The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: George Mann’s Holmes

Monday, January 2nd, 2017 | Posted by Bob Byrne

holmes_associatesLast week I wrote about two Titan Books novels from James Lovegrove. I mentioned that there are two distinct lines of Holmes pastiches from Titan (actually, there are other books that don’t fall in either category, such as Kareem Abdul Jabaar’s Mycroft Holmes novel). The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes started as reprints and added new books into the mix and are generally more traditional stories.

The other features more elements of horror, steampunk and/or the supernatural and George Mann’s two novels are part of this line. He has also edited three anthologies for Titan, including a neat little book called The Associates of Sherlock Holmes.

Associates includes thirteen stories; all focusing on a character found in one of Doyle’s sixty original Holmes tales. It’s a neat idea and there are some interesting and creative stories in the mix. The aforementioned Lovegrove’s “Pure Swank” tells us the real story about Barker, Holmes’ ‘hated rival upon the Surrey shore,’ going back to when he was an Irregular.

Hugo Award winner Tim Pratt’s “Heavy Game of the Pacific Northwest” takes Colonel Sebastian Moran to the state of Washington in 1892 to hunt what seems to be Big Foot. It’s a good hunting story that paints quite a portrait of the amoral Moran.

Ian Edington’s “The Case of the Previous Tenant” brings the best of the official force, Surry’s Inspector Baynes, to London. A Viking sword and some borrowing from “The Devil’s Foot” make for a fun read.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Cthulhu Casebooks & Nightmares

Monday, December 26th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

lovegrove_shadwellIn the early 1900’s, Maurice Leblanc had his French detective, Arsene Lupin, face off with Herlock Sholmes. I think you know who he’s battling – spelling disregarded. 1965’s A Study in Terror sent Holmes after Jack the Ripper on movie screens and in 1988, and Sax Rohmer biographer Clay Van Ash brought Holmes and Fu Manchu together in Ten Years Beyond Baker Street. Crossovers have become more and more popular over the years. James Lovegrove currently has Holmes interacting with the Cthulhu mythos.

I don’t do a lot of book reviews here at The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes because I generally don’t like to reveal spoilers. And it can be tough to talk about the strong points of a book without giving away key elements. But sometimes, especially with older books, that’s part of the price of the post. So, I’ll try to limit revelations in this one, but be warned: There be spoilers here!

Lovegrove, who has written several non-Holmes books, is part of Titan’s stable of new Holmes authors. Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows is the first of a trilogy, with Sherlock Holmes & The Miskatonic Monstrosities due out in Fall of 2017 and Sherlock Holmes and the Sussex Sea Devils to wrap things up in November of 2018.

The basic premise of the book (yea, the trilogy) is that Watson made up the sixty stories in the Canon. He did so to cover up the real truth behind Holmes’ work. And that’s because the truth is too horrible to reveal. In a nutshell, Watson has written three journals, each covering events fifteen years apart, to try and get some of the darkness out of his soul.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Holmes for Halloween

Monday, October 31st, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

halloween_arcanumI don’t really do horror. Now, I am a huge Robert R. McCammon fan and of F. Paul Wilson’s Repairman Jack. Of course, I’ve read a fair amount of H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu stuff (man, that creeps me out). And bits here and there from Robert E. Howard, Les Daniels, Anne Rice and a few others. But overall, I don’t really enjoy the genre, so it’s not an area I have a lot of experience with.

However, I have come across several examples of Holmes in the genre. And it being Halloween, let’s take a quick look at few titles that involve horror or the supernatural. Those two things aren’t always the same, you know.

The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (John Taylor) There was a time when Holmes pastiches were relatively uncommon and, pre-Amazon, you grabbed what you could when you saw them on the shelves. I still remember being excited to buy books from Richard Boyer, L.B. Greenwood and Frank Thomas. Another was a short story collection by John Sherwood, a writer for the BBC. “The Wandering Corpse,” “The Battersea Worm,” “The Paddington Witch,” “The Phantom Organ,” “The Devil’s Tunnel” and “The Horror of Hanging Wood” are all supernatural-tinged stories. The last one remains a favorite of mine and something I wish I’d thought up.  Taylor wrote four more Holmes adventures, which were read aloud by Benedict Cumberbatch. I’ve not heard them, but every couple of years, around this time, I read a few stories from his book.

Gaslight Anthologies (edited by J.R. Campbell & Charles Prepolec) In 2008, Canadians Campbell and Prepolec put out Gaslight Grimoire, a collection of eleven creepy Holmes tales. It was followed by thirteen more in Gaslight Grotesque, and finished up with another dozen in Gaslight Arcanum. That’s 36 stories of horror and weirdness. You can certainly tell what you’re getting from the covers of the last two books. If you’re a Holmes fan and really like the horror genre, these three anthologies are just what you’re looking for.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Holmes & Watson (more from Otto Penzler’s SH Library)

Monday, September 26th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

roberts_holmeswatson(Third in a series of posts about the nine-volume Otto Penzler’s Sherlock Holmes Library)

So, I’ve done a post on Vincent Starrett’s two books in Otto Penzler’s Sherlock Holmes Library. And a second post looked at the two books from James Edward Holroyd. So, that covers four of the nine tiles in this series. As I wrote in the Starrett post:

“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.”

Sir Sidney Castle Roberts’ Holmes & Watson first saw the light of day in1953. He had already been Secretary of Cambridge University Press, Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge by that time and was at the time Master of Pembroke College, Cambridge, Chairman of the British Film Industry (BFI) and President of The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Add in the many books he had authored and it is a pretty impressive resume.

Roberts opens the book with a long chapter featuring several Holmesian themes: his creation, his life, his temperament, his attitude to women, his music and his kinship with Doctor Johnson. There are far more through pieces of Sherlockiana out there on these topics, as well as full-blown biographies and memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. But this slender volume offers an enjoyable look at each of the topics.

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Phileas Fogg Finds Immortality

Sunday, September 25th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

51dx9hyli-lchapbook-cover-jpegWhen Jules Verne created gentleman adventurer Phileas Fogg in his 1873 novel, Around the World in Eighty Days, he had no way of imagining the bizarre turn his character’s chronicles would take a century later. When Philip Jose Farmer added The Other Log of Phileas Fogg to his Wold Newton Family series in 1973, he had no way of imagining that four decades later there would exist a Wold Newton specialty publisher to continue the esoteric literary exploits of some of the last two centuries’ most fantastic characters.

Farmer’s concept, in a nutshell, is that Verne’s globetrotting adventure is part of a far larger extraterrestrial conflict between two powerful alien races, the Eridani and the Capellas. Phileas Fogg was raised by the Eridani it turns out and, in the course of Farmer’s work, we learn that Verne’s Captain Nemo (the anti-hero of his 1870 classic, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea and its 1874 sequel, The Mysterious Island) is not only a Capellan agent, but is also the same man known as Professor Moriarty in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes mysteries.

Josh Reynolds was the first author to follow in Farmer’s footsteps in a substantial fashion when he authored two direct sequels to The Other Log of Phileas Fogg for Meteor House: 2014’s Phileas Fogg and the War of Shadows and 2016’s Phileas Fogg and the Heart of Osra. Both books are set in 1889 and see Phileas Fogg coming out of retirement as the extraterrestrial conflict between the Eridani and the Capellas reaches Earth once more. The second of these titles involves Ruritania, the fictitious country from Anthony Hope’s Ruritanian Romances trilogy that began with the famous 1894 novel, The Prisoner of Zenda.

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Blogging Marvel’s Master of Kung-Fu, Part Three

Sunday, September 4th, 2016 | Posted by William Patrick Maynard

Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_22Giant-Size_Master_of_Kung_Fu_Vol_1_2Master of Kung Fu #22 sees the welcome return of artist Paul Gulacy who came and went a bit in these early issues. The first half of the story sees Shang-Chi set upon by Si-Fan assassins at a Chinese restaurant in New York before infiltrating his father’s skyscraper base of operations. Fu Manchu has captured both Sir Denis Nayland Smith and Black Jack Tarr. Shang-Chi stows away aboard Fu Manchu’s private jet unaware of their destination. Once on the ground, he follows as his father’s minions lead their captives to a cave in the side of a mountain which has been filled with dynamite. Shang-Chi rescues the two Englishmen and prevents the detonation which would have seen Fu Manchu kill his archenemy in the same instant he destroyed Mount Rushmore. Doug Moench, like Steve Englehart before him, has an embarrassment of riches that are largely squandered with insufficient page count to fully develop his narrative. This would soon change, however, and make the series one of the finest published in the 1970s.

Most of Marvel’s Giant-Size quarterly titles were throwaways, much like too many of their special Annual editions, but Giant-Size Master of Kung Fu #2 was a 40-page epic designed to showcase both the character of Shang-Chi and the talents of the series’ writer and artist, respectively. Doug Moench had been harboring a desire to address racism and bigotry directly and a series with an Asian protagonist gave him the perfect forum to do so. Paul Gulacy now had the freedom to display martial arts fighting as well as moving displays of romance and longing relying solely on the power of his images in a string of panels that conveyed storytelling free of words. Even more significant is the fact that Gulacy’s depictions of lust and attraction never pandered to titillation as the artist evinced a mature understanding of the art form’s possibility. The fact that he was strongly influenced by cinema and Steranko’s pop art work of the 1960s take nothing away from the fact that Gulacy was coming into his own as an artist with this title.

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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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