I, SHERLOCK HOLMES by Michael Harrison


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Non-fiction"" indeed. Michael Harrison continues his barrel-scraping Sherlockiana (and promises--preserve us--much more!) by claiming to be the editor-annotator of Holmes' memoirs from birth to Reichenbach Falls. ""Holmes"" is a verbose, episodic autobiographer, recounting foreign adventures which Watson only hinted at, revealing secrets, correcting Watsonian errors of mishearing, misunderstanding, romanticization, and over-propriety. It wasn't ""the parsley"" that significantly sank in the butter, but the ""pass-key."" For Irene Adler, read Lillie Langtry. Holmes' eccentricities (the shag in the toe of the Persian slipper, etc.) were just put-ons. Watson's ghastly war secret, Holmes' reason for never marrying (a predilection for ""quite the wrong sort of woman""), the identity of Jack the Ripper, a tough assignment from the Queen (recover a nude drawing of the V&A wedding night)--these inventions might seem tantalizing, but they're encrusted with excess, humorless words, and they benefit from not an iota of the Conan Doyle storytelling genius. Worse yet, the central gimmick comes a cropper because the narrating voice doesn't sound like Holmes', or anybody else's in particular. And the supporting cast of historical dummies--heaps of royalty, Vanderbilt, Rothschild--only serves to remind us how much realness Conan Doyle coaxed out of unmeasured rooms and ungenealogized people. Harrison's pseudo-documentary drains the flesh and blood out of Baker Street with such success that even the most canonical Irregulars may find this a bore de force, and, when ""Holmes"" says of Conan Doyle that ""it was his tragedy that he had far too little"" imagination, the fans may rise up and wrap a speckled band around Michael Harrison's typewriter.

Pub Date: May 24th, 1977
Publisher: Dutton