“The Necronomicon!” Holmes murmured. “What could a young English lady want with that moldy bit of occult trash?”
—Poppy Z. Brite & David Ferguson, “The Curious Case of Violet Stone”
in Shadows over Baker Street 143
Sherlock Holmes, the consulting detective, has one of the earliest and most enduring fandoms in all of genre fiction. It is perhaps the nature of such an extensive and long-lasting phenomenon for it to mingle with Lovecraft and his Mythos at various junctures.
The practice began, in a sense, with August Derleth: alongside his Mythos fiction, Derleth also wrote an extensive pastiche of Sherlock Holmes under the guise of the detective Solar Pons. “The Adventure of the Six Silver Spiders” (1951) contains a reference to the Mythos—although in this case, it is a bit of a red herring. The idea was made more concrete in The Necronomicon of Solar Pons (2020). From that humble beginning, the idea grew: Peter Cannon’s Pulptime (1984) let Lovecraft and Holmes meet; Lovecraft met with his creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in Gordon Rennie & Frazer Irving’s Necronauts (2001), Thomas Wheeler’s The Arcanum (2005), and Jon Vinson and Marco Roblin’s Edge of the Unknown (2010). Holmes himself has tackled in the Mythos in the anthology Shadows over Baker Street (2003), Sylvain Cordurié and Laci’s Sherlock Holmes & le Necronomicon (2011, published in English as Sherlock Holmes and the Necronomicon), and in 2017 James Lovegrove began the Cthulhu Casebooks series and Lois H. Gresh the Sherlock Holmes vs. Cthulhu series…and the list goes on.
Two households, both alike in dignity.
The nature and quality of the literary mash-up—and, sometimes, double-pastiche—can be desperately silly or deadly serious depending on the attitude and capabilities of the author. In the case of Brite & Ferguson’s “The Curious Case of Miss Violet Stone,” the double-pastiche is played straight and serious. Sherlock Holmes is on the case, displaying examples of his deductive logic, in all of his old habits (including cocaine)—only now he’s come across something uniquely outside his particular experience.
There is a central difficulty with a Mythos/Holmes mash-up in that the central mystery is almost always the Mythos itself, which rather gives the game away before it begins. Ideally, if you wanted to surprise the reader, you wouldn’t have entire anthologies of Lovecraftian/Holmesian genreblenders in the first place—but fans might mutiny if they sit down expecting straightforward detective fair and suddenly run across a Yithian. So with the caveat in mind that savvy Mythos readers will no doubt figure out what is going on before long, there isn’t much in the way of tension in the story—”The Curious Case of Miss Violet Stone” is not a daring adventure that tests Holmes’ intellect to the limit or results in criminals to be captured. No crimes are committed, no one dies.
What readers are given instead is a very well-considered what if. Should Sherlock Holmes have genuinely encountered a Lovecraftian entity…an alien entity…if he was presented with proof of the existence of such things…how would he react? That is the crux of this story, and while it is fairly sedate by the standards of both Lovecraft and Doyle, it is handled with real skill and appreciation for both of the literary forebears whose work comes together in this strange alchemy.
“The Curious Case of Miss Violet Stone” by Poppy Z. Brite and David Ferguson was published in Shadows over Baker Street (2003). It has not been reprinted.
Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).