The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries

Some pastiches are better than others and John Taylor’s first set of stories, The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, was quite good but they had a slightly bizarre and comic element that some Sherlockians may not have liked. I now understand that they were intended for a younger audience.

Taylor’s original stories appeared on the radio before being released on CD, and have now been released as an The Paranormal Casebook of Sherlock Holmes with a foreword that I must have written at some point.

The new stories, The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, have not been broadcast and appear on CD and download.  They are much more realistic and have the benefit of being read by the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, though he is, of course, narrating the stories as myself.

For once the stories are not from one of the many tin boxes that seem to materialise whenever anyone needs to find a Holmes case to relate but from a wooden chest in my bureau. Yet another “archive of notes referring to some of Holmes’ cases that, for one reason or another, never saw the light of day.”

The first story “An Inscrutable Masquerade” appears not to have an obvious railway connection until very near the end but the byline in the title of the set of stories is “and other stories” so I suppose that is fine. It is nevertheless an intriguing story of how I appear to be leading a double life. It nicely follows my usual style of narration where I give nothing away until all is revealed towards the end.

The second story “The Conundrum of Coach 13” is firmly placed on the rails and is a “closed room problem” although in this case it is a carriage rather than a room, locked from the outside, from which a large quantity of gold bullion has completely vanished without trace.

The third story “The Trinity Vicarage Larceny” again has no railway connection that I could remember. It concerns a robbery (now who can say why this was a larceny rather than a burglary?) where a set of boots provides the main clues that lead to the case being solved.

The fourth story “The 10.59 Assassin” is a very ingenious story involving a very unlikely murderer. Here there is a clear railway connection in a murder and as the suspicion grows there comes an unusual twist. In some ways it reminds me of Silver Blaze. The murderer is the least suspicious of all the possibilities!

Cumberbatch’s reading of the stories is excellent despite the fact that his BBC Sherlock persona that kept popping into my head, especially when he is speaking as Holmes. He also does a very good job of helping the listener distinguish between Holmes, myself and the other characters in the stories and he switches between voices and accents with consumate ease.

These are very accomplished pastiches by John Taylor and, in my view, a much more serious attempt to emulate my style of narration. I hope he is encouraged to write more and that Cumberbatch can be persuaded to narrate again. A complete set of the Canon, read by Cumberbatch, would be a large undertaking but would, I am sure give a fresh take on my stories.

The Rediscovered Railways Mysteries are available on CD and by download here in England and in the USA (CD and download).

The railways are mentioned in many of our cases together, but mainly just as a means of travel. Alistair Duncan’s “Close to Holmes” contains details of many of the stations we used in and around London.

A story for which the world in not yet prepared [SUSS]

Or maybe it is? In the The Sussex Vampire case, Holmes mentioned a Matilda Briggs and then hastened to point out that this was not the name of a woman but a ship associated with giant rat of Sumatra and that it was “a story for which the world was not yet prepared”.

Holmes never elaborated any further and I cannot find any notes in my battered tin dispatch box that shed any further light on the matter save that at some point I determined that the “giant rat” may have been Sundamys infraluteus which is commonly referred to as the “Giant Rat of Sumatra” and as rats colonise ships this may be a link. In the picture above it does not look very formidable though!

Well, Book and Magazine Collector (February 2010 issue) and Writing Magazine have apparently decided that the world is ready for this story. In February they are running a competition to write the story. Your story must be no more than 2,000 words, there is a £4 entry fee and must be submitted by the end of February. It need not be a Sherlock Holmes story. The winner will get £200 and the runner-up £50. The story will be published in the May 2010 edition and the magazines contain an entry form.

Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra, written by Alan Vanneman, purports to tell the tale as if it had been hidden for more than a century in my dispatch box. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Nevertheless are there any budding Watsons (or Conan Doyles) out there wanting to write their own version?

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Two volumes of Basil Rathbone as the “high strung crime solver” and Nigel Bruce as his “phlegmatic assistant” have been released on CD.

Each volume contains 12 stories, some with Canonical connections, marked below with a “C” if they are based on actual stories or with an “R” if they are merely cases that I mentioned in the stories.

Volume I comprises:

  1. The Unfortunate Tobacconist [R]
  2. The Paradol Chamber
  3. The Viennese Strangler
  4. The Notorious Canary Trainer [R] [L]
  5. The April Fool’s Day Adventure [L]
  6. The Strange Case of the Uneasy Easy Chair [L]
  7. The Strange Case of the Demon Barber [L]
  8. The Mystery of the Headless Monk [L]
  9. The Amateur Medicant Society [R] [L]
  10. The Case of the Vanishing White Elephant
  11. The Case of the Limping Ghost
  12. The Girl with the Gazelle [L]

Volume II comprises:

  1. The Case of the Out of Date Murder [L]
  2. The Waltz of Death
  3. Colonel Warburton’s Madness [R]
  4. The Iron Box [L]
  5. A Scandal in Bohemia [C]
  6. The Second Generation [L]
  7. In Flanders Fields
  8. The Eyes of Mr Leyton
  9. The Tell Tale Pigeon Feathers
  10. The Indescretion of Mr Edwards
  11. The Problem of Thor Bridge [C]
  12. The Double Zero

From October 1939 to July 1947 Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce starred in 220 episodes (though Bruce missed one due to illness). By 1947 Rathbone wanted to dissociate himself from the character of Holmes. Neverthe less he remains so closely associated with him that many still regard him as “the definitive Sherlock Holmes”.

Nigel Bruce continued for another two series with Tom Conway as Holmes.

These recordings include war-time announcements, original narrations and commercials for the shows sponsors.

There is a book by Ken Greewald who has taken some of these radio programmes and written them up as short stories. As well as the stories on the the CDs above (which I have marked with [L], the book also contains these three cases:

  • Murder Beyond the Mountains
  • The Case of the Baconian Cypher
  • The Case of the Camberwell Poisoners

The book is called “The Lost Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and has a picture of Nigel Rathbone on the cover. The book is out of print but a second hand copy should be easy to come by. I appear to have written a short introduction to the stories in the book!

Holmes Christmas List 2009

With the case of the Blue Carbuncle just chronologically around the corner and people beginning to think about gifts, here are ten possibilities for your Christmas list.

1. The Complete Sherlock Holmes – the Canon is an essential part of any Holmes libary and this edition is a real bargain.

2. Dust and Shadow – my own account of the Ripper killings.

3. The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – stories that I’m not sure are really true!

4. Sherlock Holmes Handbook– a new edition of this essential handbook.

5.Eliminate the Impossible: An Examination of the World of Sherlock Holmes on Page and Screen – a fascinating examination of Holmes’ world from the author soon to bring us a book about my literary agent’s time in Norwood.

6.The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Volume 1 and Volume 2 – Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce radio shows. Witty, fast-paced, and always surprising, these great radio plays are as fresh as when they first premiered and feature perfect sound.

7. Sherlock Holmes’s London – a recreation of the London Holmes and I know.

8. Sherlock Holmes Calendar 2010 – how could you manage without this?

9. Sherlock Holmes: The Unauthorized Biography – pure guesswork of course!

10.Sherlock Holmes Handbook: Methods and Mysteries of the World’s Greatest Detective – seems as though this gives the whole game away!

This is only the start of what promises to be a bumper year of Holmes books and other paraphernalia as the Sherlock Holmes film creates a renewed interest in the world’s first consulting detective. There’s even going to be a Sherlock Holmes for Dummies!

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