Review: The Adventures of Solar Pons Vol 1

Yes I know this is not strictly speaking a Sherlock Holmes or Arthur Conan Doyle matter but you'll have to bear with me as it's a quiet news day (month? year?) from a Holmes perspective.

Now, for the uninitiated, it needs to be understood that these stories are old - featuring for the first time in 1928. Their author August Derleth was alive at the same time as Arthur Conan Doyle (if only just). He asked if he could take over the Sherlock Holmes character when it became clear that Conan Doyle planned no more stories. He was politely told he could not so instead resolved to create his own character.

The name Solar Pons is a truly strange name but, like the other great Holmes imitator - Sexton Blake, it does have the right number of syllabuls. The stories are in much the same mould as the original tales and vary in how good they are. Don't get me wrong, I've not read one that I've not enjoyed but some are less clever than others. The stories are set in the 1920s and 1930s which places them some years after Holmes but that barely comes across in the stories except when modern inventions are mentioned.

There are a significant number of books. At least five by Derleth himself and then the mantle was picked up by one Basil Copper.

At this point I am only reviewing the first book by Derleth and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Even though they are clearly Holmes pastiches Derleth's decision to create new characters renders his stories a little more "honest" in the sense that Pons, while sharing so much of Holmes's character, does have his own traits and, most importantly, his own name. So far there is less to distinguish his Doctor Watson,  Doctor Lyndon Parker, from the original but that will probably emerge as I read more. These stories feel that they are largely standing on their own merits and not trading on the Sherlock Holmes name.

Pons has his own "Moriarty" in the form of Baron Ennesfred Kroll. He also has his own brother who does not feature in the first book.

The stories in the first volume are:

"The Adventure of the Frightened Baronet"
"The Adventure of the Late Mr. Faversham"
"The Adventure of the Black Narcissus"
"The Adventure of the Norcross Riddle"
"The Adventure of the Retired Novelist"
"The Adventure of the Three Red Dwarfs"
"The Adventure of the Sotheby Salesman"
"The Adventure of the Purloined Periapt"
"The Adventure of the Limping Man"
"The Adventure of the Seven Passengers"
"The Adventure of the Lost Holiday"
"The Adventure of the Man With a Broken Face".

Some of these are clearly inspired, to varying degrees, by Holmes's adventures.

I was less than ten years old when I began reading the original Holmes. The excitement of reading them for the first time is not something you can recapture and I envy everyone reading Holmes in that situation.

Reading Solar Pons now is the closest I feel I will get to recapturing that feeling.

Written by Alistair Duncan Buy my books here

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