Frankenstein and R. J. Myers’ Domination Fantasies

Sunday, January 31st, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on May 30, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

Myers Slave 2Myers Slave 1A couple weeks ago I reviewed R. J. Myers’ The Cross of Frankenstein. It was the respected political commentator’s first foray into fiction. He followed it with a sequel, 1976’s The Slave of Frankenstein and despite the promise of a third book, his only other genre efforts were a late seventies soft-core vampire title and a privately-published guide to blood-drinking as an alternative lifestyle.

I always feel a pang of guilt when I come down hard on a fellow pastiche writer. I’ve been on the receiving end of disappointed Sax Rohmer and Conan Doyle fans who felt I had no business continuing the adventures of characters they love. At the same time, I believe I have been fair and honest in my assessments when reviewing pastiches. I have the utmost respect for Joe Gores, Michael Hardwick, Cay Van Ash, and Freda Warrington as writers who tried hard to stay true to the original author in terms of style and spirit. I can still enjoy Peter Tremayne and Basil Copper who, despite falling short of the mark, can still spin an entertaining yarn. Consequently, I feel justified when I confine Myers to the lowest pit of literary Hell alongside Ian Holt and Richard Jaccoma for The Slave of Frankenstein, while a very different beast than Myers’ first effort, is equally contemptible.

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A Crossover Too Far

Friday, January 29th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Combined-ForcesBulldog_Drummond_1st_edition_cover,_1920A. J. Smithers is a respected author of fiction and non-fiction titles with a special dedication to the Clubland fiction of Dornford Yates, John Buchan, and H. C. “Sapper” McNeile. His 1983 novel, Combined Forces was subtitled Being the Latter-Day Adventures of Richard Hannay, “Bulldog” Drummond, and Berry and Co. Clubland literary scholar Richard Usborne praised the book and Smithers’ willingness to expose the dark sides of its characters’ lives. Wold Newtonians sometimes seek out this rare work because of the literary crossover within its pages. I approached the book first as a Bulldog Drummond completist and secondly as a fan of Richard Hannay.

While most people know of The Thirty-Nine Steps thanks to Alfred Hitchcock’s celebrated film version, they are unaware of how different the character of Richard Hannay is in John Buchan’s fiction. Most are unaware that Hannay appeared in a total of seven spy thriller novels by Buchan published between 1915 and 1940. Unlike many long-running series, Buchan chose to have Hannay age in real time and grow as a person as he marries and settles down and even retires. Buchan’s approach appears to have influenced some of Gerald Fairlie’s modifications to Hugh Drummond’s character and life as he continued the series after Sapper’s death.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The R-Rated Nero Wolfe

Monday, January 11th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Haig_TulipSure, I’m all about Sherlock Holmes and Solar Pons, which you are certainly aware of if you read The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes every Monday here at Black Gate (blatant self-plug). But of all the mystery (and swords and sorcery, for that matter) series that I read and love, Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe tales hold the top spot for me.

You can a get a primer on Wolfe from this post I wrote in the summer of 2014. And of course, you can buy a book and check him out first hand. I mentioned here that there are definitely Wolfean characteristics in Glen Cook’s Garret, PI series. Mystery grand master Lawrence Block (Matthew Scudder, Keller, Bernie Rhodenbarr series’ and more) tinkered with an R-rated version of Wolfe in two novels and two short stories featuring Leo Haig (Wolfe) and Chip Harrison (Archie Goodwin).

The stories don’t just emulate Wolfe and Goodwin. They specifically talk about them! As Harrison tells us in Make Out With Murder:

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: 2015 Links Compendium

Monday, January 4th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Cumberbatch

I don’t have any idea how to salvage this train wreck of a show. Do you?

So, for the first post of 2016, I think the most important thing to recognize is that I made it to the end of my second calendar year at Black Gate without getting axed (it helps that I work cheap. As in, ‘free.”). By my reckoning, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes has appeared here every single Monday morning for the past 96 weeks. As I had serious doubts that John O’Neill would even approve  a Holmes-themed column (I mean, it’s a fantasy website!), I’m pretty pleased it’s still around.

During 2015, I helped with Black Gate’s outstanding “Discovering Robert E. Howard” series, which featured guest columns from a slew of very knowledgeable folks; and there are still a couple fine posts remaining in the series. Personally, I thoroughly enjoyed putting together Part One of my history of Necromancer and Frog God Games, Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder RPG publishers extraordinaire. Part Two is pretty much written, but still needs some serious editing.

The three-part piece on Granada’s Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, starring Jeremy Brett, was a favorite and there will certainly be another in the series: likely a few more. And I even managed to have the most viewed post in a month with a look at what went wrong in season three of BBC Sherlock (sadly, my hopes that the January 1 special episode would get the franchise back on track were horribly dashed).

With a couple of extras that I wrote outside of PLoSH included, I’ve linked 54 posts from 2015 below. It’s no surprise, with the name of this column, 27 were about Sherlock Holmes or Arthur Conan Doyle. With another 5 about the best of the Holmes pastiches, Solar Pons.

Next up were 8 posts related to fantasy and 1 for science fiction. Then we’ve got 5 Hard Boiled/mystery posts and 8 miscellaneous ones.

If you’re at least a semi-regular reader of the column, I try not to write “here’s my opinion” posts. I like to share information about things I like, be it the Richard Diamond radio series or a different way to look at a Holmes story. Hopefully in 2015 you came across a topic that you either wanted to go explore a bit or that you learned a little more about. There’s lots more I plan on writing about in 2016 (can’t believe I didn’t write a single Nero Wolfe post last year!), so grab a cup of coffee and check in on Monday mornings. And thanks for reading The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes!

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R. J. Myers and the Crucifixion of Mary Shelley

Thursday, December 31st, 2015 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on May 16, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

Myers Cross 2Myers Cross 1Robert J. Myers is a study in contradictions. A veteran CIA operative, he became the publisher of The New Republic. In the mid-1970s, Myers authored two sequels to Mary Shelley’s classic, Frankenstein or: The Modern Prometheus (1818). Having a longstanding interest in literary pastiches, I tracked down these two long out-of-print titles and read the first, The Cross of Frankenstein (1975). The prolific nature of the Universal and Hammer Frankenstein movies was understandable, but the original novel has always seemed more challenging to extend – even more so than Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). Neither story demands literary sequels, nor did their authors choose to pursue them – a fact that makes the ambitions of prospective continuation authors all the more difficult to realize with any degree of success.

Mary Shelley’s original reads like a modern fable. The scientist who transgresses nature’s laws is destroyed by the abomination he brought into existence with his own hand. It is the same fable Michael Crichton fashioned nearly 200 years later into Jurassic Park. Shelley’s alternate title for the book, The Modern Prometheus is frequently forgotten, but it is critical to an understanding of how the novel differs from the 1931 Universal horror classic that imbued itself in the public consciousness. The monster of Shelley’s novel may be lacking a flat head and neck bolts, but he makes up for it in spades with his philosophical yearning for his own place in the universe and with the father/creator who abandoned him.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Solar Pons & the Dead Fishmonger

Monday, December 28th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Notebook_DossierAugust Derleth created Solar Pons as a successor to Sherlock Holmes. You know that, of course, because I’ve written about Pons several times and I mention him at the bottom of every post. A Praed Street Dossier was a collection of Pons odds and ends written by Derleth, related to the ‘Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street.’

Included were some “Notebook” entries, attributed to Dr. Parker. Derleth would write two more “Notebook” installments for The Pontine Dossier, the newsletter of the Praed Street Irregulars.

The “Notebooks” are among my favorite Pons writings by Derleth. They provide additional insights into Pons and even add a case or two to the Pontine Canon. In fact, I like them so much I have continued on with the series, including ‘Notebook’ entries in several issues of my Solar Pons Gazette. I plan on adding more.

Tongue a bit in cheek with the names, here is a case from one of my ‘Notebooks’ entries in the Gazette. While Dr. Parker included this case, he never saw fit to fully write it up and publish it, so you are likely not familiar with it.

 

20 April, 1921

“Did you see this letter in the Herald, Pons?” I asked, handing him the item of discussion. He briefly glanced at it and then tossed it aside without a word. “You don’t think much of the suggestion, then?”

Solar Pons looked at me with the trace of a smile. “I believe that you are intentionally baiting me, Parker. So be it. No, I do not believe that ‘optograms’ will aid in finding the killer of Andrew Treacher.”

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Down These Mean Streets a Pastiche Writer Goes

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

NOTE: The following article was first published on April 12, 2010. Thank you to John O’Neill for agreeing to reprint these early articles, so they are archived at Black Gate which has been my home for over 5 years and 250 articles now. Thank you to Deuce Richardson without whom I never would have found my way. Minor editorial changes have been made in some cases to the original text.

amis_colonel_sunPoodleSpringsPulp fans are united by an uncommon passion for literary authors and their creations. We read and re-read these seminal works time and again savoring each thrill as if discovering it anew. We read one another’s thoughts on these works in the hope of gaining a greater appreciation of the material or, at the very least, finding some justification for why they affect us so deeply. We dread to consider awakening to a world where there are no new tales of these characters to discover.

A small number of us set out on the precipitous path of making that dream a reality by adding to the existing canon of our favorite characters. Many of those who do so choose to work in the relative safety of fan fiction, content in the knowledge that none will judge their efforts too harshly. Fan fiction, however, is a double-edged sword for while it allows us to work free from criticism, we do so in the knowledge that none will treat our work as a legitimate continuation and that, at the end of the day, is what we all strive to achieve.

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Celebrating the 220th Anniversary of the Wold Newton Event

Sunday, December 13th, 2015 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Tarzan_bigdshal_cvr_finalI have never disguised the fact that my fiction as well as much of my reading selections have been influenced by Wold Newton scholars. Whether one enjoys delving into the deeper world of holistic literary theories or not, there is so much information to be mined and speculation to consider that one could spend a lifetime devouring all of it. One of the foremost Wold Newton scholars active today, Win Scott Eckert today launches a new website on this, the 220th anniversary of the Wold Newton Event. woldnewtonfamily.com was created to provide “accurate and factual information on the canonical works by Philip José Farmer and on deuterocanonical works authorized by Mr. Farmer or his Literary Estate.” The following article defining what exactly is a Wold Newton tale was co-authored by Mr. Eckert with his fellow distinguished scholar and continuation author, Christopher Paul Carey. Thank you to John O’Neill for kindly allowing me to reprint their work here in commemoration of this important day for Wold Newtonians.

A Wold Newton tale must involve a character whom Philip José Farmer identified as a member of the Wold Newton Family, and/or it must add to our knowledge of the secret history that Farmer uncovered, which has come to be known as the “Wold Newton Universe.” It can also be a crossover story, but that is not required.

In recent years, generic crossover stories have come to be mistakenly referred to as “Wold Newton” tales. A mere crossover is not enough. With this in mind, a primer on Farmer’s discoveries regarding the Wold Newton Family is in order.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Stanford Does Holmes and More…

Monday, November 30th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Stanford_CoverI don’t know how many Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle related books I have on my shelves. But it’s certainly several hundred. And I know almost every one of them and where they are. Some days, I like to simply pull various volumes out, look at them a bit and put them back. And once in awhile, I run across something I had forgotten about. Such happened to me as I was trying to decide what to write about this week.

Did you ever hear of the Stanford Victorian Reading Project? This admirable effort, currently on hiatus, released facsimiles of Charles Dickens and Sherlock Holmes stories. Regarding Dickens, they explored Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities and Hard Times.

I’m not much of a Dickens reader, so I’m only going to look at the Holmes project here.

You could sign up and they would send you, in the mail, free, an issue with a recreated cover from The Strand Magazine, a very short essay somehow related to Holmes or Doyle, a facsimile of a story with Sidney Paget’s illustrations, and annotations, often including a map or other picture. Quite simply, these are neat! Starting in January of 2006, I received (on a weekly basis), ”A Scandal in Bohemia,” The Speckled Band,” The Hound of the Baskervilles in nine installments, and “The Final Problem.”

Beginning in January of 2007, the sent out “The Empty House,” “Silver Blaze,” “The Musgrave Ritual,” “The Reigate Squire,” “The Greek Interpreter,” “Charles Augustus Milverton,” “The Abbey Grange,” “The Second Stain,” “The Bruce-Partington Plans,” “The Devil’s Foot,” “The Dying Detective” and “His Last Bow.”

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Vintage Treasures: The Great White Space by Basil Copper

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

The Great White Space-small The Great White Space Basil Cooper Sphere-small The Great White Space Basil Cooper-small

Basil Copper received a Lifetime Achievement Award at the World Horror Convention in 2010, and is remembered today for his short fiction (collected in the mammoth two-volume set Darkness, Mist and Shadow: The Collected Macabre Tales of Basil Copper from PS Publishing), and for his much-loved Solar Pons stories, which Bob Byrne has discussed in detail right here at Black Gate.

But he also published a handful of fondly remembered novels, such as Necropolis (1980), The House of the Wolf (1983), and Into the Silence (1983). His first novel, The Great White Space (1974), is considered one of the best Lovecraftian horror novels ever written. Valancourt Books, whose impressive horror catalog I surveyed after getting a glimpse of their glorious table at the World Fantasy Convention last year, reprinted it in a handsome trade paperback in 2013 (above right). But the copy that tumbled into my hands was the 1976 Manor Books edition (above left), which I found in a recently-acquired collection on eBay.

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