Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Aside Arthur Conan Doyle

This fine compilation by Paul R. Spiring does a great deal to reinstate Bertram Fletcher Robinson and bring him before a wider public. A prolific journalist, it details the surprisingly large and varied amount of work Robinson published: and raises the question how much more he might have accomplished if his life hadn't been so tragically cut short. His detective Addington Peace, although no Holmes, is competent and interesting and demonstrates the nineteenth century fashion (along with Sherlock) for giving odd names to one's sleuth. The editor of 'The Lady's Home Magazine' (later renamed 'Home Magazine of   Fiction') in which Peace appeared, made full use of Robinson's connection with Doyle, something which has been rather played down over the years, by  repeating at the head of each tale that he was "Joint author with Sir A. Conan Doyle of his [Doyle's] best story, 'The Hound of the Baskervilles'. Other stories from such magazines as Pearson's, Cassell's, The Windsor and the lesser-known Appleton's are also included in this book - some of them whimsical ('The Battle of Fingle's Bridge'), others more dramatic; but all a good read and giving a fair  idea of Robinson's range. The size, almost A4 and with a floppy cover, makes it difficult to handle and the punning title is decidedly  off-putting. But, once inside, the reader is rewarded by a large number of interesting illustrations and the charm of a writer rescued (thanks to Mr. Spiring) almost from oblivion.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Author's Note

When I first started writing about Sherlock Holmes I, rather naively as it turned out, thought the titles explained themselves. The Sign of Fear, A Study in Crimson, these would surely bring Conan Doyle and his The Sign of Four and  A Study in Scarlet to mind? But, partly due to the beautifully feminine cover of book number one (drawn from suggestions by me and provided by the brilliant, it was seen as a romantic novel by some - a 'woman's book' Catherine Cookson style. That's why the silhouette of Sherlock Holmes appears on the cover of the second book in the series, and even on In Search of Doctor Watson who shouldn't need that kind of help, although it's best to cover all eventualities. Sherlock will appear again on the cover of my'current work in progress' The Noble Spinster, and I notice other writers of the genre have taken the hint and made sure he's lurking about somewhere on their  covers. Footnotes will also guide readers to the original inspirations behind most of the adventures which befall the two women who run the Watson-Fanshaw Detective Agency: so that the book can be enjoyed both by fans and people new to Holmes and Watson, hopefully causing the latter to read Doyle and become fans themselves.       


I would like to thank Felicia Carparelli and Tracy Revels for their favourable notices of my books, and Paul Spiring and Alistair Duncan  for sending me  'thank you' emails after I reviewed their books.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Shadowfall by Tracy Revels

My husband, a retired physicist, said this was beautifully produced, very well-written - and complete rubbish. Fortunately I rescued the book and discovered rather to my surprise that it's remarkably readable, although I must admit the two witches hurling fire-balls at each other was a bit hard to take. There were some sly digs at the canon (as when Watson asks if there's to be a burglary) and the whole enterprise was a real page-turner. A great if quick read, I found only three mistakes: Maitwand for Maiwand, stationery for stationary and distain for disdain. I feel, however, that the book would have worked just as well with Merlin and Wart or Dr Who and one of his sidekicks. Bringing in Holmes and Watson could be rather restrictive if the former has a wider readership. But then the work appears to be doing so well, it does seem somewhat churlish to carp! 

The Official Papers into the matter known as The Hound of the Baskervilles(DCC/1435/89 refers) by Kieron Freeburn

This is a real labour of love, and I would like to stress the word labour. Some may find the different fonts difficult, and the mistake at the beginning is certainly unfortunate. It was Sir Charles who died from a heart attack and not Sir Henry. But this lends an air of authenticity to the 'book' and makes it doubly interesting to anyone who, unlike the author who I understand is a retired detective,  knows little or nothing of police procedure. Definitely an original idea.  

Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon by Brian W. Pugh Paul R Spiring and Sadru Bhanji

This book, an extended version of an earlier edition, won't be on your bookshelf. Why not? Because it will be tucked securely inside  your rucksac as 'a complete tour guide and companion'. The first four chapters are detailed accounts of the main characters: Conan Doyle, George Turnavine Budd, Fletcher Robinson and George Newnes -  without whose 'Strand Magazine' Doyle might never have achieved such world-wide fame. These are followed by detailed maps with which to reach a large number of the relevant locations, some fascinating facts about each area and a very comprehensive bibliography. This imaginative venture is most definitely for anyone who loves walking in Devon, with Sherlock Holmes the icing on the cake so to speak.

Eliminate the Impossible

Mr Duncan scores heavily with the above, on which I admit to being immediately and thoroughly hooked. Short, pithy accounts of the main characters in the Holmes' canon appear near the beginning of the book to include the delicious anomaly of Inspector Lestrade taking all the credit for solving crimes, at the same time as Watson is blowing the gaff elsewhere. There is a useful time-line and the synopses of the stories are clear and concise, with interesting discussions of the problems which have been encounted by Sherlockian Scholars over the years. Having dealt with Holmes 'on the page', the author then proceeds to discuss his portrayal 'on screen' - dealing impartially with both the best and the worst performances. A great addition to any bookshelf.  

Close to Holmes

This book by Alistair Duncan is well-written and well-produced. Fans of Sherlock Holmes will perhaps  be familiar with much of the material, but I feel even they will  find something new. Footnotes, bibliography and index are more than adequate, and the photographs are superb. On the subject of these, the author seems to have stretched a point. We have Charlie Chaplin - and a photograph of the cab driver named Netley (a distinct if fortuitous echo of Dr Watson) who may or may not have driven Dr Gull, who may or may not have been Jack the Ripper, round Whitechapel. But every chapter contains something of interest and I have to say that I  enjoyed a thoroughly good read. An extremely useful addition to any Sherlockian's library.