Sunday, February 9, 2020

Shared Universe: Sherlock Holmes Anthologies

[A version of this essay originally appeared in Vol. 7, No. 2 (December 2019) of "Proceedings of the Pondicherry Lodge", the journal of The Sherlock Holmes Society of India]

In the beginning was The Canon, and it was good.
But it was not enough.


The Book of Holmes, (Chapter I, Verses 1-2)

As an energetic missionary for The Church of Holmes, spreading The Word about the world’s first (and for a time only) consulting detective, I honor The Canon, those original stories presented to us by Dr. John H. Watson, with the assistance of the First (but not the only) Literary Agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. But those original sixty published adventures, a pitiful few detailing a scant fraction of the lives of Our Heroes, aren’t the whole story. While they are the main strands within The Great Holmes Tapestry, they don’t make up the whole picture. There are thousands of other stories – fibers of all colors – that fill in the rest of the picture. These narratives, brought to us by the other later literary agents, tell us what else was happening.


The other literary agents may be prolific, finding multiple stories within Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box, while others might only ever encounter one. An example of the latter is famed Sherlockian Vincent Starrett, who brought forth “The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet” in 1920. This is a fully adequate Holmes adventure – although certainly not the best that was ever pulled from The Tin Dispatch Box. Still, many Holmesians who otherwise declare that they hate extra-Canonical adventures will bend their rules for this one, along with a few others that have been brought to the attention of the public by various celebrities. What is notable about this tale so revered in the legendary Sherlockian Halls of Fame is that Mr. Starrett chose to make public an extra-Canonical adventure – and such a well-regarded one to boot! – more than a decade before he produced his acclaimed scholarly work, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1933). In this regard, I admire Starrett’s priorities, and commend them to those who favor the more scholarly side of Holmesian Studies.

There were other famed Sherlockians who experimented with discovering additional Watsonian narratives, but never made them public. In his introduction to The Return of Solar Pons (1958), Sherlockian legend Edgar W. Smith, a legendary member of the Baker Street Irregulars, wrote:

There is no Sherlockian worthy of his salt who has not, at least once in his life, taken Dr. Watson’s pen in hand and given himself to the production of a veritable Adventure. I wrote my own first pastiche at the age of fourteen, about a stolen gem that turned up, by some unaccountable coincidence, in the innards of a fish which Sherlock Holmes was serving to his client in the privacy of his rooms; and I wrote my second when I was fifty-odd, about the definitive and never-more-to-be-seen-in-this-world disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore in a matrix of newly-poured cement.

I would love to read these stories, discovered by this man whose undisputed efforts to promote the admiration of Sherlock Holmes helped to make the world’s first consulting detective one of the most recognized figures on the planet.

As shown above, when referring to pastiche, Smith says “There is no Sherlockian worthy of his salt who has not, at least once in his life, taken Dr. Watson’s pen in hand and given himself to the production of a veritable Adventure.” Strong words from the man who shaped The Baker Street Irregulars - and words that should not be forgotten or swept aside or spoke of, save with a gibe and a sneer, in the pursuit of the scholarly side of things.

In that same paragraph from that same introduction, Smith goes on to write:

The point that does concern me – and it is a point that all of us who are tempted to emulation should bear in mind – is that the writing of a pastiche is compulsive and inevitable: It is, the psychologists would say, a wholesome manifestation of the urge that is in us all to return again to the times and places we have loved and lost; an evidence, specifically, of our happily unrepressed desire to make ourselves at one with the Master of Baker Street and all his works – and to do this not only receptively, but creatively as well.

Note that Smith indicated that this should be done receptively. For if one is truly a Sherlockian worth his [or her] salt, then there should be no resistance against this need to create or read additional adventures of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It must be true. Legendary Sherlockian Edgar W. Smith said so.


Repeat Visitors to The Tin Disptach Box

As mentioned, there are a number of latter-day literary agents scattered around the world who repeatedly draw from the Watsonian Well, providing a great many – but never enough! – additional Holmes adventures. Often these wonderful Sherlockians find so many Watsonian narratives that there are enough to make whole books of them – their own collections of multiple stories. These will be addressed in a future essay, but it wouldn’t hurt to list and praise these noted individuals here, in no particular order, with a recommendation that their collections be sought and read, and quickly and completely and repeatedly:

• Denis O. Smith
• Jack Grochot
• Mark Mower
• Daniel D. Victor
• Hugh Ashton
• Michael Mallory
• Douglas Moreton
• Philip J. Carraher
• Paul D. Gilbert
• R. Wolfgang Schram
• Ted Riccardi
• Andrew Lane
• Thomas G. Waddell and Thomas R. Rybolt
• Dan Kilkup
• David B. Beckwith
• T.A. Doyen
• Colin Bruce
• J.A. Roberts
• Peter K. Andersson
• Dale Furutani
• Eric Monahan
• David Hammer
• Ian Charnock
• Donald Thomas
• Val Andrews
• Willoughby Lane (Val Andrews)
• Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr
• Sandor Kay Sonnen
• Nick Cardillo
• Dr. Wayne Wall
• Bill Paxon
• David Scott
• Vithal Rahan
• Donald W. Holmes
• David Marcum (That’s me!)
• Michael Kurland
• Lyndsay Faye
• John Heywood
• Ron Weighell
• Craig Janacek
• Denis Green and Anthony Boucher and Leslie Charteris
• Tony Reynolds
• Brian Gibson
• Clive Brooks
• Peter Coe Verbica
• Gary Lovisi
• Ann Margaret Lewis
• Anon.
• Edith Meiser
• Richard Stone
• Martin Edwards
• Gerald Kelly
• Loren D. Estleman
• Joel P. Jorden
• Magda Josza
• Paul W. Nash
• Archie Rushden
• Paul E. Heusinger
• June Thomson
• Frank Thomas
• Liz Hedgecock
• Amy Craddock
• Patrick Campbell
• N.M. Scott
• Roger Jaynes
• Roger Riccard
• Steve Leadley
• Seamas Duffy
• Robert Perret
• Matthew Booth
• David Ruffle
• David James
• Karl Showler
• LFE Coombs
• Miles Elward
• Sam Benady
• Matthew J. Elliott
• Mike Hogan
• Nino Cirone
• Lyn McConchie
• Balaji Narasimhan
• Robert A. Kisch
• Edward D. Hoch
• Roy Templeman
• Dick Gilman
• Pennie Mae Cartwick
• Edmund Hastie
• Gayle Lange Puhl
• Frank J. Morlock
• Daniel McGachey
• Alvin F. Rymsha
• John S. Fitzpatrick
• GC Rosenquist
• Alex Auswaks
• Luke Benjamen Kuhns
• Malcolm Knott
• Eddie Maguire
• Allen J. Heiss
• Rick Boyer
• Tim Symonds
• David McGowan
• Alan Stockwell
• Daniel James Darrouzet
• Herman Anthony Litzinger
• Amanda Knight
• John Taylor
• Jerry Riggs

These are authors of traditional Canonical Sherlockian adventures whose works are in my own collection. There are others still out there that I don't yet have, but I'm working on it. I'm always very happy to add stories about the True Holmes to my collection, to my to-be-read stack, and to my ever-growing Sherlockian Chronology.

A note about this list: There are several other authors who have also discovered a great number of high-quality Sherlockian short adventures that sadly haven’t yet been collected into a book, like the others shown above. These include – but aren't limited to – adventures by:

• Deanna Baran
• Tracy Revels
• Jayantika Ganguly
• Subbu Subramanian
• Shane Simmons
• Steve Herczeg
• Marcia Wilson
• Arthur Hall
• John Hall
• (The late) Barrie Roberts

Hopefully their efforts will be collected in books of their own sooner rather than later . . . .

Shared Universes

Stories are usually initially brought to us through the vision of one person. The Solar Pons adventures, for instance, were presented by Pons’s friend, Dr. Lyndon Parker, by way of his literary agent August Derleth. For many years, Derleth’s literary-agenting was the only path by which Pons’s investigations were made public. Then, in the 1970’s, further Pons stories were revealed by Basil Copper, and more recently, by me in my book The Papers of Solar Pons (2017). In 2018, more of Pons’s cases were brought forth by a number of new literary agents in The New Adventures of Solar Pons:


This latter volume is an example of a Shared Universe, in which multiple contributors provide new stories about a hero or a world that has previously been revealed by only one person. I’ve encountered several examples of this type of book over the years, including an anthology of new Philip Marlowe stories (Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe: A Centennial Celebration, 1988), several books of new tales related to Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld series, and even a number of collected novellas by a variety of authors related to the narratives about the Kzin, a formerly little-explored species in Larry Niven’s larger Known Space series.

Another shared universe is Star Trek. Originally conceived by Gene Roddenberry, it had a number of contributors as script-writers within the framework of the original television show. But as with Sherlock Holmes, those “official” stories were not enough, and fans began producing fan fiction, which they sold in homemade booklets at the Star Trek conventions that sprang up in the 1960’s and 1970’s, thus helping to keep Trek alive. Then, in 1968, Whitman Publishing produced the first official Trek novel, Mission to Horatius by Mack Reynolds, fully opening up Trek as a Shared Universe. James Blish’s novelizations of the original episodes for Bantam Books started in 1967, and in 1970 he wrote the full-length Trek novel Spock Must Die! Over the next few years, Bantam produced over a dozen other Trek novels by different authors. Through the efforts of authors participating in this Shared Universe, both amateur and official, interest in Trek was maintained and encouraged to the point that the large-screen film Star Trek: The Motion Picture was released in 1979. To coincide with this event, Pocket Books released a novelization by Gene Roddenberry, followed a couple of years later by a highly recommended original novel, Vonda N. McIntyre’s The Entropy Effect (1981). Since then, there have been literally hundreds of new Star Trek novels and comic books in this Shared Universe, written by a plethora of authors – not to mention thirteen feature films (so far) and hundreds of episodes across eight television series (so far, with several others in development).


The combined efforts of everyone who contributed stories to this vast Star Trek enterprise is incredible, and has served to make it the largest and most successful overall story of its type in its genre – but it is nothing compared to the original Shared Universe – that of Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

The World of Sherlock Holmes

The World of Sherlock Holmes has, in a sense, been a Shared Universe from the first published story, A Study in Scarlet (1887), when Dr. John H. Watson, the chronicler of the Holmes’s adventures and author of The Canon, shared editing and marketing duties with the First Literary Agent, Dr. (and later Sir) Arthur Conan Doyle. Not long after the first Holmes adventures were published in the authorized locations – A Study in Scarlet in Beeton’s Christmas Annual, The Sign of the Four in Lippincott’s Magazine (1890), and then The Adventures in The Strand Magazine (beginning in June 1891), other Holmes stories from unofficial literary agents began to appear. Some of these were produced by Conan Doyle himself, as recorded in:

Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha (1980)
The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1981)
The Uncollected Sherlock Holmes (1983)
The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes (2009)



There was a great deal of parody of Holmes and Watson in the early days when The Canon was first being published, but the occasional rare actual traditional case can sometimes be found amongst all that other wasted ink, including some found in:

The Game is Afoot (1994, edited by Marvin Kaye)
A Bedside Book of Early Sherlockian Parodies and Pastiches (2014, edited by Charles Press)
As it Might Have Been (1998, edited by Robert C.S. Adey)
I Believe in Sherlock Holmes (2016, edited by Douglas G. Greene)


Similar items have been collected, with a massive amount of hard work and careful attention, in these excellent volumes of The 223B Casebook Series, edited by Bill Peschel . . . .


Into the Twentieth Century . . . .

The Holmes Shared Universe expanded in 1899 with the publication of William Gillette’s play, Sherlock Holmes. Unfortunately – as is often the case – Gillette was allowed to proceed without quite enough supervision, and therefore a few mistakes crept into this dramatized version of one of Holmes’s cases, including references to Professor Robert (instead of James) Moriarty, and a fictionalized ending grafted onto the rest of the play featuring a romantic conclusion. Still, this served as something of a door-opener to proving that Watson’s narratives of Holmes’s adventures did not need to cross the Literary Agent’s desk in order to be intriguing or authentic.

With the advent of radio, and the need for content to feed the starving time-slots that had to be filled, it was brilliantly decided that Holmes’s adventures would be perfect broadcast material. Holmes first appeared on radio in 1930, when the legendary Edith Meiser began presenting adaptations of The Canon. The first episode, “The Speckled Band”, was broadcast on October 20th, 1930, fittingly starring William Gillette, before the part of Holmes was then assumed by Richard Gordon. When these Canonical episodes had been used several times, Meiser – with the permission of the First Literary Agent’s family – began to pull previously unknown extra-Canonical stories from The Tin Dispatch Box, the first being “The Hindoo in the Wicker Basket” (broadcast January 7th, 1932).

There were many other extra-Canonical stories broadcast in the years between 1930 and 1944, when Meiser relinquished the writing duties. All of these have intriguing titles – “The Corpse in the Cab”, “The Syrian Mummy”, “The Sinister Wind Bells”, and “The Case of the Walking Corpse” – and a number of them were converted into daily comic strips with art by Frank Giacola. These have since been published by Eternity Comics and ACG, and also in a few books:


Nearly all of the original broadcasts from this period are now lost, but I dearly hope that someday – even if the actual recordings can never be recovered – the scripts for these can be found and released in the same way that Ian Dickerson has discovered and is publishing scripts from the 1944-1945 season of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Denis Green and Bruce Taylor (Leslie Charteris), who took over for Meiser. Later, Anthony Boucher took over for Charteris. Several volumes derived from the works of Green and Charteris and Boucher have appeared over the years, including:

The Lost Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1989, transcribed by Ken Greenwald)
The Forgotten Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2005, transcribed by H. Paul Jeffers)
Sherlock Holmes: The Lost Radio Scripts (2017, edited by Ian Dickerson)
Sherlock Holmes: More Lost Radio Scripts (2018, also edited by Ian Dickerson)


Let the Anthologies Begin!

In 1944, Ellery Queen, already a master detective and skilled autobiographer in his own right, was also gaining a reputation as an excellent mystery editor as well, and he assembled a first-of-its-kind at the time book, The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, a Holmes anthology representative of the much of what had been produced in the Shared Holmes Universe over the previous decades. Here is how the original cover looks . . .


. . . and here is my copy – sadly without a dust jacket, but better than not having it at all . . .


Unfortunately, a great many of the stories in Queen’s The Misadventures were in line with all the other inauthentic parodies that had sprung up, often with Holmes and Watson re-named in what passed for something humorous – Herlock Sholmes and Potson, for instance. (For a comprehensive list of these tedious joke-names, see Ellery Queen’s introduction to The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, his foreword to The Memoirs of Solar Pons [1951] and more recently – and much more completely – Bill Mason’s amazingly comprehensive A Holmes by Any Other Name [2018])


In 2016, editors Julie McKuras, Timothy Johnson, Ray Riethmeier, and Phillip Bergem, members of The Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota, published a companion volumes to Queen’s Misadventures, entitled The Missing Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes, locating and collecting all of the stories that Queen had mentioned in the foreword to his book but didn’t have room to originally include. This volumes, produced for The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes Conference held in Minneapolis, Minnesota from June 17-19, 2016, is an excellent coda to Ellery Queen’s amazing anthology:


After Queen’s Misadventures was published in 1944, it was soon withdrawn, under threat of a lawsuit by the heirs of the First Literary Agent. Still, the crass efforts by Adrian Conan Doyle and his brother Denis Conan Doyle to keep their teeth fastened into the ever-increasingly popular World of Holmes, and their attempts to make money from it by asserting an unobtainable absolute ownership and control, were in vain. Too many people had found the way to access Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box, and more cases were being retrieved all the time. Adrian Conan Doyle himself, along with famed mystery author John Dickson Carr (in a very uneasy and ultimately doomed partnership), decided to join the party, releasing a dozen newly revealed adventures, first in 1952 and 1953 in Life Magazine and Collier's . . .


. . . and then in book form in 1954’s The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes. These are really excellent stories, but sadly they were tainted for several generations of Sherlockians who couldn’t separate the tales themselves from the machinations of the son of the First Literary Agent:


Into the Golden Age

As years passed, the occasional Holmes adventure continued to turn up in the form of novels, short stories, radio and television episodes, movies, comic books, and the occasional fan fiction. However, even after the beginning of the current Sherlockian Golden Age following the publication of Nicholas Meyers’ The Seven-Per-Cent Solution in 1974 – which has only grown ever larger – Sherlockian anthologies were practically non-existent. The next big step forward in terms of the Shared Holmesian Universe, featuring traditional Canonical cases about the true Mr. Sherlock Holmes, appeared in 1985, with The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a collection edited by Richard Lancelyn Green. Unlike Ellery Queen’s Misadventures, this book didn’t have parodies of oddly-named Holmes Simulacrums making up the majority of the material, with only the very rare acceptable traditional Canonical story hidden like a Blue Carbuncle-filled goose amongst all the common wretched birds. Instead, the thirteen cases in this book, all collected reprints stretching back to Starrett’s “The Unique Hamlet”, concerned the real deal, the heroic Sherlock Holmes of the Victorian and Edwardian eras. This book included the famed story by Arthur Whitaker, “The Adventure of the Sheffield Banker”, which had originally be publicized in the 1940’s as the lost 61st Canonical story, before its true provenance was revealed. It contained one of Adrian Conan Doyle’s offerings from The Exploits, and it also had an early appearance of a work presented by Master Pasticheur Denis O. Smith.


In 1987, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of A Study in Scarlet, a special new collection, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and Carol-Lynn Rössel Waugh, was assembled. (Greenberg was involved in many editorial projects, including a number of other Holmes books, which will be mentioned a bit later.) This volume is notable in that it contains the only Holmes story brought to us by Stephen King, “The Doctor’s Tale”, since been filmed by James Douglas. It’s very good, but it does have the irritating and incorrect mistake of giving Holmes a cat allergy in order to facilitate the plot. In 1999 (as shown on the right) a revised and expanded edition was published with three additional stories and the addition of Jon L. Lellenberg as a co-editor:


Ten years after The New Adventures, a monumental work edited by Mike Ashley, The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories (1997) burst on the scene. It contained nearly two-dozen wonderful Holmes adventures, (as well as a few that were sadly unacceptable in that they colored outside the lines, having Holmes and Watson involved in non-Canonical events). Since its initial publication, there have been many editions of this book with varying cover art, but this is my own beloved (and now a bit tattered) copy:


The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories

Before discussing the other anthologies that will appear in this essay, this is perhaps a good time to jump ahead and mention The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, since it owes a great deal to The Mammoth Book. In early 2015, I awoke early with the idea of editing a volume of new Holmes stories. Steve Emecz, the greatest Sherlockian Publisher ever, gave the go-ahead, and I began to reach out to authors that knew or admired, thinking that this might be a single trade paperback with a dozen or so stories, at best. Instead, that first idea grew to a three-volume set of 63 new stories, the largest set of its kind in the world at that time. (We’ve since surpassed that.)

When that collection was published, there was a great deal of interest in producing more. While I’d never thought that it would be more than a one-time thing, the heavy lifting was done in terms of set-up and design decisions, and – as there were many authors and readers who wanted to join the party – it was decided to continue producing the series. Since then, there have been 18 massive volumes of the continuing anthology series published – with three more in preparation for May 2020 at this writing. These 21 books include over 450 new traditional Canonical Holmes stories, contributed by nearly 200 Sherlockian authors from around the world. The royalties from the project go to support the Stepping Stones School for special needs students at Undershaw, one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former homes, and to date we’ve raised nearly $60,000 for the school.


When I began editing the first books in the series, I modeled the layout on The Mammoth Book in several ways – The title of the series mimics that of The Mammoth Book. The stories are laid out in the same admirable chronological arrangement. And I chose to use paintings by John Atkinson Grimshaw, one of my all-time favorite artists, on the covers, the same as the original edition of The Mammoth Book.

(For more about Grimshaw's paintings on the covers of Holmes books, see this entry from this blog:

http://17stepprogram.blogspot.com/2018/06/sherlock-holmes-and-john-atkinson.html

The volumes in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories (so far) are:

PART I: 1881-1889 – (2015)
PART II: 1890-1895 – (2015)
PART III: 1896-1929 – (2015)
PART IV: 2016 Annual – (2016)
PART V: Christmas Adventures – (2016)
PART VI: 2017 Annual (2017)
PART VII: Eliminate the Impossible: 1880-1891 – (2017)
PART VIII: Eliminate the Impossible: 1892-1905 – (2017)
Part IX: 2018 Annual (1879-1895) – (2018)
Part X: 2018 Annual (1896-1916) – (2018)
Part XI: Some Untold Cases (1880-1891) – (2018)
Part XII: Some Untold Cases (1894-1902) – (2018)
PART XIII: 2019 Annual (1881-1890) – (2019)
PART XIV: 2019 Annual (1891 -1897) – (2019)
PART XV: 2019 Annual (1898-1917) – (2019)
Part XVI: Whatever Remains . . . Must Be the Truth (1881-1890) – (2019)
Part XVII: Whatever Remains . . . Must Be the Truth (1891-1898) – (2019)
Part XVIII: Whatever Remains . . . Must Be the Truth (1899-1925) – (2019)
PART XIX: 2020 Annual (1892-1890)(2020)
• PART XX: 2020 Annual (1891-1897)(2020)
PART XXI: 2020 Annual (1898-1923)(2020)
PART XXII: Some More Untold Cases (In Preparation - Fall 2020)

. . . and no end in sight!

At this point, I'd like to thank every one of the contributors and supporters of these books, and others that I've edited. Without all of you these wouldn't exist, and I can never express my gratitude for being able to be a part of these.

The experience of editing the MX books led me to also edit several collections for Belanger Books, including:

Holmes Away from Home (2016) – Adventures during The Great Hiatus
Sherlock Holmes: Before Baker Street(2017) – Concerning Holmes’s years in Montague Street
Sherlock Holmes: Adventures Beyond the Canon (2018) – Sequels to the Canonical cases
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: The Early Adventures (2019), Relating adventures from 1881-1883


More Sherlockian Anthologies

Before living in this wonderful modern time where there are more Holmes adventures appearing on a regular and nearly daily basis – but never enough! – it was much more difficult to acquire and enjoy them. During the 1990’s, Martin Greenberg, along with a varying cast of other editors including Jon Lellenberg, Carol-Lynn Waugh, and Daniel Stashower, was involved in editing several notable collections, including:

Holmes for the Holidays (1996) – The first Holmes Christmas anthology
More Holmes for the Holidays (1999) – The second Holmes Christmas anthology
Murder in Baker Street (2001) – General Canonical cases
Murder, My Dear Watson (2002) – More general Canonical cases
Ghosts in Baker Street (2006) – Seemingly supernatural encounters
Sherlock Holmes in America (2009) – Some of Holmes’s adventures in the United States


At the same time, editor Marvin Kaye kept the Holmes-fires burning with a couple of themed collections:

Resurrected Holmes (1996) – In which Watson’s notes were edited by other notable literary agents, such as Hemingway
The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1998) – Containing stories suppressed to prevents scandals


Michael Kurland also edited three themed volumes:

My Sherlock Holmes: Untold Stories of the Great Detective (2003) – Related by other narrators besides Watson
Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years (2004) – About The Great Hiatus
Sherlock Holmes: The American Years (2010) - Which relates, as did Sherlock Holmes in America, stories set in the United States


More recently, Titan Books – which has shown a discouraging trend toward publishing fictional and distracting stories about Our Heroes where they have decidedly incorrect encounters with giant steampunk shapeshifting Transformers, or real monsters, or Lovecraftian nightmares – has still occasionally continued to produce acceptable anthologies of stories about the True Sherlock Holmes – although some indications are that in general they are drifting ever further in the wrong direction, and that these true Holmes stories are being phased out. Four of these correct volumes about the Canonical Holmes were edited by George Mann, with a more recent collection edited by Martin Rosenstock:

Encounters of Sherlock Holmes (2013)
Further Encounters of Sherlock Holmes (2014)
Associates of Sherlock Holmes (2016)
Further Associates of Sherlock Holmes (2017)
The Sign of Seven (2019)


Other volumes featuring a number of traditional Canonical Holmes tales include:

Sherlock Holmes and The Three Poisoned Pawns (2008) with three great novellas.
Sherlock Holmes: The Australian Casebook (2017), edited by Christopher Sequiera. While not the first stories to tell about either Holmes or Watson in Australia, this wonderful and handsome volume gives the most compressive account.
Curious Incidents Volume I(2002) and Volume II (2003), edited by Charles Prepolec and J.R. Campbell. These were great finds when they first appeared, and I would urge – nay, beg – the editors to make more of them!
Tales From the Stranger’s Room Volume I (2012), Volume II (2012), and Volume III (2017), all edited by David Ruffle, and with the royalties going to support the Stepping Stones School at Undershaw.
Where’s Holmes? (2017, edited by T.C. Phillips) – Stories where Holmes is conspicuously absent.
The Great Detective: His Further Adventures (2012), edited by Gary Lovisi. (Sadly, while this book contains some good stories, it also holds my personal single-most-hated Sherlockian short story that purports to be about the true Holmes, in which Holmes shrugs and lets a Ripper-like killer go simply because he’s rich and one can’t stand up against that kind of power – better just let him keep killing. It should never have been included.)


A number of handy volumes have included reprints, in the tradition of the previously mentioned The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as edited by Richard Lancelyn Green. These reprint collections include:

The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories (2015, edited by Otto Penzler)
The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2009, edited by John Joseph Adams)
The Game is Afoot (1994, edited by Marvin Kaye, as previously mentioned)
Sherlock Holmes: The Game’s Afoot (2008, edited by David Stuart Davies)


In 2009, Ron Fortier at Airship 27 Productions began producing Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective – wonderful collections, appearing approximately yearly by some of today’s best raiders of The Tin Dispatch Box. There are now 14 of them as of this writing:


In addition to the previously-mentioned Belanger Books volumes that I edited, there have been several others from this publisher, including:

Beyond Watson (2016, edited by Derrick Belanger) – Like Michael Kurland’s My Sherlock Holmes, this tells about Holmes’s adventures from a non-Watsonian viewpoint
The Irregular Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2019, edited by Derrick and Brian Belanger) – Traditional Holmes adventures by both adult and children Sherlockian authors, with net proceeds going to support The Beacon Society
Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realms of Edgar Allan Poe (2019, edited by Brian and Derrick Belanger)- As indicated, the stories involve Holmes in various aspects of Poe and his works.


Belanger Books continues to produce various themed Sherlockian anthologies, such as:

Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realm of H.G. Wells (2017, edited by Derrick Belanger and C. Edward Davis)
Sherlock Holmes: Adventures in the Realm of Steampunk (2019, edited by Derrick Belanger)


Also coming in 2020 from Belanger Books is volume in which Holmes encounters various “Occult Detectives” such as Carnacki, to be edited by John Linwood Grant, and to be published in mid-2020. Additionally, another planned Belanger Books volume for 2020 involves Holmes meeting other Great Detectives. (My story about Holmes and Dr. Thorndyke will be included.)

There have been a couple of other previous volumes of cross-over stories between Holmes and the Great Detectives, as well as other notable figures:

• Sherlock Holmes: The Crossovers Casebook (2011, edited by Howard Hopkins)
• The Further Crossovers of Sherlock Holmes (2017, edited by Richard Dean Starr and E.R. Bower).


Besides these anthologies, there are a plethora of others out there, including these large volumes:

The Mammoth Book of Sherlock Holmes Abroad (2015, edited by Simon Clark)
The Adventures of Moriarty (2015, edited by Martin Jakubowski)
Sherlock Holmes’s School for Detection (2017, edited by Simon Clark)


Loren Estleman, known for his Amos Walker novels and a couple of off-trail supernatural-themed Holmes novels, has edited three collections, each containing some traditional Canonical stories mixed in with a few others that aren’t so much:

The Perils of Sherlock Holmes (2012)
Sons of Moriarty and More Stories of Sherlock Holmes (2013)
The Plated Spoon and Other Tales of Sherlock Holmes (2014)


One unique shared universe within the larger Shared Holmes Universe is that of Jim French’s The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, a part of his overall Imagination Theatre. Mr. French, a noted radio dramatist, began penning Sherlock Holmes radio episodes in 1998. After a few years, he started sharing the script-writing duties with other authors (including yours truly). Eventually, a number of other people would either co-write a number of scripts with Mr. French, or write them independently. Mr. French passed away in 2018, but The Further Adventures continues, and 136 episodes of the series have been produced so far – and more are coming. In 2017, a volume of scripts, with at least one included by every Sherlockian author who ever wrote an episode of The Further Adventures, was published as Imagination Theatre’s Sherlock Holmes. And related to that publication of the three-volume The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Jim French Imagination Theatre Scripts (2019) collected all of Mr. French’s Sherlockian efforts – over fifty scripts – for posterity. I was proud to edit all of these books, the proceeds of which go to support the Stepping Stones School at Undershaw.


In addition to all of these volumes that color within the Holmesian lines, there have been a number of anthologies relating tales where Holmes encounters real monsters or supernatural elements. As I play The Game with deadly seriousness, I don’t agree with this approach, but within the following supernatural-themed volumes, a few stories can sometimes be winkled out that are traditional, Canonical, and not actually supernatural:

Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space (1984, edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles Waugh)
Sherlock Holmes in Orbit (1995, Edited by Mike Resnick and Martin H. Greenberg)
Shadows Over Baker Street (2003, edited by Michael Reeves and John Pelan)
An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2015, edited by A.C. Thompson)
Gaslight Grimoire (2008, edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec)
Gaslight Grotesque (2009, edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec)
Gaslight Arcanum (2011, edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec)
Gaslight Gothic (2018, edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec)


With these books, and their overt supernatural themes, we have spiraled out quite a distance from the Canonical Center, now reaching books that have Holmes’s name on them, but with stories inside have very little to do with Our Hero. An example of these are the four volumes edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger which, as advertised, are “Stories Inspired by the Sherlock Holmes Canon”. Thus, don’t expect to find traditional Canonical Holmes here. I own these books. I’ve flipped through them. I don’t expect to ever read them. They include:

A Study in Sherlock (2011)
In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (2014)
Echoes of Sherlock Holmes (2016)
For the Sake of the Game (2018)


And this far out into the Shared Universe, perhaps I can close the loop with a reference to Holmes and Star Trek, that other massive shared experience that I mentioned near the beginning of this essay. While not an anthology by multiple latter-day literary agents, it might be fitting to mention The Federation Holmes (2001) by Dana Martin Batory. With stories originally published between 1978 and 1991 in a small fan magazine, The Holmesian Federation, Holmes and Watson are uniquely “revived” by Mr. Spock in the era of Captain Kirk, going on to bring their unique abilities to the mysteries of the Federation. While I’m a staunch traditionalist, I’ve also been a Star Trek fan since I was a very child in the 1960’s, when the original show was still airing, and this inclusion of Holmes and Watson into the Star Trek shared universe in this manner is perfectly plausible – and a case where I’m very willing to bend my Canonical-only rule. Here are my copies of the collected hardcover version of The Federal Holmes and the previously mentioned first Star Trek novel from 1968, Mission to Horatius:


In conclusion . . . .

It’s my position, as a missionary for The Church of Holmes, that there can never be enough new narratives about the true and Canonical Sherlock Holmes. I’m doing my best to help encourage this. The books listed above are just a fraction of what’s out there, and only the tiniest pieces of The Great Holmes Tapestry – yet they all serve to fill in the details of the amazing overall picture. So don’t forget:

In the beginning was The Canon, and it was good. But it was not enough.”







Friday, November 29, 2019

Only Sixty? A Consideration of The Untold Cases of Sherlock Holmes

[The Fall 2020 edition of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories will be "Some More Untold Cases" - Thus, this essay is being presented on my irregular blog, a version of which originally appeared as my Editor's Foreword of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories: Some Untold Cases - Part XI (1880-1891) and Part XII (1894-1902)]


There are certain numbers that are triggers to deeply passionate Sherlockians. One of these is 221. I’ve discussed this with other people of like mind. If you’re one of us, you know that feeling – when you’re going through your day and look up to see that it’s 2:21 – hopefully in the afternoon, because you should be asleep for the other one. Seeing that it’s 2:21 o’clock is always a little thrill.


One can encounter 221's all over the place. Who doesn’t get a pleasant surprise when seeing that there are 221 miles left before the car runs out of gas?


Or what about when gas is $2.21 per gallon? (Make no mistake - that's still too much, but it's an aesthetically pleasing price if you're a Sherlockian):


Sometimes a lucky Sherlockian will be assigned 221 as a hotel room.


In her retirement home, my mother-in-law lived next door to someone in Room 221, and I couldn’t walk by that door without noticing it every time. Maybe you have an office numbered 221 - or at least you might have an appointment in one. If you’re very lucky, your house number is 221 – and I wonder how many non-London Baker Streets are there scattered throughout the world that have a 221 address?

Here’s a house not far from where I live with the almost-correct number of 2213. I’d be so tempted to add a line down the left side of that 3 . . . .


I often notice when I reach page 221 in a book, and I know from asking that other Sherlockians do the same. I was tickled a couple of years ago, while re-reading the stories in Lyndsay Faye’s excellent collection of Holmes adventures, The Whole Art of Detection, to see that the story she’d written for the first MX collection, “The Adventure of the Willow Basket”, began on page 221.


Even better is Profile by Gaslight (1944), in which Edgar W. Smith made Page 221 into Page 221b:


Any American interstate that’s long enough will have a marker for Mile 221, and just east of Nashville, Tennessee, about three hours due west of where I live, and where I’m sometimes able to attend meetings of The Nashville Scholars of the Three Pipe Problem – a scion of which I’m a proudly invested member – there’s a big sign for Exit 221B on the eastern side of Interstate-40. My deerstalker and I have several photos in front of it.


Best of all is when you can visit the most famous 221 in the world - in Baker Street, London:


221 is a number that makes a Sherlockian look twice, but there’s another – 1895.

Always 1895 - or a Few Decades on Either Side of It . . . .

1895 is a year that falls squarely within the time that Holmes was in practice in Baker Street – and I specify that location, because he had a Montague Street practice and unofficially a retirement-era Sussex practice as well, where he carried out the occasional investigation, while also spending a great amount of time first trying to prevent, and then trying to prepare for, the Great War of 1914-1918. But he was in Baker Street from 1881 to 1891 (when he was presumed to have died at the Reichenbach Falls,) and then again from 1894 (when he returned to London in April of that year) until autumn 1903, when his so-called “retirement” began, before he began his efforts leading to prevenging, or at least delaying, the great global war that was looming in the distant future.

1895 isn’t especially known as Holmes’s busiest or most famous year. Make no mistake, there were some interesting cases then: “Wisteria Lodge”, “The Three Students”, “The Solitary Cyclist”, “Black Peter”, and “The Bruce-Partington Plans”. But 1894 is when Watson specifically mentions, in “The Golden Pince-Nez”, the three massive manuscript volumes which contain his and Holmes’s work. And it was the 1880’s, before The Great Hiatus, where all of those beloved adventures recorded in The Adventures and The Memoirs occurred. “The Speckled Band”, possibly one of the most famous of them all, took place in 1883. All four of the long published adventures, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of the Four, The Valley of Fear, and perhaps the most famous of tales, The Hound of the Baskervilles, occur chronologically before 1895.

And yet, 1895 is still the representative year most mentioned by Sherlockians – “where it is always 1895” said Vincent Starrett at the conclusion of his famous poem 221B, written in 1942, and so it is subsequently referenced in essays and gatherings and toasts as the year.

Written in the early days of U.S. involvement in World War II – but several years after much of the rest of the world had already tipped into the conflagration – the closing couplet of Starrett’s poem reflects his likely despair at the terrible conflict:

Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.


I’m not a Starrett scholar, but I suspect that he was looking back to a more innocent time – or so it seemed when compared to the terrible war-torn world of 1942. (For many of the people actually in 1895, the world was a relatively terrible place for them too, for all kinds of different reasons.) But did Starrett simply mean to invoke the whole Holmesian era, a bygone past, or did he specifically want to focus on 1895? It’s likely that the former is true, and that he simply used 1895 because five rhymes with survive. It could have just as easily have been a different number – although with less effect:

Here, though the world explode, these two are fine,
And it is always eighteen ninety-nine.


Imagine – but for a different word choice, we could have been finding ourselves misty-eyed when referring to 1899. Or Starrett could have used 1885 and made the original rhyme work. Still, it’s 1895 that we have, and so that’s what we’ll be going on with as the year that we associate with Mr. Holmes and Dr. Watson – although I’m quick to point out that it’s 1895, along with several decades on either side of it!

Sixty Stories

Having explored 221 and 1895, there’s another Sherlockian number that might not immediately spring to mind, but that doesn’t diminish it, because it holds a great deal of power for some Sherlockians. That number is 60 – as in, Sixty Stories in the original Sherlockian Canon. For some die-hard types out there, this is it. No more, forever, period, finis, The End. There can only be sixty Holmes stories, and anything beyond that is fraudulent abomination. (Except, of course, for those one or two stories on their lists that get a rule-bending free pass.) It’s amusing for me to read various scholarly works, such as Martin Dakin’s A Sherlock Holmes Commentary (1972), that don’t even really like all of the original sixty Canonical adventures, let alone anything post-Canonical, picking apart the originals and speculating that this or that later Canonical narrative is a forgery.

I don’t buy into that philosophy. Early on, I ran out of Canonical stories to read and I wanted more. And I found them – some admittedly of lesser quality, but some better than the originals. (It's true.) Even at a young age, I understood that some of the original tales weren’t quite as good as others, but those first sixty stories, presented by the First Literary Agent and of whatever varying levels of quality, were about the true Sherlock Holmes, and they let me visit in his world, and I wanted more. Thankfully, before I’d even read all of The Canon, I’d discovered those post-Canonical adventures designated as pastiches, so even as I re-read the original adventures countless times, I also read and re-read all of those others that told of new cases, or filled in the spaces between the originals.

Luckily, even Watson never acted as if Holmes only solved sixty cases and that was it. No matter how intriguing a personality is Sherlock Holmes, or how vivid his adventures are that they make a visit to Baker Street sometimes more real than tedious daily life, how could we truly argue that he’s the world’s greatest detective based on a mere and pitifully few sixty stories?

In “The Problem of Thor Bridge”, Watson tells us that:

Somewhere in the vaults of the bank of Cox and Co., at Charing Cross, there is a travel-worn and battered tin dispatch box with my name, John H. Watson, M.D., Late Indian Army, painted upon the lid. It is crammed with papers, nearly all of which are records of cases to illustrate the curious problems which Mr. Sherlock Holmes had at various times to examine. Some, and not the least interesting, were complete failures, and as such will hardly bear narrating, since no final explanation is forthcoming. A problem without a solution may interest the student, but can hardly fail to annoy the casual reader . . . Apart from these unfathomed cases, there are some which involve the secrets of private families to an extent which would mean consternation in many exalted quarters if it were thought possible that they might find their way into print. I need not say that such a breach of confidence is unthinkable, and that these records will be separated and destroyed now that my friend has time to turn his energies to the matter. There remain a considerable residue of cases of greater or less interest which I might have edited before had I not feared to give the public a surfeit which might react upon the reputation of the man whom above all others I revere. In some I was myself concerned and can speak as an eye-witness, while in others I was either not present or played so small a part that they could only be told as by a third person.

Thank goodness this incredible Tin Dispatch Box has been accessed throughout the years by so many later Literary Agents to bring us all these other wonderful Holmes adventures. Many that have been revealed have been complete surprises, but sometimes we’ve discovered details about a special group of extra-Canonical adventures, those that fire the imagination to an even greater level: The Untold Cases.

(I've had my hands on that Tin Dispatch Box several times, such as this occasion ....)


The Untold Cases

Of course, they aren’t called "The Untold Cases" in The Canon. The earliest references to The Untold Cases that I’ve heard of so far (with thanks to Beth Gallegos) are by Anthony Boucher in 1955, and by William S. Baring-Gould in his amazing The Chronological Sherlock Holmes (1955). Additionally, Charles Campbell located a reference to “stories yet untold” by Vincent Starrett in “In Praise of Sherlock Holmes” (in Reedy’s Mirror, February 22, 1918). The Untold Cases are those intriguing references to Holmes’s other cases that – for various reasons – were not chosen for publication. There were a lot of them – by some counts over one-hundred-and-forty – and in the years since Watson’s passing in 1929, many of these narratives have been discovered and published.

For example, The Giant Rat of Sumatra . . . .


Since the mid-1990’s, I’ve been chronologicizing both Canon and Pastiche, a massive project that is now around 1,000 dense pages of material, and as part of that, I note in my annotations when a particular narrative is an Untold Case. Glancing through my notes, I see that there are far too many narratives of The Untold Cases to list here. Just a quick glance through my own collection and Chronology reveals, in no particular order, multiple versions of perhaps the greatest and most intriguing Untold Case of them all, The Giant Rat of Sumatra:

The Giant Rat of Sumatra – Rick Boyer (1976) (Possibly the greatest pastiche of all time, shown here in several editions in my collection)


Then there are several novel-length versions that mention the Giant Rat in the title:

The Giant Rat of Sumatra – Jake and Luke Thoene (1995)
The Shadow of the Rat – David Stuart Davies (1999)
The Giant Rat of Sumatra – Daniel Gracely (2001)
Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra – Alan Vanneman (2002)
Sherlock Holmes’ Lost Adventure: The True Story of the Giant Rats of Sumatra – Laurel Steinhauer (2004)
The Giant Rat of Sumatra – Paul D. Gilbert (2010)


Quite a few others refer to the Rat during the course of the narrative . . . .

• “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”, The Oriental Casebook of Sherlock Holmes – Ted Riccardi (2003)
• “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”, The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes – Tony Reynolds (2010)
• “The Case of the Sumatran Rat”, The Secret Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes – June Thomson (1992)
• “Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra”, More From the Deed Box of John H. Watson MD – Hugh Ashton (2012)
• “The Case of the Giant Rat of Sumatra”, The Secret Notebooks of Sherlock Holmes – Liz Hedgecock (2016)
Sherlock Holmes and the Limehouse Horror – Phillip Pullman (1992, 2001)
• “The Mysterious Case of the Giant Rat of Sumatra”, The Mark of the Gunn – Brian Gibson (2000)
• “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”, Resurrected Holmes – Paula Volsky (1996)
• “All This and the Giant Rat of Sumatra”, Sherlock Holmes and The Baker Street Dozen – Val Andrews (1997)
• “Matilda Briggs and the Giant Rat of Sumatra”, The Elementary Cases of Sherlock Holmes – Ian Charnock (1999)
• “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”, Sherlock Holmes: The Lost Cases – Alvin F. Rymsha (2006)
• “No Rats Need Apply”, The Unexpected Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Amanda Knight (2004)
Mrs Hudson and the Spirit’s Curse – Martin Davies (2004)
• “The Case of the Missing Energy”, The Einstein Paradox – Colin Bruce (1994)
• “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”, The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part XII: Some Untold Cases (1894-1902) - Nick Cardillo (2018)
• “The Giant Rat of Sumatra”, The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part XI: Some Untold Cases (1880-1891) - Leslie Charteris and Denis Green (1944, 2018)


And since I gathered all those for a photo and originally posted this blog entry, I've come across another version, this one by Bob Bishop:


Additionally, there are a few other appearances out there, including, but not limited to . . .

• “The Giant Rat of Sumatra” – Paul Boler (Fan Fiction - 2000)
• “The World is Now Prepared” – “slogging ruffian” (Fan Fiction - Date unverified)
• “The Adventure of the Giant Rat of Sumatra”, Mary Higgins Clark Mystery Magazine – John Lescroart, (December 1988)

In addition to the versions of The Giant Rat that are available, there’s also one that isn’t – possibly the earliest telling of it in the intriguing lost radio script by Edith Meiser, broadcast on multiple occasions: With Richard Gordon as Holmes on April 20th (although some sources say June 9th), 1932, and again on July 18th, 1936; and then on March 1st, 1942 (with Basil Rathbone as Holmes). Sadly, these versions are apparently lost, although I’d dearly love to hear – and read – them!

Although Rathbone and Bruce performed Edith Meiser’s version of “The Giant Rat” in 1942, they weren’t limited to just that version. A completely different version, this time by Bruce Taylor (Leslie Charteris) and Denis Green, was broadcast on July 31st, 1944. Amazingly, Charteris’s scripts have been located by Ian Dickerson, who is in the process of publishing them for modern audiences who would otherwise have never had the chance to enjoy these lost cases.


And even more amazing, Mr. Dickerson allowed the 1944 version of “The Giant Rat” to initially be published in The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part XI: Some Untold Cases (1880-1891), as mentioned above.

Interestingly, Untold Cases have been presented in Holmes radio shows since the 1930’s, but they are much more rare in television episodes and movies. Sadly, except for some Russian efforts and a few stand-alone films, there have been absolutely no Sherlock Holmes television series whatsoever on British or American television since the Jeremy Brett films from Granada ended in 1994. Hopefully, a set of film scripts by Bert Coules featuring an age-appropriate Holmes and Watson, set in the early 1880’s, will find a home soon. I’ve been wanting to see (or read) these for years, and I’m curious as to whether any other Untold Cases feature in them – especially since Bert covered some of them so well in his radio series The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes:


It isn't only Holmes who has faced The Giant Rat. For instance, Inspector Lestrade, as portrayed in the nineteen (so far) novels by M.J. Trow, has crossed its path in Lestrade and the Giant Rat of Sumatra (2014). Some of the Lestrade novels by Trow can almost fit within a traditional Canonical framework. Some, sadly, cannot.


Every once in awhile the Giant Rat appears in something that isn't traditional or Canonical at all, such as when my very old (but always young) friends The Hardy Boys encountered it while carrying out an investigation involving a Sherlock Holmes Musical in No. 143 The Giant Rat of Sumatra (1997). I've been reading and collecting The Hardy Boys since I was eight years old in 1978, and I have all of them, every book, every series. I was thrilled when this volume appeared:


And then there are the world-threatening giant rats that my all-time favorite superhero, Captain Marvel - and he's Captain Marvel, and NOT Shazam! - faced in a story first published in 1953, and reprinted in my childhood in this 1975 comic, still in my Captain Marvel collection:


More than one version . . . .

The examples of Giant Rat encounters shown above is by no means a complete representation of all the Giant Rat narratives. These are simply the ones that I found when making a pass along the shelves of my Holmes Collection, and what jumped out during a quick search through my Chronology. The thing to remember is that in spite of every one of these stories being about a Giant Rat, none of them contradict one another or cancel each other out to become the only true Giant Rat adventure.

Something that I learned very early, far before I created my Chronology back in the mid-1990’s, is that there are lots of sequels to the original Canonical tales, and there are also lots of different versions of the Untold Tales. Some readers, of course, don’t like and will never accept any of them, since they didn’t cross the First Literary Agent’s desk. Others, however, only wish to seek out the sole and single account that satisfies them the most, therefore dismissing the others as “fiction” – a word that I find quite distasteful when directed toward Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

My approach is that if the different versions of either sequels or Untold Cases are Canonical, and don't violate the obvious rules: They aren't parodies, they don't contain anachronisms, there are no actual supernatural encounters, and Holmes isn't portrayed sociopathic murderer – then they are legitimate.

Perhaps it seems too unlikely for some that there were so many Giant Rats in London during Holmes’s active years. Not true. Each Giant Rat adventure mentioned above is very different, and in any case, Watson was a master at obfuscation. He changed names and dates to satisfy all sorts of needs. For instance, he often made it appear at times as if Holmes went for weeks in fits of settee-bound depression between cases, when in fact he was involved constantly in thousands upon thousands of cases, each intertwined like incredibly complex threads in The Great Holmes Tapestry.

There have been many stories about Holmes and Watson’s encounter with Huret, the Boulevard Assassin, in 1894. Contradictory? Not at all. Holmes simply rooted out an entire nest of Al Qaeda-like assassins during that deadly summer. There are a lot of tales out there relating the peculiar persecution of John Vincent Harden in 1895. No problem – there were simply a lot of tobacco millionaires in London during that time, all peculiarly persecuted – but in very different ways – and Watson lumped them in his notes under the catch-all name of John Vincent Harden. Later Literary Agents, not quite knowing how to conquer Watson’s personal codes and reverse-engineer who the real client was in these cases, simply left the name as written.

What Counts as an Untold Case?

As mentioned, there have been over one-hundred identified Untold Cases, although some arguments are made one way or another as to whether some should be included. Do Holmes’s various stops during The Great Hiatus – such as Persia and Mecca and Khartoum – each count as an Untold Case? (To me they do.) What about certain entries in Holmes’s good old index, like “Viggo, the Hammersmith Wonder” or “Vittoria, the Circus Belle”? Possibly they were just clippings about odd people from the newspaper, but I – and many other later Literary Agents – prefer to think of these as Holmes’s past investigations.

Then there are the cases that involve someone else’s triumph – or do they? – like Lestrade’s “Molesley Mystery” (mentioned in “The Empty House”, where the most well-known Scotland Yard inspector competently handled an investigation during Holmes’s Hiatus absence), or “The Long Island Cave Mystery”, as solved by Leverton of the Pinkertons, and referenced in “The Red Circle”. (And as an aside, I have to castigate Owen Dudley Edwards, the editor of the Oxford annotated edition of The Canon [1993], who decided to change the Long Island Cave to Cove simply because “there are no caves in Long Island, N.Y.” (p. 206) – thus derailing a long-standing point of Canonical speculation. Pfui!)


The Oxford Comma

And then there’s the matter of the Oxford Comma, sometimes known as the “Serial” or “Terminal” Comma. A quick search of the internet found this example of incorrect usage:

This book is dedicated to my parents, Ayn Rand and God.

Clearly this author either had some interesting parents, or more likely he or she needed to use a comma after Rand to differentiate that series of parents, Ayn, and Deity.

And that relates to Untold Cases in this way: There are two Untold Cases that might actually be four, depending on one’s use (or not) of the Oxford Comma. In “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez”, Watson tells of some of the cases that occurred in 1894. As he states:

As I turn over the pages I see my notes upon the repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby the banker. Here also I find an account of the Addleton tragedy and the singular contents of the ancient British barrow.

I have many adventures in my collection that present these as two cases: (1) The repulsive story of the red leech and the terrible death of Crosby the banker and (2) The Addleton tragedy and the singular contents of the ancient British barrow. All are very satisfying. But I also have others that split them up into four cases: (1) The repulsive story of the red leech and (2) the terrible death of Crosby the banker and (3) the Addleton tragedy and (4) the singular contents of the ancient British barrow.

As an amateur editor, I honor the Oxford Comma. I’ve been aware of it for years, ever since reading – somewhere – that editor extraordinaire Frederic Dannay (of Ellery Queen-fame and founder and the founding editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine from 1941-1982,) was a strong supporter of it. When writing this, I couldn’t remember where I’d read that, so I asked his son, Richard Dannay, who replied:

I can say with certainty that my father believed in the serial, or Oxford, or terminal (pick your poison) comma. I have no doubt. But sitting here, I’m not sure where he said that in print. I’ll need to think about that. But I will send you a secondary source, absolutely unimpeachable in accuracy, where his preference is described.

And then he sent me a PDF excerpt from Eleanor Sullivan’s Whodunit: A Biblio-Bio-Anecdotal Memoir of Frederic Dannay (Targ Editions, NY, 1984, pp. 17-18). Ms. Sullivan was Dannay’s chief editorial assistant for EQMM for many years, and after he died, she became the EQMM editor as his successor for about ten years before her premature death. (As Richard pointed out, the current editor is Janet Hutchings, only the third EQMM editor in its now over seventy-five-year history.)

Ms. Sullivan wrote:

Fred’s style in editing EQMM could be considered eccentric, but I soon became used to it because there was his special logic behind everything he did. I didn’t know he was exasperated by my non-use of the terminal comma (that is, a comma between the second-to-last word in a series of words and the “and”) until one day when we were discussing some copy I’d sent him, he sighed dramatically and said, “I wish you could learn to use the terminal comma.” I’ve been scrupulous about using it ever since.


Recalling Frederic Dannay’s passion for the Oxford Comma, I try to notice and then to add one in every place that needs it as I edit. Having hubristically stated that, I’m absolutely certain that there are places where I’ve missed them.

Other Untold Cases

As mentioned, there are far too many Untold Cases to list or recommend. The first encounter that I recall with attempts to reveal the Untold Cases was in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (1954) by a son of the First Literary Agent, Adrian Conan Doyle, and famed locked-room author John Dickson Carr. At the end of each of those twelve stories, a quote from The Canon revealed which Untold Case that it was – since it wasn’t always clear from the story’s title – and how it was originally mentioned.


2018's two-volume set The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories: Some Untold Cases - Part XI (1880-1891) and Part XII (1894-1902) contained 34 Untold Cases, and another similar set is planned for Fall 2020:


The Untold Cases - A List

The following list of Untold Cases has been assembled from several sources, including lists compiled by Sherlockians Randall Stock and the late Phil Jones, as well as some internet resources and my own research. I cannot promise that it’s complete – some Untold Cases may be missing – after all, there’s a great deal of Sherlockian Scholarship that involves interpretation and rationalizing – and there are some listed here that certain readers may believe shouldn’t be listed at all.

As a fanatical supporter and collector of traditional Canonical pastiches since I was a ten-year-old boy in 1975, reading Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and The West End Horror before I’d even read all of The Canon, I can attest that serious and legitimate versions of all of these Untold Cases exist out there – some of them occurring with much greater frequency than others – and I hope to collect, read, and chronologicize them all.

There’s so much more to The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes than the pitifully few sixty stories that were fixed up by the First Literary Agent. I highly recommend that you find and read all of the rest of them as well, including those relating these Untold Cases. You won’t regret it.

A Study in Scarlet

• Mr. Lestrade . . . got himself in a fog recently over a forgery case
• A young girl called, fashionably dressed
• A gray-headed, seedy visitor, looking like a Jew pedlar who appeared to be very much excited
• A slipshod elderly woman
• An old, white-haired gentleman had an interview
• A railway porter in his velveteen uniform

The Sign of the Four

• The consultation last week by Francois le Villard
• The most winning woman Holmes ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance money
• The most repellent man of Holmes’s acquaintance was a philanthropist who has spent nearly a quarter of a million upon the London poor
• Holmes once enabled Mrs. Cecil Forrester to unravel a little domestic complication. She was much impressed by his kindness and skill
• Holmes lectured the police on causes and inferences and effects in the Bishopgate jewel case

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

“A Scandal in Bohemia”
• The summons to Odessa in the case of the Trepoff murder
• The singular tragedy of the Atkinson brothers at Trincomalee
• The mission which Holmes had accomplished so delicately and successfully for the reigning family of Holland. (He also received a remarkably brilliant ring)
• The Darlington substitution scandal, and . . .
• The Arnsworth castle business. (When a woman thinks that her house is on fire, her instinct is at once to rush to the thing which she values most. It is a perfectly overpowering impulse, and Holmes has more than once taken advantage of it

“The Red-Headed League”
• The previous skirmishes with John Clay

“A Case of Identity”
• The Dundas separation case, where Holmes was engaged in clearing up some small points in connection with it. The husband was a teetotaler, there was no other woman, and the conduct complained of was that he had drifted into the habit of winding up every meal by taking out his false teeth and hurling them at his wife, which is not an action likely to occur to the imagination of the average story-teller.
• The rather intricate matter from Marseilles
• Mrs. Etherege, whose husband Holmes found so easy when the police and everyone had given him up for dead

“The Boscombe Valley Mystery”
NONE LISTED

“The Five Orange Pips”
• The adventure of the Paradol Chamber
• The Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse
• The facts connected with the disappearance of the British barque Sophy Anderson
• The singular adventures of the Grice-Patersons in the island of Uffa
• The Camberwell poisoning case, in which, as may be remembered, Holmes was able, by winding up the dead man’s watch, to prove that it had been wound up two hours before, and that therefore the deceased had gone to bed within that time – a deduction which was of the greatest importance in clearing up the case
• Holmes saved Major Prendergast in the Tankerville Club scandal. He was wrongfully accused of cheating at cards
• Holmes has been beaten four times – three times by men and once by a woman

“The Man with the Twisted Lip”
• The rascally Lascar who runs The Bar of Gold in Upper Swandam Lane has sworn to have vengeance upon Holmes

“The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”
NONE LISTED

“The Adventure of the Speckled Band”
• Mrs. Farintosh and an opal tiara. (It was before Watson’s time)

“The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb”
• Colonel Warburton's madness

“The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor”
• The letter from a fishmonger
• The letter a tide-waiter
• The service for Lord Backwater
• The little problem of the Grosvenor Square furniture van
• The service for the King of Scandinavia

“The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet”
NONE LISTED

“The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”
NONE LISTED

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes

“Silver Blaze”
NONE LISTED

“The Cardboard Box”
• Aldridge, who helped in the bogus laundry affair

“The Yellow Face”
• The (First) Adventure of the Second Stain was a failure which present[s] the strongest features of interest

‘The Stockbroker’s Clerk”
NONE LISTED

“The “Gloria Scott”
NONE LISTED

“The Musgrave Ritual”
• The Tarleton murders
• The case of Vamberry, the wine merchant
• The adventure of the old Russian woman
• The singular affair of the aluminium crutch
• A full account of Ricoletti of the club foot and his abominable wife
• The two cases before the Musgrave Ritual from Holmes’s fellow students

“The Reigate Squires”
• The whole question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis

The Crooked Man”
NONE LISTED

The Resident Patient”
• [Catalepsy] is a very easy complaint to imitate. Holmes has done it himself.

“The Greek Interpreter”
• Mycroft expected to see Holmes round last week to consult him over that Manor House case. It was Adams, of course
• Some of Holmes’s most interesting cases have come to him through Mycroft

“The Naval Treaty”
• The (Second) adventure of the Second Stain, which dealt with interest of such importance and implicated so many of the first families in the kingdom that for many years it would be impossible to make it public. No case, however, in which Holmes was engaged had ever illustrated the value of his analytical methods so clearly or had impressed those who were associated with him so deeply. Watson still retained an almost verbatim report of the interview in which Holmes demonstrated the true facts of the case to Monsieur Dubugue of the Paris police, and Fritz von Waldbaum, the well-known specialist of Dantzig, both of whom had wasted their energies upon what proved to be side-issues. The new century will have come, however, before the story could be safely told.
• The Adventure of the Tired Captain
• A very commonplace little murder. If it [this paper] turns red, it means a man's life . . . .

“The Final Problem”
• The engagement for the French Government upon a matter of supreme importance
• The assistance to the Royal Family of Scandinavia

The Return of Sherlock Holmes

“The Adventure of the Empty House”
• Holmes traveled for two years in Tibet (as) a Norwegian named Sigerson, amusing himself by visiting Lhassa [sic] and spending some days with the head Llama [sic]
• Holmes traveled in Persia
• . . . looked in at Mecca . . .
• . . . and paid a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum
• Returning to France, Holmes spent some months in a research into the coal-tar derivatives, which he conducted in a laboratory at Montpelier [sic], in the South of France
• Mathews, who knocked out Holmes’s left canine in the waiting room at Charing Cross
• The death of Mrs. Stewart, of Lauder, in 1887
• Morgan the poisoner
• Merridew of abominable memory
• The Molesey Mystery (Inspector Lestrade’s Case. He handled it fairly well.)

“The Adventure of the Norwood Builder”
• The case of the papers of ex-President Murillo
• The shocking affair of the Dutch steamship, Friesland, which so nearly cost both Holmes and Watson their lives
• That terrible murderer, Bert Stevens, who wanted Holmes and Watson to get him off in ’87

“The Adventure of the Dancing Men”
NONE LISTED

“The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist”
• The peculiar persecution of John Vincent Harden, the well-known tobacco millionaire
• It was near Farnham that Holmes and Watson took Archie Stamford, the forger

“The Adventure of the Priory School”
• Holmes was retained in the case of the Ferrers Documents
• The Abergavenny murder, which is coming up for trial

“The Adventure of Black Peter”
• The sudden death of Cardinal Tosca – an inquiry which was carried out by him at the express desire of His Holiness the Pope
• The arrest of Wilson, the notorious canary-trainer, which removed a plague-spot from the East-End of London.

“The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”
NONE LISTED

“The Adventure of the Six Napoleons”
• The dreadful business of the Abernetty family, which was first brought to Holmes’s attention by the depth which the parsley had sunk into the butter upon a hot day
• The Conk-Singleton forgery case
• Holmes was consulted upon the case of the disappearance of the black pearl of the Borgias, but was unable to throw any light upon it

“The Adventure of the Three Students”
• Some laborious researches in Early English charters

“The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez”
• The repulsive story of the red leech
• . . . and the terrible death of Crosby, the banker
• The Addleton tragedy
• . . . and the singular contents of the ancient British barrow
• The famous Smith-Mortimer succession case
• The tracking and arrest of Huret, the boulevard assassin

“The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter”
• Henry Staunton, whom Holmes helped to hang
• Arthur H. Staunton, the rising young forger

“The Adventure of the Abbey Grange”
• Hopkins called Holmes in seven times, and on each occasion his summons was entirely justified

“The Adventure of the Second Stain”
• The woman at Margate. No powder on her nose – that proved to be the correct solution. How can one build on such a quicksand? A woman’s most trivial action may mean volumes, or their most extraordinary conduct may depend upon a hairpin or a curling-tong

The Hound of the Baskervilles

• That little affair of the Vatican cameos, in which Holmes obliged the Pope
• The little case in which Holmes had the good fortune to help Messenger Manager Wilson
• One of the most revered names in England is being besmirched by a blackmailer, and only Holmes can stop a disastrous scandal
• The atrocious conduct of Colonel Upwood in connection with the famous card scandal at the Nonpareil Club
• Holmes defended the unfortunate Mme. Montpensier from the charge of murder that hung over her in connection with the death of her stepdaughter Mlle. Carere, the young lady who, as it will be remembered, was found six months later alive and married in New York

The Valley of Fear


• Twice already Holmes had helped Inspector Macdonald

His Last Bow

“The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge”
• The locking-up Colonel Carruthers

“The Adventure of the Red Circle”
• The affair last year for Mr. Fairdale Hobbs
• The Long Island cave mystery

“The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”
• Brooks . . .
• . . . or Woodhouse, or any of the fifty men who have good reason for taking Holmes’s life

“The Adventure of the Dying Detective”
NONE LISTED

“The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax”
• Holmes cannot possibly leave London while old Abrahams is in such mortal terror of his life

“The Adventure of the Devil's Foot”
• Holmes’s dramatic introduction to Dr. Moore Agar, of Harley Street

“His Last Bow”
• Holmes started his pilgrimage at Chicago . . .
• . . . graduated in an Irish secret society at Buffalo
• . . . gave serious trouble to the constabulary at Skibbareen
• Holmes saves Count Von und Zu Grafenstein from murder by the Nihilist Klopman

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes

“The Adventure of the Illustrious Client”
• Negotiations with Sir George Lewis over the Hammerford Will case

“The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier”
• The Abbey School in which the Duke of Greyminster was so deeply involved
• The commission from the Sultan of Turkey which required immediate action
• The professional service for Sir James Saunders

“The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone”
• Old Baron Dowson said the night before he was hanged that in Holmes’s case what the law had gained the stage had lost
• The death of old Mrs. Harold, who left Count Sylvius the Blymer estate
• The compete life history of Miss Minnie Warrender
• The robbery in the train de-luxe to the Riviera on February 13, 1892

“The Adventure of the Three Gables”
• The killing of young Perkins outside the Holborn Bar
• Mortimer Maberly, was one of Holmes’s early clients

“The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire”
• Matilda Briggs, a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared
• Victor Lynch, the forger
• Venomous lizard, or Gila. Remarkable case, that!
• Vittoria the circus belle
• Vanderbilt and the Yeggman
• Vigor, the Hammersmith wonder

“The Adventure of the Three Garridebs”
• Holmes refused a knighthood for services which may, someday, be described

“The Problem of Thor Bridge”
• Mr. James Phillimore who, stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella, was never more seen in this world
• The cutter Alicia, which sailed one spring morning into a patch of mist from where she never again emerged, nor was anything further ever heard of herself and her crew.
• Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duelist who was found stark staring mad with a match box in front of him which contained a remarkable worm said to be unknown to science

“The Adventure of the Creeping Man”
NONE LISTED

“The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane”
NONE LISTED

“The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger”
• The whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant

“The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”
• Holmes ran down that coiner by the zinc and copper filings in the seam of his cuff
• The St. Pancras case, where a cap was found beside the dead policeman. Merivale of the Yard, asked Holmes to look into it

“The Adventure of the Retired Colourman”
• The case of the two Coptic Patriarchs


It's possible that a few more Untold Cases are mentioned in The Canon than are listed here, and possibly others can be teased out by interpreting Watson's writings in a new way. (If you see any that I've missed, please let me know!) Luckily for all of us, the Tin Dispatch Box holds many adventures, and is nowhere near being empty.