An Intermission: The Adventures Of Sexton Blake

By John Walker on July 31st, 2009 at 6:54 pm.

Adventure!

This is slightly outside the boundaries of our remit, but it’s a special occasion. At 21:15 this evening on BBC Radio 2 the first episode of The Adventures of Sexton Blake is broadcast. Edit: You can listen to it here – for the love of all that’s holy, skip to 3:40 lest your ears burn at the horrendous programme that preceded it. Sexton Blake is a fascinating fictional figure, whose detective stories have been told by over 200 authors since 1893, each without a care for canon. However, in all his 116 years, he’s never been in a videogame. We bring this programme to your attention for another reason: it is co-written by Mr J Nash.

I wish no disservice to his co-author, novelist and columnist Mil Millington, a remarkably funny man who has collaborated with Nash on multiple projects (not least The Weekly), and perhaps most famous for his website-cum-Guardian column-cum novel, Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About. But I believe he will understand that we shift the focus over to Mr Nash.

They will live on forever.

It is safe to say that without the writing of J Nash, Rock, Paper, Shotgun wouldn’t know what to be. Ask Jim, Kieron or me to name our influences and you’ll hear his name come up straight away (among others who deserve huge credit, but fail to have a programme on the radio this evening). (Alec’s unmagazined childhood meant he escaped the direct influences, but is as victim to the effects as any other writing passionately in the industry.) He was a part of the team that made Amiga Power such an extraordinary magazine, editor of the glorious Your Sinclair in its last few months, co-writer of Digiworld (along with Stuart Campbell and some fresh new writer called Kieron Gillen) and frequent contributor to PC Gamer in its early years (and indeed its recent years). His outstanding, almost other-worldly writing created a generation of writers desperately trying to mimic him. Us.

I could witter on for many decades, but instead shall simply share with you some chunks of a preview for a game rather boldly called “Frogger”, from issue 48 of PC Gamer in 1997, which I reproduce without anyone’s permission.

Unquestionably the most ingenious Frogger rip-off in the days before lawyers were invented was Jogger. At a stroke, the game suddenly made sense, especially the bit where you fell into the water and drowned. This is not strictly relevant, but adds local colour.

Frogger, readers who steeple their fingers to promote thought and healthful blood flow may recall, was a 1981 arcade game about this thing: a frog, who had to jump across a motorway and then a river without perishing squashingly, in order to reach a hole in which he looked uncommonly pleased.

And slightly later,

The leaping around has been retained, but now you can scamper anywhere on a giant mazy level in your attempt to rescue five baby frogs before the traditional 60 seconds expire. Except in the water, obviously. Because you drown. (“Not a lot made sense in the early ’80s,” points out Chris [Down, producer], powerfully refusing to be drawn. But what about Frogger 2, eh? You were in the water all the time then. “But that was bizarre.” An enviable unflappability.)

Eventually reaching,

There’s also a two- to four-player find-the-flags network race, where you may stun your opponents with an eerie bellow and jump on their shoulders to impede their egress before thundering lorries. “What’s addictive then is addictive now,” said Chris. Of it.

And yet I thought new Frogger a vile thing. Although palpably unfinished, I found its perspective unworkable (zooming out to maximum distance was the only playable angle, at which point it’s an overhead game), the brutally unforgiving slippery edges hateful rather than witty, the additions bafflingly unnecessary and the sense of advancement of the simple original lost in the clutter. Readers, I truly, dearly, sincerely and knuckle-gnawingly hope and trust that the closing months of development make me look such a fool.

Someone wrote to me today, as sometimes people do, to ask for advice toward getting involved with games criticism. I think my answer is: read the work of J Nash and Stuart Campbell, and once you understand, apply.

On this basis, tune into The Adventures of Sexton Blake on Radio 2 this evening, at 21.15. Forrins can listen to it live via the magics of their website. I shall edit in the Listen Again link so soon as its again-ness comes to be. Below are the four videos created to explain the series (which I have spectacularly failed to do). Edit: Listen here. It appears to work outside our isle, which is splendid.

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67 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    I got a letter printed on that Ceefax magazine thing. I believe it argued that games promoted pacifism because, on account of being so cuntingly hard, OpFlash prepared us to face death with zen-like peace.

    That ceefax magazine thing was the best ever, even though the letters page was often filled with twats.

  2. Mister Hands says:

    My heart informs me that the inclusion of Digitiser teletext-graphics makes any article 4000% better. I’ll be listening tonight.

  3. Fumarole says:

    No relation to Saxton Hale, nach.

  4. Iain "DDude" Dawson says:

    Thanks for the heads up, I shall definitely be listening!

  5. ruaidhri.k says:

    Dirk Maggs did the rather spiffing radio adaptation of Knightfall back in the nineties. I’ll tune in on those grounds.

  6. Railick says:

    Sexton Blake is an okay name but not as good as Saxton Hale.

  7. Railick says:

    Dad-nabbit Fumarole you beat me to it :)

  8. Recomposer says:

    Simon Jones as Sexton Blake – I’m in.

  9. a says:

    Are radio dramas still popular in the UK? I think I’ve gone my entire life without ever hearing one.

  10. aoanla says:

    I am rather too excited about this – Sexton Blake is long overdue some radio time, and the whole J Nash/Mil Millington collaboration is the icing on the proverbial cake.

  11. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    Wasn’t Sexton Blake a penny dreadful character? Or am I mixing things up?

  12. Premium User Badge

    AndrewC says:

    My god…the director’s hair. FF characters would be embarrassed.

  13. Bobsy says:

    I’d not heard of Sexton Blake at all until earlier this week when, prior to the series launch Radio 2 did an hour-long documentary about the character and his history in fiction. It’s well worth a listen and is available until Tuesday, here.

    (in simple terms, Sexton Blake is the missing link between Sherlock Holmes and James Bond)

    By absolute coincidence in the days leading up to this discovery I’d started fiddling with Adventure Game Studio and dreaming of a dashing Victorian-era gentleman adventurer. Well, we’ll just see about that.

    (and Dirk Maggs is also to mulletted man behind the new serieses of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (also starring Simon Jones) and Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency)

  14. PaulMorel says:

    80s hair ftw.

  15. BooleanBob says:

    Creepy. It’s 9.15pm on a Friday night and I, finding myself without prior engagement., am in want of something to do. This is a remarkable coincidence. An absolutely remarkable coincidence.

    Seriously you guys, this is almost never the case at this kind of time on this kind of day of the week.

  16. aoanla says:

    Sexton Blake is also the Michael Moorcock connection to Sherlock Holmes (and quite important in his early work – he has an ersatz Blake as “Sexton Begg” in his later work as a reference to this).

  17. Owen says:

    Wow, I’ve timed coming home from the Thai and logging on to RPS just perfectly (it being 9:14 as I write this).

    Cheers John, I remember Mr Nash and shall check this out.
    Owen

  18. Magnus says:

    Listening now… not half bad.

  19. jalf says:

    Never ever heard of Sexton Blake, but sounds like fun. Guess I’ll have to listen in.

  20. aoanla says:

    So, firstly, it is astonishingly like something written by Mr J Nash and Mil Millington. In a distilled form. Which is very good. (I still want to know how Mr J Nash’s back page story in Arcane was going to end…)

    Secondly, was that a guest appearance by the theme from David Lynch’s “Dune” film?

  21. Lack_26 says:

    I wonder when the next episode will be on, it was good, my style of comedy. Sort of reminds me of Milton Jones (Radio 4).

  22. aoanla says:

    @Lack_26: according to the BBC Radio 2 website, they’re a weekly feature. So, 21:15 next Friday.

  23. Kieron Gillen says:

    Hurry up. Get on Listen again, you basts.

    KG

  24. John Walker says:

    Goodness me, that was really rather brilliant. The suspense joke was superb.

  25. jalf says:

    Hurry up. Get on Listen again, you basts.

    No rush here. I’m listening to the documentary bobsy pointed to. Still 20 minutes or so left of it.

  26. Arrrmo says:

    That sounds awesome. As one of the afore-mentioned forrins, I’ll be giving it a listen as soon as the opportunity presents itself.

    Also, it’s Arthur Dent! :)

  27. Magnus says:

    My favourite lines have to be…

    “Tinker and I prefer the fisty honesty of justice knuckles”

    “Nobody take the opportunity to murder while I’m gone, I’ve had that thing happen before, and I will be back to check!”

  28. Taillefer says:

    Was made aware of this through Mil’s newsletter. Then forgot about it until now. Aiie.

    We salute you J Nash!

  29. leederkrenon says:

    dang, missed it. sexton blake and mr. nash, a fine combo. YOUR SINCLAIR 4 LYFE!

  30. BooleanBob says:

    The suspense joke was excellent. And the joke about the barrel was so good that following it up with the two similar ones almost spoilt it. Which isn’t something you can say about most of the stuff that gets written for the radio 4 stable.

    So yes. I really rather enjoyed it.

  31. Rosti says:

    Simon Jones! Dirk Maggs! Sold! (I’m aware I’m sort of missing the point, but thanks for bringing this to my attention John)

  32. Taillefer says:

    Gosh. That was packed. Packed with fabulous!

    “You damned interfering jackanapes!” almost elicited a cheer, hurrah!

  33. Gassalasca says:

    Wow. This guy really is better than you four. I think I’m slightly aroused right now.

  34. Davidish says:

    I have long admired Jonathan Nash, but I’m scared to ask anyone if he’s the same person as Jon Pillar. There was some confusion over it in the latter days of YS, I seem to remember, but I never heard it resolved. I’m afeared it’s a touchy subject, so I’ve wondered about it for over 15 years now.

  35. Premium User Badge

    zak canard says:

    This just made my Friday night, thanks for the heads up!

  36. Antsy says:

    Excellent! Bless you for bringing this to my attention. Another CD boxset heading for my Ipod I fear!

  37. Psychopomp says:

    They still put “programmes” on the radio?

    THIS BOGGLES MY AMERICAN MIND

  38. Owen says:

    Really enjoyed that and especially lovely to hear Simon Jones again, as I listened to The Hitch hikers Guide to the Galaxy ‘quite a lot whilst growing up’.

    Looking forward to the next of these.

  39. Owen says:

    “I’ve got ‘im covered with this ‘ere ready punch, guv” – lol

  40. Reverend Speed says:

    Hee. The mysterious Mr. Nash returns… though I miss his earlier WB avatars. My word… AP was such a bountiful, sumptuous TREAT each month.

    Lest ye forget… http://dspace.dial.pipex.com/ap2/

  41. Pod says:

    You show a digi-pic but no mention of the digi-wick? THE SHAME.

    Also: It’s a pity that Revstu’s ANGER – that which makes him so entertaining – is the same thing that puts most people off him :(

  42. Kieron Gillen says:

    Davidish: Those who ask, don’t know. Those who know, don’t tell.

    KG

  43. Funky Badger says:

    Heh, “I’m alright Tinker, I simply avoided the bullets.”

  44. Heliocentric says:

    @kg and those who don’t ask and don’t know are posers.

  45. Kieron Gillen says:

    The Exmouth wall isn’t a bad idea at all.

    KG

  46. Hongkonged says:

    Superb throughout. Yet again, Auntie delivers.

  47. Leo says:

    J Nash still contributes to PC Gamer? Seriously? Cool! What was the last ish he wrote something for?

  48. KBKarma says:

    As I recall, he did the It’s All Over about four or five issues ago. I was wondering where I’d heard the name J. Nash from (when I read this article).

    I’ll be listening to this when I get home tonight.

  49. Mr Weir says:

    Thanks for the comments, there’s a bit more info about the show at http://www.perfectlynormal.net/sextonblake.html and I hope you enjoy the rest of the series.
    - From The Perfectly Normal Institute of Aural Excitation