The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Vincent Starrett on the Great Detective

Monday, August 29th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Starrett_PenzlerbooksOtto Penzler is a larger than life name in the mystery field. He is the man behind New York City’s ‘Mysterious Bookstore’ as well as the Mysterious Press (Nero Wolfe’s current imprint!). He’s a true mystery maven. You can read about his recent The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories here.  From 1993 through 1995, under the Otto Penzler Books imprint, he reissued nine hard-to-find works of Sherlockiana.

The Otto Penzler Sherlock Holmes Library consists of the following books, originally published between 1906 and 1967:

221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes — Vincent Starrett
Baker Street By-Ways — James Edward Holroyd
Baker Street Studies — Ed. By H.W. Bell
Holmes & Watson — S.C. Roberts
My Dear Holmes — Gavin Brend
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes — Vincent Starrett
Holmes & Company — John Kendrick Bangs
Seventeen Steps to 221B — Ed. By James Edward Holroyd
Sherlock Holmes: Fact or Fiction? — T.S. Blakeney

Bear in mind, every bit of anything you ever wanted to know wasn’t available on the internet back when Penzler republished these books. Heck, the Baker Street Journal wasn’t even available as a collection on CD yet. This collection of Sherlockiana was uncommon for the time. Some entries are better than others, but they are all an affectionate part of my Sherlockian bookshelf (except, maybe for Bangs’ book).

Read on for reviews of the two Vincent Starrett entries in the series. You may remember reading his outstanding introduction to the first Solar Pons collection.

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An Epic Finale for Ancient Opar

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

BOAO-cover-small2Hadon-front-final1Over forty years ago, Philip Jose Farmer published a pair of officially sanctioned books recounting the history of ancient Opar, the lost civilization familiar to readers of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan novels. Opar was the first of the author’s lost cities that survived undiscovered in the African jungle until the noble apeman came along. Burroughs’ lost civilizations, like his alien worlds, were fantastic places of adventure that allowed the author to sharpen his satiric blade and skewer organized religion and politics alike.

Farmer, in notable contrast, was interested in using Burroughs’ concepts as a springboard for more realistic and decidedly more adult adventures. Farmer’s histories are peopled with conquerors and king-makers who are not just noble savages, but also savage rapists and murderers. His Opar novels opened Tarzan fans’ eyes to the antediluvian kingdom of Khokarsa. While the sword & sorcery boom of the 1960s and 1970s flooded bookshelves with immoral and amoral barbarians, Farmer set his work apart by treating the material as realistically as possible. His characters die tragically and sometimes prematurely. Sexual intercourse leads to unplanned pregnancies that alter people’s lives as it changes the course of a kingdom’s destiny.

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New Treasures: Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone by G.S Denning

Friday, July 15th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Warlock Holmes-smallBob Byrne, our Monday blogger who posts under The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes byline, is our go-to Holmes guy. But even can’t report on all the Sherlockian developments these days, which is why I’m here to tell you about G.S Denning’s new book Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone, released in trade paperback by Titan Books in May. Robert Brockway (The Unnoticeables) give us the details:

What if Sherlock Holmes wasn’t a brilliant detective, but an awkward magician with prophetic fits? What if Scotland Yard was staffed by vampires and ogres? And above all, what if it was funny? Warlock Holmes should have you from the title alone, but if it doesn’t, know that it’s full of charm, humor and demons. Lots of demons.

Humor is hard — and especially humor at length. I can count the number of truly funny novels I’ve read on one hand. But I enjoy a good parody, and this collection of humorous Sherlock pastiches with a dark fantasy twist looks like it would fit the bill nicely.

Sherlock Holmes is an unparalleled genius who uses the gift of deduction and reason to solve the most vexing of crimes. Warlock Holmes, however, is an idiot. A good man, perhaps; a font of arcane power, certainly. But he’s brilliantly dim. Frankly, he couldn’t deduce his way out of a paper bag. The only thing he has really got going for him are the might of a thousand demons and his stalwart flatmate. Thankfully, Dr. Watson is always there to aid him through the treacherous shoals of Victorian propriety… and save him from a gruesome death every now and again.

An imaginative, irreverent and addictive reimagining of the world’s favorite detective, Warlock Holmes retains the charm, tone and feel of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle while finally giving the flat at 221b Baker Street what it’s been missing for all these years: an alchemy table.

Reimagining six stories, this riotous mash-up is a glorious new take on the ever-popular Sherlock Holmes myth, featuring the vampire Inspector Vladislav Lestrade, the ogre Inspector Torg Grogsson, and Dr. Watson, the true detective at 221b. And Sherlock. A warlock.

Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone was published by Titan Books on May 17, 2016. It is 336 page, priced at $14.95 in trade paperback and $7.99 for the digital version.


Kurt Busiek’s Astro City. Also Joyce, Hemingway, Faulkner, and a Tangent on Modernism

Monday, July 11th, 2016 | Posted by Nick Ozment

Astro_City_A_Visitors_Guide_Vol_1_1This is mostly an homage to Kurt Busiek and Astro City, and to one story in particular, but buckle in because we’re going to cover a lot of rambling ground getting there in a sort of stream-of-consciousness way, taking in stuff by random association — sort of like the streets of Astro City itself…

Kurt Busiek’s Astro City is one of my favorite superhero comics. It consistently delivers brilliant, funny, poignant, human stories in a colorful, wonderfully idiosyncratic comic-book world. It is Busiek’s magnum opus — like Bendis’s Powers, it towers above his other work for the big publishers using their branded characters. He brings the sensibilities he honed in the groundbreaking Marvel miniseries Marvels to his own universe and, beneath all the ZAP! BANG! POW!, weaves tales you will never forget.

What Marvels did that was so fresh in 1994 is it “lowered the camera” from the god-like supers knocking each other through buildings and focused in on the ordinary humans down here at street level, wide-eyed and slack-jawed, watching it happen. What impact did the existence of such powers have on their day-to-day lives?

In Astro City the camera is completely unfettered, ranging to the heights to reveal very human dramas among people who have the power to level cities and then zooming down to the alleys to follow a day in the life of a two-bit petty thief who is really a pretty ordinary, decent human being (with the exception that his skin is covered with a steel alloy). Through the course of following Carl Donewicz, aka Steeljack — in the classic story “The Tarnished Angel” — we come to sympathize with and like him, and even find ourselves rooting for him: just once, could one of his heists go off without a hitch and not be foiled by The Jack-in-the-Box? And in Astro City, where narratives don’t always follow the comic-book formula, he does have his day. A fun, feel-good story, that one.

And then there are Astro City stories that rip your heart out. “The Nearness of You,” I contend, is among the great American short stories of the late twentieth century, and I think it could be anthologized as such. (Wizard Magazine does rank it number 6 on their list of “100 Greatest Single Issue Comic Books Since You Were Born.”) Publishers these days would have no problem formatting a four-color comic story into their prose collections. But should they? It is, after all, a comic book.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu, Part One

Sunday, June 12th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

MOKF15Special Mavel Edition is a little remembered comics reprint title of the early 1970s. Its fifteenth and penultimate issue dated December 1973 featured the debut of a new series, Master of Kung Fu. Marvel’s timing was perfect as Bruce Lee was now a major star at the U.S. box office and David Carradine’s Kung Fu series was a critical and ratings success on the small screen.

Marvel had optioned the rights to Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu characters several years before when Pyramid paperback reprints of the 13 Rohmer novels were selling strong thanks to the popularity of the Christopher Lee film series. Marvel already had their own Fu Manchu clones in the form of the Yellow Claw and the Mandarin, but Master of Kung Fu gave them the opportunity to build a contemporary martial arts title out of a sequel to Rohmer’s highly influential thriller series.

Conceived by Steve Englehart and Jim Starlin, the decision to incorporate Sax Rohmer’s characters was at the insistence of Marvel editor Roy Thomas. Englehart enlisted the aid of Robert E. Briney, publisher and editor of The Rohmer Review fanzine to ensure the continuity was consistent with Rohmer’s long-running literary series.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The MX Anthologies – All the Holmes You Need

Monday, June 6th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

MXSeries_4

Hot off the presses!

David Marcum and I email each other. A lot! It is sort of a modern version of the HP Lovecraft – Robert E. Howard letter swapping. Without the gravitas. And the weirdness. And the literary importance. And the…oh, never mind. One Thursday afternoon in January of 2015, he sent me an email about a dream that he had had the previous night.

The dream (and the email) was about putting together a multi-author anthology of traditional Sherlock Holmes stories. As David typed, “There would be no weird Alternate Universe or present-day stuff, no Holmes-is-the-Ripper, nothing where Watson is at Holmes’s funeral or vice-versa. Etc. Essentially nothing that shockingly contradicts what is in the Canon.”

Earlier that morning, he had emailed Steve Emecz, his publisher at MX Books, about the idea. From that dream was born the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. Except more authors signed on and it grew to two books: then to three. Then came another volume in 2016. And a fifth, containing only Christmas stories, and a sixth, are on their way! In fact, I should be finishing my Christmas tale right now, not writing this post.

The four volumes have contained ten introductions/forewords/essays, five poems and over eighty new stories. That’s EIGHTY Holmes short stories (including a couple of plays) making their first book appearances in this series. I read Holmes stories at a pretty heavy pace and I’m still working my way through these volumes.

The first three books came out as a trilogy, split into time periods (1881-1889, 1890-1895 and 1896-1929). Volume IV followed as the ‘2016 Annual’ and it is expected that there will be at least one new collection yearly into the foreseeable future.

And every single author participating has donated their royalties to the restoration of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former home, Undershaw, which, when completed, will be a part of Stepping Stones, a school for children with learning disabilities. As my sister Carolyn is severely mentally retarded, I can appreciate the generosity of every one of my fellow authors. Actions like this matter.

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The Abuses of Public Domain Fiction

Monday, May 2nd, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

cover225x225publicdomainPublic domain is a tricky issue. We all know the horror stories of a certain  bloodsucking literary estate who clings to the last remaining copyrights of their Victorian property and frequently demand exorbitant fees for usage in new works. There are also tales of a well-known property where a dubious claimant to the literary rights regularly files nuisance lawsuits and is often paid off by the big conglomerates just to avoid the hassle of dealing with the allegedly loopy individual in question. Both have generated their share of sympathy for the public domain cause.

Greedy bastards only interested in money and wealthy loons fighting to prove they own something they don’t are certainly unlikable characters. I know a good number of publishers and writers who thrive upon reviving properties that have slipped into public domain. So long as too many cooks aren’t in the kitchen churning out new soups with the same basic ingredients, it should be a harmonious situation that serves to keep the originals in print and grows fan interest in otherwise forgotten characters.

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Life During Wartime for Revived Pulp Characters

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51jEwDLgmgL._SX348_BO1,204,203,200_Awesome02_250Bold Venture Press and Black Cat Media recently unveiled a new pulp anthology title, Awesome Tales. Largely the brainchild of editor/lead writer R. Allen Leider, three issues have been published thus far. Leider’s featured stories in each have successfully revived vintage pulp characters and placed them in World War II settings.

The first issue featured The Domino Lady, a racy adventuress from the “spicies” who has found popularity with “new pulp” specialty publishers such as Moonstone Books and Airship 27.  Leider, who operates Black Cat Media, collaborated with Rich Harvey, who operates Bold Venture Press with Audrey Parente, in penning this new adventure that advances the character from her 1930s origins to the Second World War. Interestingly, the entire Domino Lady revival began when Bold Venture Press collected the character’s original 1930s adventures in 2004 and set the stage for new adventures to follow.

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Discovering Robert E. Howard: Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward Wrap Up Their Epic Conan Re-Read

Monday, February 29th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Conan and the Emerald Lotus-small Conan and the Emerald Lotus-back

Howard Andrew Jones and Bill Ward have completed their epic re-read of every complete story of Conan the Cimmerian written by Robert E. Howard. They’ve been blogging about the project at howardandrewjones.com, and we’ve been following along with the viewers at home. In their wrap-up, Howard and Bill look over the vast catalog of Conan pastiches.

Howard: Such a fantastic character practically begs to have more adventures told about him, which is probably why the regrettable Conan pastiche industry popped up. Well, maybe not entirely regrettable, because I’ve read some I’ve really enjoyed…

Bill:  I’m actually looking forward at this point to checking out the many pastiches I’ve never read — I’ve got a stack of Ace Conans that I’d started reading before we came up with the plans for this epic reread… I’ve never read the deCamp and Carter pastiches, or the other stories by REH that de Camp Frankensteined into Conan tales. It’ll be a while before I jump into that series, though, as [I’ll] be rereading all the REH tales again as well. As for other pastiches, I’ve only read a few — Wagner’s Road of Kings was good, and, of course, Hocking’s [Conan and the] Emerald Lotus is terrific.

Read the complete exchange here.

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The Quest of Frank Schildiner

Sunday, February 28th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

7a0183d69395cea098c126a7581be8a7franktourbkJean-Claude Carriere is best remembered as the acclaimed screenwriter of Hotel Paradiso (1966), Belle de Jour (1967), The Discreet Charm Of The Bourgeoisie (1972), The Return Of Martin Guerre (1982), and The Unbearable Lightness of Being (1988). Less well known is the fact that he also authored (under the house name of Benoit Becker) six very bloody sequels to Mary Shelley’s classic Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus (1818) in 1957 and 1958 for a French horror-specialty imprint. Carriere’s  books chronicle the exploits of Gouroull, as he christened the Monster, as he moves across Europe from 1875 to 1939.

Gouroull is portrayed very much in the mold of Mary Shelley’s literary original. He is a terrifying amoral creation possessed of superhuman strength and cunning. Truly the only one of his kind, he is a creation who has outlived his creator and knows not love or restraint. Gouroull is the ultimate sociopath. This Frankenstein monster is quite foreign to our pop cultural mindset. Gouroull uses his razor sharp teeth to slash his victims’ throats. He does not breathe. His skin is naturally flame-resistant. Ichor runs in his veins in place of blood. He is a monster like no other.

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