I saw a tweet the other day in response to a piece about the new Dear Holmes series. It said:
“Did you get permission from the creators of Sherlock to do this?”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Sherlock. I love Benedict Cumberbatch, adore Steven Moffat and can’t get enough Mark Gatiss, but even they would be miffed at the suggestion that they created Sherlock… Holmes, that is. The thing is, if you came to the Great Detective through the BBC series, you arrived late. Very late.
You see, there’s a difference between Sherlock, the BBC series which is set in 21st Century London, and Sherlock Holmes, the detective who was created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and who (mostly) prowls the streets of Victorian London–when he’s not prowling Dartmoor or Cornwall or any number of other places in the sixty tales written by the good knight.
Holmes made his debut in Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet in 1887 and, though Sir Arthur died in 1930, the Great Detective lives on, not only in the original tales, but in the many pastiches that survive him. Holmes continues to inspire writers, artists, filmmakers, and creatives of all sorts. In fact, the detective has earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most-portrayed literary human fictional character having being played by more than 75 actors in over 200 films since 1900 (according to records compiled in 2012). The ‘human’ distinction is because Dracula slightly beats him.
Of course, in addition to the films and plays, there are novels and stories. Lots of them. While Sir Arthur’s four novels, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear are all excellent, in my opinion, it is in the short story that he achieves true excellence.
Whatever your preferred format, once you become hooked on Holmes, you won’t be satisfied until you have devoured the entire canon. But what is the fan to do when he or she has read the original stories to the point of knowing them almost by heart? Well, for many of us, the solution is to embrace the pastiche. There are, oh, hundreds of them. Many are famous, such as the stories Sir Arthur’s son Adrian co-wrote with mystery writer John Dickson Carr under the title The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (1954).
Arguably the most famous pastiche novel is Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Percent-Solution (1974), but he wrote two other Holmes novels, too, The West End Horror (1976), and The Canary Trainer (1993)
Then there’s Michael Dibdin’s The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (1979) which depicts Holmes confronting Jack the Ripper. There’s practically a sub-genre of Holmes-Ripper tales. I must confess I’m not a fan. The ‘Ripper’ murdered at least five real women in a particularly ghastly manner, and I don’t care for stories that exploit their deaths, but that’s me. I know a lot of people love this sort of stuff, and if they’re your thing, you’ll find no shortage of tales on the Sherlock shelf to entertain you.
Caleb Carr, Anthony Horowitz, Laurie R. King are all well-known and esteemed authors of Holmes novels of a less gory sort. All are worth a read. But when I’m thirsty for Holmes, and I’m desperate for something new, I reach for my stack of MX authors. The following, listed in alphabetical order, are novelists and short story writers and you can find them and many others (including yours truly!) at the MX site here:
- Dan Andriacco
- Derrick Belanger
- Molly Carr
- AS Croyle
- Alistair Duncan
- Dick Gillman
- Kim Krisco
- David Marcum
- Tracy Revels
- David Ruffle
- Richard T Ryan
- Brenda Seabrooke
- Amy Thomas
- Marcia Wilson
I’ve probably left out a dozen or more of others I love and I’ll kick myself as soon as I post this.
A great way of finding a new writer is to check out anthologies. The MX collections (up to 12 now), or the ones produced by Belanger Books, include most of the above writers, and many others you may love.
So, is Sherlock Holmes OK with this?