My Dearest Holmes
GMP, London, 1988
dedication: For Jayne with all that goes without saying
The blurb on the back:
... The accounts of these cases are too bound up with events in my personal life which, although they may provide a plausible commentary to much of my dealings with Mr Sherlock Holmes, can never be made public while he or I remain alive ...
Although Dr Watson is known for recording some sixty of his adventures with the celebrated Sherlock Holmes, he also wrote other reminiscences of their long friendship which were never intended for publication during their lifetimes. Rescued from oblivion by Rohase Piercy, here are two previously unknown stories about the great detective and his companion, throwing a fresh light upon their famous partnership, and helping to explain much which has puzzled their devotees.
The title of the volume, together with the fact that it's published by the Gay Men's Press, should give you a clue to the twist on the tales. But the fact that Watson is gay and suffering from (what is probably) an unrequited love for Holmes is only the opening gambit, simply the theme on which Rohase Piercy builds a quite superb set of variations.
The first of the two stories is a tale of blackmail set shortly after the passage of the Criminal Law Amendment Act (the Act that was finally to get Oscar Wilde), and shortly before Watson's marriage. This latter event turns out to be something of a union of convenience, with both Watson and his bride seeking beard-like cover in an increasingly hostile social environment. It's quite sweet and it does explain the confusion over Watson's Christian name (it's John, but he calls himself James when he's out on the town), but it's effectively just a curtain-raiser for the second story.
This is - yet again - a reworking of 'The Final Problem'. But rather than seek an alternative explanation of the Conan Doyle account, this is essentially the same story, suffused with a heart-breaking vein of pure love. The writing is elegant, elegaic and beautiful, the atmosphere thoroughly convincing, and the whole thing perhaps the finest Sherlock piece I've ever read - possibly (whisper it soft) including the Doyle stories. It's also one of the best unconsummated love stories this side of Brief Encounter.
This is all the more impressive because there are so few jokes here. Virtually all the decent Holmes pastiches work because they're packed full of in-jokes and little twists that amuse and entertain the committed fan. Apart from Mycroft being an uncaring, solidly establishment bastard, there's none of that going on here. There's just quality writing. Piercy went on to give us Constance Wilde's fictitious letters to her husband in The Coward Does It With A Kiss, another fine piece. Beyond that ... nothing.