Last 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.
For our next “victim” of the new Black Gate column, The Poison Apple, I’d like to introduce Steven Van Patten. Steven is a member of the Horror Writer’s Association and when vampires are supposed to be sleeping, he works as a TV show stage manager. In the past he’s worked on shows such as MTV’s Total Request Live, The Dr. Oz Show, Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. He straddles two extremes of a busy lifestyle but still manages to write about topics that are underexplored in the speculative fiction realm. He’s written the Brookwater’s Curse series, Rudy’s Night Out, a children’s vampire story, and Killer Genius: She Kills Because She Cares, which was nominated for the African-American Literary Show Award.
Crowens: What got you into vampires?
SVP: As a little kid and an only child, often I had to entertain myself. Back in the day, that included Chiller Theater and being inspired by movies with Christopher Lee. When Blacula was released, that stuck with me as a strong, dominant character but in a sea of stereotypical nonsense in a Blaxploitation flick. As I got older, I started getting annoyed as to what happened to the brothers in a horror movie — they were dead before the credits rolled and characters were underdeveloped.
In 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.
I 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.
I’ll come right out and admit I have mixed feelings about ebooks. I travel considerably for my day job and don’t mind having portable versions of books I own for quick reference, but the idea of owning books that cannot be found in print editions on my shelves at home irks me. That said, I recognize the market for digital-only titles is steadily growing, particularly among small press publishers. This, of course, is having its impact on the “New Pulp” community. Witness Pro Se Press’s decision earlier this year to discontinue their pulp magazine, Pro Se Presents and replace it with their Single Shot Signatures line of short stories available exclusively as ebooks.
My first sampling of the above is the newly published Magee, Volume One – “Knight from Hell” by David White. At first glance, I was struck by the apparent illustration of publisher Tommy Hancock on the cover, but on second glance I determined it was actually author David White wearing one of Tommy’s trademark hats. Of course, I was wrong on both counts since the illustration actually depicts the anti-hero of the piece, Magee.
Magee, it transpires, is actually the fallen angel Malachi who was exiled from Heaven after a fight over a woman with the archangel Michael. We’ll pause right here and note that David White is not a theologian and plays fast and loose with Christian tradition on such celestial matters. Following that disclaimer, we’ll make mention of the fact that Michael likewise banished the archangel Lucifer from Heaven following a similar fight. It seems that God is an absentee deity in these proceedings as He has abandoned Heaven to putter around in the Garden of Eden for several thousand years now.
Miss some network fantasy over the last week? We’ve got you covered:
Once Upon a Time – “The Price of Gold”
The fairy tales diverge more and more from the traditional ones, as we learn the backstory of Cinderella. Just as her fairy godmother is about to help change her life, she is instead incinerated in a burst of flame … by Rumplestiltskin, who steals her magic wand. Cinderella, he says, is better off without magic anyway. But, of course, if she really wants to change her life, he’ll be willing to help out. For a price.
The “reality” tale is based around Ashley, a pregnant teenager who has agreed to put her child up for adoption, using Mr. Gold as the person handling the adoption. This brings up a lot of guilty baggage for Emma, in relation to her own decision to give up Henry all those years ago. …
Another week, another set of new television goodness from the non-cable networks. Seriously, after a year where there’s been very little mainstream science fiction and fantasy on television, it’s nice to see it coming back in such full force. I’m still divided on which of the new shows I most like (though I still probably lean, just a touch, toward Once Upon a Time), though, and both seem to have some potential.
Now on to the show recaps…
Grimm – “Bears Will Be Bears,” Nov. 4 – A breaking and entering goes bad, resulting in one of the intruders becoming a missing person. This bizarre case brings Nick face to face with an ancient race performing a violent rite of passage. (If you can’t guess the fairy tale being invoked from the episode title, you need to turn off your television and read a book of fairy tales. I mean now. Here’s a free one.) Meanwhile, the bludbad Eddie is enlisted to help Nick protect his aunt, but he goes beyond mere comic relief when he lets his inner wolf out on too long a leash.
The best thing about this show, in my opinion, is Eddie, and I’m glad to see that they made such good use of him so quickly out of the gate. I could care less about Nick, to be honest, but that isn’t necessarily a show killer. After all, I was a huge fan of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, but the main thing that made 7 years of Buffy’s angst enjoyable was the quality supporting cast: Xander, Giles, Willow, and Oz. Still, Grimm is nowhere near Whedon-esque proportions yet, so I recommend they make Nick a bit more engaging. You can watch the episode online on the official NBC show page or over at Hulu.com.
Now that there’s actually more than one good fantasy show on network television, I’ve decided to step back from the detailed Supernatural post mortem (so to speak) and instead to provide a weekly update on the happenings of these fantasy television series all at once. So, here we go with the breakdown for last week’s shows:
Supernatural – “Slash Fiction” (aired: Friday, Oct. 28) – Sam and Dean are up against … Sam and Dean. The Leviathans take a different tactic in an effort to take down the boys, by shapeshifting into them and going on a killing spree (and making sure they get caught on video doing so). Meanwhile, Bobby tries to find a way to kill the Leviathan they took captive at the end of the previous episode. Turns out that decapitation and the chemical borax make for a potent combination. We also learn that when Leviathans touch the person’s body (or, apparently, hair from a shower drain) to shapeshift into their physical form, they also absorb the feelings and thoughts of the target. The two Leviathans are pretty disgusted by the dysfunction of the boys, and the faux Dean reveals to Sam that he killed Amy. The episode will soon be available for online streaming at the Supernatural website.
Grimm – “Pilot” (aired: Friday, Oct. 28) – Check out the review here, including links to places where the episodes are streamed online.
Once Upon a Time – “The Thing You Love Most” (aired: Sunday, October 30) – In my review of the pilot, I said that the show really needed to make the present-day plotline more compelling. The second episode does a much better job of balancing the fairy tale plotline and the real world one, in a way that is reminiscent of the excellent way that Lost handled their flashback structure. The flashbacks of this episode focus on what the Evil Queen had to do in order to enact the dark curse that trapped them all in this world … which included a deal with Rumpelstiltskin and a powerful sacrifice. The present day storyline begins to draw out some better characterization than in the pilot, especially among the local sheriff (not sure who he was in fairy tale world), Mr. Hopper (i.e. Jiminy Cricket), Regina (the Evil Queen), and Emma Swan herself, as Regina’s attempts to force Emma out of town begin to draw in more participants on both sides. It also becomes a lot more clear what sort of person Emma is and that she isn’t going to take attacks lying down. This episode is available for online streaming through the official website and on Hulu.
Supernatural Spotlight – Episode 7.4 “Defending Your Life”
This week begins with a car chasing a man through the streets of Dearborn, MI. He gets into his 10th floor apartment … only to find the car in the room waiting for him, slamming him into the wall.
Sam and Dean are happy to be working a more normal case. They briefly wonder if the case could be a Christine-style living car, but that doesn’t explain how it gets onto the 10th floor. The victim is a recovered alcoholic and makes monthly flower deliveries to a cemetery.
Seems the guy may have been a drunk driver who killed a girl a decade earlier. The boys dig up the girl’s body and burn the bones, which should take care of everything … but another guy goes through a similar situation, this time mauled by a dog.
Looks like there’s more going on here than just a ticked off spirit.
Supernatural’s usually a bit more episodic than it has been lately. It seems like the last dozen or so episodes, even spanning back into the final episodes of last season, have had full-blown cliffhangers instead of just the usual dangling plot threads.
In this case, the cliffhanger is Sam and Dean getting taken to a hospital that is now run by Leviathan-possessed people. Bobby shows up in an uncharacteristically-dapper suit to get a morphine-laden Dean and unconscious Sam out of the hospital. They narrowly escape in a stolen ambulance, chased by Leviathans … and then comes the title splash. It does take a bit of the bite out of the cliffhanger when you know it’s going to get un-hanged before the title splashes across the screen.
With that out of the way, we get on with the plot of the episode, which focuses on an episode from Sam’s youth and his budding romance with a young woman named Amy … a girl who shows up in the present day in the form of Firefly and Stargate: Atlantis alum Jewel Staite.