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Group Readings of Various Stories Involving Sherlock Holmes, with a Bit of BBC Sherlock Thrown in fo

The Green Dragon

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1MrsLee
Edited: Mar 5, 2014, 1:16am Top

Many of us enjoy the A. Conan Doyle stories, along with many (all) of the variations in several types of media. We thought a thread for a group read or reread of the original tales might be fun.

There are very few rules here, more like guidelines. Those being that the discussion should have something to do with one of the original stories you are reading, and from there, feel free to talk about other versions you like/dislike or love/hate.

I am really enjoying rereading the stories now that I have just finished watching the three seasons of Sherlock. It is amazing to me how easily these stories translate into the modern world. I think that must say something for the stories themselves.

Anyway, everyone in my house is yammering on about other stuff right now, so I can't think of anything intelligent to say. I'll come back later and hope someone who can concentrate better, or has a quieter house, has contributed to the thread. :)

I am, at this time rereading A Study in Scarlet.

2Meredy
Feb 16, 2014, 9:34pm Top

Thanks for starting this thread, MrsLee. I'm in.

I haven't yet located my two-volume Annotated Sherlock Holmes, but my regular one-volume Complete Sherlock Holmes is still front and center on my oldest bookcase. It was a gift from my parents when I was in my teens. I've been a fan of SH since I was about twelve.

A Study in Scarlet sounds like the perfect place to start.

3MrsLee
Feb 17, 2014, 3:49am Top

I just finished listening to a lecture titled, The Art of Reading. In it, the author used Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories to illustrate some of his points such as finding the beginning, middle and end, the fact that they are almost always "stranger comes to town" stories, meaning that into the ho-hum existence of Dr. Watson and Holmes, a stranger with a problem is introduced and then the story takes off. He also said that if you apply the E.M. Forster test of character to Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, they do not come out as "round" (a character which can surprise you, and you believe it), but as "flat" (they either don't surprise you, or when they do, you don't believe it). The Professor who made that statement said that the flatness of them actually made the stories better. I'm not sure I agree with him.

I do agree in the sense that Holmes and Watson are "flat" in the original writings, but, there have been so many adaptations and modifications from Jeremy Brett to the most recent Sherlock series, and then the Laurie R. King novels, that I don't see them as flat anymore. Also, I think the roundness which has been introduced has not ruined the stories, either.

Another article I'm reading on Doyle, said that he always began with the solution and worked his way back through the story leaving clues for the reader. It said he was the one who gave the model of that for future mystery writers. In listening to the Sherlock commentaries, both Moffat and Gatiss said that the absolute hardest stuff to come up with were the "detection" bits. The ones where Sherlock looks at someone and deduces a bunch of stuff from that glance. I know a lot of people make the argument that Doyle didn't play fair in the clues, that he didn't let on everything that Sherlock made his deductions from. I'm going to pay particular attention this reading to see whether I agree or not.

4Busifer
Feb 17, 2014, 8:32am Top

In my early teens I loved Doyle's original Sherlock stories. As I grew older one thing jumped out at me, namely how flat the characters were. Growing up watching and loving various TV-versions of the stories I had started to expect the characters to be more rounded in their original written form as well.

Also, I will be honest - crime/mystery novels often follow an extremely clear pattern and sometime in my 20's I had read my fill and switched wholeheartedly to (modern) SF. Bit by bit I have retraced my steps, adding the odd crime/mystery novel to my reading list, once more enjoying the ride.

I have planned to revisit some of the original short stories and am tempted to get some "complete" edition or other, so I'm sure I'll dip back into this thread for some Sherlock talk :)
A Study in Scarlet is a good a starting point as any.

5Morphidae
Feb 17, 2014, 8:45am Top

I have Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Short Stories which is two volumes - both 1000 pages. Whew!

I want to get through all of them during 2014. So, about 180 pages a month.

I have a problem with mysteries where the detective is the only one who can solve it because of specialized (magical thinking) knowledge. But knowing that Sherlock is always going to be this type going into it, I should be okay.

The first story is A Study in Scarlet. I also want to get the next, The Sign of Four, read this month.

6SylviaC
Feb 17, 2014, 11:15am Top

I read most of the stories when I was a teenager, but I don't remember much about them. I have a small anthology that I got for SantaThing a few years ago, and my son has a complete Sherlock Holmes, so I will probably read a few stories, and join in every now and then.

7clamairy
Feb 17, 2014, 11:27am Top

I just borrowed The Complete Sherlock Holmes (The Heirloom Collection) through Amazon Prime. It's 1897 pages, and I have no plan to read it all. LOL But I will read some of it and plan to join you all. Thanks for starting the thread, MrsLee.

8Jarandel
Feb 17, 2014, 11:49am Top

Picked a Project Gutenberg copy, been a while since I read it, like Busifer I read quite a lot of mysteries as a teen then mostly moved on to adult SF/F.

9empress8411
Edited: Feb 17, 2014, 12:49pm Top

My parents bought me The Complete Sherlock Homles for Christmas when I was 12. I started reading it on Christmas Day and finished by New Years. I still remember parts, even though it's been 20+ years. Oh, and then recently, I picked up Naked is the Best Disguise: The Death and Resurrection of Sherlock Holmes from an Estate Sale - I though it looked interesting.

I'm familiar with only a few of the retellings - the current BBC Sherlock, of course. House (the one with Hugh Laurie) is said to be based on Sherlock. The one with Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr.

Oh, and does anyone remember that episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Data creates Moriarty on the Holodeck?

The game, as Sherlock would say, is afoot!

10MrsLee
Feb 17, 2014, 1:05pm Top

I thought of House when I was reading about Doyle's inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, one of his medical professors, Mr. Joseph Bell, M.D. He would have a group of students with him while he met with patients, using the deductive techniques to make his analysis and diagnosis. "I see by the wear on the inside of your pant's knee that you are a cobbler." Stuff like that. Hopefully, Doctor Bell was kinder to his patients than House! Doyle said he was wonderful to his students.

11CarolO
Feb 17, 2014, 2:57pm Top

My Sherlock Holmes collection is packed in a box in storage, I don't even want to try to find it but I may lurk a bit. Maybe I'll see if I can find ebook versions?

Great topic!

12sandstone78
Feb 17, 2014, 3:45pm Top

>3 MrsLee: The BBC Sherlock is really the only adaptation I'm terribly familiar with, but I read an interesting article recently comparing that with NBC's Elementary, on the topic of whether Sherlock's genius was inborn or learned.

I think part of the enduring appeal of the characters must be the way their particular flatness lends itself to such a variety of different roundnesses in adaptation and retelling.

13MrsLee
Feb 18, 2014, 12:08am Top

10 - I just read a bit more of that article, and it included a letter from Dr. Bell which was quite endearing! It was just like listening to Sherlock talking about Dr. Watson about the method of deduction and how "simple" it was. Also, the way Bell spoke about Doyle was lovely, really, just the way Sherlock speaks about Watson.

14MrsLee
Feb 18, 2014, 12:24am Top

I SEE NO WAY TO KEEP SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT, IF YOU DON'T WANT THEM, PLEASE DON'T READ IN THIS THREAD UNTIL YOU ARE FINISHED. THANK YOU.

I finished A Study in Scarlet tonight. I had forgotten SO much of it! The whole trip back in time to the American west was a big surprise to me.

Interesting how the modern Sherlock writers twisted it up. In the original, the murderer has our sympathy, his revenge is understandable, the victims are not sympathetic at all but more like criminals on the run. The modern one has the murderer being a psychopath, justifying himself in killing relatively innocent people for monetary gain. Yes, he's dying, but that doesn't gain our sympathy. Also, in the original, the whole idea with the pills is very medieval, the idea that "God will make justice prevail in a contest." Very much what the challenges in those times were about. The modern version doesn't have that at all, because the guy is a psychopath, it is simply a rush, like Russian roulette.

I love the modern combining of "Gregson" and "Lestrade" into one man.

A mention here, because women don't often feature in these stories, that Doyle refers to "Neruda" as in Wilhelmine Maria Franziska Neruda, a violinist. I looked her up and found that the violin was not an "approved" instrument for women at that time. She was quite extraordinary, and so must her father have been to allow her to pursue that instead of the piano.

The only clues I found that were not given to the reader were the contents of the telegram from America and the fact that the cab wheels showed that the cabby had not been controlling the cab. I'm not really sure whether they were necessary clues or not, since I already knew it was the cabby. Hard to erase facts from your head and read fresh.

15Busifer
Feb 18, 2014, 5:39pm Top

I started Scarlet today and must say that the use of words and language has changed considerably in the 125 or so years that have passed since the novel was written. Not so much as to being a barrier but not going un-noticed either.

In 2014 not many would use "ejaculated" to mean "exclaimed", just as an example.

Or is it just me?

I also think some historical knowledge is needed to understand what happens, at least if you're not English. I mean, I don't think Swedish people in general, however proficient in the modern variant of the English language, knows what a hackney is.

16Morphidae
Edited: Feb 18, 2014, 5:48pm Top

Many English speakers, or rather Americans, don't know what a hackney is either.

The only reason I do is because I've read historical romances!

17MrsLee
Feb 19, 2014, 1:02am Top

I know that I appreciated having my Kindle at my elbow with its Oxford dictionary. Looked up at least three words, also like my smartphone handy for quick internet info, such as the above notes on the violinist.

18Busifer
Feb 19, 2014, 4:51am Top

So - that's not only me, then.

I too did know what a hackney is. I think I learned that when I read Neal Stephenson's Baroque cycle, I think. It jumped out at me as something most people wouldn't know, though.
Some of the other words I knew but not they way they were used in the text so I had to look them up for their previous meaning.

Educational, if nothing else :)

19empress8411
Feb 19, 2014, 8:15am Top

#11 - I bought a rather nice version of the Complete Sherlock Holmes (4 novels and 56 short stories) for my kindle for about $3. Not bad, really.

20reading_fox
Feb 19, 2014, 8:54am Top

Was reading teh Complete Sherlock holmes with OtherHalf a year oir two back. We did laugh of ejaculated a few times!

21empress8411
Feb 20, 2014, 12:15pm Top

Okay, so I'm only about 10 pages into A Study in Scarlet and I've already has at least 5 fan-girl-freak-outs (fgfo for short). My god - the way BBC wove the original tale into the new one? FGFO!!!!!

22MrsLee
Feb 21, 2014, 9:24pm Top

I finished The Sign of Four, but I'm going to wait to post my thoughts until some of the people who are reading A Study in Scarlet are finished and have posted stuff.

23Jarandel
Feb 22, 2014, 6:06pm Top

Oddly, I didn't remember any of it, yet it felt like donning a pair of trusty old slippers, at least for the Holmes/Watson parts.

The North American episode was almost jarring. I didn't expect it to be narrated in such a direct and extensive way I guess, the framing as the dying man's confession nearly absent.

24MrsLee
Feb 22, 2014, 7:15pm Top

23 - I had that same feeling. I flipped the pages back and forth to see if any were ripped out, or I had somehow skipped.

25Meredy
Feb 26, 2014, 4:45pm Top

I've duly begun my reread with A Study in Scarlet. As I noted somewhere, I have a much-read edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes, last perused decades ago, but it turns out that I never actually read the Annotated, which I appear to have purchased in the 1960s. Clearly (and somewhat dauntingly) it's meant for a serious student. I'm resisting my completionist compulsion to read systematically through every page and instead looking at the abundant notes only when I want an explanation (such as a reminder of what a hansom cab looks like).

This volume is not for reading in bed, though. I've bent my wrists with some pretty heavy hard-cover tomes in the past (for example, Anathem), but this one's bigger than any of them.

I don't like the fact that the stories in this specialized edition are arranged according to some sort of computed chronology instead of in the traditional order of publication. I suppose that makes it more scholarly, but I'm not reading for any academic purpose. Like Holmes, I'm an interested amateur.

26catzteach
Feb 26, 2014, 9:49pm Top

I started to reread A Study in Scarlett today. I didn't remember Watson actually being in Afghanistan. I though that was part of making Sherlock modern.

27reading_fox
Feb 27, 2014, 4:14am Top

"I didn't remember Watson actually being in Afghanistan. I though that was part of making Sherlock modern."

That's how good the integration was especially in the first series. As is the confusion between shoulder and leg injury in the novels- where modern Sherlock persuades him it's psychosomatic.

28empress8411
Feb 27, 2014, 3:08pm Top

#26, I knew that because of the Great Mouse Detective, which is a vastly underappreciated adaption of Holmes.

29MrsLee
Mar 1, 2014, 3:03am Top

#27 - I caught that when I read The Sign of Four, all of a sudden the injury was in the shoulder! :) And I remembered the little throw away line at the end of the show.

30catzteach
Mar 1, 2014, 11:32am Top

I'm probably halfway through Scarlett. I'm enjoying it more the second time around because now I can actually picture a character. I had a hard time picturing them in my head the first time around.

31jillmwo
Edited: Mar 1, 2014, 8:47pm Top

As I review the text of The Sign of Four, I am a little taken aback because the tale is pure adventure sensation literature --not a genre I associate with Sherlock, even if he does go on to resolve the case through logic and deduction. The novel opens with a chapter of Holmes displaying to Watson his expertise in the field of forensic science (monographs on varieties of cigar ash) but swiftly turns to the entrance of blond, petite, sensitive, refined Miss Morstan and her tale of her father’s disappearance and the subsequent receipt each year for six years of a pearl on her birthday. She visits Holmes/Watson in Baker Street to see if they can go with her to learn the origin of this mysterious occurrence. From there we encounter all kinds of mystery --mysterious reclusive Bartholomew Sholto in his dark deserted Gothic house, mysterious areas of digging in the grounds about said dark deserted Gothic house, a mysterious man with a wooden-leg and the equally mysterious print of a naked foot that is half the size that of an ordinary adult male. (I can’t recall offhand the years when Wilkie Collins was writing prolifically but I’m sure Doyle picked up some of the more lurid aspects from him.)

By the time, we hit Chapter 3 or 4, we get this: “Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand was in mine. A wondrous subtle thing is love for here were we two who had never seen each other before that day, between whom no word or even look of affection had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our hands instinctively sought for each other...So we stood, hand in hand, like two children, and there was peace in our hearts for all the dark things that surrounded us.” Pure schmaltz

Fortunately before we descend into all that gushy, smoochy stuff, we encounter the murder victim (as well as the suspect preferred by the foolish soul from Scotland Yard) and Sherlock sends Watson to fetch Toby, the remarkable scent-hound who leads them about London in search of the one-legged man. That’s played for a certain amount of humor, no question, but then Holmes is forced to fall back on Wiggins and the rest of the Baker Street Irregulars to dig up a missing launch. (We did meet Wiggins in the third season of BBC Sherlock but I think that was in the third and final episode, wasn’t it?)

So actually there were some parallels with the BBC episode the Sign of Three and this novel.

--The poisoned thorn which becomes the poisoned buckle spike. (Note: in the novel, Holmes asks Watson to speculate on the type of poison, despite the fact that in Study in Scarlet, Watson notes that Holmes has a variable level of knowledge of botany except for poisons where his knowledge is as good as the doctor's.)
-- Sholto locks himself in his hotel bedroom which is somewhat analogous to Sholto locking himself up in his secluded dark gothic house in the book. They (Moffat and Gatliss) did justify Sholto's behavior on the basis of his being seriously burned by an IED in Afghanistan.
-- And then there is that whole play on words (Sign of Three rather than Sign of Four) although I thought the whole preggers joke in the wedding episode was rather labored. (Apologies for the pun. I'm really as bad as Mark Gatliss playing with this.)

32jillmwo
Mar 1, 2014, 4:22pm Top

Just one quick additional note. I just read the Holmes short story featuring Charles Augustus Milverton and I am really quite impressed with how well they adapted the original tale to the needs of the BBC Sherlock story arc. Of course, in the television show, the bad guy was named Charles Augustus Magnusson. But in the main, they stuck with the specifics of that short story. I'd no idea when I watched the episode on TV.

33MrsLee
Mar 2, 2014, 2:31am Top

#32- Which short story is that? The brain, she is a dying.

These are my jots and notes from reading The Sign of Four
Original: Holmes uses cocaine to get through the dull times, modern, nicotine patches. Explained by creators that nowadays, you couldn't really portray an intelligent person as a drug addict, the modern public wouldn't buy it. Although, I noticed they took this a step further in the last episode of season three.

Original: Holmes examines Watson's pocket watch and is correct on all accounts. This makes Holmes more godlike and authoritative. Modern, a cell phone, and misses the gender of the sibling. This makes Holmes more human for a modern audience.

I do not remember from my original readings the sly humor of Sherlock and Watson, or the romanticism of Watson. Is it that I am more mature, or that the various depictions have brought my attention to them?

The first time I read the Holmes stories, I was much younger and perceived Holmes and Watson as past middle age. Now (due to Sherlock?) I see them as much younger.

Original: The Baker Street Irregulars were waifs, children of the streets. Now, they are adult homeless people, because it would be criminal to know of such homeless children and not get them protected by some agency or other.

I did not catch the connection between the poisonous barb and the skewer of the modern series! Good catch, jillmwo.

I love Sherlock's tribute to Mary at the end of the story, "I think she is one of the most charming young ladies I ever met, and might have been most useful in such work as we have been doing. She has a decided genius that way; witness the way in which she preserved that Agra plan from all the other papers of her father." This certainly leaves the door wide open for the modern take on Mary in Sherlock.

34jillmwo
Mar 2, 2014, 7:49am Top

MrsLee, the short story referenced in #32 is The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton. I'm not sure why the scriptwriters changed the last name from Milverton to Magnusson, but I would imagine it has to do with copyright concerns of some sort or other. The Holmes estate has gone to court repeatedly in attempts to protect the legacy of Arthur Conan Doyle.

35MrsLee
Mar 2, 2014, 7:53pm Top

LOL, thanks, I guess that was pretty obvious! I have a terrible recall of names. I'll probably read it tonight. Or tomorrow.

36Busifer
Edited: Mar 3, 2014, 4:42am Top

Perhaps the name change - Milverton to Magnusson - was to accommodate the actor's decidedly Scandinavian accent? To me his English sounds just as Danish as he is ;-)

The first time I read the Holmes stories, I was much younger and perceived Holmes and Watson as past middle age. Now (due to Sherlock?) I see them as much younger.
I was in my very wee teens on my original read of these stories and have since not revisited them, not until now. I feel my image of Holmes' age is heavily influenced by the Jeremy Brett version, which I, again, last watched during a time when my perception of "middle aged" or "old" was quite different than it is now, when I'm 47 ;-) Because what really hit me when I read A Study in Scarlet (more on that later, I'm at work right now) was that Sherlock really is described as quite young, possibly in this late 20's, if my memory serves me right.
So, not as old in the stories as my visual (TV) memory will make me think.

37jillmwo
Mar 3, 2014, 3:05pm Top

What a good thought, Busifer! I hadn't really factored in the accent.

Your point about how old these guys are supposed to be is an interesting one. I just went rummaging about (it's time for a coffee break) and found a Sherlock community that suggests that both Holmes and Watson were born sometime in the 1850's. See http://www.sherlockforum.com/forum/topic/904-what-age-are-sherlock-holmes-and-jo... They think Watson might be two or three years older than Holmes. In Study in Scarlet, Watson indicates that he took his medical degree in 1878 and the events of that novel take place in 1881. However in Sign of the Four (again on the authority of this community) there is a reference to Holmes saying that two middle-aged men like Watson and Holmes would have trouble keeping up with Toby as he follows the scent throughout London. Sign of Four is set in 1888.

I'm afraid that my image of Holmes is entirely governed by the old line drawings of him in the published versions, so I have always thought of them as being somewhere in their late 30s to early 40s. Anybody else got a thought as to age? Jeremy Brett was in line with my mental images but Benedict Cumberbatch in real life is younger than 30, isn't he?

Back to work...

38Meredy
Mar 3, 2014, 3:26pm Top

I loved Jeremy Brett, but I'm old enough that for me the "real" Sherlock Holmes was cemented in place long before him. I'm referring to Basil Rathbone, of course. As a young reader, I thought he was the perfect embodiment of the character's appearance and manner.



His image is so thoroughly identified with my early readings of Holmes that I can't separate them on rereading.

I'll confess, though, that I never really bought the bumbling and oafish, if teddy-bear cuddly, Nigel Bruce rendition of Watson. A foil is one thing, but being made to look good by contrast is not a logical reason to keep an unfit partner tagging along. Freeman's Watson brings much more to the team than Bruce ever did, thanks undoubtedly to the scripts as much as to the actors.

My guess on name changes and other alterations in parallel details would be that they stand for something, some kind of allusion, a sly reference to another story or an inside joke for devotees or possibly an homage, such as to an otherwise invisible contributor to the series. I can easily imagine, for instance, someone's offering some significant support to a production in exchange for having his name incorporated into the script.

39sandstone78
Mar 3, 2014, 3:49pm Top

40Busifer
Mar 3, 2014, 3:51pm Top

#37 - Real life Cumberbatch was born in 1976, so he was kind of 34ish when they did the first season of Sherlock, which in turn would fit with the age span suggested in Scarlet (I had to look it up, I knew I've heard him refer to himself as 37 in some recent interview or other).

I was real young back when I originally read those books and thought everyone older than 25 was stone age-old, antiquated. Meaning someone who was supposed to be 35 just as well had could been 55, in my eyes. Which is how I always pictured Sherlock.
;-)

41streamsong
Mar 3, 2014, 5:21pm Top

I'm going to start reading along, too. I think I have the same 2 volume set that Morphy has. I was planning on reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes this month, but perhaps I should start with A Study in Scarlet. I'm not sure which I've read and which I haven't.

42Meredy
Mar 3, 2014, 5:40pm Top

I found a list of the stories in order of publication, here, and printed it out to use as a checklist.

43jillmwo
Mar 3, 2014, 7:27pm Top

Just because I am on the side of the angels, don’t think for a second that I am one of them. The BBC Sherlock to his version of Moriarty.

That line (at least for me) largely captures who the BBC Sherlock is -- an entity unlike the canonical Sherlock of the books and short stories. He’s more self aware, he’s more capable of violence, and he’s more obviously nettled by those with whom he comes into conflict. He is also very different from the three other men whose personalities provide the contextual lens for describing Sherlock.

The television show deals with three critical relationships:
Sherlock and Watson (Sherlock contrasts with someone more socially adept than he)
Sherlock and Mycroft (Sherlock contrasts with someone more brilliant and to some extent, more powerful than he)
Sherlock and Moriarty (Sherlock contrasts with someone more unprincipled than he)

The BBC Sherlock is more realistic in terms of human behavior and psychology than the character that originally appeared in ACD’s short stories. The Sherlock of the texts seems colder and less approachable.

Discussion?

44Meredy
Mar 3, 2014, 8:12pm Top

Nicely formulated, jillmwo. My compliments.

45MrsLee
Mar 4, 2014, 3:20am Top

I read The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton tonight. The more I read, the more I am impressed by Watson in the stories. I think the Rathbone Sherlocks did a major disservice to the character of Watson.

Also, after reading it, I am rather disappointed with the direction taken for the ending of the episode with Magnusson. In the original, it was a woman who killed Milverton, she was strong and determined and ruthless. Although they had Mary almost do this, I think it would have been terrific if at the end it had been the woman who had been so humiliated my Magnusson in the beginning.

43 - The writers/producers have said that it is all about the relationship and friendship between Holmes and Watson for them. I don't think other shows have been that. It usually is about Sherlock's brilliance, the crimes or other rabbit-trails and twists. I'm pretty sure this is why I love "Sherlock," because I have always seen the man Watson was meant to be in the stories, and I love seeing Holmes acknowledge this in a show. He certainly did in the original stories.

46reading_fox
Mar 4, 2014, 4:51am Top

I did think it interesting that the first season stories 'used up' a lot of the short stories at a high rate, but now by season three they're taking one short story and using it as a basis for an entire episode. - I could never remeber then name of that one.

47Busifer
Mar 4, 2014, 5:04am Top

#45 - I'm pretty sure this is why I love "Sherlock," because I have always seen the man Watson was meant to be in the stories, and I love seeing Holmes acknowledge this in a show.

Also, I like that Sherlock himself is more human in the BBC show, compared to how we're used to see him portrayed. That said I would love for the mysteries and crime solving to have a more prominent role - when all is said and done text-Sherlock is much about the crime solving, with the interactions between the detective and his friend for added depth, and BBC Sherlock has tended to be more and more about a set of wounded men and their struggles, with a lot of added elaborate and sometimes over-construed intrigue and mystery going on behind the scenes.

I enjoy that part too but when I list favourite episodes I still think the first season was the best one. The rest I enjoy because the actors have managed to make their characters believable and I want to know what happens to them, not because of the mystery.

48MrsLee
Mar 4, 2014, 10:56am Top

I've been reading other A.C.Doyle stories. So far they are all mysteries, combined with adventure, but lacking in characters to care about. Holmes and Watson seem to be what make the stories memorable, because these other adventures are just as fantastic and complicated, but you don't really care about them. Most of them seem to be resolved by the criminal himself/herself confessing years later, or from miles away by a letter at the end.

Many of them refer to "the great Detective in London" giving an opinion, which then proves to be wrong and overly complicated! So, I wonder if Doyle was trying to jab Sherlock in a way he wouldn't get into too much trouble with his fans?

49Meredy
Mar 4, 2014, 2:44pm Top

I've finished The Sign of the Four now, on the heels of A Study in Scarlet (one t in "scarlet"). I'm trying to get all the film portrayals out of my head and just read what Doyle wrote. It's not so easy. However, I have noticed a few things.

Here's one thing I noticed, reading without the image of Nigel Bruce in my mind: Watson does not seem to bumble at all. He doesn't see what Holmes sees, but then neither does anyone else. He's quick enough to understand an explanation, though, and to back Holmes up capably in action--even while falling in love with Mary.

Here's another: in this second tale, Holmes laughs and smiles quite a lot, he's affable enough to interact comfortably with a four-year-old child and charm his mother, he's comfortable dealing with the boys of the street and engaging their loyalty and trust, he can behave sociably when he chooses to (including hosting a small dinner and keeping up a stream of vivacious chatter), and he's described by another character as a "young man." This doesn't sound at all like the character that Basil Rathbone was playing.

And look how many people around the city greet him warmly, with favorable recognition.

On the other hand, a younger, warmer, more personable and less intense Holmes doesn't possess the same mystique. Instead we're suddenly looking at Archie Goodwin. Perhaps the more aloof, austere, and altogether serious Holmes is a product of the short stories that I'm about to begin.

50Busifer
Mar 4, 2014, 2:55pm Top

Or perhaps down to some liberty taken to make the characters work better on screen, back when the respective versions were filmed? I mean - look at all the books that have transfered to the screen format; how many have all characters intact? As a LoTR fan I cringed at PJ's versions of Gimli and Faramir, even as I love the films. Just as an example.

51MrsLee
Mar 5, 2014, 1:20am Top

49 - Holmes as Archie? Surely not. Perhaps Lord Peter Wimsey?

52Meredy
Mar 5, 2014, 1:55am Top

>51 MrsLee: Looks like I did a terrible job of expressing my thought. What I'm saying is that the Holmes we know and love the best (and the one that has survived so many screen interpretations) is the aloof, intense one with the mystique and the aversion to emotionality.

In fact, that's exactly how he's described in the first short story, "A Scandal in Bohemia," which I read today.

But that is not the depiction of him in The Sign of the Four, so he must have evolved a lot in the stories that followed. If we see him as many degrees warmer and more charming than his usual depiction, we are looking at an Archie Goodwin type and not the Holmes of legend.

53MrsLee
Mar 5, 2014, 3:02am Top

I think I understood you, but I suppose you are talking about charm and not intelligence, right? Because for my money, Archie is more the Watson level than the Holmes. Smart enough, but nothing like a genius.

I felt in The Sign of Four, that much of Holmes' humor and hilarity and whatever he was doing, was put on for the sake of show and distraction. He is perfectly capable of that. I'm sure he knew right away the pit that Watson had fallen in when he met Mary, and how that might change things, and here we are back in a circle to the show. :)

54reading_fox
Mar 5, 2014, 6:33am Top

" He's quick enough to understand an explanation, though, and to back Holmes up capably in action--even while falling in love with Mary.

"

That's another one I'm waiting for in the Sherlock. How many wives does Watson have? During the course of all the novels and short stories I think the argument can be made for up to 6!. We get no details about how or why they change, and I can't remember the details offhand. - but a quick brouse to the Baker street group, resurrected an old thread I'd started about Watson, and hence to Sherlockian.net and there we find:

"It is generally agreed that Watson met Mary Morstan in September of 1888 (The Sign of the Four) and married her several months later, presumably in the Spring of 1889. Watson, in "The Boscombe Valley Mystery", and Holmes in "The Stockbroker's Clerk", made comments definitely linking this "wife" with The Sign of the Four. In "The Empty House", Watson mentioned that Holmes had learned of his "own sad bereavement". Since Holmes had ostensibly gone over the Falls in April of 1891 and returned in April of 1894, Mary Morstan must have passed away sometime between those dates. In "The Blanched Soldier", which occurred in 1903, Holmes wrote that "Watson had at that time deserted me for a wife". This "wife" was clearly someone other than Mary Morstan, and so it would appear that Watson was married twice. This seems simple enough.

The real difficulty, however, starts in "The Five Orange Pips" when Watson wrote that his "wife was on a visit to her mother's". Since Mary Morstan stated that her mother was dead in The Sign of the Four, and since Watson recorded that "The Five Orange Pips" occurred in September of 1887 (a full year before he met Mary),then this "wife" could not have been her. To make matters even more complex, Watson also mentioned "The Sign of Four", as part of a dialogue with Holmes, in this same story.

And the crux continues in "A Scandal in Bohemia", where Watson clearly recorded that the case started on March 20, 1888 and again referred to being married. Based upon these two stories, one might argue that Watson had a wife before Mary Morstan, but if this is true, then what became of her?
"

55MrsLee
Mar 5, 2014, 11:46am Top

Well, the producers of the show did say that Watson was a "ladies man." Which is why they have him hitting on all of them. I wonder if in their minds they have addressed it by making Mary a secret assassin with a previous life, multiple identities, and so forth?

Or, possibly they don't intend to address it. They did mention in their commentaries that Doyle was horrible at continuity in his writing. Giving the landlady different names, Watson different injuries and apparently women.

56RowanTribe
Mar 5, 2014, 5:10pm Top

They also have given him a solid series of girlfriends that Holmes didn't bother to even recognize, let alone remember their names. Could that procession of girlfriends be a nod to the possible extra wives?

57sandstone78
Mar 5, 2014, 6:39pm Top

>55 MrsLee: That's an interesting thought about Mary's multiple identities addressing the plurality- it would be a neat way of doing so if intentional.

I would also say that as of season 3, she's another foil to Sherlock as mentioned up in >43 jillmwo:, or maybe more generally considering the cast as variations on how an "extraordinary" person relates to society- Watson is "normal," Sherlock turns his intelligence to detective work, Magnusson and Moriarty to criminal enterprise (though Moriarty with somewhat more enjoyment, I think- Magnusson seemed much more dispassionate), Mycroft to politics... Mary to assassination and spycraft, though it's still up in the air how much that was her choice, and now to passing as normal, and Adler to sexual manipulation and later... erm, damsel-in-distress-hood because she was playing games way out of her depth?

I apologize if this is derailing since the title specifies BBC Sherlock, but does anyone watch Elementary? I'm curious how the "ladies' man" aspect of Watson is handled with Watson being a woman in that adaptation, or if it's just outright ignored.

58MrsLee
Mar 6, 2014, 11:29am Top

#57 - I didn't really mean to be exclusive when I put the BBC Sherlock in the title, that's just the one I'm most familiar with. That, the Jeremy Brett one and the Laurie R. King series.

I've only watched one or two episodes of Elementary.

I do want to mention, I don't think I would have given Sherlock Holmes more than a respectful nod if I hadn't read the Laurie R. King novels. I had read the Doyle works before, but looked at them as a thing of their times, to be read and dismissed. King made me take note and pay more attention, and now "Sherlock" is making me pay even more attention to the originals.

59sandragon
Mar 6, 2014, 12:34pm Top

I had read some of Doyle's Holmes stories but they didn't really appeal to me until I read Laurie King's Russell/Holmes books. King fleshed out the original characters and brought them to life for me, and I find I have more patience with the original stories now.

60clamairy
Mar 6, 2014, 9:48pm Top

Oh boy. I knew this thread was only going to mean more things to read. LOL I actually own one of those King books. Now if I just had a clue where I'd put it...

I finished Scarlet last night. Enjoyed it, didn't love it. That second part of the book had me dumbfounded at first. I remembered the first half pretty well. I must have skimmed the second half or maybe skipped it entirely back in the 80s. Doyle was not terribly kind to the Mormons, was he? I agree Holmes seemed a lot more human than I recall him being in any of the movies I saw in my youth. Yet I'm thankful he was not quite as forgetful and goofy as Robert Downey Jr's Holmes in 'A Game of Shadows.' Which was actually a decent enough movie, if you're not a purist. (I'm not, obviously.) I've fallen head over heels for the Cumberbatch - Freeman series, though.

I second empress8411's comment in #28. If you've never seen The Great Mouse Detective it's worth a view. Holmes' nemesis is Professor Ratigan, voiced by Vincent Price.

61Busifer
Mar 7, 2014, 5:16am Top

I must admit that reading the original Doyle stories is a struggle to me. Infodump galore, very little in the way of story - at least in relationship to the infodumps - and not much in the way of character development; something that is made extra visible by the inconsistencies between the stories. The short stories is easier but the long ones... *sheesh*

62empress8411
Mar 7, 2014, 6:05pm Top

I need to finish up A Study in Scarlet - I'm rather behind...

63jillmwo
Edited: Mar 14, 2014, 8:25pm Top

Well, I've followed a search thread into all sorts of interesting places. It's not surprising but it is relevant to learn that back in 2011, A Study in Scarlet was banned in a Virginia school district from sixth-grade student reading lists on the grounds that it was anti-Mormon. Older students were permitted to have the title on assigned reading lists. So yes, the portrayal of Mormonism is problematic for many modern readers.

I learned that because I was searching for the full text of a thirty-five year old essay written by Charles Moorman on "The Appeal of Sherlock Holmes". Google was sure I didn't really mean Moorman but more likely meant to type in Mormon. As we all know, auto-correct is not universally helpful...

As a side note, while the anti-Mormon streak in Scarlet is pretty clear, I don't think it is much more appalling than the portrayal of convict labor and colonial imperialism in Sign.

However what made me look for that essay in the first place was the following quote from Sherlock Holmes for the 21st Century: Watson is not the technologically expert or intellectual equal of Holmes but he is the one who repeatedly reminds Holmes that the victims are people. Thirty-five years ago, Moorman's essay on "The Appeal of Sherlock Holmes" concluded that the appeal lay in "the knowledge that in the end, reason, in the form of Sherlock Holmes, and good in the form of Watson will indeed triumph" The Sherlock series suggests the possibility that the integration of qualities of technological proficiency, cognitive brilliance, information literacy, and concern for fellow humans might actually dwell in one person. Lestrade tells Watson that Holmes is a great man, and I think one day -- if we're very, very lucky -- he might even be a good one." (That's from page 142, but the added emphasis is mine.)

What struck me was that both the BBC Sherlock as well as the US-based television show of Elementary appear to have actually settled on this aspect of the relationship as a focus. In Elementary, John Watson is female (Joan Watson), a healer, while Sherlock Holmes is a dark drug-addicted and abrasive personality whom she is assisting towards recovery. Hence the very sterotypical essence of "Good". Why can't we escape that whole "Angel in the House" thing from the 19th century?

The thing of it is that in the original Holmes, that dichotomy is rather less emphasized. Yes, Sherlock is intellectual reason and Watson is the more human Everyman but the original stories are adventure stories, action tales, and very little is said about Sherlock/Holmes and the place of reason/goodness in resolving crime in Victorian England. (This came to me as I was reading Judith Flanders' book, The Invention of Murder.)

This is particularly clear in hindsight as I think about A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of the Four. Does it resonate with anyone else or am I simply stating the obvious?

64Vanye
Mar 13, 2014, 3:56am Top

Well I am definitely hooked on "Sherlock" & have read (The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes) & am now reading(The Return of Sherlock Holmes) & when I have finished it am going to read (The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes) all of these books are from a Reader"s Digest series, The World's Best Reading, and are all the shorter stories some of which have already been the basis of some of the "Sherlock" episodes. I really love the cast of "Sherlock"! When I finish the short stories I shall tackle the full-length stories. That should keep me reading most of the spring & summer too!

65Vanye
Mar 14, 2014, 6:08pm Top

So, which stories are we reading now?

66Vanye
May 31, 2014, 3:01am Top

Where did everybody go? Is anyone else still reading Sherlock?

67Morphidae
May 31, 2014, 9:59am Top

I still haven't gotten started though it's on my pile.

68majkia
May 31, 2014, 10:38am Top

I bought an audio book of the canon. no time to listen to it now though.

69MrsLee
May 31, 2014, 11:22am Top

I put my copy away for now. Will probably read more when the next season of Sherlock comes out.

70Meredy
Jun 10, 2014, 5:25pm Top

I finally got my Netflix DVD of BBC's "Sherlock" Season 3 in. Egad, the first show was terrible. Sherlock has gone from being hip and campy to being a buffoon, a self-parody, an idiot savant, in much the same way that the TV character Monk went from being a socially inept genius to being a social and cultural ignoramus who needed to have the concept of refrigerated restaurant leftovers explained to him. I slogged through that first episode somehow and started the second, totally discredited the grotesquerie of the false alarm to Lestrade, and shut it off during the best-man-speech scene. Never to return. I canceled the rest.

Whatever fault we might find with the old original stories, they never sneer at Holmes or condescend to him. He is what he is, and that is never a figure of ridicule or disgust.

Shame on you, BBC.

71Vanye
Jul 26, 2014, 6:21pm Top

I am finishing my reading of the 'Sherlockian' canon-currently reading THe Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. I have now read 3 books of the Laurie R. King series of Mary Russell & Sherlock Holmes mysteries. Check em out- you may like them! Other wise just waiting for the new season of 'Sherlock'.

72Vanye
Feb 1, 2015, 3:50am Top

I have now read 8 books in the Laurie R Kingseries & will read the rest when I manage to get my hands on them!

73jillmwo
Feb 1, 2015, 2:50pm Top

I very much enjoyed the early ones in the series, but didn't find the later ones as engaging. As always, your mileage may vary.

74RowanTribe
Feb 3, 2015, 3:36pm Top

I'm looking forward to this new one Dreaming Spies specifically because it's the one set in Japan that was alluded to in a prior book. I agree that the last few have been a little odd in tone, but I really love Japan as a setting, especially in this time-period. I have high hopes, and fingers crossed that I'm not too disappointed.

75tess_mcgill
Jun 2, 2015, 1:00am Top

Hi, I love the Sherlock Holmes books I have one at home that has about 32 of his adventures but its in Germain so I'm not sure about the titles of the stories. What was Study in Red about again? I can't remember if I read it before or not.

76jjwilson61
Jun 2, 2015, 9:36am Top

Study in Scarlet. It's the first one.

77tess_mcgill
Jun 5, 2015, 10:54pm Top

Thanks :)

78AmeliaNB
Jun 20, 2018, 3:28pm Top

Yes I've read Sir A. Conan Doyle's books (I got a complete series of Sherlock Holmes for Christmas). I LOVED THEM.

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