Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Touch of Holmes

The late Herbert Brean was a Sherlockian and a mystery writer. Even though his stories were written and set in mid-Twentieth Century America, far from Baker Street, the shadow of Holmes hangs pleasantly over them.

I first encountered Brean's novels almost 40 years ago, before and after having wisdom teeth removed. Unable to sleep in the hospital, I stayed up much of the night reading. They took my mind off what was to come in the morning. I was inspired to re-read the Brean corpus after reading a review of his first book, Wilders Walk Away (1948), on Curtis Evans's fine blog, The Passing Tramp.

This first of what would eventually be an all-too-few seven mystery novels is a fine "impossible crime" story about the generations-old penchant for members of an old New England family to disappear. The explanation for how one of them vanished leaving footprints in the snow going in only direction is simple and plausible.

Each chapter is headed by a quote from the Sherlock Holmes Canon. Interestingly, and significantly, they aren't particularly famous quotes (with one or two exceptions). But they are quotes that are really relevant to the actions of the chapter ahead.  

The amateur detective sleuth who appears in this and other early Brean books, free-lance writer Reynold Frame, thinks to himself at one point, "Come, Watson, come. The game is afoot."

Later, we get this: "He was a faithful reader, and disciple, of Sherlock Holmes, and had occasionally thought he might successfully put the Baker Street consultant's methods into practice, if opportunity ever offered." And, of course, it was.

In Frame's second adventure, The Darker the Night (1949), the scene shifts to Manhattan and a neat plot involving hypnotism. At one point the hypnotist challenges Frame: "You're supposed to be a sort of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes could look at people and deduce things about them, couldn't he? Well, what do you deduce about her?"

Frame makes the very astute observation that people don't wear their clothes as long or stay in one place as long as they did in the Great Detective's day, thereby giving less material on which to base deductions. "Nevertheless, the Holmesian method is still valid." This he goes on to prove with a series of plausible - and accurate - deductions about another character in the story.

Also in this book we learn that Frame's landlady is Mrs. Hudson and that he has a touch of the dramatic reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes - a comparison the amateur sleuth himself makes.

I most remember Brean, a one-time executive vice president of the Mystery Writers of America, as the editor of the excellent first edition of The Mystery Writer's Handbook. I've gone back to this book time and again over the years. His own writing, while not as memorable as that of his greatest contemporaries, deserves to be better known to fans of the Golden Age of detective fiction.

No comments:

Post a Comment