Mr. Neely published the main portion of this book in The Coastal Bend Sun, a defunct Texas newspaper, in 2002. For this book, he made adjustments to the story and added illustrations. Mr. Spirling added a section of comments that summarize the contacts between Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Bertram Fletcher Robinson between the publication of "The Hound of the Baskervilles" and Robinson's death.
The basis for this pastiche was a series of allegations by Rodger Garrick-Steele issued in 2000. These were essentially that Doyle plagiarized the Baskervilles story from Robinson and then, when Robinson threatened to `expose' him, Doyle seduced Mrs. Robinson and conspired with her to poison her husband. Of course, these charges caused a minor furor but, eventually, died from a lack of any proof and all the evidence of a continuing friendship between Doyle and Robinson. Mr. Neely wrote the novella in 2002 as a response to these allegations. Mr. Spiring, credited as Editor, compiled and listed a series of citations that indicate the continued long-term good relations between Doyle and Robinson up to the time of Robinson's death in 1907.
The fictional element of this book has Holmes and Watson recalled from honorable retirement as fictional icons to investigate a matter that is vitally important to their existence. This is the charge of plagiarism against Doyle, which cast the entire literature of Sherlock Holmes into doubt. The investigation is carried on in the 21st Century, so Holmes and Watson need to orient themselves and to adapt to the information sources and other technologies available to them in this time and place.
Surprisingly, the investigation is carried out in a typical Sherlockian fashion, with Dr. Watson manfully but confusedly helping Holmes and a Scotland Yard Inspector providing the necessary back up. The adjustment problems Holmes and Watson face are taken in stride and the `Standard Doyle cast' make guest appearances. The villain of the piece is a fictional character who is nursing several problems along with a need for recognition. He is induced to recant and to channel his energies into more acceptable efforts.
Mr. Spirling's efforts have produced a careful list of public appearances, comments and citations that illustrate the friendly and extended relations that existed between Doyle and Robinson. There are also personal communications, shared events and joint appearances of various sorts that occur all through the period between the publication of The Hound of the Baskervilles and the death of Mr. Robinson. So the thesis that Robinson had become upset with Doyle is contradicted time and again, right up to his last writings before his death.
The book is short, but well done. It will effectively nail the lid onto the coffin of any plagiarism charges against Doyle for using Robinson's local tale as an inspiration for his story. Robinson was fully and completely credited as the source of the `Baskervilles Legend' and used that credit, from time to time, to promote his own career, rather than holding it against Doyle.
Reviewed by: Philip K. Jones, July 2011