Jan 222015

Click on the image above to find a pretty cool graphic showing how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous fictional sleuth, Sherlock Holmes, has been presented--in print, as well as on stage screen--over the last 128 years. The illustration was prepared for The Doyle Collection of international hotels to celebrate the Museum of London’s Holmes exhibition, on display until April 12, 2015.
Dec 232014
• Peter James’ 2014 thriller, Want You Dead--his 10th Brighton-based novel starring Detective Superintendent Roy Grace--has been crowed eBook of the Year by the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s, reports Shotsmag Confidential.

• Well, this is certainly a surprise! It seems 20th Century Fox has finally released the 1976 TV movie Sherlock Holmes in New York in DVD format. Somehow, I missed spotting this development in August, when the disc originally went on the market. If you are not familiar with the film, let me tell you that it starred Roger Moore (still early in his career playing James Bond) as Holmes, with the delightful Patrick Mcnee (formerly of The Avengers) appearing as Doctor John H. Watson and Charlotte Rampling (who back then was still recognized for her femme fatale turn in Farewell, My Lovely) cast as “the woman,” aka Irene Adler. The New York Times describes this flick’s plot thusly:
There is an affectionate bow to the master sleuth in this lavishly produced original that has Holmes rushing to New York City [in 1901] after discovering that his old nemesis, Moriarty, not only has kidnapped the son of his (Holmes’) long-time love, actress Irene Adler, but also has hatched a scheme to steal the world’s gold supply, squirreled away under Union Square in lower Manhattan.
Oh, I forgot to mention that director-actor John Huston fills the role here of Professor James Moriarty. If you would like to see the opening sequence from Sherlock Holmes in New York, I embedded it in this 2010 post. Needless to say, I have asked Santa for a copy of this picture. You can purchase your own right here.

• David J. Foster had more to say about Sherlock Holmes in New York in this 2012 post from his blog, Permission to Kill.

• While we’re on the subject of Holmes, note that Nick Cardillo has compiled a list of what he says are “The Top 10 Sherlock Holmes Pastiches (of All Time)” in The Consulting Detective. Part I includes Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (one of my own favorites), while Part II leads with Edward B. Hanna’s The Whitechapel Horrors (a Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper yarn that I found quite unsatisfying). To each his own, as they say ...

• Actor Kiefer Sutherland doesn’t sound at all optimistic about the future of his 24 protagonist, Jack Bauer. “Then again,” observes blogger Tanner, “he’s got a history of being a bit of a downer on the subject.’ So who really knows?

• It’s nice to see Gary Phillips out with a brand-new prose collection of stories featuring Nate Hollis, a Los Angeles private eye born in Phillips Vertigo Comics mini-series.

• Being a longtime Alistair MacLean follower, I was very pleased to see Vintage Pop Fictions’ recent look back at that author’s 1971 novel, Bear Island, which the blog says “generally seems to be regarded as the last of his really top-notch thrillers. … [I]t also includes most of the characteristic MacLean signatures.”

• Novelist and film scholar Jake Hinkson has a nice piece in the latest edition of Mystery Scene about sometimes controversial TV producer Roy Huggins, but he also offers up a post in Criminal Element synopsizing seven “noir holiday films.” “I’m not sure why there are so many noirs set around the holidays,” Hinkson writes, “but maybe it has something to do with seasonal depression. We all know that this time of year can be especially hard on people, when our usual American propensity toward surface cheer becomes something of a national obligation. After all, we quite literally force each other to be--or to appear to be--‘merry’ (which, when you think about it, is a weirdly antiquated word that we never use in any other context) and to conform to our national religion of positive thinking. All that forced good cheer just gives some folks the winter blues.”

• Valerie Plame, the CIA operative whose identity was leaked by the George W. Bush administration early in the last decade as part of retaliatory action against her ambassador husband, and has since re-created herself as a novelist (her latest book is Burned), complains to Salon that most of today’s fictional women spies are terrible. “I wanted to develop a strong female CIA character,” Plame says. “Because what’s out there is just insane. It’s just eye-rolling. They’re sexy. They’re eye candy. They’re good with guns. But it has nothing to do with how intelligence is realistically collected.”

• I’m sorry to see International Crime Authors Reality Check closing up shop after more than five years. Fortunately, the blog will remain extant as an accessible archive.

• I also can’t help but shed a tear at the news that legendary Mad magazine cartoonist Jack Davis has finally decided to retire ... at age 90. My father was a huge fan of Davis’ work, and I’ve highlighted the cartoonists talents at least once in The Rap Sheet. More of his artistic efforts can be enjoyed here. (Hat tip to Illustration Art.)

• Finally, The Huffington Post’s list of 23 classic books that are so short “you have no excuse not to read them” includes Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Phew! Been there, done those.
Sep 292014
Loosely based on the real-life exploits of the Molly Maguires 
and Pinkerton agent James McParland.

Sherlock Holmes decodes a cipher warning from Moriarty's organization for Douglas in Birlstone, but a corpse is already in place. When Mr. Douglas blows the head off his American assassin, he dresses the body as himself and hides to throw off the chase for good. Holmes guesses the missing dumbbell weighted down the killer's clothes in the moat. The calling card left, VV341, is the Vermissa Valley Lodge 341. Decades ago a Pinkerton, he went months undercover, first with Freemen in Chicago, then west to desolate mountain coal mine area, to take down corrupt murderers who ran the Valley Freemen Lodge, but criminals had pursued. Holmes warns Douglas, when acquitted, to flee England. But Moriarty prevails. Two months later, Mrs. Douglas telegrams from South Africa. Her husband was lost en route overboard in a gale. Holmes had warned them to flee England, and blames Moriarty.

Printing History
Written by Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

Strand Magazine 
September 1914 to May 1915

George H. Doran Company 
February 1915

The Films

Starring H.A. Saintsbury and Booth Conway

  as The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes
Starring Arthur Wontner as Holmes and Ian Fleming as Watson
 Posted by at 3:21 pm
Jun 182014
We can only wait to see the legal repercussions of this ruling:
A federal judge has rejected a copyright appeal brought by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, opening the way for writers, filmmakers and other creators to make free use of Sherlock Holmes, his sidekick Watson and any elements of their story that appeared in Conan Doyle works published prior to Jan. 1, 1923.

The ruling, issued by Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, affirmed a district court ruling, last December, that the characters were no longer protected by American copyright, and so could be used without paying any permission fees.

In a ruling that cited “Star Wars” as well as Shakespeare, Judge Posner also rejected the estate’s claim that Holmes was a “complex” character, who in contrast to “flat” characters like Amos and Andy, was not fully fleshed out until Conan Doyle laid down his pen, and so remained under protection until the last copyright on the 10 Holmes stories published after 1922 expires.

“What this has to do with copyright law eludes us,” Judge Posner wrote tartly.
You can read more on this decision here and here.
Jun 072014
Below are the answers to the Literary IQ quiz "Children in Sherlock Holmes Stories"posted a few days ago.

According to the rules a perfect score is 96 and required naming the characters (2 pts each) as well as the stories (10 pts).

Lucky winners are:  Noah Stewart (96) and Neer (94).  Sorry, Neeru you got the character's last name wrong for #8 and I couldn't give you the extra points.  Emails with the prize list of books are going out later today.  Thanks for playing!

I'm off to the Printer's Row Book Fest in an hour.  I'll have a post of my finds/purchases tomorrow.
 Posted by at 4:00 pm
Jun 042014
While researching an obscure book and the opinions it received at the time of its original publication I serendipitously discovered the following quiz in a 1951 issue of The Saturday Review. If you truly know your Sherlock Holmes according to Doyle then dare to take the literary quiz below.

The story of how the quiz was created and how the editors received it is almost better than the quiz itself!

I cannot resist making this a true contest. CONTEST NOW CLOSED.

The Great Detective by illustrator Frank Wiles
I will confess that this is one type of mystery quiz I will never pass. I never bothered to learn the Holmes stories inside and out. I knew the answer to exactly one. Sad, isn't it? (It was #6, by the way, which I think everyone will know.) I know there is at least one brilliant reader of the Canon who knows not only the character names but the stories themselves. Go on and prove me right. I know you're out there.

Answers will be posted on Saturday, June 7. First three people with the highest scores will be named winners. A prize list of vintage paperbacks and review copies of new books I recently reviewed will be sent to each winner and they can pick what they want. This contest is open to all regardless of where you live.

Good luck!
 Posted by at 3:48 am
Apr 222014
Here’s a great example of not judging a book by its title. Turns out The Kentish Manor Murders (1988) is not at all a country house detective novel. It’s the title of a manuscript that is supposedly the work of Arthur Conan Doyle -- his last Sherlock Holmes novel, in fact, and written in the author's own hand. The manuscript has turned up in the hands of a private collector who is looking for authentication before offering the manuscript up for sale. Sheridan Haynes (who previously appeared in Symons’ novel A Three-Pipe Problem), renowned for his TV portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, is approached about helping to authenticate the manuscript. But complications ensue as Haynes makes his way to Copenhagen where he will be performing one of his famous readings from the Canon to The Silver Blazes, a Danish group of Holmes enthusiasts.

This has all the makings for an intriguing bibliomystery. But Symons adds a series of subplots early on in the book that unnecessarily complicate the story. We start in Castle Baskerville, the heavily secured isolated estate of millionaire eccentric, hypochrondiac, and celebrated Sherlockian Warren Waymark. He wants Haynes to perform one of his Conan Doyle reader's theater performance pieces for a private audience of one. Haynes is not up to the task as he is getting ready for his Copenhagen visit for a much larger audience in a real theater. Haynes is also immediately suspicious that Waymark might be an impostor. The millionaire is kept in a dimly lit room, he wears sunglasses indoors claiming to be sensitive to all light, and he speaks in a gravelly indistinct voice. His meeting with Waymark seems to be carefully orchestrated and Waymark does seem to know his Canon very well, but the interview feels completely wrong to Haynes.

We think Haynes is going to start checking into the possibility that Waymark was done away with and his invitation to the Castle is linked to the discovery of the manuscript. But no sooner are we invested in this plot hook thinking we are in the hands of a master concocting a devious Sherlockian pastiche, Symons pulls the rug out from under us and sends us in another direction -- literally and figuratively. Suddenly we are off to Denmark and then the Netherlands for a series of random incidents. Bombarded with plot twists and new characters that seem unrelated to the introductory story of Haynes and Waymark the reader is frustrated and confused and eager to return to the more interesting puzzles first presented at Castle Baskerville.

Like all thrillers of this era with an international flavor we also get subplots galore. And they of course include drug dealing, black market activities, and a variety of shifty underworld characters in a variety of seedy bars and nightclubs. There will be a signifying event (already hinted at in the very Edgar Wallace style “Prologue”) that ties the subplots to the main plot but these complications seemed burdensome and padded. Several extraneous incidents could have been dispensed with as they had nothing to do with the real story.

A superior distasteful tone pervades the book, too. Homophobic remarks, xenophobic comments bordering on bigotry, whiny intolerance for the “march of time” expressed in Haynes’ disdain for the proliferation of fast food restaurants and tourist traps that have ruined Amsterdam. I guess this passes for humor with some people. I found it snobbish and patronizing and not a little prejudicial. The book is set in 1988 and yet there is not one mention of the brown cafes where marijuana is legally sold but there is ample talk of sinister, underhanded drug dealing. For someone who is trying to paint a "seedy" portrait of Amsterdam I wonder why Symons skips over the Zeedijk and Warmoesstraat and all the sex trade those areas are known for. It didn’t ring true at all as 1980s Amsterdam.

Overall, this book has a schizoid identity: one third bibliomystery, one third international thriller, one third detective novel with a murder mystery crammed into the last 40 pages. It's not a bad book by any means, but for my tastes it couldn’t decide what it wanted to be. The story becomes overcrowded with plot complexities that seemed arbitrary. I preferred the first book with Sheridan Haynes -- A Three-Pipe Problem (1975), more focused, livelier and wittier -- than this second jumbled affair.

*   *   *

Reading Challenge update: Silver Age Bingo Card, space R2 - "Book with a place in the title"
 Posted by at 5:19 pm
Apr 072014

Amazing_Stories 27-08As we learned in our April 4th post, “Origins of Science Fiction,” magazines began to reach a much wider audience as Europe and America became more industrialized. Increasingly urban and literate societies required cheap, entertaining, and easily accessible entertainment to escape the drudgery of the mills and offices. Since magazines could be produced cheaply and in a timely fashion, the last quarter of the nineteenth century became “The Age of the Storytellers.” Beginning around 1880, when Robert Louis Stevenson started to publish his first works of fiction, the world would witness the birth of the popular fiction magazine as well as the pulp magazine.

Strand 1891-07Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” first serialized in 1881-82, helped to provide the spark for other authors to try their hand at similar fiction. Works such as H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885), “She” (1886), and “Allan Quatermain” (1887), as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” (1887) demonstrated the need for an inexpensive, popular fiction magazine to be published on a regular basis. Shortly after Christmas in 1890, the first of these—The Strand Magazine—was launched by George Newnes. Filled with illustrations, the periodical really took off during the summer of 1891 with the start of Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” introducing one of the most successful continuing character series of all time.

With the success of The Strand Magazine came a host of imitators, among them Pearson’s Magazine. It debuted in late 1895 and soon became one of the leading publishers of magazine science fiction, featuring the future war stories of George Griffith and the scientific romances of Herbert George Wells. “The War of the Worlds” and “The Invisible Man,” both originally published in Pearson’s in 1897, are still enjoyed today, over a century after their initial appearances. Educated in the sciences as well as a literary genius, Wells’ mastery of both science and fiction was readily apparent. His later science fiction, including “The First Men in the Moon” (1900-1901) and “The Country of the Blind “1904), would run in The Strand.

In our next installment, we’ll turn our attention across the pond where an American entrepreneur named Frank A. Munsey was busy turning a struggling magazine into the first American all-fiction magazine.

War of the Worlds

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.


Mar 312014
by Clare Langley-Hawthorne

Spring break is nearly upon us so forgive my rather brief blog post (we are preparing to take my 9 year old twin up for a spot of skiing in the beautiful mountains near us - so things are a little crazy).  Luckily, both my boys are great readers (so we get to take lots of books with us!) and I love how we can now discuss books we've all read and how I can give them recommendations now that don't (usually) provoke a whole lot of eye-rolling.  I also still read to them every night and have recently started introducing them to Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. 

A few pages into the Hound of the Baskervilles, however, and my boys were already terrified (not a good idea just before bed!) so we started instead with A Study in Scarlet and have just recently moved on to The Sign of Four. What is amazing to me is how, despite the old-fashioned language and pace, both my boys are already totally hooked - and I think it's not really the mystery that draws them in but the character of Holmes himself. It really is amazing to think that a character which in many ways is such a product of his times can be still so intriguing over a hundred years later. As a mum of course, I do have to explain his drug use and the smoking...but, hey, I think of these as...er...'teachable' moments!

I came to Sherlock Holmes quite late  (I was well into my twenties before I read my first Holmes' story) - compared to my husband who devoured all the stories when he was in the 5th and 6th grade at school in Australia. Though I enjoyed the stories, I don't think I appreciated the mesmerising qualities of Sherlock Holmes as a character until I started reading the stories aloud to my boys. I've been interrogated by them on every aspect of his character - from whether he was based on a real person, to why he knows so much, to how, on earth, he can make such amazing deductions...He's like a super-hero in many ways but also an enigmatic and  flawed hero - which is what, I suspect, makes him so intriguing. 

I'm looking forward to continuing to read these stories to my boys and then, I hope, handing the books over to them to read for themselves. To me, one of the great pleasures of being a parent, is passing on a love of reading. I already see each of my twins developing their own reading preferences and am glad that, at least in so far as Sherlock Holmes is concerned, they are gaining an appreciation for mysteries:)

So - tell me, are you are Sherlock Holmes fan? Do you have a particular favourite story? What do you think makes both him (as a character) and Conan Doyle's stories endure? 
 Posted by at 4:00 am
Feb 062014

FlyerAfter a couple of weeks of grueling work by our communications department, the PulpFest website has been fully updated. Except for the pages referring to conventions past, each and every page was examined from top to bottom and improved using the ideas of both organizing committee members and you, our dedicated supporters. Thank you to everyone for your help and encouragement as we prepare for the 43rd annual summer pulp con. It will be held at the Hyatt Regency Columbus starting on Thursday evening, August 7th and running until mid-afternoon on Sunday, August 10th. So what are you waiting for? Click on the link above, reserve a room, and make your plans to attend PulpFest 2014!  

You’ll find plenty to like about the new and improved home page of your PulpFest.  We’ve added a downtown restaurant guide, provided by the good people at Experience Columbus. You’ll find it near the bottom of our hotel page, under “Details.” You’ll also be able to learn about parking venues near our host hotel and even link to an interactive parking map to guide you to the cheapest parking in the city. And if you’d like to learn a little more about the town that hosts our annual get-together, including The International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Center of Science and Industry, stop by the “Visiting Columbus” page. You’ll find links to many of the fine neighborhoods of Ohio’s state capital, including the German Village and the Brewery District.

This year, your summer pulp con rolls out a whole new way to thank loyal attendees who help to defray the convention’s substantial costs by staying three nights at our host hotel: PulpFest will be offering free early-bird shopping to those who stay at the Hyatt Regency. That’s a savings of $30! And we have not forgotten our dealers. For those dealers who will be staying at the Hyatt Regency ColumbusPulpFest is pleased to offer a third table free for every two tables that you rent, a tremendous savings. That’s buy two and get one free to thank you for helping to defray the convention’s substantial costs by staying at the host hotel. Please visit our registration page to learn more about these great deals and much more.

Columbus Downtown

Want to help PulpFest? Then stop at our survey page where you can take a poll and share your ideas on how to improve your summer pulp con. Whether or not you have attended PulpFest in the past or if you are planning to attend in 2014, we’d love to hear from you. And to thank everyone who responds, we’ll be offering three free memberships to PulpFest 2014. That’s a $30 value! All you have to do is fill out our survey and provide your name and best contact information in the space provided on the form. Of course, your responses will be held strictly confidential. Thanks for your help.

From information about our dealers and programming plans to details about nominating someone for the Munsey Award, introductions to our newest committee members, and a brief history of the bloody pulps, you’ll find it here at www.pulpfest.com. Why not take some time right now and click through the site? You might learn something you never knew about the one and only great summer pulp con called PulpFest! We look forward to seeing you in August!

William Lampkin, editor of The Pulpster and creator of The Pulp.Net, designed the 2014 flyer that will promote this year’s PulpFest. Bill used Graves Gladney’s front cover art to the July 1939 Astounding Science Fiction.

 Posted by at 1:00 am