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, 7 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!
19th November, No Comments
By John Watson
As part of the lead up to the Great Sherlock Holmes Debate, Charlotte Anne Walters, author of Barefoot on Baker Streethas reviewed each of the 56 short stories.
The reviews are quite short but neatly sum up each story and Walters gives each one a score out of ten. It is interesting to compare these scores with dear Arthur’s own twelve of the best.
According to Walters, Charles Augustus Milverton and The Six Napoleons come out tops followed by Silver Blaze, The Mugrave Ritual, The Norwood Builder, The Dancing Men, The Bruce-Partington Plans, The Dying Detective, The Illustrious Client, The Three Garridebs, The Problem of Thor Bridge, Shoscombe Old Place and The Retired Colourman. That’s thirteen against Arthur’s twelve and there are quite a few differences.
Here are the links to each one of her reviews with her scores.
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (average 6.7 out of 10)
- A Scandal In Bohemia 5 out of 10
- A Case of Identity 6 out of 10
- The Red-Headed League 7 out of 10
- The Boscombe Valley Mystery 7 out of 10
- The Five Orange Pips 5 out of 10
- The Man with the Twisted Lip 8 out of 10
- The Blue Carbuncle 8 out of 10
- The Speckled Band 6 out of 10
- The Engineer’s Thumb 7 out of 10
- The Noble Bachelor 8 out of 10
- The Beryl Coronet 7 out of 10
- The Copper Beeches 6 out of 10
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (average 6.8 out of 10)
- Silver Blaze 9 out of 10
- The Yellow Face 8 out of 10
- The Stockbroker’s Clerk 6 out of 10
- The Gloria Scott 5 out of 10
- The Musgave Ritual 9 out of 10
- The Reigate Squire 6 out of 10
- The Crooked Man 8 out of 10
- The Resident Patient 8 out 10
- The Greek Interpreter 8 out of 10
- The Naval Treaty 5 out of 10
- The Final Problem 8.5 out of 10
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (average 7.5 out of 10)
- The Empty House 7 out of 10
- The Norwood Builder 9 out of 10
- The Dancing Men 9 out of 10
- The Solitary Cyclist 6 out of 10
- The Priory School 7 out of 10
- Black Peter 7 out of 10
- Charles Augustus Milverton 10 out of 10
- The Six Napoleons 10 out of 10
- The Three Students 6 out of 10
- The Golden Pince-Nez 6 out of 10
- The Missing Three-Quarter 7 out of 10
- The Abbey Grange 7 out of 10
- The Second Stain 8 out of 10
His Last Bow (average 7.4 out of 10)
- Wisteria Lodge 4 out of 10
- The Cardboard Box 7 out of 10
- The Red Circle 7 out of 10
- The Bruce-Partington Plans 9 out of 10
- The Dying Detective 9 out of 10
- The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax 8 out of 10
- The Devil’s Foot 8 out of 10
- His Last Bow 7 out of 10
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (average 7.7 out of 10)
- The Illustrious Client 9 out of 10
- The Blanched Soldier 7 out of 10
- The Mazarin Stone 6 out of 10
- The Three Gables 7 out of 10
- The Sussex Vampire 6 out of 10
- The Three Garridebs 9 out of 10
- The Problem of Thor Bridge 9 out of 10
- The Creeping Man 8 out of 10
- The Lion’s Mane 8 out of 10
- The Veiled Lodger 5 out of 10
- Shoscombe Old Place 9 out of 10
- The Retired Colourman 9 out of 10
10 out of 10
- RETU: Charles Augustus Milverton, The Six Napoleons
9 out of 10
- MEMO: Silver Blaze, The Mugrave Ritual
- RETU: The Norwood Builder, The Dancing Men
- LAST: The Bruce-Partington Plans, The Dying Detective
- CASE: The Illustrious Client, The Three Garridebs, The Problem of Thor Bridge, Shoscombe Old Place, The Retired Colourman
8.5 out of 10
- MEMO: The Final Problem
8 out of 10
- ADVE: The Man with the Twisted Lip, The Blue Carbuncle, The Noble Bachelor
- MEMO: The Yellow Face, The Crooked Man, The Resident Patient, The Greek Interpreter
- RETU: The Second Stain
- LAST: The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, The Devil’s Foot
- CASE: The Creeping Man, The Lion’s Mane
7 out of 10
- ADVE: The Red-Headed League, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Engineer’s Thumb, The Beryl Coronet
- RETU: The Empty House, The Priory School, Black Peter, The Missing Three-Quarter, The Abbey Grange
- LAST: The Cardboard Box, The Red Circle, His Last Bow
- CASE: The Blanched Soldier, The Three Gables
6 out of 10
- ADVE: A Case of Identity, The Speckled Band, The Copper Beeches
- MEMO: The Stockbroker’s Clerk, The Reigate Squire
- RETU: The Solitary Cyclist, The Three Students, The Golden Pince-Nez
- CASE: The Mazarin Stone, The Sussex Vampire
5 out of 10
- ADVE: A Scandal in Bohemia, The Five Orange Pips
- MEMO: The Gloria Scott, The Naval Treaty
- CASE: The Veiled Lodger
4 out of 10
- LAST: Wisteria Lodge
10th November, 4 Comments
By John Watson
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.
13th August, 4 Comments
By John Watson
Following on from the release of the first collection on six compact discs, this Sherlock Holmes Further Collection (BBC Audio) comprises six more compact discs with another twelve of my stories from the Canon with Carleton Hobbs as Holmes and Norman Shelley as me.
Each story is introduced by Nick Utechin, former editor of the Journal of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Recordings of four of the stories were supplied by Roger Johnson, also of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, as these were missing from the BBC Archives.
The packaging of this second set differs from the first. The six compact disks are stacked together on a spindle rather than in pairs in separate 2CD cases and this may result in some wear over time.
The sleeve notes are minimal (Nick Utechin’s introductions on the discs provide all the information you really need).
One quibble though. The track listings are incorrect. Someone has assumed that each disc contains 20 tracks and that each of the two stories on each disc takes up 10 tracks. This is not the case as my correct track listing below shows. I have also given the full broadcast date.
- The Copper Beeches (Track 1 Introduction to the Collection, Tracks 2 Story introduction, Tracks 3 to 9 Story) broadcast 11th August 1959
- Thor Bridge (Track 10 Introduction, Tracks 11 to 18 Story) broadcast 1st January 1962
- The Sussex Vampire (Track 1 Introduction, Tracks 2 to 9 Story) broadcast 18th September 1964
- The Three Garridebs (Track 10 Introduction, Tracks 11 to 19 Story) broadcast 4th September 1964
- The Three Gables (Track 1 Introduction, Tracks 2 to 10 Story) broadcast 2nd October 1964
- The Retired Colourman (Track 11 Introduction, Tracks 12 to 18 Story) broadcast 9th October 1964
- The Boscombe Valley Mystery (Track 1 Introduction, Tracks 2 to 8 Story) broadcast 12th December 1966
- The Crooked Man (Track 9 Introduction, Tracks 10 to 16 Story) broadcast 19th December 1966
- The Cardboard Box (Track 1 Introduction, Tracks 2 to 11 Story) broadcast 19th April 1960
- A Case of Identity (Track 12 Introduction, Tracks 13 to 22 Story) broadcast 26th June 1969
- The Naval Treaty (Track 1 Introduction, Tracks 2 to 19 Story) broadcast 22nd March 1960
- The Noble Bachelor (Track 20 Introduction, Tracks 21 to 26 Story) broadcast 18th August 1959
As I usually transfer compact disks to iTunes I also noticed that the track listing have not been uploaded into Gracenote (where iTunes get its track information from) so there is no information downloaded into iTunes to identify each track other than the track number.
17th July, 4 Comments
By John Watson
So it is quite a shock when I find that he has decided to put the record straight about his first encounter with Russell back in April 1915 when there was a darkness in his own mind that she, quite literally stumbling upon him, extinguished (how can you extinguish darkness?).
He did not realise the danger that was shadowing Russell in those dark months following his own little victory in August the previous year (His Last Bow).
He had, of course, moved to Sussex and taken our housekeeper Mrs Hudson with him away from the dangers of London, and I remember him telling me the story with laughter in his voice. This must have been only a few weeks after the actual meeting as it was shortly before that the Lusitania was sunk by a German U-boat and Holmes was concerned about my planned trip to America the following day.
It was therefore a while before I met the young lady who did so much to cheer up Holmes and keep him away from his darker moods and even darker practices.
But I am probably rambling on a little too much when you could read this exciting tale for yourself!
You can find out more about Russell here.
Posted in Mary Russell
7th July, 2 Comments
By John Watson
As Holmes explained to me, after I had recovered from my faint, on his sudden return that spring of 1894, he was never in that awful abyss at the base of the Reichenbach Falls. He had used his knowledge of the Japanese system of wrestling, known as Bartitsu to escape from Professor Moriarty. My literary agent had incorrectly transcribed it from my draft as “baritsu”. I might suggest, as a doctor, he should have been better at reading another doctor’s scrawl!
I was unaware until very recently that although bartitsu is derived from Japanese methods it was the invention of an Englishman, Edward William Barton-Wright and it is through his book on the subject which he has thoughtfully entitled “The Sherlock Holmes school of Self-Defence – The Manly Art of Bartitsu as used against Professor Moriarty” that I am able to write these few words.
Barton-Wright was an engineer and his work took him all around the world. He spent a period living in Japan where he became fascinated by jujitsu and took lessons in the art. In his return to London he began to develop his own system of self-defence, publishing two articles in Pearson’s Weekly. He named his system “Bartitsu” this being the first four characters of his name “Bart” and the remainder being the last four characters of jujitsu “itsu”.
He opened his own Bartitsu Club in at 67B Shatftesbury Avenue in London’s Soho in 1899. Amongst its patrons was Herbert Gladstone, the youngest son of William Gladstone, the Prime Minister.
- How to deal with undesirables
- How to escape when attacked from then rear
- How to escape when seized by an item of apparel (such as your belt or the pocket of your coat)
- Defence against an unarmed opponent
- Use of the stout stick
- Use of the short stick or umbrella
- How to throw and hold a man upon the ground
- Self-defence from a bicycle
One puzzle remains. If Barton-Wright’s system only became widely known in the late 1890s, how did Holmes know about it in the early 1890s?