Picture Sherlock Holmes in a world that operates under the
laws of magic.
the essence of Randall Philip Garrett's alternate universe
– a world in which Richard the Lion-Hearted did not
die at Chaluz but recovered, reformed, and ruled England as
an exemplary king to the end of his days.
history of the Plantagenets – who still rule the Anglo-French
empire in the 1960s in Garrett's alternate world – is
secondary to Lord Darcy, the genius detective who solves crimes
with the aid of forensic sorcerer Master Sean O Lochlainn,
Darcy's equivalent of Holmes' Doctor Watson.
Garrett improves upon Doyle's formula: Whereas Watson is Holmes'
sometimes-bumbling foil, Master Sean is brilliant in his own
right, possessed of the Talent and skill required to make
magic reveal its secrets.
Garrett's other improvement for those of us who love fantasy.
In Darcy's world – Garrett's world – magic is
the “science” of all lands, capable of creating
“telesons” that allow people to communicate over
vast distances (although magic doesn't work over water) and
a magical “food preservator” that allows storage
of food with a stasis spell.
our world considers “science” in Garrett's universe
is relegated to the sidelines, a primitive and suspect pursuit.
may be best-known these days for the one novel and several
stories chronicling the adventures of Lord Darcy – he
won a Special Achievement Award for the series in 1999. But
he was already a veteran author, a contributor of stories
to Astounding and other science fiction/fantasy magazines
in the 1950s and '60s, before he introduced Lord Darcy in
with other authors – among them, Robert Silverberg,
with whom he co-wrote as Robert Randall – and wrote
as well under a variety of pen names including David Gordon,
John Gordon, Darrel T. Langart (an acronym of his name), Alexander
Blade, Richard Greer, Ivar Jorgensen, Clyde Mitchell, Leonard
G. Spencer, S. M. Tenneshaw and Gerald Vance.
a founding member of the Society for Creative Anachronism,
adopting the name “Randall of Hightower” –
the latter a pun on “garret.” Friends and fans
knew him as an unrepentant punster. He himself allegedly defined
puns as “the odor given off by a decaying mind.”
on Dec. 16, 1967, Garrett suffered an attack of encephalitis
in 1979 and reportedly spent the rest of his life in a coma.
He died on Dec. 31, 1987.
Kurland, a friend and fellow author, obtained permission from
Garrett's estate and continued Lord Darcy's exploits in two
more novels: Ten
Little Wizards and A
Study in Sorcery.Kurland, who had already established
his SF/F credentials (his first novel, Ten
Years to Doomsday, was published in 1964), later turned
to straight detective fiction – including several novels
featuring Sherlock Holmes' nemesis, Professor Moriarty, as
of authors, inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle, have tried to
emulate his success in creating a fictional detective as iconic
as Sherlock Holmes. Rex Stout, a writer of straight detective
novels, modeled Nero Wolfe on Sherlock's older, more indolent
brother Mycroft – and cast the streetwise, wisecracking
Archie Goodwin in place of Watson.
Derleth produced Solar Pons, whose “Watson” was
named Dr. Parker.
the world of fantasy, I think, Lord Darcy reigns as the best
of those who followed in Holmes' footsteps.