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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Sherlock Holmes or Solar Pons? Both!

My reading of the earliest issues of The Baker Street Journal, from 1946 and 1947, has yielded surprise after surprise - and all of them pleasant.

Vol. 1, No. 3, for example, includes a work of fiction I had read before, August Derleth's "The Adventure of the Circular Room." I turned to it with the pleasurable anticipation of spending some time in the company of Derleth's Solar Pons.

The Pons stories are often considered pastiches, and Pons himself simply Holmes under another name. But Pons devotees will tell you that the relationship between the two sleuths is more complicated than that and that Pons is more than Holmes.

At any rate, I lifted my eyebrow before the end of the first line of the story. What was this reference to "a year in the nineties?" The Pons stories all take place in the twentieth century, just after the last of the Holmes stories. But this was a Holmes story! That became clear when the sentence ended with ". . . brought to the attention of Sherlock Holmes."

It turns out that the story I had read as a Pons tale in The Memoirs of Solar Pons was first published as a flat-out Holmes pastiche in the BSJ and anthologized decades later in that form by Marvin Kaye in The Game 's Afoot. And yet . . .

There is a funny thing about that. A few pages into the original BSJ/Sherlock Holmes version of the story appears a sentence which starts, "Holmes sat touching the lobe of one ear with his long, bony fingers for a few minutes." This ear-touching, which always reminds me of Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon, is a typical gesture - of Pons, not Holmes!

The meaning of that I leave to your deduction.

That same issue of the BSJ has several other interesting elements: Manly Wade Wellman, in "The Great Man's Great Son," speculates that Sherlock Holmes sired a son - Jeeves, not Nero Wolfe! And James Bone writes a letter from Undershaw, Arthur Conan Doyle's one-time home, when it was being used as a hotel.

All issues of the Baker Street Journal up to 2011 are available on a single DVD as the eBSJ.

1 comment:

  1. I love the idea of that trademark gesture of Solar Pons making its way to Bogey/Sam Spade. It first occurs in the second published Solar Pons story, The Missing Tenants (Dragnet Magazine, June 1929), and I always assumed Derleth lifted it from Denis Nayland Smith of Rohmer's Fu Manchu novels.