Two bits of news merged in my head this pleasant Saturday morning, as mowing the lawn left my mind free to wander. First was that actor Toby Jones was going to be playing an un-named "classic villain" on Sherlock. Second was the word that Christopher Redmond's ambitious project to collect sixty essays by Sherlockians arguing why each of the sixty stories of the Canon is the best had finally gathered its sixty and could see publication within the year.
As I contemplated the Toby Jones news, I wondered just who the true "classic" Sherlock Holmes villain was, once you got past Moriarty. This even got discussed a bit on Twitter, with a few diverging opinions. I started thinking about what made a good Sherlock Holmes villain, especially seeing how Moriarty mainly just looks good "on paper."
Was it the foes who actually caused bodily harm to Sherlock or John?
Was it the villains who forced Sherlock Holmes to go outside the law to deal with their work?
Was it some other scoring method, as in "most successful crimes while Holmes was on the case?"
And then I thought of Chris Redmond's work, gathering that sixty essays.
Sixty essays on why each villain of the Canon is the best villain? Bad idea -- so many of the stories had no villain.
Or did they?
And then it hit me: A collection of "the sixty best foes of Sherlock Holmes" could never be just essays. It really needed to be pastiche.
Where but in fiction could one work enough narrative magic to turn Effie Munro into a true villain who not only fooled Holmes but perpetrated some magnificent crime along the way? Where but in fiction could we see the evil legacy of a Grimesby Roylott live on beyond his death to bedevil his step-daughter anew? The five orange pips still being served up? Legends of Dartmoor continuing to terrorize the populace?
Yes, yes, it seems a bit "sixty sequels," but who knows? In the mind of the truly creative, a prequel could set up a perspective on the Canonical tale that shows us how the villain actually succeeded. Or a tale from another character's point of view as the case happens shows us more villainy afoot than we ever expected.
But as I am no editor or publisher of such things, I'll have to leave such an idea to the folks out there who are adept at such collections, like MX publishing or my friends who work with those sort of interests. I hope somebody gets to that theme one day, as I think it could be a fun one.