Rediscovered: Yet Another Tidbit of Starrett and Sherlock

Autograph Hound Super-Sunday once more, and Brian Leno drags out yet another recent purchase for you to eyeball — with the backstory of how he got put on the scent.

John Hancock fans, the game’s afoot:

I picked up another Starrett.

At Barnes and Noble I bought a paperbound copy of Grady Hendrix’s very entertaining Paperbacks from Hell, and it really is a cool book — I can see why it’s always in the Top Ten in horror litcrit on Amazon.

Someone should do a Paperbacks from Cimmeria as a follow up for all the great Sword-and-Sorcery books from the 60s and 70s. . . .

Anyway, J. N. Williamson is featured in the From Hell book, couple of covers and a short bio. Marveling at the decadence of the cover art on those old softcovers, I noticed a photo of Williamson’s Brotherkind.

The synopsis by Hendrix was eye-catching. Some poor lady is “gangbanged on an UFO by a bunch of midget aliens” — and I realized that anyone who could write serious fiction like that needed to have his signature in my collection.

So I went looking for his autograph on ABEbooks.

I already have his signature a couple of times, most notably in your Reign of Fear, and in one of the hardbound copies of Stuart David Schiff’s superlative magazine Whispers.

But I realized one more never hurts, so I browsed the web and found a holograph postcard from no less than Vincent Starrett written to a very young Williamson, he’s only about seventeen. Pretty cool, huh?

No, not signed by J. N. Williamson, but by a guy who was a much better writer.

Starrett is obviously replying to a question the future author had asked about in their correspondence.

The postcard reads:

Dear Jerry — Thank you for the transcript of the Ballad — a most ingenious rendering! As the fruit of your declining years, how about putting The Hound of the Baskervilles into verse? Glad Smith is going to print the stanzas. Your Casebook note will appear soon. Good wishes!

And then of course signed and dated “19 April 1949.”

I really don’t know much about the content of the letter, but according to Wikipedia, Williamson said that the first piece of fiction he ever wrote was a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, titled “The Terrible Death of Crosby, the Banker.” Perhaps the “Casebook note” was a detail sent to Starrett to use in one of his columns — in re: The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, I’m guessing.

If a young writer wants to talk Sherlock Holmes who better to correspond with than Starrett?

A Starrett signature certainly is not rare, and neither is Williamson, but it’s pretty cool to own a piece of correspondence between the greatest bookman of the twentieth century and one of the members of the Paperbacks from Hell club.

I wonder if Williamson ever told Starrett that he had a pretty good idea for a novel. “This woman, you see, climbs into an UFO and suddenly she sees these midget aliens approaching, with an evil gleam in their eyes. . . .”

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