Sherlock Holmes. Dracula. Two iconic characters of Victorian literature. One, the living embodiment of reason and logic. The other, a being of unimaginable evil.
I never would have thought of Dracula as a Holmes foe, and then a friend of mine handed me Fred Saberhagen’s The Holmes-Dracula File, and I wanted to gag about two-thirds of the way through the book. There’s a revelation Saberhagen makes about Holmes’ family lineage that just smacked me across the face as being so wrong that I could barely finish the book. But then I chanced across an old copy of Loren D. Estleman’s Sherlock Holmes Vs. Dracula, and I wondered why
after this book anyone else needed to attempt the pairing because I thought Estleman hit everything right.
Estleman tells an untold Watsonian tale of Sherlock Holmes’ investigations into the crash of the cargo ship Demeter on the Whitby coast, and his subsequent investigation of the mysterious Bloofer Lady who attacks small children on Hampstead Heath. Soon, Holmes finds himself on the trail of Abraham van Helsing — and the mysterious Count Dracula. Holmes and Watson are integrated ingeniously into the background of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, leaving Stoker’s original intact.
I don’t have any objections to Holmes battling the supernatural — I count Estleman’s novel as one of the best post-Doyle Holmes stories. What I objected to was how Saberhagen took away from Holmes the unique rational viewpoint that defined the character. Estleman put Holmes in a similar situation, but had Holmes use his rational skills to eliminate the impossible to come up with a highly improbable solution. Saberhagen made Holmes into a believer in the supernatural from the start. The conflict between the rational and the irrational was lost.
In the early 80s the BBC mounted a radio adaptation of Sherlock Holmes Vs. Dracula. I’ve long wanted to hear it, and this week BBC7 is making it available for listening. Sherlock Holmes Vs. Dracula stars John Moffatt as Holmes, Timothy West as Watson, and David March as Count Dracula.
I’m looking forward to listening to this audio adaptation of a book I’ve long enjoyed. Holmesian and Draculaphiles should check out this audio drama within the next few days before it goes back into the darkness of the BBC’s crypt.