BWW Reviews: SONS OF MORIARTY Collects The Great Holmes Pastiches
There are mystery lovers, and then there are lovers of Sherlock Holmes. For those who marvel at the amount of "fan fiction" available on line for people who follow "Star Trek" and other shows, it's significant to realize that the first model of fan fiction came about with the first Sherlock Holmes pastiche, of which there are now thousands.
Holmes pastiches and parodies have been written by the best and brightest of authors (possibly far better than Arthur Conan Doyle himself) - August Derleth, Stephen King, even Neil Gaiman. Laurie King and Carole Nelson Douglas have written entire series of Holmes novels from varying points of view - that of Irene Adler, "the" woman, and that of... yes, Holmes' wife, detective Mary Russell. (No, not John Watson, although those stories are also plentiful, and often well-written, though not sanctioned by the Doyle estate.)
SONS OF MORIARTY AND MORE STORIES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES is a collection of previously-published pastiches, edited by Loren D. Estleman, that selects some of the very best of the individual short-story and novella pastiches. Robert L. Fish (aka Lamprey) is represented with Schlock Homes and his infamous puns, in "The Adventure of the Double-Bogey Man," while "The Adventure of the Frightened Baronet" represents Derleth's detective Solar Pons in the volume. The most novel of the stories may be "Sherlocks" by Al Sarrantonio, about robotic investigative devices, while Lenore Carroll's "Before the Adventures" is a narrative by a certain former Army doctor, never named, about the friend who introduced him to his wife and to the art of detection, and persuaded him to invent the characters of Watson and Holmes. The one clear thing is that the unnamed narrator is not Arthur Conan Doyle, but is in fact a version of Watson.
The piece de resistance of the book is Estleman's complete novella, "Sons of Moriarty", perhaps the most ripping of ripping yarns, involving Holmes and Watson with the Sicilian and American Mafia some years after "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons." Taking them from Baker Street to Manhattan, plagued by reporters and hit men, they meet members of the Black Hand as well as an Italian-American police detective who turns out to be a worthy competitor with Holmes in the arts of detection and self-defense, and a boarding-house owner who's a former brothel madam. It's well-written, compelling, and worth the price of admission all by itself - although Fish's Schlock Homes and Dr. Watney provide a delicious diversion from murder and robbery in their missing-person investigation.
All stories are previously published; for a dedicated Holmes aficionado, it's worth the time to check the table of contents before purchase, as you may already own several of the stories in other volumes, though some have not been in print recently. For a newcomer, it's a wonderful introduction to the wide variety of writings based on Doyle's work. Published by Tyrus Books this fall, it's a worthy addition to the collections of pastiches already on shelves, though not necessarily currently on the market. If you've never been introduced to Fish's or Derleth's Holmes-and-Watson variants, this volume may be a necessity. For any mystery lover it's useful - for budding Sherlockians, it's the perfect gift.
Graphic: Tyrus Books