Tuesday, December 29, 2009

THE VALLEY OF FEAR

THE VALLEY OF FEAR
By A.C. Doyle
Hard Case Crime
224 pages.

It is no secret that I’ve been a huge supporter of Hard Case Crime and their truly marvelous line of new and classic noire crime thrillers. So imagine my utter surprise when I learned they were going to be presenting, in their usually garish pulp packaging, a Sherlock Holmes book. The idea seemed completely insane and I thought it was a mere marketing ploy to cash in on the release of the new movie blockbuster currently in theaters starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Dr.Watson.

Well, believe it or not, gimmick or not, this bizarre little suspense thriller actually fits Hard Case Crime’s line-up. It is a pulp crime tale from start to finish and one in which the Great Detective ends up playing a secondary role by the book’s end. That it is told in two halves is also unique and Doyle is clearly aping the early pop-boilers which were often focused on evil secret organizations. In this case, they are an American coal mining union whose brotherhood has taken to using criminal means to gain the power they desire.

Into their midst comes a new “member” eager to rise in the brotherhood. As the group plots one act of brutal terrorism after another against any and all that would oppose them, the character’s descent into a living hell becomes intense and incredibly suspenseful. Whereas all this so called back-story comes in the book’s second half, long after Sherlock Holmes has already solved a particularly ingenious murder. How the two halves are reconciled and the grim denouement at the end make this one of Doyle’s bleakest tales. One I might never have bothered to read had it not been for this very original packaging.

We tip our fedora to Charles Ardai’s and a very cool idea.

5 comments:

Pat said...

I have long assumed that this story, like A Study in Scarlet, was actually a combination of a Sherlock Holmes story and an earlier Doyle tale (almost certainly unpublished) that Doyle combined to make into one novel. If you read A Study In Scarlet, you will see that it also had a very long second half that eventually tied into the first, but in which Holmes did not play any role except in the concluding chapters which combined the two halves.

Ron Fortier said...

Pat, I think your idea bears much fruit. It truly felt like Doyle dusted off an old story and whipped up the first half to bring Holmes into it. Considering how popular Holmes became, I can imagine him attaching the character to older scripts that failed to sell. Doyle was a smart fellow and simply found a way to capitalize on his own hero.

ARCHAVIST said...

I think this could introduce new readers to the Doyle stories. To marks to HARD CASE CRIME

Will Errickson said...

Ha, I didn't even catch the "pseudonym" of A.C. Doyle! Nice.

Ron Fortier said...

Yeah, Will that was Editor Charles Ardai's sneaky little ploy.