Saturday, May 2, 2015

Holmes Vs. Evil

Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes (2008) edited by Charles Prepolec and J.R. Campbell, containing the following stories:

The Lost Boy by Barbara Hambly; His Last Arrow by Christopher Sequeira; The Things That Shall Come Upon Them by Barbara Roden; The Finishing Stroke by M.J. Elliott; Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World by Martin Powell; The Grantchester Grimoire by Rick Kennett and Chico Kidd; The Steamship Friesland by Peter Calamai; The Entwined by J.R. Campbell; Merridew of Abominable Memory by Chris Roberson; Red Sunset by Bob Madison; and The Red Planet League by Kim Newman.

The first of Canada's EDGE Publishing's anthologies of weird Sherlock Holmes homages is fun, for the most part, with a few stand-outs. When putting Holmes into supernatural situations, writers tend to either make Holmes a stubborn denier, regardless of the evidence, or to make his detection ethos flexible enough to admit any possibility. Sometimes writers go even further, generally by reimagining Holmes as someone who's always been a believer in the supernatural. 

The 'fantastic' herein involves a lot of stories that combine Holmes with other fictional or historical characters. Team-ups pair Holmes with Peter Pan ("The Lost Boy") , supernatural investigator Flaxman Low ("The Things That Shall Come Upon Them"), supernatural investigator Carnacki ("The Grantchester Grimoire") , and Arthur Conan Doyle's own Professor Challenger ("Sherlock Holmes in the Lost World"). Holmes also visits WW2-era Los Angeles to play a part in a horror/hard-boiled detective mash-up ("Red Sunset"). 

And it's a Holmes-homage tradition to have at least a couple of stories about cases briefly mentioned during Arthur Conan Doyle's original stories but never fully told. These references have always formed a sort of Black Casebook of Holmes adventures for later writers to imagine in their entirety. Here, "Merridew of Abominable Memory" and "The Steamship Friesland" develop these fleeting references of Doyle in unusual ways. 

Finishing the anthology is Kim Newman's blackly comic, Holmes-and-Watson-less adventure of Professor Moriarty and his right-hand man Sebastian Moran. Newman riffs on H.G. Wells's The War of the Worlds, but probably not in the way one expects. In all, an enjoyable anthology. Recommended.

Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes (2011) edited by Charles Prepolec and J.R. Campbell, containing the following stories:

Sherlock Holmes and the Diving Bell by Simon Clark; The Greatest Mystery by Paul Kane; The Adventure of the Six Maledictions by Kim Newman; The Comfort of the Seine by Stephen Volk; The Adventure of Lucifer's Footprints by Christopher Fowler; The Deadly Sin of Sherlock Holmes by Tom English; The Color That Came To Chiswick by William Meikle; A Country Death by Simon Kurt Unsworth; From the Tree of Time by Fred Saberhagen (1982); The Executioner by Lawrence Connolly; Sherlock Holmes and the Great Game by Kevin Cockle; and The House of Blood by Tony Richards.

The third of EDGE Publishing's series of Weird Sherlock Holmes anthologies is solid and often deadly serious as these things go. The editors pay homage to one of Holmes's finest homagists, Fred Saberhagen, by reprinting a 1982 short story featuring Holmes and his distant ancestor and sometime-ally, Saberhagen's semi-heroic version of Dracula.

The rest of the anthology is new and, for the most part, ranges from enjoyable to excellent. Stand-outs include Stephen Volk's excellent chronicle of a young Sherlock Holmes in Paris, Simon Unsworth's horror story, and Kim Newman's comic adventure of Moriarty, Moran, and six dangerous supposedly magical items. Along the way, Holmes will also visit modern-day Las Vegas, hang out with Frankenstein's Creature, and battle Lovecraftian horror and Death itself. Recommended

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