Warlock Holmes: A Study in Brimstone

warlock holmes a study in brimstone by denning

Oh em gee, this cover is gorgeous! Here’s another straight-up book review all thanks to the power of advance reader copies from our publishers. Thanks, publishers!

Let me just start this review by saying that Warlock Holmes: a Study in Brimstone by G.S. Denning is one of those books that Sherlockians will either love or hate. Spoiler alert: I completely loved it!

Our story begins in a way that will seem familiar to most Sherlock fans: Watson is back in London after being injured during the war in Afghanistan and is desperate to find a place to live. Through a chance meeting with one of his old connections he learns about a man who needs a roommate. His name is Warlock Holmes and he is a consulting detective who sometimes works with Scotland Yard. Thus the literary world is gifted with another first meeting of Watson and Holmes.

Things start out pretty normal for Dr. John Watson. He feels lucky to have landed a roommate who only asks for a one-time payment of just one sovereign for the rent. Things get even better for Watson when Holmes chooses the smaller of the two bedrooms as his own. So now we have a war veteran staying with a successful, if eccentric, consulting detective. Their companionship slowly evolves into a friendship, but even so, Watson is initially clueless as to what he’s gotten himself into by handing over that sovereign.

From the beginning though, it’s clear to the reader that this Holmes is unlike any other Holmes we’ve met before. It’s not just the fact that his name is Warlock and we highly suspect (especially after reading the blurb on the book cover) that magic flows through this Holmes. It’s more like we’re realizing for the first time in literary history that Watson is the one well-versed in deductive reasoning and investigative expertise, especially when it comes to handling evidence correctly at a crime scene. Holmes, on the other hand, seems a bit…distracted. Easily distracted by things that Watson cannot or will not notice, things that seem to have very little if anything to do with the crime being investigated.

Soon enough Watson discovers Holmes’s not-so-well-kept secret: he’s got the magic touch. The spirit of Holmes’s nemesis, Moriarty, is trapped inside his head. And Holmes can command demons to do his bidding. This would normally be a shocking scandal worthy of the penny dreadfuls, but in this Victorian society there are certain creatures that, though not embraced by society, live among them. For example, here’s our cast of characters:

warlock holmes character blurb

Yup! Inspector Lestrade is a vampire, aided by an ogre. Most of Scotland Yard is uncomfortable around Lestrade and Grogsson, if not downright terrified of them. But their record for closing cases (with Holmes’s help, of course) keeps them on the payroll despite others’ misgivings.

I’m laying all this out there to illustrate a point. While this could easily be some weird standalone parody of one of the most famous friendships in literary history, it is instead a faithful retelling of Sherlock Holmes–just a little twisted. And sometimes smoking. Because, ya know, brimstone and stuff.

True to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original format, Warlock Holmes: a Study in Brimstone is composed of several short stories. The first is the longest by far, but it kind of needs to be since it’s setting up the world and the characters. Despite the length, that story flew by for me, as did the others. I actually pouted when I was finished, and was a little bummed out to leave that world behind. Luckily for me this is just the first book in what I hope is a very long series, with Warlock Holmes: the Battle of Baskerville Hall  heading our way in May 2017.

So take a chance on something new! Let me know if you want to read this or not, and definitely get back to me if you end up actually reading the whole thing. I am desperate for people to talk to about this book that will be published May 17th.

Parodies Found

It seems like a guy can’t swing a sack full of bats these days without hitting a book that parodies a specific title, author, or genre. As an avid reader and writer I can understand the numerous reasons that might compel one to create such a spoof.

Myself, I often battle a nearly uncontrollable impulse to lampoon many a detestable piece of twaddle that sells kabillions of copies (did I say Fifty Shades of Grey out loud?) thus making the author rich and convincing the reading public that said writer is a genius. It’s almost an obligation to point out to the unsuspecting masses, using the two-pronged sword of humor and irony, that their $10 would have been better spent on a chia pet shaped like Don King’s head.

Conversely, I suspect that some writers think to themselves: “Self, the Harry Potter industry has generated enough cash to buy one of Saturn’s moons. I need a piece of that action. It’s time to cash in. But how? (Finger snap!) Ah yes, a parody is just the thing! And it will be called (reverb emulating the voice of God): Harry Potty and the Deathly Boring. (End reverb). Hopefully I can catch a ride on the Potter juggernaut. I’ll be richer than Croesus! (Dramatic pause). Self, who the Helen-of-Troy is Croesus?”

Then there’s the fickle factor. Humans tend to be capricious, and it’s not unusual for something that quickly soars to dazzling heights of popularity, say vampire books, to just as quickly fall into the Marianna Trench of uncoolness. And when this occurs, parodies are sure to follow.

Take for example The New Vampire’s Handbook:  A Guide for the Recently Turned Creature of the Night by Joe Garden. This important how-to volume for the recently turned gives tips on oral hygiene, faking your way through a meal, using your new vampiric powers and maintaining a fashionable wardrobe while avoiding mirrors. Edited by the vampire Miles Proctor, this helpful book is a must-have for any newly-bitten immortal.

And let us not forget that most wonderful motivator, the green-eyed monster. Humans are jealous and vengeful creatures, and it’s entirely natural for one to seek out a successful person, someone high on the survival-of-the-fittest scale, and bring them down a rung or three. And if a wee bit of income is generated from this exercise in humility, well… Who’s to say what’s wrong or right in the game of capitalism?

And speaking of games, Stefan Petrucha has given us a biting lampoon of The Hunger Games trilogy in his graphic novel,  The Hunger Pains. In Petrucha’s version, Ratkiss Everspleen takes her sister Dim’s place in the district’s annual battle to the death. Joined by fellow contestant Peek a Choo, the two train under Haybitch Blubbernasty for the most unnecessary battle of their lives.

But perhaps the best reason of all to create a parody is simple laziness. By taking a pre-existing work (one out of copyright, of course) and adding a few scenes containing the latest literary trend (say perhaps zombies?)… Viola! A brand-spanking-new tome, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: The Classic Regency Romance – Now with Ultraviolent Zombie Mayhem! by Seth Grahame-Smith is born with nary a sweat crossing the author’s brow. This novel novel uses 85% of Austen’s original text and rounds it out with, as the title says, ultraviolent zombie mayhem! Austen’s characters still have the same traits and yearnings, but in addition to being very properly British they are also highly-skilled zombie killers. So, with just a few thousand new words in a dead author’s style, you too can have undreamed of notoriety and wealth.

Thus we are left wondering if parody is the highest form of flattery, or if it’s simply a quick trip to the bank. Ultimately it matters not, for if we the readers are entertained by a spoof, then perhaps its author has brought a bit more happiness into the world. And isn’t that what literature is all about?

Along with huge piles of cash.

by Ron, Everett Public Library staff