I love The Hound of the Baskervilles. It is one of my all-time favorite mystery novels and vies with Arthur Conan Doyle’s other masterpiece of intrigue and suspense The Sign of the Four as my favorite Sherlock Holmes novel. The legacy of the demon hound that stalks the wilds of Dartmoor has remained strong in the 120 years since the novel’s initial publication; a heritage that is only strengthened by a host of film and television adaptations, plays, Sherlockian pastiches, jigsaw puzzles, and prog rock concept albums! All of these and more are included in the new book written by Vince Stadon – a man who may love The Hound even more than me – called Hounded: My Lifelong Obsession with Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles.
Stadon’s book is part memoir, part travel log, part social history, and part film criticism. It’s a densely-packed book that does everything it says on the cover. Over the course of several months while sequestered in COVID lockdown, Stadon embarked on a mission to fully immerse himself in the world of Sherlock Holmes and The Hound (reverently capitalized like that throughout), watching as many of the filmed adaptations as he could, re-enacting bits of the book (some efforts more successful than others), and eventually journeying to Dartmoor in order to retrace the steps (and paw prints) of the Beast of the Baskervilles and the intrepid detectives who hunted it down. Hounded is an incredibly readable jaunt, Stadon approaching his material with tongue planted firmly in cheek. In his introduction he observes that there has never been a book written about Sherlock Holmes quite like his. And he’s probably right.
The humor on display is really the selling point of this book; the sheer number of jokes and references per page boggles the mind. Stadon’s throw-everything-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks approach to joke writing of course means that not everything will land with every reader. Some of the humor is a little broad for my taste, yet there were some moments that made me laugh out loud while reading. The same goes for the capsule reviews of Hound movies and TV; though our opinions differ – controversially I have a soft-spot for Matt Frewer’s Sherlock Holmes and Martin Shaw’s presence in, well, anything doesn’t generate for me the same ire that it does for Stadon – I found that our opinions were largely shared about Holmes as well as Hammer Horror, Doctor Who, Dracula, and James Bond; all topics that at one point or another Stadon introduces into the body of his book or in the many footnotes scattered throughout.
Hounded is an irreverent but ultimately passionate account of one fan’s love of one of the greatest stories ever told; the enthusiasm that Stadon brings to the subject made all the more compelling and personal by the bits of biography and anecdotes he shares throughout. The specter of COVID-19 looms large throughout the book, and one cannot help but find that the rational, orderly world of Sherlock Holmes was the ideal diversion during such a tumultuous time. I recommend the book whole-heartedly to a Sherlockian in need of good fun, and if Vince Stadon ever decides to tackle all the versions of Dracula (something heavily implied come the conclusion of his Hound binge) then I will happily sink my teeth into that as well (if only to see how many other puns he can come up with)!
Hounded: My Lifelong Obsession with Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles is now available in hardcover and softcover from MX Publishing and is available everywhere September 15. I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review.
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