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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Strand - More than Sherlock Holmes!

Sherlock Holmes and The Strand Magazine had something of a symbiotic relationship.

The great detective’s fame and popularity began not with the first two novels but with the short stories that began running in The Strand during the magazine’s  inaugural year of publication. So if it hadn’t been for the magazine, Holmes may have been a footnote in detective story history.

But if it hadn’t been for Holmes, The Strand may have never achieved such great success in 1891. Arthur Conan Doyle conceived, and editor H. Greenhough Smith accepted, the innovative notion of a series of stories featuring continuing characters but complete in each issue. The idea was a winner.

It’s always been hard for me, therefore, to remember that The Strand was – and is – more than just Sherlock Holmes. Detective Stories from the Strand Magazine may have changed that. I picked up the book recently a library sale. What a happy purchase!

Not only are the stories great, but they represent the work of some of top talents in both detective fiction and wider literature – G.K. Chesterton, Agatha Christie, A.E.W. Mason, E.C. Bentley, Somerset Maugham, Sapper, Aldous Huxley, Edgar Wallace, and Quentin Reynolds to name a few.

The tales are conveniently divided into categories, such as “The Great Detectives,” “Legal Niceties,” “The Twist,” “Rogues, Knaves, and Fortune-Hunters,” and “Mostly Murder.” The sixth section, appropriately called “The Master,” includes three Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and an excellent pastiche by Ronald A. Knox.

The ACD stories are interesting because the editor, Jack Adrian, deliberately shied away from the more familiar and frequently anthologized adventures of the Master. Instead he included “Charles Augustus Milverton,” “The Creeping Man,” and “The Lion’s Mane.”

At the time this book was published in 1991, The Strand was dead. Happily, like Sherlock Holmes, it came back to life. That’s interesting story in itself.  

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