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W. Howard Baker (1925-1991)

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Arthur Athwill William Baker, who published as W. Howard Baker and was known to his acquaintances as Bill, was born in Cork on 3 October 1925, where he was editor of his school magazine. He served in the British armed forces during the Second World War, and afterwards travelled in the Far East, Europe and America as a freelance journalist. He settled in London and, after a while working as a correspondent for a group of German and Scandinavian magazines, became an editor at Panther Books.

He wrote Sexton Blake stories, and joined the staff of the Amalgamated Press (later Fleetway Publications) as editor of the Sexton Blake Library in 1955. He revamped the title, creating Paula Dane, Blake's secretary, and improved sales. He worked at Fleetway House until 1964, during which time he also became controlling editor of a group of comics, presumably some or all of the digest-sized "picture library" titles: Steve Holland credits him as writing for those titles (he wrote at least one issue of War Picture Library, drawn by Hugo Pratt, in 1960, collected in a volume of Pratt's British war stories published in France) and being the originating editor of Air Ace Picture Library in 1960.

He wrote novels in a variety of genres as W. Howard Baker and under pseudonyms including Peter Saxon, W. A. Ballinger, Desmond Reid and William Arthur, some or all of which were house pseudonyms he shared with other writers. As The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction notes, "It is impossible to distinguish much of what he wrote from what he commissioned and what he doctored, under his own name and others."

After Fleetway cancelled the Sexton Blake Library in late 1963, Baker licensed the character from IPC and continued publishing the title via Mayflower-Dell Books until 1968. He then founded Howard Baker Books and published a series of four Sexton Blake novels in 1969. His company also published biographies, and The Men Behind Boys' Fiction (1970) by W. O. G. Lofts and Derek Adley. He intended to reprint all 1683 issues of the story paper The Magnet, where Billy Bunter first appeared from 1908 to 1940, in hardback, but died in Wimbledon, London, on 13 February 1991, with 163 issues still to be reprinted.

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