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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Holmes, Challenger, and the Space Invaders

When I was a boy, I first became acquainted with William Gillette's classic play Sherlock Holmes second-hand through a juvenile mystery novel by Manly Wade Wellman. At a crucial point in the story, the boy protagonist adapts a trick from the play to foil the villains.

At least, that's the way I remember it. But I can't recall the title of the book, so maybe Wellman didn't really write it. Whether he did or not, for decades I've associated Wellman very positively with Sherlock Holmes. So when I saw a copy of a book he wrote with his son, Wade Wellman, about Holmes, Professor Challenger, and the War of the Worlds, I had to buy it.

Sherlock Holmes's War of the Worlds was published in 1975 and republished as The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The War of the Worlds in 2009 as part of the "Further Adventures" paperback reprint series from Titan Books.

The authors certainly know their Holmes - the novel is replete with Canonical references. Violet Hunter is the third Mrs. Watson, and Percy Phelps has risen in the Foreign Office to become Sir Percy. Several passing references in Canonical stories are amplified on nicely.

Mrs. Hudson turns out to be the wife of Morse Hudson, from "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons," who is the son of the blackmailing butler Hudson from "The 'Gloria Scott'." More surprisingly, Mrs. Hudson is carrying on a romantic relationship with Holmes, who is a few years older than she is! This is going on while Watson still lives with Holmes, but the doctor never notices. Challenger does, although he keeps the secret. 

The Challenger chapters are much more true to the original Conan Doyle character than the Holmes parts. That's only natural. Manly Wade Wellman was a science fiction writer, and this book is a retelling of the Wells novel of the same title and one of his short stories. As an adventurous science fiction story, it's a good read. As a further adventure of Sherlock Holmes, not so much.