Book Review: Otto Penzler (Ed.): Sherlock – Over 80 Stories Starring the Greatest Detective of All Time
Sherlock – Over 80 Stories Starring the Greatest Detective of All Time
Selected and Edited by Otto Penzler
The volume seems a little overwhelming when you first hold it in your hands. The UK hardcover edition consists of almost 900 pages and holds 83 Sherlock Holmes stories selected by Otto Penzler. (The US Version is called The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories and has fewer pages, but the same content). After an introduction by Penzler, the book starts off with an interview by Arthur Conan Doyle from 1900 (his justification of killing Holmes in “The Final Problem” and some comments on the Great Detective) and two of his non-canonical Sherlock Holmes stories. Followed by the most famous short story pastiches and parodies, including Vincent Starrett’s “The Unique ‘Hamlet’” and J.M. Barrie’s satirical “The Adventure of the Two Collaborators” and Stephen King’s “The Doctor’s Case”.
The rest of the book consists of stories that range from pastiches that are very close to the Canon to further parodies, to stories laden with intertextual references to other stories, literary characters (Raffles or Poirot) or even Arthur Conan Doyle himself while others are only very loosely related to Sherlock Holmes. Not all of the stories are good and only very few are actually brilliant, but most of the 83 stories are quite entertaining, written with love for the original, and a lovely addition to the Canon.
My personal favourites are Vincent Starrett’s “The Unique ‘Hamlet’” (yes, that’s the same man who write the book The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and the sonnet “Always 1895” aka. “221B”), J.M. Barrie’s “The Late Sherlock Holmes”, a wonderful metafictional account of the arrest of Dr Watson as the main suspect in the death of Sherlock Holmes at the Reichenbach Falls published immediately after “The Final Problem” with a very telling conclusion which may or may not have influenced Doyle to pick up writing more Holmes stories in 1903. I also loved Antony Burgess’s “Murder to Music”, Lyndsay Faye’s “The Case of Colonel Warburton’s Madness” (I promise I am not biased. Lyndsay successfully wrote Holmes pastiches long before she became a Baker Street Babe – for instance Dust and Shadow and the story printed in this volume) and Logan Clendening’s “The Case of the Missing Patriarchs” in which Holmes after his death is employed to find Adam and Eve, who have disappeared which made me laugh harder than it probably should have.
However, those are just a few of many wonderful stories in this book and what they all have in common is the fantastic notion that Holmes lives on in manifold ways, universes, interpretations and forms. It shows that from the very beginning Sherlock Holmes has inspired both earnest pastiches and hilarious parodies and while many of the authors are known for their love of Sherlock Holmes some other names will be a surprise to the reader.
Apart from the stories, this book also features a short introductory text by Otto Penzler about the author and the context of each story, featuring interesting trivia titbits like the fact that Doyle, Barrie, Wodehouse and others had formed a cricket club, but Doyle was the only person who could actually play cricket. There short introductions add tremendously to an already fascinating and wonderful collection.
The UK publisher of the book, Head of Zeuz, has kindly offered us a copy of Sherlock to give away to one of our readers. This giveaway is currently for the UK only. All you have to do is leave a comment until February 7 on this post on our website and we will draw a random winner from all of those who commented.
The US version can be purchased on amazon.com, where it is also currently on sale!
Maria teaches English Literature at Leipzig University, Germany, published a German introduction to Sherlock Holmes and is a fan of all things Holmes – but especially of the Canon stories and Sherlock BBC. Contact her at @stuffasdreams & firstname.lastname@example.org