The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The “Lost” Holmes Story

Monday, September 1st, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Wanted_CosmoThere are 60 original Sherlock Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: 56 short stories and 4 novels (novellas, really). He also wrote two very short Holmes “bits” that are not included in the official Canon, though all acknowledge they are his works.

In August of 1948, the Doyle Estate added a 61st story to the official list when Cosmopolitan proclaimed  “FOUND! The Last Adventure of SHERLOCK HOMES, a hitherto unpublished story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.”

Included in that issue was “The Man Who Was Wanted,” a long lost Holmes tale from the pen of Doyle himself. Five months later, London’s Sunday Dispatch serialized it in three installments during January of 1949.

Rumors of the story’s discovery had started in 1942 and Hesketh Pearson, the man who found it while working on an authorized biography of Conan Doyle, had printed the beginning of the story and commented on it in Conan Doyle: His Life and Art.

Notable Baker Street Irregulars such as Edgar Smith, Vincent Starrett, and Anthony Boucher raised a hue and cry for the story to be published. For Sherlockians, this was on a par with the discovery of a Homeric account of the first nine years of the Trojan War!

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The Long-Awaited Return of Bulldog Drummond

Friday, August 15th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Dead Mans GateEven more than the sinister Dr. Fu Manchu, Bulldog Drummond has become more and more obscure with each passing decade. The original ten novels and five short stories penned by H. C. McNeile (better known by his pen name, Sapper) were bestsellers in the 1920s and 1930s and were an obvious and admitted influence upon the creation of James Bond. Gerard Fairlie turned Sapper’s final story outline into a bestselling novel in 1938 and went on to pen six more original novels featuring the character through 1954.

While the Fairlie titles sold well enough in the UK, the American market for the character had begun to dry up with the proliferation of hardboiled detective fiction. By the time Fairlie decided to throw in the towel, the long-running Bulldog Drummond movie series and radio series had also reached the finish line. Apart from an unsuccessful television pilot, the character remained dormant for a decade until he was updated as one of many 007 imitations who swung through a pair of campy spy movies during the Swinging Sixties. Henry Reymond adapted both 1960s screenplays for a pair of paperback originals, but these efforts barely registered outside the UK.

Fifteen years later, Jack Smithers brought Drummond out of retirement (literally) to join up with several of his clubland contemporaries in Combined Forces (1983). Smithers’s tribute was a sincere effort that found a very limited market to appreciate its cult celebration of the heroes of several generations past. Finally thirty years later, Drummond is back in the first of three new period-piece thrillers from the unlikely pen of fantasy writer Stephen Deas. In a uniquely twenty-first century wrinkle, the three new thrillers are being published exclusively as e-books by Piqwiq.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Sherlock Is Coming Back – Good or Bad?

Monday, July 28th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Sherlock_LegoAs a screen presence, Sherlock Holmes was essentially a dormant property from the nineties until 2009. Sherlock Holmes and the Vengeance of Dracula  was a hot script in 1999, with Christopher Columbus set to direct. But screenwriter Michael Valle died unexpectedly and Columbus went on to make some movies with a bunch of kid wizards in a pig school or something like that.

In 2009, Robert Downey Jr. breathed new life into the great detective in the global smash, Sherlock Holmes (worldwide gross: over a half a billion dollars! The sequel did even better).

Mark Gattis and Steven Moffat, writers on the successful Doctor Who series, decided to bring Holmes back to television, but with a twist: the setting would be modern day London. It was a HUGE success, artistically and commercially.

With references to the original stories by Doyle all over the place, including updatings of the original tales (the pilot, A Study in Pink, was a retelling of the first story, A Study in Scarlet), it was a fresh take on an old subject. And with Benedict Cumberbatch playing an obnoxious, young Holmes and likeable everyman Martin Freeman as his trusty sidekick, Watson, the three-episode series was a hit in the UK, America, and all over the world.

Season two was just as good, updating The Hound of the Baskervilles and turning The Woman, Irene Adler, into a dominatrix. Personally, after season two ended, Sherlock was one of my top five all-time favorite shows and even in a battle with Justified for the top spot.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: New Treasures: The Game’s Afoot (Wordsworth)

Monday, June 16th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Wordsworth_GamesAfootOur fearless leader, John O’Neill, has been reviewing entries in Wordsworth’s Tales of Mystery & The Supernatural series: with emphasis on the supernatural end. So…I figured I’d look at one of the mystery entries.

Sherlock Holmes: The Game’s Afoot, offers twenty new tales of the world’s first private consulting detective. The real mystery is why I couldn’t find a single reference to this book anywhere on Wordsworth’s website. Curious, indeed.

Sherlockian pastiches are meant to emulate the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original tales. As opposed to parodies, which spoof Holmes.

With the explosion of self-publishing, the quality of pastiches has come to vary wildly. There is quite a bit of dreck out there and the days of buying every Holmes story listed on Amazon are long gone.

The eleven authors who contributed to this collection worked hard to create the same kind of atmosphere Conan Doyle did. David Stuart Davies is the editor of this Wordsworth series and is a well-respected Sherlockian. He includes three of his tales. June Thomson, John Hall, Dennis O. Smith … there are some well-respected Sherlockian names in this collection.


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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: When Elric of Melnibone Came to 221B Baker Street

Monday, June 9th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Moorcock_DorsetLodgerWell, not quite. That title was just to grab your attention. But Elric’s creator did set a tale at London’s most famous address, 221B Baker Street. And it’s a pretty ‘normal’ Holmes tale; which you might not expect from the guy who created Stormbringer.

I enjoyed Fletcher Vrendenburgh’s post last week on Michael Moorcock’s Eternal Champion. I devoured the tales of Corum, Hawkmoon, Erekose, and of course Elric in my middle-school years.

Being a Dungeons and Dragons player, these books were awesome. I think I even used Rackhir the Red Archer in a game. If you’ve not read  significant parts of that saga, your fantasy education is lacking.

Moorcock’s work encompasses much more than just the Eternal Champion tales. I’m a Christian and I was fascinated by the premise of The War Hound and all the World’s Pain (an excellent read: the sequel, not so much).

I even wrote a paper on the idea for a high school religion class. That got me an invite to see the teacher, a priest, after class.

Back in 1995, Moorcock wrote “The Adventure of the Dorset Street Lodger” as a privately printed chapbook which he let friends of his, who were opening a hotel on Dorset Street, give away to their first guests.

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The Thankless World of the Continuation Author

Friday, April 4th, 2014 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

black-eyed blonde hi res cover.JPGblack_eyed_blondeDespite the title, this article is not intended as a forum for a continuation author to lament how unforgiving his critics are. Bad reviews are an inevitability and, in this instance, I’m the one bad-mouthing another continuation writer. I do not feel pangs of guilt, since the author in question is not only talented, but very successful and lauded in his industry. In other words, I’m an insignificant mouse picking on an elephant and that hopefully protects me from charges of betraying one of my own.

I recently read Benjamin Black’s The Black-Eyed Blonde, the first Philip Marlowe continuation novel in nearly 25 years. I can think of only one nice thing to say about the book and that is at long last Robert B. Parker need no longer be disparaged as the man who wrote the two worst Philip Marlowe mysteries. I am a fan of Black’s original historical mysteries, but my familiarity with his work did nothing to convince me he was a good choice to revive Raymond Chandler’s classic private eye hero, particularly when a talent such as Ace Atkins is active in the field writing new Spenser mysteries that do justice to the originals.

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Adventure on Film: Why Hollywood Gets it Wrong

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 | Posted by markrigney

star-trek-game-beams-up-in-april-2013.jpgAs I write this, April is just around the corner, and now that Hollywood’s best and brightest studios no longer know how to calculate the beginning of summer, I smell blockbuster season ripening fast on the vine. Just think, in mere weeks, we can all flock to see Star Trek: Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Wolverine, Oblivion, Pacific Rim, Elysium, and Man of Steel.

What do nearly all of these movies have in common? I’ll tell you, spoiler-free: the fate of the world will hang in the balance.

Which is why I shall be staying home –– again –– for blockbuster season. If I have learned anything in all my forays into drama, it is this: cinema offers no more boring subject, no greater snoozefest, than global peril.

Heresy, I know.

But I’m right. Here’s why.

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Pastiches ‘R’ Us (And My Two-Year Anniversary): Conan the Renegade

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

conan-the-renegadeConan the Renegade
Leonard Carpenter (Tor, 1986)

Salutations, lovers of blood and thunder and me babbling about Frederick Faust! This week marks my second anniversary as a blogger on Black Gate. I’ve now held down the Tuesday spot for two years, and I believe that this missive you are now reading is my 104th post (I missed one week, but did a double-post another week during an REH birthday celebration).

Do you know what I am going to do to celebrate? I’m going to do the exact same thing I did on my first post . . . review a Leonard Carpenter Conan pastiche novel! Because I pride myself on my ability to change and adapt with the times.

Leonard Carpenter debuted on the Conan series with Conan the Renegade, which can be summed up in two words: “mercenary adventure.” Military action takes precedence over magic and wonder; most of the story unfolds in a small area around Koth and the bordering kingdom of Khoraja (seen in “Black Colossus,” which Conan the Renegade closely follows in the chronology that Tor Books was using for the pastiches at the time), and Conan’s adventuring mostly occurs within his role as a military leader and tactician. Carpenter does toss in a few horrific fantasy events, such as an unusual combat sorcerer and an ancient dungeon copied right out of “The Scarlet Citadel,” but readers who want a dark fantasy Conan should look elsewhere. Like, uhm, “The Scarlet Citadel.”

The warfare tale follows Conan to the Kothian city of Tantusium where he joins the Free Company of the mercenary captain Hundulph. Hundulph’s men are in the pay of Ivor, a Kothian prince who has risen in revolt against his uncle King Strabonus. Among the other mercenary captains rides the enticing warrior woman Drusandra, who leads an all-female band. Conan has suspicions of Ivor’s sorcerer Agohoth, a Khitan-trained wizard. This is very weird, since Conan never has suspicions about sorcerers.

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Pastiches ‘R’ Us: Conan and the Amazon

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

081252493401lzzzzzzzConan and the Amazon
John Maddox Roberts (Tor, 1995)

You may have noticed that in my series of reviews of Conan pastiche novels, I have yet to review an entry from Roland Green.

That is correct. I have not. Noted. Moving on. . . .

Of the authors of the long-running Tor series of novels, which started with Robert Jordan’s Conan the Invincible in 1982 and concluded with Roland Green’s Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza in 1997, with Harry Turtledove’s Conan of Venarium as something of a “coda” in 2004, John Maddox Roberts is the most consistently entertaining. (I love the novels from John C. Hocking and Karl Edward Wagner, but as each man unfortunately wrote only a single book, the sample is much smaller.) Roberts was the first new author to take over when Robert Jordan retired from the series after seven books published over only three years. In the eight novels that Roberts wrote, he shows deft ability with storytelling and action scenes, and a thankful tendency not to overplay his hand and try to ape Robert E. Howard’s style. His first Conan novel, Conan the Valorous, is one of the best of the Tor series, and shows a superior handling of the barbarian’s homeland of Cimmeria than Turtledove would achieve in Conan of Venarium.

However, Roberts had his down moments, and alas he stumbled at the finish line.

Conan and the Amazon is the last of Roberts’s Conan novels. It’s also his poorest, although a plot description, the salacious promise of the title, and a great cover with a super-croc would indicate it has sword-and-sorcery joys aplenty inside.

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Pastiches ‘R’ Us: Conan of the Isles

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010 | Posted by Ryan Harvey

conan-of-the-isle-original-coverConan of the Isles
L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter (Lancer, 1968)

So far in the entries of my informal tour through the Conan pastiches—with a great guest shot from Charles Saunders on Conan the Hero—I’ve focused entirely on the “Tor Era,” the longest and most sustained period of new novels about Robert E. Howard’s Hyborian Age hero. Because of the sheer volume of books in the Tor line, which ran uninterrupted from 1982 to 1997, as well as most readers’ and reviewers’ indifference toward them, the Tor Era provides fertile ground for fresh criticism. It contains a few gems as well among the factory-line production schedule.

But I’ve neglected the earlier Conan pastiches, from publishers Lancer (Sphere in the U.K., later Ace in the U.S.) and Ballantine. Before Tor started its Conan factory with Robert Jordan’s Conan the Invincible, the world of Conan pastiches rested mostly in the hands of two men: L. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter. They filled in a “Conan Saga” that they had imagined through a constructed timeline, and this framework extended into the Tor Era as well, although turning more overstuffed and inconsistent as the books piled up and eventually the whole series put itself to sleep and Howard burst back into print.

One of the results of de Camp and Carter’s addenda to Conan’s history is the odd, uncharacteristic, yet hypnotically entertaining Conan of the Isles. Years ago I wrote a detailed review of this 1968 novel for a forum posting. I’ve pulled up that old review and done some dusting, revising, and re-thinking to present the first “Pastiches ‘R’ Us” installment that examines the controversial First Responders of the neo-Conan world.

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