A Study in Sourcery: Michael Kurland

Moriarty Kurland

This seems like as good a place as any to talk about one’s Sherlockian influences – beyond Conan Doyle, of course. I first discovered Michael Kurland in the 1970s. I’d picked up a worn copy of a book called Transmission Error all about a teleportation gone wrong. It was one of my first experiences of postmodernism in fiction, being poignant, funny and surreal all at the same time.

When that sort of thing happens the name sticks in your memory, and I next saw Michael’s name attached to Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy. For those who are unaware, Lord Darcy was a sort of fantasy Sherlock Holmes from an alternate, magic-using Earth. Created in a novel (Too Many Magicians) and featuring in two short story collections (Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates) by Randall Garrett. The baton passed to Michael in the late 1980s when, after a bout of encephalitis put him into a coma for eight years, Garrett died. He wrote two Darcy novels, Ten Little Wizards and A Study in Sorcery, and it was the latter book that bought him back to my attention, introducing me to Darcy and, very soon after, to Kurland’s earlier novel, a Holmes pastiche starring Professor Moriarty – The Infernal Device. Its sequels – and other Holmes-related books – appeared sporadically over the years, and as they only appeared to be available in the US, I was aware of them but never succumbed until, to my surprise, all four of his Moriarty novels were acquired and published by Titan in 2014.

Kurland inverts Moriarty, making him the central character of his adventures – a mirror of the Holmes we know and love with his own amanuensis in the form of the journalist, Benjamin Barrett. Consulting criminal, scientist and investigator whose past history with an interfering, paranoid Holmes sparks a series of fast-paced adventures which cast the not-quite-so-evil professor in a very different light.

Subversive, knowing, and thoroughly steampunk before K W Jeter (and later Cassandra Clare and Philip Reeve – you can’t keep a good title down) ‘pinched’ the title and coined the phrase, it was perhaps my hazy recollection of Kurland’s first Moriarty novel that drew me towards my own interpretation of the professor (not quite so amenable, but just as radical). I have a lot of catching up to do.

Michael Kurland

The Moriarty Novels:

Others:

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Why Sherlock Holmes?

A Guest Blog from Don Smith

As a spotlight on members of the Sherlock Street Irregulars, we’ll be posting an equally irregular series of guest blogs which will help members get to know each other and, more importantly, to know what other members do/offer/obsess about in the world of Sherlock Holmes. Our first victim, Don Smith, has agreed to start the ball rolling by talking about his new blog and facebook group.

Who Holmes

In the last few weeks, I started a blog called The Sherlock Conversations, which can be found at Sherlockconversations.wordpress.com. And with it a corresponding Facebook page (sherlockconversations).

Why did I do this?

The world is filled with millions upon millions of Sherlockian fan sites, why add to the “Sherlock Spectrum” (or as I call it the Sherlock Zeitgeist)? What could I possibly add to this detective that was first given life by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and then made a reality by the likes of Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett?

Currently, there are four actors running around who have played Sherlock Holmes in major television and film productions (ie. Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Lee Miller and now Ian McKellen).

What could I possibly add to this assortment?

Simply, I can add whatever I want because to appreciate Sherlock Holmes is to appreciate the best in humanity and the best in ourselves.

Pardon the metaphor, I took my trip down to Baker Street not via the usual routes, but by way of a blue Police Box. Obviously, the seeds for the trip were planted by my father who read me a child-friendly copy of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES every night before bed when I was a kid.

One summer as a school project, I read THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES and all I remembered was the section with “KKK”. I mean in school, who reads their assignments thoroughly? I didn’t. Real reading comes when we step out of school if we are not taught to properly love reading.

As I implied, I came into Baker Street because of a love of DOCTOR WHO. The Doctor is a man (many times) dressed for high tea in Victorian London and ready to face the villains out of Star Trek and Star Wars. But he was more than that. He was a man who sought adventure and could walk into any room and size up anyone and know where he stands against them.

REG Shalka

About the time DOCTOR WHO had been off the air, the web series THE SCREAM OF SHALKA came forward with Richard E. Grant voicing the Doctor. He described it as “Sherlock Holmes in Outer Space.” And that stuck with me – the Doctor was a literary descendent of The Great Detective. (It should be noted the Doctor Who/Sherlock Holmes connections especially with Cumberbatch, Matt Smith, Steven Moffatt, Mark Gatiss and Grant and “The Snowmen” episode of Doctor Who and one of these days I will chronicle other connections).

Then in 2009, when the Downey movie and the Cumberbatch series hit about the same time, I got into Holmes. It was Downey that brought me into Holmes. The seeds that my father, the school assignment and Grant planted finally began to bloom.

Downey, an addict whose career was all but over, to return with this movie (and of course IRON MAN) made me see the power of the Great Detective.

It would be sometime before I started reading Doyle’s work and it took another few years for it to really bloom, but it did when I read the following statement from Watson in A STUDY IN SCARLET:

“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently: “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

Watson quoted this after listing all of what Holmes knew and did not know about science and the basic pop culture of 1880s London. To elaborate, Holmes said, “No man burdens his mind with small matters unless he has some very good reason for doing so.”

Our world is a world of pop culture and all that we pursue is something that will not last. It is costing us problem solving skills, character and our souls.

Seeing someone like Sherlock Holmes reminds me that I can focus on my dreams and achieve my goals. I can ask better of myself and work towards it and one day get it!

Why have I added another voice to the world of Sherlock? Because, this is my path to get better from me. And God help me (really), I will.

The game’s afoot and I am talking about it over at Sherlockconversations.wordpress.com.

MX, Undershaw and the Guinness Book of Records

You may have spotted a recent article in the radio times, doubtless inspired by the success of the Sherlock TV series and the patronage of its writer, Mark Gatiss.

http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2015-07-15/largest-ever-collection-of-new-sherlock-holmes-stories-will-raise-money-to-restore-conan-doyles-house

A little about Undershaw. The house was designed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and built so that he could look after his ailing wife, Touie, who was suffering from tuberculosis at the time. Living there for ten years – from 1897 until 1907 – he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles while in residence, along with the stories that made up The Return of Sherlock Holmes. After a number of uses, the house fell into the hands of property developers, whose plans appalled many fans of Doyle and Holmes, and the Undershaw Preservation Trust was established in 2009 to protect it from exploitation. This pressured the developers into selling, and although the local Borough Council declined to step in, it was acquired last year to restore it as school – Stepping Stones – for children with hemiplegia, anxiety, and autistic spectrum difficulties.

Concerning the books.

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories started, I believe, as a single volume of stories written to raise funds for the Undershaw Preservation Trust. There are some impressive Sherlockian names attached to the project – Molly Carr, Michael Kurland, Andy Lane, James Lovegrove and Bonnie McBird, to name but a few – and it has blossomed into a three volume series of canonical short stories told in chronological order.

By virtue of its size, the book qualifies as a mammoth piece of Sherlockiana, capturing a veritable cornucopia of stories from many contemporary Sherlockians. Released in November, it promises to be one of the must-have collections of the year.