Monday, December 9, 2013

Sherlock's Worthy Successor

By August Derleth.
Mycroft & Moran.
1945. $2.50
We're speaking, of course, of Solar Pons, "the Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street," who began as a hobby for his Holmes-addicted creator:
August Derleth was a born and raised Wisconsin boy, enamored with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of the great Sherlock Holmes. He wasn’t much different than an awful lot of American youths in the nineteen twenties. Except, the enterprising Derleth wrote to the author and asked if there would be any more stories, and if not, could he write some himself. Doyle, not the friendliest person in regards to his meal ticket, did have the courtesy to send back a reply, denying Derleth permission to continue the adventures. — Bob Byrne, "Who Needs a Hardboiled Detective?", CRIMINAL BRIEF (July 11, 2010)
So Derleth simply changed the names to protect the guilty . . . himself:
Not discouraged at all, the nineteen year-old University of Wisconsin student made a note on his calendar, ‘In re: Sherlock Holmes’, as a reminder to write a story in imitation of Doyle’s creation . . . . Derleth would [go on to] produce over seventy more tales before passing away in 1971. — Byrne, op. cit.
The Solar Pons stories were intentionally anachronistic from the start:
. . . Derleth chose to create a new detective that wasn’t a part of either [the Golden Age cozy or the hardboiled] school [of detective fiction]. Because of his love for the Sherlock Holmes stories, he spent the next fortyish years periodically writing stories that, while set in a London where cars had replaced hansom cabs, immediately called to mind 221B Baker Street and all that went with it . . . . Derleth continued to write new Pons tales while the British Golden Age came to an end and the pulp magazines fell by the wayside. Pons was a hobby that he indulged in out of affection for his boyhood idol, Sherlock Holmes. He wasn’t compelled to create a tough private eye or a gentleman thief to meet the demands of mystery readers. — Byrne, op. cit.
A contemporary review of "IN RE: SHERLOCK HOLMES":
Thirteen stories of Solar Pons, London sleuth, and his faithful follower, Dr. Lyndon Parker. - Frankly modelled on Holmes's stories, these pastiches stand pretty firmly on their own deductive flat-feet. - Verdict: For specialists. — THE SATURDAY REVIEW (November 24, 1945)
Reviews of other Pons titles:

- A Solar Pons website.
- A Wikipedia article.
- has a Pons collection for sale.

Category: Detective fiction

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