For almost as long as I have been reading the Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan Doyle, I have also been reading pastiches. One of the first novel length pastiches I read was The 7% Solution by Nicholas Meyer. But there were many earlier pastiches and parodies almost from the beginning. These vary tremendously in quality. Many are just curiosities. Many are parodies with humorous intent, such as Schlock Holmes by Robert L Fish. But I am proposing that some are of much better quality than others and that if we were to read and rate some of these stories they would compare favorably to the stories of the Canon.
During the little over a year that I have been a member of the Wisteria Lodgers, I have been intrigued by the part of the meeting where we rate the story. Many of the stories have gotten fairly low ratings by many of the members; they didn’t come up to the level of the “perfect” Holmes story. I suggest that some stories written by other authors who are great admirers of the canon can come as close to the level of the perfect Sherlock Holmes story as some in the Canon. These authors have the advantage of having read the entire Canon before they begin to write their own, and they capture the characters and the atmosphere of time and place admirably. They satisfy the yearning that many have for more stories than the original 60.
I suggest 3 authors whose best stories compare favorably with the originals; June Thomson, Denis O Smith, and Donald Thomas. They each have several volume of short stories. In Thomas’ case, he based many of his stories on actual historical events. I would be interested to see how people rated their stories if the group ever decided to read one of them. Perhaps we can do it as an extra credit project sometime.
I realize that what I have suggested may be heretical to some. Many beloved authors have had sequels or such written of their works, because people couldn’t get enough of the characters. There are many pastiches of Jane Austen as well. I hardly ever read those. That’s not because I have any moral objection to it, it’s just that usually I feel that they don’t get it right. And I am actually much less critical about this than some other members of the Jane Austen Society. But with Sherlock Holmes, I have enjoyed many other author’s interpretations. It seems to me that Conan Doyle left things open for others to carry on. This could be because I have not studied the Canon as thoroughly as some of you. But what has made me think about this has been the critical ratings that the actual stories of the Canon have received at the meetings. It made me wonder what are the criteria of the perfect Sherlock Holmes story? And if Conan Doyle himself can get low ratings for a number of his own stories, how would the same people rate better written stories by others? I certainly welcome other member’s feedback about this topic.