Authors: Michael Kurland
Tags: #General, #Fiction, #Historical Fiction, #Mystery & Detective, #Mystery Fiction, #Detective and Mystery Stories; American, #Holmes; Sherlock (Fictitious Character), #Traditional British, #England, #Moriarty; Professor (Fictitious Character), #Historical, #Scientists
The Infernal Device And Others:
A Professor Moriarty Omnibus
The two books in this volume,
The Infernal Device
Death by Gaslight,
are set in, let us call it, the "world" of Sherlock Holmes. The third book in the series,
The Great Game,
is due out in hardcover from St. Martin's Press momentarily. A fourth book, tentatively titled
The Empress of India,
should follow in the coming year.
These books have Professor James Moriarty as a protagonist and Sherlock Holmes himself as a major character. They are set in the world Conan Doyle established for his brilliant detective, which centers on the London at the end
the nineteenth century; a world
hansom cabs and gas lamps, coal scuttles and gasogenes, clever disguises, secret societies, and a pea-soup fog that surrounds, envelops, and turns every passing footstep into a mystery and the sound
each passing four-wheeler into a romance. Conan Doyle's creation remains with all
us, as Vincent Starrett has said, "in a romantic chamber
the heart, a nostalgic corner
the mind, where it is always 1895."
And this is a fine place to be, and I am proud to set my novels there, and delighted that these first two books were as well received as they were by those who love this fantasy world as I do.
But although my stories are set in that world, and I try very hard
to be faithful to its spirit, these are my stories and my agent is not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. My books are neither parodies nor pastiches
Dr. Watson. I would not dream
trying to pastiche the Master; it would be a game I could not win. There would be shame in writing stories either better or worse than the Canon.
Besides, my point
view is different from that
Conan Doyle, my interests, and the interests
my audience, are other than those
Doyle or his readers, and during the eighty-five years that have passed since the last story
the Canon was penned, the world
Sherlock Holmes has changed from the world
Sir Arthur's youth, in the living memory
his readers, to a world
better time when evil was nasty and bad, and good was pure and wonderful, and the two were never confused. And as the century passed the Canon has taken its place alongside the King James Bible, the plays
Shakespeare, the works
Dickens, as being part
the common heritage
all English-speaking people.
So, please, these books are not Apocrypha; they are, I insist, neither pastiche nor parody. They are historical novels based on new research.
Watson is Boswell, Holmes was lost without his Boswell—and I am, perhaps, Dumas, or Frazer, or Plutarch; at any rate a later source.
I hope you enjoy the books.
Michael Kurland February 2001
A Few Words of Acknowledgment
would like to thank Bernard Geis and Judy Shafran, who had faith in the idea, and Keith Kahla, who has shown infinite patience and support. And,
course, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the literary giant on whose shoulders I stand.
He who has one enemy will meet him everywhere.
The urchin proceeded cautiously through the thick London fog, with only an occasional half-skip betraying the solemnity with which he regarded this mission and, indeed, life itself. Occasionally he paused to peer at the brass numbers on a brick gatepost or puzzle over a street sign. He could have raced blindfolded through the streets near his home, but this was a long way from Whitechapel.
Stopping at a brick house fronted by a high wrought-iron fence, he carefully compared its address with that on the envelope he clutched in his grimy hand. Then he mounted the steps and attacked the door with his fist.
The door opened, and one of the largest men the lad had ever seen stared stolidly down at him. "There is a bell," the man said.
"Werry sorry," the lad said. " 'As I the 'onor of knocking up sixty-four Russell Square?"
"You have. It is."
"Is you Professor James Moriarty?"
"I am Mr. Maws, the professor's butler."
"Gawn!" the boy said. "Butlers ain't called 'Mr.' I knows that much."
"I am," Mr. Maws said.
The lad considered this for a moment as though wrestling with a difficult equation. Then he backed up a step and announced, "I 'as a envelope for Professor James Moriarty what I is supposed to 'and 'im personal."
"I'll take it," Mr. Maws said.
The lad backed up, ready to run. "I is supposed to 'and this 'ere
envelope to Professor James Moriarty 'imself, and not to nobody else."
Mr. Maws squatted down to approximate the boy's height. "But I am the professor's butler," he said. "You know about butlers. I stand in the position of
to Professor Moriarty under the common law. Giving me the envelope is the same as giving it to Professor Moriarty himself. That's my job, you see."
"Gor!" the urchin said, unconvinced.
"Here," Mr. Maws said, reaching into his waistcoat pocket and pulling out a shilling. He held it between his thumb and forefinger. "It's my job to pay for them, too."
"Coo-eee!" the lad said. "A bob!" He stared at the coin in fascination for a moment, then quickly exchanged it for the envelope and ran off down the street.
Mr. Maws took the envelope inside and carefully closed and bolted the door before further examining it. It was of stiff yellow paper. Written across the front, in what Mr. Maws took for a foreign hand, was
Professor Moriarty—Into His Hands
64 Russell Sqr.
On the back, across the flap, was
Personal and most urgent.
It was sealed with a blob of yellow wax bearing no imprint. Mr. Maws sniffed it, squeezed it, and held it before a strong gaslight before putting it on a salver and bringing it into the study.
"Letter," he said.
"I thought the first post had come," Professor Moriarty said, without looking up from the worktable where he was slowly heating a flask of dark-colored liquid over a spirit lamp.
"A young ragamuffin delivered this by hand a few moments ago," Mr. Maws explained. "He ran off before I could inquire where he had obtained it. Incidentally, sir, the gentleman with the prominent nose is still lurking across the way in Montague Place."
"Ah!" Moriarty said. "So we still interest Mr. Sherlock Holmes with our little comings and goings, do we? Good, good." He took the flask off the fire and set it aside. "Just raise the blinds, will you. Mr. Maws? Thank you." He pinched a pair of pince-nez glasses onto his nose and examined the envelope. "Of European manufacture, I should say. Eastern European, most likely. Meaningless of itself—so much is being imported these days. But the handwriting has a definite foreign flavor. Look at that 'F.' Best see what's inside, I suppose."