The View from the East End
One of the best decisions I have ever made was to purchase my Amazon Kindle e-reader last year, and I just can’t say enough about it! I can download all sorts of books without their accompanying weight and bulk, and without taking up any shelf space. My collection of hardback books is quite modest, but, to be sure, I see little point in cutting down more trees to expand it, or to make more lumber to support it!
Enter my Amazon Kindle e-reader
Quite naturally, as a Sherlockian, my first foray into the world of e-books was the purchase of the Canon. There are several versions of this out there and I bought two of them. Although the Kindle reader is a boon to any serious book lover, there are some downsides to the technology. As a newcomer, it appears to me that what they do is to transpose the hardcopy books into a readable computer format, perhaps using some sort of scanner. Any errors in the scanning process appear as misspelled words or punctuation marks, etc. in the electronic version of the book.
The most serious problems appear to be in the actual formatting of an Amazon e-reader book. Sometimes, it is quite easy to navigate (to find any particular spot) in an e-book, and sometimes it is extremely difficult, depending upon the way that the e-book is created. This varies greatly from book to book, and is a formidable source of confusion.
This is why I purchased two versions of the Canon from Amazon. One version is “text only”, but it is quite easy to navigate to any story in the Canon, via a table of contents. The other version has much more detail (including the illustrations by Sidney Paget), but is incredibly difficult to navigate back and forth between all the stories. As Sherlockians, we realize how important it is to be able to do this, since scion meetings often discuss various stories in no particular order (much as a minister might do skipping around between various chapters in the Bible when delivering his sermons).
Thus, it occurred to me that whoever put together some of these Amazon e-books had the idea that a user will always start at page one and continue onwards through the entire book until they get to the end. This approach might work well for novels, but not for Bibles or for the Canon! I submitted a review or two to Amazon to address this issue, and suggested a workaround for it that users might use.
These works are currently not available in the Kindle e-reader format, but might be at some future date, depending upon demand.
Anyway . . . on to the Pastiche
One pastiche work I purchased and downloaded onto my Kindle is entitled “The Legends of Sherlock Holmes” by M.J. Elliot (Kenwood Press 9-20-11) ASIN# B005OKTF1Q
Note that “ASIN” is a code known as the “Amazon Standard Identification Number”, (similar to the ISBN or “International Standard Book Number”). See this link for an explanation: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASIN
This work consists of five stories, each of which has some very interesting, but somewhat complex, plot lines. Mr. Elliot is a very accomplished writer with a lot of credits, and appears to be quite a fan of the Canon. Although his stories are well presented, there are a number of typos, etc. within the work, perhaps as the result of spell checkers missing words that are correctly spelled, but unintended. I have read his stories a few times, but I somehow still get the feeling that he is “trying too hard” to provide some continuation within the original Canonical tales. His stories frequently refer to Canonical characters from Watson’s work and seem to degenerate into a sort of Canonical “name-dropping” in order to present some sort of credibility in this continuation.
That being said, he provides a credible version of “The Amateur Mendicant Society” (despite his unnecessary use of Sir James Damery), and I found his tale about Watson’s friend Thurston to be very interesting.
The other Kindle pastiche work that I purchased and downloaded is entitled “The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes”. This is a work written by Tony Reynolds (MX Publishing 11-29-10) ISBN# 978-1-907685-61-3, ASIN# B004A154MO, is illustrated by Chris Coady, and it has a few interesting twists.
Mr. Reynolds purports that due to the death of his grandmother (who was related to John H. Watson, M.D.), his father came into possession of a number of Dr. Watson’s papers, which he then turned over to him for examination. These papers contained many notes of cases, and also a number of stories that Watson completed but did not publish with the original Canonical series, ostensibly to “respect the privacy of Holmes’s clients, but sometimes for other ends such as to conceal facts from the authorities or to meet the demands of state security”.
Reynolds goes on to say that, “As all the parties involved are long dead, I am of the opinion that these reasons are no longer cogent and I have selected eight of the [cases] to make up this volume. I hope these will serve to cast more light on the methods and genius of the great detective and on the assistance he received from his steadfast friend; my forebear, Dr. John Watson”.
For these reasons, he published this work consisting of eight stories as written by John H. Watson, M.D. with himself as the editor. This is tremendously credible, and is certainly well within the boundaries of “The Game” we Sherlockians love to play!
Again, without going into details which would give away any of the plots, these stories include a satisfying version of “The Giant Rat of Sumatra” plus seven other cases, most of which are reasonably faithful to the Canonical style we are used to reading. Further, the illustrations by Chris Coady would make Sidney Paget proud! They are very consistent with the original Canonical series, including the style of his initials on them.
Although there are still some (perhaps irresistible) attempts to provide continuation within the original Canon, Reynolds’s work does not feel as “forced” as Elliot’s in order to accomplish this. You would have to read both of these pastiches to see what I mean.
In spite of the generally Canonical approach by this author, I found that his eighth story, although very un-canonical (Holmes and Watson snowed in at Christmas with some of Holmes’s family), to be very interesting. It combines both familiar and unfamiliar Sherlockian elements into an Agatha Christie-like “whodunit” which leaves the reader feeling both very satisfied, and hopeful, that Reynolds will release even more tales of Watson’s unpublished cases in the future!
By this time, my brief sojourns into paper and electronic versions of this genre have led me to conclude that Sherlockian pastiche is a lot like pizza:
When it’s good, it’s very good!
And, when it’s not so good . . . well . . . it’s still pretty good, anyway. :-)
Until next time, when we will once again take up another LESK analysis, and thanking you for your attention, I remain, as always,
Past Columns From 2010 and Beyond