Canon Thursday: Desert Island Holmes Top Five

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You’re marooned on a desert island, and you can only take five Sherlock Holmes stories with you. Regardless of length (novel or short story) and original publication chronology, which five stories would you bring along to be your companions and why?

(Keep in mind that if you meet a friendly native, these five stories will be the only things you have to introduce him or her to the fabulousness that is Sherlock Holmes.)

Here are my five. Leave me yours in the comments.

A Study in Scarlet: In some ways, this might seem like an odd choice. It’s not my favorite Holmes story by any means, and it contains that awkward, un-PC section that leaves most modern readers scratching their heads. However, if there’s no beginning, there’s no Holmes. Like Boswell, Watson grows into the role of biographer, and the reader joins him on the journey as he learns who and what his new flatmate is. The plot may not be the most entertaining of Doyle’s, but the voyage of discovery Watson takes is simply irresistible.

A Scandal in Bohemia: Unlike the more murderous tales, this one is a classic that concerns the intricate intrigues of the heart. It introduces Irene Adler, The Woman herself, and it features the rare event of Sherlock Holmes being beaten. One of the greatest masterpieces of the canon, and one I wouldn’t want to ever be without.

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The Adventure of the Speckled Band: This is a personal choice for me, because it’s the story that scared me witless as a child. As an adult, I recognize its sublime blend of the gothic and the melodramatic. Holmes is fully on form, and the world around him is rounded out by terror and thrills aplenty. It’s the kind of story that bears the canonical fingerprint on every page.

The Adventure of the Copper Beeches: When I joined the Baker Street Babes as a full-fledged member, I named this as my favorite story. Delving as deeply into Holmes as I have over the past couple of years, I’ve come to have several stories that are extremely high on my list, but this one remains one of my most preferred. It features an impressive female client, a situation that is delightfully creepy without ever being over the top, and it ultimately serves as an incisive critique of the way Doyle’s society treated women in the family context. It’s multi-layered and absolutely delightful to read over and over.

Rowe Holmes

The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton: This is one of the mature Holmes stories, written in Doyle’s middle age and occurring post-Great-Hiatus. It features a very modern-seeming world where information is currency and secrets are as deadly as weapons. Milverton is one of the most compelling antagonists of the canon, and Holmes’s and even Watson’s ultimate actions in the story take them outside the law and into a place of personal ethics that are independent of the system. It’s a thought-provoking tale for the ages.

I can find something to appreciate in every Sherlock Holmes story, but these are the five I can’t imagine being without. They’re also the five I’d be pleased to put into the hands of an eager newcomer.

How about you? What are your Desert Island Holmes picks?

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The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

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Canon Thursday: Sherlock Series 3

(Spoilers, mostly for things that have been officially revealed by the production team.)

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With recent news of the imminent (finally) release of Sherlock series 3, I’ve been thinking about the potential of a post-hiatus installment of the show. Prior to this, we’ve had a traditional dynamic–two flatmates, living in Baker Street, solving crimes together.

What now? What circumstances will Sherlock Holmes return to find in his world?

In the canon, Watson marries before Reichenbach, and when Holmes comes back, he finds his friend a widower. In Sherlock, we have yet to see Watson marry, but information about the identity of Amanda Abbington’s character is certainly suggestive. (Spoilerites may have seen more definitive information about certain things, but I’m trying to be vague.)

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Another puzzle piece was provided by the production team when they released information about Lars Mikkelsen’s character, Charles A. Magnussen, whom Holmesians immediately linked to Charles Augustus Milverton, Doyle’s master blackmailer. How his role may affect the main characters has yet to be revealed.

Mustache_Watson

 

Finally, and most importantly, we have the glorious majesty of the Watson ‘stache. Doyle’s stories famously contain very little physical description of his main characters, and only in “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton” are we treated, indirectly, to a description of Watson as, “a middle-sized, strongly built man — square jaw, thick neck, moustache, a mask over his eyes.”

The BBC team has apparently taken this description very much to heart, presenting us with a be-stached Martin Freeman–but not just any mustache–this is something to be truly looked forward to by fans everywhere.

What are you anticipating about series 3?

p.s. The wait may very well have broken my brain.

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The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

Superheroes Among Us: The Secret Lives of Proofreaders

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Ladies and Gentlemen, I am a superhero.

I didn’t always realize I was a superhero, but I’ve always known I was different. You see, I am a proofreader, compulsively and professionally.

“Ah,” you say, “but grammar is a learned skill not a superpower.”

Not so, my comma-missing friend. (I could hear in your voice that you would have left the comma out of your above statement.)

Some achieve grammatical competence, and most have a vague sense of editorial rightness thrust upon them. There are, however, few who are born great. Like spider webs issuing from our wrists or the power of flight, we are both gifted and cursed with the power of proofreading.

Most of us, like other superheroes, first discover our powers in troubling and traumatic ways. Consider the ordinary-looking child who sits down at a diner with his family. Picking up the grimy menu, he encounters the phrase, “Mashed Potatoe’s.” He is pained! He is incensed! As quickly as he can, he looks around the table to share this moment of affront with his family members, but they are unmoved. Not one of them has even noticed! With utter horror, he realizes how alone he is in this vast and grammatically-challenged universe.

As we grow, we learn to blend in and even, perhaps, earn financial compensation by using our power in small and inconspicuous ways. Like other minorities, however, we continue to be subject to tragic levels of discrimination and exploitation.

Consider our representation in the media. “The Foreigner,” a play that takes as its subject prejudice in the American South, does an admirable job of illuminating racial issues. At the same time, its hypocrisy is unnerving. Its protagonist, a man by the name of Charlie, is the professional proofreader of a science fiction magazine. With utter callousness toward the misunderstood heroism of the proofreaders that walk our streets, he is portrayed as shy, quiet, even, dare I say it, unadventurous! I know, it’s nearly too offensive to be repeated on paper, but we must be made aware of these things if we are ever to progress in the treatment of the persecuted in our society.

Exploitation is an even bigger issue, for it is one that is a daily struggle for all who possess the power to proofread. Consider this anecdote, occurring in the life of an ordinary college freshman. “Jane,” says Natalie, “could you proofread this paper really quick? I have to turn it in fifteen minutes from now.” No, Natalie, you do not understand. Proofread this paper really quick(ly) is what happens when a proofreader edits something for another of her own kind and feels shy about handing it back with the one correction it required, a correction that is probably, really, a matter of opinion. Editing for the ordinary writer is a painstaking, agonizing process in which the proofreader must commune with her inner soul about whether or not clauses are dependant, whether Strunk or Turabian is the true authority, and whether she can bear to leave slight mistakes if they seem intrinsic to the writer’s personal style. It is akin to Sisyphus’s daily journey, a valiant effort that is both grueling and time-consuming. At the very least, Natalie, offer Jane a chocolate bar.

Of course, superheroes also have their special joys. Superman orbits the earth in graceful arcs, and Thor makes mountains shake with Mjolnir’s thunder. We, too, have pleasures that will never be enjoyed by mere mortals. The moment of ecstasy that comes when we turn off “Tracked Changes” and suddenly find a pristine document where disorder and superfluous semicolons once reigned is beyond human description. It is sublime.

Some mutants fly; others read minds; others know exactly when to use affect or effect. All are united in an existence at once beautiful and tragic, exhilarating and excruciating. Proofreaders are often unappreciated superheroes, laboring in silent anonymity for the sake of a future world in which no plurals are accidental possessives and no run-on sentences live to mar the course of human development. It is, you say, only an dream. We agree, but you should have said “a.”

 

Please Note: This essay is very, very, very serious and should be taken as such.