Posts Tagged ‘Sherlock Holmes’

The Sherlock Holmes revival continues to swell ever higher, surely it can only be a matter of time Crimezine wonders,

Lucy Liu-Holmes-Jonny Lee Miller—Elementary

Smarten yourself up Holmes

before this great wave of enthusiasm crests and crashes upon the mighty beach of reinvention?

Elementary, a new series from CBS is upping the reinvention ante, not only do we find Holmes in modern day Manhattan but his Watson is the delectable Lucy Liu, whilst Holmes is played by Trainspotting hero Jonny Lee Miller.

Now Crimezine loves dear, dear Jonny, and we are never going to complain about seening Ms Liu in anything, but Holmes in modern day Manhattan you are kidding right?

Show creator Rob Doherty tells us this won’t be a will they -wont-they sexual chemistry show, he says, it will be about honoring the source material. Interesting, perhaps some of the American connections that appeared in such books as the Valley of Fear will be explored? But who will play Moriarty? Doherty is tight lipped, but he tells us we can look forward to meeting Sherlock Holmes’s father—Sean Connery surely—No? Answers on a postcard please


Elementary Premieres on CBS on September 27

Last Bow-Sherlock Holmes

Basil Rathbone as Holmes

His Last Bow is the chronological conclusion of the Sherlock Holmes stories, collected in 1917, as the First World War was drawing to a final bloody conclusion, there is a distinct change in style from the earlier Holmes stories.

By 1917 Conan Doyle had lost his brother, both his brother in laws and his son and to the war. It was a time that saw the author increasingly drawn to Spiritualism and a belief in Fairies—yes, the winged variety of legend. But give the guy a break, when half your family has been butchered, the need to believe in something anything is strong.

Simpler times Crimeziners, Simpler times. A time when the omnipotent lie of the British Empire was drawing to a close. A time when the idealistic Victorian society had been culled on the fields of Flanders, in the mistaken belief that dying for king and country actually meant something.

So it is little wonder that the Holmesian myth of invincibility & Squirely patronage would seem a little—dated under the circumstances. So we get juiced up violence, and more modern villains, dastardly huns and sneaky spies. We get the first mention of a motor vehicle and the sense that the stories have moved into the modern age from the gas-lamp Victorian past.

The final story of this collection sees Holmes give a very Churchillian speech about the East wind of change blowing over England a rousing passage that was adapted to Rathbone screen-era Holmes, as a comment on the Second World War.

The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes, originally a standalone collection of short stories is now available with the Last Bow Collection. While this makes sense value wise, it is a step back in time, one senses that there is the yearning for a bygone era straining behind these simple tales of honor and investigation. This collection is interesting as it sees a number of stories narrated by Holmes in the first person, rather than by Watson.

We also get to see Holmes in his bee-keeping retirement. The collection appeared in 1927 Sadly not every story is a classic.  Some of them may appear overly dated for modern taste. But no matter, Sherlock Holmes is a full blown Crimezine legend and this collection is essential reading for crime fans. Holmes may  have lived to arthritic old age in the Sussex countryside. But to the popular imagination The omnipotent Holmes of Legend will for ever reside at 221b Baker Street.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle died 7 July 1930.

Sherlock-Holmes-Crimezine-Agame of Shadows

Crimezine Loves the new Holmes movie, Released December16th

Jude Law and Robert Downey Jr return in Guy Ritchie’s latest Holmes blockbuster, Sherlock Holmes a game of Shadows. And Crimziners can expect all manner of extremely un-Holmesean antics: full auto gun play, howitzers, explosions galore and an obligatory hanging from the outside of a moving train by the fingernails skit.

This installment sees Holmes and Watson Investigate the murder of the crown Prince of Austria. Of course, the fiendish Professor Moriarty, played in a marvelously understated way by Mad Men’s Jared Harris is responsible in no small measure for the chaos. We also get the super sexy Noomi (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) Rapace, in her first English speaking role as a (chortle) mysterious gypsy. The Film also stars the fantastic Stephen Fry (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire & legendary Hugh Laurie chum.) as Holmes’ smarter and more dissolute brother Mycroft.

Crimezine loved the first film and its interpretation of the Holmesean legend, but suspects that Holmes purists will find many aspects of the latest film harder to stomach. Holmes in Tony Curtis style drag? Maybe that’s OK if you have Marylin Monroe to take your mind off the train journey, but really Mr Ritchie we know Xmas is Panto season–are we to expect a talking cow and a beanstalk in the next movie?

Small churlish gripes aside, Crimezine realizes that modern cinema is no place for the original Holmes stories and we commend Mr Ritchie, his cast and crew, for yet another triumphant glimpse into the creatively re-imagined world of Holmes. A very singular success, Bravo Sir! As Holmes might say .

Holmes Returns

Holmes you are amazing!  Or maybe not quite… As there is a definite air of contractual obligation about this volume, first collected in 1905. This is the back by popular demand collection of stories that Arthur Conan Doyle penned after he killed off Holmes in the Reichenbach Falls incident. Holmes’ reemergence is as unexpected as his apparent demise and the explanation as unlikely as the events leading up to his sudden departure.

However The Adventure of the Empty House, or The Return of Sherlock Holmes as the first story in this collection is popularly called, is by a wide margin the most interesting story of the collection. Others, such as The Adventure of The Priory School  and The Adventure of the Solitary Cyclist are  ridiculous to modern sensibilities. Neither of these stories are real adventures,  they are more cautionary tales, concerning honor and the vulnerability of the fairer sex. (As Holmes & Watson might describe women).

If you are a completist, or perhaps fascinated by Victorian mores, then Crimezine would wholeheartedly recomend this volume. Likewise, if you are interested in a snoozesome bedtime read, that will have you nodding off faster than  À La Recherche Du Temps Perdu  by Marcel Proust then this book makes essential reading. Otherwise my Holmesean cohorts, you may wish to proceed directly to The Valley of Fear, Conan Doyles fourth and final full length Holmes novel.

Here comes Holmes more politically incorrect than a 1970’s Vegas lounge act. More dissolute than a night out on Sunset Boulevard with Charlie Sheen. This book has it all: drug abuse, breathtaking ethnic slurs and little lady sexism. They just don’t make them like this anymore.

Victorian society was brutally different from the one in which we live today. Cocaine Opium and Hashish were over the counter cure alls. Women had rights, but only the ones their fathers and husbands gave them. As for the question of ethnicity—the British Empire ruled the world so anything those appalling sandal wearing poor people wanted was not only an effrontery but a downright  liberty.

It is understandable therefore that many of the sentiments in The Sherlock Holmes books are now dated and the Sign of Four is no exception. Holmes shoots Cocaine on the very first page, which puts to rest many of the quaint ideas we have of this charachter. This is because the legend and success of  Holmes has trancended the reality and it is only through re-reading the original books that we can once again understand who Sherlock Holmes is.

More important however is our understanding of the long suffering Watson— or at least we think he is long suffering, because once again the popular image of Watson as bumbling side man is quite wrong.

In the original novels by Conan Doyle, Watson is an independent voice of reason, a narrator and counter point to Holmes’s egotism and excess. He is a doctor but also a military man, a man of action who admires the strengths of Holmes but also understands his many failings. Jude Law’s portrayal of Watson in the recent Guy Ritchie movie is probably the most accurate  cinematic portrayal of the character to date.

The Sign of Four is a tale of murder, treasure and vengeance. We get a manic one legged baddie and his midget blowpipe wielding assistant. Tightly corseted ladies get the vapours. Fog swirls and horse drawn carriages clatter through the streets of London. Morals and the Kings English are highly regarded. And those sandal wearing Foreigners? ‘The Hindoo always goes barefoot, where as the Mohamedean has larger big toes because of the thonged sandals they wear.’ Elementary my dear Watson.

There has recently been a resurgence of interest in Sherlock Holmes caused by the Guy Ritchie/ Robert Downey Jr movie. If you are one of those people who saw the movie and resolved to read the books by Arthur Conan Doyle, A Study in Scarlet is the place to start.

As far as crime fiction goes it doesn’t get much more old school than this. One can trace the narrative structure to Edgar Allen Poe (Murder in the Rue Morgue) and the tangential and digressive nature of the Victorian novel.

In the opening chapters, we are introduced to Watson who has just returned to England after been wounded in Afghanistan (in 1880) Down on his financial luck, Watson is introduced to Holmes by a mutual friend as a potential room mate. The pair subsequently lease 221B Baker Street. Watson quickly finds that Holmes is just too smart for his own good and aside from his bizarre and dilettantish expertise in a number of arcane subjects he discovers that Holmes is a key advisor to the bumbling and ruddy faced coppers who are desperately trying to make sense of the dark and murderous crimes of Victorian London.

Suddenly the novel twists the reader of balance, with a very long and puzzling digression. A tragic story  of family upheaval and murder set in Salt Lake City Utah. Although key to the ultimate outcome of the story, this is an aside that no present day publisher would tolerate and one that seems bizarre to the modern reader. Naturally the conclusion is fashioned masterfully as Conan Doyle  has Holmes tie up the seemingly nonsensical clues with characteristic style and panache.

As an introduction to the principal characters involved in the Sherlock Holmes saga, this novel is indispensable. From a historical perspective the language and charm of the writing are of as much interest as  the attitudes of the long departed age they describe. Vitally however this is the book that upped the ante of mystery writing to the highest level. And the new covers by Penguin are cool too!