The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Mysteries at Hallmark

Monday, June 13th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

My wife and I enjoy watching murder mystery movies on Hallmark. More accurately, the Hallmark Movies and Mystery Channel (HMMC). Many of them had previously run on the Hallmark Channel that most folks are more familiar with. My previous cable provider didn’t provide HMMC at the tier I purchased, and many of my friends don’t have it either. It’s out there, but it’s not a low-tier feature in many systems.

Which is a shame, because there’s a lot of viewing for mystery fans. They air reruns of shows such as Hart to Hart, Matlock, Diagnosis Murder, Murder She Wrote and Perry Mason. And a staple of the schedule is Columbo. I haven’t seen every episode, but I’ve seen many of them several times and I never get tired of watching Peter Falk do his thing. “Uh, say, just one more thing…”

I also like a couple of old Hallmark franchises that have come to rest at HMMC.

Most folks knew Kellie Martin first as cute little Beckie (Becca) Thatcher in Life Goes On (a poignant, well done series) and later on as nurse Lucy Knight in ER. But from 2003 through 2007, she made eleven Mystery Woman movies for Hallmark. She played bookstore owner Samantha Kinsey, who constantly found herself involved in murders (that’s going to be a common theme in this post).


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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Navajo Sherlock Holmes – Joe Leaphorn

Monday, April 25th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne


Wes Studi (Leaphorn) with Adam Beach (Chee)

Last week, we had something of an introduction to Tony Hillerman and his Navajo Tribal Police novels. A quick read before continuing on here might serve you well. Or, you can throw caution to the wind and keep going!

In July of 1945, Hillerman was was on a sixty day convalescent furlough from World War II, with a patch over a damaged eye and a cane to assist his gimpy leg. He had been wounded near the German village of Niefern. Carrying a stretcher under fire, he  had stepped on a mine. Now being carried himself on a stretcher, the man holding the front stepped on a mine and Hillerman was on the ground again. Someone picked him up in a fireman’s carry, dropped him in a creek, got him to a jeep and laid him across the hood. Hillerman made it out, alive (He would receive the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for his service).

Now temporarily back in the States, he had gotten a job driving pipe from Oklahoma City to an oil well drilling site on the Navajo checkerboard reservation. He stopped as a stick carrier’s camp crossed the road in front of him. They were making the ritual delivery of a scalp to the camp of a Navajo serviceman receiving an Enemy Way ceremonial. That’s a bit different than a deer crossing the road!

Hillerman’s first novel, some twenty years later, heavily involved an Enemy Way (that was his choice for the title. His publisher selected a completely unrelated ceremonial, The Blessing Way).

Tony Hillerman had been a reporter for many years and had also written nonfiction when he decided to write his first novel. As influences, he has cited Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, George V. Higgins, Ernest Hemingway (“when he was still young enough to care about it”), Graham Greene and Eric Ambler (a master of suspense who has become unfairly forgotten over the years).

A less familiar name is that of Arthur Upfield, who wrote about the Australian Aborigine, Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte. Hillerman frequently cited Upfield’s ability to make the setting seem real. That same descriptive ability is at the core of the Leaphorn and Chee books.

And speaking of those books…

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The April Magazine Rack

Friday, April 1st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Analog-April-2016-rack Apex-Magazine-March-2016-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-195-rack Clarkesworld-114-rack
giganotosaurus-logo-rack Fantasy-Scroll-Magazine-Issue-11-rack The-Glass-Galago-rack Lightspeed-March-2016-rack

Lots of great reading for fantasy lovers this month — including some terrific tales at, new issues of Fantasy Scroll, Lightspeed, Apex, Clarkesworld, Analog, and many more.

For our vintage magazine readers, Rich Horton reviewed the March 1964 Amazing Stories, and Doug Ellis dug deep into his impressive collection to report on the Early Chicago SF Fan Club, and Otto Binder’s 1937 letter on John W. Campbell, and we introduced you to Gideon Marcus’ website Galactic Journey.

Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our Mid-March Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

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On Writing Modern Noir Fantasy

Friday, January 15th, 2016 | Posted by Peter McLean

Drake Peter McLean-smallMy first novel Drake has been described as a mix of Urban Fantasy and Noir, and I suppose it is, in a way. So what does that mean to me?

Well I think we all have an idea of what Urban Fantasy is – the king of the genre is obviously The Dresden Files, with the magical detective in a big modern city helping the cops solve the unsolvable, inexplicable paranormal crimes.

Drake’s not that.

Don Drake isn’t a detective, he’s a hitman. He doesn’t help the cops – hell, he doesn’t have anything to do with the cops if he can help it. Drake works for gangsters, and demons, and demon gangsters. He’s not Harry Dresden, not by a long way.

But he’s not Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer either, for all that he’d like to be. The world Drake lives in is hard-boiled but he really isn’t. He’s a cynical, somewhat cowardly opportunist who does the best he can to make his way in a world he barely even understands.

A Noir world.

So what’s that? Noir needs to be dark, by definition, but I don’t think it has to be tied to any particular time period. The classic Hollywood Noir is set in LA or New York in the 1940s but it can work equally well in the backstreets of ancient Rome or the mean cantinas of Mos Eisley, or even in modern South London for that matter.

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The Late November Fantasy Magazine Rack

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Cemetery-Dance-73-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-185-rack Clarkesworld-110-rack Lightspeed-Magazine-November-2015-rack
Interfictions-Online-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-186-rack The-Dark-Issue-10-rack Nightmare-Magazine-November-rack

We’ve got lots of great magazine coverage to point you towards the best new short fiction this month. We started our coverage of Interfictions with issue #6, and reported on the arrival of the massive Best Of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, Volume 1. In our reviews section, Learned Foote took a look at Nike Salway’s “The Karen Joy Fowler Book Club” in the October Lightspeed, and Fletcher Vredenburgh highlighted the best in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Swords and Sorcery Magazine in his October Round-Up. For vintage fiction fans, Matthew Wuertz journeys back over 60 years to look at a magazine from January 1953, with fiction by Philip K. Dick and Clifford D. Simak, in the latest installment of his issue-by-issue read of Galaxy.

Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our November Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

As we’ve mentioned before, all of these magazines are completely dependent on fans and readers to keep them alive. Many are marginal operations for whom a handful of subscriptions may mean the difference between life and death. Why not check one or two out, and try a sample issue? There are magazines here for every budget, from completely free to $12.95/issue. If you find something intriguing, I hope you’ll consider taking a chance on a subscription. I think you’ll find it’s money very well spent.

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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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Fantasy Literature: Heroes Die & We Killed the Blonde

Saturday, May 9th, 2015 | Posted by Edward Carmien

Heroes Die Matthew Woodring Stover-small

She would never forget the surge that had slammed up her spine when a shout of dismay had risen from the vast ranks of the Horde, and she had looked down to the battlefield to see the huge banner of the Khulan himself burn with smoking yellow flame.

Among Talann’s gifts was extraordinary vision; like an eagle, she could see — even from a mile or more away — the black clothes and fringe of beard on the man who held the burning banner up for a moment longer, then cast it down to the mud-churned earth at his feet. She had watched breathlessly, mesmerized, her duties forgotten, as the Bear Guard closed around him like the jaws of a dragon, and a tear had tracked through the dust of her cheeks for the death of this unknown hero — but an instant later, she saw him again, still alive, still fighting, cutting through the finest warriors of the Khulan Horde as the prow of a warship cuts through waves.

Thus was a hero born on Overworld, a hero born of heroic deeds witnessed first hand, at a pivotal moment — one of the pivotal moments of this not-quite-parallel earth — in the history of Overworld. Talann, a military page in a human-centric military order, watches a battle lost turn to a battle won. Caine, of course, toppled the enemy standard, killed the great enemy leader, single-handedly saving Ankhana, a human-centric polity, from “the infinite savage warriors of the Khulan Horde.” Ogres, as it happens. Like in the tales of old, they eat humans.

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Future Treasures: Dark Detectives: An Anthology of Supernatural Mysteries, edited by Stephen Jones

Tuesday, March 10th, 2015 | Posted by John ONeill

Dark Detectives-smallWe have a tradition here at Black Gate of respecting supernatural detectives.

Let’s face it, they don’t get much respect anywhere else. But who else is going to defend the Earth from the forces of darkness? Usually without a salary, decent pension, or bennies of any kind. We’re not sure why they do it, but we’re glad they do.

Later this month Titan Books will publish Stephen Jones’ anthology Dark Detectives: An Anthology of Supernatural Mysteries, which collects classic tales of occult detectives, including a John Thunstone tale by Manly Wade Wellman, a Titus Crow story by Brian Lumley, a Solar Pons novella by Basil Copper, and a Carnacki novelette by William Hope Hodgson — as well as brand new tales of intrepid investigators of the unknown by Kim Newman, Brian Mooney, Jay Russell, Peter and Tremayne.

Here’s the description.


In the battle between good and evil, the supernatural investigators form the first line of defense against the unexplainable. Here are eighteen pulse-pounding tales featuring uncanny sleuths battling against the weird, written by Clive Barker, R. Chetwynd-Hayes, Basil Copper, Neil Gaiman, William Hope Hodgson, Brian Lumley, Brian Mooney, Kim Newman, Jay Russell, Peter Tremayne, and Manly Wade Wellman.

Featuring the entire ‘’Seven Stars” saga by Kim Newman, pitting the Diogenes Club against an occult object with the power to ultimately annihilate mankind!

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Hard Boiled Holmes

Monday, January 12th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

HBH_MurderBy now, readers of this column (all three of you) know that I’m ‘all-in’ on Sherlock Holmes and Solar Pons. But I am also a long-time hard boiled fiction afficionado. I’ve got a section of the bookshelves well-stocked with private eye/police novels and short stories, from Hammett and Daly to Stone and Burke.

Now, I wouldn’t bet my house on the premise of the following essay, which first appeared in Sherlock Magazine back when I was a columnist for that fine, now defunct periodical. But I believe that I make a more compelling argument than you thought possible at first glance. The roots of the American hard boiled school can be seen in Sherlock Holmes and the Victorian Era. Yes, really.

And if any of the hard boiled heroes mentioned catch your fancy, leave a comment. I’ll be glad to tell you more about them. Without further ado, I bring you “Hard Boiled Holmes.”

“But down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.”

Raymond Chandler wrote these words in his essay, ‘The Simple Art of Murder.’ Ever since, the term ‘mean streets’ has been associated with the hard-boiled genre. One thinks of tough private eyes with guns, bottles, and beautiful dames. But was it really Chandler who created those words to describe the environment that the classic Philip Marlowe operated in?

Is it possible that it was Victorian London that gave birth to the mean streets, which would later become famous as the settings in the pages of Black Mask? Could it be that Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe were followers in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes?

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Meet Nero Wolfe

Monday, June 23rd, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Wolfe_Drawing1In 1926, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle penned his last Holmes tale, The Adventure of the Retired Colourman. Rex Stout, a fan of those tales, would shortly create a detective who would not only evoke memories of Holmes, but who would cast his own (gargantuan) shadow: Nero Wolfe. The seventy-four stories, written over forty-one years, would be collectively known as the Corpus, akin to the Sherlockian Canon.

Nero Wolfe lives in a New York City brownstone with Archie Goodwin, Fritz Brenner, and Theodore Horstmann. This boys’ club (Wolfe makes Holmes look like a romantic) is a self-contained unit, with Wolfe and Archie solving crimes, Fritz cooking and taking care of the household chores, and Horstmann assisting Wolfe with his hobby, the cultivation of orchids in a rooftop greenhouse.

Archie often comments on the beauty of the orchids, which is a far cry from the thoughts of General Sternwood in Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep: “Nasty things. Their flesh is too much like the flesh of men, and their perfume has the rotten sweetness of corruption.” Po-tay-toe, po-tah-toe, I guess.

Because the characters do not age, the stories all have a comfortable familiarity about them. Also, they are set contemporary to their writing, so while in a Holmes tale, it is ‘always 1895’, the Wolfe stories feel much more like modern mysteries, even though some are over seventy-five years old.

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