The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in Japan, Part I

While purchasing copies of the Japanese version of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, I picked up this issue too. It has no Starrettian content (At least I don't think it does. I don't read Japanese and can't be sure), but it does have a translation of "The Man Who Was Wanted." The Holmes pastiche was written by Arthur Whitaker and at one time was believed to have been written by Conan Doyle.

Putting together the 75th anniversary edition of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (hereafter abbreviated as Private Life) provided a lot of great opportunities. One of the parts of the anniversary edition that I enjoyed researching the most was the “Annotated Bibliography” that appeared at the back of the book.  It was great fun because it gave me the excuse to hunt down every variant edition out there.

Finding the American and British editions of Vincent Starrett's classic was not that hard. I already owned several when starting the project and was able to locate the rest with the help of dealers and eBay.

(Yes, I sometimes shop for books on eBay. So shoot me.)

Using (at the wise suggestion of Baker Street Journal editor Steven Rothman), I was able to determine that there had also been two Japanese editions. Both were translations by Tsukasa Kobayashi and Akane Higashiyama, who have translated a number of Sherlockian classics for Japanese readers. A hardback edition of Private Life was published in 1987, while a paperback version came out in 1992. 

How to buy them? 

The always helpful Baker Street Irregular Peter Blau suggested I contact fellow BSI Masamichi (Mitch) Higurashi who lives in Japan. I wrote him a letter explaining the project and asked if he could recommend book dealers who might have a copy of either the hardback or paperback to sell.

A few months passed and then a much-stamped little package arrived in our mailbox.  Inside was a copy of the 1987 hardback, and a detailed bibliographic note from Mitch.

I have written elsewhere that I danced from the mailbox to the front door that day, and this is true. It was an incredible gift and shows the great generosity one finds with many BSI. 

I sent Mitch some copies of Starrett’s books that I thought he might have a hard time finding in Japan.  Even so, I never felt that I have sufficiently thanked him. So let me do so again here:

Thank you Mitch. You are a generous soul.

A few years after the 75th anniversary edition was published, I was in the lower level of Otto Penzler’s bookshop and found a copy of the Japanese paperback edition.  Better yet, the paperback copy contained a folded one-sheet advertisement for that edition. All good, right?

But the promotional page and offered a tantalizing additional bit of information. It appears that before the first Japanese edition was published, chapters of Private Life translated by Kobayashi and Higashiyama were serialized in the Japanese edition of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine.

(There is a nice literary echo here. Several chapters of Starrett’s book appeared in U.S. magazines before or about the same time as the 1933 original edition came out.)

What to do about the EQMM chapters? After all, if I was going to own every publication of Private Life, these were essential.

Quite by accident, I learned of a dealer on the West Coast who was offering a few issues of the Japanese EQMM. We exchanged email and sure enough, these were issues that had a few of the serialized chapters of Private Life.

But my run of Japanese EQMM's with the Private Life chapters is not complete.

So the hunt goes on.

(To be continued)