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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Final Post

Monday, March 20th, 2017 | Posted by Bob Byrne


Me and my little superhero

The plan was to put up a linked index of all three years of The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes posts today, but I didn’t get it finished. Hopefully, the powers that be at Black Gate will let me post an irregular PLoSH column now and then and I’ll get that up. As well as the ‘Sherlock Holmes: A to Z’ post that never quite got written.

When I started this column three years ago, the BBC’s immensely popular Sherlock had just finished the divisive season three, from which it never recovered, and CBS’ Elementary was in season two. Sherlock seems to be done after four episodes in the past three years and the fans are still in opposing camps (love/hate). Elementary is finishing up season five with ratings way down and may well not be back for another year, though it will have run for over 100 episodes and made it to syndication.

Robert Downey Jr., who revived the onscreen life of Holmes with his 2009 movie (and a 2011 sequel) is in the early stages of a third Holmes big screen effort. If Sherlock and Elementary truly are done, then the Downey Jr. movie may jumpstart Holmes in the public culture, though many fans don’t like his action hero portrayal.

The Estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sued, and lost, to have Holmes declared under copyright. He and Watson, and the stories before The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, remain in the public domain.

A Holmes short story, supposedly written by Doyle, was discovered. Its provenance remains doubtful. Quite.

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories series, edited by my friend David Marcum, has produced six volumes, with more in the works (I’m in volumes three through six so far). Volume VII will push the collection over two hundred new Holmes stories. It’s not nearly done yet.

That’s a lot of Holmes activity going on.

Having sold Black Gate on the need for a mystery column at a fantasy website (don’t minimize my skill in pulling that one off!), they proceeded to let me roam all over the place. Naturally, I wrote about Solar Pons. And other great detectives like Nero Wolfe and Hercule Poirot and…

I indulged in my love of hard boiled private eye fiction and intend to write more posts about that genre. I have an essay in the upcoming second issue of the relaunched Black Mask. Yep – I got to write for the legendary Black Mask. Me and Dashiell Hammett!

I wrote about fantasy, Humphrey Bogart, the great John D. MacDonald – even the Beach Boys. And putting together the Discovering Robert E Howard series was quite a treat. I learned a whole lot about REH from our awesome guest posts.

Black Gate was a place I could write about gaming and RPGs and I’ve definitely got more of those coming. That’s been a life-long interest.

All this means that I thoroughly enjoyed getting to write the Monday morning post here at Black Gate. And hopefully some of the stuff I like was some of the stuff you readers liked as well. Putting up a post and seeing comments about it has been extremely rewarding. Of course, the BG crowd is quite well-behaved – it’s not like FB. There a slew of excellent bloggers here at Black Gate and I look forward to reading more great stuff from them. This is a top flight site. You know — a World Fantasy Award winning one. And I wrote mystery stuff…

And in spite of this post’s title, like Doyle with Holmes, I don’t think you’ve seen the last of The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes moniker…

Bob Byrne’s ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ column ran every Monday morning at Black Gate from March 10, 2014 through March 20, 2017.

He founded, the only website dedicated to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street’ and blogs about Holmes and other mystery matters at Almost Holmes.

He has contributed stories to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Parts III, IV and V (and the upcoming VI).


  1. Another fine column, Bob. I’ll be keeping my eye out for future ones, in hopes they appear. Thanks for all the time and effort you’ve put into these columns.

    Comment by R.K. Robinson - March 20, 2017 1:01 pm

  2. I’m indeed hoping that the “final Post” is as final as the death of Holmes at Rossbach Falls – that is, not final at all. Thanks for the outstanding work, Bob!

    Comment by Thomas Parker - March 20, 2017 1:44 pm

  3. You’ll be missed. I was looking forward to your thoughts on Hammett’s the Continental Op which I can never get enough of being a bit jealous that Sam Spade gets all the attention. My father got me started on Travis McGee -he had left a copy of The Turqouise Lament laying around the house when I was on leave and bored and the summer of 1975 became a Travis McGee month catching up to The Dreadul Lemon Sky. As to Sherlock Holmes I have liked but was never in LOVE with him. However put me on the side of enjoying the BBC Sherlock mostly because he kept continually surprising me by what it wasn’t doing. Never gave Elementary a fair shake. Slowly catching up with Solar Pons-his paperbacks from the 70s aren’t as easy to find as I thought they would be what with rent and electricity being a bit more of a priority then collecting–sigh. All the best to your future endeavors.

    Comment by Allard - March 20, 2017 1:48 pm

  4. Bob: “Having sold Black Gate on the need for a mystery column at a fantasy website (don’t minimize my skill in pulling that one off!), they proceeded to let me roam all over the place.”

    I’ll say! I broached the possibility of covering some Hard Case Crime books a few years ago with O’Neill. He put the kabosh on that–“This is fantasy site James!” he said. But, lo and behold a few years later I see Bob Byrne post occasionally covering Hard Case Crime books. Dang it!

    Comment by James McGlothlin - March 20, 2017 2:33 pm

  5. James – See, I tricked him by putting it up as a Holmes deal, then I kept creeping beyond the confines of Baker Street.

    I’ve got a HCC review copy of the double Gregory MacDonald book they just put out. I read a couple Fletch books years ago and liked his humorous style. Just need to read this new one…

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 20, 2017 3:27 pm

  6. Allard – I’ve never thought about the Op in an organized fashion: Such as to write a post about him. But I LOVE those stories and have re-read most more than once. I’d take them over Marlowe in a heartbeat.

    The Pons books have been far too long out of print. Those Pinnacle paperbacks (which are what I use) are almost fifty years old now! I heard that there has been some progress on a reissue from a new imprint. Don’t know how far along that may actually be.

    John MacD – my favorite author of them all. I love McGee and I love most of the stand alones.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 20, 2017 3:33 pm

  7. Thanks Thomas and R.K.. As I said a couple weeks ago, I was struggling to meet a weekly deadline and maintain some level of quality (opinions vary!). But I still want to write some posts on mystery and fantasy-related subjects. So, I’m not done here yet.

    Just looking at my mystery shelves, there are a lot of topics I never got around to, like James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux, Hugh B. Cave’s Peter Kane, Joe Gores, more Holmes movies, Frederic Nebel…yet!

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 20, 2017 3:37 pm

  8. Frederick Nebel–yes—more insights. Altus Books has done the world a service by getting his Cardigan and Kennedy and McBride series out. Fiction Mags Index (an offshoot of Galctic Central for pulp covers and amgazines) has a huge checklist which can be read in chronological order or alphabetical. An author fully deserving more recognition. (P.S. John K. Buler is a guilty pleasure.)Both are the reason I have a small (40 some issues of Dime Detective which is just as hard to find as Balck Mask or old Weird Tales.

    Comment by Allard - March 20, 2017 5:08 pm

  9. I hope the first RPG you delve into is a good detective one. Your insights to the character were the best. I read a Howard Andrew Jones post talking about the Dabirand Asim connection to Holmes and Watson and it sparked my interests in your posts which led to me reading Doyle’s stories and the Sherlock Cthulhu anthologies. Your posts on REH were fantastic. All I can deliver to you is my thanks and a ::::salute:::

    Comment by Wild Ape - March 20, 2017 5:30 pm

  10. Years ago, I discovered Cardigan and the other Dime Detective authors in an anthology. I’m a big Nebel fan.

    The head of Altus is the same guy reviving Black Mask, Argosy and third mag I can’t recall. A post on Altus was another one I never quite got around to.

    And I re-read the first five Max Thursday books from Wade Miller but never wrote up the post. Another under-appreciated hardboiled author.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 20, 2017 8:28 pm

  11. Thanks Ape.

    Are you reading Lovegrove’s Holmes/Cthulhu trilogy? Book two is due out later this year. I liked the first one and am looking forward to the followup.

    I really liked the Dabir short story collection. And then I read Howard’s Pathfinder books. He’s a darn good writer and a heck of a blogger.

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 20, 2017 8:41 pm

  12. This has been one of my favorite columns over the last couple of years. I’ve learned quite a lot. I hope you continue to write about mystery here. I think it adds a needed view on genre writing.

    Comment by darangrissom - March 21, 2017 1:32 am

  13. Thanks drangrissom. I really appreciate that comment. I’ve told John O’Neill several times that my main goal was to tell folks about something they might not know. Hopefully interest them to check something out, like Cool and Lam or Frank Thomas’ Holmes stories.

    Like about every other blogger, I wish I didn’t have a full time job. I’ve got enough ideas for posts to fill up my days writing them! So, I’m sure there will be more.

    Every time I watch an episode of Murdoch Mysteries (I’m on season six), I think about a post for Black Gate…

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 21, 2017 7:19 am

  14. Bob,

    I have to admit I had reservations when you pitched the idea of a Sherlock-themed blog series. But boy, did you deliver. And in the process, you helped broaden the very definition of what Black Gate was all about. No small feat!

    I’m sorry to see The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes come to a close, but I certainly understand — more than anyone! — the pressures of a regular column. But you better not give up your semi-regular gaming columns, or Black Gate might not recover.

    One final question, concerning the picture that accompanies this final post. Are you the guy on the left, or the guy on the right? Asking for a friend.

    Comment by John ONeill - March 21, 2017 10:32 pm

  15. Thanks boss! Since my personal blog gets about five hits a month if I’m lucky, I’ll definitely be posting here.

    Well, the last time I wore my Batman costume around the neighborhood peeking in windows looking for The Joker, several folks called the police, so it’s just Holmes costumes for me now…

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 22, 2017 7:45 am

  16. You had a very good run, Bob. I enjoyed it.

    Regarding Nebel and Cardigan… That’s one of my favorite PI series. To me, it reads a lot like if Robert E. Howard had honed his detective fic skills and created another character.

    Comment by deuce - March 22, 2017 11:50 am

  17. Thanks Deuce.

    I’m not saying Nebel was Hammett, but I think he was near the top of the next tier. I just really enjoy his style. I definitely prefer Cardigan to MacBride and Kennedy, but I do like them.

    I’ve not read Nebel’s adventure stuff, though I’d like to some day. I suspect it may bring to mind El Borak – which I LOVE.

    I don’t have all the Cardigan collections from Altus yet (ebook), but that’s on the “Must Do” list.

    Maybe now I’ll carve out the time to write that ‘God in the Bowl as a police procedural’ piece for TGR!

    Comment by Bob Byrne - March 22, 2017 12:27 pm

  18. When I read my first Nebel/Cardigan story I wasn’t expecting that much, then…BAM! Just really well-written. I also need to track down some of his non-PI stuff. I might have to ask Don Herron about Nebel sometime.

    Lemme know on that GitB thing.

    Comment by deuce - March 23, 2017 5:00 pm

  19. You can count on me reading Lovegrove’s Holmes/Chthulhu series. My son lifted my copy and read it before I did and then returned back thinking I didn’t miss it. I found out that he has my book wishlist and my birthday is coming up. If it ends up with his book pile or mine I’m reading it first.

    Comment by Wild Ape - March 25, 2017 11:49 am

  20. I’m going to miss your posts, Bob, they were the highlight of my week.

    Comment by Violette Malan - April 27, 2017 9:01 am

  21. Thanks Violette!

    I’m still be around, though likely all over the map regarding topics. I’m working on a Tolkien post right now. I’d dig into The Silmarillion for months on end if I had the time.

    And as usual, John D. MacDonald is calling to me yet again. Ulysses had a better chance of resisting the sirens than me to stay away from JDM!

    Comment by Bob Byrne - April 27, 2017 9:32 am

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