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Master of the White Worms, by Paul Kane Book Review | SFReader.com
Master of the White Worms, by Paul Kane Genre: Mixed Genre Collection Publisher: FictionWise Published: 2004 Review Posted: 9/21/2006 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Master of the White Worms, by Paul Kane
Book Review by Benjamin Boulden
Have you read this book?
Master of the White Worms by Paul Kane actually contains two short stories, "Master of the White Worms," and "Dalton Quayle and the Sheepshank Revelation" a television essay, "Don't Mention the War", and an interview with the author conducted by Amanda Edwards. The interest for this reviewer lies squarely with the short stories, and so that is where this review will focus.
I arrived with this small collection cold. In fact, I didn't even know it was a collection: I assumed that it was one story featuring the intrepid detective Dalton Quayle. When it turned into two stories, an essay and interview I was surprised, but in a good way. The only thing I knew about the collection was that the stories were spoofs of the classic Sherlock Holmes series, but I wasn't prepared for how well they were written, and how earnestly Kane captures the essence of Holmes and his sidekick Dr. Watson.
Dalton Quayle lives on Butcher Street with his matronly housekeeper Mrs. Hudsucker where he sequesters himself between cases and passes the time by improving his techniques of disguise, his powers of deduction, and coaches, however gently, his amiable sidekick Dr. Pemberton. It is easy to see the similarities between the Holmes stories and the Quayle stories, but don't let that fool you into thinking they are simple acts of mimicry. These stories are beautifully rendered satirical spoofs that are entertaining on more than one level.
In the first story, "Master of the White Worms," Dr. Humphrey Pemberton, the erstwhile friend and colleague of the brilliant Dalton Quayle, is summoned for "another one of his [Dalton Quayle's] splendid adventures. Either that or his piles were flaring up again." It is written, just as the Holmes stories, in diary format by Pemberton as he reflects on their adventures. The humor begins quickly, and is well received-nothing cheap or unseemly-as it is revealed that Pemberton is not terribly bright, and Quayle is anything but a brilliant detective. He has a habit of explaining the mysteries of a case only after he has filled in the blanks by interviewing those involved. There is very little deduction with our Dalton Quayle, but he goes to every length to have you believe otherwise.
"Master of the White Worms," is the shorter of the two stories, and it is a straight-forward missing person's case--with just a touch of the supernatural to keep the reader off-guard and guessing at the conclusion; guessing wrong, I might add, until the final paragraphs.
While "Dalton Quayle and the Sheepshank Revelation" is a play on the famous, and my favorite of the Sherlock Holmes stories, "The Hound of the Baskervilles"--with one notable exception, rather than a rampant demon-dog, the countryside manor is terrorized by a sort-of were-sheep. Dalton Quayle is summoned to a country farm to discover what, exactly, is stealing the farmer's livestock and eating his crops. It is not an easy task, but Quayle is very much ready for the challenge despite some duplicity on the part of the farmer and his family.
The plotting is unimportant, mainly because it is well done and the stories are interesting in their own right, but the mastery that Kane shows with his depiction of Quayle and Pemberton as alter-images of Holmes and Watson makes these stories special. They are not simply spoof characters, while admittedly they are very much dependent on the stereotypes of the Conan Doyle characters, they none-the-less have their own life-blood. Quayle is a pretentious twit and Pemberton is an overwhelming dunderhead. It is a wonder that they are able to solve any case, but they do and Kane makes their victories believable and exciting. The stories contained in "Master of the White Worms" are well-rendered, fast moving stories that should be read by anyone who has enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes tales. They will entertain you, make you laugh, and more importantly remind you that life is never as complicated as it appears.
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