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Inknbeans Press

Without my Boswell

Paperback edition

Kindle edition

“Yes, my boy, these were all done prematurely before my biographer had come to glorify me.” He lifted bundle after bundle in a tender, caressing sort of way. “ They are not all successes, Watson,” said he. “ But there are some pretty little problems among them. Here’s the record of the Tarleton murders, and the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant, and the adventure of the old Russian woman, and the singular affair of the aluminium crutch, as well as a full account of Ricoletti of the club-foot, and his abominable wife.” (from “The Musgrave Ritual”)
“I assure you that the most winning woman I ever knew was hanged for poisoning three little children for their insurance-money…” (from The Sign of Four)

Of course you can buy the paperback from Amazon. However, we would very much appreciate it if you were to order it from your local bookstore (should such a thing still exist in your area). Here are the details:

  • Title: Without my Boswell : Five Early Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  • Author: Hugh Ashton
  • Publisher: Inknbeans Press, 2014
  • ISBN: 978-0-9886670-3-7

Without my Boswell

“I am lost without my Boswell,” declares Sherlock Holmes in “A Scandal in Bohemia”. Indeed, the interplay between the solid ex-Army doctor, and the more mercurial purveyor of “ineffable twaddle” forms a large part of the appeal of the adventures which Watson caused to be published, and Watson himself, as well as acting as a publicist for Holmes’ business, provides more solid assistance on many occasions.

But as I have remarked elsewhere (“A Defence of John H. Watson MD”, The Watsonian, Autumn 2013), Sherlock Holmes would not have allowed himself to associate with a complete dolt. We know that Holmes did not suffer fools gladly, and it would be completely illogical to assume that he would make an exception in the case of Wats0n. Even so, the two characters complement each other well—Watson is down-to-earth where Holmes may be fanciful; and while neither man can be accused of physical cowardice, Watson’s experiences under fire give him a form of courage which is that of the soldier, rather than that of the adventurer, as displayed by Holmes. It is a mistake to see him merely as a foil for Holmes’ wit and intellect. And at the very least, we know him as a raconteur of genius, as he relates the cases of his famous friend, artistically embellishing, withholding, and organising the events he describes in such a way as to capture and hold our imaginations (I take it that no-one reading this is so naive as to believe that Watson’s accounts are plain unvarnished truthful full reports of the adventures he shared with Holmes).

But... before John Watson had that fateful encounter with the eccentric beater of corpses at Barts, there was a consulting detective by the name of Sherlock Holmes, who had already built up a practice and a reputation that extended to Scotland Yard. However much he may have felt lost without his Boswell later in his career, Holmes was playing a solo game when he started out.

We see a little of Holmes alone (apologies for the inevitable pun) in “The Case of the Gloria Scott” and “The Musgrave Ritual”, and it is in Watson’s account of this latter adventure that we hear of some other cases at a time when Holmes was presumably learning his trade.

The written accounts of some of these were in the dispatch-box, bound together in an envelope, in Watson’s writing. The envelope was inscribed “Before My Time”, again in Watson’s hand.

The stories in here are all somewhat less interesting from the point of view of the interplay between Holmes and other characters, but they all shed a light on Holmes’ methods of deduction as he learned his trade, and often also shed light on his character. As Holmes himself remarked, not all of these may be seen as successes, but none of the cases here may be regarded as a complete failure. Here they are, with five original illustrations by Andy Boerger.