Is Sherlock Holmes homosexual? Is Watson? Should we even be asking these questions?
DeMarco opens the Introduction to this collection of short stories with these questions. The following stories look at many facets of queer life in Victorian London as they touch on the lives of Holmes, Watson, Lestrade, and various original characters. In most of the stories, the (identified) queer characters are people other than Holmes and Watson themselves. Indeed, Holmes and Watson are all but entirely absent in at least two stories.
As with any anthology, the style varies between contributors. Most of the tales are written in traditional pastiche style, modeled on the Canon stories and narrated by Watson. One story is in third-person, one story is narrated by Holmes himself, and one story is a first-person narration by an original character.
I enjoyed the stories overall. There were a few that I just didn’t connect with, and the very first one surprised me with (content warning and spoiler alert!) references to incest. That topic is a Hard Pass for some readers, and I personally find it problematic in context. But that’s my personal engagement with the book, and yours is bound to be different.
If you are looking for Holmes/Watson romance, this is (mostly) not your book. If, however, you are looking for thoughtful, well-written explorations of the challenges faced by queer people in Victorian London, with a little Sherlockian flair, then this is the book for you.
Source: Purchased new
Reading Challenges: Counts for the Official TBR Pile Challenge and Mount TBR.
Ten of the books on my TBR coming out in March that I’m especially looking forward to:
1. The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro (March 6)
The hotly anticipated final book in the New York Times bestselling Charlotte Holmes trilogy, in which Charlotte and Jamie finally face their longtime enemy…and their true feelings for each other.
The third book in Cavallaro’s Charlotte Holmes trilogy is due out next month, and I still haven’t read the second book. That just means I will now get to read books two and three back-to-back, which sounds like an excellent idea.
2. Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire L. Evans (March 6)
Join the ranks of the pioneers who defied social convention and the longest odds to become database poets, information-wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass ceiling-shattering dot com-era entrepreneurs. This inspiring call to action is a revelation: women have embraced technology from the start. It shines a light on the bright minds whom history forgot, and shows us how they will continue to shape our world in ways we can no longer ignore.
Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper have been getting some long-overdue attention in the kid-lit world, but I’m super-interested in the women I haven’t yet heard of.
3. Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman (March 6)
In a haze of morning crumpets and restrictive tights, Scheinman delivers a hilarious and poignant survey of one of the most enduring and passionate literary coteries in history. Combining clandestine journalism with frank memoir, academic savvy with insider knowledge, Camp Austen is perhaps the most comprehensive study of Austen that can also be read in a single sitting.
True confession: I have never read Austen. I will most certainly be reading some this year.
4. Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, From Da Vinci and Darwin to You and Me by Andrew Santella (March 13)
Like so many of us, including most of America’s workforce, and nearly two-thirds of all university students, Andrew Santella procrastinates. Concerned about his habit, but not quite ready to give it up, he set out to learn all he could about the human tendency to delay. He studied history’s greatest procrastinators to gain insights into human behavior, and also, he writes, to kill time, “research being the best way to avoid real work.”
Now I’m pondering whether reading about procrastination is just going to be another way to procrastinate.
5. To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration by Edward J. Larson (March 13)
In 1909, three daring expeditions pushed to the edges of the globe, bringing within reach, for the first time, a complete accounting of all the earth’s surface. In January, Douglas Mawson, as part of Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica, became the first man to reach the South Magnetic Pole. Soon after, Shackleton himself set a new farthest south record in pursuit of the Geographic South Pole. In April, American Robert Peary, with Matthew Henson, claimed to be the first to reach the North Pole. And in the Himalayas—the so-called “Third Pole,” the pole of altitude— a team led by legendary mountaineer and dashing Italian Prince Luigi Amedeo, the Duke of Abruzzi, reached 24,600 feet, setting a world altitude record that would stand for a generation.
I’m fascinated by the Antarctic and the Heroic Age of Exploration, and I’m familiar with Mawson and Shackleton, but I haven’t read much about Arctic exploration, and nothing at all about the Himalayas.
6. Searcher of the Dead (A Bess Ellyott Mystery #1) by Nancy Herriman (March 13)
Living amid the cultural flowering, religious strife, and political storms of Tudor England, Bess Ellyott is an herbalist, a widow, and a hunted woman. She fled London after her husband was brutally murdered, but the bucolic town in the countryside where she lands will offer her no solace. She still doesn’t know who killed her husband, but she knows one thing: The murderer is still out there.
First book in a new historical mystery series!
7. The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater: Essays on Crafting by Alanna Okun (March 20)
Alanna Okun knows that crafting keeps her anxiety at bay. She knows that no one will ever be as good a knitting teacher as her beloved grandmother. And she knows that even when we can’t control anything else, we can at least control the sticks, string, and fabric right in front of us.
The reader reviews say this is more memoir than essays, which is fine with me.
8. Semitism: Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump by Jonathan Weisman (March 20)
Anti-Semitism has always been present in American culture, but with the rise of the Alt Right and an uptick of threats to Jewish communities since Trump took office, New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman has produced a book that could not be more important or timely. When Weisman was attacked on Twitter by a wave of neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, witnessing tropes such as the Jew as a leftist anarchist; as a rapacious, Wall Street profiteer; and as a money-bags financier orchestrating war for Israel, he stopped to wonder: How has the Jewish experience changed, especially under a leader like Donald Trump?
I expect this to be informative, terrifying, and important.
9. Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (March 22)
Drawing upon her cutting-edge research in her London laboratory, award-winning neuroscientist, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explains what happens inside the adolescent brain, and what her team’s experiments have revealed about our behaviour, and how we relate to each other and our environment as we go through this period of our lives. She shows that while adolescence is a period of vulnerability, it is also a time of enormous creativity – one that should be acknowledged, nurtured and celebrated.
A peek at the neurobiology behind teenage behavior? Yes, please.
10. Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond (Baker Street Academy #1) by Sam Hearn (March 27)
Told through Watson’s blog, detective notes, school assignments, media reports, and energetic comic-strip illustrations, this introduction to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters will have every young super-sleuth hooked!
I am always here for a new children’s adaptation of the Holmes stories. It looks like this may have come out in the UK a couple years ago, but I haven’t heard anything about it yet.
Does anyone really believe what happened at the Reichenbach Falls? A great many accounts have been written but it seems to me that all of them have left something to be desired — which is to say, the truth.
It is 1891, and Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty have just had their confrontation at the side of the Reichenbach Falls. The novel opens with a brief account of a murder in London before joining our narrator, who identifies himself as Pinkerton agent Frederick Chase, at the Meiringen police station. He tells us that he is on the trail of an American crime boss named Clarence Devereux. It seems that Devereux was planning to join forces with Moriarty. Chase was trying to prevent such a merger, and now he wants to take the opportunity to put a stop to Devereux’s activities in London for good. He teams up with Scotland Yard detective Athelney Jones – a name recognizable to readers of The Sign of Four. Jones and Chase go back to London, where they follow a grisly trail to unmask Devereaux. Jones attempts to fill the gap left by the loss of Sherlock Holmes, with Chase as his Watson. But Chase has his own agenda, and things are much more complicated than they appear.
This is another book that I’ve had on my shelves for a long, long time. It was a selection from the Mysterious Bookshop’s Historical & Traditional Crime Club. I think it was the first book I received, actually. At the time, I hadn’t yet read House of Silk, so I put this book on the shelf. I eventually that one from the library, but found it rather darker than I was expecting, and I wasn’t in a hurry to drop back into that particular vision of Victorian London.
As it happens, the subject matter in this book was easier for me to handle, but there’s a twist in the book that I found more irritating than thrilling. Plus, queer coding a villain (along with our narrator letting us know that he “had seen his type many times before and felt revolted”) feels like a cheap shot.
Source: Purchased from the Mysterious Bookshop (New York, NY)
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A while back, Chris Redmond asked me to put together an annotated bibliography of Sherlockian books for children and young adults. I’d been kicking around the idea of such a list, an update and expansion of Sally Sugarman’s list of Sherlock Holmes in Children’s Literature available on the Beacon Society site, so I jumped at the chance.
Jumped, it seems, right off a cliff and into a waterfall, since it took me an embarrassingly long time to actually do it. It’s possible he lapsed into a Watsonian faint upon finally receiving the draft, but he’s too much of a gentleman to say so.
The list, I’m very pleased to say, is now live at Sherlockian.Net: Books for Children.
While I was looking for titles, I ran into a bunch of out of print items (like the beloved Basil of Baker Street, which I just recently learned will be republished in May 2016 – I’m pretty sure my squee at that announcement was only audible to Toby), so I limited my focus to items currently in print or forthcoming.
I’m sure I missed something, so if you have a favorite children’s or young adult Sherlockian book that has not passed out of print, be sure to let me know.