Friday, 18 September 2015

The Penguin Complete Rivals of Sherlock Holmes – NOT

Most people have heard of the novelist Grahame Greene. Even if they have not read any of his books they may have seen the various film adaptations of some of his work – such as the The Third Man starring Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton, or Brighton Rock starring Richard Attenborough (which was recently remade in 2010).  However the name of his brother, Hugh Greene, is perhaps not as well known; it should be but probably is not. There is more than one reason why he should be remembered.

One reason is his struggle as the Director General of the BBC in the 1960s to update the BBC and compete with the then new rival ITV. One of his main opponents in that was Mary Whitehouse. That conflict was portrayed in the BBC drama Filth: The Mary Whitehouse Story in 2008 with Hugh Bonneville as Hugh Greene.

Another reason is, perhaps, only important to fans of Sherlock Holmes. He edited four books of early detective stories featuring detectives who could be considered rivals with Sherlock Holmes. The books are:

The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, 1970, The Bodley Head (reprinted by Penguins Books in 1971).

Cosmopolitan Crimes, Foreign Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, 1971, The Bodley Head  (reprinted by Penguin Books as More Rivals of Sherlock Holmes in 1973).

The Crooked Counties, 1973, The Bodley Head (reprinted by Penguin Books as Further  Rivals of Sherlock Holmes in 1976).

The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, 1976, The Bodley Head (reprinted by Penguin Books in 1978).

In 1983 Penguin Books published The Complete Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. It is a misleading title. It only contains the first three books. The American Rivals of Sherlock Holmes was not included.  I have no idea why. In publishing The Complete Rivals, Penguin Books choose to use a large typeface and stretched the text of three books to the width of 1018 large pages. If they wanted to do so, they could have done as they did in their other books in the ‘Penguin Complete’ series, such as The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes which contains nine books in one (1122 pages), and used a smaller typeface but they did not. Who knows why?

Well, yes, it is not the first time that Penguin has used the word ‘complete’ in the title knowing it to be a fib. The Penguin Complete Edgar Allan Poe is far from complete but then there is a good reason; Poe wrote far too much to ever be packed into one book. The same goes for The Complete Penguin Lewis Carroll. However, the four books by Hugh Greene cannot possibly be included in that reasoning. It is, after all, only four books. I guess we will never know why Penguin made the choice they did. You can now make your jokes about how perhaps Holmes could solve the mystery.