Friday, March 2, 2012

From The Archives: Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes

This Article was originally published in September 13th 2010)

Hardly breaking news, but still something of interest. Whether you’re interested in Sherlock Holmes and his universe, are a fan of fantastic literature, or simply love a good read, then I can’t possibly see where anyone could go wrong with this!

It would be very easy to say that Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales Of Sherlock Holmes follows in the footsteps of the much touted Shadows Over Baker Street which pitted the famous sleuth against characters and creatures from H.P. Lovecraft’s short stories and novellas, but that’s not entirely accurate.
I loved Shadows Over Baker Street, but even I will admit the final product was mixed at best. Most of the authors felt like they had a better grasp of Lovecraft than Sherlock and Mr. Holmes reactions varied so much in the book that he felt less like a character than a popular idea that each individual writer projected themselves onto.

For instance, some of the authors were so in love with Holmes’ superior command of crisis situations that they continually portrayed him as a rock who was able to ingest the existence of the arcane as easily as if he were observing a stray fingerprint in a normal mystery. There’s a definite invincible quality to Holmes in certain of Doyle’s stories and these authors sought to maintain that trait even in the most extreme circumstance.
Then there were other short stories that portrayed Holmes as breaking down and losing his grip on his own sanity in the face of the sheer, immense awfulness of the Lovecraftian nightmares he encountered.

Both reactions are valid, but neither truly does the detective respect. But then the idea of pitting Holmes, whose chief philosophy was that all things are subject to logic, against Lovecraft’s central outlook, that the only thing that keeps men sane is ignorance of the unknown terrors surrounding them, is a subject that can hardly be settled well in a short story of any length. Some ideas simply need to be novels because good characters (and Sherlock Holmes most assuredly is one), like humans ourselves, cannot come full circle in so short a time.

Now please understand, this is not to undermine SOBS in anyway because it truly is a remarkable read, but this needs to be addressed. SOBS was more or less a collection of pseudo-Lovecraft stories with a man who more or less resembled Sherlock Holmes popping up them. Gaslight Grimoire manages to avoid this sin, for the most part.

The biggest difference is that the stories it contains are not Lovecraftian in nature. One of them (Merridew of Abominable Memory by Chris Roberson) doesn’t even have anything to do with the supernatural. These stories play out very differently than the ones from Shadows. They allow their authors to take a bizarre idea (What if Sherlock Holmes were placed in a supernatural situation) and work it out without giving them a preset mold (All the stories have to include elements from Lovecraft).

This freer hand allows the artists to explore what they think Holmes might do in a given scenario. Some of the stories are clearly horror yarns (His Last Arrow by Christopher Sequeira and the aforementioned Merridew of Abominable Memory), some are comical (The Red Planet League by Kim Newman) or smack of film noir (Red Sunset
by Bob Madison) while still others are just interesting pieces.

My absolute favorite story from his collection (which also happens to be the first story in the book) is actually a crossover with Peter Pan. The Lost Boy by Barbara Hambly starts out with the highly entertaining premise that Mr. and Mrs. Darling hire Sherlock Holmes to track down their missing children who, unbeknownst to them, are off adventuring in Never Land. Little is said of the actual case, because that’s not what the story is about. Most of it is told through the eyes of Dr. Watson’s ailing, elderly wife who longs to be young again. She encounters Peter as Holmes does, the younger serving as a reminder of eternal youth which she badly wants.

Holmes does retain a bit of that invincible quality that appeared in certain tales from SOBS but it is complimented by a brief but adequate explanation of why he was able to digest it. The Lost Boy doesn’t take for granted that Holmes can ingest the supernatural, it instead tells us how he is able to and that makes all the difference.

I could write a whole essay on this one story, but I don’t think that’s necessary. The canon of Holmes has laid still since Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left this world, while the apocryphal works on the great detective seem to march on endlessly. I have read many of these non-Doylian works and while some are very good many more are very bad and I hesitate to recommend but a few. Of those few, however, Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes is one of them.

I recommend this book to anyone and everyone. It might not have the name recognition that Shadows Over Baker Street does, but it should. The tales in this book are not perfect. Some are flawed, some have the characters a bit off, but all are crafted with love and more importantly an intimate understanding of who Holmes is and what he means to his fans.

I should also mention that there is one already published sequel to this collection called Gaslight Grotesque: Nightmare Tales of Sherlock Holmes which I have not read, but plan to.

And a third volume is planned for release in the coming months. I’ll post more on that as I learn about it.
In the mean time, if anyone is interested in buying either Gaslight Grimoire or Gaslight Grotesque
they are both currently for sale on

You might also want to check out the publisher’s blog for more information as it’s released.
Now hurry off! In the immortal words of the Fantastic Sherlock Holmes, “The Game’s a foot”!

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