Tuesday, November 2

spitting image

it had one of those covers--awkwardly arranged and pasted-over with rather ostentatious typography--that usually causes much hesitation. but the title was The Holmes-Dracula File. and it was a perfectly-sized little paperback. and why not?

{cover image borrowed from this website }
I hoped, as I always hope with these pastiches I find myself so drawn to, that this story would take my beloved detective and do something unique with him. but not anything too crazy-- he still has to be Holmes, of course.

Holmes is technically something of a secondary character in this novel, which is part of the author's ten-book Dracula series (another of them, Seance for a Vampire, also features Sherlock Holmes. I'll have to read that one someday). the chapters told in Watson's voice are delightful. the other half of them, told from Dracula's mostly-first-person point of view, is amusing, laced with suspense.

maybe you've heard about the case of the giant rat of Sumatra, only mentioned in the original canon as "a story for which the world is not yet prepared." Saberhagen takes this teasing reference from The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire and spins it into a crazy, complicated string of events involving everyone you'd expect a crossover like this to involve: Inspector Lestrade, the good old Baker Street Irregulars, Jonathan Harker, Dr. Seward, and even Mina Murray. in the middle of everything, our favourite brilliant detective and the undead Transylvanian get repeatedly mistaken for one another. the explanation for this near the very end of the story made me laugh a wonderfully appreciative laugh. who is this author, I thought, who just decides he can get away with this sort of thing? I loved it, really.

anyway, in one of Count Dracula's plentiful footnotes, we're directed to go ahead and check the original descriptions of these two characters, just in case we think it might be nonsensical plot contrivance that they happen to look alike in this particular story. so I, being the curious girl I am, did a bit of digging around.

from chapter two of A Study in Scarlet, Watson's first impressions of his new flatmate:
His very person and appearance were such as to strike the attention of the most casual observer. In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller. His eyes were sharp and piercing, save during those intervals of torpor to which I have alluded; and his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination.
and from chapter two of Dracula, Jonathan Harker's description of the infamous vampire:
His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth. These protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor.
okay, ignore the bits about peculiarly sharp teeth and pointy ears. besides that, we've got a decent resemblance, haven't we? weird.... I wonder who Arthur Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker must have been picturing when they created these legends.

do I need to admit, at this point, that I'm an irredeemable geek about Sherlock Holmes? now, I'm going to spend an hour or so watching the latest of this series. and I'm sure I'll blog gushily about it someday soon, don't worry.

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