[A version of this essay appeared in The Proceedings of the Pondicherry Lodge, the official journal of The Sherlock Holmes Society of India (Volume 8, Issue 1, June 1, 2020)]
In December 1939, a mystery novel entitled Red Threads by Rex Stout was published, apparently to little acclaim then, and today it’s mostly forgotten.At that point, Stout had been serving as the literary agent to Archie Goodwin for five years, and he’d been involved in the publication of six Nero Wolfe adventures. A seventh Wolfe narrative would be published a month later, in early 1940. Today Stout’s legacy is his association with Wolfe (the son of Sherlock Holmes), and only true fans are aware of the non-Wolfe books in his bibliography.
Two years before writing Red Threads, Stout had also produced another non-Wolfe tale, The Hand in the Glove. This had also gained very little interest at the time and it’s now largely forgotten. Between 1913 and 1941, Stout wrote approximately eighteen non-Wolfe novels, but what makes Red Threads and The Hand in the Glove interesting – at least to me – is that they're set in The Wolfe Universe, even if Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin don’t make any appearances.
The Hand in the Glove concerns another New York private detective, Theodolinda “Dol” Bonner, who would later go on to appear in three Wolfe stories, and also in one of Stout’s three novels involving Tecumseh Fox – thus also linking Fox into The World of Wolfe. Stout also had one book and one short story about another detective named Alphabet Hicks – Alphabet Hicks?!? – who was tied to the overall Wolfe world by the appearance of a police sergeant, Purley Stebbins, who was also regularly in the Wolfe books.
Of these different works, Red Threads is the most interesting of all to me, as it features Inspector Cramer, the policeman who most often has dealings with Wolfe throughout The Corpus, as the collected novels and novellas concerning Wolfe are called. In this stand-alone volume we view Cramer functioning as a competent investigator through a third-person lens, instead of seeing him as narrated by Archie Goodwin – usually during those frequent moments when Cramer is at his most vexed while dealing with Wolfe. And yet, Red Threads and the other titles mentioned above don’t get much attention, even from the most devoted fans of Nero Wolfe, and I simply don’t understand this. If there was a book that had come down to us by way of Dr. Watson’s Literary Agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, telling a separate stand-alone adventure of Inspector Lestrade, it would be treated with same reverence and study as one of The Lost Books of the Bible, with all the research and examination that it deserved. (After all, the various Canonical Apocrypha pieces, such as “The Lost Special” and “The Man With the Watches”, are given all the respect that is due to them, in spite of Holmes’s negligible appearance within them.) The same would be true if there were stories from that same source about other Canonical personalities, such as Mycroft Holmes, Mrs. Hudson, Professor Moriarty, or even Barker, the private detective who was Holmes’s “hated rival upon the Surrey shore”.
Sadly, there are no stand-alone Canonically-based separate Lestrade adventures – at least by way of the Literary Agent’s desk. But fortunately it has been long-established by now that such narratives do not have to travel that route to be both wonderful and acceptable. Some modern-day literary agents have found their own items of excellence – and on occasion these are better than what Watson recorded (by way of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) in the official Canon. (Yes, I wrote that, and I stand by it.)
So even though we don’t have Apocryphal tales from the Literary Agent’s desk about Lestrade, Barker, and the rest, we do nevertheless have them from other people, and we are very fortunate indeed.
While there are thousands of non-Literary Agent narratives that provide additional details about the lives of Our Heroes, this essay will look at some that specifically focus upon certain individuals that were mentioned within The Canon, and tell us so much more about them than what we can see and deduce during the short times when they appeared on-stage at 221b Baker Street. And since this essay began by referring to Inspector Cramer, the policeman most often involved with Nero Wolfe, I’ll pivot to Holmes and the officer who is the most-associated with The Canon, Inspector Lestrade.
Inspector G. Lestrade appears or is mentioned in thirteen of the original Canonical adventures, nearly twenty-two percent of them. He’s described by Holmes early on as “the best of a bad lot”, but as time goes on Holmes’s opinion of the man rises quite a bit – later Holmes calls him “the best of the professionals”, and reciprocally, Lestrade thinks a great deal more of Holmes as well, as witnessed by his comments at the end of “The Six Napoleons”:
“Well,” said Lestrade, “I’ve seen you handle a good many cases, Mr. Holmes, but I don’t know that I ever knew a more workmanlike one than that. We’re not jealous of you at Scotland Yard. No, sir, we are very proud of you, and if you come down to-morrow, there’s not a man, from the oldest inspector to the youngest constable, who wouldn’t be glad to shake you by the hand.”
The Canon isn’t very informative about Lestrade, but thank heavens we have a source of information that completely tells us the man’s full life history. Marcia Wilson has brought forth a massive amount of information in countless stories about both Lestrade and the rest of the Scotland Yarders, relating the history of their fascinating lives beyond what we learn by way of Watson in The Canon. Originally, she wrote dozens of stories that were posted online as fan-fiction under the pen-name “aragonite”. The first fan letter that I ever wrote to a Sherlockian author was sent to Marcia, way back in 2008. Over the years, I wisely printed and archived every single one of her stories when it appeared online, and I still maintain them in two massive binders.
She wrote stand-alone short stories, and interconnected vignettes, and whole novels of incredible brilliance. All of these have amazing depth and consistency, both in their descriptions of the Scotland Yarders, and Holmes and Watson as well. Read these and the Yarders are real to you. Her early novels that provide Lestrade’s convoluted history, as well as the narrative of how he meets his wife, are unforgettable. The five novels that tell of what happened in Lestrade and Watson’s lives during The Great Hiatus (The MoonCursers, A Sword for Defense, The Narrow Path, The End of All Things, and A Fanged and Bitter Thing), will absolutely define for the reader what happened over the course of those three tragic and dangerous years, and no other version will ever be good enough once these have been read.
After leaving these stories online for quite a while, Marcia eventually revised and then published some at Lulu.com, and more recently, she’s been in the process of releasing them through MX Publishing. Shown here are her published works (so far), as well as my gigantic binders (assembled over a decade ago) in which all of her other works are collected and saved. I would fight for the honor to be considered her biggest fan, and I’ll confirm to anyone that she has absolutely found Scotland Yard’s Tin Dispatch Box.
Marcia Wilson isn’t the only person who has attempted to chronicle Lestrade’s life beyond his involvement with Sherlock Holmes. M.J. Trow has written seventeen books and a short story about Lestrade – his own unique version of “Sholto” Lestrade, as Trow calls him. In these tales, covering events ranging from 1879 to 1923, Holmes is sometimes presented as a figure of ridicule, although inconsistently during others he’s given more respect. To read them – even though there is much that excellent about them – one must also take a grain of salt – well, multiple grains – and I can’t always accept every one of the books, as I’m a stickler for Holmesian Truth, but others are tolerable . . . .
Another lesser-known examination of Lestrade and the Yarders can be found in a large collection of inter-related fan-fiction stories by the mysteriously named “bemj11”. These owe quite a bit to Marcia Wilson’s narratives, but they do break off in their own direction in other significant ways. Originally a massive number of these were published around 2010 before they abruptly stopped.(In the world of fan-fiction, where information about authors is often impossible to obtain, any knowledge about bemj11 and the reasons for suspending this series for so long is unknown.) Fortunately I collected and saved these stories in the binders shown here, and happily, some updates have recently appeared, promising more to come . . . .
There was an item that briefly appeared on Amazon that was certainly by bemj11 under another similar author name – The Family Thief by B.E.M. Jenkins. Like so many Sherlockian pastiches, I’m glad that I bought it when I did, because it’s long-since vanished . . . .
Inspector Athelney Jones
Lestrade isn’t the only Canonically-mentioned Inspector to get his own narrative. Athelney Jones, the rather buffoonish policeman we first meet in The Sign of the Four, tells us own adventure in Leverett Butts’ The Gypsy Rose and the China Doll. Holmes isn’t represented very well in this one, but then again one must consider that we’re seeing him from Jones’s particular and biased viewpoint. Don’t miss it!
The other narrative concerning Athelney Jones, Anthony Horowitz’s Moriarty(2015), is much more problematic. This is the second Holmes-connected adventure brought to us by Horowitz, the first being The House of Silk (2011). Mr. Horowitz is quite confident in his presentation, but his Sherlockian assertions and certainties aren’t always backed by very much actual knowledge of The Canon. When The House of Silk was first published, Horowitz mentioned in several astonishing interviews the astounding and false claim that he was the first to present a new Holmes adventure since the original Literary Agent’s death in 1930. In spite of this, The House of Silk ended up being, for the most part, a tolerable adaptation by Horowitz from Watson’s original notes – after one became used to the arrogant Sherlockian errors in the text. His second effort in this milieu, Moriarty, raised more objections. While I have no doubt that some of the events described within the narrative are accurate, Horowitz’s own adjustments to both Moriarty and Athelney Jones, the two primary characters in the book, display a great deal of pure invention and ignorance.
In fact, it’s doubtful that the policeman in this book is actually Athelney Jones at all. He certainly doesn’t fit the description of the fellow we meet in SIGN. Rather, the story likely involves some other policeman entirely whose name was changed by Horowitz to Athelney Jones simply to aid in reader familiarity. All-in-all, Horowitz’s Moriarty is a perfect example of a wider problem within the world of Sherlockian publishing: It’s a mediocre story at best, but because it was from an old-school publisher, still functioning within the old system, it received a lot of attention that it simply didn’t deserve, and the publishers were able to foist onto the public the ongoing and incorrect belief that there are just a limited number of acceptable Holmes stories out there from what they define as “real” publishers, leaving that same public ignorant that there are many more adventures available to them that are infinitely better and more correct.
Professor Moriarty has been featured in several other series of his own. The best, without doubt, are the incredibly clever and well-written books and short stories by Michael Kurland. I discovered these in the late 1970’s when I was a young teenager, just a few years after I’d found Holmes. I bought the paperback of Kurland’s first Moriarty novel, The Infernal Device, and realized that there was a whole world of ways to learn about Holmes in addition to Watson’s viewpoint. This Moriarty wasn’t quite evil – not yet, anyway – and he and his associates were incredibly fascinating. Sadly, there were only five of Kurland’s Moriarty novels published, and four short stories, before the series apparently went on Hiatus in 2014. In the meantime, I’ve consistently pestered Mr. Kurland to write another Moriarty short story for the ongoing series of anthologies that I edit, The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, so there’s still hope.
Kurland’s Moriarty stories are:
• The Infernal Device (1978)
• Death by Gaslight (1982)
• The Great Game (2001)
• The Empress of India (2006)
• Who Thinks Evil (2014)
• Victorian Villainy (2011 – Short stories, including “The Paradol Paradox”,“Years Ago and in a Different Place”, “Reichenbach”, and “The Picture of Oscar Wilde”)
Although there is debate about the exact location, everyone knows that Sherlock Holmes lived in Baker Street. There is less discussion than there should be about where Professor Moriarty lived. Mr. Kurland places the Professor’s address at 64 Russell Square, near the British Museum, and intriguingly just around the corner from No. 24 Montague Street, where Holmes lived in the 1870’s when he first came up to London.
During my three (so far) Holmes Pilgrimages to London and other parts of England and Great Britain, I’ve stayed in the hotel on several occasions that now occupies No. 24 Montague Street, and I’ve also made it a point to seek out Moriarty’s old home – for I believe with certainty that Mr. Kurland’s identification of the address is correct – at least as to location, if not the actual number . . . for No. 64 Russell Square is actually a hotel. Early on, I deduced that in fact the Professor somehow obfuscated the public records, and that he actually lived at 46 Russell Square, just a few hundred feet from where Holmes initially resided, instead of No. 64. I mentioned this to Mr. Kurland, who replied, “I think you’re right and the Professor disguised the true address for obvious reasons.” Here’s a photo of No. 46 Russell Square, taken on my first Holmes Pilgrimage in 2013. It’s the third house from the right, now an organization to enable students to study abroad. (There are three students – not the three students, of course – sitting on the front steps near the automobile, and that’s Montague Street located at the extreme far right.)
John Gardner, most important to me as the man who brought us new James Bond adventures in the 1980's and 1990’s, also wrote three volumes about Professor Moriarty, as based on decoded journals that he’d discovered. The first two books, The Return of Moriarty and The Revenge of Moriarty, appeared in 1974 and 1975 respectively, but the last, simply titled Moriarty, appeared in 2008, one year after Gardner’s death. While billed as novels about the Professor, these are in fact narratives about the Professor’s younger brother, the station master from the west of England, who – to put it far too simplistically – has disguised himself in order to take the professor’s place.
Other Moriarty books include Kim Newman’s fascinating Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’urbervilles (2011) and Clive Brooks’ The Memoirs of Professor Moriarty – Volume I (1990 – Sadly, there was never actually a Volume II.)
Colonel Moran, the second most dangerous man in London, and the Professor’s principle assistant, was the narrator of Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles, and he also penned The Moriarty Papers (2011) and The File on Colonel Moran (2011), the latter by way of Vernon Mealor . . . .
Sherlock Holmes felt that Professor Moriarty was his Dark Side equivalent, but there was another, on the side of the Light, whom Holmes, without modesty, admitted was even smarter than himself – his older brother Mycroft. There have been several different Mycroft Holmes series over the last few decades. It all began with Enter the Lion (1979) by Sean M. Wright and Michael P. Hodel. This was also a title that I found in the late-1970’s days of my early Sherlockian enthusiasm, again showing me that there were other viewpoints besides Watson’s to reveal to us what was happening in Holmes’s world. This was a stand-alone work for many years, but recently Sean Wright has written a couple of new Mycroft short stories, both of which have appeared in recent volumes of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, and there is hope that there will be more of them to follow . . . .
Three really excellent Mycroft Holmes novels were brought forth by Glen Petrie: The Dorking Gap Affair (1989), The Monstrous Regiment (1990), and The Hampstead Poisonings (1995). But there is a fourth book listed out there by Petrie, also from 1995, and I don’t know if it actually exists or not, called The Young Poisoners. Considering the date and the similar title, this is likely alternate presentation of The Hampstead Poisonings, perhaps an original or place-holder title that was registered and never used. The late Phillip K. Jones’ massive pastiche database showed these titles to be the same book. But Jones’ database also shows another Petrie title, Mycroft Holmes and the Versailles Protocol, which he describes as “Mycroft Holmes #01” and indicated that it was “unpublished”. If this one does exist, somewhere out there, then I WANT IT!
Mycroft Holmes’s further adventures, as narrated by his irritating assistant Paterson Guthrie, appeared as four books, published yearly from 1998 to 2000, by “Quinn Fawcett" (the combination of the writing team of Chelsea Quinn Yarbro and Bill Fawcett): Against The Brotherhood (1997), Embassy Row (1998), The Flying Scotsman (1999), and The Scottish Ploy (2000). These had interesting plots, and they were set in the correct years, without any of the foolish and moronic nonsense that has been grafted onto Mycroft recently in some abominable modernized television shows, but I was never entirely enamored of them. The writing style was rather grating – as if each author was putting down alternating sentences without having read what the other had just written. (“Will there will be another murder?” “My boy, are you wondering if there will be another murder?”) Additionally, there were regular between-chapter segments from the journals of Mycroft’s servant, Tyers, and I initially kept thinking that these would lead to something startling – perhaps a “What-really-happened” revelation at the end – but they were never more than a few regularly placed, tedious, and momentum-destroying paragraphs about the difficulties of obtaining a certain item to cook, or Tyers’ concerns regarding his sick mother.
Sixteen extensive Mycroft Holmes adventures appeared on-line for a number of years, as presented by Sam Bonnamy. Six more Mycroft tales were brought to us by David Dickinson as Kindle titles (The Silver Birches, The Naval Engineer, The Missing Popes, The Banker’s Conclave, Murder at the Diogenes Club, and The Romanov Pearls. Here they are in the binders where I saved and printed them as physical pape copies,instead of ephemeral e-blips . . . .
Maryam Wade has published seven (so far)slim Mycroft adventures through Amazon: The Giant Rat of Folkestone, The Red Leech,The Canary Trainer, The Dark Man, and The Royal Orphan, and Black Moon . . .
There is a more well-known ongoing series about Mycroft currently being brought to the public by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse. These three volumes, which began with Mycroft Holmes in 2015, and then Mycroft and Sherlock (2018) and Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage (2019), go back to examine Mycroft’s younger adventures when he was slim and in the process of becoming the man that we see through Watson’s eyes years later. (There’s also a related Graphic Novel which I won’t touch because it’s fully set in an Alternate Universe, and thus has nothing whatsoever to do with Sherlock Holmes.)
Janina Woods has also written two novels about an Alternate Universe Mycroft, where he’s a slim blonde fellow who is a master of deadly Martial Arts, and apparently the Victorian James Bond of the 1890’s British Secret Service:
An incredible look into the mind of Mycroft Holmes has come to us by way of Master Pasticheur Sarah Bennett. She originally wrote, as a very small part of her massive pastiche catalogue, The Secret Diary of Mycroft Holmes, Esq. a fan-fiction novel which was published online under her pen-name Westron Wynde. Then followed later with The Continuing Diary of Mycroft Holmes, Esq: The Hiatus Years. Here are the print-outs of those stories from my collection, kept with all of her other masterpiece pastiches in my three massive Westron Wynde binders:
Later, her first set of Mycroft chronicles, covering events from 1880 to 1888, was revised and published in 2017 by Belanger Books. I anxiously await more of them . . . .
Another important figure whose activities and adventures have been chronicled in tales beyond The Canon is Mrs. Hudson. Sadly, Sidney Paget never illustrated her, so here’s a photo of her as portrayed by Mary Gordon:
Mrs. Hudson (along with her orphaned assistant Flotsam) has been featured in four books (so far) by Martin Davies – The Spirits’ Curse (2004), The Malabar Rose (2005), The Lazarus Testament (2015), and The Samarkand Conspiracy (2020).
Then there’s Memoirs from Mrs. Hudson’s Kitchen (2017) by Wendy Heyman-Marsaw, a mixture of musings and recipes, and more recently Mrs. Hudson Investigates (2019) by Susan Knight, with a series of related adventures:
Next for Mrs. Hudson are the six books by Barry Brown. The premise is simple: It’s Mrs. Hudson who is the true sleuth of Baker Street, rather than Holmes. Through the entire series of books, she leads the way, with Holmes, Watson, and even Mycroft in support. In some ways, these books mimic the scheme of the 1988 film Without a Clue, with Mrs. Hudson as the behind-the-scenes brains instead of Dr. Watson. Still, it’s a very fresh perspective on the Holmesian world. The books are:
• The Unpleasantness at Parkerton Manor (2010)
• Mrs. Hudson and the Irish Invincibles (2011)
• Mrs. Hudson in the Ring (2013)
• Mrs. Hudson in New York (2015)
• Mrs. Hudson’s Olympic Triumph (2017)
• Mrs. Hudson Takes the Stage (2020)
Sidney Hosier wrote four Mrs. Hudson novels – this time giving her the first name “Emma” instead of the more traditionally accepted “Martha”. In these, Mrs. Hudson is again the detective, assisted by her friend Mrs. Violet Warner, Titles include Elementary, Mrs. Hudson (1996), Murder, Mrs. Hudson (1997), The Game’s Afoot, Mrs. Hudson (1998), and Most Baffling, Mrs. Hudson (1998).
Other explorations of Mrs. Hudson as the main character include B.J. Vassar’s A Hudson View (2008), and The Beekeeper’s Friend (2009) . . .
. . . as well as D.T. Galbraith’s Mrs. Hudson (& Sherlock Holmes) (2012), and Mrs. Hudson’s Diaries (2012) by Barry Cryer and Bob Cryer.
A woman who was only involved in one Canonical Case, “A Scandal in Bohemia”, and only mentioned in three others (“A Case of Identity”, “The Blue Carbuncle”, and “His Last Bow”) exerts a massive amount of influence on The Great Holmes Tapestry. Of course, this person must be Irene Adler
The definitive presentation of Irene can be found in Carole-Nelson Douglas’s eight novels (and five short stories). I’ve tried a few times to convince Ms. Douglas to contribute a new Irene short story to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, because it’s been far too long, and while she did let me have a wonderful poem for one of the first three MX volumes, so far her visits to Irene’s Tin Dispatch Box continue to remain paused.
Ms. Douglas's Irene Adler novels include:
• Good Night, Mr. Holmes (1990)
• Good Morning, Irene (1991)
• Irene at Large (1992 - reissued as A Soul of Steel)
• Irene’s Last Waltz (1994 - reissued as Another Scandal in Bohemia)
• Chapel Noir (2001)
• Castle Rouge(2002)
• Femme Fatale (2003)
• Spider Dance (2004)
Her Irene short stories are:
• “Parris Greene” (1992) in Malice Domestic 2
• “Dracula on the Rocks” (1995) in Celebrity Vampires
• “The Thief of Twelfth Night” (1996) in Holmes for the Holidays
• “Mesmerizing Bertie” (1998) in Crime Through Time II
• “A Baker Street Irregular” (1998) in Midnight Louie’s Pet Detectives
• “The Private Wife of Sherlock Holmes” (2009) in Sex, Lies, and Private Eyes
In addition to these excellent tales of Holmes and Irene in the 1880’s, Amy Thomas has made us aware of their encounters in Holmes’s later years. These four books (so far) include The Detective and the Woman (2012), The Detective, the Woman, and the Winking Tree (2013), The Detective, the Woman, and the Silent Hive (2014), and The Detective, the Woman, and the Pirate’s Bounty (2019).
Another Canonical woman, Mary Morstan Watson, is presented in Molly Carr’s The Sign of Fear (2010) and A Study in Crimson (2010) where Watson’s bored wife, assisted by her friend Emily Fanshaw, solve a few mysteries:
The Other Mrs. Watsons
Besides Mary Watson née Morstan, Watson was married two other times. There are several Canonical cases which are set before Watson meets Mary in September 1888, during The Sign of the Four. Who was this other woman – this first Mrs. Watson? Luckily, Holmesian scholar William S. Baring-Gould identified her as Constance Watson. Her existence helps explain a number of chronological inconsistencies within The Canon. Constance and the Good Doctor were married from 1886-1887, before her untimely death due to illness. Watson’s third wife is never named, but he married her in 1902, as implied when Watson moved from Baker Street to Queen Anne Street in fall 1902 (as related in "The Illustrious Client"), and as mentioned in early 1903 when Sherlock Holmes wrote (in “The Blanched Soldier”)
I find from my notebook that it was in January, 1903, just after the conclusion of the Boer War, that I had my visit from Mr. James M. Dodd, a big, fresh, sunburned, upstanding Briton. The good Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife, the only selfish action which I can recall in our association. I was alone.
Both of these two wives had been featured in many more extra-Canonical stories than can be discussed here – but fortunately I’ve discussed the matter in much greater depth in this blog entry, “Watson’s Wives and A Question of Chronology”:
In The Hound of the Baskervilles, we met the fascinating Dr. Mortimer. It’s no surprise that he’s been featured in two books of his own, Dr. Mortimer and the Aldgate Mystery (2000) and Dr. Mortimer and the Barking Man Mystery (2001).
In these narratives, Dr. Mortimer is widowed in the late 1880’s, remarries, and then moves to London, where he opens a clinic with his second wife, who is also a physician. In 2003, a third book, Dr. Mortimer and the Carved Head Mystery, was announced, and I pre-ordered it, but it was never actually published. Eventually I contacted the publisher, and they told me that Gerard Williams had died, and that his family had withdrawn the book. So it’s still out there – somewhere – and I’m still hoping for it. If you’re part of Mr. William’s family, or know them, please turn it loose.
There are several characters besides Irene Adler who make very few appearances in the Canon – some in just one story, and others only being mentioned once. One of the most intriguing of these is Baker, another London private detective whom Holmes describes in “The Retired Colourman” as “my hated rival on the Surrey side.” Thankfully, Will Thomas took this slim reference – Barker’s location and his succinctly described appearance – and ran with it. While Thomas never publicly acknowledges that his Barker is the Canonical Barker, take it from me – there is no doubt. This is Barker. Thomas has shown us Barker’s whole world: His office, his residence, his friends, his enemies, and even pieces of his mysterious past – but not all of it, leaving enough for many more revelations in future books. The Barker books (and one novella) are:
• Some Danger Involved (2004)
• To Kingdom Come (2005)
• The Limehouse Text (2006)
• The Hellfire Conspiracy (2007)
• The Black Hand (2008)
• Fatal Enquiry (2014)
• Anatomy of Evil(2015)
• Hell Bay (2016)
• “An Awkward Way to Die” (2017 - Novella)
• Old Scores (2017)
• Blood Is Blood (2018)
• Lethal Pursuit (2019)
Just reading this list makes me want to read these books again, while looking forward to the next ones. I’ve visited London and various British locations on three separate Holmes Pilgrimages (2013, 2015, and 2016), and each time I essentially only went to Holmes-related sites. I made a few exceptions – Solar Pons’s house at 7B Praed Street, Hercule Poirot’s two residences (14 Farraway Street and Whitehaven Mansions), James Bond’s home in Wellington Square . . . and Cyrus Barker’s office in Craig’s Court. Here’s a photo I posted to Will Thomas live one night from London when my deerstalker and I were standing at the door to Cyrus Barker’s old office:
Francois Le Villard
Another little-mentioned Canonical character is Francois Le Villard of the French Detective Service, who appears in passing in The Sign of the Four. In 1999, Timothy Francis Sheil published a massive pastiche, The Siam Question, in which Le Villard plays an extremely important role. In addition to relating one of Holmes’s missions during The Great Hiatus, this impressive volume also tells what happens immediately after Holmes’s return to London in April 1894, and the additional details regarding his battle at that time with the Professor’s brother, Colonel Moriarty. The book is a huge hardcover, over 600 pages long, bound in faux leather to look as if it is part of a series of Foreign Office documents, compiled by Watson at Mycroft’s request. There was a promised sequel, The Egypt Question, but sadly, it has yet to appear. (The dust jacket says that Mr. Sheil was born in 1948, so he’d best crack on and finish it.)
Victor Trevor, one of Holmes’s old school-chums, is only mentioned in “The Gloria Scott”, but he figures in quite a bit of Holmes fan-fiction, and he’s a very important figure, even if he’s often off-stage, in the four novels in A.S. Croyle’s Before Watson series:
• When the Song of the Angel is Stilled (2015
• The Bird and the Buddha (2016)
• The Case of the Swan in the Fog (2017)
• The Case of the Three Species (2019)
Each of these, set in the 1870’s, is narrated by Dr. Poppy Stamford, sister of the same Stamford who will eventually introduce Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Watson. Poppy mistakenly believes that she is the only woman that Holmes – in his attempts to be the perfect reasoning machine – will ever love. (If you read enough pastiches, you realize that there were several women who won his heart over the years, but – like Mr. Spock – he suppressed his emotions. It made him a much more interesting fellow than the damaged loveless being that many readers seem to need.) When we meet Poppy, she is Victor Stamford’s fiancé, but over the four books, we see how the lives of these young people change through the years and Croyle has indicated that there may be further Poppy Stamford tales in the future.
Besides Victor Trevor, The Canon mentions another of Holmes’s old school friends, Reginald Musgrave, of “The Musgrave Ritual” fame. While he has appeared in various extra-Canonical short stories, Musgrave’s most intriguing appearances are in a pair of curious tales by the late George Alec Effinger. In Sherlock Holmes in Orbit (1995) and My Sherlock Holmes (2003), there are two connected narratives, “The Musgrave Version” and “The Adventure of the Celestial Snows” respectively. Each is actually part of a much larger tale, narrated by Reginald Musgrave, regarding his and Holmes’s adventures in the late 1870’s, when both were still at University and suddenly found themselves in a year-long battle with Dr. Fu Manchu. There are rumors that the larger complete story exists, but it remains unpublished after Mr. Effinger died unexpectedly in 2002. If such a whole and complete work is actually out there somewhere, then I would urge that it be published.
There have been a number of other encounters between Holmes and the evil Doctor Fu Manchu over the years in other stories, the absolute best being Ten Years Beyond Baker Street (1984) by Cay Van Ash -
- but these two by Effinger are especially interesting and need to be brought forward in their entirety.
In “The Norwood Builder”, Watson explains that he sells his practice and moves back to Baker Street following Holmes’s return to London after The Great Hiatus:
A young doctor, named Verner, had purchased my small Kensington practice, and given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that I ventured to ask – an incident which only explained itself some years later when I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes’s, and that it was my friend who had really found the money.
Sam Siciliano has taken this slight reference and brought us seven adventures of Holmes and his cousin, Dr. Henry Vernier – a slightly different spelling, but doubtless the same person. Henry Vernier is quite frankly an irritating narrator. He wouldn’t be so bad, except that his jealousy of Watson literally drips off the page, and it skews any objectivity that we might have otherwise credited to him. He’s an unlikable character. He’s whiny and emasculated. He sometimes gets his facts and dates wrong, and he tells outright fibs. And in terms of his dislike of Watson, he frequently and egregiously states that he, Vernier, is Holmes’s best friend, even erroneously quoting Holmes as saying, “Dr. Watson and I are not quite so close as he has portrayed. In fact, Henry is my preferred companion.” Vernier deludedly believes this fact. It colors his perception so that he is convinced that he is the most involved and important figure in Holmes’s investigations, while Watson is simply a peripheral figure that Holmes tolerates but doesn’t really like, in spite of the thousands of documented cases with Watson – and not Vernier – that prove otherwise. And yet, these are good books – although the most recent volume takes steps to color so far outside the lines that I have to wonder just how far into an Alternate Universe Siciliano is intending to tread.
The first Dr Vernier volume originally appeared in hardcover, and subsequent volumes have all been released in paperback by Titan. They include:
• The Angel of the Opera (1994)
• The Web Weaver (2012)
• The Grimswell Curse (2013)
• The White Worm (2016)
• The Moonstone’s Curse (2017)
• The Devil and the Four (2018)
• The Venerable Tiger (2020)
For more about how I’m convinced that it’s Henry Vernier and not John Watson that is the young bespectacled pastry-eater in the film Young Sherlock Holmes (1985), see "Actually, That Wasn’t Watson: Some Notes Eventually Circling In Upon the Major Obfuscation in 'Young Sherlock Holmes'", to be found here in my irregular blog:
[This same essay also appeared in a slightly different form in The Watsonian, Fall 2016, Vol. 4, No. II)
The Baker Street Irregulars
There are more far books about Holmes's Baker Street Irregulars than can be discussed here - which is why I've discussed them in a separate blog entry: "A Consideration of Children in the World of Sherlock Holmes", to be found at:
Other Canonical Figures
There have been several collections where other numerous Canonical figures have been given their own narratives. These include:
• My Sherlock Holmes (2003)
• Beyond Watson (2016)
• Associates of Sherlock Holmes(2016)
• Further Associates of Sherlock Holmes (2017)
I’m proud to have a couple of my stories in two of these books. These are "Some Notes Upon the Matter of John Douglas" in Beyond Watson, relating new information about the events of The Valley of Fear by way of Colonel Moran, and “No Good Deed” in Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as narrated by Canonical character Jim Smith. Jim Smith? you might ask, a puzzled look on your brow. Yes, Jim Smith, the son of Mordecai Smith, the owner of the Aurora, the steamboat in The Sign of the Four. When I was asked to contribute a story to this volume, I didn’t want to just tell another tale featuring Lestrade or Mycroft or Mrs. Hudson or Irene Adler. While I love those and there can never be enough of them – as long as they’re really about the TRUE Lestrade or Mycroft or Mrs. Hudson or Irene Adler and not these modern destructive offensive simulacrums that are lately so prolific – I wanted to think out of the box. And then Jim Smith started whispering his story to me, proving that everyone in The Canon who had an encounter with Mr. Sherlock Holmes has a story to tell – and hopefully and eventually we’ll be able to know all of them.
In conclusion . . . .
One thing I know for sure - there will never be enough stories about the true Mr. Sherlock Holmes and those who knew him, and as long as those stories continue to be told, I'll keep seeking them out!
©David Marcum 2020 – All Rights Reserved
David Marcum plays The Game with deadly seriousness. He first discovered Sherlock Holmes in 1975 at the age of ten, and since that time, he has collected, read, and chronologicized literally thousands of traditional Holmes pastiches in the form of novels, short stories, radio and television episodes, movies and scripts, comics, fan-fiction, and unpublished manuscripts. He is the author of over sixty Sherlockian pastiches, some published in anthologies and magazines such as The Strand, and others collected in his own books, The Papers of Sherlock Holmes, Sherlock Holmes and A Quantity of Debt, and Sherlock Holmes – Tangled Skeins. He has edited over fifty books, including several dozen traditional Sherlockian anthologies, such as the ongoing series The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, which he created in 2015. This collection is now up to 21 volumes, with several more in preparation. He was responsible for bringing back August Derleth’s Solar Pons for a new generation, first with his collection of authorized Pons stories, The Papers of Solar Pons, and then by editing the reissued authorized versions of the original Pons books. He is now doing the same for the adventures of Dr. Thorndyke. He has contributed numerous essays to various publications, and is a member of a number of Sherlockian groups and Scions. He is a licensed Civil Engineer, living in Tennessee with his wife and son. His irregular Sherlockian blog, A Seventeen Step Program, addresses various topics related to his favorite book friends (as his son used to call them when he was small), and can be found at http://17stepprogram.blogspot.com/ Since the age of nineteen, he has worn a deerstalker as his regular-and-only hat. In 2013, he and his deerstalker were finally able make his first trip-of-a-lifetime Holmes Pilgrimage to England, with return Pilgrimages in 2015 and 2016, where you may have spotted him. If you ever run into him and his deerstalker out and about, feel free to say hello!
His Amazon Author Page can be found at:
and at MX Publishing: