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, February 24, 2016
Good Anthology; Bad Gimmick
Some ideas sound better than they are. Take, for example, the 1938 Ellery Queen anthology, Challenge to the Reader, which sits proudly on my shelves.
This first in a long series of great EQ anthologies begins with a charming sketch "In Which Mr. Ellery Queen Invents a New Kind of Detective Story Anthology."
Queen, the character, invites his old friend J.J. McC. to join him in his library of 8,216 books. "And there was not a detective of note, from Uncle Abner to Prince Zaleski, who did not sit on one of those bristling shelves contemplating his own cleverness."
J.J. tells Ellery that he should do something with all of those books - create an anthology. Ellery balks because all of the great ideas for mystery anthologies have been taken by Dorothy L. Sayers, Willard Huntington Wright, etc. But over the course of a few pages the two cook up a gimmick: An anthology of unfamiliar stories by familiar writers with the names of the detective changed.
The "Challenge to the Reader," a phrase swiped from the early Ellery Queen novels, is to identify the detective in each story. The problem is, it's not much of a challenge to a reader who knows the character, and impossible to the reader who doesn't.
Even Watson could hardly fail to pierce the identity of "Pharaoh Jones" and his assistant Dover in "The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax," even though they live on Candle Street. "Carfax" was a good choice of a lesser known tale, although I might have chosen "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman" or "The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place" as being good detective stories.
And who could fail to identify "Hilary King," especially given the editor of the anthology?
On the other hand, learning (by looking at the end of the story) that the mystical detective "Zodi" is really "Astro" left me less than astonished for the simple reason that I'd never heard of Astro. He does sound intriguing, though, as does his story, "The Stolen Shakespeare." Maybe I should spend some time with this book before I return it to its place on my shelves . . .
Posted by Doctor Dan at 12:00 AM