Friday, September 17, 2010

Forgotten Books: The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by John Dickson Carr & Adrian Conan Doyle

When it comes to Sherlock Holmes pastiches, I’m not real picky. I’ve read a ton of them, and, with one exception**, enjoyed them all. So I have absolutely no complaints about The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes.

The hardcover edition, published in 1954, was sort of a pioneer in the field. It may not have been the first collection of Holmes pastiches, but it was certainly an early entry. And the familiar names of the two authors added to its impact.

As a collaborative effort, this collection is something of an odd duck. According to the introduction, John Dickson Carr and Conan Doyle’s youngest son Adrian wrote the first two stories together. The next two were written almost entirely by Carr. Two others were almost entirely by Doyle. The final six, say the publishers, were written by Doyle alone after Carr suffered a brief illness. The only real difference I noticed was that the two “mostly Carr” stories were more whimsical than the rest.

One internet reviewer says the collaboration was actually more complicated than the introduction admits, referring interested parties to the Douglas C. Greene’s book John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles for details. I attempted to procure that volume from my library, but they seem to have misplaced it, so I remain in the dark.

Again, according to the publishers, all but one of these stories originally appeared in Collier’s magazine (the other appearing in Life). And Adrian Conan Doyle, it is said, used the same desk on which his father wrote. Each story (again with one exception) purports to relate one of the “lost” tales mentioned by Dr. Watson.

Paperback editions have sometimes split this work into two volumes, one by Carr & Doyle and the other by Doyle alone, so look before you buy.  A complete edition was published in hardcover in 1999 by Gramercy Books.

**That one exception was the truly execrable The Whitechapel Horrors by Edward B. Hanna, in which Holmes halfheartedly tries to solve the case of Jack the Ripper, then simply gives up. I rate this as the absolute worst novel I have ever read (and I've read some bad ones).

More Forgotten Books are remembered each week at Patti Abbott's pattinase.


Deka Black said...

Wait, wait. Holmes... giving up from a case? is like Godzilla fleeing from another monster!

Randy Johnson said...

I think this book was the first non-Arthur Conan Doyle Holmes book I read. It set me on a course of collecting and reading holmes Pastiches, my collection probably running +100 now.

Richard Prosch said...

Great post. This absolutely needs to be my next series of Holmes. My first two were not by Arthur Conan Doyle either, but two Meyer novels from the '70s.

Paul D Brazill said...

Well, that is a weird one. Imagine being Sir Arthur's son?! No pressure there!

Unknown said...

I have the Ace edition of that one. Good pick.

Charles Gramlich said...

I've only read one Holmes pastiche. LIked it OK. I'm not a big detective reader thoguh.

George said...

Like Randy, I've read dozens of Holmes pastiches. Some are good, others only so-so. You've displayed some of the better ones.