Archive for October, 2010

Holmes Christmas List 2010

As happened last year, with the case of the Blue Carbuncle just chronologically around the corner again and people beginning to think about gifts, Holmes has compiled his Christmas list.

He did not get everything that was on last year’s list but this year’s list is completely new. I have provided links to amazon.co.uk and amazon.com where possible.

1. Top of the list this year is the DVD of the BBC Sherlockwith a contemporary take on the classic stories set in present-day London. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman as me, his loyal friend. We couldn’t be more different, but Sherlock’s inspired leaps of intellect coupled with my pragmatism forges an unbreakable alliance.

Across three, 90-minute, thrilling, scary, action-packed and highly entertaining television movies, Sherlock and I navigate a maze of cryptic clues and lethal killers to get at the truth. Holmes has come out of the fog. With sparkling scripts and unforgettable performances from the two leads, this is Sherlock for a new generation. The DVD contains all 3 episodes and the original Pilot.

Amazon UK: Sherlock [DVD] and Sherlock [Blu-ray] , Amazon USA: Sherlock [DVD] and Sherlock [Blu-ray]

2. Linked to the BBC Sherlock is this neat, compact magnifying glass that every modern Sherlock needs. Watch Sherlock in A Study In Pink to see how he uses it. All you now need is the scarf, the coat and his endearing manner with all those about him and you’re set to go sleuthing this Christmas!

Amazon UK: Eschenbach Magnifying Glass

3. The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, which I mentioned in Part 2 of Holmes on British Radio , has just been released. These are four new Holmes stories with a railway theme written by John  Taylor who wrote The Undiscovered Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. These new stories are “An Inscrutable Masquerade”, “The Conundrum of Coach 13”, “The Trinity Vicarage Larceny” and “The 10.59 Assassin”.

According to Taylor, in a drawer in my desk, I have a locked cedarwood chest containing notes referring to some of Holmes’ cases that, for one reason or another, never saw the light of day. Now, for the first time, I have decided to reveal the truth to the world. In these four thrilling stories, Holmes experiments with the science of ballistics, locates some missing gold bullion, investigates the theft of a large amount of money and solves the baffling mystery of the Stovey murder.

If all that wasn’t enough then the stories are read by the newest Sherlock – Benedict Cumberbatch. Just one question then. Why is Sherlock (Cumberbatch) reading these stories rather than me (Martin Freeman)?

Amazon UK: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, Amazon USA: The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries (sorry but not available in the USA in time for Christmas but you could try The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes instead).

4. I have already reviewed this digitally-restored collection of the 14 films with Basil Rathbone as Holmes.

The multi-million pound restoration is discussed in a 5 minute featurette with Robert Gitt, Head Preservation Officer at the UCLA Film and Television Archive. Along with the beautifully restored films are audio commentaries by Sherlock Holmes Expert David Stuart Davies (author of numerous books on Holmes and Rathbone) on The Scarlet Claw, The Woman In Green, Sherlock Holmes Faces Death and The Hound of the Baskervilles. There is also an audio commentary by another Holmes Expert Richard Valley (acclaimed author and publisher of Scarlet Street Mystery Magazine who in Amazon’s review is said to be currently penning a book on Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes although he sadly died in 2007) on The Adventures Of Sherlock Holmes.

Richard Valley has also provided production notes and the films are accompanied by photo galleries, movie posters and theatrical trailers.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes – The Definitive Collection, Amazon USA: The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection (different packaging in the USA)

5. Again I have already reviewed Sherlock Holmes for Dummies and despite its American bias and a couple of errors (my wife becoming Mary Marston instead of Morstan and mistaking the blue plaque above the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street for a legitimate historical plaque) it is still a handy guide to the stories, Britain as it was at that time, the characters in the stories, our portrayals in films, on television and on the stage, etc.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (paperback), Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (Kindle edition), Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (paperback), Sherlock Holmes for Dummies (Kindle edition)

6. Continuing with the guides, I have now reviewed Close to Holmes – Alistair Duncan’s popular guide to Holmes and Conan Doyle’s London.

I have already reviewed his two other books, Eliminate the Impossible and The Norwood Author.

Close to Holmes is a handy guide that will just about fit in your pocket as you explore London as it is today and how it looked in the late nineteenth century to us and to my literary agent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Alistair Duncan’s research is carefully done, as usual, and he treats us to pictures of many of the locations as they were and as they are now.

Amazon UK: Close to Holmes (paperback), Close to Holmes (Kindle edition), Amazon USA: Close to Holmes (paperback), Close to Holmes (Kindle edition)

7. The second edition of Christopher Redmond’s Sherlock Holmes Handbook sums up this Canadian scholar’s lifetime expertise about Holmes. The first edition appeared in 1993 and this new edition catches up on new films and books and the advent of the Internet.

It is still one of my favourite guides providing a summary of each story in the Canon, the characters in the stories, the cases I chose not to publish, our rooms at 221B, Holmes’s methods and so on. In the section on Crime and Punishment, as well as a summary of British law (and law enforcement) as it was then, there is a summary of other detectives’ work before, during and after Holmes’ career.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes Handbook, Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes Handbook

8. The exhaustively annotated, ten-volume edition of the Sherlock Holmes stories by Edgar Award winner Leslie S. Klinger ends with The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes.

As is well known, Holmes’ adventures have inspired a vast body of literature. Since the 1920s these “writings about The Writings” have contributed fascinating new insights into the stories, enhancing the pleasure of reading them.

This final volume of The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library covers more “adventures” of Sherlock Holmes than those that are contained in the sixty tales. This deposit of extra-Canonical material is known by Sherlockian scholars as The Apocrypha.

Amazon UK: This volume is not yet listed by amazon.co.uk, Amazon USA: The Apocrypha of Sherlock Holmes

9. Until Benedict Cumberbatch came along most people hailed Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Holmes as the best ever.

Bending the Willow, David Stuart Davies wonderful tribute to Jeremy who said that he wanted his interpretation of Holmes to “bend the willow, but not break it.”

Apparently a second edition of this fascinating and perceptive study is available but I have not yet seen it. The second hand copies listed on Amazon are quite expensive so it may be worth contacting the publishers direct.

Amazon UK: Bending the Willow, Amazon USA: Bending the Willow

10. Finally the Sherlock Holmes film. This was originally top of the list but I am now undecided about this as my initial enthusiasm for it has dissipated in the wake of the BBC Sherlock. I now wonder if anyone will really be able to capture what Holmes and I were up to in Victorian times. Some of the liberties taken with the Canon now begin to jar – such as Holmes appearing never to have met my future wife when in reality we both met her at the same time in 221B at the start of The Sign of The Four. Still, it is a very enjoyable film and the new one in production has Leslie Klinger advising them and with the addition of Stephen Fry as Mycroft this should help to ensure greater fidelity.

Amazon UK: Sherlock Holmes [DVD], Sherlock Holmes [Blu-ray], Amazon USA: Sherlock Holmes [DVD], Sherlock Holmes [Blu-ray]

This was, as I predicted, a bumper year of Holmes books and other paraphernalia following the Sherlock Holmes film and Sherlock TV series and with follow-ups to both in production yet another bumper year may be soon upon us.

A Chronology of the Life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A Chronology of the Life or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle May 22nd 1859 to July 7th 1930” is a detailed chronology of the life and times of my literary agent from the date of his birth to the date of his death and beyond.

This is a work of reference, and a magnificent work it is.

I cannot imagine how anyone writing about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could be without this comprehensive reference book. It would be of less use to a Sherlockian, except perhaps in checking the publication dates of the stories in their various forms.

Its over 200 pages of A4 size contain a wealth of information, including:

  • a family tree back to Sir Arthur’s Great Grandfather
  • a detailed list of events starting in 1794/5 with the birth of Marianne Conan, followed in 1797 by the birth of James Doyle his Great Grandfather up to January 29th 1998 when there was a memorial service for Dame Jean Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur’s daughter from his second marriage
  • some family photographs
  • a list of residences of Sir Arthur and family
  • a list of statues and plaques dedicated to Sir Arthur, Sherlock Holmes and others (including the only plaque dedicated to myself!)
  • a list of biographies and semi-biographical works
  • a chronological listing of the first and early appearances of Sir Arthur’s works
  • a list of prefaces, forewords, etc. by Sir Arthur
  • a list of references consulted and referred to by the author in compiling the chronology
  • a short note about the author
  • a comprehensive index

I would, therefore, recommend to any Doylean scholar for checking for the correct dates when writing about Sir Arthur.

We Sherlockians have our own chronologies to refer to including the Annotated Sherlock Holmes and, more recently the much more compact and affordable Eliminate the Impossible.

Sherlock Holmes – The Last Act

I  was invited to see Roger Llewellyn in David Stuart Davies’ play “Sherlock Holmes – The Last Act“. This was a somewhat daunting prospect for me. The play is set in 1916 and Holmes has come back to our Baker Street rooms from his cottage is Sussex following his two years of retirement.

What has brought him back? My funeral!

Roger Llewellyn is the only person in this play though through his marvellous virtuoso performance we get to meet me (my middle name is apparently Horatio and I speak with a Scottish accent), Mrs Hudson (first name Martha and sounds like Janet from Dr Finlay’s Casebook) plus Lestrade and many others. He changes accent and persona quickly and with ease and there is much humour from David Stuart Davies skill with the Canon. The second half is somewhat darker, delving, with much conjecture into Holmes’ early life. Mysteriously, The Hound of the Baskervilles appears in the play after references to The Final Problem and The Empty House when it should be earlier but it suits the mood of the second half. I will not spoil your enjoyment by telling you how it ends but I hope you will be moved – I was!

David Stuart Davies wrote this play after seeing Roger Llewellyn’s first theatrical encounter with Holmes in an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles. He wrote this solo drama specially for Llewellyn and the show premiered at The Salisbury Playhouse in 1999, won five stars at Edinburgh, was selected as one of The Top Ten Fringe Plays, and has toured world-wide ever since with over 550 performances so far!

The play explores the mind of the real man – not the thinking machine. An unexpectedly passionate and secretive man, with a cutting sense of humour (as I know all too well!)

Stripping away the infamous clinical façade, Holmes reveals fears, weaknesses, and the devastating consequences of the dramas of his formative years. The whole being ‘deduced’ from the ‘clues’ in the Canon.

Following the success of this play, Davies wrote a second Sherlockian venture “Sherlock Holmes – The Death and Lifewhich was premiered at Guildford in March 2008. This play deals with Arthur Conan Doyle tiring of what he sees as the intolerably arrogant Sherlock Holmes, and suggests that he created the malevolent Professor Moriarty to dispose of him. But the author’s dangerous strategy, combined with his passion for raising the spirits of the dead, has rather more bizarre and dramatic consequences than he bargained for!

Audio versions of both plays are available (see the links above).

David Stuart Davies has written extensively about Sherlock Holmes. His non-fiction books include:

His fiction books include:

  1. Sherlock Holmes and the Hentzau Affair (1991)
  2. The Tangled Skein (1995)
  3. The Scroll of the Dead (1998)
  4. Shadow of the Rat (1999)
  5. The Veiled Detective (2004). Explores the relationship between Holmes, myself and Professor Moriarty
  6. The Games Afoot (2008)

He is the editor of several collections for Wordsworth & Collectors Library including:

He has written and narrated commentaries for the digitally re-mastered Basil Rathbone Holmes films.

If you get the chance to see it, please do. You will laugh and you may cry but you will not be disappointed!

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