Monday, December 24, 2018

The Compliments of the Season: Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Stories

[Portions of this essay appeared as the Editor’s Foreword to The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Part V: Christmas Adventures (MX Publishing, 2016)] It was updated on December 1st and 24th, 2021]

“I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season.”
– “The Blue Carbuncle” The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

It has been said that Charles Dickens invented our modern idea of how to celebrate Christmas. In the early days of Victoria’s reign, Christmas was a subdued affair in England, a time for quiet reflection, worshiping at church, and staying around one’s hearth. But Dickens, perhaps trying to rewrite his own bleak childhood memories, almost single-handedly gave people the idea that December 25th was something more than another somber religious date on the calendar. It could be a time of festivity, of mystery and merriment and wonder.

In his first novel, The Pickwick Papers (1836-1837), which so captured England’s heart, Dickens portrays scenes of a season filled with holiday festivities and good will as the members of the Pickwick Club celebrate with their friends. And there is even a Christmas ghost story, in which a bitter old man is changed on Christmas Eve by a supernatural encounter. No, it’s not the more famous A Christmas Carol (1843), the story that everyone knows about Ebenezer Scrooge and his amazing redemption. Rather, it’s “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton”, a shorter tale related by Mr. Wardle to the Pickwickians, in which bitter church sexton Gabriel Grub learns that “setting all the good of the world against the evil . . . it was a very decent and respectable world after all.”

Dickens refined his ideas of a proper Christmas, with decorations and singing and wishes for snow and a fat goose, in his later more famous story, wherein Ebenezer Scrooge is taken here and there across London and elsewhere, through his past, present, and future. It’s an amazing story that has resonated from the time it was written to the present day – so much so that it’s one of the most filmed of all narratives, with dozens upon dozens of adaptations. Some of the more notable are the musical version starring Albert Finney – a personal favorite of mine: “Thank you very much!” - and the much grimmer variant with a heavy-set Scrooge played by George C. Scott (who also once played a mentally ill character who erroneously believed that he was Sherlock Holmes), the old classics with Alistair Sim or Reginald Owen (who listed among his many roles a heavy-set Holmes), and more recently that of Patrick Stewart and the unique animated version starring Jim Carrey.

Whenever one of these versions is on television, I have to stop and watch – not so much at this point to see the very familiar story, which I know by heart backwards and forwards, especially as I re-read A Christmas Carol nearly every December. No, the big reason that I watch now is to see how each of these films portrays the dark, narrow, and very atmospheric streets of Victorian London.

And since this essay is about Sherlock Holmes – and not Dickens (or Scrooge or even Gabriel Grub) – that seems to be a good place to begin the pivot to Our Heroes: the Detective and the Doctor.

Although Dickens was writing his great works decades before Holmes and Watson first appeared in print, fittingly in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual of 1887 . . .

Me posing with one of the original surviving Beeton's Christmas Annuals at From Gillette to Brett IV, September 12, 2014

. . . there are a great many similarities between the Dickensian London and that in which Holmes carried out his business. Can anyone doubt that the opium dens and the dangerous little streets along the Thames, so ably described in “The Man With the Twisted Lip”, weren’t directly related to the same vile alleys memorialized by Dickens? And the unique and larger-than-life people who wander through Dickens’s stories could be the very parents and grandparents of some of the clients and policemen and Irregulars who climbed the seventeen steps to Holmes and Watson’s Baker Street sitting room.

So if one such as myself sees Dickens’s London and then looks for foreshadowing of that Great Cesspool that Watson described so well, then how can one not see a connection between that same kind of Dickensian Victorian Christmas and Sherlock Holmes?

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories - Part V: Christmas Adventures

In autumn 2015, the first three simultaneously published volumes of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories were published, with royalties going to the Stepping Stones School at Undershaw, one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s former residences. While I’d initially conceived this collection as a one-time event, the processes were in place, and there was still a great deal of interest in additional volumes from both the contributors and the public. Therefore, another volume, Part IV: 2016 Annual, was published the following spring, and I realized that there seemed to be enough momentum to produce two collections per year. But if the spring book was the Annual edition, what might the fall version be?

The answer was almost immediate, and later that year we published Part V: Christmas Adventures, containing 30 new Holmes adventures, all set at Christmas.

The fat book included the following stories, and I still vividly remember receiving and reading each one of them for the first time:

• The Case of the Ruby Necklace – Bob Byrne
• The Jet Brooch – Denis O. Smith
• The Adventure of the Missing Irregular – Amy Thomas
• The Adventure of the Knighted Watchmaker – Derrick Belanger
• The Stolen Relic – David Marcum
• A Christmas Goose – C. H. Dye
• The Adventure of the Long-Lost Enemy – Marcia Wilson
• The Case of the Christmas Cracker – John Hall
• The Queen’s Writing Table – Julie McKuras
• The Blue Carbuncle – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Dramatised for Radio by Bert Coules)
• The Man Who Believed in Nothing – Jim French
• The Case of the Christmas Star – S.F. Bennett
• The Christmas Card Mystery – Narrelle M. Harris
• The Question of the Death Bed Conversion – William Patrick Maynard
• The Adventure of the Christmas Surprise – Vincent W. Wright
• A Bauble in Scandinavia – James Lovegrove
• The Adventure of Marcus Davery – Arthur Hall
• The Adventure of the Purple Poet – Nicholas Utechin
• The Adventure of the Empty Manger – Tracy J. Revels
• The Adventure of the Vanishing Man – Mike Chinn
• A Perpetrator in a Pear Tree – Roger Riccard
• The Case of the Christmas Trifle – Wendy C. Fries
• The Adventure of the Christmas Stocking – Paul D. Gilbert
• The Case of the Reformed Sinner – S. Subramanian
• The Adventure of the Golden Hunter – Jan Edwards
• The Curious Case of the Well-Connected Criminal – Molly Carr
• The Adventure of the Handsome Ogre – Matthew J. Elliott
• The Adventure of the Improbable Intruder – Peter K. Andersson
• The Adventure of the Deceased Doctor – Hugh Ashton
• The Mile End Mynah Bird – Mark Mower

I received a story from my favorite pasticheur Denis Smith, and more from masters like Hugh Ashton, Marcia Wilson, Paul Gilbert, Roger Riccard, Mark Mower, Derrick Belanger, John Hall, S.F. Bennett, and Arthur Hall. Cindy Dye reworked a story that had originally appeared online, as did Tracy Revels, and Matthew Elliott did the same with one of his scripts that had been previously broadcast on Imagination Theatre. We had a script from Imagination Theatre founder Jim French, and Bert Coules contributed his amazing BBC adaptation of “The Blue Carbuncle”. James Lovegrove and Vincent Wright each unknowingly wrote stories that paralleled each other, as did Bob Byrne and Denis Smith, and it was fun to let them reflect each other. The previous year, Nick Utechin had taken me on an incredible behind-the-scenes tour of Oxford (during my Holmes Pigrimage No. 2), and he set his story – knowing that it would especially amuse me personally – at the site of an Oxford artwork that we’d discussed during my visit. The book was rounded out by wonderful and atmospheric contributions from Amy Thomas, Julie McKuras, Narrelle Harris, William Patrick Maynard (the authorized continuer of the adventures of Denis Nayland-Smith!), Mike Chinn, Subbu Subramanian, Jan Edward, Peter Andersson, Molly Carr, and me. The amazing cover was reworked by Brian Belanger from a seasonal John Atkinson Grimshaw painting. I was thrilled to be a part of it!

The cover . . .

. . . was taken from Grimshaw's atmospheric painting The Old Hall Under Moonlight (1882). . .

. . . and here, for comparison, is my initial mark-up for Brian Belanger to use in his much-improved finished product:

[For more about John Atkinson Grimshaw and his amazing suitability for Sherlock Holmes book covers, please see my blog entry:]

In Fall 2021, I revived the idea with Parts XXVIII, XXIX, and XXX: More Christmas Adventures, containing 57 more traditional Canonical Holmes Adventures. Here are those three Grimshaw covers:

The storeis and authors include:
Part XXVIII: More Christmas Adventures (1869-1888)
• Foreword by Nancy Holder
• Foreword by Roger Johnson
• Foreword by Emma West
• Foreword by Steve Emecz
• Foreword by David Marcum
• A Sherlockian Christmas (A Poem) – Joseph W. Svec III
• No Malice Intended – Deanna Baran
• The Yuletide Heist – Mark Mower
• A Yuletide Tragedy – Thomas A. Turley
• The Adventure of the Christmas Lesson – Will Murray
• The Christmas Card Case – Brenda Seabrooke
• The Chatterton-Smythe Affair – Tim Gambrell
• Christmas at the Red Lion – Thomas A. Burns, Jr.
• A Study in Murder – Amy Thomas
• The Christmas Ghost of Crailloch Taigh – David Marcum
• The Six-Fingered Scoundrel – Jeffrey A. Lockwood
• The Case of the Duplicitous Suitor – John Lawrence
• The Sebastopol Clasp – Martin Daley
• The Silent Brotherhood – Dick Gillman
• The Case of the Christmas Pudding – Liz Hedgecock
• The St. Stephen’s Day Mystery – Paul Hiscock
• A Fine Kettle of Fish – Mike Hogan
• The Case of the Left Foot – Stephen Herczeg
• The Case of the Golden Grail – Roger Riccard

Part XXIX: More Christmas Adventures (1889-1896)
• Foreword by Nancy Holder
• Foreword by Roger Johnson
• Foreword by Emma West
• Foreword by Steve Emecz
• Foreword by David Marcum
• Baskerville Hall in Winter (A Poem) – Christopher James
• The Sword in the Spruce – Ian Ableson
• The Adventure of the Serpentine Body – Wayne Anderson
• The Adventure of the Fugitive Irregular – Gordon Linzner
• The Father Christmas Brigade – David Marcum
• The Incident of the Stolen Christmas Present – Barry Clay
• The Man of Miracles – Derrick Belanger
• Absent Friends – Wayne Anderson
• The Incident in Regent Street – Harry DeMaio
• The Baffling Adventure of the Baby Jesus – Craig Stephen Copland
• The Adventure of the Second Sister – Matthew White
• The Twelve Days – I.A. Watson
• The Dilemma of Mr. Henry Baker – Paul D. Gilbert
• The Adventure of the Injured Man – Arthur Hall
• The Krampus Who Came to Call – Marcia Wilson
• The Adventure of the Christmas Wish – Margaret Walsh
• The Adventure of the Viking Ghost – Frank Schildiner
• The Adventure of the Secret Manuscript – Dan Rowley
• The Adventure of the Christmas Suitors – Tracy J. Revels

Part XXX: More Christmas Adventures (1897-1928)
• Foreword by Nancy Holder
• Foreword by Roger Johnson
• Foreword by Emma West
• Foreword by Steve Emecz
• Foreword by David Marcum
• Baker Street in Snow (1890) (A Poem) – Christopher James
• The Purloined Present – DJ Tyrer
• The Case of the Cursory Curse – Andrew Bryant
• The St. Giles Child Murders – Tim Gambrell
• A Featureless Crime – Geri Schear
• The Case of the Earnest Young Man – Paula Hammond
• The Adventure of the Dextrous Doctor – Jayantika Ganguly
• The Mystery of Maple Tree Lodge – Susan Knight
• The Adventure of the Maligned Mineralogist – Arthur Hall
• Christmas Magic – Kevin Thornton
• The Adventure of the Christmas Threat – Arthur Hall
• The Adventure of the Stolen Christmas Gift – Michael Mallory
• The Colourful Skein of Life – Julie McKuras
• The Adventure of the Chained Phantom – J.S. Rowlinson
• Santa’s Little Elves – Kevin Thornton
• The Case of the Holly-Sprig Pudding – Naching T. Kassa
• The Canterbury Manifesto – David Marcum
• The Case of the Disappearing Beaune – J. Lawrence Matthews
• A Price Above Rubies – Jane Rubino
• The Intrigue of the Red Christmas – Shane Simmons
• The Bitter Gravestones – Chris Chan
• The Midnight Mass Murder – Paul Hiscock

Of course, having stories about Holmes at Christmas isn’t a new idea. The original Canon story “The Blue Carbuncle” is often considered to be the Holmes Christmas adventure.

However, many forget (or gloss over) the fact that it actually occurs “on the second morning after Christmas”, or December 27th. (I subscribe to the Baring-Gould dating of December 27, 1887, as it solves a number of chronological problems.)

This is as close as we get to Christmas in The Canon, except for one reference in “The Speckled Band”, when Helen Stoner’s sister, Julia, went to Harrow at Christmastime two years before the events of the story in order to visit a maiden aunt. (She became engaged while there, but due to this and that, the marriage didn't occur.)

To cement the Christmas connections within "The Blue Carbuncle", most media adaptations, including Bert Coules' for the BBC broadcast and different television presentions, slide it to December 25th, including the 1968 version with Peter Cushing and Nigel Stock . . .

. . . and the very satisfying Granada version starring Jeremy Brett and David Burke (1984):

(Sadly, except for a few stand-alone Holmes films and some efforts by Russian television, there have been no Sherlock Holmes television series whatsoever since the Jeremy Brett programs ended in 1994. It's been far too long - over a quarter-of-a-century! - since we've seen Sherlock Holmes on British or American television.)

I myself have been quite fortunate to have had a small encounter with the carbuncle, the goose, and the detective, again during Holmes Pilgrimage No. 2, when I was allowed to spend several hours in the museum of The Sherlock Holmes Pub, exploring to my heart's content . . . .

There are many other tales telling what Mr. Holmes of Baker Street was up to during those various Christmases in the latter decades of the Nineteenth Century, and so on into the Twentieth. An important set that must come to mind are those two well-known and highly respected volumes, Holmes for the Holidays (1996) and More Holmes for the Holidays (1999), each edited by the late Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Carol-Lynn Waugh.

Containing fourteen and eleven stories respectively, these were the first anthologies of their kind to feature stories specifically sharing Holmes’s Christmas-related cases. (There are even a couple of tales that feature descendants of individuals involved in A Christmas Carol.)I remember how enthusiastic I was when I first discovered Holmes for the Holidays on a book store shelf. This was in those dark days when finding new stories about The Master was almost always a surprise, a rare and difficult thing, as one couldn’t learn the release dates for upcoming Holmes books for the next year simply by looking on the internet – one had to rely on frequent trips to the bookstore and serendipity.

Two of the stories in these volumes, “The Christmas Client” and “The Christmas Conspiracy” were by Edward D. Hoch, and they were later reprinted in a collection of his own, The Sherlock Holmes Stories of Edward D. Hoch:

In addition to these fine additions to any Holmes library, there have been a number of other stories spread throughout different collections. Probably the best of them, and well worth seeking out, is Denis O. Smith’s “The Christmas Visitor” (1985, 1998).

Val Andrews brought us one of his finer efforts in Sherlock Holmes and the Yule-Tide Mystery (1996), a very interesting and rollicking case set around a Victorian Christmas.

One of the best of the Holmes pasticheurs is Roger Riccard who, in addition to a several other works, produced the amazing two-volume collection, Sherlock Holmes: Adventures for the Twelve Days of Christmas (2015), and Sherlock Holmes: Further Adventures for the Twelve Days of Christmas (2016). Each book (now released as a combined volume on Kindle) has six stories. All have some connection to the famed gifts that were given over the twelve days, but none of these are cliché, and each will surprise the reader with its originality.

Craig Janacek, a prolific and excellent pasticheur, has written four Christmas pastiches, included in his collection Light in the Darkness: "The Adventure of the Spanish Sovereign", The Adventure of the Manufactured Miracle", "The Adventure of the First Star", and "The Grand Gift of Sherlock Holmes".

A novel set at Christmas in a country house, with a very dark conclusion, is Laurie R. King’s Justice Hall (2002).

As mentioned in an earlier essay, I – and a number of other Sherlockians – have a great deal of difficulty with the supposed marriage between Holmes and the much younger narrator of these books, Mary Russell. However, by using the solution proposed in my blog entry “Necessary Rationalizations”, even those who object to Mary Russell’s delusional romance can enjoy this book:

Along with these other volumes, some lesser-known novels about Holmes and Watson's Yuletide adventures include Sherlock Holmes’s Christmas (2005) by David Upton and A Christmas to Forget at 221b (2002) by Hugh A. Milligan.

Short Stories

There are a number of stand-alone short-stories with Christmas settings in various collections. Some of these include “Fulworth Christmas” by Karl Showler in Sherlock Holmes and the Watson Pastiche (2005), and “The Vanishing Diamonds” in A Julian Symons Duet. This latter story also has the fun of a possible encounter between Holmes and another of my favorite book-friends, Hercule Poirot.

“A Christmas Story” is in The Chemical Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2009) by Thomas G. Waddell and Thomas R. Rybolt. (The stories in this oversized spiral-bound edition were originally published over approximately fifteen years in The Journal of Chemical Education, and I had a blast tracking them down as each new one came out.)

“A Christmas Interlude” in The Singular Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (2012) by Alan Stockwell. This is a companion volume to his earlier The Singular Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2003). Sadly, when I asked Mr. Stockwell to contribute a new story to an MX Anthology, he informed me that he had related all that he had regarding Mr. Holmes. However, hopefully someday another tale will surface, because he’s very good at it.

In "A Gentleman's Disagreement", the first story in Sherlock Holmes: Adventures Beyond the Canon - Volume I (2018), Narrelle Harris offers a sequel to "The Blue Carbuncle" that begins at the exact moment the earlier story ends, telling what else happened that night . . . .

“A Ballad of the White Plague” by P.C. Hodgel in The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (1997)is a very strange tale, recalled by Holmes for Watson in 1902, of when he and his father made a very strange visit to an old house during Christmas 1862, when Holmes was not-quite eight years old.

“Green and Red Trappings” by Valerie J. Patterson in Curious Incidents 2 (2002), edited by Jeff Campbell and Charles Prepolec. The second of two wonderful collections of traditional pastiches. More please!

“Christmas Eve” by Sherlockian S.C. Roberts in Ellery Queen’s famed The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes (1944). As can be seen here, my edition has no dust jacket. If there's a Secret Santa out there with two of them and doesn't know what to do with the second . . . .

N.M. Scott has provided two stand-alone Christmas tales, one, "A Case at Christmas" in his collection A Case at Christmas and Other New Adventures(2016), and "Christmas on Dartmoor" in To A Country House Darkly and Other New Adventures (2017).

The late Frank Thomas, who wrote a number of really fun traditional pastiches, has a story, “Sherlock’s Christmas Gift”, in his collection The Secret Files of Sherlock Holmes (2002).

Other tales include Paul E. Heusinger’s “Christmas Truce” in The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2006), and “The Matter of the Christmas Gift” in Watson’s Sampler (2007) by William F. Watson, Jr.

Then there’s “The Adventure of the Christmas Smoke” by David Rowbotham, in Tales from the Stranger’s Room (2011) Profits from this book and its sequel, edited by David Ruffle, go to support The Beacon Society.

Quite recently, Thomas Mann has published A Christmas Carol at 221b (2018). In Holmes for the Holidays and More Holmes for the Holidays, Our Heroes encountered the descendants of the characters from A Christmas Carol. In this slim volume, Holmes relates how he met Ebenezer Scrooge when he was quite young. (There have been several Holmes Christmas stories where Holmes himself is visited by the Three Ghosts of Christmas, but these are not included in this essay, as they are merely whimsical Alternate Universe fictions.)

And in 2019, James Lovegrove delved into Watson's Tin Dispatch Box and brought forth the seasonal masterpiece Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon:

Several Holmes Christmas stories have appeared in magazines, including in these issues of The Strand . . .

“The Christmas Poisonings” by Barrie Roberts (Issue 7)
“The Affair of the Christmas Jewel” by Barrie Roberts (Issue 9)
“The Ghoast of Christmas Past” by David Stuart Davies (Issue 23).

. . . and in Sherlock Magazine:

“The Christmas Bauble” by John Hall
“Watson’s Christmas Trick” by Bob Byrne.

John Hall’s “The Christmas Bauble” was also broadcast by Imagination Theatre on December 25th, 2005, and Bob Byrne’s “Watson’s Christmas Trick” has been reworked as a Solar Pons adventure, and included in The New Adventures of Solar Pons (2018, 2019)

Gwendolyn Frame published Have Yourself A Chaotic Little Christmas (2012), collecting a series of Christmas stories that she had published on-line under the sobriquet "Aleine Skyfire".

There have been many Holmes Christmas Adventures published on-line in the form of fan-fiction. Some is incredible, and some not so great. However, all of it must not be ignored just because some of it is bad. To do so cheats the friends of Mr. Sherlock Holmes of some of his best adventures. I’ve collected several hundred on-line Christmas tales (so far) and there are more appearing even as I write this. What I have has been archived in these two giant binders, and it’s definitely time to invest in a third:

Media Adventures

With all of these written documents that relate Holmes Christmas adventures, one must not forget the stories that have appeared in other mediums. For instance, there is Young Sherlock Holmes (1985) - both film and novel.

Although not specifically a Christmas story, the holiday pervades the film. For more about it, including the true identity of the young fellow who hallucinates vicious cream pies, see my blog entry, “Actually, That Wasn’t Watson”

On April 4th, 1955, an episode of Sherlock Holmes starring Ronald Howard and H. Marion Crawford entitled "The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding" followed a killer's attempted revenge against Holmes during the holidays.

There have also been several Holmes radio shows with Christmas themes. Perhaps the most famous is “The Night Before Christmas” (December 24, 1945), starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce:

And then, a couple of years later, was “The Adventure of the Christmas Bride” (December 21, 1947) starring John Stanley and Alfred Shirley:

Beyond Holmes . . . .

If those Holmes stories aren’t enough for you, there are a few others starring some of the other great detectives. For instance, there's the classic Nero Wolfe case "Christmas Party", originally published in Collier's magazine in January 1957 - here's the illustration:

. . . and then collected in And Four To Go (1958)

The 2001 A&E version starring Maury Chaykin and Timothy Hutton did a pretty good job of adapting it . . . .

Ellery Queen’s “The Adventure of the Dauphin’s Doll” in Calendar of Crime (1952) is a wonderful seasonal adventure. His Cat of Many Tales (1949), while mostly set in the hot New York Summer of 1948, has some amazing Christmas bustle at the end, and The Fourth Side of the Triangle (1965) has some in the middle. “The Tragedy of Errors” and “The Reindeer Clue” both in The Tragedy of Errors (1999) have scenes set around Christmas. His greatest work, Calamity Town (1942), also has some Christmas scenes. And on the Eight Day (1964) begins around Christmas-time 1943 and leads to one of Ellery’s most surreal cases. The Finishing Stroke (1958) has perhaps the most puzzling Christmas mystery of them all. And then there’s The Egyptian Cross Mystery (1932), which might be the most gruesome.

Hercule Poirot, while not having as many adventures set at Christmas, does have a few, as shown here from my collection. Most notable is Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1938), a great bloody mess in the best sense. And then there is “The Christmas Pudding”, later rewritten as “The Adventure of the Royal Ruby”.

Here's Hercule Poirot's Christmas . . .

. . . and "The Christmas Pudding":

For one of the most atmospheric Christmas stories in the Sherlockian style, look no further than the Solar Pons adventure, “The Adventure of the Unique Dickensians”, contained in The Chronicles of Solar Pons (1973). This story has it all – Holmesian adventure and references to Charles Dickens who, as mentioned at the beginning of this essay, has been said to be the man who invented our modern idea of Christmas.

In 2020, Dan Andriacco included "The Unique Dickensians" in Sherlock Holmes: A three-Pipe Problem from Belanger Books, which also contains "The Blue Carbuncle", Vincent Starrett's "The Unique Hamlet", and numerous essays by Julie McKuras, Monica Schmidt, Shannon Carlisle, Susan Rice, Randall Stock, Bob Byrne, Roger Johnson, Derrick Belanger, Dan Andriacco, and me (David Marcum). Art is provided by Karen Gosselin, Jeffrey McKeever, and Brian Belanger. Besides including these three associated stories, this book is the definitive look at Starrett's only pastiche, "The Unique Hamlet" and is an exceptional addition to any Sherlockian collection.

And while not quite as festive, Pons also investigated another crime on Christmas Day in "the Stone of Scone", contained in The Return of Solar Pons (1958), which tells how the famous object was stolen on December 25th, 1930 - mirroring the later theft which occurred on Christmas Day 1950.

To sum up . . . .

These are definitely not all of the Holmes adventures related to Christmas, but they are a good start. These, along with the Christmas tales of some of my other best book-friends, will keep you in the spirit for quite a while.

While Dickens may have defined how we think of Christmas, one of the best places to spend it is at 221b Baker Street, in the company of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I wish you the Merriest of Christmases - whatever time of year you might encounter this essay!

NOTE: The silhouette illustration of Holmes and Watson appears in The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes (Canterbury Classics, 2013)

©David Marcum 2018, 2021 – 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 90 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, and most recently The Collected Papers of Sherlock Holmes, a 5-volume set containing 77 stories.

He has edited around 800 Holmes pastiches and over sixty 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 30 volumes, with several more in preparation. Royalties for this collection go to support Undershaw, a school for special needs students at Undershaw, one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's former homes, and funds raised so far are approaching $100,000.

Marcum 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, along with other volumes of new Pons adventures. 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 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:


  1. Great essay! Thank you for writing your essays.

  2. Gary, Thanks so much! It's much appreciated!

  3. I read “Sigerson at the Pole” by Mary Ellen Daugherty every Christmas (published in 2003 by the Scion of the Green Dragon, revised second edition).

  4. Interesting and informative in the extreme, as all your essays are.