Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sherlock Holmes lives!

     While Sherlock Holmes never really went away, he’s enjoying quite a resurgence lately that would have confounded his creator, physician-author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In addition to a major feature film series directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Robert Downey and Jude Law (“Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” opens in December 2011), BBC’s modern-day reinterpretation, “Sherlock” (season 2 is scheduled to premiere in the autumn) and -- more pertinent from this blog’s point of view -- the reissuing of at least a dozen books about the Great Detective as “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.”
     Doyle wrote four novels and 56 short stories, collected in nine volumes, about Holmes and Watson, beginning with “A Study in Scarlet,” which was a surprise hit. But despite the money and fame, Doyle never thought much of Holmes -- he thought Homes drew attention from his more important books, which are little read or regarded today – and tried to kill him off at least once. The public outcry – and offers of great heaps of money for new Holmes stories – led to his resurrection. Doyle then tried to retire him at least twice.
     Many more volumes have been published since, some unauthorized, and a countless number of radio shows, comic strips and comic books, advertisements, plays, musicals, television shows and movies.
     “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” gathers together some of these novels, most out-of-print for years. In them, Holmes encounters other fictional characters (Tarzan in “The Peerless Peer,” the Martians in “The War of the Worlds,” Edward Hyde in “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Holmes,” the Phantom of the Opera in “The Angel of the Opera”). Others feature historical people (escape artist Harry Houdini in “The Ectoplasmic Man,” Teddy Roosevelt in “The Stalwart Companions”) or historical events (the Jack the Ripper murders in “The Whitechapel Horror”), Then there are “lost” tales alluded to by Doyle but never written(“The Giant Rat of Sumatra,” described in “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire” as “a story for which the world is not yet prepared”).
     The books vary in quality but it’s good to have them back in print in uniform trade paperback editions.
     There are many other novels and stories of Sherlock Holmes by other hands, including some where other characters take the lead (Irene Adler, Professor James Moriarty, the son of Sherlock Holmes).  Perhaps some of them will be included in later volumes of “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.”
     And if you’ve never read the original stories, try “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” or “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” for the best of the bunch.  Then let me know what you think of them.


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