The View from the East End
When I was a newer Sherlockian, I remember vowing to myself that I would never take any sort of pastiche seriously. After I first became seriously interested in Sherlock Holmes, my intent was to focus my attention only on the original Canonical works, aspiring to become a renowned Sherlockian scholar and commentator someday. Ha-ha! What a mistake that was!
So, what happened?
After several years of reading and re-reading the Canon, I thought I was getting to the point where I was pretty knowledgeable about Sherlock Holmes. I took quizzes at scion meetings and scored fairly well. I helped run a Chat Room for the “Scandalous Bohemians” for a few years and made up many, many quizzes and topic discussions for its members. I studied many questions posed by experts (most of whom I had the pleasure of personally meeting) such as our editor Brad Keefauver, Rosemary Michaud, David Richardson, Regina Stinson, Jacquelynn Morris, Stephen Clarkson, as well as some of the Hounds of the Internet, etc.
Although Sherlockians are indeed working within a closed system of 56 short stories and 4 novelettes, it has never failed to amaze me how much they can “milk” a story to the last drop. Each Sherlockian puts his or her own spin on a particular story, and seems to come up with yet another bit of insight regarding it. This is what has fascinated me all this time! It has humbled me as well, because I seem to be getting worse and worse rather than better and better at answering those questions and completing those quizzes.
So much for becoming a “Sherlockian scholar”, I guess . . . (*sigh*)
Well . . . I can still “commentate”, so here goes:
Sixty is not enough
Inevitably, inexorably, and in spite of my original intentions, I have come to the same conclusion as so many other experts have: we need MORE Sherlock Holmes stories! In spite of not quite becoming the “expert” that I had originally wanted to be, I still have to wonder how many times we can seriously ask ourselves why Mrs. Watson once called her husband “James”? Or where Watson’s wound actually was? Or how many times he was married, and to whom? Where did Sherlock Holmes come from? Where was he born? Did he have any family? How could he afford to go to college? And exactly which college did he attend? etc. etc. etc.
We’ll never know, but:
To fulfill the need to keep Sherlock Holmes going, “pastiche” was invented. Recall that pastiche consists of any Sherlock Holmes story that is written outside the original Canon. There is good pastiche, sarcastic pastiche, humorous pastiche, and bad pastiche.
(The movie “Sherlock Holmes’s Smarter Brother” might be an example of all the above).
At any rate, knowing my penchant for Sherlock Holmes, my own “smarter brother” gave me a book last year entitled “New Sherlock Holmes Adventures”, edited by Mike Ashley and with a forward by the late Richard Lancelyn Green. It was published by Castle Books in 2004 with ISBN number 0-7858-1880-4 and is a compilation by a number of authors. It consists of some 26 stories, all modeled after the original tales as related by Dr. Watson.
This was my first real taste of Sherlockian pastiche! I have enjoyed it very much and would heartily recommend it to others.
These stories attempt to recreate the feeling of the original canonical tales; some are better than others, and some are not quite as good (just as it is with the original Canon). I noted that in several of the stories, attempts were made to help “fill in the blanks” and/or help to explain some Canonical discrepancies, which is an understandable goal of any dedicated Sherlockian. If you get this book and read it, you will see what I mean. The major drawback with this pastiche book, though, lies in the fact that, since the stories are written by so many different authors, they fail somewhat in being consistent in their approach (unlike the original Canon).
So, next time, I’ll describe some of the pros and cons of two other pastiche works written specifically for the Amazon Kindle e-reader, each written by a single author.
Until then, thanking you for your attention, and wishing all of you a very Happy and Healthy New Year, I remain,
Past Columns From 2010 and Beyond