Guy at a bookstall in Leeds put a copy of this by for me the other day. It's a Priory Books edition, undated but I'm guessing it's mid-sixties. The cover is a lovely posed photo of a stressed-out dolly bird pointing a gun at a mod-ish looking hunk.
Have never read any 60s British pulp crime before, and I tore through this in about an hour. Very enjoyable, great Soho vibe, evocative descriptions of music and a good set-piece on a rollercoaster's tracks. Cracking story-telling. I've opened up another costly area of interest for myself with this one, I reckon.
11 years later... Having spent time this week sitting around hospitals for other people I've re-read this and also Baker's Scandal Street, which was never mentioned here. The Cellar Boys is very fast and superficial, and Sexton Blake becomes Ricki Costain, ex-PI and jazz musician. It's a lovely little read. Scandal Street is an oddity which I think is mentioned somewhere else in another thread as it was an SBL Fourth series title that was substituted at the last moment and never appeared as a Blake. Allegedly pulled for the excessive violence, I find this hard to believe as it has little more than other comparable SBL titles in this period (Cellar Boys/Espresso Jungle for instance has a nasty acid attack on a teenage girl which is far worse than anything here). I have always wondered if the fact that it features an unpleasant portrait of a press baron which was perhaps too close to home for the Associated top brass was the reason. No matter. Scandal Street is a little gen, narrated in the first person by Splash Kirby who is directed by the aforesaid Baron to investigate an incarcerated criminal and link his discredited alibi to an illict affair with the fourth wife the Baron is looking to divorce. What transpires is a romp involving the Baron's daughter, a robbery, and a metal alloy that several foreign powers and Special Branch are looking for...
It has great colour, and is a snapshot of Fleet Street, the newspaper life, and parties in a London on the cusp of swinging. I've read it a couple of times, over twenty years back (as with The Cellar Boys), and reading them back to back I noticed one wonderfully economical piece of writing: there are two pages at the start of one chapter in each that describes a London club that the main villain in Cellar Boys or Kirby in Scandal Steet are about to enter detailing how the club was started and evolved. These two pages are exactly the same, except that one sentence in changed at the end of the second page to explain why the pages are seen from the eyes of a 'Big Man' (villain of the former, someone Kirby spies in the latter).
Word for word. Splendid. Hurrah for Bill Baker, master of recycling!
Both books are none the worse for it; in fact, it adds a little to the charm!