The View from Sherlock Peoria
All The Sherlock Holmes Books
A friend told me a story this week of someone who claimed they had read "all the Sherlock Holmes books." Knowing that I had penned a few obscure tomes on the subject, and how truly obscure a book on Sherlock Holmes can be, my friend had doubts as to the full truth of that statement.
All lot of people have read "all the Sherlock Holmes books" if you're limiting it to Sherlock Holmes books by A. Conan Doyle. Millions of people across generations have done so. And even if you count non-Doyle books on Holmes, if you asked that question in 1950, you probably could have found a number of people who had read every English language book about Sherlock Holmes. By 1970, the number was smaller, but I'll be such fans still existed.
The pastiche boom of the 1970s, combined with the increasing rarity of older works, probably lowered that number to one or two people by 1980. And by 1990, I would be amazed to hear of anyone who had actually read every book on Sherlock Holmes. The pastiches, the parodies, the scholarship, the kiddy books, the instructional manuals, the books of limericks . . . and on and on and on the list goes. By 1990, I would be amazed, yes, but I could still conceive of such a person existing.
Let us skip ahead to 2012.
In 2012, is there anyone who has read every Sherlock Holmes book?
I have to say "no."
Because if we thought the pastiche boom of the 1970s was something, it was but a trickling stream next to the mighty Mississippi of Holmes stories available today. You haven't heard of most of them. You probably never will.
Thanks to e-books and POD (publish on demand), anyone who decides to write a Holmes novel can do so, self publish, and have it in front of any readers they can drum up in a matter of days.
Really. Should I decide to write a Sherlock Holmes tales this weekend, caffeeine-up and brain dump a one-draft wonder into my computer, 48 Hour Books or some other company can have a box of copies in my hands before this week is out.
It's easy. Too easy, really.
My novel-in-a-weekend is liable to be unreadable crap. But it doesn't disqualify it from being "a Sherlock Holmes book." And if someone is going to claim that they have read all the Sherlock Holmes books, they now have to read it.
In 2012, anyone who had actually read ALL the Sherlock Holmes books would be as mad as a hatter. I've seen some of what was out there back when vanity publishing cost thousands of dollars, and it was enough to drive you silly. now that it's much cheaper than that, who knows what exists in those dark corners of Amazon's great lists.
Just knowing The Punishment of Sherlock Holmes found a publisher that wasn't a vanity press terrifies me as much as an H.P. Lovecraft tale. And the one reliable form of e-mail the Sherlock Peoria website has gotten over the years, more than any other, is notes from authors promoting their Sherlock Holmes books.
I'd like to see someone actually try to read ALL of the Sherlock Holmes stories. I'd also like to see someone stand in front of an oncoming semi truck on the interstate and survive. But that doesn't mean either is ever going to happen.
Such is the stuff of which legends are made.
Your humble correspondent,
Past 2012 Columns