If you are patiently–or not-so-patiently–waiting for the next season of the BBC’s Sherlock, consider this: a keyword search for “Sherlock Holmes” brings back over 900 results in the Library catalog, while a subject search for Holmes, Sherlock (no quotation marks needed) nets you another 600+ results. This means you have plenty of material to
obsess over focus on during the show’s hiatus (that is, when you’re not on Tumblr reblogging otters who look like Benedict Cumberbatch).
Original meme by Red Scharlach. Image reposted at RadioTimes.
Given the large number of written pastiches, plus the fact that the character of Sherlock Holmes has appeared in television and film more than anyone else except Dracula, this shouldn’t surprise you at all. You may, however, find yourself overwhelmed by your good fortune: where, with so many adventures to choose from, should you start?
Here are seven suggested points of entry*, in various formats:
1. Sounds familiar…
To bridge the classic and contemporary fandoms, you might want to try the audio book The Rediscovered Railway Mysteries and Other Stories. Author John Taylor uses the conceit of a locked cedar chest that contains Watson’s notes on cases that, for various reasons, were never made public. These tales, which feature the science of ballistics, stolen goods, and a baffling murder, stack up favorably with Amazon reviewers. But, of course, with audio books, it’s the narrator that makes or breaks the story…and our narrator, in this case, is none other than Otterface Whatsisname. Try not to break your fingers while making the catalog reservation, okay?
2. Across the pond
American versions don’t always ruin everything. Exhibit A: Watson and Holmes vol. 1: A Study in Black. Jon Watson’s internship at Convent Emergency Center in Harlem gets a lot more interesting when the mysterious S. Holmes shows up shortly after the victim of a vicious beating is brought in. Intrigued by what he learns from Holmes, Watson tags along on what seems, at first, to be a simple kidnapping case, then blossoms into a far more sinister conspiracy. A gorgeous color palette of blacks, browns, and purples (with some luscious golds and icy blues for contrast) enriches a comic that is incredibly faithful to Conan Doyle’s vision (Irregulars, fetching haberdashery, and all).
3. Media Studies 101
Rather than start a knock-down, drag-out argument over which actor made the finest Sherlock**, make the time to familiarize yourself with The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes. This documentary covers eighty-five years of stage, film, television, and radio portrayals of the master detective, and is narrated by
Dracula Saruman Sir Christopher Lee. At a run time of only 48 minutes, you can have yourself up to speed on the topic in the space of a lunch hour. And because you can download the film to your portable device, you can still have lunch outside, if you like.
4. Worth the wait…
Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger–two authors you can trust on this topic–invited a group of well-known contemporary authors to write new stories inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s original work. The result, In the Company of Sherlock Holmes, is definitely worth putting yourself on the waiting list for it. Contributors include Michael Connelly, Cornelia Funke, Jeffrey Deaver, Sara Paretsky, and Harlan Ellison, so you know King and Klinger took this project very, very seriously. Tied together with a terrific introduction, and the promise of a second volume to come, this short story collection should be on your don’t-miss list.
5. Three pipe problems
If your vocabulary organically includes terms like “heteronormative,” “deconstruction,” or “paradigms,” you will most likely enjoy Sherlock Holmes for the 21st Century, a fascinating bundle of scholarly essays. Contributing editor Lynette Porter has assembled a collection of work that examines the relationship between a broad spectrum of cultural themes (which include sexuality, fandom, information literacy, and tourism) and the recent Holmes canon. The connections the authors draw between present and past iterations of the consulting detective make for a fascinating look at how, in each generation, we create the Sherlock we need, want, and–perhaps–deserve.
6. Get ’em while they’re young…
YA readers keen on historical fiction might enjoy Death Cloud, the first in a series of teenage Sherlock Holmes mysteries authorized by the estate of Arthur Conan Doyle. If you can imagine the highly functioning sociopath as a bored, bright youngster on holiday, the concept isn’t at all far-fetched. While staying with relatives over the summer, young Sherlock makes a friend, confounds his tutor, and encounters a mysterious cloud that’s followed by a series of puzzling deaths. Obviously somebody has to investigate, and who better than Holmes? Fun historical fiction that functions as a gateway to the real deal.
7. And, inevitably, tea
While visiting the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland, Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and her husband got the idea for a dinner showcasing food from Conan Doyle’s era. That dinner, held on June 2, 1973, paved the way for Dining With Sherlock Holmes: A Baker Street Cookbook. The foodies in the fandom will appreciate this Herculean effort, which is clearly a labor of love by people who did their homework (with the help of the Culinary Institute of America). Every recipe is either tied to a direct quote from the original canon, or its inspiration is thoroughly explained. If you’re thinking about having a Sherlock party, and really want to take it over the top, you’ll want this cookbook in your hands…though a healthy dose of kitchen proficiency is definitely a pre-requisite.
That’s a lot of Sherlock, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. Do you have a favorite Holmes, or Holmes-inspired book/film? Tell us about it in the comments section!
–Leigh Anne, whose own gateway drug was Young Sherlock Holmes.
*I’m assuming, of course, that you’re already well-versed in the Conan Doyle canon. If you’re not, what are you waiting for? Go get those books!
**Even though the answer is clearly Basil Rathbone.