|"The Blue Carbuncle," above, is echoed in "The Six Napoleons"|
If "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," does that apply equally to self-imitation?
In reading Douglas Greene's masterful biography, John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles, I was struck recently by how often the great mystery writer borrowed themes, gimmicks, and characters from earlier works - mostly his own.
As a participant in the "Golden Age Detection" Facebook page noted, it's surprising that writers of that era didn't recycle more, given their rate of production. In his early days, Carr was turning out four books a year. Ellery Queen did likewise for a while.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also produced at a daunting rate. So it's no disrespect to point out that some of Sherlock Holmes's adventures were strongly imitative of other writers or reminiscent of his own earlier stories. A partial list of stories and their inspirations would include:
"The Sign of Four" - Collins's The Moonstone
"A Scandal in Bohemia" - Poe's "The Purloined Letter"
"The Dancing Men" - Poe's "The Gold Bug"
"The Norwood Builder" - "A Scandal in Bohemia"
The Valley of Fear - "The Norwood Builder"
"The Six Napoleons" - "The Blue Carbuncle"
"The Stockbroker's Clerk" - "The Red-Headed League"
"The Three Garridebs" - "The Red-Headed League"
"The Second Stain" - "The Naval Treaty"
Holmes once said, "There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before." One of his major techniques as a sleuth was to find parallels to earlier criminal cases. How odd that he never he called attention to the similarities in his own.