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Book Review

Book Cover

The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
The Stalwart Companions


Author: H. Paul Jeffers
Titan Books
RRP: £7.99, US $9.95, Cdn $12.95
ISBN: 978 1 84856 509 8
Available 26 February 2010

Before Sherlock Holmes formed his long-standing alliance with the inimitable Dr Watson, one of his earliest investigations was alongside the future President of the United States of America, Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt. When Holmes visits the USA, these “stalwart companions” must together solve a most complicated case, a violent and despicable crime that could herald the death of the American Dream...

Originally published by HarperCollins in 1978, The Stalwart Companions takes place at the earliest point in the detective’s lifetime thus far documented in this series of reprints, before he makes the acquaintance of Dr John H Watson in A Study in Scarlet and The Veiled Detective. Contrary to the book’s synopsis, its title refers not to the friendship that develops between Holmes and Roosevelt, but to the complex political conspiracy they uncover.

The actual story takes up 120 pages, about two-thirds of the book’s total page count, and it feels as though the plot is over almost before it has really got going. The tale is prefaced by an introduction describing the “discovery” of this hitherto lost manuscript in the basement of the New York Police Department. Featuring the entertaining character of “Wiggy”, a descendent of Wiggins (leader of the Baker Street Irregulars) and an expert on Sherlock Holmes, this introduction is as compelling a read as the main narrative.

The story proper is followed by copious notes, offering additional background information about the people and places Holmes and Roosevelt encounter, and drawing comparisons between Holmes’s and Roosevelt’s actions and opinions documented here and those evidenced elsewhere. In other words, the author demonstrates that he’s done his homework! H. Paul Jeffers certainly knows his stuff about Roosevelt, having penned The Bully Pulpit, a biography of the man, and I can vouch for the veracity of his characterisation of Holmes.

Roosevelt, a habitual diarist, makes a good stand-in for the absent Watson, a loyal, plain-speaking foil for Holmes’s genius. Similarly, there is an American counterpart for the Scotland Yard police inspectors who commonly inhabit Holmes’s adventures, though Wilson Hargreave is decidedly more open-minded than the likes of Inspector Lestrade. There are also precursors to the Baker Street Irregulars (in the form of New York Newsboys) and Mrs Hudson (in the guise of an Italian landlady who believes that Holmes doesn’t eat well enough).

The book is written by an American, both in actuality and in its fictional context, so naturally there are a lot of American spellings. However, there appears to have been an attempt to copy-edit the text into British English. This has not been done consistently, so we have a mixture of terms, such as the UK spelling of “storey” alongside the US spelling of “draft” (meaning “gust”), and the UK spelling of “neighbour” alongside the US spelling of “neighborhood”.

Despite its flaws, The Stalwart Companions should while away a few pleasant hours as your fireside companion. As Roosevelt puts it, “I feel as if I have just put down a thrilling work of fiction.”


Richard McGinlay

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