18th October, No Comments
By John Watson
I have written many times about what was, before the Bert Coules adaptations, the most extensive collection of Sherlock Holmes stories, broadcast by the BBC. The BBC Radio 4 Extra broadcasts of the third series of these performances, starring Carleton Hobbs as Holmes, and Norman Shelley as me, is now underway, so I thought it worth reviewing the complete output from this duo, once again.
In total, Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley, appeared in 75 individual performances with four different adapters of my stories and nine different producers. Where the same story was performed more than once, with various adapters and producers, the cast and the scripts were also diverse.
Many of these broadcasts were repeated, often mixing performances with different adapters and producers, and understanding what recordings I have in my collection has been a challenge, but by using the BBC Genome database, I have managed to catalogue most of them.
The number in square brackets, for example “” is the unique performance number and each broadcast title has a link to the programme in the BBC Genome database.
Short Stories Series 1 – Children’s Hour 1952-1953
This first series of five short stories, broadcast from 1952 to 1953 on the BBC Home Service, was dramatised by Felix Felton and produced by David Davis.
- The Naval Treaty (15 October 1952) 
- The Five Orange Pips (12 November 1952) 
- The Blue Carbuncle (10 December 1952) 
- The Red-Headed League (7 January 1953) 
- The Three Students (4 February 1953) 
Long Stories 1 – Sherlock Holmes 1953
In 1953, in the middle of the above series, a one-off programme was broadcast, dramatised and produced by Raymond Raikes. This is an adaptation based on the William Gillette play “Sherlock Holmes” performed on stage in 1899.
This broadcast appears to be the basis of the experimental stereo broadcast in 1958 also produced by Raymond Raikes.
- Sherlock Holmes (3 October 1953) 
Short Stories Series 2 – Children’s Hour 1954-1955
The second series, this time comprising six short stories, broadcast from 1954 to 1955 on the BBC Home Service, were again dramatised by Felix Felton and produced by David Davis.
- The Norwood Builder (7 October 1954) 
- The Bruce-Partington Plans (4 November 1954) 
- The Mazarin Stone (2 December 1954) 
- The Missing Three-Quarter (6 January 1955) 
- The Copper Beeches (3 February 1955) 
- The Final Problem (3 March 1955) 
Short Stories Series 3 – Children’s Hour 1957
The third series of six short stories, broadcast in 1957 on the BBC Home Service, was with the same adapter, Felix Felton, as the previous two series, but the producer this time was Martyn C Webster. The six stories are the five from the first series plus the last one from the second series.
- The Naval Treaty (11 October 1957) 
- The Five Orange Pips (18 October 1957) 
- The Blue Carbuncle (25 October 1957) 
- The Red-Headed League (1 November 1957) 
- The Three Students (8 November 1957) 
- The Final Problem (15 November 19570 
Long Stories 2 – The Hound of the Baskervilles 1958
The Hound of the Baskervilles was broadcast in six episodes on the BBC Light Programme, dramatised by Felix Felton and produced by Patrick Dromgoole. These six episodes are all given the same unique performance number .
- The Baskerville Curse (6 April 1958) 
- Sir Henry Baskerville (13 April 1958) 
- Baskerville Hall (20 April 1958) 
- The Light on the Moor (27 April 1958) 
- Death on the Moor (4 May 1958) 
- The Final Ordeal (11 May 1958) 
Short Stories Series 4 – Thirty-Minute Theatre 1959
This fourth series consisted of six stories was broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. They were dramatised by Michael Hardwick and produced by Frederick Bradnum. The Copper Beeches was broadcast as a different performance in Series 2.
- The Man with the Twisted Lip (12 May 1959) 
- The Beryl Coronet (30 June 1959) 
- The Blanched Soldier (4 August 1959) 
- The Copper Beeches (11 August 1959) 
- The Noble Bachelor (18 August 1959) 
- Shoscombe Old Place (25 August 1959) 
Short Stories Series 5 – Thirty-Minute Theatre 1960
The fifth series consisted of seven stories broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. The first of these, The Stockbroker’s Clerk, was produced by Frederick Bradnum who produced the previous series. The producer for the remaining six was Martyn C Webster. All seven were dramatised by Michael Hardwick. The Naval Treaty had been broadcast twice before – once in Series 1 and once in Series 3.
- The Stockbroker’s Clerk (23 February 1960) 
- The Naval Treaty (22 March 1960) 
- The Greek Interpreter (5 April 1960) 
- The Cardboard Box (19 April 1960) 
- The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax (3 May 1960) 
- The Engineer’s Thumb (17 May 1960) 
- The Illustrious Client (31 May 1960) 
Long Stories 3 – The Valley of Fear 1960
The Valley of Fear was broadcast in 1960 on the BBC Home Service. It was dramatised by Michael Hardwick and produced by Robin Midgely.
- The Valley of Fear (31 December 1960) 
Short Stories Series 6 – Black Peter 1961
This single story appears to be a one-off broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. It was dramatised by Alan Wilson and produced by Archie Campbell.
- Black Peter (5 March 1961) 
Long Stories 3 – Saturday-Night Theatre: The Hound of the Baskervilles 1961
This was the second time The Hound of the Baskervilles had been broadcast, this time on the BBC Home Service. It was dramatised by Felix Felton, who had done the 1958 version which was in six episodes, but this production was by Robin Midgley and had a different cast to the 1958 broadcasts.
- The Hound of the Baskervilles (5 August 1961) 
Short Stories Series 7 – 1961-1962
This series of seven stories was broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. They were dramatised by Michael Hardwick and produced by Robin Midgely. The Blue Carbuncle had been broadcast twice before – once in Series 1 and once in Series 3.
- The Empty House (27 November 1961) 
- The Reigate Squires (4 December 1961) 
- The Resident Patient (11 December 1961) 
- Charles Augustus Milverton (18 December 1961) 
- The Blue Carbuncle (25 December 1961) 
- Thor Bridge (1 January 1962) 
- The Priory School (8 January 1962) 
Short Stories Series 8 – 1962
This series of eight stories was broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. Again they were dramatised by Micheal Hardwick and produced by Robin Midgely. The Missing Three-Quarter and The Mazarin Stone had been broadcast before in Series 2.
- The Speckled Band (17 July 1962) 
- Silver Blaze (24 July 1962) 
- The Musgrave Ritual (31 July 1962) 
- The Golden Pince-Nez (7 August 1962) 
- The Missing Three-Quarter (14 August 1962) 
- The Abbey Grange (21 August 1962) 
- The Devil’s Foot (28 August 1962) 
- The Mazarin Stone (4 September 1962) 
Long Stories 4 – Saturday-Night Theatre: A Study in Scarlet 1962
A Study in Scarlet was broadcast on the BBC Home Service. It was dramatised by Michael Hardwick and produced by Robin Midgely.
- A Study in Scarlet (22 December 1962) 
Long Stories 5 – Saturday Night Theatre: The Sign of the Four 1963
The Sign of the Four was broadcast on the BBC Home Service. It was dramatised by Michael Hardwick and produced by Val Geilgud.
- The Sign of the Four (2 March 1963) 
Short Stories Series 9 – Sherlock Holmes Returns 1964
This was a series of ten stories broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. The first two were repeat broadcasts of the Robin Midgely productions of The Abbey Grange  and The Mazarin Stone , so they are not included here.
The remaining eight stories were dramatised by Michael Hardwick and produced by Graham Gould. The Bruce-Partington Plans and The Norwood Builder had been broadcast before in Series 2 and The Red-Headed League had been broadcast before in Series 1 and Series 3.
- The Solitary Cyclist (21 August 1964) 
- The Bruce- Partington Plans (28 August 1964) 
- The Three Garridebs (4 September 1964) 
- The Norwood Builder (11 September 1964) 
- The Sussex Vampire (18 September 1964) 
- The Red-Headed League (25 September 1964) 
- The Three Gables (2 October 1964) 
- The Retired Colourman (9 October 1964) 
Short Stories Series 10 – Sherlock Holmes Again 1966-1967
This series of nine stories were broadcast on the BBC Light Programme. They were dramatised by Michael Hardwick and produced by Martyn C Webster. The Five Orange Pips had previously been broadcast in Series 3.
- A Scandal in Bohemia (21 November 1966) 
- The Five Orange Pips (28 November 1966) 
- The Six Napoleons (5 December 1966) 
- The Boscombe Valley Mystery (12 December 1966) 
- The Crooked Man (19 December 1966) 
- Wisteria Lodge (26 December 1966) 
- The Dying Detective (2 January 1967) 
- The Second Stain (9 January 1967) 
- The Final Problem (16 January 1967) 
Short Stories Series 11 – Sherlock Holmes 1969
This was the last series of stories starring Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley and was broadcast on BBC Radio 2 which had replaced the Light Programme at the end of September 1967. The six stories were dramatised by Michael Hardwick and produced by Graham Gould. Black Peter had been previously broadcast in Series 6.
- The Dancing Men (24 June 1969) 
- A Case of Identity (26 June 1969) 
- Black Peter (1 July 1969) 
- The Red Circle (3 July 1969) 
- The Lion’s Mane (8 July 1969) 
- His Last Bow (10 July 1969) 
Coverage of The Canon
Of the 56 short stories, all but four were performed by Hobbs and Shelley. These four are The Yellow Face, The Gloria Scott, The Creeping Man, and The Veiled Lodger.
The following were performed more than once by Hobbs and Shelley:
- Three times
- The Red-Headed League 
- The Five Orange Pips 
- The Blue Carbuncle 
- The Naval Treaty 
- The Final Problem 
- The Copper Beeches 
- The Mazarin Stone 
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 
- The Norwood Builder 
- Black Peter 
- The Three Students 
- The Missing Three-Quarter 
- The Bruce-Partington Plans 
I am now going through my collection of recordings to ascertain to which unique broadcast they belong . . .
Posted in Radio
15th February, No Comments
By John Watson
From the earliest days, the BBC was experimenting with stereophonic sound. But in the late 1950s, these experiments became a full-scale programme of broadcasts, in stereo, of music and drama. One of these broadcasts, in November 1958, was of a specially-written play, “Scenes from Sherlock Holmes”, itself based on the play “Sherlock Holmes”, written by William Gillette, famously with permission from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. No recordings of the test transmission are known to exist, but again we have an example of the BBC pioneering new technology and bringing Sherlock Holmes to the public in an innovative format.
The story of stereophonic broadcasting by the BBC began in the 1920s with test transmissions of opera from The Opera House, Covent Garden, in London. There was no means of broadcasting two channels over a single network station in those days, so the left channel was transmitted over the 2LO frequency and the right over the Daventry frequency. Anyone wanting to listen to the broadcast would need two radio sets that were in range of both transmitters.
Writing in Wireless World in June 1958 about these early experiments, Capt. H J Round, says that they had no idea if anyone heard their broadcasts, but that they gave valuable insight into the difference between listening to stereo from loudspeakers and from headphones. The location of broadcast sounds heard from loudspeakers matched the location of the original sounds in relation to the placement of the microphones, whereas the location of sounds in headphones seemed to be partially determined by their frequency. A soprano voice (high frequency) seemed to come from in front of the listener, but the orchestra (mixed frequencies) came from behind. Male voices (low frequency) also appeared to come from behind with the orchestra. More bizarrely, someone walking from the left microphone to the right microphone appeared to walk over the listener’s head rather across in front – but this only when listening on headphones. What this has to do with Sherlock Holmes will not be obvious at this stage but, about twenty years later, in 1978, the BBC was again experimenting using Sherlock Holmes stories, broadcast in “binaural sound” specially engineered to the be listened to with stereo headphones. A future article on the Barry Foster/David Buck Sherlock Holmes Series first broadcast in 1978 will explain further.
By the late 1950s, many people had a television set as well as a radio, and the BBC’s experiments could reach a wider audience by using the television broadcast channel for the right-hand channel and the radio for the left. Such a series of experiments were carried out over two and a half years from January 1958. Not all of these broadcasts are listed on the BBC’s Genome database, perhaps because they were broadcast only in the south and the regional versions of the Radio Times used to populate the Genome database are not always from the south. The earliest listings of “Stereophony” broadcasts in the Genome database are from July 1959 but a full list of the broadcasts is given in a BBC Engineering Department report from 1961.
This lists a variety of programmes, mainly consisting of orchestral music, but listed for 1st and 2nd October 1958 is a drama entitled in the report simply “Sherlock Holmes”, performed at Broadcasting House, Studio 6A. These dates may be rehearsals, recording sessions, or actual broadcasts but the only reference to the public hearing these programmes appear in the Daily Express for 12th November 1958 where listeners are promised, on Saturday 15th between 10:15am and 11:15am, the sounds of a “knife whizzing right across the room, the passing hansom cab, [and] the sound of Holmes’s violin at one side of his study as Watson enters through the door at the other.”
Having your listening equipment set up correctly was important and the BBC printed this guidance in the Radio Times:
But what of the programme itself? For his 1899 play, the American actor, William Gillette, had asked Arthur Conan Doyle for permission to adapt some of Holmes’s stories for the stage. He telegraphed Conan Doyle asking “May I marry Holmes?” and Conan Doyle famously responded, “You may marry or murder or do what you like with him”. It appears that Gillette’s play, which introduced some novel elements of its own (the curved pipe, which has become iconic, though Holmes never used one to my knowledge) was chosen for this new presentation by one of the BBC’s most innovative producers, Raymond Raikes.
Raikes had a reputation with the BBC’s listeners for delivering “a spirited production of the highest quality which would be both hugely entertaining and probably educative. It would also be directed with utmost professionalism and incorporate the latest developments in sound technology”.
He had produced a programme based on Gillette’s play for the BBC Home Service on 3rd January 1953. This starred Carleton Hobbs as Holmes and Norman Shelley as me. The programme lasted ninety minutes so must have been shortened to fit into the sixty minutes for the stereophonic broadcast. Whether this utilised a recording, the same actors in a live performance, or other actors is not known. The fact a studio was used implies a live performance. The programme is also referred to elsewhere as “Scenes from Sherlock Holmes” implying some abridgement of the original broadcast.
Although Raikes maintained a prodigious output for the BBC, including the station’s experimental quadrophonic broadcasts in 1974, he never produced another Sherlock Holmes story for the BBC.
If anyone can provide further insight into this pioneering broadcast by the BBC, then please get in touch.
1st December, No Comments
By John Watson
Those of you with nothing better to do than stumble upon my “writings” here will, no doubt, have noticed the paucity of my notes of late.
I have, as they say, been busy with other things but in the New Year I hope to be back on the case.
You have my permission to complain if do not honour that promise!
Posted in News
28th November, No Comments
By John Watson
It has been a very busy year with the research for my book on Holmes on the British radio unearthing new details that need further investigation and so little time has been devoted to anything else, including this website.
Anyway, whilst Mrs Hudson is busy in the kitchen, I can tell you about the first book that I want to put on this year’s list of presents for afficianados of the world’s first consulting detective.
The Murder of Mary Russell is the latest in the series of Russell’s memoirs and is one of those books that once you start it you will find it difficult to put down.
The possibility of Russell’s demise is not the real surprise of the book – it’s when a man comes to the door one morning, claiming to be Mrs Hudson’s son. The book took me by surprise but not Holmes, Hudson and Russell who were in one its secrets long before me.
You can find my review here.
Also this year, we have had The Marriage of Mary Russel where Russell and Sherlock Holmes embark upon the riskiest adventure of their partnership – their wedding. Note that this is only for the Kindle.
Also, but so far only available on Kindle in the UK (publishing problems have pushed the book back to April next year) is Mary Russell’s War containing nine short stories, seven of which have never previously been available in print, and one brand new, never-before-seen Sherlock Holmes mystery.
They begin with England’s declaration of war in 1914 from Russell’s teenage diaries where she tells of tracking German spies through San Francisco, and then an unimaginable tragedy strikes.
On a much lighter note, Eve Titus’s Basil of Baker Street stories are being republished.
Those who still enjoy the film Basil The Great Mouse Detective (listen carefully at the beginning for the unmistakeable voice of Basil Rathbone upstairs in 221B and look out for the charming portrayal of Toby the dog) will be pleased to know that all five books of the original stories are being republished – three so far and the remainder in 2017.
The stories comprise Basil of Baker Street (first published in 1958 republished 2016), Basil and the Lost Colony (1964 republished 2017), Basil and the Pygmy Cats (1971 republished 2016), Basil in Mexico (1976 republished 2016) and Basil in the Wild West (1982 republished 2017).
Last Christmas, I mentioned the first three volumes of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories. Now there are two more.
The first, Part IV: 2016 Annual was published in May and the latest Part V: Christmas Adventures is published on November 21st. As before all the royalties from these collections are being donated by the writers for the benefit of the preservation of Undershaw, one of the former homes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Benedict Cumberbatch is certain to go down in history for one of the great portrayals of Holmes. Whether and for how long the BBC Sherlock will last is unclear but if you want to know more about Cumberbatch then a biography is released later this month.
Benedict Cumberbatch: London and Hollywood by Lynnette Porter covers his early success as a working actor through his dynamic trajectory to international star.
That’s all for this year’s Christmas list – just a few books as there’s nothing that caught my eye in the video or games departments. We are waiting to see what the New Year will bring – especially in the new series of the BBC’s Sherlock . . .
25th April, No Comments
By John Watson
It does, for the first time, make public the life story of the woman who probably knew more about my partnership with Holmes than anyone else. Mrs. Hudson has, for many years, kept secret the identity of many of our visitors and the details of many of the cases we had worked on together. Most of us, including me, had no idea about her life before Baker Street and much of what I have written about her is now clearly wrong!
When Russell made me aware of what she intended to make public in this chapter of her memoirs, I knew that she must have obtained Mrs. Hudson’s permission (and that of Holmes too) as it would provide previously undisclosed details of the case I have referred to as The Adventure of the Gloria Scott.
Holmes had related the story of this, his very first case, to me and had agreed that I could have it published. Holmes had asked me to change the name of one of the central characters but I had already sent the manuscript to the publishers and, unaware of its significance, I failed to get it changed. I assumed that my readers would just consider it a coincidence as I had failed to remark on the name in the actual story.
It first appeared in The Strand Magazine in April 1883 and subsequently was one of the stories in the collection The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes. At the time of its publication, Holmes was furious that I had left the name of Hudson unchanged (as he had asked me to) but, at the time, I had no idea why he was so insistent about it as he had stated that it was the “merest coincidence” that one of the central characters had the same surname as our landlady.
Two years earlier than the story’s publication, when Holmes was looking for new lodgings and came across Mrs. Hudson, he was aware of the connection but I was never made aware of the connection and it was only much later, as Russell relates in this memoir, that she and eventually I, really understood the connection. When I put the story of His Last Bow to print, I still had no knowledge of Mrs. Hudson’s past, and the role she took in that story.
This memoir of Russell’s opens in 1925 (though readers of the UK edition will find the date misprinted as 1995) with Russell in fear for her life. What leads us to this point is the early life of our landlady, Mrs. Hudson. Therein lies the link to the story of the Gloria Scott and with it Holmes earliest career. As that story unfolds, how we all ended up at 221B Baker Street becomes clear (for the first time to me, too!) and with it how Billy the page boy and Wiggins of The Baker Street Irregulars came to our assistance.
Most of all we learn the important part Mrs. Hudson has played and why, in many ways, it was an act, but one that even fooled “a nervy, limping medical man recently out of the army” when he first came to look at 221B, and for many years after!
11th November, No Comments
By John Watson
Mrs Hudson has been out shopping to get the dried fruit and nuts to make her wonderful Christmas cake and Christmas pudding. So here is my list of possible gifts for those who admire Sherlock Holmes almost as much as I do!
To play games [REIG]
Here you can see them explaining the changes and how both games are played.
If we get a “long succession of southerly gales” (as I mentioned in [BLAC]), Mrs Hudson and I could happily distract ourselves with these absorbing games.
By the way, in the past, Gibsons have run various competitions to write new Sherlock Holmes cases and you can see some of these using this link.
To the theatre [BRUC]
There are a couple of films this year worthy of note.
Ian McKellen as Mr Holmes, is based on the book by Mitch Cullin, A Slight Trick of the Mind. As usual, when Holmes has hold of the pen I come in for a bit of stick over what he regards as my additions to his film persona (though I insist I had nothing to do with the deerstalker and the curved pipe!)
Nevertheless, for once it is Holmes who is being forgetful in this film rather than me (I have pre-deceased Holmes apparently) and there is a lot of humour in McKellen’s portrayal that makes for a very entertaining film. It is not often that someone from the Lancashire town of Burnley gets to play Holmes (as my current literary agent never tires of pointing out).
On television, I have to admit that now having watched the first three series of Elementary on DVD (Season One, Season Two, and Season Three as the Americans insist on calling them), it is much better than the initial reviews that I read and I am grateful for the reviews that The Woman did for me which were published here.
The other film of note this year is a very old film, William Gillette’s 1916 film Sherlock Holmes which I am looking forward to watching. I will give a more detailed review later of the copy Flicker Alley (who have produced the disk) have kindly sent to me.
Gillette’s sole filmed performance as Sherlock Holmes, considered lost for nearly 100 years, was recently discovered and restored by San Francisco Silent Film Festival and la Cinémathèque française. By the time it was produced at Essanay Studios in 1916, Gillette had been established as the world’s foremost interpreter of Holmes on stage—having played him approximately 1300 times since his 1899 debut.
The film faithfully retains the play’s famous set pieces—Holmes’s encounter with Professor Moriarty, his daring escape from the Stepney Gas Chamber, and the tour-de-force deductions. It also illustrates how Gillette, who wrote the adaptation himself, wove bits from my stories ranging from “A Scandal in Bohemia” to “The Final Problem,” into an original, innovative mystery play.
This release includes:
- Two complete versions of the film: the original French-language version as discovered at La Cinémathèque française, as well as an English-language version translated from the French.
- “From Lost to Found: Restoring William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes” – Presented by film restorer Robert Byrne at the 2015 San Francisco Silent Film Festival
- Sherlock Holmes Baffled (1900): Courtesy of the Library of Congress and presented in HD, this is the earliest known film to feature the character of Sherlock Holmes
- A Canine Sherlock (1912): From the EYE Film Institute, the film stars Spot the Dog as the titular character.
- Più forte che Sherlock Holmes (1913): Also from the EYE Film Institute, this entertaining Italian trick-film
- HD transfers from the Fox Movietone Collection: Interview with Arthur Conan Doyle and outtakes from a 1930 newsreel with William Gillette showing off his amateur railroad (University of South Carolina)
- PDF typescript of the 1899 Sherlock Holmes play by William Gillette
- PDF of the original contract between William Gillette and the Essanay Film Manufacturing Company
- A booklet featuring images from the film and information about the restoration project.
Note that the versions being released include a region-free Blu-ray version and a region-free DVD NTSC version. The latter will not play on UK PAL DVD players but does play on computers.
There has been nothing new from the BBC Sherlock this year, except for various repackaging of the films from the first three series, and the Christmas special (The Abominable Bride) is not due to be broadcast until New Year’s Day so there’s nothing on my Christmas list for this year.
He looked over his books [STUD]
But the creators of Sherlock have put together a book of what they consider to be the best of my stories.
Sherlock: The Essential Arthur Conan Doyle Adventures contains the following stories – A Study In Scarlet, The Sign of Four, A Scandal in Bohemia*, The Red-Headed League*, A Case of Identity, The Man with the Twisted Lip*, The Blue Carbuncle, The Speckled Band*, Silver Blaze*, The Yellow Face, The Musgrave Ritual*, The Greek Interpreter*, The Final Problem*, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Empty House*, Charles Augustus Milverton, The Bruce-Partington Plans*, The Devil’s Foot*, The Dying Detective, each introduced by Gattis and Moffat.
It is interesting to compare this selection with the twelve that Sir Arthur regarded as the best short stories (he excluded the long stories) and the seven he later added. Those marked above with an asterisk appear in his lists. He also included The Dancing Men, The Five Orange Pips, The Second Stain, The Priory School and The Reigate Squires, but not The Dying Detective. So I look forward to reading the reasons for Gatiss and Moffat’s selections.
From October of last year to April of this year the Museum of London exhibition Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die and this sumptuous book reflects this marvellous exhibition about which one friend remarked that I was “quite criminally under-represented”.
For those who seek their amusement in what Holmes and I might have investigated, the number of pastiches available continues to rise, and here are “five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf. It looks untidy, does it not, sir?” (from The Empty House)
Otto Penzler’s The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories contains eighty-three stories, published over more than a hundred years. Including cases by modern-day Sherlockians Leslie S. Klinger, Laurie R. King, Lyndsay Faye and Daniel Stashower; pastiches by literary luminaries both classic (P. G. Wodehouse, Dorothy B. Hughes, Kingsley Amis) and current (Anne Perry, Stephen King, Colin Dexter); and parodies by Conan Doyle’s contemporaries A. A. Milne, James M. Barrie, and O. Henry, plus cases by science-fiction greats Poul Anderson and Michael Moorcock.
There must be something there for everyone, but if not here are sixty more split over three volumes: The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part I: 1881 to 1889,Part II: 1890 to 1895, and Part III: 1896 to 1929
David Marcum, a prolific pastiche writer himself, has put together this three-volume collection, bringing together over sixty of the world’s leading Sherlock Holmes authors. All the stories are traditional pastiches. The authors are donating all the royalties from the collection to preservation projects at Sir Arthur’s former home, Undershaw.
Finally, though not really a pastiche, I am adding Zach Dundas’s The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes.
In this book Dundas carries out his investigation of Holmes from my nearly forgotten first manuscript of A Study In Scarlet to the award-winning series BBC Sherlock. He looks at the history and cultural influence of Holmes and I, weaving investigative journalism with text from my stories. Dundas provides detailed accounts of his travels across London, New York, and Los Angeles, exploring every facet of the Sherlock story, from societies dedicated to scholarly study to a self-trained “mentalist” who Holmes for his uncanny on-stage deductive powers, and includes interviews with Steven Moffat, create of the BBC series, bestselling author Laurie R. King, and others.
So there are quite a few items that could be added to a certain person’s wish list . . .
14th September, No Comments
By John Watson
Once in a while, Sherlock Holmes appears as a specialist subject on the BBC’s Mastermind quiz. On the 11th of this month he cropped up again.
Here are the 13 questions:
- In A Study in Scarlet what word is written in red letters on the wall in the room in which the murder victim is found?
- What is the occupation of Victor Hatherley who comes to the attention of Sherlock Holmes after Dr Watson has treated him for a severe thumb injury?
- Violet Hunter, a governess at the country house called The Copper Beeches becomes concerned about her employer’s strange behaviour and comes to Holmes for help. In which county is The Copper Beeches?
- In The Man With The Twisted Lip Neville St Clair gives up his job as a journalist when he discovers by wearing a disguise he can earn more money doing what?
- After Holmes is proved wrong in The Yellow Face what word does he tell Watson to whisper in his ear if he ever seems over-confident in his own powers?
- The initials “VV” found on a card next to a dead body allow Holmes to identify the real name of the so-called “Valley of Fear” where Birdy Edwards infiltrated a dangerous gang to bring them to justice. What’s the name of the valley?
- In The Sign of the Four Dr Watson’s future wife Mary asks Holmes to investigate the disappearance of her father. What’s his surname?
- What object is stolen from Sir Henry Baskerville when he’s staying at a hotel and used by Stapleton to give the hound Sir Henry’s scent?
- Dr Watson diagnoses that Mr Jefferson Hope, the murderer of both Enoch Drebber and Joseph Stangerson has a specific heart condition by placing his hand on his chest. What condition?
- In The Solitary Cyclist Bob Carruthers tries to protect Violet Smith from a plot to force her into marrying a criminal. What does he wear to disguise his identity along with a dark suit and a cloth cap?
- In the climax of which short story are Holmes and Moriarty believed to have fought at the edge of the Reichenbach Falls and plunged to their deaths?
- What is the value of the Mazarin Stone, a yellow diamond, stolen by Count Negretto Sylvius?
- In The Six Napoleons Beppo has been smashing plaster busts of Napoleon because one of them contains what valuable object?
The contestant on this occasion correctly answered 10 of the 13 questions asked, got questions 11 and 12 wrong and passed on question 5 and unfortunately came last out of the four contestants after the general knowledge section.
How many would you have answered correctly? (Answers to follow at a later date.)
On a previous Celebrity Mastermind, Stephen Fry also answered 10 questions correctly.
Posted in Television
13th August, No Comments
By John Watson
It is with great satisfaction but with a tinge of sadness that I can report on Alistair Duncan’s final book in his trilogy on the life of my literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, whom I will always refer to as ‘Dear Arthur’.
I will also take this opportunity to thank the man who saw such promise in the jottings of a fellow medical men and encouraged me to continue in my attempts to bring knowledge of Holmes great gifts to the world.
Nevertheless it is to Alistair Duncan that we must now give our most grateful thanks for the many hours of painstaking research he has undertaken to produce these three books covering nearly forty years of Dear Arthur’s life.
His latest, and the last in this trilogy, cover the final years of Doyle’s life from 1907 to 1930 during which I saw very little of Doyle, save when it was necessary to discuss the publication of my latest stories concerning my friend and colleague, Holmes. The very busy schedule that Doyle undertook, travelling here, there and everywhere, is meticulously detailed by Duncan and goes a long way to explain why I often had trouble contacting him, not least to correct some of the errors that crept into my manuscripts, for which I accept all the blame.
Nevertheless, I am sure it is Duncan’s book that you really want to know about . . .
Alistair Duncan has written and published three books covering the life of Arthur Conan Doyle.
The first of these was The Norwood Author, covering just the three years (1891 to 1894) during which Doyle lived in Norwood, South London.
The second was An Entirely New Country, covering the period between 1897 and 1907 when Doyle was living at Undershaw in Hindhead.
This third and, by definition, final volume, No Better Place, covers 1907 to 1930. So it begins with Doyle and his new wife, Jean Leckie, on their way back to England from their honeymoon to their new home, Windelesham, on the outskirts of Crowborough in East Sussex. By the way, it is now a home for the elderly so I may find myself there someday!
Doyle was still battling to obtain a pardon for George Edalji and arranging the publication of the penultimate series of Holmes stories, His Last Bow, beginning with the two-part serialisation of The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge in The Strand in September and October 1908. Early in that year, Sidney Paget, who had illustrated Holmes stories from A Scandal in Bohemia onwards, died in 1908, and a new illustrator was need for the stories that would form part of His Last Bow.
In 1910, Doyle mounted a stage play version of The Speckled Band with H. A. Sainstbury as Holmes and Claude King as me. In that same year, George Newnes passed away, to whom Doyle and I had reason to be grateful for providing the platform on which Holmes stories were published (The Strand).
The following year brought the death of Dr. Joseph Bell, whom many considered (but not Bell himself) to have been the inspiration behind many of my stories (but not myself!).
On August 4th, 1914 Britain declared war on Germany and the following month the serialisation of The Valley of Fear started in The Strand and did not appear in book form until the following year.
1916 was the year in which Doyle went public about his belief in spiritualism. From then on to the end of his life, it became his main campaign and seems, in the latter years to have been his only campaign.
In 1917, the story of His Last Bow was published in The Strand, chronologically the last adventure of Holmes and I that I intended to publish.
It is notable that in Duncan’s book, the war years of 1914 to 1918 have the least detail due, in no doubt to the people (and the newspapers) being preoccupied with the war itself.
It has been noted elsewhere that the overwhelming loss of life that the nation suffered was one of the factors in the rise of Spiritualism during this period and it does seem that Conan Doyle’s promotion of his beliefs continued to gather pace throughout the rest of his life and seemed, by Duncan’s account, to consume almost all of his time and energy. He travelled extensively abroad following the war talking about these strongly held beliefs.
During the 1920s, the Cottingley Fairies story broke, and although of minor significance to Conan Doyle, seems to be held by many to indicate that he was not the intelligent, reasoned man whom many had admired.
The individual Holmes stories that comprised The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes were published in the 1920s leading up to the Casebook publication in 1927. The films with Eille Norwood as Holmes were also released early in this decade.
Although taken ill in 1909, Conan Doyle seems to have remained in good health until 1929 but ignored advice to slow down and collapsed when due to talk at the Home Office early in July 1930 and suffered a heart attack and died on July 7th, 1930.
As I mentioned at the beginning, Duncan has made a tremendous job of piecing together Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s last years from newspaper articles, letters and other evidence, in such a way that one feels one is reading Doyle’s personal diary. One gets a feel for a man of great determination, pursuing his beliefs until the very end.
Posted in Books
31st May, 2 Comments
By John Watson
In celebration of 100 years of Holmes in 1987, the BBC broadcast a number of programmes relating to his legacy. The Radio Times for the week of December 5th to 11th, 1987 carries a drawing of Holmes on the cover and there are seven pages inside covering “Sherlock – A study in the science of sleuthing” by H R F Keating and other articles. You can see these articles and the cover by the courtesy of Altamont in his Markings.
The programmes broadcast that week included:
- “Centenary, My Dear Watson” on BBC Radio 4 where we follow the men and women of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London who celebrated the centenary with a pilgrimage through Switzerland to the Reichenbach Falls. This programme can be heard here.
- “Food and Drink” on BBC Two in which, as a change from Christmas Pudding, what about Plum Duff, the exclusive recipe of our housekeeper (or is it landlady?) Mrs Hudson
- “The Case of Sherlock Holmes”, a 40 Minutes special on BBC Two (lasting an hour and ten minutes) in which Tim Pigott-Smith, who has played both of us, embarks on an investigation into why Holmes continues to fascinate. This programme can be seen here.
- “The Hound of the Baskervilles”on BBC Two which was Basil Rathbone’s first film as Holmes, and the start of a new season of Rathbone as Holmes films on the BBC
- “Out of Court” on BBC Two which carries out an investigation into vicious and ou-of-control dogs, citing the Hound as “an elementary matter for Sherlock Holmes to unravel”
Add to that a competition to win “a holiday for two near the Reichenbach Falls or a set of the new deluxe Super Cluedo Challenge”!
The only extra I have included here, courtesy of Mrs Hudson is her Plum Duff recipe:
These are the competition questions
- What was Holmes chief adversary called?
- What was Conan Doyle’s profession?
- What nationality was Hercules Poirot?
- Which technical invention caught Dr Crippen?
- Who was Lord Peter Whimsey’s manservant?
- Which of the following is not a character in Waddington’s Cluedo board game? (a) Miss Scarlett (b) Dr Green (c) Professor Plum
I’m afraid the competition is now closed . . .
3rd May, No Comments
By John Watson
This is the second instalment of a new series of articles tracing programmes about Holmes from the early days of radio broadcasting by the BBC through to when Holmes first appeared on BBC television to the latest Sherlock series.
The first instalment can be found here.
There is only one programme that I can find broadcast by the BBC Home Service in 1940. That was another “For The Schools” programme on October 7th. At 2.40pm there was an item for “Senior English”, planned and presented by Douglas R Allan about detective stories, with illustrations from Sherlock Holmes, Sexton Blake, etc.
Yet another biography of myself, entitled “My Dear Watson” was broadcast on the BBC Home Service at 7.30pm on February 2nd, 1941.
This appears to have been based on the facts recorded in the Adventures, Memoirs, Return, His Last Bow and Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes and also uses the “scholarship of S C Roberts and H W Bell”. In this programme, I am played by Cecil Trouncer and Holmes by Felix Aylmer.
Sidney Castle Roberts (S C Roberts) was an author, publisher and biographer and a noted Sherlockian, and was president of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. In 1953 he published “Holmes and Watson A Miscellany”, a very amusing book that I am proud to have in my collection.
Harold Wilmerding Bell (H W Bell) was another writer who published a number or articles and books about us. These include “Baker Street Studies” published in 1934 which I would like to have in my collection.
Nothing relating to Holmes was broadcast in 1942 but “My Dear Watson” was repeated a couple of years after its original broadcast at 9.40pm on July 30th, 1943.
Earlier that same month on July 3rd at 9.35pm began the long association that Carleton Hobbs was to have with Sherlock Holmes though on this occasion he played myself alongside Arthur Wontner as Holmes. This was “The Boscombe Valley Mystery” adapted for the BBC Home Service by Ashley Sampson.
Later that year, Douglas Allan, in another “For The Schools” programme on the BBC Home Service at 2.40pm on December 10th, asked “Do you know Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson?” and introduced the “famous detective and his assistant“!
Nothing appears to have been broadcast in 1944 but on May 17th, 1945 at 10.45 pm the BBC Home Service broadcast an adaptation of “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” with Holmes played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Finlay Currie playing me. The adaptation was by John Dickson Carr.
On August 9th, 1945 at 9.30pm, the BBC Home Service presented the first of a series of weekly dramas. Entitled “Corner In Crime”, the first of these was “Silver Blaze” with Laidman Browne as Holmes and Norman Shelley playing me as he would later when Carleton Hobbs appeared as Holmes.
Nothing the following year (1946) then on February 7th, 1947, Douglas Allan introduced Holmes again as part of a “For The Schools” programme at 2.40pm on the BBC Home Service.
On April 23rd that year at 6.15pm on the BBC Light Programme, Books and Authors presented a recent book that provided “an unusual study of Sherlock Holmes”. Any ideas what that might have been?
On December 27th the BBC Home Service re-broadcast “The Speckled Band” previously aired in 1945 with Sir Cedric Hardwicke and Finlay Currie.
Nothing in 1948 but on January 8th, 1949 the BBC Light Programme at 2pm in “New Books and Old Books” looked at the Sherlock Holmes stories.
From August 8th, 1949, the BBC Light Programme at 11pm on successive nights, presented “A Book At Bedtime”, in which Laidman Browne read three of my stories each one presented in five episodes. “The Speckled Band” from 8th to 12th, “The Norwood Builder” from 15th to 19th and “The Bruce-Partington Plans” from 22nd to 26th.
Laidman Browne would play Holmes again on the BBC in the 1950s and he appeared in the 1955 film The Dambusters that also included Nigel Stock who would later play me alongside Douglas Wilmer (and later Peter Cushing) as Holmes on BBC Television.
That was it for the 1940s apart from another “For The Schools” programme at 2.25pm on October 3rd, 1949 when the BBC Home Service had a reading of “The Speckled Band”.
These schools programmes will become significant in the next decade when then begin the Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley pairing as Holmes and Watson. Tune in again soon for The Holmes Service 1950-1959 when Holmes and I first appear on BBC Television!
Posted in Radio