In which Sherlock Holmes goes canonical with MX Publishing, goes speculative with Belanger Books, and finally goes downright supernatural with Willie Meikle. We also call in on Vernon Loder’s 1928 classic murder novel The Mystery at Stowe, and revisit The Department of Dead Ends by Roy Vickers. So today’s article is for anyone who like a good crime or detective story. Unless you insist it has to be set on the mean streets of Glasgow with an alcoholic Scottish police officer barely hanging on to his job. We might have one of those in a later article, mind you…
The Great Detective
So, first out of the cells is Sherlock Holmes, with two huge collections of new Holmes tales coming up this Autumn. In the interests of full disclosure, we note that John Linwood Grant, the old reprobate, has stories in both, but you can always pull his stories out and feed them to the cat.
The ideas behind these particular anthologies were too cool to miss out on, which is why he chanced it. Authentic Holmes with a special twist, and a new version of Wellsian fiction. Who could resist?
1) Eliminate The Impossible
For MX Publishing, the Holmes scholar and editor David Marcum has put together two volumes of new stories under the title Eliminate the Impossible. These are Volumes VII and VIII of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – forty eight new tales specially written for Halloween.
All the stories are set in the canonical world of the great detective, with the stimulating proviso that these are cases which initially appear to have some supernatural element – until Holmes is through with them. JLG contributed ‘The Second Life of Jabez Salt’, a curious tale about a hanged man who has apparently returned to threaten those who turned on him…
Royalties will go to Stepping Stones, a school for children with learning difficulties) for specific projects such as the new literary program. The Kickstarter has already exceeded its goals, but if you want to take up one of the offers, you’ll find it here, along with details of the authors:
2) In the Realms of H G Wells
Our second Holmes for the day is another anthology with a somewhat different approach. Derrick Belanger and C. Edward Davis have collected more than twenty exciting tales which take Holmes into the imaginative realms of H G Wells.
Drawing on Wells’s speculative stories, here our detective hero has to consider some truly strange conundrums which take him out of his usual zone. Although Conan Doyle and Wells had their occasional differences, you would hope they might appreciate a work which explores both their creations.
This, like Eliminate the Impossible, is a two volume anthology, with a wealth of wonders. Have the Martians returned – or did they ever leave? What altered beasts dwell in the shadows? And what could Cavor’s last words from the moon really mean? The anthology includes ‘The Affair of the Red Opium’, a novelette by greydog. Gosh.
- The Case of a Natural Selection by M. M. Elmendorf
- The Pigeon’s Rest by Emma Tonkin
- The Curious Case of the Sleeper by Steve Herczeg
- The Manor House Horror by Michael Siverling
- An Adventure in Darkness by Daniel D. Victor
- The Adventure of the Traveler’s Bootstraps by William Campbell Powell
- The Mystery of the Last Martian by G. C. Rosenquist
- The Affair of the Red Opium by John Linwood Grant
- The Adventure of the Invisible Man by David Friend
- A Matter of Some Gravity by Derrick Belanger
- The Adventure of the Red Planet by Steve Poling
- The Clash of the Miracle Men by Rohit Sawant
- The First Selenites on the Earth by Derek Nason
- The Martian Spy-Glass by Jaap Boekestein
- The Adventure of the Beastly Excisions by Benjamin Langley
- The Adventure of the Disintegrated Man by Michael T. Wells
- Sherlock Holmes and The New Accelerator by Mark Levy
- A Trap to Catch the Sun by Andrew Lane
- The Misplaced Mystery Writer by Richard Paolinelli
- The Beast Within by Katie Magnusson
- Dr. Watson and the Martians by C. Edward Davis
(Bonus Story if Kickstarter meets Stretch Goal)
Sherlock Holmes in the Realms of H G Wells will be launched via Kickstarter in October, and published before Christmas by Belanger Books. We’ll keep you posted.
3) The Dreaming Man
Thirdly in our Holmes news, we have the pleasure to publish a special review by Dave Brzeski, in which he reports for us on Willie Meikle’s book, Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man, out from Gryphonwood Press earlier this year. This seemed a good point to mention it, and yep, in this one the detective openly meet the supernatural.
Dave Brzeski writes:
I have to confess that I have a bit of a history with this book. When the first part was initially published on its own as Sherlock Holmes: Revenant in 2011, I picked up a review pdf… but I didn’t get around to it. I actually bought a signed paperback copy at Fantasycon in 2012, but still didn’t read it. Them in 2013 it was reissued as a bonus story in the collection, Sherlock Holmes: The Quality of Mercy and Other Stories in 2013 and again I managed to get a review pdf from the author. Nope, still didn’t find the time.
Now ‘Revenant’ has been reissued once again, but this time as the first half of the novel, Sherlock Holmes: The Dreaming Man. Yet again I was supplied with a review copy, this time on Kindle. Unwilling to face the potential embarrassment of not getting around to reviewing it yet again, I decided I’d better prioritise it.
I’ve read quite a few post-Conan Doyle Sherlock Holmes stories – I’ve even edited several. I can’t deny the fact that I have at times expressed some concern over the sheer number of Sherlock Holmes supernatural adventures that have seen print over the last several years. I felt there was a very real danger that they could soon outnumber the canonical styled tales. This does not mean that I’m automatically biased against supernatural Holmes stories, just that they really need to be very good.
There’s another element that I generally do not want to see in a new Holmes adventure—Moriarty! Yes, he’s always been regarded as Holmes’ greatest adversary, but he only appeared in two of the original stories. It has sadly proven near impossible for the many authors who’ve followed in the wake of Conan Doyle to resist using Moriarty to an extent that’s only rivalled by Jack the Ripper.
William Meikle has not only given us a supernatural Holmes story, but it also involves Moriarty—I hope no one considers this too much of a spoiler, but I figure anyone who can’t work out exactly who is referred to in the blurb, “A fall is coming, a fall that has haunted Holmes’ dreams, and now must be faced again, in the place where past and present become one, and two old foes meet for a final battle.”, has likely never heard of Sherlock Holmes or Moriarty.
I’m a fan of Meikle’s work, so I didn’t let myself be put off. Just as well, as this is possibly the best Sherlock Holmes supernatural adventure I’ve read to date, if not one of the best post-Conan Doyle stories of any sort.
Any misgivings I may have held about the supernatural elements of the story were soon dispelled. Meikle treats the supernatural in a very scientific way, which makes it much easier to stomach Holmes’ reluctant acceptance. It works so much better than the endless re-imaginings of the Hound of the Baskervilles as a werewolf tale. ‘Revenant’ is very good, the new material, “The Dreaming Man” is even better.
I’ve yet to read Meikle’s Concordances of the Red Serpent, or Augustus Seton Collected Chronicles, both of which are referenced here, but I hope to find time to rectify that soon. Seton in particular is a major player in this story which cleverly ties in Sherlock Holmes to the author’s own Meikleverse characters and concepts.
I recommend this book very highly to any one who fancy seeing how Holmes and Watson might cope with a case which does not lend itself so easily to a rational explanation. This is not to say I didn’t find any faults. When I’ve edited new Sherlock Holmes books, I tend to keep a copy of the complete stories open on my desktop, so I can check the dialogue against that of Conan Doyle. Willie Meikle has a tendency to overuse a mild pejorative, “bally”, that was never present in the original adventures. When I have to resort to that level of nitpicking to balance an overly positive review, I must really like the book!
(Dave Brzeski is a regular reviewer and editor of things strange, pulpish and/or arcane, as well as being an editor for the magazine Occult Detective Quarterly)
You can find copies of the book in various formats through these links:
Stowe It, You Chaps
If you want a break from the consulting detective, then why not spend time with an ex-Colonial Administrator who is really after the girl. In Vernon Loder’s The Mystery at Stowe (1928), the amateur sleuth Jim Carton doesn’t turn up until page 57, and his main motivation is to clear suspicion from his childhood sweetheart. Not quite Conan Doyle. Carton both annoys and interests the police officers as they go about their investigation, and is looked on with doubt by most of the participants in general. Even his sweetheart is uncooperative – but why?
The Mystery at Stowe was the first of twenty two novels by Vernon Loder, who was really a chap called John George Hazlette Vahey (1881-1938). Vahey also wrote under the pseudonym John Haslette from 1909 to 1916, including The Mesh (1912), and used few other names besides – even Henrietta Clandon.
We decided to include it on greydogtales because it’s rollicking good fun, a great example of classic crime fiction, with a cast rather too large to remember most of the time. In addition, the suspect is a bold female explorer, expert in using poisoned Amazonian weapons, the murder victim has a dart in her back, and no one can work out how any of it happened.
Cue 200 pages of misdirection, and a most peculiar solution, which one commentator described as ‘borderline genius yet utterly insane’ – well, we just had to mention the book. Our only warning is that you need to get through the first couple of chapters and all the many people littering the house party before it gets into its stride. More a Poirot-type gathering than a Holmesian one.
There are no ghosts or Martians here, by the way. It may be something to order from the library for a laugh – we’re not pretending it’s anything more than a satisfying bit of Golden Age mystery. Should you want your own copy, it’s on Amazon.
The Inverted Detective
Finally, a brief reminder of a book we covered some time ago, The Department of Dead Ends by Roy Vickers. Our initial mention of this detective oddity was here:
As we said at the time, The Rubber Trumpet, the first of Vicker’s thirty-seven stories featuring the fictitious Department of Dead Ends, appeared in Pearson’s Magazine in September 1934.
Partial collections of the stories were later made in 1947, 1949, and 1978. We have the 1978 Dover Edition, introduced by E F Bleiler (who also edited science fiction and fantasy fiction anthologies).
A friend of ours, Nina Zumel, has recently written up her own take on the collected stories, including discussion of the ‘inverted mystery’ concept. Her article is well worth a read.
“The bulk of each story focuses on the crime and its background: what makes the murderer tick, what drove them to what they did. The narration is omniscient and rather distant, and tends to read a bit like a non-fiction true crime article in The New Yorker or The Atlantic. In fact, Vickers worked for a while as a journalist on the crime beat, as well as a court reporter. As in real life, the crimes are messy and often unpremeditated, the solutions less brilliant deduction than luck plus legwork and the ability to remember things and put them together.”
You can find the whole piece on her site here:
Enough detective stuff for today. We’re away for a few days, but will be back later next week with the usual irrational mixtures of literature, lurchers and life…