Friday, 24 February 2012

Sherlock Holmes : Seance For A Vampire - Under The Magnifying Glass

Sherlock Holmes: Seance For A Vampire is a novel that first appeared in 1994 by Fred Saberhagen and has been reprinted as of 2010 to be included in the Titan Books series 'The Further Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes'

Having previously read and enjoyed last year's Sherlock Holmes and the Breath Of God by Guy Adams, also by Titan which featured a cast of characters that included Dr John Silence,  real life occultist Aleister Crowley, Julian Karswell and Carnacki (and currently enjoying dipping in to Kim Newman's Moriarty and The Hound Of The D'Ubervilles also from that publishing house) I was keen to get my grips on another other wordly/supernatural Holmes novelisation, and this one that sees Holmes working alongside Bram Stoker's infamous creation Dracula, really whetted my appetite.

Regrettably, it's a big disappointment. 

Saberhagen has two of the most iconic characters in literature, an early 1900s setting, people being brought back from the dead, shady seances and a long held curse upon a family...and he makes the whole affair irredeemably dull.

I know some Holmes buffs would baulk at the novel's premise; that Holmes is the cousin of Dracula and that his mother was bitten by a vampire during his and Mycroft's childhood. When a case of a supernatural bent arises and Holmes is briefly kidnapped, Watson must call upon his friend's cousin to save the day.

Now, whilst I do consider myself a Holmes buff, I'm not one of those who refuses to read other authors interpretations on The Great Detective, and being a fan of Dracula and horror too, this appealed to me greatly, but not that I'd ever class this as suggested familial link as anything close to the canon. It's just a bit of fun, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Were it actually fun to read that is!

Have I mentioned it's dull?

Saberhagen's grasp on Holmes, Watson and Price Dracula is routinely slight. He never convinces the reader these are the great creations of Conan Doyle and Stoker respectively, indeed they could be anyone so diluted are they in this tale. Holmes especially is unforgivably vague. And the representation of Dracula on the side of the angels immediately dilutes the very core of his character and what makes him so enjoyable to read or watch.

This could have been so much better. Glancing through the reviews on Amazon I noticed one far more favourable reviewer than I'm afraid I can be, suggest that this book could have been made as a Universal horror in the 1940s, uniting two of that companies greatest serial actors, Bela Lugosi and Basil Rathbone.

He also posits a 60s version, from Hammer, with Christopher Lee  as The Count and Peter Cushing as Holmes

My own mind raced with possibilities; what about the similarly glasses wearing combination of Gary Oldman and Robert Downey Junior?

But no, if this were to be likened to any kind of film I'd say it would be one of those deathly dull and too po faced  Europudding affairs that Lee and or Cushing occasionally found themselves involved with in the early 70s. Probably with a cast each speaking their own language and hilariously dubbed later.

I really cannot recommend this book alas. I can however, recommend Kim Newman's Moriarty and Guy Adams' The Breath Of God.

Oh well, my next book should be better. Picked up What A Carve Up! by Jonathan Coe for 99p in Oxfam yesterday. Bargain!


  1. It's a shame that it was disappointing. Reading The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes there were a few like that which just didn't seem to have that 'Sherlock Holmes' essences; it was like you could substitute the names Holmes and Watson for anyone else and it would still be a detective story (might even have improved it slightly).

    John's really enjoying Moriarty, he's sailing through it, so I'm looking forward to him finishing so I can get my hands on it.

    I read The Scrolls of the Dead by David Stuart Davies last week and quite enjoyed it. It matched the Conan Doyle style pretty well through most of the story. We've got another by David Stuart Davies which I'm waiting for John to read so I can check it out as well.

    1. Yes, you've hit the nail on the head there; they could have substituted the names here too, and it wouldn't have changed anything/may have made it marginally better.

      I'm dipping into Moriarty between books which is quite pleasing to do. Trying to savour it I guess.

  2. I liked 'The House of Silk' by Anthony Horowitz.

    Check out my review .


  3. I once read Sherlock Holmes Vs Dracula, in which Holmes matches wits with the Count as his adversary, but it's hard to see Dracula teaming up with the detective. I enjoy reading the Holmes pastiches (really loved the stories Conan Doyle's son wrote with John Dickson Carr), but many of these pastiche novels don't really capture the literary style we think of as 'Holmesian.' I haven't heard of SH & the Breath of God, which sounds fascinating - thanks for mentioning it, I shall have to check it out - though a cast of characters that includes BOTH Aleister Crowley and Julian Karswell sounds a bit rich, as, supposedly, M.R. James based his Karswell character on Crowley himself.

    1. Indeed. This one is definitely one to avoid. Whereas BOG is a pleasing read with a nice atmosphere albeit an over egged pudding in terms of characters.