Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sherlock Holmes and the East End Nightmare

I was a bit surprised to find an Amazon package sitting on my chair after returning from the odd Saturday of work yesterday. I didn't think Lyndsay Faye's upcoming collection was out yet, and that was the only pre-order I recalled currently having with the online behemoth. And yet, there it was.

Opening the package, I found a book the size of a comic book trade paperback entitled Pulp Adventures #22.

"Ah, a pulp magazine!" I thought, and started running down all of my previous connections with pulp fiction to see if any link made sense for this showing up at my desk, and found none. As I was overdue for dinner, a quick flip through it was all I had time for, and still found no reason that I would receive such a gift. Could the mighty Amazon have made an error?

It wasn't until late last night that I returned to this little mystery and gave the book a more careful perusal. The opening editorial gave no clues, and I began paging through the stories, one by one. Ane eventually I found my answer on page 88:

"Whitechapel shared a collective tremble when the first note arrived at H division: 'From Hell . . .'

"Jack the Ripper terrorized London in 1888, and his true identity eluded the authorities. Naturally they turned to Sherlock Holmes, soon-to-be legendary for his astounding reasoning and deductive powers. Aided by his inscrutable raconteur, Dr. John Watson, the detective follows a bloody trail through the alleyways of London's red-light district."

Those words introduced a story entitled "Sherlock Holmes and the East End Nightmare," and I realized that someone had made a horrible, horrible mistake. As any Elementary fan knows, there's a reason I don't do reviews very often here in Sherlock Peoria. I've seen too much at this point, and my eye no longer has the freshness required for a proper review of a Sherlock Holmes story that is in any way similar to the thousand other Holmes stories I've read. And Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper? While that case may have been missing from the original Canon, Holmes's fans have made up for that absence in spades. I would guess that Sherlock Holmes has fought the Ripper in print nearly as much as he's fought Moriarty . . . and the results are never completely satisfying.

My personal problem with Holmes and the Ripper stories is that, unless you're new to the game, you know the Ripper case far too well. The same cycle of victims. The fact he was never caught. The way real-life events do not follow the everything-toward-the-goal construction of good fiction. And that is the mindset of the person who started reading "Sherlock Holmes and the East End Nightmare" by Adam Beau McFarlane.

The tale fits a pulp adventure perfectly. Doing the Ripper murders as a short story helped move things along at a pace that didn't lose me, as some novel-length versions have. (Like I said, been there, done that with the victim list and their various atrocities.) The story's one "Why would Holmes . . . ?" actually contributes to its conclusion, so I was satisfied enough with that. And it does give Holmes and Watson a solid reason to solve the case and keep quiet about it, even keeping the illogic of a Ripper-type killer in place.

Those who collect Holmes/Ripper battles will want to add this one to their collections, I'm sure, as it possesses distinctive features that completists look for. As Holmes pastiches go, well, it's a Holmes pastiche, and I will leave other judgments to you, along with the choice of paying $12.95 for a single Holmes story in a collection. (Haven't read the others yet, so no comment there.)

Hmm, now I'm wondering if there is Holmes/Ripper porn out there in fanfic land . . . not that I want to read it, mind you, just wondering if we've actually gone that far into AUs now. ("Even though the Ripper had killed many a prostitute, John could not resist inviting Jack into the bed he and Sherlock shared . . .") Ah, well.

On pastiches go . . . .

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