"The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes" - Book Review

The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes is presented as a collection of cases that Watson was forced to suppress. In some cases the reasons given for their suppression seem a little weak but that is a trivial point.

The book contains eight stories and, on a cosmetic level, the most pleasing aspect is the way that the book is presented in the style of the original Strand Magazine. The typeface is the same (or very close to) and the illustrations are excellent. In fact they almost make you feel like Sidney Paget had been resurrected to produce them.

The stories are all very much the same length and in that the author has again done a good job of emulating the stories from The Strand. Like the original stories themselves, some are better than others. I particularly enjoyed "The Adventure of the Medium" and "The Adventure of the Amazonian Explorer" but felt that "The Adventure of the Gypsy Girl" was a little too straight-forward and easy to work out. These are, to a certain extent, matters of personal taste and I think that plenty of people will disagree with my assessment of individual stories.

The headline act (as it were) is the first story "The Giant Rat of Sumatra". This is one of the many cases mentioned by Conan Doyle in the original canon but never written up. Of all of such cases this is probably the one most often subjected to the pastiche treatment. I've always felt that one of the reasons Conan Doyle never expanded upon this was because he realised that it would be difficult to do.

To be fair Tony Reynolds does his best with it and produces a workmanlike story but the narrative shows off little of Holmes's talents as a detective. I feel though that anyone would struggle to make a story out of this particular case. I certainly wouldn't pretend that I could do any better.

All in all this is very much one of the better collections of pastiche stories. For me personally I very much like the fact that the author has stuck to the spirit of the originals. He has not brought Holmes into battle with demons nor has he had Holmes meet other characters from Victorian literature.

Well worth the money and you should add it to your collection.
Amazon UK  Book Depository UK Amazon US

Sherlockian / Doylean Christmas List

Looking for ideas for presents? I suggest you consult my Amazon Sherlockian Listmania list at:

Naturally it contains my own books but a number of other things as well.

Happy shopping.

Progress report

The latest book has just passed the 30,000 word barrier. I am also in communication with the British Library about paying them a visit early in the New Year.

6 days until the "Lost Stories"

On November 29th The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes will be released.

I'm reading this book at the moment and will provide a full review in due course. However I will say that I have read nothing that would cause me to caution anyone against it.

The title will be available on Kindle as well as paperback.

Books to review soon.

I am being sent copies of the following two books to review:

The first is The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes. As you can see from the cover the artwork is superb and very much in the Paget style.
The second is A Study in Crimson. This is the latest from Molly Carr - the author of The Sign of Fear. I must confess that I have not yet read her first book (although it is in my 'to read' pile) so you're not likely to see the review for this one in the short-term.

If you have read either of these books and would like to give your thoughts please add comments to this post.

Murder Rooms

Top tip for anyone attempting to get hold of the Murder Rooms series of films. You can get all of them, including the very first one, from Holland. Check eBay.

Dealing with criticism

My recent discovery of a negative review of one of my books got me wondering (again) about bad reviews and how to handle them. If you're starting out it may be of some use to you.

When I started work on my first book I knew that I was, in effect, sticking my head above the parapet, painting a bullseye on it and inviting people to take aim. All would-be writers need to remember this. If you're asking the public to give you money you have to expect them to give you comments too.

The age of the Internet has not only made it easier to comment it has also made it easier to get those comments before the author. In a lot of cases I have found very obscure opinions on my work simply by the use of Google.

Unfortunately the Internet has also made it easier to be downright nasty. Safe behind their screens and their bizarre usernames there are certain types of people who will express their displeasure (whether they genuinely feel it or not) in the most hurtful terms possible in the knowledge that they can almost certainly avoid detection. For some of them the thought of the pain they could cause the author is what drives them. For others it's just that they genuinely dislike your work.

If you're a sensitive person you have to learn to toughen up very quickly. Your only other options are to not write at all or never read any reviews of your work. I've been advised to take the latter course on more than one occasion but my problem is that I am eager for praise and tend to keep an all too sharp eye on the comments pages of Amazon etc. This carries the risk that occasionally I'll find something less than palatable.

When my first book launched I had an uneasy wait for the first reviews. I was all geared up for the slings and arrows but instead got several very encouraging reviews. At this point I made the mistake of lowering my guard so I was totally unprepared when the first dose of vitriol arrived shortly afterwards.

I won't go into the review in question but it basically had nothing good to say. I'm not ashamed to admit that the only reason I didn't hang up my pen was that I had more positive reviews than negative. Had it been the first review to arrive I might have easily given up.

I then began work on my second book and did so with the attitude of "I'll show that b#%&$%d". Fortunately I quickly realised that it was not the best frame of mind in which to write and I put it behind me and got on with the job. The only way I could proceed was to ignore all reviews both good and bad. You cannot allow them to influence you. The bad ones make you an angry writer and the good ones can make you complacent. Neither is a good position from which to write.

This swift learning experience paid dividends and my second book was a greater success than my first and was even short-listed for an award. However it has not escaped negativity. A review in September 2009 (which I've only just seen) described it as "badly written".

My third book too has received some negative feedback but for the most part this has been constructive rather than destructive. However I know all too well that sooner or later something bad will pop-up. After all no book that has ever been written has enjoyed universal praise. Conversely none has received universal condemnation either.

If you get a bad review just remember the following:

The reviewer is not the ultimate arbiter of what is or is not 'good' writing. If they don't like it remember it's just their (one) opinion.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to look at the Amazon comments page.

A well trodden path

My writing now moves on to the George Edalji case. As my title above suggests, this subject has been well covered but obviously I cannot omit it.

Edalji was imprisoned in 1903 for three years of a seven year sentence on the charge of maiming and killing horses, cattle and sheep in Staffordshire. The case was largely based on highly suspect, circumstantial evidence with more than a hint of racism. Upon his early release in 1906 he approached Conan Doyle to help him clear his name. ACD's efforts assisted in Edalji's eventual pardon but he was never compensated.

Haslemere Festival Latest

It's time for a further post on the Haslemere Festival for 2011. I was approached (a few times) about giving a talk at this festival but turned it down. My reason was simply that it would impact too negatively on the work on my latest book.

I was then re-approached and asked if I would be prepared to introduce a series of ACD related films. For the most part I imagine these would have been Sherlock Holmes films.

I confess I was tempted but I have just this minute declined this also.

The reason is basically the same as before - i.e. I don't wish to do anything that impacts negatively on my writing. However this illustrates the bind you can often find yourself in when you're in demand. Attending such events is often quite fun and gives you a chance to sell yourself and, by extension, your work.