Friday, 19 May 2017

"Sherlock Nero Poirot"

To answer an earlier question, I have read:

no Nero Wolfe or Gideon Fell;
very little Miss Marple or Lord Peter Wimsey;
maybe two Fr Brown collections.

What I like about the Fr Brown series is that the villain reforms and becomes the detective's companion.

When Poul Anderson's Trygve Yamamura taunts a friend as "Sherlock Nero Poirot," we recognize at least two of these names and can easily learn the significance of the one that is less familiar. In fact, googling "Nero detective" brings up Nero Wolfe.

Anderson's text almost certainly means that Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe and Hercule Poirot are known as fictional characters to Yamamura and his friend as they are to Anderson and his readers but there is another possibility. Fictional characters can be real to each other. There is some evidence that Holmes is real to Wolfe. See here. Both Holmes and Poirot become celebrities in their fictional worlds. Therefore, one or both could be known to Yamamura as a celebrity rather than as a fiction. Holmes' world contains not only the events of "A Scandal in Bohemia" etc but also Watson's published accounts of those events - thus raising the question whether Watson reported accurately. Fiction can go through some very strange stages. Holmes is real to Anderson's Time Patrol. However, if Holmes is real to Wolfe, it does not follow that the Patrol and Wolfe are real to each other because Holmes can exist in more than one alternative world.

Discussing detective fiction has led to discussing alternative history fiction. Imagine all the detectives existing in their parallel worlds - and someone communicating between them.

7 comments:

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

I agree, Chesterton having M. Hercule Flambeau repenting of being a criminal and becoming the friend and companion of Fr. Brown was a very neat touch.

I looked up the link to the speculations about Nero Wolfe being the son of Sherlock Holmes (or, for that matter, of his brother Mycroft), and I'm still dubious. After all, Wolfe's creator, Rex Stout, apparently never said or hinted of anything like that.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
The Wiki article also interprets Archie Goodwin's portrait of Holmes as evidence that Holmes is a real guy.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

But was any evidence offered from the texts of any of the Wolfe stories indicating Goodwin thought Sherlock Holmes was a REAL person in that timeline? If so, then it would be reasonable to think of the Nero Wolfe mysteries as being set in an alternate world where Holmes was real.

Archie Goodwin could simply have been a fan of A. Conan Doyle's Holmes stories. Sometimes the simplest explanation is the best hypothesis!

A, to me, more interesting question is why, despite writing Nero Wolfe mysteries for forty years, Rex Stout doesn't show his characters as AGING. Stout wrote that was deliberate, that he wanted his readers to focus on the question or problem driving the story or novel, not on Wolfe and Goodwin. I mean, for Stout, things like Wolf and Goodwin gradually becoming incapacitated by would have been DISTRACTIONS from what made those stories MYSTERIES in the first place.

Sean

Paul Shackley said...

Sean,
Yes, a portrait of Holmes can exist in a world where Holmes is fictional.
I find it unrealistic when characters do not age at all over several decades. An author can stretech a point, especially if he is clever about it.
Paul.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Portraits of fictional persons? Exactly! The example I thought of being the illustrations for the Ace Books edition of A STONE IN HEAVEN. I like those illustrations because it was plain the artist had read and thought about STONE. Which made his interpretations of what both the human and non human characters LOOKED like very satisfactory to me.

I do see your point about it being unrealistic for characters in a series extending over DECADES not showing their age as time passed. I also think Rex Stout, as the author, also making a reasonable point, about wanting readers to focus on the problem needing to be solved in a story.

A question like this can be easier for an SF writer. After all, he can rationalize his characters remaining active and vigorous for decades due to them taking advantage of advances in medical science. As we see from the use made of antisenescence and DNA repair by Flandry and others.

Sean

David Birr said...

Paul and Sean:
Portraits of fictional persons constitute another form of fan fiction. I see them ALL THE TIME.

For example, I'm quite fond of (some) manga and anime. Much of their artwork is highly stylized and simplified — and then, perhaps, an artistically gifted fan creates his/her interpretation of what thus-and-such-character would look like in a more realistic mode. I've found (and collected) a lot of these on the Internet. I'm not talking about the risque/lewd versions, either, although those technically count as well.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, DAVID!

The problem, to me, in one sense, is that much comic and manga art work LOOK like comics, in a hard to define way. That's leads to one reason why I found the
Ace Books illustration for A STONE IN HEAVEN so satisfying, they did not "come across" as being like comics.

Sean