Let's talk pastiche

Arthur Conan Doyle is an author whose work is more often subjected to the pastiche treatment than most others of his day. Naturally this is primarily down to the enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes.

His daughter, Dame Jean Conan Doyle, was firmly against such stories and suggested that people used her father's characters to sell books that would not have sold without them. This may seem harsh but it is probably true. If you took any of the pastiche stories that exist and removed Holmes and Watson they would almost certainly not sell as well (if at all).

My own opinions on this are not unknown. I don't like non-canonical pastiche stories. In my opinion, they must work within the world Conan Doyle created. In the words of the great detective himself 'no ghosts need apply'. I would extend this to include the following:

  • No fairies
  • No magic
  • No vampires, werewolves etc
  • No cross-overs (e.g. Holmes meets Van Helsing, or Holmes meets Raffles)
My natural inclination with any pastiche that includes any of the above is to put it back on the shelf. The only exceptions to this have been occasions where I have been asked to read such a book for review purposes. I just don't understand why people want these kinds of stories. If you want a vampire story - read Dracula, why do you need Holmes in it?

Some authors attempt to justify fairies in Holmes stories by pointing to Conan Doyle's interest in the subject (Cottingley etc). This will not do. If Conan Doyle did not put fairies into his stories (and he had opportunity to do so - Cottingley was 10 years before the last Holmes story) there is no need for anyone else to.

Now I know full well that this will stir some people up. I also accept that I don't get to arbitrate and that non-canonical pastiche stories will continue to appear whether I like it or not. I would just ask why people feel the need to have Holmes in situations and worlds that Conan Doyle would never have put him into.


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