The Great Pretender: Solar  Pons
x
By Charles Prepolec
" I suppose you are about to tell me a host of incredible conclusions to which you have come in these few steps."

"No, no, you over - rate my poor powers, Parker. I was about to add only that he is unmarried; he lives in the suburbs of London; he cycles to work; he is very probably a bookkeeper; and he is employed in our immediate vicinity. Moreover he is not imaginative, but rather prosaic; he is precise and methodical, but sparing at the expense of neatness, and he is at the moment doing without his luncheon in an effort to accomplish something which has nothing to do with his work, for he is to conscientious to take time away from his work to pursue an inquiry into something which is purely a personal matter."

For a moment I was too stunned to reply. Then I protested. " Oh, come, Pons - I have every respect for your use of the science of deduction, but I cannot follow you in all that."
A seemingly familiar paragraph? Do not be fooled, this is not the work of dear Dr. Watson, but of his successor; Dr. Lyndon Parker. As Parker succeeds Watson, so Solar Pons must follow Holmes. Solar Pons is the creation of the imaginative mind of August Derleth. In the autumn of 1928, a young man of 19, Derleth wrote to Doyle asking if more Holmes stories were forthcoming. His reply was an emphatic 'No". In his quest for more stories featuring his favorite detective, Derleth was not to be deterred. Instead of giving in, he wrote his own stories. Once he had chosen the day to begin his writing he made a quick note on his desk calendar stating "In Re: Sherlock Holmes", inadvertently giving title to the first book publication of Solar Pons.
Solar Pons may have started out merely as a Holmes pastiche, but through attention to character and a distinctly lighter tone he had developed into his own persona. Derleth created a character, to borrow a phrase " which was not so much a 19th century man looking into the 20th as a 20th century man harkening back to the 19th". The stories take place in the 1920's and 30's, yet have a distinctly Holmesian feel to them. The relationship between Pons and his chronicler Dr. Parker is almost identical to Holmes and Watson as is the method of their meeting. The locale for our stories has shifted from 221B Baker Street to 7B Praed Street. Likewise Mrs. Hudson has become the erstwhile Mrs. Johnson and Mycroft is represented by Bancroft. There is far more to these stories than merely the changing of names. There is a charm to these stories that somehow manages to differentiate them from Doyle's work. Pons is a less melancholy figure and more prone to laughter than his illustrious predecessor. Pons is not so much a clone as he is cut from the same cloth and could stand shoulder to shoulder with Holmes.
Derleth wrote numerous stories featuring Solar Pons, most of which first saw print  in a variety of magazines. The Pontine canon consists of "In Re: Sherlock Holmes", "The Memoirs of Solar Pons", "Three Problems for Solar Pons", "The Return of Solar Pons", "The Reminiscences of Solar Pons", "The Adventure of the Orient Express", "The Casebook of Solar Pons", " Praed Street Papers", " The Adventure of the Unique Dickensians", "Mr. Fairlie's Final Journey", " Praed Street Dossier", "he Chronicles of Solar Pons", "The Solar Pons Omnibus Edition", "The Unpublished Solar Pons" and to conclude with "The Final Adventures of Solar Pons". Most of these titles were originally published by Derleth's own publishing house, Arkham House, under the Mycroft & Moran imprint. These are beautifully produced little books. Most of the titles were also published in paperback by Pinnacle Books.

As Holmes and Doyle inspired their share of societies, so too has Pons and his
author, August Derleth. There are Pontine Societies in both England and the U.S.. Needless to say, devotees of Pons are called The Praed Street Irregulars.
One would think that the Solar Pons stories would have ended in 1971 with the death of August Derleth, but this is not the case. As with Doyle's work other authors have continued the stories. In this case one other author has taken up his pen. Basil Copper has continued the Pons series with his own interpretation, which is perhaps even more satisfying. His books include "The Dossier of Solar Pons", "The Further Adventures of Solar Pons", "The Secret Files of Solar Pons", "Some Uncollected Cases of Solar Pons", "The Exploits of Solar Pons" and "The Recollections of Solar Pons". Most were published by Mycroft & Moran, with paperbacks from Pinnacle Books,  while the latter two were published by  Fedogan & Bremmer. All are very collectable and add charm to any collection. A new Pons book by Copper is due from Fedogan & Bremmer at some point in 2002.
There is a feeling of genuine affection for Holmes evident in the writing, which somehow encourages the reader to forget that these are pastiches. The usual heavy-handedness of other imitators is nowhere in evidence. The characters are even aware of the Great Sleuth of Baker Street and hold him somewhat in awe. Even if pastiches are not really to your taste, I urge you to try one of the Solar Pons stories. These rate higher than any other pastiches to date and will not disappoint.
Return to Table of Contents