1st November, No Comments
By John Watson
As the limitations of my army pension and Mrs Hudson’s reluctance to have a satellite dish fitted to 221B prevents me from seeing the latest incarnation of Holmes and I on the small screen, I have asked someone of more independent means, whom we will refer to for the moment as “The Woman”, to review the “Elementary” series, starting with the pilot episode (which I have managed to see myself).
Finally ‘Elementary’ hit UK screens this week after months of suspense and already it has picked up mixed reviews in the US. The very popular and successful BBC series ‘Sherlock’ is always uttered in the same breath, the Robert Downey Jr films get muted noise. ‘Elementary’ was never going to be ‘Sherlock’ and whilst the wait for Season Three is agony, ‘Elementary’ takes us on a different interpretation of the great detective Sherlock Holmes.
There are three big changes to the Sherlock Holmes adaptations we have seen before.
The first major change is Joan Watson played by Lucy Liu (Charlie’s Angels, Kill Bill, Ally McBeal) who is hired by Holmes Senior to babysit Sherlock after his rehab. She makes the perfect accompaniment to Sherlock’s insulting and rude behaviour. Having a female Watson makes me think there will be a romantic will they-won’t they storyline building.
Have I been watching too much American TV?
I like the female aspect despite this being against everything written before, it’s a new angle that has had me intrigued and Lucy Liu was a superb casting.
The second change is no 221B. Sherlock is now in New York and there is no Mrs Hudson either. I guess Joan is enough “woman” for Sherlock.
The third change, the man himself – Sherlock Holmes. He’s a tattooed, unshaven, unkempt scruff but somehow made me think of Captain Jack Sparrow with his way of doing things. Jonny Lee Miller (Hackers, Trainspotting, Dexter) makes a good Sherlock and despite certain odd un-Sherlock behaviours he is very likeable. I found the baseball score guessing scene very silly as he had no basis for making that prediction. His physic powers are very strong in ‘Elementary’. He also brings new sex appeal to the character and is frequently seen shirtless, not that I was complaining!
After reading a few reviews before of this I wasn’t expecting much from the pilot, however I found it to be enjoyable and I didn’t let my eyes leave the screen for one minute. The programme was fast paced and missing a part of it would have been hard to keep up with, or so I had thought. The crime they need to solve is over complicated and doesn’t need to be. When it had finished I had thought it probably wouldn’t have mattered if I had missed parts of the middle section but anyway this was just the first episode.
Here are my other highlights of the first episode:
- Sherlock knowing Joan’s father had an affair because he had googled it
- He keeps bees
- Joan’s comments about there being no mirrors in his house “I think you know a lost cause when you see one”
- The episode ended with the Elvis Costello song “Watching The Detectives”
I’ve often noticed a TV programme’s popularity can be assessed in recent times via several modes of social networking. The most popular source is from micro blogging site Tumblr. Doctor Who, Merlin, Sherlock and even Downton Abbey are particularly popular amongst the Tumblr community. Elementary is probably not yet at the height of those mentioned yet but there is certainly enough evidence to believe that it’s more popular than people would have you believe.
‘Elementary’ has been extended to a 22 episode run and despite many critics writing this off and many fans also doing the same I still believe there is space for both ‘Sherlock’ and ‘Elementary’ and they should be reviewed separately. I would however, like to be able to look at both Sherlock and Watson in ‘Elementary’ and know they were those characters, right now you could name them anything and I’d believe you.
But my last point and one for you to think over – did Miller’s Sherlock remind anyone else of Matt Smith’s Doctor Who? Enjoy your second watch of the pilot to see if you agree.
I hope to persuade “The Woman” to review other episodes throughout the season.
7th September, No Comments
By John Watson
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.
Posted in Books
13th July, 2 Comments
By John Watson
A recent article on the Baker Street Blog caused me to look through my commonplace book in which I kept my correspondence and cuttings from The Times concerning whether there should be an exhibition dedicated to Holmes, in the public library in St. Marylebone the district of London that includes Baker Street as part of the Festival of Britain in 1951.
It all began when News in Brief in The Times of Friday October 27th 1950 stated that the councillors of St. Marylebone opposed the suggestion by the borough library committee that a Sherlock Holmes exhibition should be staged in the public library as a contribution to the Festival. The leader of the council said that the borough had “many things to show off about without Sherlock Holmes”  (click on any of the cuttings to see slightly enlarged versions).I was moved to write to Alderman Dean but instead wrote to the editor of The Times the same day . I doubted that Holmes would have seen the article and also doubted that he would have risen to his own defence. I believed that many of the visitors expected from abroad would find such an exhibition of interest and I suggested, with indignation, that they should reconsider their decision. This provoked a good deal of interest with Councillor Sharp inviting me to a meeting of the library committee the following Tuesday . Sharp informed me that no final decision had been made and asked if any of Holmes personal effects might form the basis of just such an exhibition and indicated that he might have been one of Holmes’ clients and that he already possessed one of his violins! Although Councillor Vernon  says he supported the idea of giving Holmes his appropriate place as an illustrious former resident of the borough, a letter from a Mr Back  suggests that Vernon “spoke so slightingly” of Holmes. Back even suggested that I try to persuade Holmes to open the exhibition which was about as likely as the life-size statue of Silver Blaze that Back suggested. Arthur Wontner, one of the actors who played Holmes at the cinema also added his support  and Mycroft got involved but only to point out that he thought my memory was failing.  One of our former clients wrote to say that she thought my letter was a forgery as she believed that my first name was James  and a colleague also added support.  The following day I was surprised to find that Mrs Hudson had also written to The Times  castigating Madame Tussaud’s round the corner for not having our effigies amongst its exhibits. Also in that day’s edition it was finally confirmed that a Sherlock Holmes Exhibition would be mounted in library as part of the Festival.  They mistakenly refer to Conan Doyle as Holmes’ chronicler rather than as my literary agent. In a letter to The Times on November 4th, Oscar Meunier, who made the bust of Holmes that was used to trap Sebastian Moran, and was, by then, living in London, stated that Holmes had asked him to ensure that no likeness of either of us or any of those he brought to justice should be perpetrated by waxen images.  Nevertheless I conveyed the good news about the exhibition to Holmes personally that day along with the copies of the cuttings from The Times that I have included here. He was touched by this tribute but alas many of the relics of our cases that many hoped would form part of the exhibition were destroyed in that mysterious and disastrous fire shortly after the end of the war. In reporting in The Times that Holmes had warmed to the idea, I also replied to Mycroft and Kate Whitney.  I was surprised to see that Lestrade had added his voice to the chorus of approval though reading it now more carefully I see that the inspector is getting his own back.  The Times editorial of November 7th sums the whole story up rather well and adds that should the Marylebone councillors feel in the future that they are “getting a little over-confident” in their powers that someone should kindly whisper “Baker Street” in their ears in a similar way to how Holmes asked me to whisper “Norbury” in his!  But the final word I will leave with Dame Jean Conan Doyle, dear Arthur’s daughter, who offered to provide much material for the exhibition. 
Posted in Uncategorized
3rd July, No Comments
By John Watson
“The best Sherlock Holmes movie ever made” said Rex Reed of the New York Daily Times. I might want to argue with that as Basil Rathbone in The Hound of the Baskervilles takes a lot of beating. But this is certainly one of the best.
Christopher Plummer plays a slightly warmer Holmes but I think he overdoes the theatrical garb of deerstalker, Inverness cape and Meerschaum a bit. James Mason is one of the best screen versions of me being more intelligent than most, although towards the end of the film there is a humorous moment involving me chasing a pea across my dinner plate! The friendship between us comes across well.
The scenery is superb with excellent views of London. Few people realise the stark contrast between the grandeur of the area north of the river and the squalor to the south of the river and the East End in particular.
Holmes’ involvement in the Ripper murders in 1888 has never been made public and so fictional accounts number almost as many as the theories about who Jack the Ripper actually was. The title of this film is an indication of who, it is suggested, is the culprit. Holmes deductive powers are not much in evidence in the film (except for the mystery of the grape stalk) and the real clue to his identity comes from Mary Kelly, the last of his victims, not long before she is gruesomely murdered. The puzzle as to why the five victims were so mutilated is explained in the film along with the prior cause of all five murders. These were not the only murders around this time (and place) and the reason why these five in particular were murdered, and maybe why Elizabeth Stride’s murder may not have been by the same person can be explained by the story in this film. The book on which the film is based, The Ripper File, by Elwyn Jones and John Lloyd is itself based on their six, 50 minute documentaries on the subject.
The film, which about two hours long, is fairly evenly paced and builds to a dramatic climax about fifteen minutes before the end. The last part of the film is a classic denouement with Holmes giving an excellent speech and no quarter despite the standing of those present.
This new version, on DVD, is a great improvement on earlier releases in terms of quality. There are no “extras” though on the DVD.
4th June, 2 Comments
By John Watson
How this came about remains a matter of some dispute. A certain Aubrey B Watson, LDS, FDS, D.Orth. held a number of documents that came into his possession via his late uncle, Dr John F Watson, whom he says was a Doctor of Philosophy at All Saints College, Oxford. This itself is very puzzling as there is no All Saints College at Oxford although there is an All Souls College.
His uncle, whom I can assure you is in no way related to me, made a study of my life and background because of our similar names, and, his nephew insists, became an authority on me, though I can find no record of this. However, a lady called Adeline MacWhirter, approached the said uncle, saying she was related to me on my mother’s side, though again I cannot confirm this as my mother had passed away in Australia before I returned to England after being invalided out of the Army.
MacWhirter apparently told this other Dr Watson that she had inherited my old battered tin dispatch box, the one I mentioned in The Problem of Thor Bridge, which I had deposited at my bank, Cox and Company at their branch at 16 Charing Cross. I have regretted on many occasions mentioning this fact as too many people have alluded to this treasure chest as the source of their many fanciful stories about Holmes and I. She told this Dr Watson she had inherited the box and believing her to be honest and respectable, he bought the box for an undisclosed but apparently large sum in 1939.
Dr Watson says he made copies of all the originals for safe-keeping and deposited the dispatch box at his own bank. This bank, he says, received a direct hit “in 1942, at the height of the Blitz” and the box’s contents were destroyed. Again, some of these details imply some doubt as to the validity of the claims as the Blitz in the Second World was was from 7 September 1940 to 10 May 1941. Also, it is not clear to which bank he is referring as my dispatch box was safe in the vaults of Cox and Co, which incidentally, merged with Lloyds Bank in 1923, the year after The Problem of Thor Bridge was published in The Strand magazine.
It is from these “copies” that Thomson has published in this latest selection of cases entitled The Secret Archives of Sherlock Holmes.
They include following cases:
- The Conk-Singleton Forgery
- The Stray Chicken
- The One-Eyed Colonel
- The Three-Handed Widow
- The Pentre Mawr Murder
- The Missing Belle Fille, and
- The Watchful Waiter
Those of you who are familiar with my stories will know that the Conk-Singleton forgery case was around the time of the case of The Six Napoleons so I can confirm that some of the details of this case are correct.
Again those of you who are familiar with my stories are aware, I do not as a matter of policy, confirm or deny the validity of any stories purporting to be details of actual cases that Holmes was involved in as that might betray confidences that I have sworn to maintain. All I can say is that if you read the details of these seven cases you will find them as one other reviewer has put it “properly detailed and convincing, the dialogue natural, and the narrative style fluent and immaculate” as if they were, in fact, written by yours truly.
Have a read yourself and see if you agree . . .
The other books produced by June Thomson include the following which are all being produced as new editions this year:
- Holmes and Watson
- The Secret Journals of Sherlock Holmes
- The Secret Documents of Sherlock Holmes
- The Secret Notebooks of Sherlock Holmes
29th April, 1 Comment
By John Watson
So begins the Introduction to Amanda J Field’s book, England’s Secret Weapon, about the wartime films in which Basil Rathbone played Holmes.
This book provides a fresh insight into the performances that, for many, made Rathbone “The Definitive Holmes“.
Field is a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and a volunteer at the Portsmouth Museum where she is helping to catalogue Richard Lancelyn Green’s immense collection of memorabilia. Field is a film historian and the book is principally concerned with where the fourteen films fit within the times they were made and the films genres they represent.
But before that she provides a wonderful introduction to Holmes on the screen.
Holmes had been portrayed in various media (books, radio, films, etc.) for over forty years with at least twenty-two other actors taking on the role, each one adding something of their own to my original description, a deerstalker hat (drawn by Sidney Paget in an illustration in The Boscombe Valley Mystery), a calabash pipe (added by William Gillette), etc. But it was Basil Rathbone’s portrayal that for many became, and has remained, the standard against which all others are assessed. At the same time as these films were produced, Rathbone and Bruce continued to play us on the radio, with the result that Rathbone was more often referred to as Holmes by the general public than by his own name. I have referred to these radio broadcasts in my series about Holmes on the radio and in reviews of these broadcasts as issued in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volumes I, II and III.
Field’s analysis provides some interesting insights.
Firstly that each film used 221B as a sort of “time capsule” to represent the certainty surrounding Holmes and everything he stands for and we would retreat into the relative safety of our lodgings when necessary before venturing forth again to do battle with the foe. In discussing this with an associate, he drew a parallel with the BBC Doctor Who series in which the Doctor can always retreat to the Tardis for safety. There is also scenes in each of the films where there is a contrast between what the characters are wearing to reflect their different beliefs. For example, in The Hound of the Baskervilles where Dr Mortimer is meeting Sir Henry as he disembarked, Mortimer is wearing Victorian costume and Sir Henry is wearing more contemporary clothes.
Secondly she questions the assumption that Twentieth Century Fox had lost interest in Holmes after making The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, both set in Victorian times. It may have been more to do with the money-making aspirations of Arthur’s sons Denis and Adrian (who have been described as “spendthrift playboys”) than any lost of interest.
Most interesting of all is the separation of the fourteen films into four key themes:
- The Victorian setting of the first two films – The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
- The war-themed films of 1942 and 1943 – Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon and Sherlock Holmes in Washington
- The gothic films – Sherlock Holmes Faces Death, The Scarlet Claw, and The House of Fear
- The appearance of the female villain – Spider Woman, The Pearl of Death, The Woman in Green and Dressed to Kill
These four groupings show an initial desire to bring Holmes to the screen in his normal historical settings and then to use his values as propaganda during the Second World War – cleverly keeping 221B within the Victorian setting to emphasise this. Then moving into horror as an escape from the war and finally recognising the changes in the role of women and their place in society following the war.
Her analysis shows there is much more to be read in these films than I had before realised, so I plan to view them again soon.
18th March, 9 Comments
By John Watson
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.
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.
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).
4th March, 2 Comments
By John Watson
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.
I have the following books already awaiting review:
Kate Workman’s Rendezvous at the Populaire
The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes by Gerard Kelly
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)
I have the following films awaiting review:
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (with Ronald Howard as Holmes)
The following films are due later this year:
Murder by Decree (April)
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 . . .
21st December, No Comments
By John Watson
Volume III of The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes brings us another mixture of stories from the Canon (The Man with the Twisted Lip and The Speckled Band) and pastiches including stories that I mentioned but never published (The Tankerville Club and The Camberwell Poisoners) and some completely new stories all from the prolific Anthony Boucher and Denis Green. The recordings are, as usual, complete with the war-time announcements, original narrations and radio commercials. The quality on some of them is not perfect (they are the same transcriptions that appeared on the original cassette versions) but this should not mar your enjoyment.
Again we have twelve broadcasts with Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as me (never quite as bumbling as he was in the films) except for one story where Eric Snowden took Bruce’s place as he was ill. The details on the packaging lack the actual broadcast dates but I will fill those in for you.
Disc 1 – Introduced by Ben Wright
The Murder in the Casbah (based on a reference in SCAN and broadcast December 3rd 1945)
The Tankerville Club (based on a reference in FIVE and broadcast April 22nd 1946)
Disk 2 – Introduced by Harry Bartell
The Strange Case of the Murderer in Wax (based on a reference in SECO and broadcast January 7th 1946)
The Man with the Twisted Lip (broadcast May 6th 1946)
Disc 3 – Introduced by BenWright
The Guileless Gypsy (based on a reference in REDC and broadcast February 11th 1946)
The Camberwell Poisoners (based on a reference in FIVE although the disc and the box carry the title incorrectly as ‘The Camberville Poisoners’, and broadcast February 18th 1946)
Disc 4 – Introduced by Harry Bartell
The Terrifying Cats (based on a reference in BLAC and broadcast February 25th 1946. In this episode my part is taken by Eric Snowden as Nigel Bruce was ill. Snowden was later to play me in a later series with Ben Wright as Holmes). These facts are not disclosed on the CD or the box!
The Submarine Caves (based on a reference in BRUV and broadcast March 4th 1946)
Disc 5 – Introduced by Peggy Webber
The Living Doll (based on a reference in COPP and broadcast March 11th 1946)
The Disappearing Scientists (based on a reference in REIG and broadcast April 8th 1946)
Disc 6 -
The Adventure of the Speckled Band (broadcast November 11th 1945)
The Purloined Ruby (based on a reference in SECO and broadcast May 7th 1945)
I am still listening to these recordings and some of the extras are quite fascinating, including an interview with a certain Irene Norton nee Adler! I will provide more details as they come to light.
4th December, 1 Comment
By John Watson
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!