What with yesterday being the Wold Newton Event anniversary and all that, I spent my Sunday afternoon re-reading Philip José Farmer‘s The Peerless Peer.
And a rip-roaring read it was.
Now, in all honesty, The Peerless Peer is probably not the best of Farmer’s novels, but it is certainly a lot of fun.
In a nutshell: in 1916, the murder of a researcher in Egypt forces Mycroft Holmes to enlist the services of his brother Sherlock and of Dr Watson.
But Holmes alone can’t tackle the problem, and once in Africa, he will join forces with a notorious “eccentric” British peer. One that lives in a tree house he shares with an ape…
A by-product of Farmer’s obsession with popular narrative1, The Peerless Peer is full of references and cameos from a quantity of often unnamed but highly identifiable pulp characters.
The developments walk the thin line between Holmesian pastiche proper (that is, a straight-faced apocryphal Holmes story) and the parody, and indeed in the opening chapters the irony can sometimes be a little jarring.
The bit about the scientist studying a biological weapon capable of eating only sauerkraut, thus starving the German troops and weakening their morale, is a fine example of this sometimes excessive farcical tone.
And yet, in the moment in which the Lord of the Jungle steps in, the pace picks up, and the story finds its tone.
A fun, quick read, and another opportunity to cherish the work of a great author that is gone, but not forgotten.
- but really, how much of Farmer’s colossal output was indeed a by-product of his love for the pulps? ↩