While working on a non-Sherlockian project in the last few weeks, I found myself dealing with the facts of a man who died near Groveland, Illinois in 1865. The gentleman in question was found near the road with a fatal head injury, and the history books I read said the wound came from a horse's kick. When speaking to a local history buff, I was told some said the would came after being thrown from the horse. The historical record being a patchwork thing, "facts" are easy to question, and I found myself turning this death by equine misadventure into a potential murder mystery in my mind.
In what might be a spoiler to those who haven't read all of the original Holmes stories (skip this paragraph if you're one), we all know the big twist in "Silver Blaze" was that the horse, not any human, was the perpetrator. So what if, in this case, the reverse was true? Not really a story there, but the death of the man involved did cause a turn in local history . . . enough so that motives could be found for a human culprit easily enough.
And if there is a mystery to be solved in the lifespan of one Sherlock Holmes, who else would one want to have solve it?
Sure, popular wisdom says that Holmes would only have been eleven years old at the time. But some sources did say his parent dragged him and his hefty brother all over the place (probably the reason for the latter's sedentary habits as an adult), so why not Peoria, Illinois?
It's so very easy to see why pastiches get written. It's easy to see why Sherlock Holmes gets dragged to Minnesota . . . and Kansas City . . . and Dallas, Texas . . . all those places he doesn't really belong without always having the benefit of a truly gifted writer to make it somehow work. What we call "fan fiction" tends to come from the blank spots in a character's life, and to the true fan of Sherlock Holmes, the detective's absence from every single place and every single moment in history is a blank spot that just cries out to be filled.
I don't think I'll ever write the tale of eleven-year-old Sherlock Holmes solving a mysterious horse-kick death just outside of Peoria in 1865. It just doesn't sound compelling enough to be worth the time to put together. And yet the idea rose to the surface from stew of history as such things do, not for the first time, and surely not the last.
There was a reason that Mycroft heard of Sherlock everywhere, as he once told Watson.
That guy just slips into everything.