Sherlock Holmes: Nearly Regal or Downright Raunchy?

By Willa A. Cmiel

Sherlock Holmes’ final adventure, The Valley of Fear, is being republished. While Victorian romances are of late being reimagined with either zombies or flowery covers, Holmes gets pulp-y, and totally sexed up. The goal is to make the book look as far from a “classic” as possible, as the label is apt to repel certain readers who might otherwise be totally into it. In other words, publisher Hard Case Crime is presenting something ‘good for you’ in ‘bad for you’ garb. ” Even the author name is unrecognizable: Arthur Conan is reduced to A.C. The cover is red-hued, with a sexy girl looking fairly but not totally frightened and quite nearly naked. In the curve of her waist, and above the strong, manly arm that reaches clenches its fist from out of the frame, is the tagline “They All Answered to The BODYMASTER.” To make matters best, the “V” of the title points straight to the gal’s own personal valley in a move the publishers claim as grandly “serendipitous” rather than minorly subversive.

The original cover is very Holmesian, with men in long coats and wearing hats. Still, the roomful of men are standing in front of a wooden desk in a dimly-lit study, each of them dressed for a chilly night out, and any and all attention is focused on a lady in her nightclothes who presumably stands at the door to her bedroom. With a title like “Valley of Fear,” the mind easily wanders. Below is the original, and comparatively demure, cover.

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  1. In a sense, this saucy cover brings Doyle full circle. There is a certain revisionist history that exists with Doyle's work. In it's time, it was considered "pulpy" or whatever word Victorians used to describe "base" literature. Time has proven them wrong obviously, as is the case with many writers of crime, horror, and science fiction from the era.

    Sometimes you have to fool people into accepting something good. Look at the new Sherlock Holmes film: talk about castings against type! But if makes people go back and read the books, so what? Same goes for a modern interpreation in cover art.