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.


1 comment:

  1. Good description of Holmes-related books. May I add two more that are in your collection:

    The Solar Pons Omnibus by August Derleth - a lot of short stories very much in the vein of the original Holmes tales; in my opinion some of the best short-story Holmes outside of the Conan Doyle tales (even though he calls the detective Solar Pons, it is recognizably a Holmes)

    The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes is an in-depth look at the stories and the era that takes as its premise the idea that Holmes and Watson really lived.