221 BBC

As those of you who know your radio Holmes and Watson or have read an earlier article of mine on Bert Coules, this is the title of the book Coules wrote about the “world’s only complete dramatised canon and beyond”.

221BBC originalIt has been been out of print for some time having been originally written for the Northern Musgraves, an English Sherlock Holmes group. This original, Musgrave Monograph No.9 was published in 1998 and ran to about 76 pages. The BBC included a revised version as part of their boxed set of the audiocassettes of the complete original broadcast canon. But these eventually ran out.

Towards the end of 2011 Coules was approached by the Wessex Press to produce an updated version for their Sherlock Holmes publications (Gasogene Books) and this has now been published.

Anyone who might not have heard of Coules can listen to two podcasts from I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere (Episode 68 and 69) where his knowledge of Holmes and Watson and especially of their history on radio even manages to put the knowledgeable hosts of the show right on a couple of points. Another interesting point that Coules makes is that he sees my stories as “stories about a detective and not detective stories”, exactly the same view as that held by Gatiss and Moffat, the creators of the BBC Sherlock series.

221BBC newThe new, revised and expanded 221 BBC book now runs to nearly 300 pages.

Following a foreword by Clive Merrison, who played Holmes throughout the series and an introduction to the new edition from Bert Coules, it starts off with a wonderfully detailed history of Holmes and Watson on the radio and weaves into this how Coules became involved at the BBC.

He then takes us through the casting and production of The Hound of the Baskervilles with Roger Rees as Holmes and Crawford Logan as me which was broadcast in two hour-long episodes in May and June 1988.

Following the success of this production the BBC decided to produce the whole Canon but with new leads. Clive Merrison was to be Holmes and Michael Williams was to take on my role.  A Study In Scarlet and The Sign of the Four (note the “correct” title) were also broadcast each in two hour-long episodes in November and December 1989.

The books takes us through The Adventures, The Memoirs, The Return, His Last Bow, The Casebook and The Valley of Fear before re-recording The Hound of the Baskervilles using a new script with Merrison and Williams.

Interesting in the script for The Lion’s Mane that Coules has come up with an explanation of the incorrect spelling of “lama” in The Empty House. I could write a book myself on the problems Arthur and I had with The Strand.

The idea of writing radio plays around some of the cases I had mentioned but not detailed as part of the Canon had occurred to Coules before the Canon was completed but by the time it became a reality, Michael Williams had sadly died. Andrew Sachs picked up my role from there and 16 Further Adventures were produced. The book covers these before rounding off with the script of The Abergavenny Murder (a case I mentioned in The Priory School) and cast and broadcast details of all the broadcasts.

The podcasts from I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere mentioned above add to the information in the book and the presenters praise Coules for the way he handled the individual stories adding material where it was necessary to support radio broadcasts. Coules has a stage play based on The Lion’s Mane and would love to produce a television series setting my stories back in their original Victorian setting.

Meanwhile, the complete Sherlock Holmes Radio Collection and the Further Adventures are available on Amazon in the UK and USA but mainly as the separate series – the complete sets are now difficult to find.

Comments

2 Responses

  1. Bert Coules says:

    Many thanks for the review: I’m delighted that you like the book. Anyone interested in acquiring the shows should beware of the ridiculously inflated prices being asked by some third-party sellers: happily, Amazon UK seem to be embarking on new releases of the CD sets starting next year, and meanwhile the programmes are available as downloads from iTunes.

    • John Watson says:

      Thank you for updating us on the availability of the shows. BBC Radio 4 Extra occasionally broadcasts the shows. Recently, as part of The Holmes Service (archive recordings from the BBC) they aired the Rees/Logan “Hound” and the Merrison/Williams “His Last Bow”. The latter is still available on the iPlayer if you’re quick!

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