I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere
A Guest Post
by Richard T Ryan
In the short story The Greek Interpreter, Mycroft Holmes, Sherlock’s brother, tells Dr. Watson, “I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you became his chronicler.”
Lately, it would appear as though Conan Doyle’s great detective has been enjoying a renaissance of sorts. Fans of Holmes can find him portrayed by Benedict Cumberbatch on the BBC’s Sherlock, which is slated to begin its fourth season in January. They can also enjoy Jonny Lee Miller as the super sleuth on Elementary, now in its fifth season.
On the big screen, Ian McKellan starred as the great detective in Mr. Holmes, which was released last year, and Robert Downey Jr. is set to reprise his role as Doyle’s great creation in Sherlock 3, which is currently in development.
However, those who limit their appreciation of Holmes to his depictions on television or the silver screen, are but seeing one of literature’s greatest characters as through a glass darkly.
To understand the character and arrive at a deeper appreciation of Sherlock Holmes, the most portrayed figure on stage and film, it is imperative that one go to the source – the Canon. Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories about Holmes. In them, we see a fully developed character, warts and all. We also see the definition of a deep friendship in his relationship with Watson, his Boswell.
With Sherlock and Elementary set in contemporary London and New York City respectively, the Victorian Age, so much a part of Doyle’s writings that it almost functions as a character in many of the stories has been sacrificed on the altar of accessibility. While the Downey films remain true to the period, they are more concerned with special effects and blockbuster set pieces than adhering to the Canon.
The Holmes stories are the work of a genius, and they strike a chord in all of us. How else can we explain the many plays, television series, films and parodies of the great detective? The deerstalker hat and Meerschaum pipe have become iconic images nearly inseparable from Holmes.
His works have been translated into some 60 foreign languages. And he has served as the inspiration for countless TV shows and characters, including House, Forever and Backstrom, to name just a few.
There are also hundreds of societies that meet regularly to discuss the stories as well as regular conventions and conferences. Last but not least are the books! There are probably thousands of Holmes titles that one can find by searching the internet.
In fact, these pastiches have become something of a cottage industry. I am guilty of penning one myself, The Vatican Cameos: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure, and I am currently working on a second. However, I couldn’t even contemplate such an undertaking were I not familiar with the Canon.
Which brings us full-circle. The fear among a number of Sherlockians, a group that tends to skew older, is that while the character will live on, the Canon, for many, may become little more than a curiosity, a footnote.
With entertainment options expanding daily, or so it seems, one has to make time for Holmes and Watson.
There’s no denying that the television shows and films are enjoyable, but I can’t ever recall hearing anyone saying, “The movie was better than the book.”
About Richard T Ryan:
A lifelong Sherlockian, Richard Ryan is the author of The Vatican Cameos: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure, published Nov. 7 2016 from MX Publishing.
He is also the author of The Official Sherlock Holmes Trivia Book as well as a book on Agatha Christie trivia.
He is also currently working on his next Holmes adventure.
A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, where he majored in medieval literature, he is a die-hard fan of the Fighting Irish.
He has been happily married for 38 years and is the proud father of two children