New "Holmes on the Range" Novel Countdown (updated...again)
News Talk

Holmes Renovation

When I tell someone I’ve just met that I wrote a novel about crime-solving cowboys called Holmes on the Range -- and this always seems to come up within the first minute of conversation, for some reason -- I inevitably get one of two responses.

Response #1: “Oh, that sounds cute!”

Response #2: “Oh. That sounds cute.”

Response #1 is coupled with a look of amused interest.

Response #2 is coupled with a look of mild dyspepsia and a glance past my shoulder. (The words that follow are usually some variation on “Excuse me. I think I should go stand over there now.”)

I hope for Response #1. But I understand Response #2. The Sherlock Holmes spinoff has a long and checkered history. And I’ll admit it: Holmes on the Range is a pretty wretched pun. But come on! You write a novel about cowboys reading Holmes stories and trying to become detectives and let’s see what you call it. Really -- what you got, hotshot? Huh? Huh? Can’t think of anything, can you? Yeah. That’s what I thought.

O.K., maybe I do get a little defensive about Response #2. But back to my point: There have been Holmes spinoffs way crazier than mine. (Note: I call them spinoffs because many of them, like Holmes on the Range, aren’t true pastiches. I wasn’t trying to write like Arthur Conan Doyle and I’m pretty sure the guy who wrote Sherlock Holmes and the Underpants of Death wasn’t either. And, yes: That's the title of a real book. So again, people -- do not give me grief about freakin’ Holmes on the freakin’ Range!)

Holmes has fought Martians. Holmes has fought zombies. Holmes has fought dinosaurs. Holmes has fought Nazis. Holmes has fought icky Lovecraftian yuck-gods. Holmes has fought the fiendish Fu Manchu. Holmes has fought Dracula...a lot! Like, maybe not as often as he’s fought Jack the Ripper -- would those two just get a room already? -- but at least half a dozen novels have chronicled the master sleuth’s battles with the count.

There’s a book in which Holmes and Watson borrow a time machine from H.G. Wells so they can travel to ancient Jerusalem and determine whether or not Jesus was really the son of God. (Spoiler alert: He is.) Another book is comprised entirely of Holmes and Watson debating the merits of the Warren Report.  

BatholmesIn the 1987 TV movie The Return of Sherlock Holmes, our hero is awakened from suspended animation and begins investigating crimes in modern-day Boston. In the 1993 TV movie Sherlock Holmes Returns, our hero is awakened from suspended animation and begins investigating crimes in modern-day San Francisco. Why there weren’t subsequent TV movies called Sherlock Holmes Has Returned (in which our hero investigates crimes in modern-day Chicago) and Sherlock Holmes Is Returning (in which our hero investigates crimes in modern-day Des Moines) I don’t know. But there was Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, in which...oh, god. Please don’t make me explain it. Heck, the guy has even palled around with Batman, which is something I wish I could say.

What’s up with all the returns? Why do writers keep reviving Holmes in forms both familiar and freaky?

Simple. Public domain, baby!

Well, that’s part of it anyway. Consider this, though: Long John Silver’s in the public domain, and we haven’t seen Long John Silver Returns in our TV Guides yet. All the poor guy got was a greasy fried fish joint. Someone makes a new Robin Hood film every decade or so, but it’s not like superfans called “the Merry Men” get together in Sherwood every year to debate whether or not he was real.

Yet Holmes still inspires stories and novels and movies and comics and games and art and decorative license plate frames. (Really. I found one online. $19.99 plus $2.99 for shipping and handling.) Obviously, he’s got something Robin and Long John don’t.

It could be that he's a product of the late Victorian era, a time we seem to love despite all the filth and racism and prostitute murders and child labor and such. (I love the Victorian era, and I'm not a fan of racism, prostitute murders and child labor at all. Filth I don't mind, as one glance around my office would tell you.) But if we just dug Holmes because he's Victorian, why would Sherlock and Elementary be so popular? (Aside: Around 2008 or so, I pitched an editor on the idea of a modern Sherlock Holmes revamp, with Afghan invasion vet Watson blogging about his kooky new crime-solving roommate. “Nah...Sherlock Holmes is overdone,” the editor said. “How about a modern Robin Hood?” Sigh. If anyone out there wants to do Robin Hood in the 21st Century, the idea’s still available.)

Whatever it is we love about Holmes, it's malleable. It's not tied to deerstalker caps or meerschaum pipes or hansom cabs or London fog. It's not even tied to Holmes himself, in a way: We've seen good-natured Holmeses and a-hole Holmeses and action hero Holmeses and daffy Holmeses and Holmeses who bear an uncanny resemblance to Max Headroom.

Gaslight Gothic 270But there are a few constants. Holmes is smart. Holmes is curious. Holmes is brave. And Holmes likes to have a Watson (though they vary, too) by his side. With those things in place, Holmes can go up against anything, anyone, anywhere, anywhen.

Including the weird and wonderful world of gothic horror. Congratulations, my dear reader -- you've reached the real point of this post! Not-at-all-weird (so far as I know) yet still wonderful editor/superfan Charles Prepolec has just produced a new anthology of creeptastic Sherlockia. It's called Gaslight Gothic: Strange Tales of Sherlock Holmes, it includes contributions from such Sherlockian superstars as Lyndsay Faye, David Stuart Davies and James Lovegrove, and it's available for pre-order as of this week. I've ordered my copy. Because there's one more thing about Sherlock Holmes that never changes.

We'll always love the guy -- myself included.



Well I think it is safe to say you've done your Holmes research. I now have to question if my Shamrock Holmes - lucky detective, and Hemlock Holmes - master of death, are original ideas.


"There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before."
-Sherlock Holmes, "A Study in Scarlet"

"There is almost nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before except for 'Shamrock Holmes - lucky detective.' No one's done that yet because it's a really bad idea."
-Steve Hockensmith,


Haha! Such wisdom! You don't think having a case that miraculously solves itself is a good idea, huh? What if it was so very bad that it was good? See: Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure


Hmm...come to think of it, every private eye who had his own radio show in the 1940s was "Shamrock Holmes, Lucky Detective." They were knocked out at least once an episode and never got a concussion, and their cases did sort of solve themselves. (I think it counts as "solving itself" when the episode ends with the killer saying, "Yes! I killed Lucas Kaufman and Francis Gould! Kaufman and I worked together to steal the Burmese Peregrine from the Metropolitan Art Museum, and I killed him rather than split the proceeds. Gould knew that the letter opener used to kill Kaufman was made of East Indian elephant ivory, and because I asked for curry at the Art Guild banquet, he knew that I'd been in India recently. He tried to blackmail me, so I killed him with the poison-tipped cuff link you found stuck to the bottom of Lala LaLuna's shoe. When I saw you had the cuff link, I knew you were closing in, which is why I bludgeoned you with the phony Burmese Peregrine we'd substituted at the museum. And I would've gotten away with it, too, if I could only keep my big trap shut and wait for my lawyer to show up....")


Gotta love those ego driven confessions.


Hi. Love the white magic five & dome series. When is the next book coming out?


Hi, Nadia! Unfortunately, the tarot mystery series is on hold for the moment. Lisa and I totally want to do more eventually, though. Here's what'll probably happen: We'll wait a couple years for all the books to go out of print, get the rights back from the publisher, then do two more books in the series. (The series feels incomplete to me until "Miss Chance" has covered all four suits and the major arcana. Of course, it'll also feel incomplete until Alanis defeats those evil Grandis once and for all and makes up her mind about her love life....) Stay tuned for updates!

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