Imitation of Holmes

At long last, there is now a web site devoted entirely to the detective, Solar Pons (I’m not counting a previously existing page which contained nothing more than a bibliography and disappeared years ago), and for the first time since the Pontine Dossier ceased publication in 1978, there is also newsletter available. Bob Byrne is the one to thank for both of these gifts, and his brilliant, new Pons site can be found here:

His newsletter, The Solar Pons Gazette, is also freely available as a PDF file from this site.

For the uninitiated, Solar Pons is a fictional character, created by August Derleth and based entirely upon the most famous detective of all, Sherlock Holmes. While still a freshman in college, Derleth wrote to Arthur Conan Doyle and asked if he intended to write any more Sherlock Holmes stories. When Doyle replied that he did not plan to pen any new adventures for Holmes, Derleth decided to take a crack at it himself, and it is at that point that he encountered a unique dilemma. Since Doyle’s death, many writers have created new mysteries for Holmes and Watson to solve. These are referred to as pastiches, and they greatly outnumber the 60 stories Doyle, himself, composed. However, when August Derleth sat down to write his first pastiche, Doyle was still very much alive and to write a mystery using Holmes would have been in very bad taste and quite likely illegal. He solved this problem by creating a detective who was almost exactly like Holmes, but still somewhat unique. Holmes has his Watson; Pons has Dr. Parker. Holmes lives on Baker St.; Pons on Praed St. We last see Holmes at the dawn of WWI; Pons’ adventures do not begin until after the Great War. Holmes often steeples his fingers while listening to clients; Pons tugs at his earlobe (ala Sax Rohmer’s Nayland Smith, sworn enemy of the insidious Dr. Fu Manchu). Holmes plays the violin; Pons plays it, but very badly. Finally, Pons admires Holmes and acknowledges his greatness. Though, like all pastiche writers, he is often pilloried by Holmes fans for not being clever enough or fully evoking the atmosphere of the original stories, Derleth’s ability to conjure the spirit of the original tales and yet provide the reader with something novel is truly amazing. Interestingly enough, after Derleth died in 1971, another writer, Basil Copper began producing even more Solar Pons stories, pastiches of a pastiche. But enough from me–please check out the above site for more background or buy some of the story collections. Regrettably, most are out of print but can readily be found on Ebay, Abebooks, and Alibris.

*The above woodcut was created by Frank Utpatel and can be found in Derleth’s A Praed Street Dossier. Sauk City, WI: Mycroft and Moran. 1968. 49.