The Sherlock Holmes Companion

Now, I could consider myself the real Sherlock Holmes Companion, but this book, subtitled “An Elementary Guide”, could be confused with the CBS Television Series! But no, this lavish book by Daniel Smith, is a marvellous compendium consisting of four main parts, interleaved with each other throughout the volume.

There are synopses of each of the 56 short stories and the 4 long stories that comprise the Canon. There are essays on specific aspects of Holmes’ world including his role as a detective and scientist, what he does to relax, his place amongst other investigators, his politics, his appearances on stage, screen and radio (not in person, of course!) and his legacy.

There are interviews with those whose life has become intertwined with his, including  three actors who have played me – Philip Franks on the stage and both of Jeremy Brett‘s Watsons – David Burke and Edward Hardwicke, Bert Coules (responsible for the only complete set of radio recordings of the Canon with the same actors playing Holmes and me throughout), Douglas Wilmer who played Holmes on television in the mid-1960s (annoyingly not available here on DVD), Caleb Carr (who’s book “The Italian Secretary” I have yet to read) and Catherine Cooke who looks after the Sherlock Holmes Collection in my local library.

Finally, there are profiles of the key characters in the stories including Holmes and me, Mrs Hudson (with a mention of our lodgings), Scotland Yard, Professor Moriarty, The Strand Magazine and of course my dear friend, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who made all this possible.

The cover carries an illustration from a theatrical poster for H A Saintsbury‘s portrayal of Holmes in William Gillette’s play “Sherlock Holmes” in which a young Charlie Chaplin played the part of our page boy, Billy. There are many interesting illustrations throughout the book.

Daniel Smith, who confesses to having more film versions of The Hound of the Baskervilles than he knows what to do with, began reading about Holmes in The Speckled Band when he was nine around the same time as Jeremy Brett was appearing as Holmes on television. He should be proud of the work he has put into this book.

The Art of Deduction

About the Book

Most of the books that I chose, or am asked to review, are pastiches or books by authors who have studied the many adventures Holmes and I had together. Recently there have been a few books looking at specific aspects of Holmes’ ability as the first consulting detective.

The most recent of these is entitled “The Art of Deduction” by Taz Rai and is a detailed analysis of Holmes methods against several well-known text books on logic and deduction.

It is a very well-researched book which quotes frequently and accurately from my stories to present the key skills that anyone wishing to emulate the Great Detective will need to master.

Background

Rai tells me that in writing the book he began to realise the possibilities if the average person could acquire even a modicum of the skill possessed by Holmes. In many of our adventures together the most complicated problem turns out in the end to have an absurdly simple solution. Rai suggests that we can all learn from Holmes and that with the application of a little logic, rationality and observation, we can solve problems in our own lives without resorting to help from others.

Rai wondered as he read my reminiscences if it was possible to deduce and learn to think the way Holmes does. This triggered the idea of writing The Art of Deduction. He read all my stories again plus several books on logic and philosophy. He also conducted a survey to see what Holmes fans wanted and the result is the four parts that comprise his book.

He suggests that although everyone has a vague notion of logic, by reading my stories about Holmes cases, you can begin to understand what its benefits are. He believes it is important to read and understand logic and how Holmes uses logic in his work. If Holmes is thought of as a superhero then his superpower is logic, Rai suggests. He also believes that because we can relate to Holmes as being human also it is  possible for us to attain some measure of his amazing gift. Many exercise in the gym to build muscles, lose weight, etc. and he suggests that the same approach can be applied with logic and deduction in the mind. Holmes is an example of what one can acquire, but to get there is not necessarily understood.

The book is in four parts.

Part One – A Study in Sherlock

The many facets of the personality of Holmes are analysed including the rationality of his approach to a case eschewing emotion, superstition, irrationality, and fallacies. His use of evidence, the scientific method and the acquisition of useful knowledge is discussed. We then look at his methods of abstraction and distraction, his immersion in lengthy chemical experiments, and then his intense concentration. Finally his vices.

The section draws on A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Abbey Grange, The Copper Beeches, The Norwood Builder, Silver Blaze, The Valley of Fear, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Mazarin Stone, The Man with the Twisted Lip and The Yellow Face.

Part Two – A Case in Logic

This looks at the science of logic and Rai suggests that if you read these pages you will be able to infer the possibility of a Niagara or an Atlantic from the knowledge of a single drop of water (as Holmes suggests in A Study in Scarlet). The heading of the one of the sections in Part One – Five Pillows and an Ounce of Shag – would be an appropriate setting for reading this section.

Again Rai draws heavily on the Canon to illustrate the application of logic including A Study in Scarlet, A Scandal in Bohemia, The Copper Beeches, The Yellow Face, The Sign of Four, Silver Blaze, The Norwood Builder, The Boscombe Valley Mystery and His Last Bow.

If you have ever wondered what the difference is between deduction and induction, what categorical propositions, categorical syllogisms, disjunctive syllogisms and the inductive force are then this section should make it all clear!

Part Three – The Observation Ritual

You see but you do not observe must be Holmes most common admonition, of me at least. This section deals with the need for acute and meticulous observation of detail. This is about turning the familiar saying about not being able to see the wood for the trees on its head and carefully observing the trees, branches and leaves before jumping to conclusions about the wood.

In this section he draws on The Norwood Builder, The Blue Carbuncle, The Stockbroker’s Clerk, The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Reigate Squire, The Sign of Four, The Golden Pince-Nez, The Dancing Men, The Resident Patient, The Valley of Fear, The Speckled Band, The Yellow Face, and of course, A Study in Scarlet, with the unforgettable “You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive”.

Part Four – The Sign of Holmesian Deduction

This section takes two of our cases – The Beryl Coronet and The Musgrave Ritual – and looks at how Holmes brings all his skills to bear on a particular problem.

As with most of our adventures, they follow a common pattern. The client arrives at states the nature of the case. Then there is the initial analysis of the problem from the facts known at that point. This indicates the need for further investigation before the denouement.

Epilogue – Real World Application

The final section gives us a real world example and takes us through the same stages as in Part Four.

In Summary

Even after many years working alongside Holmes on innumerable cases, I still struggle to apply his methods and get the results he can so easily obtain. Perhaps this is a question of innate ability coupled with intense practice. He has dedicated his whole life to it and perhaps that is what gives him the edge.

Nevertheless, this book is a very thorough analysis and maybe, just maybe, the application of the principles as Rai has laid them out may make it possible to emulate Holmes. I would be interested to hear from anyone who gives it a go and achieved some measure of success.

Finally, as you can see from the cases that are listed above (and I may have missed some), the book draws on many of our cases and it may be instructive to pick out those that Rai calls on more than others and read those ones alongside Rai’s book.

About the Author

Taz Rai is a young Business Graduate living in Australia who has given up his day job to focus on his love of writing and on someone he clearly admires. He first read about Holmes when growing up as a child and Holmes’ logical approach appealed to him. He says he doesn’t have a favourite story (his book is full of examples from all over the Canon) as he says each story showcased something new about the character of Holmes.

His favourite Holmes and Watson portrayals are,  predictably in these modern times , Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. Their portrayals, particularly Cumberbatch’s thinking or maybe I should say deducing machine, must serve to illustrate how difficult in practice, even with the aid of this book, it would be to emulate Holmes.

Where to obtain the book

Taz Rai’s book is available from his website at http://www.artofdeduction.com where you will also find a few articles by him including one about the parallels between Holmes and House MD (also mentioned in the book).

It is with a heavy heart [FINA]

It is with a heavy heart that I take up my pen once again as I did to write those words with which I began The Final Problem, two years after the disappearance of Holmes with Moriarty over the Reichenbach Falls.

It seems that almost every portrayal of Holmes and I will, at some point, take Holmes into that great abyss once again, leaving me with a void in my life.

I have been quiet for over two months as regular readers will have noticed. It was almost two years following the events of May 1891 that circumstances (as I related in The Empty House) forced my hand, much in the same vein as caused me to begin this new series of writings (as I have related in the About page of my notes).

The new series of Sherlock from the BBC, in its final episode, The Reichenbach Fall, has done it again, and created doubt in many minds about the true nature of Holmes abilities. The public support has been overwhelming but as the BBC Sherlock Series 2 makes its way around the world I must refrain from providing too much detail, with particular reference to our American friends, and therefore I will delay any discussion of the events that led up to this latest tragedy.

I will, instead, endeavour to concentrate on the immediate future and the many examples of the work of he whom I shall always regard as the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.

Books

I have the following books already awaiting review:

Molly Carr’s In Search of Doctor Watson (revised Second Edition with my picture on the cover!), The Sign of Fear and A Study in Crimson. She also has a new book due out this year (see below)

Kate Workman’s Rendezvous at the Populaire

The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Gerard Kelly

Mr Holmes and Dr Watson – Their Strangest Cases

The Sherlock Holmes Companion – An Elementary Guide by Daniel Smith

Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon – a complete tour guide

The following books are due later this year:

Three sets of audiobooks read by Edward Hardwicke Three Tales of Betrayal, Three Tales of Intrigue and Three Tales of Avarice (these are not due until April but Amazon appears to be shipping them already!)

A Sherlock Holmes Who’s Who (With of Course Dr.Watson) by Molly Carr (March)

The Secret Archives of Sherlock Holmes by June Thomson (April)

Sherlock Holmes at the Breakfast Table by Leslie Coombs (May)

Pocket Sherlock Holmes Quizzes and Puzzles by The Puzzle Society (June)

The Lost Casebooks of Sherlock Holmes: Three Volumes of Detection and Suspense by Donald Thomas (July)

The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany by Roger Johnson and Jean Upton (July)

Garment of Shadows: A Novel of Suspense Featuring Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes by Laurie King (September)

Films

I have the following films awaiting review:

BBC Sherlock Series Two (with the Series One and Series Two soundtracks)

The Sherlock Holmes Society of London 1959-1974 (films from the Society’s archives)

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (with Ronald Howard as Holmes)

The following films are due later this year:

Murder by Decree (April)

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (May)

In Addition

I plan to continue the series I started this year on Holmes on TV and I hope to bring us up to the present (including the BBC Sherlock Series and perhaps the pilot for the forthcoming CBS series).

I hope to return to my regular writing soon . . .

Watson’s Christmas List 2011

As Holmes never seems to want of anything, this is my Christmas List instead of his!

Most of what you see here I already have but some of the items only become available just before Christmas so I don’t have them yet.

Let me start off by recommending to you A Study In Sherlock.

This is the ideal gift for that person who has the whole Canon but wants something a bit different. This is a wonderful compendium of stories inspired by the Canon. The sort of book you want to curl up with in your favourite armchair in front of a blazing fire on a cold winter’s evening.

Here you will find sixteen stories plus a fascinating introduction by Laurie King (known to my readers as Mary Russell’s literary agent) and Leslie Klinger (author of the Sherlock Holmes Reference Library and the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes). Holmes crops up in some of the stories, as do I, but other characters employ Holmes methods, with varying success.

As the cover says this is a “perfect tribute” in a “collection of twisty, clever, and enthralling studies of a timeless icon”. I hope the book is a great success and if it is perhaps King and Klinger will consider making this an annual event producing a new collection at the end of each year.

You can find out more at their website.

In mentioning Mary Russell, Laurie King has published Mary’s latest memoir The Pirate King.This is one of the lighter of Mary’s adventures.

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.

Two notable pastiches appeared late this year, the first that I wish to mention is Barefoot on Baker Streetby Charlotte Anne Walters. This, like The House of Silk, which I will list next, attempts to rewrite parts of the Canon and weave into them a completely new story. In my view, Walters makes a better job of this that Horowitz does in The House of Silk. The inclusion of The Blue Carbuncle and the Man with the Twisted Lip, as well as other stories, is very well done and the period setting is mostly correct. Just one quibble though with the text. Holmes tells a bereaved mother that he is “sorry for their loss”. This phrase is entirely recent (an unwelcome American import, in my opinion) and Holmes is more likely to have said “May I offer my condolences?”

Some may have concerns about Red, the heroine of the adventures, and her liaisons with the three main male characters which I won’t go into detail about here to avoid spoiling the plot. One of these liaisons is quite ridiculous and doesn’t really work but is, I think necessary for the plot.

But all that said it is still an excellent story from a new author. As part of the publicity for her book and as a build up to the Great Holmes Debate, Walters read and reviewed all 56 of the short stories and gave each one a score out of ten. These provide an excellent guide to the stories and I hope she will consider doing the same for my four long stories.

The other pastiche is The House of Silkby Andrew Horowitz. Again this is a very good story but the book is spoiled by the attempt to include too many Canonical references, some of which are wrong, and some of which are entirely unnecessary.

I have already written a more detailed review but if you can ignore these inaccuracies then it is still a good read.

Following on from the success of the BBC Sherlock, the creators, Steven Moffatt and Mark Gattis, have provided introductions to the novels and the collected editions of the short stories, published by BBC Books.

Moffatt introduces A Study In Scarletand lets us know that at first he got Holmes and I the wrong way round after looking at one of the pictures. I looked older and he assumed I had to be the clever one. A Study in Scarlet enlivened a weekend with his grandparents. He acknowledges how much they took from the original when producing the BBC series.

Mark Gatiss introduces The Adventures of Sherlock Holmesin a similar way to Moffatt, this time telling us that he can’t quite remember when he became aware of what he calls our “imperishable friendship”.

They both envy anyone reading my stories for the first time. Even if you have all the stories already, find your local bookshop (whilst it’s still in business) and read these introductions even if you don’t buy the books. I know that not really helping keeping the bookshop in business but you could buy something else whilst you were there and what about buying these editions for someone you know who enjoyed the BBC series but has never read my original stories on which the series was based?

If you don’t yet have this DVD of the marvellous BBC Sherlockfirst series then you’re missing a real treat. On the DVD you get all three episodes plus the pilot version of A Study In Pink and a short film about the making of the series. The pilot version of A Study In Pink has a subtly different plot and is nowhere near as polished as the broadcast version. But there are some memorable shots including one of Holmes on a roof (looking for the pink suitcase I think) in a sort of Batman pose!

I have reviewed the first set of The Carleton Hobbs Sherlock Holmes Collection and earlier this year The Carleton Hobbs Sherlock Hobbs Further Collection was released. This new collection of dramas, starring Carleton Hobbs is 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”. I understand from one of my contacts that more have been “cleaned up” so more may be released next year.

I have just received a copy of Alistair Duncan’s latest book An Entirely New Country.

This new book covers the period in Arthur’s life when he returned 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 – whom he felt had cast a shadow over his life.

Finally, for now, the latest collection of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.This is volume 3 and includes Murder in the Casbah, The Tankerville Club, The Strange Case of the Murderer in Wax, The Man With The Twisted Lip, The Guileless Gypsy, The Camberville Poisoners, The Terrifying Cats, The Submarine Cave, The Living Doll, The Disappearing Scientists, and The Adventure of the Speckled Band and The Purloined Ruby. This volume is not released until December 6th.

Another bumper year for Holmes fans and with a new film and a new series of Sherlock coming soon there must be more to come!

The House of Silk

This is the first Sherlock Holmes novel written by Anthony Horowitz.

It has been endorsed by the Conan Doyle Estate which has led some reviewers to suggest that it somehow more “authentic” that might otherwise be the case. One review I read said that it had been “commissioned by the Conan Doyle Estate”. The dust jacket claims it to be “utterly true to the spirit of the original Conan Doyle books” but this is, in my view questionable. Horowitz appears keen to ensure his story is as “authentic” as he can make it and to this end there are frequent references to detail from the Canon including many of the familiar names (Mrs Hudson, Lestrade, Wiggins, Mycroft and Moriarty), familiar locations (221B and the Diogenes Club) and some of the related cases (The Dying Detective, The Copper Beeches, The Red Headed League, The Resident Patient, and The Final Problem). I started to wonder, seeing all these references to my original stories, if Horowitz is hoping that this book could be the first of a new television series after his plans to take Foyle’s War into the post-war era were turned down by ITV? That would raise the interesting possibility of another screen Holmes!

Alistair Duncan has already published a review of the book and as usual this is an admirably balanced critique. He points out a glaring chronological error and, as I have noted above, the many Canonical references, some of which work better than others. For me, one of the strangest examples of this is the introduction of Professor Moriarty, who has nothing to do with the main plot, who promptly disappears again after making me promise to pretend I have never met him when I do eventually get a glimpse of him (at Victoria Station when Holmes and I are heading for the continent a year later in The Final Problem). Horowitz also chooses to rewrite the sequence of events concerning my first meeting with Holmes.

He does get himself into a knot by using all these references to other cases. Given this case starts in November 1890, he says it is shortly after The Dying Detective when that was two years earlier in 1888 but correctly positions The Red-Headed League in October 1890 and The Resident Patient in October 1881 (but gets the name of the Resident Patient wrong – it was “Blessington” and not “Blessingdon”). Our client from Resident Patient has a small part in this new plot but he says he has been reading my stories in the Cornhill Magazine. I was not aware they had been published in this magazine although some of Arthur’s own stories have been.

None of this is important to anyone but a “hardcore fan” as Duncan calls them and, getting back to the date of the this adventure, Horowitz has added a couple of contemporary references to secure the case in the correct timeframe. The first of these is the mention of the Norton Fitzwarren rail crash that occurred on 11 November 1890 south-west of Taunton, Somerset in which ten people were killed. The second is the mention of the murder “two years before” of Mary Ann Nichols at the end of August 1888 and attributed to Jack the Ripper.

Believe it or not, the story is a good one and although the crime is not one I would have been able to write about in my own time, I found that two-thirds of the way through I couldn’t put it down! I learned a few new words too including “tatterdemalion”, “gallipot” and “magsman” though I puzzled over the use of “liquid cocaine” over the more memorable “seven percent solution”. Something else that was missing was those pithy statements from Holmes that have become some of his best known quotations – except for “when you have eliminated the impossible . . .” which Horowitz does include. I concur with Duncan’s view that if you can get past the errors and the book’s publicity, it is better than most pastiches.

The House of Silk, read by Derek Jacobi, is the current “Book at Bedtime” on BBC Radio 4. Episodes 1-5 were broadcast Monday November 7th to Friday November 11th . Episodes 6-10 are being broadcast Monday November 14th to Friday November 18th at 22:45 and will be available on the BBC iPlayer for a week after transmission.

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 Official Papers Into The Matter Known As – “The Hound of the Baskervilles”

Over Christmas I amassed a pile of books to review and one of these is this set of official documents, published by MX Publishing on behalf of Detective Inspector Kieron Freeburn (retd.) of New Scotland Yard. Freeburn discovered a dusty folio at an auction in Exeter. As a result of his examination of the contents he believes that they are the original police case files that detail the investigation by Scotland Yard  represented by our good friend, Inspector Lestrade and various members of the Devon County Constabulary into the story that I recalled under the title “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

This is the first time I have seen the witness statements, medical files and original police reports that chronicle the police view of the case covering the death of Sir Charles Baskerville, the killing of the hound and the tragic aftermath.

At the outset, I must state that I have not seen the original documents although I understand that the publishers have received a request from the USA to purchase the originals. The set I have been provided with (which you can obtain for yourselves here) are facsimilies of the originals which are said to be in a delicate condition. The author, possibly on the advice of the publisher, has decided to type up many of the documents in a copperplate script to make them easier to reproduce and read than the original handwritten and typed versions.

However, there do appear to be some discrepancies between these documents and my own records of the case. I am, in this repect, grateful to Roger Johnson of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, pointing out to me that the post mortem report on Sir Charles gives Sir Henry’s name; Selden’s name changes from Arthur to Albert; Mrs Lyons is referred to as Miss Lyons, and Barrymore once refers to his wife as his sister! Some of these errors may have occurred in the transcription from the orginals. In the original publication of my version of the events in the Strand, the death of Sir Charles were stated as occurring at the beginning of May. This was later changed to June when the account was published in book form but the police records still refer to these events as occurring in May rather than June. The “tone” of some of the police reports has, I think, something to do with the resentment that the police felt about Holmes becoming involved in the investigation.

The Annotated Sherlock Holmes and the volume on The Hound of the Baskervilles from the Sherlock Holmes Reference Library are useful aids in checking the validity of these documents. My own view is that whilst they do not shed any further light on the events they do provide a useful background to Holmes’ investigation and an insight into the official police view at the time.

The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries

Some pastiches are better than others and John Taylor’s first set of stories, The Unopened Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, was quite good but they had a slightly bizarre and comic element that some Sherlockians may not have liked. I now understand that they were intended for a younger audience.

Taylor’s original stories appeared on the radio before being released on CD, and have now been released as an The Paranormal Casebook of Sherlock Holmes with a foreword that I must have written at some point.

The new stories, The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries, have not been broadcast and appear on CD and download.  They are much more realistic and have the benefit of being read by the latest incarnation of Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch, though he is, of course, narrating the stories as myself.

For once the stories are not from one of the many tin boxes that seem to materialise whenever anyone needs to find a Holmes case to relate but from a wooden chest in my bureau. Yet another “archive of notes referring to some of Holmes’ cases that, for one reason or another, never saw the light of day.”

The first story “An Inscrutable Masquerade” appears not to have an obvious railway connection until very near the end but the byline in the title of the set of stories is “and other stories” so I suppose that is fine. It is nevertheless an intriguing story of how I appear to be leading a double life. It nicely follows my usual style of narration where I give nothing away until all is revealed towards the end.

The second story “The Conundrum of Coach 13” is firmly placed on the rails and is a “closed room problem” although in this case it is a carriage rather than a room, locked from the outside, from which a large quantity of gold bullion has completely vanished without trace.

The third story “The Trinity Vicarage Larceny” again has no railway connection that I could remember. It concerns a robbery (now who can say why this was a larceny rather than a burglary?) where a set of boots provides the main clues that lead to the case being solved.

The fourth story “The 10.59 Assassin” is a very ingenious story involving a very unlikely murderer. Here there is a clear railway connection in a murder and as the suspicion grows there comes an unusual twist. In some ways it reminds me of Silver Blaze. The murderer is the least suspicious of all the possibilities!

Cumberbatch’s reading of the stories is excellent despite the fact that his BBC Sherlock persona that kept popping into my head, especially when he is speaking as Holmes. He also does a very good job of helping the listener distinguish between Holmes, myself and the other characters in the stories and he switches between voices and accents with consumate ease.

These are very accomplished pastiches by John Taylor and, in my view, a much more serious attempt to emulate my style of narration. I hope he is encouraged to write more and that Cumberbatch can be persuaded to narrate again. A complete set of the Canon, read by Cumberbatch, would be a large undertaking but would, I am sure give a fresh take on my stories.

The Rediscovered Railways Mysteries are available on CD and by download here in England and in the USA (CD and download).

The railways are mentioned in many of our cases together, but mainly just as a means of travel. Alistair Duncan’s “Close to Holmes” contains details of many of the stations we used in and around London.

You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive [STUD]

In “A Study in Scarlet”, I told about my being attached to the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers which was an infantry regiment of the British Army. It was the Fifth Regiment of Foot when it was formed in 1674 but was renamed in the reorganisation of 1881 so that when I wrote up the story I used its new name.

Before I could join the regiment, the second Afghan war broke out and I began my duties in Kandahar. I was removed from my brigade and attached to the Royal Berkshire Regiment and I served with them at the battle of Maiwand on July 27th, 1880. Our brigade of 2,500 men were massacred by ten times that number of savage Afghan tribesmen. I was badly wounded right at the start of the battle whilst tending the first man who was hit. I was eventually sent back to England, ending up in London, and eventually meeting Holmes and residing in 221B Baker Street for many years.

It is rare for anyone to attempt to fill in the apparent gaps in my life as attention is more frequently directed at Holmes but in Watson’s Afghan Adventure I attempt to explain to Holmes how I became an army doctor, served with the Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers and how a treasure map and the death of a close friend brought me to the battle of Maiwand and on to 221B Baker Street.

Kieran McMullen’s account starts one April when Holmes had concluded two cases that I have yet to chronicle and I had returned to Baker Street just missing Murray, my orderly, who had called with a box containing some items recalling our time together in Afghanistan. This led to me to explain to Holmes what really happened.

McMullen’s account continues with a summary of my early life, my qualification as a doctor, and my decision to join the Army. Then the mystery of my wounds and what is contained in the box that Murray left for me in Baker Street begins to unfold.

The fateful battle of Maiwand rounds off the story and McMullen has clearly carried out some detailed research here. Many of my fellow officers, including Surgeon Major Preston, are mentioned here. It was Preston who decided that I should return to England. My own recent research into the battle of Maiwand on a recent visit to Berkshire corroborates most of McMullen’s detail though I suspect few would understand the geography of the area and the frequent use of arabic terms for weapons, soldiers and tribes. The actual battle was far more bloody than even Mc Mullen’s account relates and perhaps I should write my own account of what happened that terrible day.

I will leave you to find out how the mystery of Murray’s box resolves itself.

The Lost and Forgotten Stories of Sherlock Holmes

In relating the details of the New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes as released on CD and their orginal broadcasts on American radio, it is worth noting that amongst those written by Denis Green and Anthony Boucher, several of these broadcasts have been written up as stories and these stories can be found in two volumes.

The Lost Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Ken Greewald, includes the following stories. Greenwald mentions on the flyleaf that each story is based on an incident in one of my original stories and I have appended these to each title as the usual abbreviation. I have also given the Volume number if the story appears in the CD collection and the date of the orginal radio broadcast.

  • The Adventure of the Second Generation [SCAN, 17th December 1945, V2]
  • The April Fool’s Adventure [STUD, 1st April 1946, V1]
  • The Case of the Amateur Medicants [FIVE, 2nd April 1945, V1]
  • The Adventure of the Out-of-Date Murder [WIST, 9th September 1945, V2]
  • The Case of the Demon Barber [YELL,  28th January 1946, V1]
  • Murder Byond the Mountains [EMPT, 15th January 1946]
  • The Case of the Uneasy Easy Chair [MUSG, 13th May 1946, V1]
  • The Case of the Baconian Cipher [ SIGN, 27th May 1946]
  • The Adventure of the Headless Monk [DEVI, 15th April 1945, V1]
  • The Case of the Camberwell Poisoners [FIVE, 18th February 1946]
  • The Adventure of the Iron Box [SILV, 31st December 1945, V2]
  • The Case of the Girl with Gazelle [FINA, 25th May 1946, V1]
  • The Adventure of the Notorious Canary Trainer [WIST, 23rd April 1945]

The Forgotten Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by H Paul Jeffers,  includes the following stories.

Again I have the Volume number if the story appears in the CD collection (only the first two in this case) and the date of the orginal radio broadcast.

Where there is a link to the original stories I have mentioned these.

  • In Flanders Fields [14th May 1945, V2]
  • The Paradol Chamber [FIVE, 21st May 1945,V1]
  • The Accidental Murderess [26th November 1945]
  • The Adventure of the Blarney Stone [18th March 1946]
  • The Book of Tobit [26th March 1945]
  • The Haunting of Sherlock Holmes [20th May 1946]
  • The Adventure of the Stuttering Ghost [12th October 1946]
  • The Clue of the Hungry Cat [26th October 1946]
  • The Singular Affair of the Dying Schoolboys [9th November 1946]
  • The Adventure of the Sally Martin [23rd November 1946]
  • The Adventure of the Grand Old Man [21st December 1946]
  • The Darlington Substitution [SCAN, 4th January 1947]
  • The Adventure of Maltree Abbey [31st May 1947]

Both of the books are out of print but there are second-hand copies available at reasonable prices.

Most of these broadcasts are available from the Sherlock Holmes Adventures Podcast and elsewhere on the Internet.

It is interesting to compare these written stories with their radio counterparts. The authors of these collections  have done an excellent job, particulary Jeffers, in maintaining the style of my original stories.

RSS Feed