Authorship and authenticity in Sherlock Holmes pastiches

Sanna Nyqvist

University of Helsinki, Helsinki, Finland

[0.1] Abstract—Rewritings and adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes stories are traditionally called pastiches among fandom. This article juxtaposes that established use with the literary critical notion of pastiche as imitation of style, and shows how stylistic affinity to the originals produces complex effects in the imitations. The article identifies two main strands in the pastiches: one that aims to correct the mistakes and fill in the gaps in the original stories, and one that supplements the canon with stories Watson left untold. Balancing among homage, criticism, and usurpation, the pastiches comment on the original story world and its cultural context, and engage in fictions of authorship to account for the apparent inauthenticity of the retellings.

[0.2] Keywords—Canon; John Dickson Carr; Detective fiction; Michael Dibdin; Adrian Conan Doyle; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; Fan fiction; Imitation; Nicholas Meyer; Pastiche

Nyqvist, Sanna. 2017. "Authorship and Authenticity in Sherlock Holmes Pastiches." In "Sherlock Holmes Fandom, Sherlockiana, and the Great Game," edited by Betsy Rosenblatt and Roberta Pearson, special issue, Transformative Works and Cultures, no. 23.

1. Introduction

[1.1] The original 56 short stories and four novels about Sherlock Holmes, written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle between 1887 and 1917, hold a special position in literary history as one of the inaugural and certainly one of the most influential text corpora of detective fiction. The memorable characters of Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson have inspired a vast number of imitations, adaptations, spin-offs, and so forth. The earliest rewritings appeared in the 19th century, making Sherlock Holmes rewriters "the first fanwriting community" (Jamison 2013, loc. 906). By 1980, an international Sherlock Holmes bibliography listed over a thousand parodies and pastiches (De Waal 1980). Today, the number of printed Sherlock Holmes stories has multiplied: the success of Nicolas Meyer's novel The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (1974) and its subsequent film adaptation, together with the easing of the Conan Doyle estate's copyright vigilance, exploded the number of publication in late 20th and early 21st century (Boström 2012), and Internet sites devoted to fan fiction have added thousands of new Sherlock Holmes adventures to the corpus. Probably no other modern writer has attracted imitators in the same scale.

[1.2] In the Sherlock Holmes fandom, the literary rewritings of the original canon (the corpus of Conan Doyle's Holmes stories) have traditionally been called pastiches (e.g., De Waal 1980; Jamison 2013, loc. 286 passim; Gray 2014). The emergence, however, of Internet-based fan fiction has introduced new divisions: the term pastiche is now usually restricted to rewritings published in print form (e.g., Polasek 2012, loc. 812), while the fan fiction writers of the Internet prefer their own, highly specialized generic terminology in categorizing their texts. The distinction highlights the differences between these two modes of fan writing: published pastiches appear as solitary achievements and closed in form, while Web-based fan fiction is processual and communal. Moreover, pastiches tend to adhere to world of the originals, while contemporary fan fiction favors crossovers and is increasingly inspired by film and TV adaptations rather than the original novels and stories (Stein and Busse 2012).

[1.3] Contrasted to the Web-based fan fiction, the pastiches published in book format have consequently assumed connotations that are unusual in the tradition of derivative literature. Pastiches in print are now associated with prestige and power and seen as partaking in the same establishment of taste and economic credit as the originals (Jamison 2013). Or, they might be disparaged as commercial pro fic, a conservative and uninventive form distinct from the startling variety of Web-based fan fiction, often interpreted as subversive subculture or even as a mode of contemporary avant-garde (Grossman 2013).

[1.4] The current situation calls for a closer analysis of the more traditional print form of pastiche fan writing that has been marginalized in the current academic discussions on fan fiction, despite the fact that the print form still exists and very much prospers alongside the newer forms of fan culture. This article evokes the literary critical concept of pastiche to highlight and analyze the complex dynamics between the source text and its imitation. It should be noted that the fandom use of pastiche differs from the more precise literary critical meaning of the term. Since the late 18th century, pastiche in literature has meant consistent imitation of the style of another writer—or, by extension, school or period (Nyqvist 2010; Albertsen 1971; Dyer 2007; Genette 1992). It is therefore a specialized type of rewriting that engages first and foremost with the expression of the source text and the values and notions embedded in its stylistic choices (note 1). From this perspective, most of the versions produced within the Sherlock Holmes fandom are not pastiches, but rewritings that adapt the characters and plot patterns of the original stories without much consideration for stylistic proximity to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yet there exist a significant number of post–Conan Doylean Sherlock Holmes stories that closely resemble the style of the originals. These hardcore imitations form a unique corpus of literary pastiches where it is possible to trace textual and thematic similarities and differences among texts that imitate a common source text. In the present article, the term pastiche will be reserved for those sustained imitations of the style of the originals (note 2).

[1.5] The literary critical concept of pastiche contributes to a more nuanced understanding of stylistic imitation that is often dismissed as mere repetition. By rewriting their source texts, as it were, from within, pastiches reveal the limitations and potential of the originals, as well as the cultural context that forms them. Moreover, pastiches question the particular status of their prominent originals and challenge the notions of authenticity and originality that remain central to the ways in which the literature institution classifies and sanctions literary works. Fandom use of pastiche to designate Sherlock Holmes stories in print form is appropriate in the sense that pastiches approach their source texts primarily as literary works, not merely as story worlds to be appropriated. Thus, the pastiches may not appear as transformative as many Web-based works of fan fiction, but their metafictiveness and playfulness indicate complexity that merits closer analysis. Even the most reverent imitations bear traces of radical subversion in a manner that is typical to pastiche as a double-edged literary form.

[1.6] In this article, I apply the interpretative frames derived from the theoretical discussions around the concept of pastiche to three prominent 20th-century Sherlock Holmes pastiches that remain benchmarks even for contemporary fan writers. Two of the analyzed texts hail from the 1970s, which marked the beginning of a new phase in the Sherlock Holmes fandom. Billy Wilder's unorthodox rendering of the famous sleuth in the film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970) inspired others to depart from the respectful and humorous mode that characterized the majority of earlier rewritings and adaptations. In literature, Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution set the tone for many subsequent rewritings. When published in 1974, it became a worldwide bestseller, followed by a film adaptation (1976), two sequels (The West-End Horror [1976] and The Canary Trainer [1993]), a comics version (2014), and a play (2015). The Seven-Per-Cent Solution introduces the famous detective to Sigmund Freud, and together the two solve a mystery that threatens international peace. In a similar vein, in The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (1978) by Michael Dibdin, Holmes encounters a prominent contemporary figure, Jack the Ripper (note 3). In contrast to many other rewritings, Meyer's and Dibdin's 1970s novels have been translated to many languages and remained in print (or made available as digital editions and audio books), attesting to their prominence and popularity among Sherlock Holmes rewritings.

[1.7] Meyer's and Dibdin's novels represent the type of rewriting that openly challenges its originals. The other main strand of rewriting, by contrast, aims to reproduce the atmosphere of the originals without any noticeable changes. Of this variety, The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (1952), coauthored by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's son, Adrian Conan Doyle, and American mystery writer John Dickson Carr, is of particular interest. Collaboration between the son of the original author and a prominent mystery writer was meant to provide an authoritative sequel to the originals. The estate of Conan Doyle has in recent years again produced new Sherlock Holmes stories in order to benefit economically from the popularity of the detective even after the expiration of the copyright (of these authorized versions, the Young Sherlock Holmes series by Andrew Lane doesn't imitate the style of the originals, whereas the novels by Anthony Horowitz can be categorized as pastiches). While the 1952 pastiche is empathically framed as a tribute to the original canon, it too exhibits the characteristic, problematical dynamics of stylistic imitation as homage and blasphemy.

2. Corrective and complementary pastiches

[2.1] Duality is elemental to literary pastiche: while pastiche resurrects an earlier style, it also tends to question or undermine the status and value of that style, even in cases where that isn't necessarily the intention of the pasticheur (Nyqvist 2010). By disconnecting a style from its context of origin, pastiche calls into question the received notion of authorship based on the problematic conflation of originality, stylistic unity, and authority. One of its earliest specific uses has been literary criticism (du Roure 1828). By recreating the style of another writer, the pasticheur not only shows his or her appreciation of that style, but is also able to highlight the mannerisms and tics of the source text or flaws in the worldview it seeks to convey.

[2.2] In detective fiction pastiches, the object of imitation is not style in abstract, as that would hardly satisfy the reading audience, but the entire story world of the original. It would be difficult to imagine a convincing and recognizable pastiche of Arthur Conan Doyle without the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Stylistic imitation is therefore first and foremost a vehicle to engage with the universe of the originals: to fill in the gaps in the canon and produce new adventures. The Sherlock Holmes pastiches can therefore be divided into two main groups according to their relationship and attitude to the source texts.

[2.3] Corrective pastiches, such as the novels of Meyer and Dibdin, return to the world of the originals in order to account for the inconsistencies and mistakes in the originals. Favorite targets are the short stories "The Final Problem" and its sequel "The Empty House," in which versions of the death and reappearance of Holmes are presented as hoaxes. The original stories and their improbable solutions to the disappearance and return of Holmes become the mystery to be solved in the pastiches, in which the gaps and gaffes function as clues to the fuller narrative behind the unsatisfactory account provided by Watson/Conan Doyle. The pasticheurs thus use Holmes's ratiocinative method to account for the improbabilities in the source texts. Yet the unity and order they seek to establish in the narrative of Sherlock Holmes will in some sense always fail: they can neither completely eradicate the source texts—the "wrong" versions—nor account for their existence (why did Watson/Conan Doyle write these bogus stories)?

[2.4] The other type of pastiches continues the original series in a straightforward manner. These complementary pastiches—for instance, The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes or June Thomson's Sherlock Holmes series—often draw their inspiration from the many stories Watson refers to but does not recount in full. These references point out the absence of texts from the canon, a gap complementary pastiches aim to fill. Unlike corrective pastiches, they do not aim to criticize and contest the existing stories. Some complementary pastiches, like The House of Silk (2011) by Anthony Horowitz, supplement the cultural context of the originals by introducing new phenomena, such as organized pedophilia, but they don't identify particular gaps or mistakes in the originals in the manner of corrective pastiches.

[2.5] The distinction between complementary and corrective pastiches overlaps to a degree with the distinction between affirmational and transformational fandom, introduced by a fan under the alias obsession_inc and summarized by Stein and Busse (2012, loc. 322) as follows: "whereas the former analyzes and interprets the source text, creating shared meaning and characterizations, the latter aggressively alters and transforms the source, changing and manipulating it to the fans' own desires." Yet the pastiches usually refrain from the more intrusive interventions and alterations, such as crossovers between two different source texts, as that would be difficult to balance with the requirement of stylistic proximity.

[2.6] Regardless of the orientation, a common feature in the Sherlock Holmes pastiches is their pseudoacademic appearance: they are furnished with prefaces, explanatory notes, and epilogues. Detective fiction is a bookish genre—letters, ciphers, literary quotations are common—and the habit of Conan Doyle of investing his novels with subtitles such as "Being a reprint from the reminiscences of John H. Watson MD, late of the Army Medical Department" (in A Study in Scarlet [1887]) or "Extract from the diary of Dr. Watson" (chapter 10 in The Hound of the Baskervilles [1902]) may function as an inspiration for the paratexts framing the pastiches, but their excesses call for further interpretation. Moreover, some of the stories in Conan Doyle's corpus, such as the prominent "The Final Problem" and "The Speckled Band," are in fact presented as corrective rewritings to begin with. At the beginning of the former, Conan Doyle's narrator Dr. Watson writes:

[2.7] My hand has been forced, however, by the recent letters in which Colonel James Moriarty defends the memory of his brother, and I have no choice but to lay the facts before the public exactly as they occurred. I alone know the absolute truth of the matter, and I am satisfied that the time has come when no good purpose is to be served by its suppression. (Conan Doyle 2000, 421)

[2.8] He then goes on to review three earlier accounts of the death of Sherlock Holmes that are all dismissed as inadequate. Corrective pasticheurs in particular have benefited from this acknowledgment, which illustrates the power of rewritings or fictions of rewritings. Textual lineage—whether imagined or real—gives the text a special kind of credibility. The fact that so many Sherlock Holmes pastiches are also presented as rewritings where Watson returns to an enigmatic case and offers a more satisfactory account of it underlines the commentary relationship the pastiches have to their source texts. They participate in the construction of a canon within the canon by referring frequently to certain stories and castigating others, and draw attention to the central elements as well as the gaps in the source texts. The pseudoacademic apparatus also functions as a commentary on the pastiches: the notes and prefaces justify the imitation and establish its connection to the source texts. Metafictiveness is thus an element of realism both in the source texts and the pastiches.

[2.9] Finally, the Sherlock Holmes pastiches are—despite their varying aims—fundamentally homages. This is of course a common effect in pastiches, but the perspective of narration in the original Sherlock Holmes stories markedly enhances the effect. Conan Doyle's Watson depicts his friend as an admirable character, and it would be hard to pastiche the originals in a convincing way if one wanted to alter this emotional undercurrent of the narration. Watson's admiration, devotion, and unfailing friendship reflect a common pasticheurs' attitude toward the texts they imitate. None of the three pastiches under investigation radically destroys Holmes or turns Watson against him. All of them even quote Watson's verdict of his supposedly dead friend at the end of "The Final Problem": "He was the best and wisest man I have ever known" (Dibdin 1996, 165, 190; Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, 338; Meyer 1976, 38).

3. Deceptive appearances: The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer

[3.1] The pastiches of the Sherlock Holmes stories abound with iconic paraphernalia. It is apparently impossible to imitate Conan Doyle without referring to the central imagery of Holmes and his surroundings: the Persian slipper (where he keeps his tobacco), his Stradivarius, or the smoke-filled atmosphere of the bachelor pad at 221b Baker Street where the ring of the doorbell or hasty steps on the stairs announce the appearance of a new client. But to create an illusion of Conan Doyle's style and to justify the paratextual claims of authenticity, a pasticheur must do something other than merely recycle the famous props. Much of the source text's power lies in the dramatic, detailed prose that guides the reader toward the climax and solution of the mystery. The following scene from the famous story "The Speckled Band" (1892) offers a condensed and effective example of some of the common stylistic means used by Conan Doyle. Watson and Holmes are discussing the preceding visit of a client when they are suddenly interrupted:

[3.2] "But what, in the name of the devil!"

[3.3] The ejaculation had been drawn from my companion by the fact that our door had been suddenly dashed open, and that a huge man framed himself in the aperture. His costume was a peculiar mixture of the professional and of the agricultural, having a black top-hat, a long frock-coat, and a pair of high gaiters, with a hunting-crop swinging in his hand. So tall was he that his hat actually brushed the cross-bar of the doorway, and his breadth seemed to span it across from side to side. A large face, seared with a thousand wrinkles, burned yellow with the sun, and marked with every evil passion, was turned from one to the other of us, while his deep-set, bile-shot eyes, and the high thin fleshless nose, gave him somewhat the resemblance to a fierce old bird of prey.

[3.4] "Which of you is Holmes?" asked this apparition. (Conan Doyle 2000, 145)

[3.5] Even though the readers remain at this point unaware of the identity of the intruder (Dr. Grimesby Roylott of Stoke Moran), there is no doubt that they have encountered the villain of the story. Watson's description of him is in accordance with Holmes's method of investigation, in which special attention is given to the interpretation of details. Instead of a list of pure facts, Watson offers us a dramatic presentation that immediately makes us grasp the nature of the character. The scene is carefully constructed with suggestive details: Holmes's instinctive exclamation "in the name of the devil" foregrounds the devilishness of Roylott, and the surroundings seem to shrink in comparison to the powerful presence of the man—the door is narrowed into an aperture, and Roylott's hat brushes against its cross-bar. The hunting crop implies a violent character but also alludes to the means of the murder (Roylott uses a whip to control his "weapon," a poisonous snake). The sentences are fairly complex, and the description proceeds in an organized manner from the overall appearance to the man's eyes and beaklike nose, which prompts a typically Conan Doylean animal comparison that captures the essence of the man. The picture of Dr. Roylott as a bird of prey complements the description given earlier of his intended victim as a "hunted animal" (138). The style of the passage is in accordance with the "fair play" rule of classic detective fiction: the reader has access to the relevant information and can compete with the detective in figuring out the puzzle.

[3.6] The unexpected or otherwise dramatic entrance of a significant character is a trademark scene of Conan Doyle's and a common subject of imitation in the pastiches. The following passage from Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution offers a subtler but still recognizable variant of the situation:

[3.7] I was on the point of asking Holmes to explain his remark when the door was opened and into the room stepped a bearded man of medium height and stooped shoulders. I took him to be in his early forties though I subsequently learned he was only thirty-five. Through his faint smile I saw an expression of infinite sadness, coupled, as it seemed to me, with infinite wisdom. His eyes were more remarkable than anything else in his face. They were not particularly large, but they were dark and deep-set, shadowed by an over-hanging brow and piercing in their intensity. He wore a dark suit with a gold chain peeping under his jacket and stretched across his waistcoat. (Meyer 1976, 89–90)

[3.8] The gentleman greets Holmes and Watson politely but gets an agitated response from (the cocaine-ridden) Holmes:

[3.9] "You may remove that ludicrous beard," he [Holmes] said…"And kindly refrain from employing that ridiculous comic opera accent. I warn you, you'd best confess or it will go hard with you. That game is up, Professor Moriarty!"

[3.10] Our host turned slowly to him, allowing for the full effect of his piercing gaze, and said, in a soft voice: "My name is Sigmund Freud." (ibid. 90)

[3.11] Some stylistic differences are evident in this passage: the sentences are less complex, Holmes sounds like a cross between the Victorian detective and an action film hero, the description does not conclude in a suggestive trope, and Watson's point of view ("I took him to be," "I saw," "it seemed to me") is more explicit than in the extract from "The Speckled Band." The introduction of Freud may strike us as less effective than that of Dr. Roylott, but the difference is justified, since the description reflects the character of the person in question and, unlike his brutal colleague, Dr. Freud appears to be a calm yet compassionate scientist. Both descriptions note the same features: the man's posture, his clothing and the social status they imply, the expression on his face—in short, his overall appearance. This kind of style invites a straightforward interpretation: the person is as he looks. Roylott is a brute, Freud a deeply perceptive scientist.

[3.12] Appearances can, however, be deceptive. In Conan Doyle's stories, Sherlock Holmes turns this to his advantage by performing investigations in disguise. The disguise motif is often repeated in pastiches, and in Meyer's novel (e.g., Meyer 1976, 67–69), where the overt, material disguises, such as false beards, are juxtaposed with the more complex psychological roles and masks studied by Freud. The novel seeks to supplement the world of the source texts with an understanding of the unconscious and brings together the two great turn-of-the-century methodologies: psychoanalysis in its nascent state and Holmes's method of rational detection. The choice of the pastiche form proves problematic for the presentation of the former: the realistic style of the source texts does not allow for the exploration of the unconscious except fairly superficially. (Meyer is especially fond of the therapeutic cliché of hypnosis, hinted at in the description above by the mention of Freud's fob watch.) The similarities and differences between psychoanalysis and the science of detection are used instead to ignite a personal competition between Holmes and Freud. Unlike Dr. Roylott, who poses a physical threat, Dr. Freud offers an intellectual challenge to Holmes. In the above scene, Freud clearly has the upper hand: he calmly evaluates the situation while the cocaine-ridden Holmes makes himself a fool since he cannot read the signs correctly. Meyer supplants Professor Moriarty with Dr. Freud and reverses the traditional roles: now Watson is the one in the know, and Holmes is the client in need of professional help. Although Holmes later exhibits the powers of his mind by solving a mystery relating to one of Freud's patients, it is Freud who in the end manages to discover the root cause of Holmes's depression—a discovery that elicits from Watson the praise: "You are the greatest detective of all" (Meyer 1976, 231).

[3.13] The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is a corrective pastiche because it purports to offer a true account of the case that led Watson to write the bogus story "The Final Problem," but also because it offers a psychoanalytical interpretation of many of Holmes's stranger habits. His cocaine addiction, aversion to women, and obsession with "wickedness" and "injustice" are shown to derive from the childhood trauma of witnessing his mother's infidelity being punished by the father (227–28). Thus, the novel offers a larger context for the original Sherlock Holmes stories, to which it frequently refers. The notable popularity of Meyer's novel is in part due to its relationship with the canon, which it introduced to a new readership: the frequent references to the source text and explanations of details serve as a helpful résumé of the canon. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution updated the corpus of Conan Doyle's stories by bringing it into interaction with one of the most notable figures of the era, thus linking the famously ahistorical stories to a cultural context. Moreover, the psychoanalytic criticism of detective fiction had, ever since the 1950s, established a connection between psychoanalysis and detection, based on the central roles that gaps, inconsistencies, and interpretations have in both phenomena. Meyer's novel thus illustrates how pastiches often arise from a cultural context larger than their immediate source texts and how they comment on the reception history of the originals. Corrective and contextualizing, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution has subsequently become established as a "canonical" pastiche of the Sherlock Holmes stories, and has served as a source of inspiration to many subsequent rewriters.

4. Reichenbach revisited: The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (1978) by Michael Dibdin

[4.1] Michael Dibdin's The Last Sherlock Holmes Story begins with the key question of detective fiction—whodunit—but in this case the question applies first to the narrative itself. Who is its author? The fictitious editors of the preface claim to have found a manuscript purporting to be the true account of the death of Sherlock Holmes, written by Dr. Watson. Convincing evidence is offered to support its authenticity. The "manuscript" itself begins with a familiar scene—Watson describing yet another quiet morning at the Baker Street lodgings, interrupted by hasty steps on the stairs. At this point, the narrative comes to a halt and Watson confesses that he was not the author of the original stories, which were written by his "friend A.C.D." on the basis of his notes (Dibdin 1996, 14–17). Here we have Watson writing a story for the first time and discouraged by the example of A.C.D. after only half a page: "No, this really won't do. I thought I might give my story a little more conviction if I at least tried to echo A.C.D., but I cannot even manage that" (13). The Last Sherlock Holmes Story thus opens with a negative pastiche contract (note 4)—here Watson/Dibdin is not imitating Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—that simultaneously affirms the source text and gives the pasticheur more freedom with details than a claim to faithfulness would give. Yet Watson's report reads very much like the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whose style is evoked both in imitation and quotation. Readers familiar with the canon will recognize extensive quotations from and variations of "The Final Problem" and "The Empty House" as well as the novel The Sign of Four (1890). The negative pastiche contract proves to be one of the false clues typical of the detective fiction genre, and as such is indicative of the playful metafictiveness that characterizes Dibdin's novel as a whole.

[4.2] In the fictive world of The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, the whodunit question pertains to the famous Whitechapel murders investigated by Holmes. Holmes identifies Professor Moriarty as Jack the Ripper and chases him to the Reichenbach Falls, where the Professor dies, and Holmes returns to England. Watson, however, becomes gradually aware of the inconsistencies in this alleged solution to the abominable murders and discovers, to his horror, that Jack the Ripper is none other than Holmes himself. Another chase to the Reichenbach Falls follows, ending with a final moment of insight when the mentally disturbed Holmes realizes the consequences of his crimes and commits suicide by plunging into the depths of the falls. The novel takes its cue from the historical fact that at the time of the Whitechapel murders, the police received a number of letters—written in different styles—where "Jack the Ripper" confessed the murders. Published in the newspapers, the letters produced what could be called pastiche effects: they brought about hoax letters signed as by the Ripper—and possibly also led to copycat murders. As the story evolves, the novel gradually constructs an analogy between the acts of the pasticheur and the acts of the murderer. Both involve a play of identity—Holmes acting as Ripper/Moriarty and Dibdin acting as Conan Doyle/Watson—but the novel also suggests an affinity between their respective deeds. Holmes kills, mutilates, and dismembers his victims, while Dibdin cuts pieces from the source text, imitating it in a deliberately subversive manner and creating a new story that attacks the "truths" of the source text. In the end, Dibdin finally does away with Holmes, letting him plunge once again into the Reichenbach Falls—this time haunted by an inner demon.

[4.3] The rather grim analogy between the murderer and the pasticheur is reinforced with the final piece of evidence that compels Watson to accept the fact that his beloved friend is indeed the cruel murderer. It is a pastiche poem attached to a jar containing the womb and fetus of one of the victims. Based on the Christmas carol "Once in Royal David's City," the poem celebrates the brutal killing of the prostitute:

[4.4] Once in Royal Victoria's City

stood a lowly courtyard shed

Where a Mother took a stranger

He took her, and now she's dead:

Kelly was that Mother wild

In this jar her little child. (Dibdin 1996, 165)

[4.5] This is the final blow that turns Watson against Holmes, despite their friendship: "How dangerously demoralizing it was…to confront a man capable of brutally murdering a young mother, bottling her gravid womb, and then celebrating this infamy with a diabolical pastiche of one of our finest Christmas hymns!" (172). Identified explicitly as a pastiche (although it could also be termed a travesty), the poem has a similar function to the historical letters sent to the police by (or in the name of) Jack the Ripper, being both a confession ("this novel is a pastiche") and a challenge to the readers whose task it is to detect and decide on the motivation of the imitation. If pastiche is a crime, as Dibdin's novel suggests, wherein lays its target and what precisely makes it illicit?

[4.6] Dibdin's pastiche novel destroys Holmes as an ideal and ideological figure, the defender of justice and champion of rational deduction. Unlike Meyer, who uses a rival figure (Freud) to challenge Holmes, Dibdin turns Holmes into Moriarty, his worst adversary, by transferring the battle between good and evil to the inside of Holmes's head. Thus he only internalizes what was already apparent in Conan Doyle's stories. He highlights the dark side of Holmes—the misogyny that aligns him with the historical Ripper, his cocaine addiction, and his Übermensch beliefs. The Last Sherlock Holmes Story is a corrective pastiche in the sense that it claims to offer the true version of Holmes's death, but also in the sense that it seeks to alert its readers to the darker elements of the source text. Like the pastiche hymn written by Holmes/Ripper, Dibdin's novel blasphemes by imitating a "holy" text, the canon of the original stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

[4.7] Yet the novel also preserves the source text and its values. The story is engaging and full of details, and Watson is ever the faithful friend and companion. Holmes is defeated but yet glorified in the final sober moments before he commits suicide at the Reichenbach Falls. A.C.D. is discredited yet indirectly celebrated as the author of the source text. The famous stories "The Final Problem" and "The Empty House" are deconstructed, only to be reconstructed. A double-edged literary form, pastiche adds another metafictive layer to the Holmesian story world without compromising the necessary reality effect, and turns the blasphemous treatment of the source texts into an ambiguous act of homage.

5. Anxiety of authenticity: The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes (1952) by Conan Doyle and Carr

[5.1] Like The Last Sherlock Holmes Story, The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr begins with a quest for the author. It differs, however, from Dibdin's novel, as well as from the works of, for example, Nicholas Meyer and June Thomson, in that its preface is not a part of the fictive world where manuscripts are found and authenticated. Signed by anonymous "editors," the preface seeks to explain and justify the origin of the pastiche stories and thus direct the way in which the stories are read. It begins as a protracted eulogy to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, always titled "Sir Arthur," who is straightforwardly identified with the hero of the stories: "the chivalry of Holmes, his penetrating mind, his erudition, his physical feats and his entire character are really and truly those of the genius who created him" (vii). This claim suggests that the pastiche collection offers a normative, sanitized version of the originals, for the Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is perhaps more famous for misogynist prejudice than chivalry (which is Watson's cup of tea), and his education is found sorely lacking in A Study in Scarlet (Conan Doyle [1887] 2001, 18). The identification of the author with his protagonist (which is never suggested in the source texts) is a means of reinforcing Conan Doyle's authority as it places the origin of the stories in the author's unique life experiences. The preface to The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes thus suppresses the original fiction of authorship, whereby Watson is the author of the stories and Conan Doyle merely his publisher or agent. Furthermore, it replaces that authorship with another fiction by constructing an autobiographical relation as a guarantee of authenticity. This significant relationship is, claim the editors, inherited by his son, Adrian Conan Doyle:

[5.2] Adrian Conan Doyle, the author of Heaven Has Claws (a personal-experience book about his deep-sea fishing expeditions), was brought up in the tradition of the Victorian era and in close contact with his father. Like the elder Doyle, Adrian developed a lust for adventure, for relics of the past, and the same sense of chivalry that so completely characterized his father—or should we say Holmes?

[5.3] Adrian Conan Doyle used the very same desk on which his father wrote. Surrounded by the same objects that his father handled, he in every way endeavored, in his new Holmes tales, to recreate each particle of atmosphere that formed Sir Arthur's environment. (Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, ix)

[5.4] It is not uncommon for pasticheurs also to be presented as authors of their own (and therefore authentic) works, since it proves them to be something more than mere epigones. But in this case, the writer's own merits are inconsequential when juxtaposed with the more important source of authority, his similarity to his father: both men have the same upbringing (although Adrian was born in 1910 and grew up in Edwardian, not Victorian, England) and have worked at the same desk. By twisting facts and highlighting suggestive details, the editors of the preface weave together the father and his two "sons," the literal and literary son. Together the father, the son, and the great detective are meant to form a unity (or rather a trinity) that guarantees the authenticity of the pastiches in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes.

[5.5] Where does the almost compulsive need to assert the authenticity (both of the originals and the pastiches) stem from? The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes was published in 1952, when it was already obvious that Holmes had secured a position in the imagination of an ever-growing readership. The characters and style of the original stories were still protected by national and international copyright laws (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle having died in 1930), which made it necessary to distinguish authoritative sequels from the illegitimate ones that were sprouting everywhere. The preface furnishes the pastiches of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes with the same pedigree as the source texts in an effort to open the canon to further authentic adventures, but also to close it from other appropriators. Like Dibdin's "last" Holmes story, The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes seeks to preempt other rewritings (note 5) but, unlike Dibdin, who ironically acknowledges the impossibility of the task, the editors of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes are more earnest in their attempt. The family connection proves an apparently indisputable argument: if the son is an image—an imitation—of the father, it is natural that he should be allowed to pastiche his father's work. The contribution of the eminent detective fiction writer John Dickson Carr is understandably toned down in the preface.

[5.6] As to the stories themselves, the preface claims them to be "painstaking reproductions of the originals" although they nevertheless have "new plots" (Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, x). Each of them is based on a specific case Watson alludes to in the original stories, but which are, for one reason or another, left untold. Unlike most pastiches, which indicate the source text they are based on, the pastiches of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes therefore refer to stories that do not exist. Thus the apparent contradiction in the claims of the preface—how can a story be a faithful reproduction and yet new at the same time?—is further complicated by the virtual absence of the originals, which gives them an aura of the paradox of the simulacrum, a copy for which there is no original (see Nyqvist 2010, 182–83).

[5.7] As it turns out, however, the stories of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes are in fact concoctions of elements from the existing stories. For instance, "The Red Widow" begins with a scene which repeats the beginning of "The Cardboard Box," where Holmes seems to be reading Watson's thoughts, and the ingenious solution—the murderer is hiding inside the wall of an ancient house—is taken directly from "The Norwood Builder." "The Seven Clocks," where the sanity of a nobleman is in doubt because he smashes all the clocks that he sees, draws its inspiration from the peculiar mystery of "The Six Napoleons" where busts of the emperor incite similar acts of vandalism. The revenge of a foreign secret society provides a puzzle for Sherlock Holmes both in "The Five Orange Pips" (by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) and "The Dark Angels" (by Adrian Conan Doyle). Thus on closer inspection the exploits turn out to be exploitation, rather straightforward selection and variation of plot patterns or themes from existing stories.

[5.8] Nowhere is this as evident as in the story of "The Deptford Horror" (written by Adrian Conan Doyle alone), which repeats, in minute detail, the plot of one of the most famous Holmes stories, "The Speckled Band." Although the pastiche is set in urban London, and the original mostly in rural Surrey, both recount a story about an eccentric Englishman who, after many years abroad, settles in England and attempts to murder his niece/protégée in the hope of securing the girl's inheritance. Both stories focus on the unusual vehicle the murderers have chosen: poisonous exotic animals. In "The Speckled Band," Dr. Roylott (whose description was quoted above) ushers a poisonous swamp adder into the girl's room through the ventilator and then calls the trained snake back with a whistle, leaving no trace of the murder weapon. In "The Deptford Horror," the singing of the specially trained canaries attracts giant Cuban spiders to the victim through the ventilation channels on an old house. Both perpetrators have killed before, although only Dr. Roylott looks the part. Wilson the canary trainer is by contrast described as a harmless fellow, which draws attention to the only significant change that Adrian Conan Doyle had made to the plot of its source text: unlike "The Speckled Band," in "The Deptford Horror," the murderer and his motive are revealed only toward the end. The focus of the story is thus more ambiguous than in the source text, where Dr. Roylott is from the beginning suggested as the murderer, and the puzzle pertains only to the method used. In all other respects, "The Deptford Horror" repeats the stages of the plot, from the introduction of the case to the interval of uncertainty, to Holmes's sudden realization, the rescue of the intended victim, the encounter with the beast, and the death of the murderer. The anxiety of authenticity is manifested in the unwillingness of the pasticheur to part from the plot and the organization of the famous source text. As a consequence, the fantastic murder plot of the source text is rendered generic: after "The Deptford Horror," it is possible to imagine endless variations of the plot featuring a greedy uncle and poisonous animals that leave no traces. The pastiche thus undermines the particular status of "The Speckled Band," introduced by Watson as the most "singular" case (Conan Doyle 2000, 137).

[5.9] One of the formulaic stylistic features of the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the proverb or quotation uttered by Holmes at the end, when he is contemplating the closed case. This feature is reproduced at the end of "The Deptford Horror":

[5.10] "It is the wise man who keeps bees," remarked Sherlock Holmes when he had read the report [about the death of the murderer, Wilson the canary trainer]. "You know where you are with them and at least they do not attempt to represent themselves as something that they are not." (Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, 310)

[5.11] On the surface, the comparison seems to be straightforward. Bees, as is well known, are organized and useful animals, and the threat their stings pose is easily avoided. Canaries, by contrast, are presented in "The Deptford Horror" as pets for the sickly and insomniac, and they possess the dubious talent of imitation that is exploited by Wilson in his terrible scheme. Wilson has taught the canaries to sing like the tropical bird that is prey for the poisonous spider, and by positioning the birdcage in the room of his niece, he ensures that the spiders will find their intended victim.

[5.12] Does it not seem a bit odd, however, that in the final, weighty sentence of the story, Holmes comments neither on the criminal nor on the primary means of murder (the spiders)? The canaries are, in fact, an addition to the plot of "The Speckled Band," where the murderer needs no mediator to lure the snake to the room of the heiress. Bees, in their turn, derive from "His Last Bow," where Holmes retires to become a beekeeper. The choice of animals is not arbitrary; in fact, the comparison reads as a complex commentary on the pasticheur's art. Bees have ever since antiquity been the stock metaphor for good and useful imitation (Pigman, 4–9), while canaries imitating the songs of others refers to another, negative, metaphor of imitation; namely, the bird in the plumes of others. By evoking the question of the value of imitation, the second to last story of the collection undermines the carefully constructed authenticity effect of the pastiches. Holmes's seemingly innocent proverb lets out the repressed truth: the stories of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes aspire to be perfect imitations, but instead turn out to be deceptive reproductions that may even have a darker side. The pastiches may deceive with their "mesmeric" repetition (Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, 304), but when we take into consideration the elements of Wilson's crime—canaries used as mediators in crimes within a family, over an inheritance—it is possible to detect another sinister plot: pastiches as mediators that bring about a potentially fatal threat to the source texts, the "inheritance" of which they seek to benefit from. Although not criminal in themselves, they are implicated in morally and aesthetically dubious activity. In "The Deptford Horror," the mother and brother of Janet Wilson actually die from a natural cause—heart failure—but the event is triggered by the sight of the terrible spiders. In a similar manner, pastiche can use the flaws of the source text to "attack" it, as critics have pointed out since the 19th century (e.g., du Roure 1828).

[5.13] "The Deptford Horror" in fact refers to a flaw in the source text in a way that resonates with the interpretation of the role of pastiche given here. All the stories of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes end with a quotation from the source texts in which Watson refers to the untold tale that the pasticheurs have just provided for the readers. In "The Deptford Horror," the relation between the canonical reference and the pastiche story is more complicated than in the case of the other exploits. While "The Deptford Horror" gets its inspiration from "The Black Peter," where Watson mentions "the arrest of Wilson the notorious canary-trainer which removed a plague-spot from the East End of London" (Conan Doyle 2000, 539; Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, 310), this is not what happens in the pastiche. In "The Deptford Horror," Wilson drowns in the Thames while fleeing from Holmes (Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, 307, 310), his fate thus mirroring that of Dr. Roylott of "The Speckled Band," who likewise dies as a consequence of his own evil plot. In order to explain the contradiction, a footnote is added to the quotation from "The Black Peter" in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes, explaining that "in the Wilson case, Holmes did not actually arrest Wilson as Wilson was drowned. This was a typical Watson error in his hurried reference to the case in 'Black Peter.'" (Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, 310). Ironically, for once Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Watson ought not to be blamed, since the pasticheur's choices make his reference retroactively flawed. The pastiche is so reverential that in order to point toward a common problem in the source text (the many gaffes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), it has to manufacture an instance of the same problem.

[5.14] The ambiguous and seemingly unmotivated reference to the deceptive canaries at the end thus activates the question of the status and consequences of imitations. The apparent wisdom of the adage—those who imitate instead of being true to themselves are potentially dangerous—draws attention to the difficult position of the pastiches as simultaneously authentic and reproductions, and to the element of deception and usurpation inherent in unauthentic imitations that The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes seeks to elbow out of the market. While reading so much into the details of the story might seem somewhat contrived, it ought to be remembered that in the source text of the pastiche, "The Speckled Band," the mystery in fact centers on a question of interpretation: what does the dying young woman mean by the enigmatic words "speckled band"? As John A. Hodgson points out, the question of interpretation penetrates the whole story:

[5.15] Holmes solves the case when he sees through the figuratively innocuous disguises of these accessories to discern their deadly actual uses. We, in turn, in order to discover the deeper, satisfactory resolution of this apparently flawed story, must read its literal clues figuratively, recognizing them as features not of an actual scene, but of a textual one. (Hodgson 1992, 317)

[5.16] In "The Deptford Horror," a different kind of textual puzzle underlies the apparently straightforward adventures; namely, the puzzle of its complicated, double-edged relationship to the source texts.

[5.17] When read in this light, other instances can be found in The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes in which the carefully crafted authenticity effect of the pastiches is about to backfire. A conflict between father and son, involving a case of forgery, is the topic of "The Two Women" (one of the stories written by Adrian Conan Doyle alone). "The Two Women" is a conflation of three existing stories: "A Scandal in Bohemia," where the actress Irene Adler threatens the king of Bohemia with a compromising photograph of herself and the monarch; "Charles Augustus Milverton," in which the eponymous blackmailer meets his end by a bullet fired by an enigmatic noblewoman; and "The Three Gables," where the mystery revolves around a manuscript that would ruin the life of a cunning international beauty. Ostensibly a story of a conflict between two women, the blackmailer and spy Edith von Lammerain and her helpless victim, the Duchess of Carringford, "The Two Women" in fact focuses on the question of the authenticity of a dead man's signature, which determines the fate of his child. If authentic, the signature reveals the man as a bigamist and destroys the life of his daughter, who is engaged to be married to a man in a high position. Although two of the source stories deal with a written document—the manuscript of a novel in "The Three Gables" and a bundle of love letters in "Charles Augustus Milverton"—the question of the authenticity of the document as well as the setting of the conflict within a family are new developments introduced in the pastiche. Thus, the themes of "The Two Women" seem to allude to the dilemma at the heart of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes: how should the father's signature be adopted and repeated? How should imitation and authenticity be balanced?

[5.18] At the end of "The Two Women," the signature turns out to be forged, which absolves the father and saves the child from disgrace. There is a gap in this solution, however. Holmes discovers that the original signature has been scratched away and replaced by a forged one. He is content with this in some sense superficial observation and does not pursue the quest to find out whose name has been erased from the document. That man's identity is not worth investigating—he has been wiped out, scratched away. In a similar manner, the preface of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes blots out both the real-life model and the literary ancestors of Sherlock Holmes and replaces them with the figure of the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who is affirmed as the only source and origin for both the stories and Holmes himself. Another interesting aspect of the solution to "The Two Women" is that Holmes lets the forger go unpunished at the end, despite the heavy charges of "provocation of forgery, attempted blackmail and…espionage" (Conan Doyle and Carr [1952] 1999, 280). The story ends ominously with the forger's threat: "We shall meet again, Mr. Sherlock Holmes" (282). The cycle of repetition and recontextualization expands.

6. Conclusion

[6.1] In their Sherlock Holmes novels, Michael Dibdin and Nicholas Meyer rewrite the conflict between the rational and irrational tendencies in the source texts by offering alternative explanations to the infamous death and return of Sherlock Holmes. In so doing, they explore the stylistic constraints of the source texts and speculate about what lies beneath the illusion of transparency in the classical solution-oriented detective story. The pastiche collection of Adrian Conan Doyle and John Dickson Carr in its turn appears to be a paradigmatic case of reverential homage, but its almost obsessive circulation around issues of authenticity, imitation, and inheritance reveals a subplot hinting at the literary "crime" of usurping the style of another writer. While the three cases analyzed here as examples of literary pastiche apparently concentrate on the figure of Holmes, a central concern lies in the ways in which the narrative is framed (and deconstructed) as authentic. This is an element of the realism of the source texts that were presented as Watson's documents of their adventures, but its prominence in the pastiches also questions the justification of authenticity as one of the core values of literary creation in our society.

[6.2] The Sherlock Holmes stories analyzed here are part of a long-established fandom in which they now enjoy a canonical status in their own right. Reading them as pastiches in the literary critical sense situates them in a slightly different literary tradition and provides tools for analyzing both their complex relationships to the originals and the tensions that arise from there. The fandom and its academic research have highly sophisticated and specialized terminology and interpretive models for discussing the variety of contemporary fan fiction, but contributions from more mainstream literary criticism and cultural analysis can be valuable in relating fan writing to the other literary or cultural traditions of which they partake. The continuing popularity of print forms of fan fiction calls for a comparative perspective that takes into consideration their status as products of fandom and as literary works in a wider cultural perspective. There, concepts like pastiche, which have been adapted to special uses within fandom, may provide useful points of departure for a more comprehensive comparative analysis of the different aspects of works that have their origin in fan culture but aim for wider audiences.

7. Notes

1. The other meaning of pastiche, as compilation of different elements, surfaced in the debates about postmodernism and historicity (Jameson 1984; Hoesterey 2001). For a conceptual analysis of these two meanings and their critical relevance, see Nyqvist 2010, 129–73.

2. By making this distinction between the fandom use of the term and its more precise literary critical meaning, my aim is not to imply that the fandom use is somehow misguided. The application of pastiche to all Sherlock Holmes rewritings (in print) has its own logic and history, and is therefore a part of the "travelling" nature of the critical concept (see Bal 2002). Yet, as this article seeks to illustrate, it is worthwhile to bring these different meanings into interaction, as it is in such encounters that critical concepts retain and regain their significance and usefulness as tools for analysis.

3. Their confrontation has become a stock topic for Sherlock Holmes rewritings; see, for instance,The West-End Horror (1976) by Meyer, The Whitechapel Horrors (1992) by Edward B. Hanna, Dust and Shadows (2009) by Lyndsay Faye, or Chapel Noir (2001) by Carole Nelson Douglas. Freud and Holmes have also met again, for instance in The Case of Emily V. (1994) by Keith Oatley.

4. Gérard Genette has introduced the concept of pastiche contract to designate a feature of the text that informs the reader of its imitative status: "This is a text where x imitates y" (Genette 1992, 86). The contract, which is a necessary component in pastiches, also has a juridical and moral relevance: pastiche can be distinguished from plagiarism or forgery only if it acknowledges its source text. In the case of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, the pastiche contract is often evident on the cover of the book: while the title refers to Sherlock Holmes (and/or Watson), the name of the author suggests that we are dealing with an imitation rather than a story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

5. This strategy predates copyright legislature: Cervantes wrote the second part of Don Quixote to elbow from the market spurious sequels to his successful novel.

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