Friday, October 30, 2015

Sherlock Holmes vs. the Vampires

An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a new anthology edited by A.C. Thompson arriving October 27th. Within its pages, 14 authors share their supernatural stories featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. What collection of mythical mysteries would be complete without a vampire story? I took it upon myself to ensure that the bloodsuckers would be represented.

In my short story, A Voice in the Blood, I set Holmes and Watson headlong into the case of a mysterious murder, missing memories, and mesmerized manipulations. As this anthology is about the paranormal, the killer is actually a vampire and not an elaborate ruse. (No Scooby-gang unmaskings here!) Here’s just a small taste.

The woman bared her teeth and licked her lips as she crouched preparing to leap our way. Two men emerged from around a corner running towards her. One stabbed the woman from behind through her chest with a piece of kindling, while the other wielded a blade, slashing orange in the light of the new bonfires. The woman’s head fell from her body which collapsed lifeless to the ground.

It was only when the men spoke that I realized who had saved us. “Lestrade,” said Sherlock, “take this creature to the bonfire. I shall see to the victim.”
An Improbable Truth is full of stories of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson encountering supernatural events and creatures. Even still it might shock some readers to see Holmes (and Lestrade!) felling a vampire. I contend that Sherlock is no fool and his mind is open to all possibilities as well as being versed in folklore. Granted, he would attempt at first to find any logical, scientific reason for an encounter, but as the irrefutable evidence piles up, even he would agree to accept the improbable truth.

I have a particular fondness for Victorian gaslight mysteries whether they feature Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Jack the Ripper, and beyond. Sadly, the only canon tale by Arthur Conan Doyle in which Holmes and Watson take a case to investigate a vampire is The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire. This was a stirring case, however the vampiric attacks have a mundane and rational explanation rather than a supernatural one.

Other Holmes adventures referenced characters who were vampiric in nature but not supernatural bloodsuckers, such as The Adventure of the Illustrious Client and The Adventure of the Three Gables. Those tales have been collected in VAMPIRE STORIES by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, along with stories Doyle wrote which do not feature the famous detective. While it may be a stretch to connect all of the stories in that anthology to vampires, the stories are intriguing and one can see the influence of the many different types of vampires in the tales. The real jewel of the anthology, however, is the bibliography that catalogs the vast number of pastiches that bring Holmes, Watson, and even Mycroft face-to-face with supernatural vampire fiends, including Dracula himself.

Quite possibly the greatest of all Victorian vampire mashups is the epic alternate historical novel Anno Dracula by Kim Newman. This tale set during the Ripper murders of 1888 has Queen Victoria married to Count Dracula and London plunged into darkness. While Sherlock is sequestered away, Mycroft and fellows of his Diogenes Club attempt to solve the Whitechapel murders, along with other luminaries such as Dr. Jekyll. I dare say that if anyone wants to cash in on the steampunk craze and make up for the cinematic failure of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, then Hollywood should crack open a copy of Anno Dracula and start filming!

Another classic of the genre is Sherlock Vs. Dracula by Loren D. Estleman. This is the template of most tales featuring the two most famous characters of Victorian literature. It plays out essentially as a retelling of Bram Stoker’s DRACULA with Sherlock investigating the mysterious schooner Demeter running aground, and following the case to its inevitable conclusion.

The inimitable Fred Saberhagen gave us two collaborations between Dracula and Holmes, but in these, Dracula helps with the cases Holmes in investigating.

The Holmes-Dracula File is a pastiche that dares to shed light on the mysterious Giant Rat of Sumatra, mentioned in Doyle’s The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire. When a plot is discovered by Holmes to unleash a plague of rats at Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, he seeks help from someone also known for their plagues — and ability to control rats — Count Dracula.

Seance for a Vampire by Fred Saberhagen is possibly the most original crossover. It deals with Holmes being asked to expose a fraudulent séance, only to discover that the dead person being contacted is now actually a vampire. Holmes and Watson once again turn to Dracula for help.
I’ll wrap up by discussing two of my favorite comic book crossovers of Sherlock and Dracula. Victorian Undead II by Ian Edginton follows a similar trope as Sherlock Vs. Dracula but brings its own twists and turns, plus the artwork is full of ghastly gaslight goodness.

In Scarlet in Gaslight by Martin Powell & Seppo Makinen, Professor Moriarty brings Dracula to London in order to finally defeat his foe Sherlock Holmes. Moriarty gets more than he bargained for, however. Eventually Van Helsing intervenes and helps Sherlock bring an end to both villains.

Dan Shaurette is a goth-geek and fan of vampires ever since seeing Bela Lugosi’s “Dracula” as a young child. He is the author of the novella, LILITH'S LOVE, and editor of the vampire anthology, FRESH BLOOD. Former host and producer of the Out of the Coffin podcast, he now writes and produces a serialized audio penny dreadful for the podcast, entitled BLACK JACK, which centers around Jack the Ripper.


EXCERPT From “A Voice in the Blood” by Dan Shaurette
Billy laughed the peculiar cackle of a lunatic. “I’m not the one who needs protection, but you’re too late. She already belongs to him.”
Chills ran down my spine. “Who do you mean? Is this her?” I showed Barker a photograph of Mary and me from our wedding day.
“Poor, sweet lass. I dinna get her name, but yeah, that looks like her. Your wife, is she?”
“Yes. Her name is Mary Watson. Where is she?” I demanded, grabbing the man by the collar. Sherlock and Lestrade both lay calming hands on my shoulder and I backed off.
He looked around nervously as if someone else was watching or listening. “I’ll not speak his name or whereabouts aloud, but give me a pen and paper, I will write down what I can.”
Lestrade fetched a fountain pen and a piece of paper from a nearby desk and presented it to Barker. Billy wrote in earnest at first, then he stopped and started to sob. His hands trembled as he mumbled something whispered to himself.
Before anyone could stop him, he slashed at his own throat with the nib of the pen. Blood gushed from his carotid artery and sprayed all over himself, his paper, and me as I was the closest to him.
The small room was thrown into utter chaos. Gregson ran out of the room to get help. Barker slumped over as he lost consciousness. I applied pressure to the wound on his neck. It would do no good, however, as within moments he was dead.
The note Barker had written was now smeared with blood and ink. Holmes ignored the gory scene and took the note to a window to catch better light so he could examine it. Before I could chastise him for his lack of decorum, Holmes declared, “The only words I can discern presently are ‘Master’, ‘Porlock’, and ‘Restiturm’.”



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