The Verdict of Us All - 2006

Miscellanea

Summary

Len Deighton contributes a short story called 'Sherlock Holmes and the Titanic Swindle'. An independent publisher, Carl, receives the first two pages of a novel which purports to be a lost Sherlock Holmes novel, set around the sinking of the Titanic. But how can he be sure? The story develops about how they go about checking its probity and ask themselves: who is the mystery owner of the manuscript? What follows is a mysterious tale of conspiracy, spiritualism and the ultimate answer of what happened to the Titanic.

Why it's enjoyable

This is Deighton’s homage to Arthur Conan Doyle; he is a long-time Sherlock Holmes fan. In his introduction he writes how Conan Doyle is equipped to take the reader into the foggy world of Hansom cabs and top hats in Victorian England, a world never satisfactorily re-created by TV or cinema. There’s a clear link to the Deighton introduction to the earlier facsimile of The Adventures of the Priory School, as Deighton has essentially used the discovery of this facsimile as a platform for a work of fiction. It's also semi-autobiographical too, making reference at times to how writers get exploited by lawyers and publishing firms, and his previous research into Sherlock Holmes.

Sample dialogue

'"Everyone loves Sherlock Holmes," I said. "If it's the real thing this will make the news. Not trade news; bing international headline news and TV."

"The paper looks old," he picked it up and looked and it and smelled it. "But is it Conan Doyle's writing?"

"Well, I don't imagine he would bring us an autograph edition; he may have copied it out."

"You'd think he'd put it on a computer or something."

"Not very secure, computers, Percy. Put something like that on a hard drive and it's only a couple of keystrokes away from going on to the Internet. And into the Public Domain, as you lawyers say. Your - and what did you say his name was? - seems to be a careful chap."

"He says he wants a definite answer, and cash on the table, by the fifteenth of the month."'

Related fact

The book itself is a collection of stories by The Detection Club, which is a membership organisation for crime writers. This edition was to celebrate the eightieth birthday of H.R.F. Keating, its President.

TheVerdict

The Verdict of Us All, UK first edition, 2006

Writing masterclass

Other contributors of short stories to this volume include: Reginald Hill, P.D. James, James Melville, Michael Z Lewin, Peter Lovesey and Colin Dexter, among others