Tomorrow is my 29th birthday, and I’ve decided to celebrate with a list of 29 of my favorite things about the world of Sherlock Holmes.
1) The ACD Canon
Nothing compares to the 56 short stories and four novels penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Now that most of the stories are in the public domain, it’s easy to find them on the Internet for anyone who wants to take a look. My favorite story is “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” but there’s something I love in every single one.
Doyle is often credited for creating amazing characters and intriguing mysteries. He’s less often given his due for how funny the stories are and how much truth about friendship and tolerating differences they contain.
Visual media adaptations are a wonderful way to enter the world of Holmes, but there’s no reason to stop there. The canon beckons, and Sir Arthur has so much to offer.
2) The Granada/Jeremy Brett Series
Jeremy Brett’s life was, in many was, a tragic one, but he (and his Watsons) left behind a stunning legacy–hour after hour of beautiful television adaptations of the canon, painstakingly and brilliantly traditional in character.
Unlike many of my friends, I don’t consider Brett my favorite actor to play the role, but he is certainly one of my favorites, and his immense legacy defines the question of what it means to portray Sherlock Holmes.
3) Internet Memes
4) Young Sherlock Holmes
In 1985, Paramount tried to jumpstart a franchise about a teenaged Sherlock Holmes (and Watson). The idea didn’t take off, but I still find Young Sherlock Holmes an extremely enjoyable watch, and I count star Nicholas Rowe among my favorite actors to portray the detective, enough that I wish he would have another go as an adult.
5) Big Finish Audio
The often-overlooked art of audio drama is one where Sherlock Holmes continues to flourish, particularly in the capable hands of Nicholas Briggs and the Big Finish team.
I recently had a chance to help interview Nicholas about the challenges and joys of playing Sherlock Holmes in an audio format. Listen here
6) Dodgy Adaptations
We all know of Holmes adaptations that are disputable–some people love ’em, other’s hate ’em. Then there are those adaptations so terrible they’re like the Sharknados of Sherlock Holmes adaptations.
If you want to see the mother of them all, check out the one simply titled Sherlock Holmes and put out by The Asylum. You will not be disappointed.
7) BBC Sherlock
Three series of pure bliss, that’s what show creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss have given us, along with the brilliant Benedict Cumberbatch, Martin Freeman, and a host of gloriously idiosyncratic side characters. I was skeptical when I first heard about the idea of a modern Holmes, but I gave it a try anyway, because of the people involved. Nine episodes later, I’m still stunned by a piece of art that continues to be both gloriously traditional and thrillingly of-the-moment, all at the same time.
8) The Fandom
I’ve never engaged with a fandom as much as I’ve engaged with the world of Sherlock Holmes in the past three years. I’m perpetually stunned by the sheer creativity, brilliance, and good will. I know Holmesians in their 80s and Holmesians in their teens, along with everything in between. Like in every fandom, there’s a conflict now and then, but overall, I’ve found the world of Sherlock Holmes to be an astonishingly pleasant place.
I’m not exactly sure why, but I like to think Sherlock Holmes and John Watson appeal to the best in all of us.
9) The Russian Series
I’ve never been lucky enough to see the classic Soviet Holmes series from the 1980s with English subtitles, but there’s a new Sherlock in town. He’s quirky, extremely Russian, and ultimately as clever and captivating as any I’ve ever seen.
This is a new discovery for me, and I have yet to see more than the feature-length first episode, since translation is currently occurring, but here’s a link to start the journey along with me. (Make sure to turn on the English subtitles if you don’t understand Russian.)
10) 221b Con
Conventions have long been a chance for fans to connect and enjoy shared interest in particular shows, books, and films, and 2013 saw the inaugural year of 221b Con, a weekend filled with Sherlock Holmes-themed parties, panels, and insane fun.
I had a wonderful time at 221b Con (enough to be back for 2014), and what delighted me most was the range of ages, genders, and interests. BBC Sherlock devotees rubbed shoulders with Brett-philes, and young and old mingled in a wild cacophony of Sherlockian glee. It was truly a celebration of Sherlock Holmes in every form.
11) The Guy Ritchie Films
Holmesians are somewhat divided on the Ritchie-Downey Jr outings, but I’m a huge fan. I don’t watch them expecting purist canon adaptations. I’m looking for a stylized, fun romp through Holmesian settings and stories.
Jude Law is justifiably venerated for his Watson, but I don’t think Robert Downey Jr gets enough credit for portraying the complexity and vulnerability of Holmes’s personality, aspects that are sometimes overlooked in other adaptations.
12) The Baker Street Babes
In Holmesian terms, they complete me. The Baker Street Babes is an all-female Sherlock Holmes-themed podcast. We cover everything from the canon to The Great Mouse Detective, and we have a blast doing it.
If you love us, please consider taking a moment to vote for us in the Podcaster category of the Shorty Awards.
13) Sherlock Holmes’s Introversion
Holmes is not a traditional hero. He’s moody, introverted, and uses his mind to solve most of his cases, rather than his physical strength. He’s physically capable, but his superpower is his mind.
I love the fact that just as Western society finally begins to appreciate the advantages of introversion, Holmes is a role model and emblem for introverts everywhere.
I wrote about this topic in depth here.
14) The Great Mouse Detective
15) Forensic Advances
It’s not often that a fictional character impacts the real world to the extant that Sherlock Holmes did. When the character was created, the police were barely using forensic techniques, and Doyle’s texts were required reading for police training for quite a while. He’s credited with having a huge part in changing the face of police work to be what it is today.
16) Dr. Joseph Bell
Had there never been a Joseph Bell, there might never have been a Sherlock Holmes. As a young man, Doyle saw Bell deducing patient complaints the way he later wrote Holmes making deductions about his clients, and the idea of an immortal character was born.
17) Graphic Novels
Sherlock Holmes has been the subject of many phenomenal graphic novels over the years. A notable current example is the racebent, modernized Watson and Holmes series by New Paradigm Studios.
18) Holmesian Scholarship
Sherlock Holmes isn’t only a hobby. He’s also the subject of all kinds of serious and tongue-in-cheek scholarship. (It’s hard to separate the two, but why try? They’re both great to read.)
One place to find all kinds of fantastic articles about Holmes is the Baker Street Journal. Another is the recently-published collection One Fixed Point in a Changing Age: A New Generation on Sherlock Holmes.
19) Playing the Game
Doyle’s inclusion of near-factual events and near-historical characters has long tempted fans into playing The Game, which simply means reading the stories as if Holmes and Watson are real historical figures and fitting all of their exploits into a historical context.
I did this in my first novel, The Detective and The Woman, in which I wrote about Holmes meeting inventor Thomas Edison.
20) The Tropes
The pipe, the hat, the cape…Sometimes I roll my eyes at the overuse of the tropes we’ve come to associate with Sherlock Holmes, but it’s always a fond eyeroll.
Like a secret handshake, Holmes tropes are the little emblems of a shared world. They’re the things that remind us that whether we’re watching Sherlock or a Basil Rathbone film, we’re all appreciating the same thing.
21) Basil Rathbone
Speaking of Rathbone, his classic films illustrate the timelessness of the character of Holmes, taking the detective out of the Victorian context to fight Nazis and other miscreants.
22) The Mary Russell Series
I first encountered the Holmes canon as a child, but during my teens and early 20s, my strongest link to Holmes was through Laurie R. King’s Mary Russell series, stories about the post-retirement Holmes and his partnership with a young woman.
If it wasn’t for Laurie, I don’t believe I’d be a pastiche author today. Her writing broke the glass ceiling of what I thought was possible in the world of Sherlock Holmes.
23) Irene Adler
She’s The Woman, she outsmarted Sherlock Holmes, and I love her.
24) Holmes’s London
In my books, I refer to London as Holmes’s mistress. Doyle’s writing is so atmospheric that it’s as if the setting is a character in its own right. The name Sherlock Holmes is instantly synonymous with hansom cabs, dirty streets, and gas lights–an alternate universe London that never existed but really, really should have.
25) Nicholas Meyer and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
The Seven-Per-Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer remains one of the most famous Sherlock Holmes pastiches ever penned, and Meyer followed it up with two respected sequels.
Seven-Per-Cent isn’t perfect, but it’s a brilliant take on Sherlock Holmes that introduces him to Sigmund Freud and manages to turn a lot of things we think we know about Holmes on their heads–without seeming disrespectful in the least.
26) Continuity Errors
Eternal thanks to Sir Arthur “Continuity” Doyle for things like having Mary Watson forget her husband’s name, inexplicably calling Mrs. Hudson Mrs. Turner, and various other major timeline shenanigans.
Reading Holmes would be way less fun if it all made sense.
27) 221B by Vincent Starrett
Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game’s afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears–
Only those things the heart believes are true.
A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.
28) Epic Mashups
There are some truly fabulous mashups of Sherlock Holmes with other universes–Doctor Who, Frankenstein, The Phantom of the Opera–the list could go on forever.
One of my personal favorites is the book My Particular Friend by Jennifer Petkus, which reimagines Holmes and Watson as women in Jane Austen’s Regency England.
29) It’s Personal
We all bring something different to the experience of Sherlock Holmes; we all get something slightly different out of it. And yet, we can all find common ground through our love of the greatest detective character the world has ever known.
That’s why it’s brilliant.
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.