The Valley of Fear
|The Valley of Fear|
Dust-jacket illustration for The Valley of Fear
|Author||Arthur Conan Doyle|
|Publisher||George H. Doran Company|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
|Preceded by||The Return of Sherlock Holmes|
|Followed by||His Last Bow|
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The Valley of Fear is the fourth and final Sherlock Holmes novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is based on the supposedly real-life exploits of the Molly Maguires and Pinkerton agent James McParland. The story was first published in the Strand Magazine between September 1914 and May 1915. The first book edition was copyrighted in 1914, published by George H. Doran Company in New York on 27 February 1915, and illustrated by Arthur I. Keller.
Holmes decodes a cipher warning from Moriarty's organization for "Douglas" in "Birlstone", but a corpse is there already. When Mr. Douglas blows the head off his American assassin, he dresses the body as himself, and hides, to throw off the chase for good. Holmes guesses the missing dumb-bell weighted down the killer's clothes in the moat. The calling card left, VV341, is Vermissa Valley Lodge 341. Decades ago for Pinkerton, he went months undercover, first with Freemen in Chicago, then west to desolate mountain coal mine area, to take down corrupt murderers who ran the Valley Freemen Lodge, but criminals pursued. Holmes warns Douglas, when acquitted, to flee England. But Moriarty prevails. The second Mrs. Douglas telegrams that her husband was lost overboard on his way to South Africa on a ship.
Holmes decodes a warning from Porlock, an informant against arch-criminal Moriarty, for "Douglas" resident five years at "Birlstone". Scotland Yard's MacDonald asks them to investigate a corpse with the same look and circle-in-triangle brand on the forearm as Birlstone owner Douglas. The head was blown off by an American-style sawed-off shotgun. Apparently, an intruder dropped a card with VV341, and left across a shallow moat. Watson observes the bereaved English wife and best male friend in unusually good spirits. When Holmes pretends the moat will be drained, the conspirators retrieve a missing dumb-bell weighting down the visitor's clothes beneath the water. Douglas comes from hiding, to explain he killed the assassin Baldwin in self-defence; the plan was to save him from more attacks by criminal survivors of Vermissa Valley. He hands Dr. Watson the following account.
II. The Scowrers - 20 years before
Young McMurdo gains reputation as tough counterfeiter, Freemen Lodge member fleeing murder charges in Chicago. In the Vermissa coal mine area, McGinty rules Scowrers branded by a circle in square, the local Lodge 341 who extort, murder, and exchange vicious deeds with nearby Lodges. Pretty Ettie prefers McMurdo to nasty Baldwin, and wants to flee, but will wait some months. When word comes that Pinkerton sent Edwards, McMurdo gathers ringleaders in one room, and springs his trap on them, surrounded by the law. Although the worst were hanged, after ten years, villains were freed, and chased McMurdo-Edwards-Douglas, despite changes of name, location, and wife. He married Ettie, then she died in California, where he made a fortune.
Two months later, Mrs. Douglas telegrams from South Africa. Her husband was lost en route, overboard in a gale. Holmes had warned them to flee England, and blames Moriarty.
The Valley of Fear, notable for Professor Moriarty's involvement, is set before "The Final Problem", the short story in which Moriarty was introduced. This introduces a logical difficulty, as in The Final Problem Dr. Watson has never heard of Moriarty, whereas by the end of The Valley Of Fear he is, or should be, familiar with his name and character. The "Moriarty" element in the story is tied into the fate of the informer in the story. It ties the Molly Maguire background to another event of that period: the murder of James Carey, an informer who was shot on board a ship off the coast of Natal, South Africa in 1883 by Patrick O'Donnell, an Irish republican who had relatives in the Mollies and briefly visited the Pennsylvania coal mining district, supposedly looking for the suspected informer among them.
Among the few film adaptations are the 1916 silent film The Valley of Fear starring H.A. Saintsbury and Booth Conway, the 1935 British film The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes, starring Arthur Wontner as Holmes and Ian Fleming as Watson, and the 1984 animated film Sherlock Holmes and the Valley of Fear, starring Peter O'Toole as the voice of Holmes. The story was adapted for an episode of the 1954 television series Sherlock Holmes starring Ronald Howard as Holmes and Howard Marion Crawford as Watson. The episode is titled "The Case of the Pennsylvania Gun". The 1962 film Sherlock Holmes and the Deadly Necklace was intended to be an adaptation of The Valley of Fear, but only minor elements of the story remained in the final film. Apart from films, the book has also been adapted into a number of playscripts, for stage performance. The most recent and popular stage adaptation was by Adrian Flynn for the Oxford Playscripts series, for amateur productions.
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