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Stutley Constable

Have you found a pastiche you thought was well done? Tell us about it. Did you find a story that completely butchered the characters' personalities or was so improbable that it made you physically ill? Warn us. Warn us, PLEASE!

It was only after Garonne mentioned reviews of stories and books she had posted on another site that I really got to thinking about this thread. Originally I thought such reviews could go in the 'Variations on Canon' thread, but that's for media other than the written word and I think it is best to separate the two.

In this thread we can discuss really good or really bad written works. Or we can talk about really popular works that maybe shouldn't be. Or perhaps there are pieces out there that deserve more attention than they are getting. Please do keep in mind, though, this is not a thread to discuss Fan Fiction. This is for discussing professionally written work.

Very important to know about this thread - Spoilers are an inherent part of reviews.

1/10/2015 . Edited 1/10/2015 #1

I've often seen Nicholas Meyer cited as one of the better pastiche writers, and I must admit he's pretty good. He wrote a trilogy: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, The Canary Trainer and The West End Horror, but I've only read the first two. The three books are only vaguely connected -- no need to read them in any particular order. [Note: I read these two books in translation, and so I can't say anything about Meyer's success in reproducing ACD's style, which is in fact usually one of the more important factors in deciding whether I like a pastiche or not.]

I really enjoyed The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. It uses the idea of 'Watson the Unreliable Narrator' and suggests that the whole story with Moriarty, Reichenbach etc. never happened; in fact, Watson took Holmes to Vienna to see Sigmund Freund, to cure him of both his cocaine addiction and of his delusions that his childhood tutor, Moriarty, was a criminal mastermind. (Not a spoiler! You learn that pretty early in the story.) In fact, the book contains a lot of what you might call popular fandom tropes: hurt/comfort, a vulnerable Holmes, angst, childhood trauma. They also get mixed up in European politics and a thrilling train chase.

The Canary Trainer is a bit weaker, IMO. It's a crossover with Phantom of the Opera, Watson hardly appears at all, and the book is narrated by Holmes himself. I have to say I missed Watson's presence a lot! Irene Adler does appear, with hints of Irene/Holmes. The plot isn't great, and if you already know the plot of Phantom of the Opera (I didn't, at the time) then might find it even more boring than I did!

[Interesting trivia: Meyer was also the director of The Wrath of Khan, and co-wrote two other Star Trek films.]

I'm looking forward to finding out whether anyone has a different opinion of Meyer's books, or has any other good pastiches to recommend. I'm particularly curious about Horowitz's House of Silk, which the media made such a fuss about recently, because it was the "first pastiche authorised by ACD's estate".

1/10/2015 #2

I, too, have read those two by Meyer. They were all right, and the h/c in Seven Per Cent was nice. :)

I read House of Silk and didn't think much of it, as I recall, but I don't remember exactly why. I think the writing was sloppier than I'd expect of an experienced writer...?

While I haven't read a whole lot of the published pastiches, of those I've read I really liked Lyndsay Faye's Dust and Shadow (Holmes investigates the Ripper murders).

1/10/2015 #3

I second the liking of Lyndsay Faye's Dust and Shadow. It is a compelling story with Holmes' and Watson's characters captured nicely. Her style may by more accessible than dear old ACD, but not jarringly out of step. This novel was approved by the Doyle estate long before Horowitz wrote House of Silk, which I found to be fine but nothing special.

On the other hand, the Mary Russell stories (The Beekeeper's Apprentice, et c) are of no interest to me at all. Likewise, the Irene Adler-centric works by Carole Nelson Douglas hold little appeal. This is due to the shift of focus from Holmes and Watson to another character.

Of course these are my opinions and are to be taken with a grain of salt. Your experience may vary.

1/10/2015 . Edited 1/11/2015 #4
Rachel Indeed

I'm a big fan of The Seven Percent Solution, too. I think it does a wonderful job with the Holmes-Watson relationship. The "Will you forgive me for that monstrous calumny" scene gets me every time. I also love the climactic train chase, which manages to mix in lovely character notes amidst the action ("Never let them say you were only my Boswell, Watson. Never let them say that.") and brings in fun original characters as well (I love the stout-hearted engineer!) Though they got less "screen time," I also enjoyed the way Meyers wrote Mary, Stamford, and Freud's household (I particularly enjoyed that Mary was the one who thought of bringing Mycroft in to outwit Sherlock and plan their false trail to Vienna! I love it when Mary gets to be clever as well as compassionate).

Overall the book was a real winner, I thought. The only disappointment was that the film they made of it did not capture the spirit of the book at all, particularly with Robert Duval's stiff performance as Watson (I got the impression he was struggling with his accent the whole time). Ah, well! I also agree with you that the sequels were far less engaging.

As for other good published pastiches, one of my favorites is Stephen King's short story, "The Doctor's Case." It appeared in an anthology called The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (edited by Martin Harry Greenburg and Carol-Lynn Rossel Waugh, 1987). Despite King's reputation as a horror writer, this story is half-way to being a comedy (Holmes is allergic to cats; he gets a perfect locked room mystery in a house that's crawling with them). But at its heart the story builds what I thought was a truly clever and original mystery, and the best part of all is that Watson is the one who solves it. The story touches beautifully on the complicated character dynamics surrounding what happens when Watson unexpectedly outpaces Holmes, keeping both characters (and Lestrade for that matter) wonderfully real. It's a gem of a story, I've always thought.

1/12/2015 #5
Hades Lord of the Dead

Oh man I really want to read The Seven Percent Solution now!

I also love Stephen King's short story, also I read a Stephen Fry one once, though cannot for the life of me recall what happened... I read the House of Silk, and I'd say it's probably worth reading, though have to admit it's been a little while... I think Neil Gaiman's Study in Emerald is great, which is sort of Lovecraft crossover and be found quite easily if you search online.

1/13/2015 #6
I think Neil Gaiman's Study in Emerald is great, which is sort of Lovecraft crossover and be found quite easily if you search online.

SO THIS. I adore A Study in Emerald. It's not really horror but the atmosphere is really sinister and dark AND THE TWIST ENDING! I so didn't it see it coming! I could go on about what I love about that story but I don't want to give away too much. If I have one complaint, it's the deductions. I don't know, they don't sound plausible. And I mean, it's not like the original was so realistic (cubic capacity anyone?) but they're very complicated and a bit strange. I don't know. Anyway, go read it. Now. Seriously.

1/16/2015 #7
Stutley Constable

Just wanted to jump in on the discussion and share my views.

I have the audio version of 'The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes' which is an anthology of Holmes stories that aren't precisely true to canon. Most of them would be considered crossovers of one kind or another, though a few would certainly be considered true pastiches. Neil Gaiman's 'A Study in Emerald' is among the best of the lot, but there are several that I really enjoyed listening to. "The Case of the Bloodless Sock' by Anne Perry is pretty good and will likely appeal to those of you who favor Watson in a more active role. As a long time fan of science fiction I really liked 'The Adventure of the Other Detective' by Bradley H. Sinor which is Watson-centric also. 'The Adventure of the Antiquarian's Niece' by Barbara Hambly and 'The Things That Shall Come Upon Them' by Barbara Roden are both in the horror genre and well done. Barbara Roden's story even put me onto Mr. Flaxman Low, a character contemporary with Holmes and Watson that I had never heard of. I've found a couple of his stories online and can recommend the style and quality. One other story from this anthology I think is well worth mentioning is 'The Vale of the White Horse' by Sharyn McCrumb.

On the other hand there are a couple of real stinkers in this book. I very much disliked 'The Adventure of the Lost World' by Dominic Green and 'The Shocking Affair of the Dutch Steamship Friesland' by Mary Robinette Kowal was boring and poorly narrated. I skip both of those stories when I listen to the CDs now.

I have more pastiches I would like to discuss, but if I start in on them tonight I'll be here for hours and besides, I want to read more of what you all have to say.

1/16/2015 #8
Stutley Constable

I'm wondering if any of you has ever read 'Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes'? Or better yet, if any of you has listened to the audio book. I'm thinking about picking up a copy.

2/27/2015 #9

Recently got the audiobook for "Dust and Shadow" by Lyndsay Faye from a daily deal at Audible. One of those stories where Holmes is pitted against the Ripper. While I wouldn't say it was a particularly great piece, the first half at least did have a delightfully canon feel to it. The second half did ramble and seemed to favor an action-packed finale over a logical answer to the case, but overall would probably recommend. Though I've read better Holmes vs. Ripper stories here on FFN.

4/26/2016 #10
Surprise Beneath

It may not be the most popular, but I found 'A Case of Death and Honey' by Neil Gaiman a while back, and while parts of it seemed a bit... ploddy, for a lack of a better word, I did find it to be incredibly great at one key facet of canon Holmes stories, the relationship of Holmes and Watson. It was incredibly sweet(hah, pun), to see the ending, and it was very heartwarming to think of a future where Holmes and Watson are still solving mysteries in different eras.

Would I say it's my favorite? Nah. Is it still really good? Yeah, it's worth a read, I think.

1/19 #11
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