannikins (1937; aka “The Dolls of Death) | Buy this book
- Owl of Darkness (1942; aka “Fly By Night”) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- The Sheep and the Wolves (1942) | Buy this book | Kindle it!
- “Poison Can Be Puzzling”
- “The Vanishing Trick”
- FLY BY NIGHT: A JEFFREY BLACKBURN ADVENTURE
- GREY FACE
- (1940, 2FC and 3AR)
- IT WALKS BY NIGHT
- THE GOLDEN SCORPION; A NEW JEFFREY BLACKBURN ADVENTURE
- THE BLACKBURNS TAKE OVER
- DOUBLE DEMON: A NEW JEFFREY BLACKBURN ADVENTURE,
- MURDER’S NOT FOR MIDDLE AGE