Dashiell Hammett’s The Master Mind (223B Casebook)

One fact that’s cropped up in my researches into Sherlockian parodies is how many great writers turned their hand to the task. A.A. Milne, P.G. Wodehouse, O. Henry, and even Watson’s literary agent (a chap by the name of Conan Doyle) seemed to have quite a bit of fun with their stories. Everyone except for Mark Twain, who didn’t appreciate Holmes’ talents.

Dashiell Hammett and his sherlock parody pastiches

Dashiell Hammett

In the latter couple of years of Doyle’s life, some surprising names turn up. Thanks to Charles Press’ “Parodies and Pastiches Buzzing ‘Round Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,” we find that humorist James Thurber, as a 29-year-old reporter for the
Columbus Dispatch in Ohio, wrote a dozen parodies for the newspaper in 1923, where they have remained ever since, unseen by anyone. Are the good? Are they interesting? We won’t know until someone goes down to the Columbus Public Library and examines the microfilm. Volunteers?

Then there’s the case of mystery writer Dashiell Hammett, who turned in this brief, acidic portrait of “The Master Mind” for The Smart Set, then under the editorship of H.L. Mencken and George Jean Nathan. The magazine had published his debut story, “The Parthian Shot” in October of the previous year, and his leftist views and experiences as a Pinkerton detective influenced his take on Holmes.

Stories from the 223B casebook — Sherlock Holmes parodies and pastiches published during Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s lifetime (plus later ones I liked) — are published here every Monday and Friday. The up-to-date list can be found here.

The Master Mind, Dashiell Hammett Sherlock Holmes parody pastiche