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Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Worst Pastiche You Ever Read?


One of my favorite Sherlockians (I have many) recently described 1980’s Sherlock Holmes in Dallas, later rebranded as The Case of the Murdered President, as “the worst (Holmes) pastiche ever written.”

That’s a very bold statement, considering that there is so much competition for the honor.

I reviewed that book for the late lamented Cincinnati Post when it was published, back when I was a business news reporter for the paper and writing a monthly mystery review column. I’ve not been able to find that review, so I don’t remember what I thought about it.

To be fair, Sherlock Holmes in Dallas isn’t really a pastiche, or an attempt at one. By that I mean the author didn’t try to produce an imitation of the original, a book that could have been a previously unpublished canonical story taking place during the canonical period. Rather, he put Holmes and Watson in what was then president-day America with no explanation. Holmes is just really a device for the author presenting his theories about the Kennedy assassination.

But there are other stories, hundreds of them, where the authors do attempt to mimic the original and fail at the most basic level—novels that are too long, have uncanonical title formulas, or simply don’t get close to the Watson voice. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also damned near impossible.

Writing is work, and I don’t want to belittle anyone’s efforts at it, so I won’t ask what you think was the worst pastiche you ever read. But it might be an interesting question to ask yourself.

1 comment:

  1. Maybe it is the worst Holmes pastiche, specifically because both Holmes and Watson were already dead by the time Kennedy's assassination needed to be investigated. I always read this as a very bad Solar Pons pastiche - it's still an awful book, but Pons and Parker were still alive when this took place, and "The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street" could have been invited to the US to investigate. When published, their names were changed to "Holmes and Watson" for easier public identification, in the same way that the names were changed in the first three Universal Basil Rathbone WWII Holmes films, as mentioned in my essay in The Baker Street Journal (Vol.63, No.4, Winter 2013) and in my blog entry: https://17stepprogram.blogspot.com/2016/11/basil-rathbones-solar-pons-films.html