2nd February, 2 Comments
By John Watson
When I wrote the series of articles covering my great friend and colleague on the British Radio (Part 1, Part 2) I had not appreciated that the BBC had been broadcasting programmes concerning Holmes from as early as 1929 – almost from the start of their broadcasting.
This new series of articles will trace programmes about Holmes from the early days of radio broadcasting by the BBC through to when Holmes first appeared on BBC television to the latest Sherlock series.
In fact, the first programme that I can trace was on the BBC’s 5XX Daventry radio service. This service began broadcasting on 15 December 1924 and ended on 8 March.
On December 4th, 1929 at 9.20pm BBC 5 XX Daventry and BBC London 2LO broadcast one of a series of “Miniature Biographies” (there appear to have been seven in total) in which Desmond MacCarthy presented a biography of yours truly in which he refers to me as “the obtuse and innocent Watson . . . of the intermittent practice and brown moustache, with his never-failing bewilderment and his misdirected zeal . . . the homeliest character in the literature of crime”.
MacCarthy was a well-known literary critic of his time and was also well-known for analysing what he saw as chronological problems in the cases of Holmes that I have documented. In my own defence, I must state that that I was sometimes careless in recording the actual dates of events in these cases, sometimes to help protect the privacy of the persons involved, but often simply because I thought it more important to record the problems themselves, and Holmes use of deduction in resolving them, than worrying about what day or date it was.
James Edward Holroyd, in his Seventeen Steps to 221B, included MacCarthy’s essay entitled “Dr Watson” that may well have been the basis of this biography which he states is “forthcoming and profusely illustrated”. However, I can find no trace of such a book.
Also included in Holroyd’s collection is Bernard Davies attempt to resolve the mystery of the true location of 221b which comes very close to the truth!
But, back to the radio!
The next programme was on September 24th, 1934 at 8pm when the BBC Regional Programme broadcast a “Scrapbook for 1910” which it describes as “a microphone medley”.
Included is an item entitled “Sherlock Holmes and the Speckled Band” and Norman Shelley was one of ‘those heard in this programme’ (he was, in the future to play me alongside Carleton Hobbs’ Holmes). Arthur Conan Doyle is also included in the programme in an item entitled ‘Sherlock Holmes: a record by the late Sir Arthur Conan Doyle”.
Bert Coules (see comments below) has suggested that the item in may have been about the celebrated stage version of “The Speckled Band” that opened at the Adelphi Theatre in London on June 4th 1910 with H. A. Saintsbury as Sherlock Holmes. Coincidentally, the same play is due to be staged this month (February 2015) in Houston.
The following year on February 20th, 1935 at 9.25pm the BBC Regional Programme broadcast “The Speckled Hatband’ said to be “not by Sherlock Holmes” but included a character called “Pureluck Jones” played by Bobbie Comber with a Dr Watson played by Claude Hulbert.
In 1936 there was a broadcast of ‘Sherlock Holmes stories’ as part of a “For the Schools” programme at 2pm on September 28th, 1936. This was the start of a series of broadcasts of the stories that eventually gave rise to the Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley series in the 1950s.
In 1938 there was a series broadcast on the BBC National Programme called “Detectives In Fiction” in which each programme dealt with a different detective whose exploits made them famous.
Holmes was the first of these and the story presented was “Silver Blaze” at 12.15pm on April 12th, 1938. This half-hour play presented Frank Wyndham Goldie as Holmes and Hugh Harben as me and was adapted from my story by Pascoe Thornton.
In 1939, Bransby Williams at 7.30pm on June 20th, ‘brings to life Detectives in Fiction’ with impersonations of Father Brown, the Scarlet Pimpernel, Mr Reeder, Charlie Chan and as Sherlock Holmes he ‘will make his final bow’.
Next time, I will look at the 1940s when I get another biographer, Arthur Wontner and Carleton Hobbs appear in The Boscombe Valley Mystery, Sir Cedric Harwicke and Finlay Currie appear in The Speckled Band, and Sherlock Holmes continues in the ‘For The Schools’ programmes and as ‘The Book At Bedtime’.
Posted in Radio
14th November, 3 Comments
By John Watson
It is that time of the year when I look at what might be a welcome gift at Christmas who devotees of the Great Detective.
This year the list is quite short because, although there is a lot of Holmes material about, it is not all of good quality.
Nine years later they achieved it and, though Williams sadly died in 2001, 16 “Further Adventures” recalling some of my undocumented cases were broadcast with Andrew Sachs taking Williams place.
Bert Coules, the series originator and head writer, has updated his book “221 BBC” chronicling the series.
I have reviewed the book in detail here.
Sadly, this complete set of the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes is so far only available in the USA (but it is “region free” so should be viewable in the UK) and these are just the same transfers as on the DVD but this time they are in High Definition. All the bonus content is exactly the same as on the DVD set including the booklet authored by Richard Valley.
The packaging is very poor, though with a thin cardboard sleeve holding the stack of “digipacs” each holding two discs.
It has often been said that London is one of the main characters in my stories about Holmes and this unique book to accompany the standard Monopoly game guides you through the idiosyncrasies of the Monopoly board and explains how the chosen properties relate to the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
There is a Sherlock Holmes Monopoly Treasure Hunt that you can play by actually visiting the sites featured on the Monopoly board, solving clues as you go. Besides the excitement of buying and selling, the game is a wonderfully entertaining way of exploring London in the footsteps of the master detective.
The Museum of London has a new exhibition, form now until next April delving into “the mind of the world’s most famous detective”. I have not yet been to the exhibition but when I do I will be reporting on it here.
In the meantime, this is the official book of the exhibition and it uses the Museum’s collection to highlight the features of the London that Holmes and I inhabit in particular its fogs, Hansom cabs, criminal underworld, famous landmarks and streets.
It’s a comprehensive guide to the BBC series. It contains previously unseen material, interviews with the cast and crew.
It covers each episode in detail and has hundreds of illustrations of the artwork, photographs, costume and set designs.
Nevertheless it seems to be doing for New York what my original stories did for London and it’s no surprise that it’s very popular in the USA.
Here are the 24 episodes from the second season.
So that’s this year’s Christmas list and it just remains for me to wish all my readers a Very Merry Christmas!
12th November, 2 Comments
By John Watson
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”.
It 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.
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.
31st October, No Comments
By John Watson
Stanford University is located between San Francisco and San Jose in California and is one of the world’s leading teaching and research universities. Its Victorian Reading Project has produced facsimiles of serialized 19th-century novels and stories from Stanford University Library’s Special Collections including some of my stories about Holmes as published in The Strand.
Fifteen short stories and The Hound of the Baskervilles (in nine parts) have been produced each with accompanying notes plus a general introduction and bibliography. These were produced in 2006 and 2007 and no more have been produced since.
Introduction (these link to the Stanford University website)
- Sherlock Holmes, Victorian Gentleman contains enlargeable maps showing i. The heart of London; ii.A bird’s-eye view of the Thames; and iii. A bird’s-eye view of the Strand and information about The Strand Magazine from which these facsimiles are reproduced.
- Arthur Conan Doyle
Short Stories (these have been downloaded from the Stanford University website)
- A Scandal In Bohemia
- The Speckled Band
- The Final Problem
- The Empty House
- Silver Blaze
- The Musgrave Ritual
- The Reigate Squire
- The Greek Interpreter
- Charles Augustus Milverton
- The Abbey Grange
- The Second Stain
- The Bruce-Partington Plans
- The Devil’s Foot
- The Dying Detective
- His Last Bow
The Hound of the Baskervilles (these have been downloaded from the Stanford University website)
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 1
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 2
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 3
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 4
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 5
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 6
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 7
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 8
- The Hound of the Baskervilles 9
“Stanford” is not to be confused with “Stamford”, who had been a dresser under me at Barts, and was responsible for introducing me to Sherlock Holmes . . .
Posted in Canon
6th May, No Comments
By John Watson
Somewhat surprisingly I have never before met any of the actors who have portrayed me in the films, television and radio programmes that have been produced covering our adventures. So it was a lovely surprise when some dear friends arranged a little dinner party with the man who plays me in the excellent Old Court Radio Theatre Company productions produced for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.
Jim Crozier as Holmes and David Hawkes as my good self have now appeared in sixteen stories that are available for free on the Sherlock Holmes Society website and via iTunes.
The individual stories and their links are:
- The Gloria Scott
- Wisteria Lodge
- The Mazarin Stone
- The Veiled Lodger
- The Yellow Face
- The Three Students
- The Beryl Coronet
- The Speckled Band
- Shoscombe Old Place
- The Five Orange Pips
- The Man With Watches
- The Lost Special
- The Strange Case of Miss Alice Faulkner – Part One – The Napoleon of Crime
- The Strange Case of Miss Alice Faulkner – Part Two – The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes
- The Long Man
- The Grace Chalice
The first ten of these plays are based on my reminiscences from the Canon. The Man With Watches and The Lost Special were published in The Strand about five years after Holmes disappeared over the Reichenbach Falls. The Long Man and The Grace Chalice are accounts of two unpublished cases.
. . . and how did the evening with the two Watsons go? Well, I think we both learned a lot about the real Watson!
Posted in Characters
7th March, No Comments
By John Watson
During The Sign of Four, Holmes recommended a book to me, Winwood Reade’s Martyrdom of Man, saying that it was “one of the most remarkable ever penned”.
At the time I was preoccupied, having just met Mary Morstan for the first time, and I remember sitting in the window with the volume in my hand, but my thoughts were far from the daring speculations of the writer.
My mind ran upon Mary’s smiles, the deep, rich tones of her voice, the strange mystery which overhung her life. I mused, until such dangerous thoughts came into my head that I hurried away to my desk and plunged furiously into the latest treatise on pathology. What was I, an Army surgeon with a weak leg and a weaker bank account, that I should dare to think of such things?
I have never given the Winwood Reade’s book another look but here I have a copy of it which you can read if you wish.
Later in that adventure, when we were close on heels of our quarry, Holmes referred to Winwood Reade again saying that “He remarks that, while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty. You can, for example, never foretell what any one man will do, but you can say with precision what an average number will be up to. Individuals vary, but percentages remain constant. So says the statistician.”
I was, and remain, none the wiser.
Posted in Books
14th February, 4 Comments
By John Watson
Setting aside for the moment the question of whether Holmes went to Oxford, or Cambridge, or both, the Oxford Sherlock Holmes has been my favourite “annotated” collection of my stories for many years.
The original set of nine volumes is now not available new but second hand copies are still around.
Some of the volumes were republished later as paperbacks but I have yet to secure all nine volumes in this format. To further confuse matters, some of the volumes are available in Amazon Kindle format, but again are hard to track down as they are not all marked out as part of the actual Oxford Sherlock Holmes collection on Amazon – you have to scan through the sample pages looking for the required details.
To help, I have compiled the following list to help anyone trying to buy the set or add to their existing collection. But please take care if you order second-hand copies to stipulate that you require the Oxford Sherlock Holmes editions as these are the annotated versions. A well-meaning but unaware bookseller (I did once bump into a particularly wizened example whom I later discovered to be Holmes in disguise) may send you another version without the detailed notes. Those that are available are listed below and the links lead to them in the Amazon catalogue with the ISBN for books and ASIN for Kindle versions.
- Volume 1 – A Study In Scarlet:
- Volume 2 – The Sign of the Four
- Paperback not available
- Kindle not available
- Volume 3 – The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
- Volume 4 – The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
- Volume 5 – The Hound of the Baskervilles
- Volume 6 – The Return of Sherlock Holmes
- Volume 7 – The Valley of Fear
- Volume 8 – His Last Bow
- Paperback not available
- Kindle not available
- Volume 9 – The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes
- The Complete Set (9 Volumes)
If anyone can help me fill in the gaps above, the ISBNs or ASINs would suffice, then I would be most grateful. It is quite a little detective piece in its own right . . .
Posted in Books
6th February, No Comments
By John Watson
I am indebted to Matthias Bostrom, who, via his writings, drew my attention to the problem of an early pastiche of a Sherlock Holmes story.
Many have assumed that Sir Arthur’s close friend, J M Barrie, produced the first “parody” of a Holmes story, but Charles Press, in his book “Parodies and Pastiches Buzzing ‘Round Sir Arthur Conan Doyle” mentioned “The Man Who ‘Bested’ Sherlock Holmes” as having been first published in Tit Bits on October 27th 1894. The story is included in John Gibson and Richard Lancelyn Green’s book “My Evening with Sherlock Holmes”.
This itself is a remarkable coincidence, as my Literary Agent hails from the very same town! So I set him the task of tracking down the paper, published in December 1892, and obtaining a copy of the story for my library. It has taken him a while but I now have a copy of the story.
The newspaper boasts about “Our Almanac and Special Christmas Number”, saying that “Next Saturday every purchaser of the Express will be presented with a splendid local almanac, produced regardless of cost. It will be printed on excellent toned and specially-prepared paper, in two colours, and will be embellished with excellent portraits of Sir John and Lady Thursby with a capital view of Ormerod House.”
Sir John Thursby was well-known to people in Burnley and gives his name to a college in the town.
The paper goes on to say that “the almanac will contain a vast amount of useful local and district information, and will prove the best ever presented by any paper in North – East Lancashire. Next Saturday’s Express will contain, in addition to the fullest local and district news and the regular features, the following entertaining Christmas reading :—
“Owd Nick and Scotch Snuff,” a laughable Lancashire Sketch by the Editor of Ben Brierley’s Journal,
“A Pendle Forest Christmastide Story of the Forty-Five” by Henry Kerr.
and “The Man Who Bested Sherlock Holmes” by Joseph Baron.
The paper also says that “Dr. Conan Doyle has gone through the manuscript of this story, and emphatically pronounced it “good”.
Well, see what you think . . .The Man Who Bested Sherlock Holmes
Posted in Pastiches
13th December, 2 Comments
By John Watson
This is the third Christmas without Holmes following the tragic events of May 1891.
Although Holmes was never one to be sentimental about Christmas we would when we shared rooms at 221B Baker Street always mark the occasion with one of Mrs Hudson’s splendid feasts.
Even when following my marriage and subsequent start in private practice the very intimate relations which had existed between Holmes and myself had become to some extent modified I would still see him from time to time when he desired a companion in his investigations.
Although I have only published records of three cases in 1890 (A Case of Identity, The Copper Beeches, and The Red-Headed League) the case I referred to under the ominous title of The Final Problem was, although I did not know it, to be our last case together and now, over two years since those fateful events, I have had my hand forced by Moriarty’s brother, and I have laid the facts before the public exactly as they occurred.
My close intimacy with Sherlock Holmes had interested me deeply in crime, and after his disappearance, I never failed to read with care the various problems which came before the public and I even attempted more than once for my own private satisfaction to employ his methods in their solution, though with indifferent success.
As Christmas 1893 approaches, I wish you all the best for 1894 in the hope that there will be an end to the attacks upon him whom I shall ever regard as the best and wisest man whom I have ever known.
Posted in News
18th November, 1 Comment
By John Watson
About this time every year, as the shops start to fill up with Christmas gifts, I take a look at what’s new for those who follow Holmes’s adventures.
First on my list is the “official” Sherlock calendar for 2014.
Also, tied in to the BBC Series, the BBC has been publishing sets of my stories with interesting forewords by those involved with the BBC series. On December 5th, two more volumes will be added to the series.
The Return of Sherlock Holmes with an introduction by Mark Gatiss (in which he explains how “Sherlock in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms”) and includes “The Empty House” on which the opening episode of Series 3 is based.
His Last Bow with an introduction by Steven Moffatt (who expects Sir Arthur to ask him to write another story!) includes the last case we worked on together.
It would be nice idea to complete the series with a boxed set containing all nine books (the four novels and the five sets of short stories).
By the way, if you want one of the neat little magnifying glasses that Sherlock uses they are still available.
Later in December (the 23rd, though I do not understand why we have had to wait so long) is the DVD of the first series (my American readers call them “seasons”) of Elementary. I have yet to see any of these though I have become intrigued as I have read The Woman’s reviews on this site so I am looking forward to acquiring this set.
To go with this DVD, there is an unofficial guide, The Immortals, to both Elementary and the BBC Sherlock written by Matthew J Elliott, himself a proficient adaptor of my stories for the radio.
Mary Russell released her latest set of memoirs, A Garment of Shadows, earlier this year. Also available, as ebooks are three little “monographs”, the first of which, Beekeeping for Beginners, details how Russell met Holmes. The second, Sherlock Holmes, written by Russell’s literary agent, gives some insights into Holmes, and me for that matter! The third, Mrs Hudson’s Case, harks back to shortly after Russell’s initial encounter with Holmes and how the redoubtable Mrs Hudson solves a case on her own.
For those wanting to delve deeper into the Canon, Leslie Klinger’s New Annotated Sherlock Holmes is now available on the Kindle, putting less strain on their handling than the original weighty tomes. Volume 1 and Volume 2 cover the complete set of fifty six short stories. Volume 3, which covers the novels, is not yet available on the Kindle but should soon be.
In a lighter vein and again with reference to Mrs Hudson (“I am not your housekeeper”) is a unique insight to life at 221B Baker Street from her diaries that have been found (apparently) in “battered biscuit tin” found in the vaults of the same bank where my “battered tin dispatch box” also resides.
Finally, “the game is afoot” with a new board game with ten cases for you to solve as one of the Baker Street Irregulars.
Plenty to keep you busy until Sherlock returns in “The Empty Hearse” after Christmas. I could drop a few clues here – tea, bus, ball – some of which or none of which may turn out to be true.
A very merry Christmas to all my readers!