|Bob Byrne and Dan Andriacco at Gillette to Brett IV
More than a few Sherlockians are also fans of Solar Pons, “the Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street.” One of the biggest Pons boosters in the Sherlockian community is my friend Bob Byrne, whom I met for the first time at Gillette to Brett IV last month in Bloomington, IL. I think you’ll be interested in his answers to the questions I put to him recently.
Who is Solar Pons for you – a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes, the successor of Sherlock Holmes, or who?
That’s the question, isn’t it? I think he’s both. Vincent Starrett said that Pons was the best substitute for Sherlock Holmes known. That’s pretty good. Anybody wanting that Sherlockian feel can get it by reading Pons (who is Edwardian, rather than Victorian). But in my essay, Why Solar Pons?, I talk about how Pons is more than just a carbon copy of Holmes. So, Pons gives us what we look for in those 60 Holmes stories, but he gives us even more than that. I use the phrase ‘variations on a theme.’ And August Derleth is simply a very good writer; he did far more than just create another Sherlock Holmes.
How did you first encounter Solar Pons?
Back in the eighties and into the nineties, pastiches weren’t all that common and generally only came out from big publishers. So I snagged about everything I saw: L.B. Greenwood, Michael Hardwick, Frank Thomas, Larry Millett, et al. Along the way, I grabbed a used copy of Pinnacle’s The Adventures of Solar Pons. But it sat on the shelf, even after I read Derleth’s Sherlockified version of The Adventure of the Circular Room in Marvin Kaye’s The Game’s Afoot. But sometime after 2000 I cracked open The Adventures and bought all the other Pinnacles from Derleth and Copper: I was hooked.
You’ve written that you prefer Solar Pons to Sherlock Holmes. Please explain.
I’d guess I’ve got at least 300 Holmes/Doyle/Victorian mystery-related books: I remain a huge Holmes fan and still write Baker Street Essays, my free, online Holmes newsletter. But Derleth liked Pons: we know Doyle’s attitude towards Holmes. I think that comes through in their works. And while Holmes is the original, I like that Pons is less arrogant, more open to the supernatural; that Inspector Jamison isn’t quite the buffoon that Lestrade is and that Derleth put more effort into plotting than Doyle did sometimes. I also like reading about Pons solving Watson’s untold tales.
What other characters do you like?
Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe is actually my favorite mystery series of them all. Others standouts
include Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police books, Will Thomas’ Barker and Llewellyn series and I’m a hard boiled aficionado, old and new. I highly recommend James Lee Burke’s Dave Robicheaux, Michael Stone’s Streeter, about anything by Dashiell Hammett, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee (and everything else he wrote), and other pulpsters. I’ve actually read more fantasy/sword and sorcery than mystery, so that’s a whole other article, but Glen Cook’s Garrett PI books combine Nero Wolfe, hard boiled, and fantasy: that’s no easy task!
You seem to have so many writing projects I can’t keep up with them. Where do you blog regularly?
Www.BlackGate.com was kind enough to let me start writing a Public Life of Sherlock Holmes column every Monday morning. The unprecedented popularity of Holmes made it a good time to pitch such a column. It also didn’t hurt that I could point out the many fantasy and sci-fi authors who have visited Baker Street, as well as the supernatural bent of many pastiches, which fits their readership. I also try to post weekly to my own Holmes/Pons-centric blog, Almost Holmes at http://almostholmes.wordpress.com/
Do you also write fiction?
I’ve written some Holmes pastiches and parodies, but just for fun. And the 2015 Solar Pons Gazette will feature new pastiches from myself and two other writers. Someday, I’m going to put everything aside and finish the Holmes novel I’ve outlined and tinkered with for over a dozen years, based on a famous murder. I’ve also done some groundwork for a Solar Pons novel about the Oscar Slater case, but I’d like to have the Estate’s permission to publish that one, rather than just posting it online.
Well, there are two SP Gazettes and one Baker Street Essays underway. And I’d like to get back to adding more content to www.SolarPons.com, the only website dedicated to The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street. There are two projects that I’d like to complete and publish for sale. First, I’m writing about a character that will be to Nero Wolfe what Pons is to Holmes. And second, I’m working on a study guide to Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, which is my favorite book of the Bible.
Thanks for letting me talk about Pons! If the Derleth Estate would put the tales out in e-book format, I think Pons could regain his popularity in this new Sherlock Holmes Era.