The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Moriarty Chronicles

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Moriarty_CardPerhaps my favorite Sherlock Holmes pastiche is 1974’s The Return of Moriarty by John Gardner. In it, Professor Moriarty (who did not perish at the Reichenbach Falls) is a Victorian Era godfather, with a criminal organization the envy of the American mob in the Roaring Twenties. A sequel followed it the next year, The Revenge of Moriarty. The trilogy was completed with Moriarty, just a few weeks before Gardner passed away in 2008.

Having completed one muddle of a screenplay about a Civil War naval battle, I took it upon myself to contact John and tell him I was writing a pilot for a proposed TV series about The Return. Extremely polite and friendly, he told me to send it to him when I was done. I did. He and his agent, less than impressed with this amateur effort from a self-taught screenwriter, understandably, passed.

I stayed in email contact with John (who was always nice) up until his death, taking one serious stab at revising the pilot and expanding it to two-hours. I never did resubmit it to his agent (John having passed away by then).

So, read on about The Moriarty Chronicles, a British TV series you, alas, will never see.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: By Crom – Are Conan Pastiches Official?

Monday, July 27th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ConaPas_Ace2Today’s post is actually about Robert E. Howard’s Conan, but (in a stunning surprise) it’s got some Sherlock Holmes at the foundation. No, Conan never met the great detective…

Hopefully you’ve been checking in on our summer series, Discovering Robert E. Howard. There are plenty more posts coming, so stay tuned. While I very much like Howard and his works, I came late to his stories and I’m certainly no expert.

There is one area I’ve found…curious, which relates to the “official” status that seems to be accorded to the authorized pastiches written since Howard’s death. It’s quite different in the Holmes world.

There are sixty official Sherlock Holmes tales. Period. Fifty-six short stories and four novels (more novellas, really), all penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and published during his lifetime. There are two Holmes short-shorts, “How Watson Learned the Trick” and “The Field Bazaar” and there is no disputing that they were written by Doyle. But they are not included (by anyone, I believe) in the official count.

You, oh enlightened one, know that the Doyle Estate tried to include a sixty-first story, found among ACD’s papers by a researcher, but it turned out to have been written by Arthur Whitaker.

To quote myself, from my first Solar Pons post here at Black Gate:

Parodies are stories that poke fun at Holmes. But the more serious Holmes tales, those that attempt to portray Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective to varying levels, are called pastiches. Just about the earliest ‘serious’ attempt at a Holmes copy was by Vincent Starrett, who wrote “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet” in 1920.

Doyle’s son Adrian, sitting at his father’s very desk, produced The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (half of the stories were co-written with John Dickson Carr, who would quit mid-project).

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Why Solar Pons?

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

The full painting by Les Edwards. It was seriously cropped for the cover of Basil Copper's 'Solar Pons: The Final Cases.'

The full painting by Les Edwards. It was seriously cropped for the cover of Basil Copper’s ‘Solar Pons: The Final Cases.’

I am a major fan of Solar Pons, The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street. I wrote about him for Black Gate here and here. Fu Manchu expert William Patrick Maynard wrote about Pons and an unnamed but clearly Manchu here.

We know that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave us 56 short stories and 4 novels (novellas, really) featuring Sherlock Holmes. And there have been many television shows and movies with the world’s first private consulting detective. And the number of books and short stories written about Holmes by other authors is virtually uncountable in our modern age.

So, with an endless supply of options to get our Holmes fix (albeit, ranging from atrocious to excellent), why in the world would we need to read about a Holmes imitator dreamed up nearly ninety years ago?

‘Why Solar Pons?’ was the first essay in the first issue of my free, online newsletter, The Solar Pons Gazette. I believe that the Pontine Canon is a treasure trove for Holmes fans (of which I am most definitely one). So, read on and maybe you’ll get an itch to read a Pons story or two (sadly, the books are out of print and you’ll have to find some used copies, like I did).

I harbor a somewhat silly hope that this essay will someday be used as an introduction to a Pons collection.  So…

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Conan of Venarium

Monday, April 20th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Turtledove_Venarium2I’ve got a couple Holmes-related posts in the works, but am not done researching any of them (no, I don’t just make up my posts as I go: I actually put some thought into them; even if  it may not always appear so). Fortunately, I’ve got no shortage of other areas of interest that I can use to fill the gap (I still haven’t figured out how to get a baseball-related post here. Although, if I still had my copy of that Daryl Brock book.  Maybe something on W P Kinsella.).

The esteemed Ryan Harvey used to review Conan pastiches here at Black Gate. I am absolutely a Robert E. Howard and Conan fan. Perhaps you read this recent post? So, looking to indulge my non-mystery interest (I really want to write something on Tolkien’s Nauglamir, but it’s not even outlined yet), I turned to Conan.

Harry Turtledove is best known for his alternate history novels. I’ve read little Turtledove, so I can’t expound on them. However, one that I did read and enjoyed very much was The Guns of the South, which involves time-travelers bringing Robert E. Lee AK-47s, changing the outcome of the American Civil War (it’s better than it sounds). I definitely enjoyed it more than his other alt-Civil War book, How Few Remain.

Back in 2003, Turtledove joined the list of authors putting out Conan pastiches for Tor Books. Fans of Conan know that this line was quite hit and miss. Conan of Venarium was the 49th and last of the Tor originals, coming six years after the previous entry.

You can read Ryan’s review of that one, here. I’ll include a quote that I think sums up his thoughts on Venarium’s predecessor:  ”I am glad to report that Conan and the Death Lord of Thanza is superior to Conan and the Mists of Doom. Unfortunately, that still ranks it as the second worst Conan novel I’ve read.”

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New Treasures: Old Venus, edited by George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Old Venus-smallI think my favorite book of the year (so far) is George R.R. Martin and Gardner Dozois’s new anthology, Old Venus, which imagines Venus just as the pulp writers of old: a steamy, swampy jungle planet with strange creatures lurking amidst the dripping vegetation.

Old Venus is a follow-up to Old Mars, a tribute to “the Golden Age of Science Fiction, an era filled with tales of interplanetary colonization and derring-do.” It includes brand new fiction from Lavie Tidhar, Paul McAuley, Joe Haldeman, Eleanor Arnason, David Brin, Garth Nix, Joe R. Lansdale, Ian McDonald and many others. Russell Letson at Locus Online offers an enthusiastic review, saying:

In the introduction, co-editor Gardner Dozois writes that he and George R.R. Martin were looking for a return to the ‘‘heyday of the Planetary Romance,’’ when ‘‘the solar system swarmed with alien races and civilizations, as crowded and chummy as an Elks picnic…’’ These 16 stories, mostly of novelette length, aspire to resuscitate not only the obsolete, imaginary planetology of Old Venus, but the iconography and tropes that filled the pulp adventure stories once set there: the rain-soaked frontier outback where questionable characters meet in roughneck saloons before setting out to find abandoned temples or lost cities, guided or preyed upon by aquatic or amphibious natives, pursued by hungry local fauna, and perhaps tempted by exotic-erotic possibilities…

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Legion from the Shadows by Karl Edward Wagner

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 | Posted by Fletcher Vredenburgh

oie_9192021nLnODdJxFor those raised in this day of pure unadulterated Robert E. Howard texts, it may interest you to learn that once upon a time a flourishing industry of pastiche publication existed. There were only so many Howard stories to satisfy hordes of swords & sorcery fans, so the powers that were created more. Sprague de Camp and Lin Carter, the masterminds as it were, behind the pastiche industry were either greedy exploiters of Howard’s legacy or passionate fans who saw the need for further Howardian adventures. As a fan myself at the time, I was quite happy to buy and read a lot of them. Most weren’t better than alright but they scratched an itch.

De Camp (who fiddled mercilessly with Howard’s own short stories) and Carter wrote some of the weakest pastiches. For all his involvement with Howard’s fiction, de Camp never seemed to understand its nuance and why it worked. By education he was an engineer, and the need for things to be logical and systematic undermines his fiction. Carter, sadly, just didn’t have the talent to mimic the writer whose work he loved so dearly.

Unknown Swedish author, Bjorn Nyberg wrote The Return of Conan (1957). Decades later famous authors such as Poul Anderson and Andrew Offut tried their hands at the game. Howard Andrew Jones wrote a good piece on the pasticheurs a while back. Eventually a critical mass of fans and academics rose up, rightly so, to decry the inferior copies — and really, most were — of Howard’s creations.

There’s one Conan pastiche novel I remember truly liking: The Road of Kings (1979) by Karl Edward Wagner. It was good; equal parts dark and exciting. You can read Charles Rutledge’s review from a few years back here.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: New Holmes Story Found! Well….

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Found_scheduleLast week, the Sherlockian world was abuzz with news that a new Holmes story had been discovered: One that was written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself back in 1903.

A few basics: On March 5, 1927, “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place” appeared in Liberty Magazine. There would be no more Holmes tales from Doyle’s pen. Thus, the official Sherlockian Canon came to a close at 60: 56 short stories and 4 novels (novellas, really).

Doyle had previously written two short shorts featuring his erstwhile detective. 1896’ “The Field Bazaar” was written to raise funds for Edinburgh University. While in 1924, Doyle wrote and donated “How Watson Learned the Trick” to the Queen’s Dollhouse project.

Hesketh Pearson, when going through Doyle’s papers for a biography, found the outline of a Holmes tale that may or may not have been written by Sir Arthur. Involving a man on stilts, pastiche authors have written the story to less than stellar results.

Of course, being a devout reader of The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes, you already know about the “lost” found Doyle story that was actually written by Arthur Whitaker.

Add in a couple of plays Doyle wrote and you’ve got the official writings by the original author. Though Walter Elliot claims there’s one more.

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Who Should Be Writing the Cthulhu Mythos Today? Announcing the Winners of Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth

Monday, February 9th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth-small2Three weeks ago we invited Black Gate readers to win a copy of the new Lovecraft-inspired anthology Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth, by suggesting who should be writing Lovecraftian horror today.

To make it challenging, all entries had to be a single sentence.

We received a near-record number of entries for this contest, too many to print here. But I’ve selected 20 of the more interesting, and reproduced them below.

Two winners were randomly drawn from a list of all qualified entries, and those two lucky readers will both receive a copy of Stephen Jones’s new horror anthology Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth, on sale now in trade paperback and digital formats from Titan Books.

First up is Jeffery Helms:

The writer I would most like to see write a Lovecraftian horror story today is Scott Snyder, whose comic work has elements of history, folklore, myths, and horror.

That’s certainly a fascinating choice. Scott Snyder’s work on American Vampire and Batman has garnered a lot of attention, and I’d like to see what he could do in Lovecraft’s back yard, too.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Pratchett’s Cohen the Barbarian

Monday, January 26th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Cohen_CohenI am an unabashed fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books. Along with a lot of Carl Hiassen’s work, they are the only reads that cause me to laugh out loud. Unseen Academicals was the first Discworld book that I wasn’t really happy with when I finished it; which isn’t too bad considering it was the thirty-third in the series for me.

Though I have a very fundamental difference with Pratchett’s basic worldview, I think he is an absolutely brilliant satirist. Discworld isn’t nearly as well known generally as The Hitchhiker’s Guides to the Galaxy books, but I tell folks that if you like Douglas Adams, you should like Terry Pratchett.

Genghiz Cohen, better known as Cohen the Barbarian, appears in a few novels. He is Discworld’s greatest warrior, though now he is an old man in his late eighties or nineties, and he leads a band of senior citizen barbarians known as the Silver Horde.

Cohen/Conan. The Silver Horde/The Golden Horde. See? Get it? Discworld is full of this stuff.

Cohen is a skinny old man with a long white beard, a patch over one eye and a dirty loincloth. He has a set of dentures made from Troll teeth, which are pretty much the only things he has left from a wild life.

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Win a Copy of Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth, edited by Stephen Jones

Sunday, January 18th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Shadows Over Innsmouth-small Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth-small Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth-small

Back in October we gave away free copies of The Madness of Cthulhu, the new horror anthology from Titan Books, to three lucky winners. Contestants submitted short comments on their favorite H.P. Lovecraft story, and we announced the winners alongside all the best entries on Oct 27th, in The Best One-Sentence Reviews of H.P. Lovecraft.

I’m very pleased to report that Titan Books has another horror anthology in the works, and they’ve once again offered us copies to give away. Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth, edited by Stephen Jones, will be released on January 27. It’s the sequel to two earlier volumes, the World Fantasy Award nominee Shadows Over Innsmouth (1994), and Stoker and World Fantasy nominee Weird Shadows Over Innsmouth (2005). Both were returned to print in matching trade paperback editions by Titan Books in 2013.

Weirder Shadows Over Innsmouth collects fifteen recent tales of Lovecraftian horror, many of them original to this volume, alongside “Innsmouth Clay,” a 1971 tale by H. P. Lovecraft and August Derleth, and a poem by H.P. Lovecraft. Contributors include Caitlín R. Kiernan, Kim Newman, Angela Slatter, Michael Marshall Smith, Brian Lumley, Brian Hodge, Ramsey Campbell, and Adrian Cole.

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