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NICHOLAS MEYER
The West End Horror
A Posthumous Memoir of John H. Watson, M.D.


click to enlarge

Coronet, London, 1977
(price: 80p, 160 pages)
(first published in Great Britain in 1976 by Hodder & Stoughton)

dedication: For Elly and Leonore


The blurb on the back:

'As authentically, irresistibly gripping as anything Conan Doyle ever wrote. The West End Horror is sterling, civilised entertainment, as eerie as the gas lamps flickering in the fog. DON'T MISS IT' - Cosmopolitan
'A clever and delightfully entertaining puzzle, full of amusing literary jokes, involving murder in the London theatre world in 1895, and starring not only Holmes and Watson, but also numerous real people like Oscar Wilde, Bernard Shaw, and even the original creator of Holmes, Conan Doyle himself. Cheeky, but great fun' -
Sunday Express
'You can't beat a good Sherlock Holmes story. Even if it was only written last year.
The West End Horror is amusing and well one and has a cracking mystery plot, too' - Daily Mirror


Fresh from his publishing triumph with The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Meyer couldn't resist having another go at Holmes, but one rather wishes he had.

Not that there's anything particularly disastrous about The West End Horror. In fact the setting is inspired: London's theatrical world in the mid-1890s was a fascinating place, with the likes of Gilbert & Sullivan, Henry Irving and Oscar Wilde at the height of their powers, and with Bernard Shaw fast emerging as the country's greatest drama critic. Holmes, of course, knows nothing about this world, but he's drawn into it by a murder case that challenges even his... &c. &c.

All the above-mentioned get a look-in - together with Frank Harris, Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker - with varying degrees of success:

Wilde might antagonise people and defy convention, but he didn't really mean it or understand it to be harmful. Underneath his carefully nurtured decadence and his depraved, perverse ideas, the man was an utter innocent. (p.54)

The real trouble is that the story's just not up to it, and no amount of pissing around with historical personages is gonna change that. Maybe if - like some of the others here, including The Seven-Per-Cent Solution - the novel had some fun with Doyle's creation rather than with outsiders, we'd be on to something.


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