Archive for June, 2011

I have my plans [ILLU]

Looking forward to later in the year . . .

August

4th – The Carleton Hobbs Sherlock Holmes Further Collection with Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley (with introductions by Nicholas Utechin)

A further collection of Sherlock Holmes dramas, starring Carleton Hobbs, from the BBC Radio Archive. In this these twelve classic stories, Carleton Hobbs established the ‘sound’ of Sherlock Holmes, with Norman Shelley as his superb Watson. Collected together on CD for the first time, with a specially commissioned introduction by Nicholas Utechin, former Editor of “The Sherlock Holmes Journal”. This collection includes: “The Copper Beeches”, “Thor Bridge”, “The Sussex Vampire”, “The Three Garridebs”, “The Three Gables”, “The Retired Colourman”, “The Boscombe Valley Mystery”, “The Crooked Man”, “The Cardboard Box”, “A Case of Identity”, “The Naval Treaty”, and “The Noble Bachelor”.

September

1st – A Brief History of Sherlock Holmes by Nigel Cawthorne

Sherlock Holmes continues to have a perennial allure as the ultimate sleuth. As Holmes is being re-introduced to a new audience through TV and film, Cawthorne introduces the general reader to Holmes including his resurrection following his unlikely death at the hands of arch enemy, Moriarty. Cawthorne also surveys the world of Holmes, looking at Victorian crime, myself and Inspector Lestrade, as well as the world on the doorstep of 221B Baker Street.

6th – Pirate King: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie King

In England’s young silent-film industry, the megalomaniacal Randolph Fflytte is king. Nevertheless, at the request of Scotland Yard, Mary Russell is dispatched to investigate rumors of criminal activities that swirl around Fflytte’s popular movie studio. So Russell is traveling undercover to Portugal, along with the film crew that is gearing up to shoot a cinematic extravaganza, Pirate King. Based on Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, the project will either set the standard for moviemaking for a generation . . . or sink a boatload of careers.

Nothing seems amiss until the enormous company starts rehearsals in Lisbon, where the thirteen blond-haired, blue-eyed actresses whom Mary is bemusedly chaperoning meet the swarm of real buccaneers Fflytte has recruited to provide authenticity. But when the crew embarks for Morocco and the actual filming, Russell feels a building storm of trouble: a derelict boat, a film crew with secrets, ominous currents between the pirates, decks awash with budding romance—and now the pirates are ignoring Fflytte and answering only to their dangerous outlaw leader. Plus, there’s a spy on board. Where can Sherlock Holmes be? As movie make-believe becomes true terror, Russell and Holmes themselves may experience a final fadeout.

November

1st – The House of Silk – by Andrew Horowitz

The book is set in 1890, but as written by me in a retirement home (Mrs Hudson may have something to say about that), a year after the death of Holmes. The story opens with a train robbery in Boston, and moves to the innocuous setting of Wimbledon – but, Holmes says, the tale was too monstrous, too appalling to reveal until now. “It is no exaggeration to say it could tear apart the very fabric of society”, he writes in the prologue.

24th – Study In Sherlock edited by Laurie King and Leslie Klinger

Neil Gaiman, Laura Lippman and Lee Child are just three of 18 superstar authors who provide fascinating, thrilling and utterly original perspectives on Sherlock Holmes in this one-of-a-kind book. These modern masters place the sleuth in suspenseful new situations, create characters that solve Holmesian mysteries, contemplate Holmes in his later years, fill gaps in the Sherlock Holmes canon and reveal their own personal obsessions with the infamous detective. It is the perfect tribute and a collection of twisting, clever studies of a timeless icon.

December

5th – An Entirely New Country – Arthur Conan Doyle, Undershaw and the Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes by Alistair Duncan

The late 1890s saw Arthur Conan Doyle return to England after several years abroad. His new house, named Undershaw, represented a fresh start but it was also the beginning of a dramatic decade that saw him fall in love, stand for parliament, fight injustice and be awarded a knighthood. However, for his many admirers, the most important event of that decade was the return of Sherlock Holmes – the character that he felt had cast a shadow over his life.

6th – The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Volume 3 by Anthony Boucher and Denis Green

More radio adventures with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.

I will add to the list as I become aware of new releases that I may want to add to my collection . . .

The Secret of Sherlock Holmes

I had started to write this review after going to see “The Secret of Sherlock Holmes” starring Peter Egan and Robert Daws at the Duchess Theatre, Drury Lane, London back in 2010 but got distracted with other matters.

With the sad passing of one of the best actors to portray me, Edward Hardwicke, in May 2011, I was reminded that he played me alongside Jeremy Brett’s Holmes in the same play when it was originally brought to the stage through a collaboration between Brett and Jeremy Paul who dramatised a number of my stories for the Granada Television Sherlock Holmes series. Jeremy Paul also sadly died in May 2011.

The play itself is very much a story in two parts. Act 1 is a compendium of elements from the Canon, starting from our first meeting and what led up to it and ending with Holmes disappearance at the Reichenbach Falls, somewhat rapidly followed by his startling return, seven years later, causing me to faint. So at the end of the first act I am out for the count!

This first act, except for maybe the closing few minutes, is like nestling down in your favourite armchair with a pipe, a drink and a favourite book. The latter in this case being the whole Canon. I sat there during this first act with my own words flowing from the two actors towards me causing me to smile, laugh, and even shed an occasional tear as the memories also came back to me.

Act 2 is an entirely different matter. I will not spoil your potential enjoyment of the whole play by revealing the detail of what “The Secret” is except to say that it involves Moriarty and who he really is.

The play can be a disappointment to those expecting a classic case consisting of a problem, an investigation and a solution. All three elements are, in fact present, but not in the form you might usually expect.

I do have a concern about the basic tenet of the case, if I can call it that. It is another of those devices that authors, film-makers and playwrights use to extend our relationship and our adventures together into areas where they do not belong and manipulate our characters in a way that at least stretches credulity and at its worst I find distasteful. Although I cannot claim to know all there is to know about Holmes, we have spent a good deal of time together, sometimes under very difficult, not to say dangerous, circumstances and I find suggestions of this sort unpalatable. I have read Michael Dibdins “The Last Sherlock Holmes Story” and found it distasteful for these same reasons.

Back to the play and Peter Egan does a reasonable job portraying Holmes but he is no match for Brett. I suspect that those who were lucky enough to see the Brett/Hardwicke version of the play thought they were seeing Holmes playing Brett rather than the other way round. I have also seen Egan (with Philip Franks) in The Hound of the Baskervilles and in this Egan seemed to cope with this much better. I could believe he was Holmes in The Hound. In The Secret he was less comfortable and therefore less believable. This strain showed but may have benficial in adding to the required characterisation in Act 2.

Robert Daws is perhaps a little more emotional than me but he handles Holmes’ occasional put-down (“It is true that you have missed everything of importance”) very well, and many must wonder why he (or rather I) put up with Holmes for so long given the apparent disdain with which he refers to my attempts at deduction.

Going back to the original Brett/Hardwicke performance, the reviews were at the time much kinder than for the more recent Egan/Daws performance – largely I suspect because Brett had become the definitive Holmes of recent times.

The script of the play was first published in 1989 but is now difficult to find in the UK though it is apparently easily available in the USA (from where obtained my copy). A recording of one of the Brett/Hardwicke performance by a member of the audience has recently come to light but, of course, being recorded from audience is not of very good quality. I am not aware of any recordings of the Egan/Daws presentation. The play is also run occasionally in the USA and one of my favourite podcasts, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, interviewed the team responsible for one such production in 2007.

Something I learned from Hardwicke is that Brett performed the play at the Mayfair Theatre as a private performance to an invited audience before the full public production. This version had a narrator and some of my words were delivered by a third person so there were three people performing this version.

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