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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fun Read But No Sex Please, We're British,
This review is from: A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes (Paperback)I have to admit, this is a fun read. Somewhere between a good published pastiche short story collection and well-written fan fiction.
I wasn't sure what to expect, thought there'd be more erotica, alright, porn. Slightly disappointed my more puerile side. The tales are gay themed cases brought to our sometimes closeted, sometimes asexual, sometimes realizing, at the end of the tale, Watson is the love of Holmes life, 'consulting detective.' We all know how Holmes HATES blackmailers, so there's a lot of blackmail in these tales.
The introduction was diverting, interesting but there were no references given to the interesting assertions. While I'd love to believe, as the author of the intro writes, that the new BBC Cumberbatch/Freeman version "more or less flat out says Holmes is gay. Watson, who knows?" both the writers and Cumberbatch have said in interviews they view their Holmes as asexual.
I do recommend this enjoyable short story collection. Well written, in character and sometimes even funny.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sherlockian mysteries of alternative lifestyles,
This review is from: A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes (Paperback)It is not my practice to review Sherlockian fiction of such a specialized nature, however, I purchased this book because I collect Sherlockian pastiches and felt I needed to add the stories to my database. I made the mistake of reading the first and was caught in a carefully devised trap. The editor must have given very careful directions to the contributors, for I found very little here of a sexual nature. Instead, I found earnest and thoughtful fiction that concentrated on the problems caused by the very harsh laws in Victorian Britain that restricted those whom we would now characterize as "following alternative lifestyles." Indeed, the characters in these pages exhibit all sorts of alternative approaches to life.
My usual practice in reviewing anthologies is to give brief summaries of the individual tales, along with their titles and the authors' names. In this case, most of the stories consist of efforts by the characters to hide, discover and/or to fulfill their life conditions, so that approach would reveal too much of the point of the stories. Further, I have copies of many periodicals and anthologies of "gay" materials and I seldom do more than check through the pages to catalogue titles, authors and characters included along with references to events, historical characters and Canonical, Apocryphal or Untold tales. All ten of these stories demanded attention and compelled sympathy or, at least, concern for the characters. The writing was of very high quality, the characters were well-developed and the plots were intricate and realistic.
Instead of inane characters indulging in sexual orgies, the reader is presented, mostly, with intelligent people trying to deal with the restrictions placed on their lives by a society that neither cares about nor understands them. These are stories of people who live in a world where they are guilty of heinous crimes simply because of their nature, not because of choices they have made or actions they have taken.
The stories are interesting, even disturbing. Many of the characters are not "gay," nor are they concerned with the societal view of homosexuality. Many are simply caught up in events because someone among their family or friends is accused of or involved in events that are thought to be so. The variety of characters and events is surprising, more varied than expected and very well presented. Only two `monsters' appear and both are truly frightening, especially in that they have learned effectively to hide within society.
The editor has put together as fine a collection of "alternative lifestyle" material as I have ever seen. I feel sure that the impetus and the execution needed to create this collection was supplied by him and he is to be congratulated on a fine job of producing a sympathetic and realistic view of the Nineteenth Century as seen from the viewpoint of those with alternative lifestyles.
Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones, January 2012
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprising lavender,
This review is from: A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes (Paperback)I was surprised by how much I liked this book. I read the introduction, and the editor pointed out specific points in the Canon that seemed to say that Doyle thought Holmes and Watson might be lovers. I figured that if Doyle hinted at it, I might as well look. Another reason I liked the stories were that they were not explicit--the bedroom door remained firmly and discreetly closed. Some stories had gay clients in them, and their preferences were only used as a clue to close the case. Holmes and Watson's deeper relationship was quite clear, when it involved that, but as Holmes remarked in a story "We are English, after all." I was really startled that the only stories I ended up disliking were ones in which the pair were seperated at the beginning, or one of the other of them chose someone else as a partner. This happens in other stories , too--I hate a married Holmes!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well-written and varied stories,
This review is from: A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes (Paperback)"A Study in Lavender" is an anthology of ten stories collected by editor Joseph R. G. Demarco that looks at 221B Baker Street from a slightly different angle. Although this book is subtitled "Queering Sherlock Holmes," homosexuality takes on different roles throughout the anthology. For some stories, this may involve a relationship between Holmes and Watson. In others, their clients or the subject of their investigations may be gay. The collection is comprised of the following:
"The Adventure of the Bloody Coins" by Stephen Osborne
"The Case of the Wounded Heart" by Rajan Khanna
"The Kidnapping of Alice Braddon" by Katie Raynes
"Court of Honor" by J.R. Campbell
"The Well-Educated Young Man" by William P. Coleman
"The Bride and the Bachelors" by Vincent Kovar
"The Adventure of the Hidden Lane" by Lyn C.A. Gardner
"Whom God Destroys" by Ruth Sims
"The Adventure of the Unidentified Flying Object" by Michael G. Cornelius
"The Adventure of the Poesy Ring" by Elka Cloke
I have a tendency to skip over forwards to books because they tend to be dull, dry, and put me to sleep. Mr. DeMarco's forward is none of those things. It is informed and interesting and catches our interest with a discussion on whether or not the fictitious character Sherlock Holmes was a homosexual and how his character has been portrayed over the years in books, movies, and even plays. Mr. DeMarco has also added a short introduction or blurb before each story that sets the scene perfectly and helps to direct our attention to certain aspects of the piece. We the readers are then able to wade in to each individual story without feeling lost, armed with what feels like "inside information" regarding the characters or events or theme. I found that this greatly enhanced my reading experience.
Most of the contributors to this anthology were previously unknown to me. In fact, the only ones I've read in the past are Ruth Sims and Mr. DeMarco himself. Each story is completely unique, varying in style and subject matter, so it is impossible to compare them against each other. Some feature the Holmes/Watson duo; others concentrate on other characters, such of Inspector Lestrad, and give the famous detective only the briefest of mentions. Although I enjoyed all of the contributions, there are a few that I can pluck out of the crowd as favorites.
I found "The Bride and the Bachelors" by Vincent Kovar particularly appealing. It is narrated by Holmes instead of Watson, and Mr. Kovar does an excellent job turning the usual viewpoint around, delving into the mind and emotions of Holmes, and looking at Watson from a third person perspective. Holmes' narrative includes more than its fair share of erudite and obscure words, but this seems quite appropriate for him to speak or think this way. Holmes' fondness for his friend is infused throughout the narrative, as is a bit of angst and a definite sense of humor.
Ruth Sims' contribution, "Whom God Destroys" is a riveting look inside the head of a serial killer and I believe my favorite piece from A Study in Lavender. This fictitious memoir shares with us the thoughts and motivations of a young man who takes pride in the death that he has dealt and the terror he has spread and who mocks the "accomplishments" of his predecessor, Jack the Ripper. Ms. Sims does an excellent job building the suspense in this story as her mentally unbalanced villain plans and executes his "career."
This collection is brought to an end with "The Adventure of the Poesy Ring" by Elka Cloke. Along with having an interesting and well-executed Sherlockian mystery, this story contains touching emotion. It is an illustration of Watson's absolute devotion to his friend Holmes.
If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I strongly recommend that you read "A Study in Lavender." I believe you'll enjoy it whether or not you usually enjoy gay fiction, because the stories feel true to Holmes and Watson. They are entertaining, well-written, and varied enough to keep you wanting more.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Lavender-tinted London,
This review is from: A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes (Paperback)Sherlock Holmes and John Watson had far more adventures than those published during their lifetimes. To protect clients (and others) involved in controversial practices, Dr. Watson requested that certain of his manuscripts remain unpublished until all parties involved were deceased, or until society had advanced its understanding of 'inversion' (a Victorian catch-all term for those with any gender or sexuality deviating from a binary heterosexual rubric) sufficiently that the well-being of those involved would not be jeopardized. This is the premise behind A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes, and, while this is not the first time fanfiction has set itself up to be integrated into the canon in this way, it remains an effective and believable concept.
Despite what I expected, most of the stories were not explicitly Holmes/Watson, at all. They did all involve clients who were in some way "inverts" (the concept of homosexuality as we know it did not exist in the 1890s, remember), and, in many of the stories, it is heavily implied (this is Victorian implied, mind, which means it's all but confirmed) that Holmes is gay, but Watson is totally oblivious. But what is most important is this: despite the orientations of the main characters, they remain sympathetic to those living on the then-criminal edges of society, and realize that there is no justice in stigmatizing those who fall outside of gender and sexuality norms. It is a victimless crime. In that, queer readers and their allies may find solace, and it casts Holmes and Watson as men far ahead of their time.
There is one story in which Watson kisses Holmes, but the execution seems rather contrived, following the narrative: "I'll kiss him to see if he's gay and if he'll react, purely as an experiment; oh but wait, I'm really enjoying this". This is a shame, because it is a rushed premise in an otherwise fluid story. I do not doubt this has happened throughout the course of human history, but I've seen it done so many times as a quick way to get two characters together that my standards of execution are higher. One story ends with the soft implication they end up together, and another deals (far more organically, and this is one of my favorites in the collection) with Watson's burgeoning jealousy and self-realization.
Also interesting is that the book isn't at all smutty. There seems to be a prevailing attitude that equates alternative sexualities with porn, with no room for the chaste sweetness seen with heterosexual portrayals. I dearly love me some smut, but I acknowledge the need for stories that focus purely on the emotional aspect, to cater to all audiences. We see this in fanfiction, and there is a recent movement in commercial fiction in this direction, but for quite a while beforehand stories dealing with homosexuality, bisexuality, etc, was ghettoized as pornography, almost synonymous--and this further restricted access of these stories to young readers. (I argue that violence is more disturbing than sex, but that is another essay.) This past sectioning also made homosexual relationships seem to be purely carnal, especially in the public mind. I am heartened to see a diversification in the way the subject is portrayed, one that reflects the true diversity of experience.
Most of the stories are written in imitation of Doyle's style, with Watson narrating. One story is third-person limited Lestrade, with Holmes acting only in periphery, one story is Holmes first person, and another is narrated by a serial killer who knew Doyle, sort of a meta-take on the franchise.
The stories are of mixed quality. I especially enjoyed "The Kidnapping of Alice Braddon" by Katie Raynes and "The Well-Educated Young Man" by William P. Coleman. These are the standout pieces in this collection, and are by far the best in terms of characterization and plot. "The Adventure of the Unidentified Flying Object" is the weakest in the collection, especially given that it is implied that Moriarty is behind the mystery and the premise is as thoroughly contrived, illogical, and ineffective as putting drug-crazed snakes on a plane to assassinate one witness. If Moriarty wanted a teahouse raided, he would have found a far more effective and subtle way to assure it would have happened. But I digress. I also enjoyed "The Adventure of the Hidden Lane" and "The Adventure of the Posey Ring" very well-written. The former, especially, ends on a painful and poignant note of lost potential, largely because of Holmes' pathological eccentricities. It is a realistic, yet painful, look at one interpretation of Holmes' psychology. "Whom God Destroys" is an interesting addition to the anthology, peripherally related to the Holmes canon through the narrator's position as Doyle's secretary. As a serial killer's narrative it falls flat; there is promise in this story of a deranged young man driven by jealousy and delusion, but the execution lacks the charm of other similar stories, and relies too heavily on weak pop psychology.
I did catch a few typos in the book, more than one would find in the average commercial publication. The writing style and dialogue is clearly modeled on Doyle's, for better and worse, and as a stylistic approach this makes sense given that the authors intended these stories to be 'lost papers', as it were.
Overall, this is a fun little volume, not cheap (it does come from a small press, probably limited print runs if they don't do POD), but worth a look if you would like to see some queer elements fused into the classic Doyle style. It is not perfect, and the stories vary widely in quality, but there is a good, cozy night's reading to be had. Do not expect sweeping epics surrounding Holmes/Watson; the few elements of that there are here are largely peripheral or within the context of the larger mystery. Many of the stories show clear research into Victorian sexual ideology and terminology, and there is, of course, a cameo by that most famous of Victorian inverts, Oscar Wilde. I can read fanfiction of comparable quality for free, even in the Doyle style, but I don't mind paying to support authors putting effort into editing and compiling a print anthology.
4.0 out of 5 stars The least racey tales of gay Watson and Sherlock,
This review is from: A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes (Kindle Edition)I knew what to expect when I bought A Study in Lavender for 8.99 and it certainly failed to disappoint. One has become quite used to the constant theorizing among fans and casual observers alike that a little more than cigar-smoking and brandy sipping went on in the rooms of 221b baker street, but rarely does one encounter a series of short stories on the subject that don't devolve into meaningless pornography. With A Study in Lavender I have found that elusive non-pornographic tome. The stories within have very much the flavour of Doyle at his best. Vincent Kovar's The Bride and The Bachelors managed quite well to capture that subtle humour that Doyle utilized in his much less sinister tales and was a real favourite of mine. The Wounded Heart brings Lestrade - who is usually left to stew in his 19th century frame of mind - into the queer world with what is perhaps the most titilating tale of the entire collection, while also being perhaps the most effectively sinister.
Like almost any anthology, A Study in Lavender has some very weak sections, one should note both The kidnapping of Alice Braddon and The Adventure of the Bloody Coins feel like rushed half-formed partiches and Whom God Destroys is a rather tediously written tale of a mad cross-dressing killer. The cliched use of the opening paragraph in which Watson talks about cases that he gave to a confidant to be published after his death and blackmail as a plot device in a majority of the stories can feel tedious, but the meat of the stories does make up for it.
It's a very enjoyable read from a few very gifted wordsmiths, but don't expect anything too racey.
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting take on the Holmes genre...,
This review is from: A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes (Kindle Edition)If you are looking for erotica, or for stories that deal purely with the relationship with Holmes and Watson, then this is not the anthology for you.
However, if the idea of Holmes dealing with the issue of homosexuality in the lives of his clients, as well as, yes, his own life at times, then this is a volume that will fascinate you. Each story is well-written, and the mystery element is handled well, something not all Sherlockian stories manage. History is handled well, and the forward itself is as interesting as the stories.
I rate it four stars due a) to the fact that I feel the anthology was a tad short, and b) to the fact that I do believe most people would prefer that at least a few more stories dealt with the Holmes/Watson relationship. The one that does so most explicitly leaves nothing explained or resolved, and in an anthology of this type, I believe the relationships being dealt with require the same amount of attention as the mystery itself.
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A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Kovar (Paperback - June 5, 2011)