This tale first saw print as Story's sixth
published entry in the Sexton Blake Library series. Young Harry Jukes
fiddles the till at work, hangs around in a coffee bar and one fateful
night "borrows" a flash car to impress a girl. Unfortunately the car
belongs to an IRA arms smuggler, and Harry is implicated in the murder of
a policeman. The "9 o'clock shadow" is the shadow of the gallows built to
hang him for the crime. Sexton Blake puts his life on the line to prove
Harry innocent. Story's knowledge the coffee bars of the time, and the
young women who frequented them, was put to good use here.
Rewritten with psychiatrist Anne Dyson
replacing Sexton Blake, it got a hardback edition from W H Allen in the UK
in 1959, and Macmillan in the US, 1960. The cover shown here is the US
edition; Harry, "aged 22 with a teenage mind," is depicted as a Cockney in
a flat cap - maybe his dad or grandfather would have worn one, but you can
bet Harry didn't hang out at the coffee bar looking like that. The weaker
new title refers to Harry's complex character, as perceived by Dr Dyson.
The court is prepared to accept him as one-dimensional teen tearaway, but
she isn't. "Nine O'Clock Shadow" is a much better title, but a rewrite had
to have a new one for copyright purposes.
The 1962 Corgi paperback is labelled "a
tongue-in-cheek thriller by the author of The Trouble With Harry."
Presumably the "tongue-in-cheek" aspect is played up to appeal to readers
of the former book, which was a comedy; it's an unfair description of this
book, which is a much more serious brew. Both versions emphasise the
essential innocence of Harry Jukes, and make him a sympathetic character,
while the police and court readily use his petty misdemeanours (and social
class) to put him in the frame for a crime he didn't commit. Story lived
out a similar experience with the police 10 years later, with no Sexton
Blake or Anne Dyson to save him from the harrowing consequences.
Anne Baxter played Dr Dyson and Adam Faith was
Harry Jukes in the film version. Corgi reissued the paperback as a film
tie-in edition, also in 1962. Big thanks to John Davey for alerting me to
it, and especially to Dave Britton at Savoy for a copy of the book. The
cover still refers to "Jack Trevor Story's tongue-in-cheek thriller" while
the photo of Adam Faith behind bars reflects the book's more serious tone.
Click on the paperback
covers for bigger images
Stills from the film >>