From boyhood I had always been fascinated by the adventures of Dixon Hawke and his young assistant Tommy Burke. They were really carbon copies of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, as were Sexton Blake and Tinker.
Hawke stories were launched by D.C. Thomson in 1919 in a small 100-page booklet, ‘The Dixon Hawke Library’, which was published until 1941, 576 issues in all. Then we had the annual paperback of short stories which lasted until the early 1960s.
Alongside these publications were Hawke stories in Thomson’s boys’ paper, “Adventure”, launched in 1921. They were somewhat different, though, as here the Dover Street detective featured in yarns which were full of action, whereas in the case books and the earlier ‘libraries’ he solved his cases by his powers of deduction.
Then in the late 1960s on a holiday in Scotland I discovered that the “Sporting Post”, Thomson’s weekly football paper, carried a complete DH short story. So I decided to give it a go and submitted a 1,000 – word mystery.
The outcome was that my story was accepted and the editorial director wrote and invited me to meet her for afternoon tea at a Birmingham hotel. Over tea and scones she explained that they needed a weekly DH story and was I interested in writing more for them? I didn’t need asking twice!
My next two submissions were accepted, followed by a rejection of my third for a trivial reason. I could have amended it but D.C. Thomson did not work like that – it was either an acceptance or a rejection. Eventually I sussed it out. They considered that 52 stories a year was too heavy a workload for one writer so the purpose of the editorial director’s tour of the UK was to assemble a team. That way they had more than enough stories so some had to be turned down.
In due course I had a file of around half-a-dozen stories that had not been accepted. However, it became clear to me that DH editors were changing around every six months. So I tested “newcomers” with some of my rejections – and in many cases had those stories accepted!
I wrote numerous DH stories up until around 1974. By that time I had had my first horror novel accepted and another commissioned by New English Library. Nevertheless, writing Hawke stories, creating mysteries and the various ways in which they were solved, was an excellent learning curve for a young writer.
Sadly Dixon Hawke disappeared when the “Sporting Post” ceased publication in May 2000. His adventures were many, outnumbering most other fictional sleuths. Gone but not forgotten, at least as far as I am concerned. He was a good friend to me.