Sherlock Holmes, alive as long as we keep writing about him?

One summer, when I was working in a very quiet art gallery, I read every single Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I even read A Study in Scarlet, which was about 150 painful pages too long. But then I still had two more months at the gallery, with an average of one visitor a day, and so I decided to branch out – into books written by authors who came after Conan Doyle, and who very possibly loved Holmes even more than he did (since most of them didn’t try – and then fail- to kill him off.)

There are innumerable Holmsian spin-offs – rewritings of Holmes mysteries, puzzles inspired by Holmes, detectives who study Holmes, detectives who turn out to be Holmes – some stories about what happens before we meet Holmes in Conan Doyle’s books, and even more about what happens after the famous detective retires.

Once you’ve read your way through the original Holmes stories, or at least “Hound of the Baskervilles” as Dea suggested, here are a few spin-offs from our catalog. My favorite of the list below (and I haven’t read them all, but that doesn’t stop me from declaring a favorite) is the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King, though Caleb Carr’s is a close second.

Starring Sherlock Holmes by David Stuart Davies
Sherlock Holmes has been portrayed on screen more often than any other character in history, and this stunning book is the definitive illustrated guide to the films and television series featuring the master detective. Every Sherlock Holmes film and TV series is covered (including foreign and lesser known productions), from the silent movies, through the portrayals of Basil Rathbone and Peter Cushing, to the Jeremy Brett television series and beyond. Illustrated with stills, posters, lobby cards and behind-the-scenes shots, including much rare, previously unpublished material, and also covering the stage and radio works, Holmes’ world and Conan Doyle himself, this is simply a must for any fan!

The Execution of Sherlock Holmes by Donald Thomas
Drugged, manacled, condemned to a dank cell in the depths of London’s infamous, abandoned Newgate prison, the world’s greatest literary detective awaits execution by a vengeful crew of old, formidable enemies. Escape is impossible; death, a certainty. Except that Sherlock Holmes, in a stunning display of intellect wed to derring-do, will elude his hangmen’s noose. And live to fiddle, spy, and ratiocinate another day.” “Against tremendous odds Holmes will also break the code of German intelligence in the months before Britain’s entry into the First World War and bring “The Case of the Greek Key” to a close with exceptional elegance. In “The Case of the Peasenhall Murder,” going toe-to-toe with Scotland Yard and the Crown, he will prove the innocence of a man facing the gallows in the slaying of a pregnant servant girl, while “The Case of the Phantom Chambermaid” will take him and Dr. Watson to Brighton, where Holmes will expose the fraud of a seaside mesmerist who mixes magic with arsenic. And in “The Queen of the Night,” a brain-teasing case of thievery that takes its name from a priceless piece of royal jewelry – a 140-carat Brazilian diamond set among twelve midnight blue sapphires – Holmes will find himself again matching wits with a malevolent Moriarty.

Sherlock Holmes and the American Angels by Barrie Roberts
From the author of Sherlock Holmes and the Kings Governess – Spring 1902. Holmes finds a body in Regents Park, and when a Scottish lawyer is found murdered on the same day, he senses a conspiracy connected with the Jacobites. Holmes and Watson head for Scotland, convinced a collection of golden angels hidden at the time of the American War of Independence is now sought by the conspirators who assassinated the president…

Return of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle
I included this actual Holmes mystery because I mentioned Conan Doyle trying to kill off Holmes. In “The Final Solution,” Holmes appeared to fall to his death at Reichenbach Falls. Conan Doyle had tried to kill him off to work on other projects, but brought Holmes back after the uproar caused by fans outraged by Holmes’ early demise. He returns, and surprises the heck out of Watson, in the first story of this collection, “The Adventure of the Empty House. ”

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King
Edgar Award-winning author Laurie R. King again proves her flair for tantalizing mystery in this first novel of an acclaimed series. Long since retired from his observations of criminal humanity, Sherlock Holmes is engaged in a reclusive study of honeybee behavior on the Sussex Downs. Never did he expect to meet an intellect to match his own–until he made the acquaintance of a very modern 15-year-old girl whose mental acuity is equaled only by her audacity, tenacity, and unconventional taste for trousers and cloth caps. Under the master detective’s sardonic instruction, Miss Mary Russell hones her talent for deduction, disguises, and danger–in the chilling case of a landowner’s mysterious fever, and in the kidnapping of an American senator’s daughter in the wilds of Wales. But her ultimate challenge is yet to come. A near-fatal bomb on her doorstep–and another on Holmes’s–sends the two sleuths on the trail of a villain whose machinations scatter meaningless clues and seem utterly without motive. The bomber’s objective, however, is quite clear: to end Russell and Holmes’s partnership…and their lives.

The Italian Secretary by Caleb Carr
Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are summoned to the aid of Queen Victoria in Scotland by a telegram from Holmes’ brother, Mycroft, a royal advisor. Rushed northward on a royal train—and nearly murdered themselves en route—the pair are soon joined by Mycroft, and learn of the brutal killings of two of the Queen’s servants, a renowned architect and his foreman, both of whom had been working on the renovation of the famous and forbidding Royal Palace of Holyrood, in Edinburgh. Mycroft has enlisted his brother to help solve the murders that may be key elements of a much more elaborate and pernicious plot on the Queen’s life. But the circumstances of the two victims’ deaths also call to Holmes’ mind the terrible murder—in Holyrood—of “The Italian Secretary,” David Rizzio. Only Rizzio, a music teacher and confidante of Mary, Queen of Scots, was murdered three centuries ago. Holmes proceeds to alarm Watson with the announcement that the Italian Secretary’s vengeful spirit may have taken the lives of the two men as punishment for disturbing the scene of his assassination. Critically acclaimed, bestselling author Caleb Carr’s brilliant new offering takes the Conan Doyle tradition to remarkable new heights with this spellbinding tale.

Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years edited by Michael Kurland
In 1891, Sherlock Holmes, in a death struggle with his archenemy Professor Moriarty, disappeared over Reichenbach Falls and was presumed dead. Until, that is, he reappeared in London in 1894. Holmes remained mostly quiet on the events of those years and for over a century speculation has run riot about what really happened during the ‘hidden years.’ Now in this original collection, the truth is finally revealed. Including stories by Peter Beagle, Rhys Bowen, Bill Pronzini, Carolyn Wheat, Gary Lovisi, and others, Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years is a must-have book for every fan who has ever wondered what really happened to the world’s most famous consulting detective during his mysterious missing years.

Sherlock Holmes: In His Own Words and In the Words of Those Who Knew Him edited by Barry Day
Arguably the most famous character in literature, Sherlock Holmes refuses to die. Even his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, could not kill him. Since his first appearance in print in 1887, Sherlock Holmes has become more like a historical figure than a literary creation. Holmes aficionado Barry Day asks the question, “What if Holmes were not just an invention of Doyle’s imagination, but an actual person, a genius of deductive reasoning who lived an astounding and influential life?” Day’s response to that intriguing question is Sherlock Holmes, a “biography” that draws from the sleuth’s own recollections, utterances, and writings to narrate his life and career — from his obscure childhood, through his celebrated Baker Street years, to his last cases and “demise.” Also amply presented are the views of Holmes’s confederates (brother Mycroft, the stalwart Dr. Watson, and Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard) and his foes (the murderous Dr. Grimesby Roylott, Colonel Sebastian Moran, “the second most dangerous man in London,” and, of course, Holmes’s nemesis, Professor Moriarty). Day uses Doyle’s complete writings on Holmes (including several unpublished stories), as well as sixty illustrations, to create a distinctive portrait of the living man behind the Holmes legend: his passions, his limitations, and his unbounded brilliance.

The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Original Stories by Eminent Mystery Writers edited by Martin Harry Greenberg and Carol-Lynn Rossel Waugh
Bestselling author Anne Perry and Conan Doyle’s most recent biographer, Daniel Stashower, among others, contribute new stories that expand this tribute to Conan Doyle’s immortal creation. Mystery editors Martin Greenberg and Carol-Lynn R”ssel Waugh specially commissioned original works by Stephen King, Michael Gilbert, John Lutz, Edward D. Hoch, Dorothy B. Hughes, Peter Lovesey, Lillian de la Torre, John Gardner, and others for the first edition. With over 100,000 copies sold since its publication for the centennial of the first Holmes story, “The Speckled Band,” in 1987, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes has ranked in popularity only after the first Conan Doyle stories.

The Dark Water: The Strange Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes by David Pirie
In a literary tour de force worthy of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself, author David Pirie brings his rich familiarity with both the Doyle biography and the Sherlock Holmes canon to a mystifying Victorian tale of vengeance and villainy. The howling man on the heath, a gothic asylum, the walking dead, the legendary witch of Dunwich-perils lurk in every turn of the page throughout this ingenious novel, as increasingly bizarre encounters challenge the deductive powers of young Doyle and his mentor, the pioneering criminal investigator Dr. Joseph Bell.

-Andrea

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One response to “Sherlock Holmes, alive as long as we keep writing about him?

  1. There are a whole lot more than you’ve listed.

    Reading the last Sherlock Holmes story was very bitter-sweet for me; even while basking in the glow of completing Holmes, I knew I’d never again read an authentic Holmes story. But that didn’t stop me from trying! I read all the knock-offs until I knew that it was futile.

    I remember Reading The Seven Percent Solution which was supposed to be better than the rest but alas, it was crap too.

    I watched the Jeremy Brett stories and they were good but not quite there. I don’t think Brett captured Holmes at all. I thought him too short (at least as compared to the other characters) and, in the end, way too heavy. I also never understood why he talked so loud, almost yelling.

    I believe I’m in the minority as far as Brett fans go.

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