In the Stacks: August Derleth’s Sherlock Holmes Pastiche/Tribute – The Chronicles of Solar Pons

If you have heard of August Derleth, you probably have heard of him in context with his work publishing the works of Howard Philips Lovecraft. In fact, whether you find Derleth’s take on the Lovecraftian canon to be interesting—by way of adding in a more stabilized structure, adding certain elemental flavors—or tedious—by way of converting Lovecraft’s generalized cosmic dread into what comes down to a family struggle between something like good and something like evil—if you have played any games or read any books with words like “Lovecraft” or “Cthulhu” or “Call of…” in the title, you owe a bit of thanks to Derleth’s work.

But it is not just Lovecraft that Derleth pastiched and updated. At the age of 19, Derleth contacted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle about if there were to be any more Sherlock Holmes stories and (possibly, some sources vary) whether he (Derleth) could continue them, if not. Whatever the exact question asked, Doyle said “No” and Derleth took Holmes under his wing and changed a few things. Like carefully chosen names to completely hide that he was riffing on Holmes canon.

You ready for these deep-hidden names? How about Solar Pons instead of Sherlock Holmes, or Dr. Lyndon Parker instead of Dr. John Watson? The two of them are not at 221b Baker Street, but 7b Praed Street. My favorite is Bancroft Pons as the older brother, rather than Mycroft Holmes. Clevery clever Derleth.

Charles Prepolec wrote a short article called The Great Pretender: Solar Pons that fills in some gaps. Stuff like some people prefer Pons to Holmes, since Pons is a little less burdened by life and a little more boisterous. And that after Derleth’s death, another writer, Basil Cooper, has continued the adventures of Solar Pons (making the Pontine stories, as they call, out-number the Holmesian originals, though pastiche versus pastiche might even it out). And there is a Praed Street Irregulars to act as fan club, much like the Baker Street Irregulars do for Holmes.

Curious to dive in and try some of the Pons stories? Luckily, since they can be kind of expensive and hard to track down, we have one of the books here in our stacks: The Chronicles of Solar Pons. Published in 1973 posthumously (Derleth died in 1971), this are some of the last things written by Derleth. They are possibly not the greatest of the stories, but there is a bit of enjoyment in seeing this alternate Holmes set in a slightly different time, with a slightly different take on the world (a take that is actually closer to many portrayals of Holmes in TV shows and movies, since many scriptwriters like to dial up his action elements and dial down some of his more onerous bits like cocaine abuse and such).

If you wish to see Chronicles, it is up on on our third floor, north section, with a call number of PS3507 .E69 C57.

Spotted a book in our stacks that you think is worthy of being brought up in a future In the Stacks feature? Just let me know at doug.bolden@uah.edu and I’ll look into it. Questions about this book or any of the others we have, then email me or the reference desk at erefq@uah.edu

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