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Monday, February 18, 2013

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

Paul Herbert
Surely the biggest news in the Sherlockian world last week was Leslie Klinger's lawsuit against the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate Ltd., arguing that the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are no longer protected by federal copyright laws in the United States.

The controversy reminded me of what a vast the library of Sherlock Holmes parodies and pastiches is out there. Paul D. Herbert, founder and Official Secretary of The Tankerville Club scion society, wrote an excellent survey of this literature from 1891 to 1980 in The Sincerest Form of Flattery (Bloomington, IN: Gaslight Publications).  

This slim hardcover book, which made it into John Bennett Shaw's famous list of the 100 most important Sherlock Holmes books, systematically explores both parodies and pastiches in traditional publications, advertisements, X-rated magazines, and other forums starting from the first parody just four years after A Study in Scarlet. 

I'm pleased to have the book, especially since I missed the first opportunity to buy a copy. I eventually acquired it from the estate of a Sherlockian friend who died far too young. But there are a couple of problems with it that are not the author's.

First of all, the book is out of print. Amazon does, however, list seven places to buy used copies.

More importantly, the book only covers what was written up until 1980. At that time were at least 900 Holmes parodies and pastiches. That seemed impressive then. But now, in the midst of a Sherlockian Spring 30 years after the book was published, the number is at least ten times that!

Isn't it time for an expanded edition by Paul or someone else?


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  2. Thanks for the great article. I should state that I was once bullied by the Estate. As you know, Sherlock Holmes was first named Sheridan Hope. So I created a black modern day Sherlock Holmes named Sheridan Hope. As stated in your article, there are too many Holmes stories out there not paying the Estate So how can it be taken seriously?


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