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Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Moriarty London wgah’nagl fhtagn

July 20th, 2009 · 6 Comments

Remember this theme music? If, like me, you spent many an evening in your childhood glued to PBS Mystery‘s broadcasts of the fantastic old Granada Sherlock Holmes adventures starring the inimitable Jeremy Brett, it triggers a sort of Pavlovian surge of anticipation and endorphin release. I’d half forgotten I had the full run in my closet until it came up in conversation with a handful of friends late last week, setting me off on a bit of a bender. I don’t doubt but that the choice of journalism as a vocation was influenced in some way by the dim memory of that brilliant eccentric stitching together an elaborate story from a few scraps of evidence and long threads of inference. I’ve never had occasion to wear an elaborate disguise or engage in a singlestick duel, but the the enterprises are otherwise not all that different.

Naturally, this set off some idle Googling in search of Holmesiania, and I was tickled to discover fantasist par excellence Neil Gaiman’s wonderful short story “A Study in Emerald,” one of a surprising number of fictions that mashes up Conan Doyle’s Holmes universe with the Cthulu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. You can download a free audiobook version of Gaiman reading the story from Audible. There’s an ingenious twist—the identities of several key characters are not what the reader is initially led to assume—though you have to be a bit of a fan of the original stories to piece it together.

Tags: Art & Culture · Language and Literature



6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Tom // Jul 20, 2009 at 11:26 am

    I’ve never had occasion to wear an elaborate disguise or engage in a singlestick duel, but the the enterprises are otherwise not all that different.

    While I find the second half of this sentence merely surprising, Halloweens past argue that the first half is where the real problem lies.

  • 2 Glen // Jul 21, 2009 at 2:04 am

    When I watched the Harry Potter movie last night, I caught a trailer for the upcoming Sherlock Holmes movie starring Robert Downey, Jr. It looks AWESOME. But I confess, I have never read a single Holmes novel or seen a single TV show or movie about him.

  • 3 DivisionByZero // Jul 21, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I thought Cthullu had taken over your blog, Julian.

  • 4 Julian Sanchez // Jul 21, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I’ll confess, as someone who came up on the Brett/Hardwicke series, the Downey Holmes sounds kind of appalling. Sure, he was supposed to be an expert boxer, but it’s hard to imagine anything more pointless than turning Holmes into a generic wisecracking action hero. And I don’t think I can watch Iron Man fake a British accent for 90 minutes in any event.

  • 5 Hugh // Jul 21, 2009 at 2:09 pm

    I think Brett’s portrayal of Holmes had a disturbingly formative effect on my character growing up. I think “The Dying Detective” may have made me start smoking. That WETA was running them on Thursday nights for the last year or so (maybe still is) has been pretty wonderful.

  • 6 Anthony // Jul 21, 2009 at 4:49 pm

    Although some people swear by Douglas Wilmer, for me the Brett Holmes is much the finest – Brett’s central performance being boosted by two excellent (non-stupid) Watsons in Burke and Hardwicke and the fact that the entire production is clearly produced with such love and care. The only problem is that it sets the bar so high it’s fairly unlikely that there’ll be any future television Holmes with which I will be satisfied.

    A few brief recommendation for people looking for a further Holmes fix:

    1) “A Study in Emerald” is the first story in “Shadows over Baker Street”, a Holmes/Mythos crossover volume. The entire book is worth checking out, with the caveat that Gaiman’s short story is the cleverst thing in it by a fairly wide margin.

    2) The BBC has produced a series of full cast Holmes radio dramatisations, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and the late Michael Williams (Mr Judi Dench) as Watson. They’re well worth your time, if you don’t get turned off by the radio play format. I think Merrison’s Holmes is very fine indeed; slightly snarky and put upon without going over the top. Vaguely interesting trivia – Merrison is the only actor to have starred as Holmes in dramatisations of every one of the Doyle stories, Brett having died before the canon was complete.

    3) I recently read “The Last Sherlock Holmes Story” by the late Michael Dibdin (his first book) and was blown away by it. It may split opinion, though. Also, you really do need to be aware of the Holmes stories in order to get the most out of it.

    4) In terms of pastiches, I’d recommend people have a look at Kim Newman’s “The Red Planet League”. Holmes doesn’t actually feature in it – it’s essentially a comedic short story in which Prof. Moriarty and Colonel Moran rampage around trying to get revenge on an astronomer who has attacked Moriarty’s “Dynamics of an Asteroid”. Another story where the enjoyment is largely contingent upon an ability to spot the references – it riffs on “The Crystal Egg”, “The War of the Worlds” and “Diary of a Nobody”. The only problem is that the book it’s in, “Gaslight Grimoire”, edited by J. R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec, is of very uneven quality and a lot of people may not consider it worth the cover price.