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Friday, September 30, 2011

Bob's Books - 221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes (Otto Penzler’s Sherlock Holmes Library) - Vincent Starrett

A hit-and-miss collection that has some nice elements but is not one of my favorites.

One of the books in Otto Penzler’s Sherlock Holmes Library, a reissue of eight previously hard to find classics from the earlier age of Sherlockiana, it was originally published in 1940. Unlike The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, which was an original composition, Starrett served as editor of this collection of Sherlockiana, contributing only one piece; a pastiche entitled The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet.

221B contains fifteen essays and a crossword puzzle. It starts off with The Field Bazaar, a scene written by Doyle for the Edinburgh University newspaper. It consists of an episode in which Holmes seemingly reads Watson’s mind, then explains how he did it. One suspects that it was not widely available in 1940.

Was Sherlock Holmes an American?, BSI founder Christopher Morley’s heretical supposition that the world’s first consulting detective was really born on the western side of the Atlantic ocean, follows.
R.K. Leavitt’s Nummi in Arca looks at Holmes’ fiscal situation over the years and is an interesting topic for exploration. Elmer Davis and Jane Nightwork each contribute articles about the role of matrimony in Dr. Watson’s life.

P.M. Stone writes about a reporter’s visit to an aging Holmes in Sussex Interview. I enjoyed this little piece.

Starrett’s The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet is frequently listed near the top of pastiche rankings. I have never understood this. Near the end of the story (which I don’t wish to give away) Holmes explains to the villain how the trail he took between the two houses gave him away. Unless I’m missing something, this leaves a hole that you could drive a truck through and quashes the redeeming qualities of the tale. I can’t imagine how this is considered one of the best non-Doyle Holmes adventures.

Sherlock Holmes in Pictures is a nice reminiscence by the great Frederic Dorr Steele himself and worthy of inclusion in more collections. Edgar Smith’s Appointment in Baker Street is an early dramatis personae from the Canon. Remember; this was long before Holmes encyclopedias by Orlando Park, Jack Tracy and Matthew Bunsen. At 101 pages, it is also far and away the longest piece of the book.

There are a few other chapters as well. There are some good reads in 221B: Studies in Sherlock, but it is a mixed bag and not on the same level as Starrett’s Private Life of Sherlock Holmes.

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