The Sherlock Holmes Companion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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