Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Return of Nicholas Meyer

Nicholas Meyer, whose The Seven-Per-Cent Solution touched off the Sherlock Holmes tsunami of the 1970s, is back with his fourth Holmes pastiche. The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols is an adventure indeed, with Holmes and Watson tapped to debunk the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an antisemitic hoax that persist to this day.  

It’s a wonderful ride, with the Orient Express taking our heroes to Tsarist Russia and from there into the darkness of the human soul. It’s a well-written and expertly plotted novel. I read it quickly, and with great enjoyment. It belongs on your bookshelf, although with Meyers’s other three novel-length pastiches. (My favorite remains The West End Horror.)

And yet, in reading it, I never felt that I was experiencing The Real Thing, i.e., the Sacred Writings of Dr. Watson via Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The reasons are numerous, but the easiest to convey without spoilers (the book won’t be published until October) is the storyline. All four Canonical novels begin with a mystery to be solved. By contrast, although there is murder in Protocols, there is no real mystery.  

As a matter of personal preference, I enjoy (and have tried to write) pastiches that would fit comfortably into the Canon. Such stories are rare, partly because authors understandably like to make their own unique contribution to the Baker Street saga. Thus, we often have stories that not only add to what we know about Holmes and Watson, but even change it.

One of the greatest temptations is to introduce historical personages or other fictional characters into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle never did that. References to real people are frequent in the Canon, but they do not appear as characters. To me, this divergence in a pastiche – an attempt to write in the style of the original author – is always jarring. But it can still be fun!

Not all Sherlock Holmes stories are pastiches, however. Some are parodies, in which character traits are exaggerated for laughs. Some are Sherlock Holmes stories written at least partially in the third person or a voice other than that of Watson. Some are stories co-starring Sherlock Holmes, with another figure the main interest. And some – a growing number – present us with and alternative Holmes and/or Watson who is female, African American, a robot, or whatever.

And which is best? Whatever you like best!


  1. My dear Altamont,

    Since you have posed the question, may I answer that, in my not-as-humble-as-it-should-be opinion, my preference is for the third-person pastiche. While I have enjoyed your own efforts, nevertheless I have not yet read any pastiche in which the author was successfully able to imitate the inimitable literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. At best, one may start his or her work convincingly; but the effort of maintaining Dr. Doyle's writing style seems to be more than any writer to date has been able to sustain.

    Indeed, the most convincing narrative device I have read was employed by Mr. Michael Dibdin in his otherwise abominable book, THE LAST SHERLOCK HOLMES STORY. In it, he began with a pseudo-Doyle prose style - only to stop and have Dr. Watson admit that he could not relate this 'final' adventure in imitation of his literary agent. From this point hence, Mr. Dibdin was free to write in his own idiom. It was a clever device that I consider wasted on a revolting tale in which a drug-addled Holmes turned out to BE Jack the Ripper.

    In the main, I think the most successful pastiches are those in which Sherlock Holmes' activities are described by a secondary character. In this way, a writer can be faithful to the Great Detective's spirit without the onus of having to try to imitate Sir Arthur. I would submit Carole Nelson Douglas' GOODNIGHT, MR. HOLMES ("A Scandal in Bohemia" as retold by Irene Adler) and Cay Van Ash's TEN YEARS BEYOND BAKER STREET (Nayland Smith's friend Dr. Petrie relates an encounter between Holmes and Fu Manchu) as prime examples of this genre.
    All art is certainly to be viewed subjectively, and whether one agrees with my opinions or not, I do thank you for allowing me to express them here.

  2. I actually agree with you, Baron! Altamont