The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Professor Moriarty
It is said that the devil has all the best lines and who are we to contradict this?
Heroes come, triumph against terrible adversity and eventually end up in the land of happy-ever-after, but you and I know that the baddies are more often the ones that stay in the mind. In books, movies, comics and, less seductively, also sometimes in real life.
Of course, we all remember James Bond’s exploits, but it’s the larger than life figures of Auric Goldfinger, Ernst Stavro Blofeld, Doctor No, Oddjob, Jaws and other representations of evil who come to mind. Think back: Hannibal Lecter, the Joker, Lex Luthor, Hyde on the dark side of Jekyll, Jack the Ripper, Fu Manchu, the Deaf Man in Ed McBain’s 87th Precinct police procedurals, Long John Silver, Captain Hook, Tom Ripley – Patricia Highsmith’s chilling but suave killer and manipulator – Bill Sykes, Sauron, Patrick Bateman – the anti-hero of ‘American Psycho’ – Dracula, Voldermort, the list could prove endless.
I rest my case.
No one will object to my stating that Sherlock Holmes is the most legendary of fictional sleuths and still captures our imagination like no other through renewed interpretations, impersonations and tales still being spun well beyond Conan Doyle’s initial canon. But what would Sherlock be without his arch foe: Professor James Moriarty, a man whose fate and life is intimately entwined with his and who automatically comes to mind whenever we evoke the denizen of 221B Baker Street?
But unless you are a learned Holmes expert, did you know that Moriarty actually only appears in two Holmes stories? Respectively, ‘The Adventure of the Final Problem’ and ‘The Valley of Fear’.
Holmes, or rather his chronicler Doctor Watson, evokes Moriarty in passing in five other tales but the master criminal, whom Holmes described as ‘the Napoleon of Crime’ doesn’t in fact appear in the stories (‘The Adventure of the Empty House’, ‘The Adventure of the Norwood Builder’, ‘The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter’, ‘The Adventure of the Illustrious Client’ and ‘His Last Bow’).
Doctor Watson, even when narrating, never meets Moriarty (only getting distant glimpses of him in ‘The Final Problem’), and relies upon Holmes to relate accounts of the detective’s feud with the criminal. Conan Doyle is inconsistent on Watson’s familiarity with Moriarty. In ‘The Final Problem’, Watson tells Holmes he has never heard of Moriarty, while in ‘The Valley of Fear’, set earlier on, Watson already knows of him as ‘the famous scientific criminal’.
On such thin foundations was a legend born!
And scores of readers starved of further stories about Moriarty (and by extension Sherlock Holmes) have incessantly called out for more and writers have obliged. Prominent amongst these have been Michael Kurland, the much-missed John Gardner, and Anthony Horowitz, all of whose novels featuring the master criminal have provided a renewed light and insights into his nefarious, if clever activities.
Which is where this collection comes in.
Aware of the fascination Moriarty casts, I thought the time had come for our criminal mastermind to have an anthology of his own, and the submissions came flooding in, enough to fill several volumes of our size! So many admirers of crime out there!
The short stories I had the privilege of assembling prove so wondrously imaginative and challenging. Not all feature Holmes or Watson, and not all see Moriarty as the pure incarnation of evil we had previously assumed he represented, and the twists and adventures on offer are often a thing of beauty. The variations on display are both subtle and far-fetching, filling the gaps in the Doyle canon or opening up whole new cans of worms, which I found as delightful as they were challenging.
Inside these pages you will find well-known crime writers, and lesser stars too, as well as courageous interlopers from other popular fiction fields such as science fiction and fantasy and even erotica (albeit with their libido switched off for the occasion), all seduced by the attraction of Professor James Moriarty’s criminal mind.
Never has evil been so fascinating and its fruit so exciting.
The game’s afoot yet again.
Moriarty and the Two-Body Problem
It seems rather odd now, looking back, that I didn’t see the shape of things. Given that, as a mathematician, seeing the shape of things is what I do, finding order instead of chaos, a pattern where once was randomness. As Professor Moriarty might have said – but, no, I must start at the beginning.
They were happy times. It was a small college in London, and I was embarking on my research under the supervision of Professor James Moriarty. My father, a pharmacist in Norwich, couldn’t understand what had made me leave the security of Cambridge to end up in London, working with someone no one had heard of. But I’m working on Gauss, I tried to tell my parents. Carl Friedrich Gauss, who charted the path of the comet Ceres where everyone else had failed. I knew that Professor Moriarty had been feted in his day for his influential work on the dynamics of an asteroid. And now here he was, tucked away in London, in a small room in St Dunstan’s College, still knowing more about Gauss’s calculations than anyone other than Gauss himself.
‘I can’t imagine why you’ve come to me, young man,’ were his first words when I introduced myself. ‘Once, long ago, I might have had some influence, but we’re in the twentieth century now. My work no longer carries any weight. Where once my name struck fear into my enemies, why now, no one has heard of me at all.’ Then, with a brief, thin smile he said, ‘I have no enemies now.’ His gaze had somehow gone beyond me, into the distance, into the past.
Above him hung a portrait, and my eyes were drawn to it. It was clearly the Professor himself, as a younger man. Even now one could see the similarities. He looked more distinguished, older, of course, but the grey hair was still thick, the same domed forehead, the same rather stiff, upright posture. Next to it there was a charming painting of a boy, sitting at a table upon which lay various mathematical instruments. Moriarty’s gaze followed mine.
‘French? I said.
‘Greuze,’ he said.
‘I’m afraid I don’t know who that is,’ I said.
He laughed. ‘It’s a copy. I do have an original Greuze, but in the past certain people made rather, shall we say, unfortunate judgements about me for having such a valuable thing, so I keep it to myself. Now, young man, tell me why you’re so keen to allow an old has-been any kind of influence over your work.’
I began to describe my work. I talked about orbits within solar systems, the measurement of the angle between two planes, and the measurement of the arc intercepted between the poles of the curves, and, as I talked, I noticed how his expression carried a blankness, almost a sneer. I wondered whether perhaps my parents were right, and that staying in the confines of Emmanuel with a tutor I knew well might have been a more rational decision.
But what my parents didn’t yet know was that I had encountered Angela, a lovely librarian who worked in the university and lived with her widowed father in Harrow; and I had resolved that, if staying in London gave me the chance to see more of her, then London it would be. What they also didn’t know was that I had taken a part-time job in a printers’ warehouse in Holborn just to keep a roof over my head. I occupied two small rooms near Chancery Lane, where at night I would lie in bed listening to the rain dripping from the broken guttering and the shouts of unruly law students in the streets below.
I had reached a point in my paper where I describe the calculations for the two points on a sphere that correspond to any given point of the curved line upon a curved surface.
‘Hah!’ Moriarty’s exclamation interrupted my musings. ‘This is all very interesting to me.’ The flickering sneer had gone, replaced by an intense, dark gaze. ‘It’s not often people ask for me by name these days,’ he said. He leaned back in his chair, glancing upwards at the portrait on the wall. ‘Mathematics,’ he said. ‘The purest of the sciences. Gauss charted the path of the asteroid, not by looking outwards at the skies, but by looking inwards at the numbers. That’s what we mathematicians do. We find the glory of the heavens in the pure, abstract truths of calculation.’ He turned to look at me again. ‘The workings of numbers,’ he said. ‘So much more reliable than the workings of the human heart. I shall be happy to tutor you.’
And so began our collaboration.
Moriarty was not a warm person. There was something hidden about him, a coolness, a distance. But his brilliance was indisputable. He was often occupied with his own writings, a reworking of his early work on the binomial theorem. ‘Mere footnotes to Plato,’ he said to me once with a wry smile. ‘The balance between positive and negative, almost Manichean in its dualism.’ Sometimes he’d say to me, ‘Mr Gifford, I’m an old man. It’s 1921. We have a new mathematics, we have general re ...