I hadn't visited a brick-and-mortar Barnes & Noble bookstore lately, but found myself near one this weekend so I stopped in to peruse the fiction section and discover what titles they chose to promote and display prominently.
In the Mystery section, what struck me immediately, from a quick glance of the covers of the books on the shelves, was the prominence of the name "Sherlock Holmes."
Might be a slight exaggeration, but it seemed half the books on the shelves included his name on the cover, or others associated with the famous detective, such as Moriarty. I opened a few with covers that seemed to have been produced by the same artist. They came from the same publisher, Titan Books, which seems to publish a lot of these Sherlock Holmes novels, as if a literary factory assembly line for that purpose (another exaggeration).
They seem to sell well, as far as I can tell. Sherlock Holmes is a marketable brand name and mystery fans want more than Conan Doyle left us.
Apparently anyone can write a Sherlock Holmes novel, as the courts recently declared the fictional character to be in the public domain. I don't mean to disparage the authors of these books. I'm sure there is some excellent writing and plots.
Readers tend to latch onto famous brand names. Sherlock Holmes isn't the only fictional character still going strong from a now deceased author. Jason Bourne, the product of Robert Ludlum's imagination, springs to mind. Bourne is a staple of both new fiction titles and Hollywood movies.
It makes me wonder what other imaginary characters will dominate the bookshelves once they are adjudged to be in the public domain at some point in the future, and authors have free rein to write about them however they want.
Buy my short story collection I mostly wrote in cafes: Queen of the Chess Cult and Other Stories
Buy my novel, written mostly in cafes: Murder at the Library Conference: