Er what’s Sherlock Holmes doing in a horror blog? Well in my opinion Holmes is part of the greater Gothic tradition that also takes in Dracula, Frankenstein and Jack the Ripper. Some of Conan Doyle’s original stories, like The Hound of the Baskervilles do cross over from the detective genre into horror, but nearly al of them are deeply steeped in the damp gaslight world of peasoupers, cobbled streets and Hanson cabs where dastardly villains get their just deserts from the logical thinking, baritsu punching gumshoe and his pragmatic partner. Further than that later authors have had him interact with both real life folk like the afore-mentioned Ripper while others have made him take on just about every fictional villain you could imagine from the Martians of HG Wells to the dark imaginings of HP Lovecraft. Anyhow I like Sherlock Holmes so, my Blog so my rules!
George Mann’s new anthology Associates of Sherlock Holmes contains 13 new stories that come with a bit of a kink. None of them are taken from the scribblings of Dr Watson, but relate stories from the point of view of other characters from the Holmes canon and not all of them involve the Great Detective. Thus we have the hated rival detective Barker from The Retired Coulourman coming clean about how he used to be one of the Baker Street Irregulars in Pure Swank by James Lovegrove; Moriarty’s hitman Colonel Sebastian Moran hunting for Bigfoot in Tim Path’s Heavy Game of the North Pacific, Violet Hunter the Governess from The Copper Beeches foiling a ghostly hoax at a girl’s school and ‘the woman’ Irene Adler attempting to compromise poor old Watson in Cavan Scott’s Nor Hell a Fury.
As with any anthology some stories are better than others, but on the whole Mann has made a good selection and each of the authors has turned in a decent adventure. My particular favourites are: The Vanishing Snake by Jeffrey Thomas where Helen Stoner returns to Stoke Moran where her stepfather Dr Grimesby Roylott had murdered her sister with a swamp adder in The Adventure of the Speckled Band and discovers that the legendary snake was only one of her step father’s menagerie of supernatural beasts and Nick Kyme’s Peeler which pitches Inspector Lestrade against a serial killer who could rival Saucy Jack.
Other canonical characters with a story to tell are police inspectors Hopkins and Baynes, former criminal and heavy Shinwell ‘Porky’ Johnson from The Adventure of the Illustrious Client, newspaper gossip columnist Langdale Pike from The Adventure of the Three Gables, perverted Professor Vale Presbury from The Adventure of the Creeping Man, Billy the Page and as you would expect Holmes’ smarter brother Mycroft.
A smart spin on the Holmes canon I give Associates of Sherlock Holmes a 555/666
Associates of Sherlock Holmes is out now in paperback or as a e-Book from Titan Books price £7.99 in the UK