Friday, July 6, 2018

Sherlock Holmes and the Secret of The Name of the Rose—Post 8

I own three copies of The Name of the Rose.
The trade paperback pictured above includes
the author's Postscript, which is most
enlightening. In the middle of this post is the
fine hardcover Everyman’s Library edition.
And at the end of the post is the first version
that I read in the 1980s, the first massmarket
paperback.
The question is often asked, “Why did Umberto Eco chose the title ‘The Name of the Rose’ for his first novel?” The answer to this question may be of especial interest because the only substantive reference to a rose in the entire 560-page book is in the last sentence: “It is cold in the scriptorium, my thumb aches. I leave this manuscript, I do not know for whom; I no longer know what it is about: stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus.” (“Yesterday’s rose endures in its name, we hold empty names.”)

Eco’s own explanation in his ‘Postscript to The Name of the Rose’ does little to lift the veil from this enigma. Despite saying many things that frustratingly circle round and round a concrete answer, the most that Eco is willing to say is that the concept of “rose” has bifurcated so many times that it really doesn’t mean anything at all any more. In his words: "The idea of calling my book “The Name of the Rose” came to me... because the rose is a symbolic figure so rich in meanings that by now it hardly has any meaning left..."

On another track, as long as “The Name of the Rose” has been available in English, I’ve been a bit annoyed that I’ve encountered through all these thirty-eight years since publication, little or no credence of the simplest of facts: “The Name of the Rose” is first and foremost a Sherlock Holmes pastiche—right up there with “The Seven-Per-Cent Solution”, “Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula”, and “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice”. Indeed, my library includes a number of books by Eco and about Eco, and any such clear declaration has successfully avoided my earnest attention. Yes, of course, most professional reviewers, throughout these almost four decades, mention that the novel is a mystery set in 1327, and most mention Eco's debt to Arthur Conan Doyle…but most such reviewers seem obligated to muddy the waters by referencing in the same breath Bacon, St. Augustine, Aquinas, and Aristotle. It’s as if they either cannot admit, or admit in public, that the novel is at heart obviously and principally a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes. 


The main character’s name is “William of Baskerville,” and it’s unlikely many would miss the Baskerville reference to Holmes’ most renowned novel; but, likewise, it is just as unlikely that most readers would know the source of “William”. The late Holmesian scholar William Baring-Gould, who imaginatively "filled out" Sherlock Holmes's life and who was so respected for his efforts that his extrapolations were considered very nearly Canon by many of his generation, tells us in his biography of the sleuth—“Sherlock Holmes on Baker Street”—that Holmes's parents had three boys, Sherrinford in 1845, Mycroft in 1847, and Sherlock seven years later. Holmes' father wished to name their third-born son after the 17th century theologian William Sherlock, but his mother preferred naming the child after her favorite author, Sir Walter Scott. "At last," says Baring-Gould, "a compromise was arrived at. The boy was baptized William Sherlock Scott Holmes." Of course, Umberto Eco, polymath and erudite scholar that he was, would have known this. Thus, William of Baskerville, is without doubt a 14th century version of Sherlock Holmes, period. Bacon, Aquinas, St. Augustine, and Aristotle are window dressing in my view.

Thus, this week, while focusing on a Sherlock Holmes project, and of course always being fully aware of the mystery surrounding Eco’s title, I began to wonder if the book title “The Name of the Rose” might have something directly to do with Sherlock Holmes. I pulled out my reference books, opened up my search engines, always looking for a literary point where Holmes and “The Name of the Rose” crossed paths. In due course, I felt my research hit pay dirt! “The Story of the Bald-Headed Man,” the fourth chapter of Doyle’s novel “The Sign of the Four” includes an enigmatic aside spoken by one Mr. Thaddeus Sholto. By way of explaining his nontraditional surroundings Sholto says, ‘I have a natural shrinking from all forms of rough materialism…. I live, as you see, with some little atmosphere of elegance around me. I may call myself a patron of the arts. It is my weakness. The landscape [on that wall] is a genuine Corot, and, though a connoisseur might perhaps throw a doubt upon that Salvator Rosa, there cannot be the least question about the Bouguereau. I am partial to the modern French school."


Salvator Rosa’s “Allegory of Fortune” (1658-59)
The reference to “Salvator Rosa” would be to an unspecified painting in Sholto’s possession by the seventeenth-century Neapolitan painter, Salvator Rosa. It occurred to me that the “Rose” in the title “The Name of the Rose”, might be intentionally misleading. Perhaps the “Rose” in the title was intended to be read as “Rosa” (the word as it appeared in the original title, “Il nome della rosa”), and thus a reference to the painter much in the manner we would talk about a Rembrant or a Picasso. In other words, “The Name of the Rose” could be “The Name of the Rosa” referring to some specific Rosa painting. After all, the semilogist who wrote such an amazing novel so full of symbolism and signs, could well have titled it just so, so as to add one last layer of literary mystery.

Playing this hunch and using the Internet I quickly found the perfect candidate for the Rosa, if a Rosa was being referred to: it would be the painting housed at the Getty Museum that is called “Allegory of Fortune,” which would be a perfectly reasonable title for Eco’s novel. But what cinched it for me is the brief description of the painting that is posted on the Getty site ( http://www.getty.edu/art/gettyguide/artObjectDetails?artobj=781 ):


“A personification of Fortune bestows symbols of wealth, status, and power on dumb animals who neither need nor deserve them…. The beasts, portrayed with stark realism, trample the attributes of art and learning, including books and a palette. Draped in the cardinal red of the Catholic Church, an ass shields an owl, the symbol for wisdom, from the light. Bitter over his exclusion from papal patronage, Rosa included personal references: a book bearing his monogram and a pig stepping on a rose, which alludes to his name. As a satire of Pope Alexander VII's nepotistic artistic patronage, this painting nearly sent Rosa to prison. After showing it privately in his studio, he flagrantly disregarded all advice and exhibited it publicly in the Pantheon in 1659. Allegory of Fortune aroused such a furor that only intervention by the pope's brother saved him…. Fortune is usually represented with a blindfold, but Salvator Rosa showed her fully aware of her favors. Similarly, the cornucopia is usually shown facing upward; by depicting it overturned, Rosa expressed reckless extravagance”
 
Thus, it may be that for Eco, the name of the Rosa was “Allegory of Fortune.” 

THOMAS KENT MILLER
By Thomas Kent Miller
(copyright © 2018 Thomas Kent Miller)

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Dining with Sherlock Holmes (1976) Rosenblatt & Sonnenschmidt - Post 6


My Post No. 1 pointed out that the modern era of Sherlock Holmes fandom began—gaining overnight an unprecedented popularity—when Nicholas Meyer and Dutton Publishers brought out The Seven-Per-Cent Solution in 1974. Of course, for decades before then, many Sherlockian organizations existed with local branches all over the world. Yet these Baker Street Irregulars, as they were sometimes called, in whole or in part, had an underground existence with members from all walks of life, which members consistently wrote, according to the authors of Dining with Sherlock Holmes, "volumes about the experiences and habits of the Great Detective of Baker Street. The literature of the field known as the Writings on the Writings or the Higher Criticism has spawned endless discourse over the most minute details of Holmes' life and 'death.'"

Throughout the year, both then and now, in the USA and overseas, regular celebrations and parties and tributes and gatherings were held to honor Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, and their noted agent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Restaurants were sometimes dressed to recreate the famous rooms at 221B Baker Street. From more pipes and cigars than any ordinary person would ever encounter in one place, wafted vast columns and volumes of noxious smoke, for the attendees of these functions cherished and emulated Holmes' use of tobacco. The irony is that these attendees more often than not were professionals, including all kinds of doctors of medicine.

Further, these get-togethers  usually included elaborate illustrated formal presentations wherein the presenters gave dead-serious analysis of why Holmes was tall and angular, or why Watson couldn't remember where his war wound was located, or, for that matter, why it was that he sometimes lost track of his various marriages.

Similarly, from this environment issued countless volumes of specialized reasoning, published in small batches destined for the confreres of this esoteric order.

Yet, as busy and as devoted as this widespread clique of fans were, their activities were known mainly to themselves. Yes, of course, there were countless Holmes movies that kept the character's flame alive.  Nevertheless, the more serious-minded tended to look disdainfully at these celluloid outings. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution changed all that. Overnight, Holmes became big business and a household word. A torrent of books, novels, and story anthologies quickly issued from the publishing industry, and I must admit that when I picked up this cookbook and saw that it was published in 1976, a mere two years after The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, I naturally believed it was yet another volume to hop on the Sherlock Holmes bandwagon. Yet as I investigated the book, the more I realized that it was more likely that this book was in the process of development long before 1974 and that it was, in fact, meant to be one of those specialized volumes for the Irregular community, but was deemed complete enough and singular enough that it was granted a broader distribution and became a part of the post-Seven-Per-Cent Solution wave in any case.

The purpose of this book is to provide recipes for the many meals that Mrs Hudson cooked for her illustrious boarders, as well as for dozens of other meals that appear in the Canon. Some examples:  stuffed lemon piquant, spinach tarts, roast chicken Lestrade, English dill loaf, cold woodcock, bread pudding, white wine sherbet, glazed turnips, and, my personal favorite beefsteak and kidney pie, and 220 pages of such delights.

Next:  
The Book of the Dead 
by Robert Richardson.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula (1978) "edited" by Loren D. Estleman—The Second Part—5b


With Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, Loren D. Estleman, who by the way now has an excellent reputation as a contemporary mystery novelist, fashioned a traditional (i.e., ordinary) Holmes pastiche, despite the dramatic inclusion of the king of Counts. Whether this new story idea was originally Estleman's or his agent's, or even his publisher's, who can say?

Watson performs his scribe role admirably, but at the end of the adventure, Holmes indicates that publishing such a tale would be inadvisable, as long as there were surviving participants. Thus Watson sequestered his notes on the subject and paid them little mind for a number of years, but there came a day when Holmes sent a message, the gist of which was, "Write it up and publish it now." Holmes' dearest friend obliged (but then, Holmes changed his mind and Watson's record of that adventure remained unpublished until the ms. fell into into the hands of Estleman resulting in the manuscript finally coming to life.)

Riding his success in this new-for-him style of writing, Estleman embarked on a similar thriller, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes. It too enjoyed some success, but then the author-cum-"editor" put his deerstalker, magnifying glass, and blue pencil in the bottom drawer of his bedroom press and returned to the maze-like mysteries of our modern world; though an occasional short story from Watson by way of Estleman would later be found in the occasional anthology.

Years later, the Quality Book Club issued a nice trade paperback that contained both novels...er...memoirs from Dr. Watson's hand. It's a handsome, sturdy volume. It's fun to have both of these novels bound together, as there is so much that binds them together.



Next:  
Dining with Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook 

by 
Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H. Sonnenschmidt.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula (1978) "edited" by Loren D. Estleman—Post 5a


Before I begin my comments on Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula, I want to apologize.  I had no sooner started this “Ruminations” book review blog in early December than I suffered two separate health emergencies. I posted my last review on December 27, 2018 and today is February 4, which means I lost 39 days while recovering. I also came to the understanding that it’s unrealistic for me to read one Sherlock Holmes book a week and post a review. Therefore, I will post new reviews only as I am able, or somewhat irregularly. Thank you for your continued interest.

So far in this column I've reviewed books that are historically important and/or not necessarily traditional Holmes. I view Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman to be untraditional—at least in its own day, having special significance today for at least three reasons:


(1)   The American paperback publisher of SHvD in 1978-1979 was Penguin Books, a company with big international connections. It appears that Penguin had a mystery line, if advertisements in the back pages for Georges Simenon, Graham Greene, Geoffrey Household, and Lionel Davidson are any indication. Nevertheless, the company's editorial focus for decades seemed to be mainly on public domain classics, for example Edgar Allan Poe, Herman Melville, Mark Twain, Jack London, and Wilkie Collins.

Then in 1979, Penguin published the American mass-market paperback of Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula. This no doubt raised a few eyebrows for the reasons that (a) it was probably the company's first foray (if not THE first, then amongst the first) into uncharted new popular fiction by a contemporary author, (b) nevertheless, its design staff seemed to have been intransient regarding modernizing the company's decades-old cover design. Thus SHvD was released appearing no different from the company's titles for Poe, James, Twaine, London, ad infinitum. Still this may have been deliberate, as I will show in the second reason.

(2)  All the above notwithstanding, it cannot be denied that once Penguin committed to publishing SHvD, they provided at least one giant-sized wink to both players of the Holmes "Great Game" as well as to ordinary Sherlock Holmes fans who happened to be observant. Frankly this wink I find immensely pleasurable!

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. But a bit of preface is advisable first. Ordinarily the very first page of a book is called the "half title" page which merely presents the book title without reference to the author.  Hardcover books and trade paperbacks usually comply to this standard; however, the publishers of most mass-market paperbacks, long ago eschewed this practice, preferring to place countless glowing critics' reviews on the first pages. Penguin books has also consistently ignored common practice by—more staidly—dedicating the first page of its books, a practice continuing into the present, to thumbnail authors' biographical information.

Thus, for example, the first page of a book by M.R. James would display a note on James' life condensed down to 50 or 150 words. For instance, here is the real first page from a James' book:



As I said, co-oping the "half title" to display functional yet scholarly mini-biographies, has been a Penguin practice for decades. Thus when the time came to use in a functional manner that sacrosanct first "half title" page for its new acquisition, Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula, by John H, Watson as edited by Loren Estleman, Penguin's editors, rather unstaid-like, placed their tongues firmly in their cheeks, and produced the classic mini-biographies that follow:




(3)    Further, it may well be that SHvD may be the first post-Seven-Percent pastiche to centrally feature another writer's fictional characters—if not the first, then certainly amongst the first, and, in any case, proving to be far more influential than not.


                     To be continued and concluded soon in Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula 

                                       by Loren D. Estleman—Post 5b.


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Sunday, November 19, 2017

Murder By Decree by Robert Weverka (1979) Post 3


Murder By Decree,
novelization by Robert Weverka,
screenplay by John Hopkins

I think it’s fairly safe to say that the single historical event that is played out most often, again and again and again, by Sherlock Holmes pastiche writers is nothing less than the Whitechapel murders of 1888—Jack the Ripper. Doing a quick check online, I’ve found 12 that fall into this category. I am certain I could find others as well if I wanted to devote more time to the project, but I ‘m pretty sure that listing these 12 goes a long way to prove my point.


            A Study in Terror, novelization by Ellery Queen and Paul W. Fairman, screenplay by Derek Ford and Donald Ford (1966)
            Murder By Decree, novelization by Robert Weverka, screenplay by John Hopkins (1979)
            An East Wind Coming by Arthur Byron Cover (1979)
            The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin (1987)
            The Whitechapel Horrors by Edward B. Hanna (1993)
            Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson by Lyndsay Faye (2009)
            Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes by Bernard Schaffer (2011)
            Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire by Dean Turnbloom (2012)
            Jack The Ripper: Newly Discovered Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Holy Ghost Writer (2014)
            Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror by Randy Williams (2016)
            The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: The Ripper Legacy by David Stuart Davies (2016)
            Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Murders: An Account of the Matter, by John Watson M.D. by Mark Sohn (2017)

            It appears that the first two “novels” within this category began as films with the screenplay “novelized” to be ready to sell when the film was released. My attention here is focused on the second novelization, Murder By Decree, which followed A Study in Terror by 13 years.
            I have selected the novelization of Murder By Decree as the third book of my new blog—“Ruminations on Sherlockian Books”—for the dual reason that first, in my opinion, it is an outstanding novelization—one of the best I’ve read (at all times maintaining the conceit or illusion that I am actually in the presence of the doctor and the consulting detective, which is no easy task.) Also, if one thinks of all these books as pre- and post-The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, as far as I can tell, Murder By Decree appears to be the first Ripper/Holmes mash up after 1974’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, being released in April 1979, while An East Wind Coming was released in November 1979. I view Murder By Decree as important because it was written soon enough after Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution that it can legitimately be considered the first Holmes/Ripper book to be part of the ensuing flood of knock-offs that followed Meyer’s hit novel.
            The credited novelization author is Robert Weverka; it turns out he novelized a great many films and TV series during the 1970s, including the Academy Award winning The Sting, The Circle of Iron, The Waltons, and The Magic of Lassie. Of course, the movie and the book don't match perfectly. There are many scenes that have changed during the translation from screenplay to novel. Another point I admire is that most of the novelization text seems to feature more of Robert Weverka than of Hopkins by a 2 to 1 ratio. Or, it may be that the final film was dramatically cut, leaving screenplay pages on the floor.
            I have never read or viewed A Study in Terror, but everything I‘ve read about it indicates that it and Murder By Decree have similar plots, namely that Jack the Ripper in actuality was some manifestation of the British government at the time.
            Lastly, I did have one complaint about the novel when compared to the film:  whereas James Mason as Watson in the film was exceptional, and the filmmakers throughout the film clearly went out of their way to portray Watson as elegant, brave and loyal, in the novelization Watson is consistently portrayed as a dolt.

Next up:  The Giant Rat of Sumatra by Richard L. Boyer

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A Taste for Honey by H.F. Heard (1941) - Post 2

“More than 30 years before Nicholas Meyer’s [1974] The Seven-Per-Cent Solution opened the floodgates of Sherlockian imitation, H.F. Heard’s A Taste for Honey was the first significant book-length Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and it remains one of the very best.”

—Jon L. Breen, mystery and crime-detective writer, scholar and critic (from Blue Dolphin Publishing’s 
“Mr. Mycroft Commemorative Series”)

The year was 1927 and two things of huge import happened to shake up Sherlock Holmes circles. First, Arthur Conan Doyle’s final Holmes story was published in Strand Magazine in its April 1927 issue. Then in May, Conan Doyle’s final Sherlock Holmes book, The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes was published. Between 1927 and 1974, a period of 47 years, efforts were made by a spectrum of people—from scholars to booksellers, from enthusiasts to librarians—to write Sherlock Holmes short stories in the manner that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote them, with varying degrees of success.
            A number of fine books either reference or reprint many of these early adventures: for example, The Game Is Afoot: Parodies, Pastiches, and Ponderings of Sherlock Holmes edited by Marvin Kaye; The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes collected and introduced by Richard Lancelyn Green; The Pocket Essential Sherlock Holmes by Mark Campbell; Sherlock Holmes for Dummies by Steven Doyle and David A. Crowder; Sherlock Holmes: The Great Detective in Paperback & Pastiche compiled by Gary Lovisi; and The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories edited by Otto Penzler.

             In addition, beginning in 1945, Conan Doyle’s son Adrian took up the baton and crafted a dozen stories, some alone and some as collaborations with noted mystery writer John Dickson Carr. Then again, August Derleth, prolific storyteller and publisher of Arkham House books, around the same time asked permission of the Doyle estate to write Holmes stories and was turned down. Not one to let a small thing like that deter him, he wrote over the next two decades some 80 detective stories about Solar Pons as told by Dr. Parker, obvious clones of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.


           In other words, the world simply was not prepared to let go of Sherlock Holmes, even though his creator, Arthur Conan Doyle, was no longer writing Holmes stories. Nevertheless, 47 years is a long time and during that period relatively few Holmes stories—invariably short stories—were written and/or published, and they all required permission from the Conan Doyle Estate.

            Enter in 1941 H.F. Heard, a British writer who was inspired to write a Sherlock Holmes novel. Whether he sought formal permission to do so or whether he simply sidestepped that potential obstacle, what resulted was pure magic.

“…but since [Sherlock Holmes] has definitely retired from London and betaken himself to study bee-farming on the Sussex downs….”

—John H. Watson, M.D. (Arthur Conan Doyle) in

“The Adventure of the Second Stain”

            What Heard did was remarkable. First off, he created Sidney Silchester, a prissy introvert who lived on the Sussex Downs and preferred nothing more than to enjoy his honey at breakfast and to be left alone. When his honey from his regular source dried up, he looked about his village for a new source, which quest brings him into contact with an intense, supremely intelligent older fellow who raises bees and who has honey to spare. This gentleman identifies himself as “Mr. Mycroft”.


           “’I have used 'Mycroft'…because my full name was once pretty widely known, and I wanted, when I retired to be quiet and unmolested…’”

            “There! I have forgotten the name he gave himself. It was something not unlike Mycroft—Mycroft and then another word, a short one, I think….

            ’You see,’ I said, ‘now that I do know your real name, I have to own I have never heard of you before.’ Then, I must own, he looked amazed….”

—Sidney Silchester (H.F. Heard) in A Taste for Honey


            The book comprises a sort of journal or memoir in which Sidney Silchester has determined to write up in chronological order the strange events—perhaps illegal, perhaps immoral—through which Mr. Mycroft has subjected him, virtually against his will. Silchester writes in the first person, just as Dr. Watson did. It’s not long into his narrative that he expresses how frustrated he is, and how taken aback, by Mr. Mycroft’s peculiar manner of expressing himself, both verbally and through behavior, and by his chemical experiments. It so happens the reason Silchester’s honey was no longer available was because the mistress of the beekeeper’s house was stung to death by her own bees.

            In short order, Mr. Mycroft suspects the poor woman was murdered, and then he embroils Silchester into his impromptu investigation, not so much because he cares about the victim, the perpetrator, or even the probable crime itself. No. Mr. Mycroft is going to all this trouble because it is clear to him that Silchester was on a very short list to become the next victim, probably followed by himself. He explains to Silchester that even the simple expediency of moving out of the town or even out of the country would not deter the murderer’s obsession to kill him once he decided to do it.


TIP: Be forewarned. Many commentators on this novel and its two sequels—Reply Paid and The Notched Hairpin—seem to be confused as to whether ”Mr. Mycroft” is Sherlock Holmes’ brother Mycroft or Holmes himself. These commentators assume, or seem to assume, that Heard, by calling the character Mycroft, intended for the character to be in fact Mycroft. This is a sore point for me, since it is crystal clear who it was that retired to the Sussex Downs to raise bees. And it wasn’t Sherlock’s brother! To make matters worse, even the publishers of various reprints over the decades of these books fail to get it right. Thus, rest assured that A Taste for Honey by H.F. Heard and published in 1941, is the first important novel-length Sherlock Holmes pastiche, throughout which Sherlock Holmes, himself is front and center.

Next up: Murder by Decree by Robert Weverka from the screenplay by John Hopkins


Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution "edited" by Nicholas Meyer (1974) - Post 1

In 1974 there was a mighty publishing sea change. Whether it was the author, Nicholas Meyer, or the publisher, Dutton, I don’t know, but somebody’s idea minted gold back then and continues to do so. The Seven-Percent-Solution became a huge bestseller and was the first major modern era Sherlock Holmes pastiche since the late 1940s when H. F. Heard published the last of his Mr. Mycroft Sherlock Holmes pastiches.

When The Seven-Percent-Solution reached a public (who was desperate for a continuation of Sherlock Holmes, but did not know it yet), the novel included some innovations that have been replicated thousands of times. Speaking of which, one estimate of the number of Holmes pastiches to be published in the intervening 43 years from 1974 is roughly 10,000.

Nicholas Meyer did three unprecedented things in The Seven-Per-Cent Solution that proved hugely influential:

(1) Either Meyer or his editor supported the use of pseudo-front matter to increase the over-all verisimilitude of the story. To underscore that pseudo-reality, Meyer wrote a detailed Foreword (also called a “framing device”) that explained how the memoir happened to be found and how Meyer happened to arrange for its publication. This sort of front matter at root told a story of convoluted mystery and of intertwining fates, detailing why and how cause and effect, ever patient, ordained that the manuscript would be hidden, found, resurrected, and/or travel from one location to another. By its very nature, the existence of this sort of material in a novel is the epitome of irony. A reader newly approaching the book with no preconceptions couldn’t help but notice that “somebody” went to a lot of trouble to create a false provenance that seemed real but clearly was not, being, after all, affixed to a work featuring well-known clearly fictitious characters. As I said, unprecedented!

(2) Again, either Meyer or his editor chose to continue that conceit of verisimilitude by announcing on the book’s cover and also on the title page that the volume was in actuality “a reprint from the reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. as edited by Nicholas Meyer”, which treats Watson as an authentic human being and relegates Meyer to the subordinate role of “editor”. Again, unprecedented!

(3) Probably most importantly, Meyer had Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson cross paths with a true-to-life historical person—Sigmund Freud. This, too, was unprecedented.

The fallout from these machinations was huge. First off, Sherlock Holmes novels overnight became a dedicated subgenre with volume after volume being churned out. Then, at first more often than not, these novels were filled with various literary apparatus that suggested the legitimate nature of the volumes. Lastly, again, overnight, writers were falling over themselves to include in their tales contemporaneous real people of renown, such as Theodore Roosevelt, Lenin, and Jack the Ripper.  Then, of course, it was only a small logical leap to begin treating famous fictional characters as though were every bit as real as Roosevelt or Freud. Enter Fu Manchu and H.G. Wells' Martians. Unashamedly following in the shoes of Meyer, writer Loren D. Estleman did this quite well, utilizing Count Dracula and Dr. Jekyll in two Holmes crossover tales. Finally, the best of all possible framing devices, to my mind, was Italian scholar Umberto Eco’s untitled preface to his own giant blockbuster 1980 Sherlockian pastiche, The Name of the Rose.

Next up will be A Taste for Honey by H.F. Heard.