Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Baker Street Revisited...again and again and again

Christmas Day brings a new Sherlock Holmes movie to theaters everywhere. Starring Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson it has the atmosphere of Conan Doyle’s Victorian London coupled with the enhancement of modern movie action technology. As readers know, however, movie-makers are not the only ones still fascinated by the enigmatic character of Sherlock Holmes.

It seems that every author who admired (or even read?) the works of Arthur Conan Doyle decided to try his or her hand at a Sherlock Holmes story. Some are written about Holmes himself or Holmes and Watson, closely following the path set down by Conan Doyle.

Two interesting examples of this type are The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr and The Revenge of the Hound by Michael Hardwick. Other authors introduce Holmes to characters that did not appear in the original works, such as Jack the Ripper (Dust and Shadow by Lindsay Faye) or Sigmund Freud (The Seven Percent Solution by Nicholas Meyer). Mitch Cullin offers his vision of how Holmes might react to the losses of frail old age in A Slight Trick of the Mind.

Some authors have quite successfully developed a series around a minor character from Arthur Conan Doyle’s work (the Irene Adler series by Carol Nelson Douglas) or created a new character that fits quite comfortably into Holmes’ world (the Mary Russell series by Laurie King).
Sometimes an author creates stories involving Arthur Conan Doyle which emphasize his character traits and interests (The List of 7 by Mark Frost) or attempt to explain how the characters of Holmes and Watson came about (The Patient’s Eyes by David Pirie). In Holmes on the Range, Steve Hockensmith describes how the Holmes stories influence two cowboy-detectives in the Old West. I n another novel, The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson, it is Holmes’ famous address that initiates the action of the story.

There are numerous anthologies of Holmes short stories, such as The Confidential Casebook of Sherlock Holmes (Marvin Kaye, ed.) and The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Greenberg and Waugh, eds.)

Young readers have not been forgotten by writers such as Shane Peacock with the Boy Sherlock Holmes series or Nancy Springer who gives us the adventures of Enola Holmes, the much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft.

While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, such efforts can range from very good to just plain silly. However, as Arthur Conan Doyle himself discovered, you just can’t kill off Sherlock Holmes. I hope he also realized that some ideas deserve a very, very long life. Long live Holmes and Watson!

Next time you stop by the Warrenton Library, check out the display of Sherlock Holmes related titles. You're sure to find a good read for your holiday.


Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Give the gift of reading

In my family I have become known as the "book aunt" because I often give books as gifts at baby showers, birthday parties and, of course, Christmas. I love giving books as gifts, not just because I'm a librarian and I whole heartedly believe in the power of great books in our lives, but because I can remember very fondly how much I loved getting books as gifts myself as a child.

I am part of a large family with several siblings much older than I. Once those siblings were out of the house and married they often provided me with books and magazines as Christmas and birthday gifts. I passed down to my own daughters the copies of Heidi, The Five Little Peppers, Black Beauty and Hans Brinker that one sister gave me as a set one year. I still have many of the Golden Books that I received as a child from aunts and uncles. And I must admit that as a teen, I absconded from another sister her copy of Madame Bovary that she received from the same elder sister in the set of classics. (I returned it to her several years ago so her set of classics is once again complete.)

I have always loved magazine subscriptions and give and get them as gifts each year. My first subscription was National Wildlife Magazine. Oh the excitement each month when that glossy cover appeared in the mailbox!

Probably the book that I poured over most thoroughly was a large sized, annotated edition of Swiss Family Robinson. I have always loved trivia and tid bits of information to accompany text. This book filled many hours for me as I read the classic tale and soaked up the definitions, illustrations and other information found in the margins.

If you need help finding books and magazines to give to the special people in your life, our librarians have prepared some quick pick lists to help you select books for children, teens or adults. Or talk to our librarians in person. They are always happy to help you find just the right book for giving a gift that can last a lifetime.

By the way, if you purchase your books, or any items for that matter, from Amazon.com through the library's Wowbrary account, a portion of the sales are contributed to the library at no extra cost to you. So consider giving a gift to a loved one and to the library at the same time.

Happy Holidays.
Dawn @ Warrenton