What sort of author would call his own book Unmitigated Bleat?
Why, a great Sherlockian, of course!
Devotees of Sherlock Holmes will recognize the title of Paul D. Herbert’s new book of essays published by Gasogene Books as coming from “The Adventure of Red Circle.”
“Dear me!” says Holmes, turning over the pages of newspaper agony columns, “what a chorus of groans, cries, and bleatings! What a ragbag of singular happenings!” After reading a few examples out loud, he adds: “Bleat, Watson—unmitigated bleat!”
But this book is delight—sheer delight! A long-time member of the Baker Street Irregulars, Herbert is a serious scholar who knows how to have fun with the Canon. Some of these essays are laugh-out-loud funny.
Herbert is an expert on pastiches and parodies, having written a book on the theme in the 1980s called The Sincerest Form of Flattery. His lengthy essay on the topic in the present book is particularly insightful. Herbert himself is guilty of three hilarious parodies included in the volume. I particularly liked the two featuring Herblock Stones and his associate, Dr. Witsno.
Other topics subjected to Herbert’s magnifying lens include various problems in the Canon, movie scripts that were never produced, a play that perhaps shouldn’t have been, bibliographical curiosities, people named Sherlock Holmes in real life, and some questions without answers.
Several of these essays were originally presented as talks at Sherlockian conferences over the past four decades. It is good to have them preserved in print.