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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: A Gaudy Death (Doyle on Holmes)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: A Gaudy Death (Doyle on Holmes)

This essay precedes the two prior ones in our series, having appeared in Tit-Bits in December of 1900. The aptly named Tit-Bits was a potpourri of ‘stuff’ which was published by George Newnes, who also owned The Strand.

Wanting to make a big to-do about their thousandth issue, Newnes used his unique position to secure an ‘interview’ essay written by the publicity-shy Doyle. Holmes had gone over The Reichenbach Falls and Doyle was resisting pressure to bring him back.

To interview Dr Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, is not an easy matter. Dr. Doyle has a strong objection to the interview, even though he has no personal antipathy to the interviewer. Considerations, however, of his long and friendly relationship with the firm of George Newnes Ltd, in the pages of whose popular and universally read Strand Magazine Sherlock Holmes lived, and had his being, overcame Dr. Doyle’s reluctance to be interviewed, and he consented to give the following particulars, which will be read with interest by his admirers all over the world.

It’s Elementary – Man, that is one serious run-on sentence above!

“Before I tell you of Sherlock Holmes’ death and how it came about, it will probably be interesting to recall the circumstances of his birth.”

So does Arthur Conan Doyle open this essay, seven years after readers had been shocked by “The Final Problem.” He reminds the reader it began with A Study in Scarlet, with Holmes suggested from “a professor under whom I had worked at Edinburgh, and in part by Edgar Allen Poe’s detective, which, after all, ran on the lines of all other detectives who have appeared in literature.”

It’s Elementary – It’s interesting to me that Doyle does not name Dr. Joseph Bell here, though that’s clearly who he is referencing. He cites Poe’s Dupin as an influence. That was mentioned in the first essay, The Truth About Sherlock Holmes. And that’s a main item in next weeks’ post, The Case of the Inferior Sleuth.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Some Personalia About Sherlock Holmes (Doyle on Holmes)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Some Personalia About Sherlock Holmes (Doyle on Holmes)

So in our first series post, we had a LONG post on ACD’s 1923 essay – The Truth Behind Sherlock Holmes – for Collier’s The National Weekly. This week, it’s an earlier one he which wrote for The Strand.

“The Adventure of the Dying Detective” ran in The Strand in December of 1913 (appearing the prior month over in America, in Collier’s). There wouldn’t be another Holmes story until September of 1917, with His Last Bow appearing in both The Strand, and Collier’s, that month.

Holmes having finally come back to his magazine with “The Dying Detective,” Strand editor Greenhough Smith was anxious to keep the detective’s name in the magazine. He persuaded Doyle to write an essay, Some Personalia About Sherlock Holmes, which ran in the December, 1917 issue. “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” wouldn’t follow until October of 1921.

I have this essay in Peter Haining’s The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, from Barnes and Noble. Last week’s The Truth Behind Sherlock Holmes is also in that nifty book.

 

LETTERS

Doyle begins by talking about how many letters he has received regarding Holmes. He mentions many are in Russian. He does recount an amusing story of a woman in Warsaw (Poland) who states that she had been bedridden for two years and his novels “were her only, etc etc.”

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Truth About Sherlock Holmes (Doyle on Holmes)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Truth About Sherlock Holmes (Doyle on Holmes)

I have about 500 Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle-related books on my shelves. No surprise, there are some pretty neat things. I’m going to do a couple posts over the next few weeks, looking at some things written by Doyle – or directly involving him.

The first is in my copy of Peter Haining’s The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a really nifty book put out by Barnes and Noble in 1995 (with Jeremy Brett on the cover). If you don’t have a copy of Jack Tracy’s essential The Published Apocrypha, this has several items included in that hard-to-find classic. It’s also got some additional things including a really cool essay by Doyle.

In 1923, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Truth About Sherlock Holmes, for Collier’s Magazine.

In 1903, Collier’s offered Doyle big money to write new Sherlock Holmes stories. Doyle had set The Hound of the Baskervilles back before tossing him over the Reichenbach Falls. So, Holmes was still dead. It was too big an offer to refuse, and Doyle agreed to write eight new stories. They all appeared in Collier’s, and then immediately after in The Strand. Colliers included terrific color covers by Frederic Dorr Steele.

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What’s Coming Here on Monday Mornings…

What’s Coming Here on Monday Mornings…

So, you’re wondering, “What’s Bob gonna write about in the coming months?”

Actually, not one of you is wondering that, but this is my column. So… Writing about a thousand words a week often involves picking a topic on Saturday morning, and having something ready to go on Monday morning. I’ve actually been working on a few things ahead of time this year, which is kinda cool.

“Really, Bob? You mean, some stuff, you’re not just totally winging?”

Well, I wouldn’t put it so crudely, but yes. I’m trying to go a little deeper on a few things. Including number two below, which I am THRILLED with.

 

DOYLE ON HOLMES

For the entire month of April and into May, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes returns to Monday mornings. Peter Haining’s The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a nifty book which had been published by Barnes and Noble. It has several items which are included in Jack Tracy’s foundational Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha.

It also has several additional items worth reading. Doyle wrote some essays regarding Sherlock Holmes, and I’m going to do a series on those. The posts will quote liberally from Doyle’s essays, with my own input. I suspect even serious Sherlockians haven’t read Doyle’s essays in some time.

And if you aren’t familiar with The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes, then you missed my first three years here at Black Gate, as that was the name of my column.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Jack Tracy’s ‘The Published Apocrypha’

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Jack Tracy’s ‘The Published Apocrypha’

I am bringing back The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes for a Doyle-centric run in April. Getting in the mood, here’s my review of Jack Tracy’s cornerstone book, Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha.

Sherlockians like to hold the Canon (Doyle’s sixty Holmes stories) in the same esteem that Christians hold the Bible. So it should come as no surprise that there are some works by Doyle that are comparable to apocrypha. The term refers to early Christian writings not included in the Bible.

Jack Tracy, author of the superb Encyclopedia Sherlockiana, collected some authentic and near-authentic Holmes works that are not part of the Canon. Few books made up of Holmes fiction can justifiably sit on your bookshelf next to Doyle’s short stories and novels about the wisest and finest man Dr. Watson ever knew. This book should be the very first one.

No one who has looked at Tracy’s Encyclopedia can doubt his Sherlockian scholarship. He utilizes his vast knowledge in an efficient and readable way in Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha. Each section begins with info about the writings that follow. Interesting and “must know” details set the stage for the pieces themselves.

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Roaming the Old West with Holmes on the Range

Roaming the Old West with Holmes on the Range

There are a lot of ways to go about writing a Sherlock Holmes story. Some folks attempt to very carefully emulate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own style, and to turn out a tale that feels as if it might have been penned (or typed these days) by the creator of the great detective himself. No surprise that results vary. GREATLY. Hugh Ashton and Denis O. Smith are the best I’ve found in this regard.

You can find stories ranging from pretty good to not suitable for (digital) toilet paper. I’ve had a half dozen of my own stories published and I’m still working on better voice the good doctor.

Some folks write whatever the heck they want, often with the name of Holmes being the only similarity to the famed detective. It is possible to find good Holmes stories that sound nothing like Dr. Watson’s narrative style, of course. And Holmes has been placed in different eras, and even worlds. In addition, there have been Holmes parodies around for over a hundred years. I’ve written a couple myself, and they were fun.

There are Holmes-like successors out there, of whom August Derleth’s Solar Pons is the best. Yes, I’m aware that’s a subjective judgment, but it’s mine, and I’m the one writing this essay, so it stands. I’ve written about Pons more than once, and even contributed introductions and pastiches to anthologies.

But today I’m going to look at one of Sherlock Holmes’ contemporaries; albeit, one quite different and far away. We’re not talking about Martin Hewitt here.

Steve Hockensmith had been writing short stories for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Christmas issue, and wanted to sell more to the venerable magazine. EQMM does an annual Sherlock Holmes issue, so he figured that was the way to go. But he wanted to write more than ‘just another Holmes story.’

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The Best of Bob – 2023

The Best of Bob – 2023

Happy 2024! Let’s kick butt for another year. Or at least, limp to the finish in 52 weeks. I take what I can get.

One of my greatest talents as a blogger, is finding folks more talented than I, to write my weekly column for me. Hey – the reader gets a better end product, so they win, right? I brought Talking Tolkien to Black Gate in 2023. And I had some great help yet again for A (Black) Gat in the Hand.

So some of you Black Gaters may be surprised that I occasionally actually write my own essays for the Monday morning slot. John O’Neill is too savvy an editor for me to completely fool him for almost ten years.

So here are what I thought were ten of my better efforts in 2023. Hopefully you saw them back when I first posted them. But if not, maybe you’ll check out a few now. Ranking them seemed a bit egotistical, so they’re in chronological order. Let’s go!

Don’t Panic! We’ve Got Douglas Adams Covered Here at Black Gate (January 2, 2023)

If I do say so myself, things absolutely started off strong, the second day of the new year! Black Gate has a bunch of Douglas Adams fans. This was my eighth Adams-related post, and I included links to five prior posts by Black Gaters (Steven H Silver, and M. Harold Page).

Thirteen posts about Douglas Adams. SURELY you can find something interesting. This current post included me fooling around with a new entry for the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I think it’s pretty funny. And if you’re not familiar with Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, that’s actually my favorite Adams book. Click on this one and get a larf.

 

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes Shelfies (#3)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes Shelfies (#3)

I was posting Shelfies over in a the r/bookshelf subreddit. The Mods seemed to be growing more persnickity, and spam selling posts were getting more common, so I quit the group. I’ve already done a couple posts here at Black Gate with my shelfies from over there. Here’s the third and final one from my Sherlock Holmes shelfies. Links to the prior posts at the end.

Holmes Shelfie #15

I am aware of four sets of annotated Sherlock Holmes. We’ll get to the first two in a bit.

The most recent is The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, from Leslie Klinger. Klinger has gone on to do other major annotations, including for Bran Stoker’s Dracula, and H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu.

It’s my favorite annotation, and not just because the slipcases are cool as heck. Love the Holmes silhouette. This is a masterfully annotated look at the entire Canon, in the order the stories were printed (you’ll see that’s relevant when I talk about William Baring-Gould’s annotation).

With over almost 1,000 illustrations on high quality paper, it’s a masterpiece. This was Klinger’s second annotation – the first set is to the right of the pic. And it’s different, (and I think better), because it deals with the stories, and the world, in reality.

His second set treats Holmes and Watson as if they were real people, and it’s a different way of annotating. Still neat, but I prefer the New Annotated. It’s a terrific resource, and a fun way to read the stories. One of the treasures of my collection.

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What I’m Reading: November 2023

What I’m Reading: November 2023

I’ve been juggling reading with catching up on a bunch of TV/streaming stuff. But I’ve worked in a couple of good reads.

I thought about a post on series’ I’m behind on in my reading. I probably will do one – sadly, it would be VERY long. But I did just finish two novels in one such, and I started a third.

HOLMES ON THE RANGE

I wrote this essay back in 2019 on Steve Hockensmith’s Sherlock Holmes-influenced cowboy brothers. Dear Mr. Holmes is a collection of the seven short stories that kicked off the series. And just last month, the seventh novel – Hunters of the Dead– came out.

I had read the first three novels and the short stories. But book four – The Crack in the Lens – came out in 2009. I was WAAAAY behind. So last week I read Crack… – and then immediately tore through The World’s Greatest Sleuth!. Now I’m on book six, The Double-A Western Detective Agency.

Check out my prior essay for a more in-depth look at the series. But the premise is that brothers Gustav (Old Red) and Otto (Big Red) Amlingmeyer, are trail-riding cowpunchers in the Old West. This is during the time of Sherlock Holmes’ Adventures and Memoirs. Gustav can’t read. So, while they’re sitting around the campfire at night, Otto reads aloud the Holmes stories from a dog-eared magazine.

Gustav is totally enthralled with Holmes’ methods and sets out to do some deducifyin’ on the trail. And these two fall into malice and mayhem like a spinster in one of Agatha Christie’s villages. Gustav is the brains, and Otto is the brawn.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Parson’s Son

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Parson’s Son

I have been fortunate enough to contribute original stories to five volumes of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories series. The brainchild of my Solar Pons buddy, David Marcum, there have been THIRTY-SIX volumes so far, and that will be over forty by the end of the year. The stories are all authentic Holmes pastiches, emulating Doyle’s writings. No modern-age fan fiction nonsense (like, say, the road BBC Sherlock went down).

The contributors donate their royalties, which goes to Undershaw, a school for special needs kids, which is in one of Arthur Conan Doyle’s former homes. Over $100,000 has been raised so far. It’s just a terrific project in multiple ways.

Some of my favorite writers have participated, including Denis O. Smith, Hugh Ashton, John Hall, Will Thomas, and more. I’ve also discovered some new Holmes writers I didn’t know about, like Mark Mower, Mike Hogan, and Tim Symonds.

Plotting is my Achilles heel, but I’m working on getting back in the series with some new stories. Arthur Conan Doyle looked into several true crimes – often to try and thwart a miscarriage of justice. The case of George Edalji is probably the best-known. Not too long ago, a fictionalized account, Arthur and George, was made into a TV miniseries.

For MX, I took that case and had Sherlock Holmes investigate it as it occurred. “The Adventure of the Parson’s Son” appeared in third volume of this series, and was part of the initial three-part release. If you’d like to read a Doyle-styled Holmes story by yours truly, keep on going.

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