A mystery even Sherlock Holmes couldn’t solve?
I mentioned earlier that I am actively modifying my approach to book reviews and book lists, and part of that includes going back and updating lists of my books from previous collections with titles that have been published since my last update in 2002. In some cases, an author’s list of books is relatively already complete — because they died long ago! If I was updating a list of Dickens’, it would in theory at least be relatively easy.
New authors, or authors who have continued to publish since my last update, are obvious ones to do a quick search and find what’s “new”. Of course, I’m also anal-retentive, so if I’m looking at even John D. Macdonald books, I want to make sure I didn’t “miss” any in the list previously, so I’m double-checking the lists as I build/re-build.
It gets a bit more interesting when it comes to something like Agatha Christie. Long dead. No more books, right? Except there are new Hercule Poirot stories by new authors. A couple of them have been damn good in fact. So I am not wedded ONLY to the original author, in most cases I am at least willing to consider the new ones that continue the characters I love.
That doesn’t always work out, I know. My first love was the Three Investigators series, all written on contract at the time, so none of the authors owned the rights to the final books. 43 in the series were done, all books I love, even though there are about 7 or 8 different authors who wrote them. But it went off the rails when they issued an “updated” series that took the kids from ages 11-13 and aged them to 16/17. Girlfriends, martial arts training, driving cars. Not only were the books not the same, the characters aren’t the same. Less Sherlock Jr. and more Hardy Boys. They’re okay, but not awesome. I can read them if I think of them as different characters who just happen to have the same names (even though the authors of the second series are from the first series too).
In short, though, I know that I like seeing characters continue beyond the original author. I don’t care if it is Archie McNally after Lawrence Sanders; Spenser after Parker; Jesse Stone after Parker; several others after Parker; or a host of others.
So when I started to research the list tonight of the Sherlock Holmes “books and stories”, I wanted to include all the pastiches and derivatives. Like the very popular Enola Holmes stories. Should be easy, right? After all, Sherlock Holmes’ is one of the most popular characters of all time, there are whole societies of Holmes-lovers, and fansites out the wazoo. I should be able to click on one site and find the full list, right? Right????
Rabbit holes ahead
If we start with canonical stories, we’re fine. Five collections of short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle plus four books. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
After that, there are various “other” collections:
- For Sherlock himself, Val Andrews has 21 books about SH (1990-2006); Loren Estleman adds 3; Lyndsay Faye adds 2; Anthony Horowitz has 2; Laurie King has 19 with Mary Russell with SH; Andrew Lane does a young version for 8 books and Shane Peacock has 6; Bonnie MacBird adds 5; George Mann another 4; Larry Millett has 7; Nicholas Meyer has 5 although a bit darker version of SH; Barrie Roberts wrote 14; Charles Veley and Anna Elliott introduced SH to Lucy James and created 31 titles; the “further adventures” are written by multiple authors for another 32 titles; and SH meets Shadwell Rafferty for 9 books;
- For various other characters from the original, you can add another 4 by Tracy Mack about the Baker Street Irregulars and 7 from Michael Robertson; 7 books about Watson by Hugh Ashton; 14 about Irene Adler, thank you, Carole Nelson Douglas; and 7 about Mrs. Hudson from Barry S. Brown; and,
- For characters that are “related” to Sherlock Holmes for spin-offs for descendants, etc. we have Nancy Springer leading with nine so far for Enola Holmes; Vicki Delany adds 8 for a SH Bookstore; there’s a “Warlock Holmes” by G.S. Denning for another 5; Charlotte Holmes has 4 titles; and M.J. Trow wrote about Lestrade for 19 titles.
Soooo, the interesting part about that is that you have canonical and non-canonical stories, you have stories that focus on the original characters from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and you have whole new characters with varying degrees of connections to Holmes.
That still sounds manageable to me. It sounds like I could go through a manageable list of titles on a fan page, created by people way more obsessed than I, and it would be done. Copy / paste, no problem. I’d have my list.
But here’s the thing. Some of these fans are obsessed. I mean like over the top, deerstalker hat-wearing rabid fans that make Star Trek geeks look tame. And yet there isn’t a single definitive list on ANY of the sites. I went through one particularly good site, and then cross-referenced with books written say for Enola Holmes series’. One of the biggest current areas. There are 9 titles up to 2022 — and the fan-crazed site? With wiki-participation? It only had the first 5. What?
So I look a little further, and the main Wikipedia page actually has some that aren’t listed on any of the fan sites. Okay, that makes sense, more open sites, some of the edits may even have come from the authors or their publishers. Not surprising it would be more complete.
A glitch in the matrix
Except it isn’t MORE complete, more like DIFFERENTLY complete. There are entire series that are mentioned on fansites and GoodReads’ list that do not show up at all on either the big fansite OR the Wiki page. I’m not an obsessed Holmesian wannabe, but shouldn’t there be a bit more rigour in their collective obsession?
I poked one of the characters that I find fascinating from Holmes’ canon, which is his older brother Mycroft. I know, for example, that there are authors who write series about Mycroft. Plus others wrote single books about him. I seem to recall seeing an article somewhere, after he played a larger role in the BBC series, that said there were at least 10 books about Mycroft.
Yet none of the Holmes’ sites seem to include him. They have wholly-invented characters that are the grandchildren of original characters, but nothing about series’ based on the main characters in canon?
Heck, I know Star Trek has two lists (as does Star Wars and Marvel) — canon and non-canon. It’s quite normal for large series to have some stories that are part of the main collection and others that push the boundaries a bit too far to be considered “inside the tent”.
But how is it that there isn’t a nerd with an obsession and mad computer skills who has generated the definitive Holmes database with a dozen different filters on it to capture “everything”?
It seems like a mystery that might even challenge Holmes himself. If he wasn’t busy dealing with the Baskervilles of the world.