How’d you miss that, Sherlock!?

Illustration by Sidney Paget, from one of the earliest Holmes stories.

By Jeff

That sarcastic title is directed towards me.  You see, even though I was an English major and went on to become a librarian and books are sort of my thing – I somehow never caught on to the novels and stories describing the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.   What’s worse is that a movie brought me to the books!

Of course, I knew of the character and I knew of his side-kick, Dr. Watson.  I also knew of the author, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle,  and the perennial catch phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson” (which Doyle actually never wrote – it comes from the movies).  In fact, I’d have to guess that my aversion to this iconic character was the very fact that he was so iconic.  Because the character is all around us in films, on the radio, cartoons, comic books, advertisements, toys, sarcastic phrases (see blog post title) – and almost always as a parody or caricature – I thought of Doyle’s creation as camp.  Honestly, I never looked below the surface.  Then I recently saw the Sherlock Holmes film directed by Guy Richie and starring Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law.   This movie, which I found highly entertaining, presented a grittier, to my mind, Sherlock Holmes.  It was enough to get me to scratch below the surface of the character and the books that I never bothered to investigate before.

The first thing I did was get my hands on The Illustrated Sherlock Holmes Treasury, which includes all 56 stories as they originally appeared – including illustrations – in The Strand (a popular magazine in England).  The Treasury also contains the four Holmes/Watson novels Doyle wrote – though the illustrations are not from the original printed editions.  Wow, what an eye-opener.  From the first pages of the first story, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” we learn about a cocaine habit, antisocial behavior,  pure intellectual focus, the fact that he has never loved a woman and never will, etc.  My first impression was that, had he been born in this generation, he might have been diagnosed with mild autism  or Asperger’s- then I found this article.  All of this got me just as excited as the adventures themselves.

Needless to say, I’m well on my way getting through the stories and novels.  I found out that it isn’t necessary to read them in the order that Doyle wrote them, so after reading the story “A Scandal in Bohemia” I moved on to the novel The Sign of Four, then one of the more famous stories, “The Final Problem,” in which Professor Moriarty (Holmes’ alleged nemesis) is introduced.

If you’re interested in reading  the original adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his doctor/room-mate/friend/biographer Dr. John Watson, there are plenty of ways to do it.  Because they are all in the public domain, anyone with a computer has almost instant access to the texts for free in multiple locations:

Also, most, if not all, of the adventures have been recorded for audio books.  If you have a Fontana Regional Library card, you can sign up to download these audios at MyiLibrary Audio.

And, of course, the library has the complete original adventures (in many incarnates) and also literally hundreds of items related to Sherlock Holmes.

Finally, the internet has a HUGE amount of information on Sherlock Holmes – and some of it is even good!  One of the better sites is Sherlockian.net.  There is also an “official” Sherlock Holmes site that, though has some great information, is a bit too commercial for my tastes.


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