Authors: Martin H. Greenberg
Copyright Â© 2009 by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenberg, and Daniel Stashower
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Introduction: “âAmerican, as you perceive,'” copyright Â© 2009 by Jon Lellenberg and Daniel Stashower
“The Case of Colonel Warburton's Madness,” copyright Â© 2009 by Lyndsay Faye
“Ghosts and the Machine,” copyright Â© 2009 by Lloyd Rose
“Excerpts from an Unpublished Memoir Found in the Basement of the Home for Retired Actors,”
copyright Â© 2009 by Steve Hockensmith
“The Flowers of Utah,” copyright Â© 2009 by Robert Pohle
“The Adventure of the Coughing Dentist,” copyright Â© 2009 by Loren D. Estleman
“The Minister's Missing Daughter,” copyright Â© 2009 by Victoria Thompson
“The Case of Colonel Crockett's Violin,” copyright Â© 2009 by Gillian Linscott
“The Adventure of the White City,” copyright Â© 2009 by Bill Crider
“Recalled to Life,” copyright Â© 2009 by Paula Cohen
“The Seven Walnuts,” copyright Â© 2009 by Daniel Stashower
“The Adventure of the Boston Dromio,” copyright Â© 2009 by Matthew Pearl
“The Case of the Rival Queens,” copyright Â© 2009 by Carolyn Wheat
“The Adventure of the Missing Three Quarters,” copyright Â© 2009 by Jon L. Breen
“The Song at Twilight,” copyright Â© 2009 by MichÃ©al Breathnach
“Moriarty, Moran, and More: Anti-Hibernian Sentiment in the Canon,” copyright Â© 2009 by
“How the Creator of Sherlock Holmes Brought Him to America,” copyright Â© 2009 by
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Sherlock Holmes in America / edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L.
Lellenberg, and Daniel Stashower.
1. Detective and mystery stories, American. 2. Holmes, Sherlock
(Fictitious character)--Fiction. 3. Watson, John H. (Fictitious
character)--Fiction. I. Greenberg, Martin Harry. II. Lellenberg, Jon L.
III. Stashower, Daniel.
Printed in the United States of America
Jon L. Lellenberg and Daniel Stashower
t is always a joy to meet an American,” declares Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor,” “for I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same worldwide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.”
It should not come as a surprise, then, to find that the Sherlock Holmes stories are fairly bursting with Americans. The Great Detective's very first outing,
A Study in Scarlet
, features a lengthy flashback set in the Mormon community of Utah, while the novel
The Valley of Fear
turns on an account of nefarious doings in the coal-mining communities of Pennsylvania. Americans feature prominently in several of the most popular Holmes adventures, including
The Five Orange Pips
The Adventure of the Dancing Men,
and no less a figure than
woman, the legendary Irene Adler “of dubious and questionable memory” who bested Sherlock Holmes, hailed from New Jersey. If further evidence is required, one need only recall that Holmes himself posed as an Irish-American spy named Altamont to outwit the German spymaster Von Bork in
His Last Bow
Like his famous detective, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was an enthusiastic admirer of the United States. In boyhood he was fascinated by the frontier tales of James Fenimore Cooper and Mayne Reid, and as a young writer he drew inspiration from Edgar Allan Poe, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Mark Twain, and Bret Harte. Over the course of his lifetime, Conan Doyle made four visits to the United States, and called for the creation of an Anglo-American society to promote understanding and friendship between the two nations. The dedication of his novel
The White Company
reads: “To the Hope of the Future, the Reunion of the English Speaking Races, This Little Chronicle of Our Common Ancestry Is Inscribed.”
In that spirit, the present volume brings together a collection of new stories written by some of today's best mystery writers, in which Holmes and Watson strike out for the United States. “That's paying for brains, you see,” as Holmes remarks in
The Valley of Fear,
“the American business principle.” Some readers may balk at finding the Great Detective uprooted from his familiar Baker Street digs, but we believe we are playing the game according to Doyle.
“It air strange, it air,” he once wrote, in a story called
The American's Tale
, “but I could tell you queerer things than that 'ereâalmighty queer things. You can't learn everything out of books, sirs, no how. You see it ain't the men as can string English together and as has had good eddications as finds themselves in the queer places I've been in. They're mostly rough men, sirs, as can scarce speak aright, far less tell with pen and ink the things they've seen; but if they could they'd make some of your European's har riz with astonishment.”
Indeed, as Sherlock Holmes once observed, “American slang is very expressive sometimes.”
Lyndsay Faye is the author of the historical thriller
Dust and Shadow: An Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H. Watson
, in which the Great Detective must trace the infamous serial killer in a pre-Freudian world, amidst the hostile censure of the gutter press, and at the risk of his own life. She spent many years in the San Francisco Bay Area, working as a professional actress. Lyndsay and her husband, Gabriel Lehner, now live in Manhattan with their cat, Grendel; she is a proud member of Actor's Equity Association and the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes. Visit her Web site at
y friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes, while possessed of one of the most vigorous minds of our generation, and while capable of displaying tremendous feats of physical activity when the situation required it, could nevertheless remain in his armchair perfectly motionless longer than any human being I have ever encountered. This skill passed wholly unrecognized by its owner. I do not believe he held any intentions to impress me so, nor do I think the exercise was, for him, a strenuous one. Still I maintain the belief that when a man has held the same pose for a period exceeding three hours, and when that man is undoubtedly awake, that same man has accomplished an unnatural feat.
I turned away from my task of organizing a set of old journals that lead-grey afternoon to observe Holmes perched with one leg curled beneath him, firelight burnishing the edges of his dressing gown as he sat with his head in his hand, a long-abandoned book upon the carpet. The familiar sight had grown increasingly unnerving as the hours progressed. It was with a view to ascertain that my friend was still alive that I went so far against my habits as to interrupt his reverie.
“My dear chap, would you care to take a turn with me? I've an errand with the bootmaker down the road, and the weather has cleared somewhat.”
I do not know if it was the still-ominous dark canopy that deterred him or his own pensive mood, but Holmes merely replied, “I require better distraction just now than an errand which is not my own and the capricious designs of a March rainstorm.”
“What precise variety of distraction would be more to your liking?” I inquired, a trifle nettled at his dismissal.
He waved a slender hand, at last lifting his dark head from the upholstery where it had reclined for so long. “Nothing you can provide me. It is the old storyâfor these two days I have received not a shred of worthwhile correspondence, nor has any poor soul abused our front doorbell with an eye to engage my services. The world is weary, I am weary, and I grow weary with being weary of it. Thus, Watson, as you see I am entirely useless myself at the moment, my state cannot be bettered through frivolous occupations.”
“I suppose I would be pleased no one is so disturbed in mind as to seek your aid, if I did not know what your work meant to you,” I said with greater sympathy.
“Well, well, there is no use lamenting over it.”
“No, but I should certainly help if I could.”
“What could you possibly do?” he sniffed. “I hope you are not about to tell me your pocket watch has been stolen, or your great-aunt disappeared without trace.”
“I am safe on those counts, thank you. But perhaps I can yet offer you a problem to vex your brain for half an hour.”
“A problem? Oh, I'm terribly sorryâI had forgotten. If you want to know where the other key to the desk has wandered off to, I was given cause recently to test the pliancy of such objects. I'll have a new one madeâ”
“I had not noticed the key,” I interrupted him with a smile, “but I could, if you like, relate a series of events which once befell me when I was in practice in San Francisco, the curious details of which have perplexed me for years. My work on these old diaries reminded me of them yet again, and the circumstances were quite in your line.”
“I suppose I should be grateful you are at least not staring daggers at my undocketed case files,” he remarked.
“You see? There are myriad advantages. It would be preferable to venturing out, for it is already raining again. And should you refuse, I will be every bit as unoccupied as you, which I would also prefer to avoid.” I did not mention that if he remained a statue an instant longer, the sheer eeriness of the room would force me out of doors.
“You are to tell me a tale of your frontier days, and I am to solve it?” he asked blandly, but the subtle angle of one eyebrow told me he was intrigued.
“Yes, if you can.”
“What if you haven't the data?”
“Then we shall proceed directly to the brandy and cigars.”
“It's a formidable challenge.” To my great relief, he lifted himself in the air by his hands and crossed his legs underneath him, reaching when he had done so for the pipe lying cold on the side table. “I cannot say I've any confidence it can be done, but as an experiment, it has a certain flair.”
“In that case, I shall tell you the story, and you may pose any questions that occur to you.”
“From the beginning, mind, Watson,” he admonished, settling himself into a comfortable air of resigned attention. “And with as many details as you can summon up.”
“It is quite fresh in my mind again, for I'd set it down in the volumes I was just mulling over. As you know, my residence in America was relatively brief, but San Francisco lives in my memory quite as vividly as Sydney or Bombayâan impetuous, thriving little city nestled among the great hills, where the fogs are spun from ocean air and the sunlight refracts from Montgomery Street's countless glass windows. It is as if all the men and women of enterprise across the globe determined they should have a city of their own, for the Gold Rush built it and the Silver Lode built it again, and now that they have been linked by railroad with the eastern states, the populace believes nothing is impossible under the sun. You would love it there, Holmes. One sees quite as many nations and trades represented as in London, all jostling one another into a thousand bizarre coincidences, and you would not be surprised to find a Chinese apothecary wedged between a French milliner and an Italian wine merchant.
“My practice was based on Front Street in a small brick building, near a number of druggist establishments, and I readily received any patients who happened my way. Poor or well-off, genteel or ruffianly, it made no difference to a boy in the first flush of his career. I'd no long-established references, and for that reason no great clientele, but it was impossible to feel small in that city, for they so prized hard work and optimism that I felt sudden successes lay every moment round the next corner.
“One hazy afternoon, as I'd no appointments and I could see the sun lighting up the masts of the ships in the Bay, I decided I'd sat idle long enough, and set out for a bit of exercise. It is one of San Francisco's peculiar characteristics that no matter what direction one wanders, one must encounter a steep hill, for there are seven of them, and within half an hour of walking aimlessly away from the water, I found myself striding up Nob Hill, staring in awe at the array of houses.
“Houses, in fact, are rather a misnomer; they call it Nob Hill because it is populated by mining and railroad nabobs, and the residences are like something from the reign of Ludwig the Second or Marie Antoinette. Many are larger than our landed estates, but all built within ten years of the time I arrived. I ambled past a gothic near-castle and a neo-classicist mansion only to spy an italianate villa across the street, each making an effort to best all others in stained glass, columns, and turrets. The neighborhoodâ”
“Was a wealthy one,” Holmes sighed, hopping out of his chair to pour two glasses of claret.
“And you would doubtless have found that section of town appalling.” As he handed me a wine glass, I smiled at the thought of my Bohemian friend eyeing those pleasure domes with cool distaste. “There would have been others more to your liking, I think. Nevertheless, it was a marvel of architecture, and as I neared the crest of the hill, I stopped to take in the view of the Pacific.
“Standing there watching the sun glow orange over the waves, I heard a door fly open and turned to see an old man hobbling frantically down a manicured path leading to the street. The mansion he'd exited was built more discreetly than most, vaguely Grecian and painted white. He was very tallâquite as tall as you, my dear fellowâbut with shoulders like an ox. He dressed in a decades-old military uniform, with a tattered blue coat over his grey trousers, and a broad red tie and cloth belt, his silvery hair standing out from his head as if he'd just stepped from the thick of battle.
“Although he cut an extraordinary figure, I would not have paid him much mind in that mad metropolis had not a young lady rushed after him in pursuit, crying out, âUncle! Stop, please! You mustn't go, I beg of you!'
“The man she'd addressed as her uncle gained the kerb not ten feet from where I stood, and then all at once collapsed onto the pavement, his chest no longer heaving and the leg which had limped crumpled underneath him.
“I rushed to his side. He breathed, but shallowly. From my closer vantage point, I could see one of his limbs was false, and that it had come loose from its leather straps, causing his fall. The girl reached us not ten seconds later, gasping for breath even as she made a valiant effort to prevent her eyes from tearing.
“âIs he all right?' she asked me.
“âI think so,' I replied, âbut I prefer to be certain. I am a doctor, and I would be happy to examine him more carefully indoors.'
“âI cannot tell you how grateful we would be. Jefferson!' she called to a tall black servant hurrying down the path. âPlease help us get the colonel inside.'
“Between the three of us, we quickly established my patient on the sofa in a cheerful, glass-walled morning room, and I was able to make a more thorough diagnosis. Apart from the carefully crafted wooden leg, which I reattached more securely, he seemed in perfect health, and if he were not such a large and apparently hale man I should have imagined that he had merely fainted.
“âHas he hurt himself, Doctor?' the young woman asked breathlessly.
“Despite her evident distress, I saw at once she was a beautiful woman, with a small-framed, feminine figure, and yet a large measure of that grace which goes with greater stature. Her hair was light auburn, swept away from her creamy complexion in loose waves and wound in an elegant knot, and her eyes shone golden brown through her remaining tears. She wore a pale blue dress trimmed with silver, and her ungloved hand clutched in apprehension at the folds. Sheâmy dear fellow, are you all right?”
“Perfectly,” Holmes replied with another cough which, had I been in an uncharitable humour, would have resembled a chuckle. “Do go on.”
“âThis man will be quite all right once he has rested,' I told her. âMy name is John Watson.'
“âForgive meâI am Molly Warburton, and the man you've been tending is my uncle, Colonel Patrick Warburton. Oh, what a fright I have had! I cannot thank you enough.'
“âMiss Warburton, I wonder if I might speak with you in another room, so as not to disturb your uncle while he recovers.'
“She led me across the hall into another tastefully appointed parlour and fell exhaustedly into a chair. I hesitated to disturb her further, and yet I felt compelled to make my anxieties known.
“âMiss Warburton, I do not think your uncle would have collapsed in such a dramatic manner had he not been under serious mental strain. Has anything occurred recently which might have upset him?'
“âDr. Watson, you have stumbled upon a family embarrassment,' she said softly. âMy uncle's mental state has been precarious for some time now, and I fear recently heâhe has taken a great turn for the worse.'
“âI am sorry to hear it.'
“âThe story takes some little time in telling,' she sighed, âbut I will ring for tea, and you will know all about it. First of all, Dr. Watson, I live here with my brother, Charles, and my uncle, the colonel. Apart from Uncle Patrick, Charles and I have no living relatives, and we are very grateful to him for his generosity, for Uncle made a great fortune in shipping during the early days of California statehood. My brother is making his start in the photography business, and I am unmarried, so living with the colonel is for the moment a very comfortable situation.'