I like Otto Penzler’s The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories so much I bought it twice.
The first copy was in paper, a very large book that fully justifies the title – 6 7/8 inches by 9 inches in size, and 789 pages long to accommodate a mammoth 83 stories. The printing is in double columns and the type is necessarily small.
In fact, the type too small for my aging eyes, so I bought the Kindle edition as well. I don’t regret having the physical book, though, because it’s a wonderful volume to page through. And it looks so nice on my shelves.
Of course, size isn’t everything. It’s the scope and quality that makes this book valuable. It includes parodies and pastiches from the earliest days of the Sherlock Holmes phenomenon to Neil Gaiman’s 2011 classic “The Case of Death and Honey.”
Just to drop names, a few of the writers represented here are Leslie S. Klinger, Laurie R. King, Lyndsay Faye, Daniel Stashower, Anthony Boucher, Poul Anderson, Loren D. Estleman, P. G. Wodehouse, Dorothy B. Hughes, Kingsley Amis, David Stuart Davies, Robert L. Fish, Anne Perry, Stephen King, Colin Dexter, A. A. Milne, James M. Barrie, and O. Henry.
The book is divided into a number of categories. I’m particularly attracted to the category called “Holmesless.” These are neither parodies nor pastiches, but stories that in some way are inspired by the Canon. Holmes doesn’t actually appear in them, but his specter haunts them.
My favorite of these is “The Final Problem” by the great Sherlockian Bliss Austin. Written as an entry for an Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine contest, the characters include two real-life judges of the contest – Christopher Morley and Howard Haycraft – plus the fictional character Ellery Queen. And Queen is murdered!
The story won a special prize in the contest.