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Reviewed: Various Monkeybrain Books
Jess Nevins’ mammoth survey of Victorian popular fiction is a hugely entertaining and handy tome for anyone with more than a passing interest in the era and its bewildering array of literary heroes and villains. As the title suggests this is in fact a straightforward encyclopedia, featuring listings and write-ups summarizing background, explaining character traits, etc…for hundreds of characters, ranging from the obvious to the obscure. Perhaps a bit less objective than I’d like, with Nevins’ injecting a strongly personal bias to some listings, it still proves to be highly useful and vastly entertaining. Sherlock Holmes is, of course, given a fair bit of coverage, roughly three plus pages, with further separate entries for other Arthur Conan Doyle characters including Irene Adler, Edward Bellingham, Jack Brocket, Micah Clarke, Brigadier Gerard, Sir Nigel Loring, Professor Moriarty, Professor Van Baumgarten and Duncan Warner.  Well worth the expense and perfect for either extended reading or to dip into here and there as time and interest require. Highly recommended to Sherlockians and students of the Victorian pop literature scene alike!
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The Encyclopedia Of Fantastic Victoriana
Author: Jess Nevins
First Published: October 30, 2005 -  Monkeybrain Books
Format: Hardcover 1009 pages
ISBN: 1-9322-6515-5
Price: $50.00 USD

Reviewed by: Charles Prepolec

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Chris Roberson, through his indie press Monkeybrain Books, has been quietly publishing a small selection of interesting and beautifully produced mystery/pulp hero related titles, both reference and fiction, these last few years, usually featuring the splendid cover artwork of John Picacio. Since these generally tend towards only peripheral elements of interest to Sherlockian readers, here’s a round up of some of the most relevant titles. All are worth a look.
Myths For The Modern Age: Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe
Author: Edited By Win Scott Eckert
First Published: November 25, 2005 -  Monkeybrain Books
Format: Trade Paperback 392 pages
ISBN: 1-9322-6514-7
Price: $14.95 USD

Reviewed by: Charles Prepolec

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While many Sherlockians engage in the mental gymnastics of “Playing the Game”, their efforts pale in comparison to the contortionists who have embraced the connect-the-dots style of game playing inspired by Philip Jose Farmer’s Wold Newton Universe concept. Taking his cue from the Sherlockian approach to dealing with Holmes as a real life personage, Farmer wrote his fictional biographies TARZAN ALIVE and DOC SAVAGE: HIS APOCALYPTIC LIFE creating a unified family tree connecting most pop fiction heroes and villains since 1795 onwards in the process! In MYTHS FOR THE MODERN AGE: PHILIP JOSE FARMER’S WOLD NEWTON UNIVERSE editor Win Scot Eckert pulls together 28 essays, by a variety of Wold Newton fans, and reprints a few Farmer pieces as well, expanding on the concept. While only one of the included essays deals specifically with Sherlock Holmes, the heavy interconnectedness of the concept means you’ll find references to Holmes, Moriarty, and various other ACD characters scattered throughout almost every essay in the book. Unfortunately the quality of writing varies dramatically from piece to piece, Rick Lai’s The Secret History of Captain Nemo and Fu Manchu vs. Cthulhu essays stand head and shoulders above the rest, the book is a wildly uneven read at best. Recommended only to those with a familiarity, or appreciation of, the Wold Newton concept, or anyone that really gets a kick out of stretching the patently implausible to the breaking point.
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The Man From The Diogenes Club
Author: Kim Newman
First Published: June 25, 2006 -  Monkeybrain Books
Format: Trade Paperback 389 pages
ISBN: 1-9322-6517-1
Price: $15.95 USD

Reviewed by: Charles Prepolec

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THE MAN FROM THE DIOGENES CLUB, how’s that for a title to conjure with? Now before anyone gets too excited, no, it isn’t about Mycroft Holmes I’m afraid, although it does feature a latter day version of the Diogenes Club, well, sort of.  Kim Newman in his seminal vampire epic ANNO DRACULA reinvented the Diogenes Club along the lines of how it was presented in Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, which is to say as a top-secret government organization involved with strange doings (submarine disguised as the Loch Ness monster anyone?). In essence a sort of X-Files outfit keeping the England’s shores safe from supernatural, psychic and alien oddities, amongst other things. Anyway, in THE MAN FROM THE DIOGENES CLUB we have a collection of 8 stories featuring flamboyant Diogenes Club psychic investigator Richard Jeperson, along with his assistants the lovely and lethal Vanessa and the ever-reliable Sgt. Fred Regent. Think blend of Hope Hodgson’s Carnacki with The Avengers and Jason King and you are pretty much on the right track. Plenty of humour, lots of strange goings-on, vast amounts of pop culture and television references and even a bit of political commentary in the inimitable Kim Newman style makes for a thoroughly engaging collection. Recommended for anyone who enjoys retro-fueled psychic detective stories with a cool Avengers vibe!