Monday, 19 May 2008

The Game's Afoot

There’s no shortage of Sherlockian pastiches. I have enjoyed writing a handful myself – there’s a great deal of pleasure to be had in trying to capture Watson’s voice, and the macabre atmosphere that Conan Doyle conjured up in the best of his stories. My latest venture into Sherlockiana is a story which explores the activities of the Amateur Mendicant Society; it will be published in the Strand Magazine (the newish American journal of that title) in the near future.

In the meantime, there’s a new gathering of tales to enjoy, Sherlock Holmes: The Game’s Afoot, published by Wordsworth. The editor, David Stuart Davies, is an extremely knowledgeable Sherlockian scholar, as well as being a very versatile fellow – magazine editor, writer of short stories and novels, and playwright.

David has gathered together twenty stories by a range of accomplished writers. The most notable contributor, perhaps, is June Thomson, author of many enjoyable detective novels, as well as several highly regarded collections of Sherlockian stories, and a biography of Holmes and Watson. The other contributors include experts such as John Hall, Matthew Booth, Rafe McGregor and Davies himself The story titles include such gems as ‘The Adventure of the Intermittent Jigsaw Puzzle’ and ‘The Adventure of the Hanging Tyrant’.

Davies’ introduction highlights some of the reasons why Sherlockian pastiches continue to find an enthusiastic readership – it’s not just a matter of the mysteries, or even the atmospheric period detail, it’s the flavoursome nature of the characters. And not just Holmes and Watson themselves. Davies refers to ‘the vengeful one-legged murderer Jonathan Small; the avaricious red-headed pawnbroker Jabez Wilson; and the strange creeping Professor Presbury, to name but a few.’ I agree, and it’s really no surprise that the Holmes magic continues to fascinate, even if those of us who follow in Conan Doyle’s footsteps recognise that we can never hope to emulate the Master at his best.

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