Crime: The Sherlock Holmes you don’t know.

Arriving at the D’s in my Alphabet of Crime, I want to pay homage to Arthur Conan Doyle, or more specifically to his greatest creation. Sherlock Holmes is especially hot right now, but as arguably the most beloved series character in the history of fiction, he never really goes out of style. Of course you can find all of Holmes’ adventures in our library catalog, together with scads of books about him, films and TV shows starring him, collections of latter day Holmes stories and novels and series based on his exploits. With so much wonderful Sherlockiana out there, there are bound to be some fogbound alleyways in the Holmes canon that you haven’t yet explored. Here are a few of my favorites.

Rupert Everett as Sherlock Holmes, poring over the Psychopathia Sexualis.Speaking of fogbound alleyways, could there be a foggier London than the backdrop of Simon Cellan-Jones’ Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking? The atmosphere is perfectly eerie, but the star attraction Rupert Everett in the title role, matching wits with a villain whose ghastly crimes are more Silence of the Lambs than Hound of the Baskervilles. Before he’s through, Holmes has devoured to R. von Krafft-Ebing’s Psychopathia Sexualis, adding to his spooky sixth sense the bona fides of a proto-profiler. Towering and tortured, Everett plays the pallorous, pertiacious Holmes to an irresistible twist, Oscar Wilde’s brooding shadow.

Of all the many latter-day novels featuring Sherlock Holmes, my favorite is Mitch Cullin’s standalone, A Slight Trick of the Mind. It is 1947, Dr.  Watson is long gone, and the nonagenarian beekeeper Holmes grapples with his own mortality, the death of Edwardian moral certitudes in the ashes of Hiroshima, and the alarming dimunition of his mental faculties. What emerges is perhaps the most intimate portrayal ever of the mythic Holmes as a man and a mortal. A rare treat for Holmes fans, and anyone who loves an intriguing story expertly told. (Readers seeking more traditional Holmes pastiches should check out Steve Hockensmith’s delightful series starter Holmes on the Range, and David Pirie’s grim and gritty The Patient’s Eyes, first of a series featuring author Arthur Conan Doyle and Dr. Joseph Bell, the inspiration for Holmes.)

The canny Vasiliĭ Livanov sizes up the quarry as Sherlock Holmes.So who’s you’re favorite Holmes? Benedict Cumberbatch? Robert Downey Jr.? Jeremy Brett? Basil Rathbone? Make room for Vasiliĭ Livanov, who portrayed Sherlock in several Russian films and TV episodes in the 1970s and 80s, including Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, and The Hound of the Baskervilles. Viewed by many as the definitive portrayal, Livanov’s earnest, softer-edged Holmes — a vast intellect couched in the unprepossessing body of a kindly professor — is less arch and manic than that of Jeremy Brett, casting the stories in a refreshingly reassuring light. Such was the popularity of his Holmes in the former Soviet Union that Livanov was awarded an OBE (Order of the British Empire) for his a valuable addition to the canon, and for bringing Sherlock Holmes to millions of avid viewers behind the Iron Curtain.

So how about you: what are your favorite Sherlock Holmes pastiches and portrayals?

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6 Responses to Crime: The Sherlock Holmes you don’t know.

  1. misha says:

    Benedict Cumberbatch! Not only does he have the best, most ridiculously awesome name ever, he brings a real deadpan panache to Sherlock. Love him!

  2. Carmen says:

    Great post- thanks for all of the links to various Sherlock items in the catalog! I will have to reserve judgment on a favorite until I see Livanov in action, but at the moment I’m in the Benedict camp.

  3. the book editor says:

    You didn’t mention “The House of Silk” by Anthony Horowitz. Is that the dog that didn’t bark in the nighttime?

  4. David W says:

    Thanks, book editor – Horowitz’s wonderful House of Silk is definitely on the attached list of Holmes pastiche novels and series; @Misha – would that be deadpanache, for short?

  5. Lillian says:

    Cumberbatch rules!
    He is the definitive essence of Sherlock Holmes (and demonstrates the side that irritated even his own creator, Arthur Conan Doyle).
    MY new favorite hero.

  6. Pingback: Book Group Buzz – Discussion of Book Clubs, Reading Lists, and Literary News – Booklist Online » Blog Archive » The ABCs of Crime

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