Down again today.
This is a slightly mucked about with view of the statue of Sherlock Holmes in Edinburgh
 Technical expression
It’s a funny thing – you wait ages for a paranormal take on Sherlock Holmes, then two come along at once, or something like that. Anyway, this was another Amazon recommendation thingy, and it was a successful one in that (a) I was persuaded to buy it and (b) I enjoyed it.
As with the recent Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows, this starts with a retelling of the meeting between Holmes and Watson. Only this time, there are even more differences, not least that we’re now dealing with Warlock Holmes, who is, as his name suggests, not quite the rational detective we’re used to. The other little matter is, that despite having dark and mysterious powers, being occupied by various spirits (including Moriarty, who occasionally speaks through him), he is, not to put too fine a point on it, an idiot. By contrast, Watson soon shows a brilliant talent for deductive reasoning, taking us into two variant forms of Holmes stories at once.
The book consists of retellings (more or less, give or take) of A Study in Scarlet and several of the short stories. We encounter the usual Scotland Yard detectives: Lestrade, who in this version is a vampire, and Groggson (not to be confused with Greggson, of course), who’s an ogre. All perfectly normal, really…
There’s a lot of fun to be had, for instance when a character I won’t name to avoid spoilers, predicts his own death due to his
cardio-cranial narrative-sensitive exploditis
I think you can work that one out, and a lovely take on an old favourite
‘Tell him nothing, Watson!’ Warlock urged, struggling to reclaim his balance. ‘And for God’s sake, John, don’t let him learn your name!’
I did mention the idiot bit, didn’t I?
It ends on a suitably dramatic cliffhanger, setting things up for the sequel, due in 2017.
Good fun for fans of Sherlock Holmes who don’t take him too seriously. I think it would also appeal to readers of Wilkie Martin’s Inspector Hobbes books. Well, it did to me, and I’m both of those things.
Woo hoo! More fun from the ubiquitous Kim Newman, once again playing his familiar game of “spot the reference”. Having had great fun with the Anno Dracula series, he’s turned his vast intellect to another literary figure: the Phantom of the Opera.
Erik, as the Phantom is named, isn’t bent on world domination, death and destruction or anything like that. No, he’s running a detective agency. At any given time, he has three female agents, coordinated by his assistant, while he stays in the shadows, communicating by speaking tube, and if your brain isn’t squeaking “Charlie’s Angels”, it’s probably of the wrong age. Erik calls his agents Angels of Music, which pretty makes that explicit.
The book is made of a number of stories, at least some of which have been previously published, spread over a wide range of time, with different teams of Angels in each one. The Angels include Irene Adler, a name familiar to Sherlock Holmes readers, Sophy Kratides who Sherlock Holmes readers should also recall and one Elizabeth Eynsford Hill, who you might recall under her maiden name of Eliza Doolittle. And others.
Adversaries include Charles Foster Kane, who not content with trying to stir up a European war, is selling rather nasty food from his, err, Burgher Kane stalls.
I’ll just mention some of the gags and references I spotted:
She expects the pleasure of the company of Rhandi Lal, the Khasi of Kalabar, and his daughter, the Princess Jelhi.
I’ll, err, Carry On with the next one if you didn’t like that.
The clowns were performing some interminable rhapsody from Bohemia
No? Oh well, easy come, easy go…
Just in case anyone didn’t remember Irene Adler
‘Prague is in Bohemia’, said Irene. ‘Not my favourite vacation spot.’
Well, no. And one more…
‘We aren’t the Angels you seek,’ said Unorna, low and even. There was a pause. Kate fancied she heard a humming sound. Unorna made a small, precise gesture which drew the eye in. ‘These aren’t the Angels we seek,’ said Max, waving them on.
Oh dearie me….
Yes, it’s all enormous fun. If you enjoyed the Anno Dracula books, you should enjoy this too.
 OK, from The Greek Interpreter. We learn here what happened to her after Holmes’s not particularly helpful intervention
 Pygmalion? Oh, all right, My Fair Lady
 There are probably many more
This popped up as a recommendation on Amazon, and it looked interesting enough to order for my Kindle.
It’s the first in a planned trilogy of slightly different Sherlock Holmes stories billed as The Cthulhu Casebooks, which should give you a bit of a hint as to what it’s about. It starts with the more or less traditional bit of the author getting hold of what appear to be original manuscripts (or in this case typescripts) of previously unknown works by John H Watson (insert standard note about Conan Doyle being the editor, etc etc). But these documents are a wee bit different. Apparently written by a much older Watson, they reveal for the first time the truth about how Watson was injured in Afghanistan, how he and Holmes really met, and much much more. Lovegrove expresses the traditional doubts about the authenticity of the documents – are they really the work of Watson, or could they be a modern hoax carefully created using paper of the appropriate age? The problem for the reader is that Lovegrove admits to have made minor edits to the text – mostly to clear up Watson’s notorious issues with getting dates wrong, but can we be sure he hasn’t made other alterations? I certainly spotted what seem to be a few anachronisms – a reference to “liberal reformers” in connection with prisons, an expression that doesn’t sounds particularly 1880s, or even 1920s (when Watson allegedly typed the documents) to me. And referring to the Metropolitan Police as “the Met” doesn’t sound at all right. Signs of confused editing or of a more modern origin of the documents? Hmmmm
Anyway, if we accept this document at face value, it demolishes much of what we know, or thought we knew about Holmes. While he did indeed intend to set up as a the world’s first consulting detective, this was swept aside when he and Watson found themselves becoming involved in a very dark mystery, which leads them to researching some very disturbing documents held in the really secret bit of the British Museum Library. Readers familiar with the secrets revealed by Lovegrove’s distant relation H P Lovecraft will find this disturbingly familiar.
As their investigation into some mysterious (and nasty) deaths leads them closer to the horrible truth about what’s going on, things get personal when Sherlock’s brother Mycroft and Inspector Gregson are captured by minions of yes, you guessed it, Professor Moriarty, who we learn to be something much worse than the Napoleon of Crime of the previously published stories, with a Very Sinister Plan.
Minor quibbles about editorial anachronisms aside, this is a fascinating beginning to a series of revelations about one of the best-known figures of the late 19th century.
Or, to put it another way: great fun – if you like a good bit of Sherlock Holmes, it’s worth a read. If you like a bit of H P Lovecraft, it’s also worth a look. And if you like both, you really should give it a try. I’m looking forward to the next one already.
 Possible understatement
 I should probably point out that I’m playing along with the Sherlockian game for the purposes of this post
 And perhaps I’m mistaken about those
And here we are with the third book in the legendary Brentford Trilogy, as my great Robert Rankin Re-read-athon creaks along. First published in 1984, this involves yet more apocalyptic goings-on in the famous London borough. Readers who survived the experience of The Brentford Triangle may be either relieved or confused to find that there are no signs of the devastation and destruction that occurred in that book. Well, confusion s part of the Rankin package, so you’ll just have to get used to it. Has some cosmic reset button been pressed, or is it, as Douglas Adams might have said, just life? It’s probably best not to think about such matters and just get on with the story. Oh, and you’d better get used to pun-loaded titles. There will be more…
Everything appears to be being taken over by a company calling itself Latienos & Romiith. They appear to be behind the scheme to abolish actual cash and label everyone with barcodes, which as is correctly pointed out, have eighteen bars split into three groups of six. Six Six Six, even. And yes, these marks are indeed placed on either the right hand or the forehead, which comes as a Revelation to our heroes Pooley and Omally, especially after Pooley manages to win an almost incalculable fortune from his six-horse accumulator bet, and when he’s taken the huge amount of money to the bank, finds the only way he can get at it is via his new barcode.
Now that might be bad enough, but there’s also the little matter of the enormous Latienos and Romiith building springing up in Brentford. And the forcefield thingy separating the borough from the outside world. And people being replaced by evil robotic replicas. And, as they say, much more, not least Sherlock Holmes, who’s prematurely, if usefully, revived from suspended animation.
Much madness follows, with the inventive Norman coming up with his own replica and a time machine of the H G Wells variety, which might come in handy…
The whole thing is utterly bonkers, as you might expect. And if the ending has you saying “eh? what? how? when? whither? whence?”, you won’t be alone.
According to I, Robert, after this book, both he and his editor were shown the door by the then publisher on grounds of low sales. Shocking.
 Must be, it says so on the cover
 It’s got all these books written about it!
 Decimation optional
 Don’t talk to me about life, etc
 Sorry, had to be done
It had, of course, been far too long since the last time we saw Sherlock – getting on for two years, in fact, so to describe last night’s one-off special as “long awaited” is a wee bit of an understatement, which is the kind of thing I tend to do around here, so that’s what I’ll be doing. Oh, and as talking about the story in anything more than the vaguest way will potentially cause distress for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, I should probably include this old thing before I go on:
It’s likely that the random mutterings that follow will reveal some things you might prefer not to know if you haven’t seen the episode yet, so in my usual way, I’ll include this warning:
We’ve known for a while that there’s going to be a one-off special episode of Sherlock, before another series is made. We’ve also known that it’s being set in the original Sherlock Holmes time period. What we haven’t known is exactly what’s going on with that. Well, we now have a hint in the form of a short clip, which suggests levels of self-reference and metawossnameness that will make heads spin. Looks like fun, anyway:
After all that walking in Edinburgh yesterday, I had enough odd little aches to decide that it might be a good idea to have a quiet day in, which is what I did.
This is a photograph of the statue of Sherlock Holmes, which can be found near the birthplace of his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I found it after reading the sign on the nearby Conan Doyle pub. I’m not sure Conan Doyle would have approved, really. He always wanted to be remembered for his more serious historical novels that are pretty much forgotten these days…
OK, the time has come. You’ve all had plenty of time to watch the episode at least once, so I can now ruminate on the subject in my usual rambling way. But just in case you’ve been trapped in a well, or isolated from civilisation, I’ll give my now-traditional warning before going on;
Some time has clearly passed since we last saw the Doctor in The Angels Take Manhattan. Time for him to settle down in a grumpy kind of way in Victorian London. Time to set up a permanent parking slot for the TARDIS on some kind of frozen cloud fitted out with a dimension-bending spiral staircase that not only allows quick access to cloud level but quite handily can’t be seen from below. Time for the TARDIS to have acquired some external damage. Time for the TARDIS to have a new interior. Time for him to settle near his friends Madam Vastra and her assistant and wife Jenny, not to mention the Sontaran nurse Strax, who is somewhat less dead than last time we saw these characters in A Good Man Goes to War.
But so far, he hasn’t had enough time to return to being the Doctor we all know. He’s withdrawn. Given up on saving worlds, beaten down by the loss of his friends and, not to put too fine a point on it, sulking.
But all it takes is the right person to come along, together with the wrong alien threat, and soon enough he’s back on form. Fascinated by Clara, a young woman with at least two sides to her life, and some very odd snow, he gets involved again.
There is, of course, lots of running around, a nasty ice woman, the rather unpleasant snowmen, and their apparent leader, Doctor Simeon, who turns out to be a mere pawn in the incorporeal hands of a formless intelligence. A Great Intelligence, which shows an odd degree of interest in a map of the London Underground from the 1960s that’s on a tin the Doctor happens to have. This rings a vague bell in the Doctor’s memory, and a big loud clanking one in those of older fans. Could this be the same thing that he had problems with in Tibet and London who knows how many years ago for him? Could it be the same thing that isn’t yeti ready for its more serious attack on earth?
But all this is really a side matter to the real story. The heart of this isn’t even the Doctor returning to what he does best – getting involved, and generally messing around. No, the real issue here is the massive question of who (or what?) Clara Oswin Oswald actually is. Somehow, a young Victorian is the same person who was actually a Dalek in Asylum of the Daleks. Same voice, same lines, same character. Even down to the souffle thing. And dead in both times and places. Now this is interesting. I think we’re going to be teased a lot over the eight episodes which will be showing from April onwards…
 Silurian. Detective.
 Yes, yes, we know. Wrong name, but we’re stuck with it.
 The real inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, of course
 Yes, I did go there. Sorry, but it had to be done
 Not very, of course
When I mentioned the Bard of Brentford’s last book, The Mechanical Messiah and Other Marvels of the Modern Age, I wondered if he’d carry on in the same kind of bonkers steampunk mode or wander off in another bizarre direction. Well, as it happens, he’s stayed in the same milieu, if you’ll excuse the word. Well, he’s done it whether you’ll excuse the word or not, so I’m not quite sure why I gave you the opportunity to object. He’s also stuck with the pattern of nicely silly long titles, as you can see. I’ve seen some references to this being the third volume of a trilogy, but you do need to understand that some Rankin trilogies have rather more than three parts, so there could well be more of this kind of thing to follow, which would make me quite happy.
I think I’ve digressed enough for the moment, so lets go back to the book. The fun starts with what appears to be a spaceship crashing on Syon House, which in Rankin’s late nineteenth century is the home of Lord Brentford, recently returned from an unfortunate episode of being presumed dead, and not the Duke of Northumberland at all. The spaceship turns out to be more of a time machine than a space machine, and you know how much trouble time travel tends to cause…
The story involves The Greatest Detective in the World, Cameron Bell, who you might recall was the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes (in his actions) and Mr Pickwick (in his appearance), who along with his assistant Darwin, the only monkey known to have the gift of speech, manages to get into some more advanced difficulties than usual.
There’s an Evil Plot, millennial nonsense happening a century early, an Evil Twin or two and plenty of the usually unusual lunacy, including some quite nice endnotes. It’s even got a moderately coherent plot which is only mildly confusing.
Like every other Robert Rankin book, it’s utterly Dagenham, if not Brentford. Great fun and well worth reading.
 Several stops past Barking
 On a different line altogether