East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Holmes & HPL

sherlock-holmes-greg-joensI was listening to an old Harlan Ellison interview, last night, and he was saying that if you want to get a proper education, you have to read the Canon, that is, all the Arthur Conan Doyle stories about Sherlock Holmes.
Those will set you straight, Ellison said, because they are stories about the power of rationality, the power of observation. And they teach you that there are no mysteries if you pay attention.

And I think it’s a sound suggestion.
Hell, you can’t go wrong with “Read Sherlock Holmes!” Continue reading



My birthday with Sherlock & Sexton

In case you are wondering, I spent half my birthday writing (I finally delivered the revision of the first 45.000 words of the first Hope & Glory handbook) and the other half watching old episodes of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series.
I also dug out two of my three Sexton Blake anthologies.
The third, which is actually the first, the 1986 Sexton Blake Wins that started my interest in the character, is buried somewhere in some crate or box.
I read the Wordsworth edition of The Casebook of Sexton Blake when it came out, but for some reason the massive Sexton Blake Detective remained on my shelf waiting for better days.
Which, I decided today, have come. Continue reading


The many faces of Holmes

Considering the success of last week’s post about Holmes, and the sudden appearance of so many Sherlockians on my blog, I decided to put together a small gallery of famous – or not so famous – Holmes from the big and the small screen, like the one I did for Philip Marlowe a while back.


See if you can recognise them all.
Anyone I forgot? Please let me know in the comments.
And as you are at it – one of them is not Holmes, but it’s actually his brother. Can you spot him? Give your answer in the comments.


A story for which the world is not yet prepared

Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson, … It was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared.

holmes_wildcardThe reference to adventures that the good doctor never wrote down is one of the fun elements of the Sherlock Holmes canon.

As a Holmes reader I went through various phases – at first enthusiasm then irritation, and finally acceptance.
I will never be a Sherlockian1, meaning, I can’t quote you chapter and verse of Holmes adventures, but I like the Sherlock Holmes stories – and I saw the Basil Rathbone movies before I read the books, so there.
When it comes to the written word, I detest doctor Watson with a vengeance, but I’ve come to appreciate and respect Sherlock Holmes: anyone that can stand Watson as a housemate for any length of time is quite obviously a better man than I am.

And then there is the Gian Rat of Sumatra, which has that nice pulpy feel to it that it’s really a pity the facts concerning the Matilda Briggs were never published. It is obviously Holmes moonlighting in the territories in which his counterpart Sexton Blake was more at ease. Continue reading

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The Peerless Peer

512ih9vpftL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_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… Continue reading

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Getting ready for the Media Desert

As work on various projects continues, the dread Soccer World Cup approaches.
I’ve nothing against the sport itself – despite the fact that’s polarizing too much attention in my opinion – but not having an interest in it, I’m facing a long stretch of intellectual desert: nothing on the telly, cinemas closed when the Italian team is playing, 90% of the news focused on who’s winning, who’s losing.


The upside?
The pleasures of the desert – no people around, silence (punctuated, admittedly, by demented screams). Continue reading



Sir Henry Yule was a Scottish gentleman and an army man who – among other things – translated in English Il Milione, Marco Polo’s travelogue and indispensable Silk Road narrative.
Arthur Coke Burnell (yes, his middle name was really Coke) was an expert in the Sanskrit language, but he was also handy with Tibetan, Arabic, Kawi, Javanese and Coptic.5746976-M A well-rounded scholar, so to speak.

These two fine gentlemen got together and in 1886 published a wonderful book which is called Hobson-Jobson or, to be more precise and wonderfully Victorian, Hobson-Jobson: A Glossary of Colloquial Anglo-Indian Words and Phrases, and of Kindred Terms, Etymological, Historical, Geographical and Discursive.
And no kidding.

So, yes, the Hobson-Jobson had nothing to do with any gentleman ever named Hobson, or, for that matter, Jobson.
Sure, a guy called William Crooke also did some later work on it, but no Jobsons, or Hobsons, at all.
What gives? Continue reading