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THE UNIVERSAL HOLMES
Hearing The Voices:
The Universal Lupoff
Richard A. Lupoff hears voices. I mean that as a writer, he seems to hear the voices of his characters in all their subtle nuances, as if they were living breathing people standing right there before him. Then he weaves their magical words into wonderful stories.
Over the years I’ve enjoyed everything Dick has written, from science fiction and fantasy to detective and mystery fiction, and scholarly non-fiction on all genres and on many key authors. His versatility includes diverse work such as computer books, rock music criticism, The Great American Paperback and even teaching a prison-writing program. Dick is a master of many genres in a multiplicity of styles. The voices talk to him clear and sharp, none so effective as in this new book, The Universal Holmes.
Dick Lupoff has written that he first encountered Sherlock Holmes as a child when his older brother took him to see Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce in The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939), their first of many films together—and I guess Dick has been hooked ever since.
When I was entering my teens one of my favorite writers was Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of the Tarzan and John Carter of Mars series and much more). I remember growing up in Virginia and reading all the Burroughs Ace and Ballantine paperback editions I could get my hands on during one magical summer in 1965.
It was in that year, that I also discovered another author, Richard A. Lupoff. That discovery was made initially through his excellent scholarly work on Burroughs and his creations, Edgar Rice Burroughs: Master of Adventure. I mention that in this introduction to a book of his Sherlockian fiction because there are many connections between that earlier 13-year old version of myself and Burroughs, Holmes and of course, Dick Lupoff. One of those reasons is because there is a story in this book that does a fine job of connecting the myths conjured by Burroughs and Doyle—but more on that a bit further on.
The stories presented here show the fantastic vision and the creative voice of Dick Lupoff at his best. In each story his bright imagination shines through, though each work here is so very different from the other. These stories are a bit like Lupoff himself in that respect, far-ranging in imagination, full of varied interests, and they transport us to a wide array of fantastic worlds. They are also homages, love letters of a sort. These stories show his admiration of, and influence by, literary giants such as Edgar Allan Poe, Edgar Rice Burroughs, H.P. Lovecraft and even Jack Kerouac, as well as the action heroes reborn from the old musty pages of classic pulp magazines and comic books. Lupoff’s imagination mixes the ingredients into an exciting magical brew.
In the first story Lupoff presents us with Poe’s famous detective—the first fictional detective of them all—C. Auguste Dupin. “The Incident of the Impecunious Chevalier” chronicles a case where Dupin meets a young Sherlock Holmes. Lupoff’s vision here is sharp and bright, this is a wonderful adventure, and an interesting blend of Holmes with Poe.
“The Case of the Doctor Who Had No Business” is a rather different tale. Here Edgar Rice Burroughs and Doyle meet and get a few things sorted out between them, one of them being how the story of Tarzan of the Apes really came to be told. It’s great fun and aptly connects the myths of Doyle with Burroughs as never before.
You’ll feel the haunting tension and paranoia build within as you read the next story, “The Adventure of the Voorish Sign.” This tale intersects the Cthulhu Mythos of H.P. Lovecraft with Doyle’s Great Detective. You’ll feel the depressive weight and fear encompassed by the bizarre architectural monstrosity known as the Anthracite Palace, something right out of Mervyn Peake with a Sherlockian-Lovecraftian twist!
Lupoff says he first encountered H.P. Lovecraft on his own when he read “The Dunwich Horror” in a paperback anthology when he was just 11 years old. It certainly must have made a lasting impression because Dick has written well within the confines of this popular sub-genre for decades. His highly acclaimed Lovecraft’s Book has become something of a cult classic, and his recent Lovecraftian novel, Marblehead, may soon follow it. This last, published by Ramble House, has just appeared for the first time in print. It’s an original novel written by Lupoff some 30 years ago, the manuscript long-lost, like some eldritch tome of the mysterious Necronomicon!
The fourth story in this collection is “God of the Naked Unicorn” a fun-filled homage to the old pulp magazine heroes. In this delightful, tongue-in-cheek romp you’ll meet some amazing superheroes who ask Watson for his assistance, and you’ll discover some of the secret identities of Irene Adler!
Next there is “The Adventure of the Boulevard Assassin,” in which Lupoff chronicles one of the untold cases of Sherlock Holmes, mentioned by Watson but never written until now. Lupoff turns this one into a fine tale that old Watson might have wished he’d written himself—but could never have written quite this way. Lupoff tells it in the frantic stream-of-consciousness style of beat poet Jack Kerouac. This one is not exactly Holmes, but Lupoff hears the voice of Jack the Beat and recreates it loud and clear and joyfully. Read it carefully to get all the wondrous inside jokes and comedic nuances.
Speaking of inside jokes, Lupoff comes through again with “Eintopfgericht Von Ratteriesse”—which is quite a mouthful, but of just what I’ll leave to you, the reader, to discover.
The stories in this collection offer a glorious sampling of the breath of style and depth of imagination of Richard A. Lupoff. His work never fails to provide the reader with something new, different and amazing. These stories are that good and I’m happy to have them all collected for the first time in this attractive Ramble House volume. You’re in for a real treat.
Now turn the page, and prepare to read the words of a craftsman who listens to the voices of the masters, and their characters, as he brings Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson back to life in some of the most baffling, entertaining and certainly unusual cases of their careers.
Brooklyn, New York
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