Monday, August 19, 2013

One amazing rose by another name.

Perusing the Sherlock shelves tonight, I noticed a section where the dust was noticeably thicker than every other part of the library. I like a little dust in my library, a bit of a tribute to The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, as well as a nod to every library of arcane lore on film, where that particular tome you were looking for always requires having the dust blown off the top after you pull it down. But to see a section of books that had been noticeably undisturbed, with no paths of any of its members having been slid across for a look in a long, long time . . . .

And after last night's consideration of the twenty greatest Sherlocks, those untouched volumes made me consider something else . . . the thought of a great Sherlock Holmes who wasn't named Sherlock Holmes. A Sherlock imitator who actually knew he was imitating the great Sherlock Holmes and still managed to inspire his own fan club that stood shoulder to shoulder with the Sherlock Holmes scion societies of its time. And a Sherlock imitator who actually inspired multiple pastiches of his own, once his creator was done.

That guy's name, of course, is Solar Pons.

Solar Pons and Doctor Parker have never made it to TV or movies, which is kind a shame, really. No comic books, no radio plays, no cartoons . . . but still, their accomplishments are unique among Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson's literary scions. One could even say they owe their creation directly to Conan Doyle himself, as a young August Derleth only began their run after being told by Sir Arthur that the author didn't really need a successor on Sherlock Holmes.

Solar Pons might even be seen as the greatest fan of Sherlock Holmes who never existed, re-creating the detective more perfectly than anyone ever did, in fact or fiction.

I'm hoping someone revitalizes Solar Pons as much as the BBC and Hollywood have recharged his mentor one of these days. It would be great to see the old guy back again, because his old stories don't see the love, on my shelves at least, that they deserve. I'm a hardcore Canon guy, and as much as I respect Solar, he's still not Sherlock. But still . . . something new would be nice, especially in the medium of stage or screen.

Heck, it might even make a great twist that instead of being a deranged Baker Street Irregular, Jonny Lee Miller's character in Elementary turns out to have really been named "Solar Pons." It would make for a great scene with Lucy Liu's Watson when she gets to compare notes with Dr. Parker, fresh off the boat from London with former landlady Mrs. Johnson and brother Bancroft.

No? Well, in any case, I hope we see Pons again one of these days. He's a Sherlockian treasure who deserves to have the dust blown off of him in more than just my library.


  1. Haven't read S.P. in a very long time. His problem, as far as t.v. or movies go, is name recognition. If someone is doing a detective film or series, will they go with someone who is inspired by Holmes but not recognized by the average viewer - or will they just stick with what works? My guess is that they will take the safe route.

    1. They could always do like Derleth did in his first book and title it "In Re: Sherlock Holmes" to get his foot in the door.

  2. I have at least one set (and maybe two) of Solar Pons books from my late mentor's library... it hadn't occurred to me to read them, as I stand with you on "hardcore Canon." OTOH, I have heard that they are pretty good.

    So for a future foray into the dusty Sherlockoid portions of my own library, I've been considering Doyle's "Brigadier Girard," or Morley's "Parnassus on Wheels," but on your recommendation I'll now add Derleth's "Solar Pons" series. Which have you read, Brad, and how would you rank them?

    1. Girard and Parnassus are both a lot of fun. I've read all of the Solar Pons, but like many a pastiche, I read them so long ago (over thirty years) that I don't completely trust my judgement for advising current readers. They were great then, but a lot of good literary water has passed under that bridge!