Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Shadow over Baker Street

I'm not a great fan of Sherlock Holmes, I've read many of the short stories and been pleasantly suprised by them and I'll watch Basil Rathbone happily, although Nigel Bruce's Watson was always far to bumbling and blustering. For Crime I'd rather check out the Americans, be it Chandler or Moseley in writing or Bogart and Robinson and Cagney on screen. Nor am I a fan of H P Lovecraft. There are few books I've given up on in my near 40 years of reading but Lovecraft I couldn't even finish one of his short stories, the writing was turgid and I couldn't see the magic fans seem to be able to see. So I suprised myself when I picked up the short story collection, Shadows over Baker Street and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The collection was based around the conceit of the ultimate rationalist, Holmes, encountering the "irrational" world of the Cthulu mythos and in general the stories work very well. Some vere towards pastiche and some, like the Mystery of the Hanged Man invoke the voices of the cinema Holmes better than the literary Holmes, The adventure of the Voorish Sign felt more like a Hammer horror and left visions of Peter Cushing burning down buildings made of coal. Most of the writers remained true to the spirit of Conan Doyle without aping his style and probably only Neil Gaiman let his personal style over-power the source material.

Strangely, all the writers, although showing an obvious affection for the Lovecraft material, chose not to write in a style like Lovecraft thus placing Cthulu in Holmes world rather then Holmes in Lovecraft's. Caitlin Keirnan and Simon Clark wrote the standout stories for me and both are writers whose work I shall check out in the future.

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