Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Ten Things You Don't Know About Sherlock Holmes:

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Think you know all there is to know about Sherlock Holmes? Think again. Baker Street Babe Lyndsay Faye, author of The Gods of Gotham, reveals ten things we bet you didn't know...

1. In his earliest draft of A Study in Scarlet, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle named the detective and the doctor Sherrinford Holmes and Ormand Sacker, respectively. Thank all that is holy that Doyle refrained from experiments with psychotropic drugs thereafter.

2. One of the most beloved Sherlock Holmes adventures, The Speckled Band, features a nefarious doctor who trains a killer snake to climb a bell-pull at the sound of a whistle, rewarding the serpent with milk. Snakes are entirely deaf, "hearing" through vibrations in the belly and tongue, and they do not drink milk...but what the heck.

3. Sherlock Holmes first appeared on film, in a one-reel mutascope running less than a minute and titled Sherlock Holmes Baffled, in the year 1900. Which everyone will agree was remarkably early and gave the man a bit of a head start (he is thought to be the most prolific screen character in film history).

4. No fewer than three actors featured on various incarnations of Star Trek have played Sherlock Holmes. Leonard Nimoy (Spock in the original Trek series) in a 1970s stage tour; Matt Frewer (Berlinghoff Rasmussen in ST:TNG) in a series of low-budget Canadian TV films; and Brent Spiner (Data in ST:TNG) in several actual Next Generation episodes in which he donned cape and deerstalker.

5. Sherlock Holmes's great-uncle was Horace Vernet, a famous French painter of war history patronized by Napoleon III. Or so Holmes informed Watson regarding his hereditary genius, remarking, "Art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms."

6. Sherlock Holmes was something of a ninja--he knew "baritsu" (a corruption of bartitsu), a combination of jujitsu and British-style boxing and wrestling. Of course, bartitsu was invented eight years after Holmes used it to defeat Professor Moriarty...but what the heck.

7. Jeremy Brett, who embodied Sherlock Holmes for many thanks to his fine work in the Granada television series, first played Dr. John Watson opposite Charlton Heston's Sherlock Holmes in the Los Angeles stage production of The Crucifer of Blood.

8. Apart from commercially published pastiches, writing Sherlock Holmes fanfiction is a thriving internet hobby. The Archive of Our Own, a fan repository, as of this date lists 20,333 separate works. Experts have estimated that the figure for total number of fan created Sherlock Holmes stories is closer to 40,000.

9. Pulitzer Prize winner and Edgar-nominated author Michael Chabon began his boyhood writing career with a Sherlock Holmes tale, in which the great detective faces fearsome deep sea perils alongside Captain Nemo of the Nautilus.

10. Though we don't think of him this way often, Sherlock Holmes possessed "a great heart as well as a great brain." We have only Dr. Watson's word for it, but he seems a trustworthy sort of upstanding British gentleman, the kind of chap unlikely to lie upon such a subject.

Lyndsay Faye moved to Manhattan in 2005 to audition for work as a professional actress. Her first novel Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson is a tribute to the aloof genius and his good-hearted friend whose exploits she has loved since childhood. The book incorporates myriad contemporary accounts of Jack the Ripper’s gruesome crimes, focusing on the immense difficulty of tracing a serial killer amidst the widespread censure of the public and the press, without the aid of modern forensics.

Faye's love of her adopted city led her to research the origins of the New York City Police Department, the inception of which exactly coincided with the start of the Irish Potato Famine. Her second and third novels, the widely acclaimed, The Gods of Gotham and its sequel, follow ex-bartender Timothy Wilde as he navigates the rapids of his violently turbulent city, his no less chaotic elder brother Valentine Wilde, and the perils of learning police work in a riotous and racially divided political landscape. Visit her at www.lyndsayfaye.com and follow her posts and podcasts on www.bakerstreetbabes.com


  1. “The game is afoot” as the great detective said in “The Adventure of the Abbey Grange.” Fascinating facts, thank you for sharing them with us . . . particularly interesting is Jeremy Brett playing both Holmes and Watson . . . British actors Reginald Owen and Patrick Macnee also played both characters as did Carlton Hobbs in some eighty British radio adaptions of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.

    Now if we could only get the great detective to solve the mystery of why the captcha is so unmanageable these days . . . .

  2. Great facts, thanks for sharing them.

    You may be interested to know that Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Sherlock in the latest UK series by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, is rumoured to play in the brand new Star Trek film out in 2013!

  3. Concerning the Speckled Band: snakes cannot slither down ropes, cords, string, twine, or what have you. Doyle knew how to create a lasting hero but he knew bupkis about snakes.

  4. Doyle apparently forgot to research snakes (or decided to forgo science in favor of story), but he knew a lot about cigarette and cigar ash, poisons, plotting the path of bullets, and even made reference to a thumbprint in the case of The Norwood Builder. He stayed very current on what passed for forensics of the day. According to some, including E.J Wagner's 2007 Edgar winning book, The Science of Sherlock Holmes, he advanced the science with his stories.

  5. Fascinating! You all know a lot more than I do:). Lyndsey, when did you get interested in SH? And does he make an appearance in the new series?

  6. What a terrifc and informative post! And the comments are interesting as well. Not this one - lol! - but that's what you get from me pre- coffee. A delightful way to start the day - thanks!

  7. I'm always surprised there is yet more to learn about (one of?) our most enduring characters. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Obviously no one had told Doyle that you have to speak Parseltongue in order to communicate with snakes. They do make great villains' assistants.

    I'm a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes -- I have Leslie Klinger's massive annotated Holmes on the bookshelf right beside where I write.

    Love these "facts," Lindsay, and best of luck with your books - I'll be looking for them.

  9. Leonard Nimoy played Sherlock? Fascinating.

  10. Welcome, Lyndsey! Fascinating facts about a fascinating character.

    Did they ever film Leonard Nimoy playing Holmes? I'd love to see that. In some ways, I think the character of Spock was based on Holmes.

    I read somewhere that Conan Doyle based his character on one of his medical professors at Edinburgh School of Medicine, the man who pretty much invented modern forensic medicine. Is that true?

  11. Hi Lyndsey--thanks for the Holmes jolt--better than coffee!

    I've loved Sherlock Holmes since a teenager. Given a choice of authors to write about for a term paper, I chose Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Linda, I seem to remember the same fact about Doyle's professor.

    Benedict Cumberbatch in a new Star Trek film?!?! Be still my heart...:-)

  12. I don't normally like remakes but the most recent Holmes and Watson are finally played as tbeir real ages, not bumbling middle aged men like Basil Rathbone etc.

  13. Hallie, Parseltongue! Too funny!

    Lyndsey, thanks for sharing. Fascinating, and can't wait to read your books!

    PS I need Sherlock to figure out the captcha today....

  14. Thanks, folks! GREAT point about Cumberbatch joining the ranks of Holmes Trekkers. Snakes. Doyle really did not know his way around snakes.

    Lucy, I've been obsessed with Holmes since age ten, but he's not featured in the Timothy Wilde series. I still write short stories about Holmes for the Strand Magazine, though! And talk about him constantly over at CriminalElement.com.

    I don't know whether Nimoy was filmed, Linda, but here is a great article on the subject: http://www.beyondspock.de/stage/sherlock_holmes.php Yes, Holmes was based on Dr. Joseph Bell, who used to impress Doyle hugely by deducing their patients.

    Hallie, PARSELTONGUE. Hilarious.

  15. First of all, cut and paste here to see "Baffled", the Homes silent film:


    Everyone should (if they haven't already) read Lyndsay's first book which is a Sherlock Holmes tale called "Dust and Shadow". Although it was actually written by John Watson!

    And "The Gods of Gotham" haunts me still. What a book!

    --Marjorie of Connecticut

  16. Lyndsey, thanks for the article! Great photos of Nimoy as Holmes--and he said he played him as "alien" like Spock. Though it seems to have been done as a camp version of the play.

  17. Lisa Alber:
    The “Star Trek” film, currently in post-production is called [at the moment] “Star Trek Into Darkness” and the rumor is that Benedict Cumberbatch plays Kahn Noonien Singh. The release date is 17 May 2013.

  18. Hi Lindsay,

    I love all the Sherlock Holmes stories, despite Sir Arthur's lack of familiarity with Parseltongue (kudos to Hallie).

    Benedict Cumberbatch is my absolute favorite Sherlock. He and Martin Freeman my favorite no-one-can-come-close-to them Holmes and Watson. As Rhys said, their ages are finally right. I would add Cumberbatch's asperger like presentation of the exceedingly focused and absorbed genius. He is attractive, yet unobtainable in personal relationship.

  19. Cumberbatch and Freeman are my favorites as well, though I also quite enjoy Warner Brothers and...yeah, I'm a Sherlockian omnivore, for sure. ;)

    Thanks for all the kind words about DUST AND SHADOW and GODS OF GOTHAM, folks. And Marjorie, kudos for the YouTube clip!

  20. Thanks for the info, Joan!

    Reine: attractive but unobtainable--the classic description of a "bad boy" type! Hah! (No wonder I dig him so much!)

  21. I LOVE the Speckled Band..but yeah, what the heck.

    WHat did you thnk about The Seven Per Cent Solution? (Who played Holmes in that movie..my poor brain..)

    GODS OF GOTHAM is on my pile. What a nice feeling to have such a delicious book at the ready.

    And yes, Wasn't the professor's name Edward Bell? Or something like that?

    Thanks, Lyndsay!

  22. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution: Nicol Williamson played Sherlock Holmes; Robert Duvall was Watson.

  23. I'm a geezer...Basil Rathbone will always be Sherlock for me, even though I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the BC version.

    And guys, if you haven't read Gods of Gotham yet - Do. It. Now. Terrific novel.

  24. I love Sherlock Holmes. I read all the originals (56 novels and four short stories). I have seen the annotated ones and the library has them. Those are heavy books! Now I like to read Sherlock Holmes stories by modern authors, but I sometimes re-read the originals.

    I have seen the Matt Frewer movies. I started watching the Jeremy Brett ones when I was a teenager. It seems that everybody liked his performance as Holmes, except for the editor of a Sherlock Holmes anthology that I have. He also said something about 221 B Baker Street and that the address is not correct like that. He was really a critic.

    There is a mystery DVD about Conan Doyle and Dr. Bell. Has anyone else seen it? I think it's called Murder Rooms: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes. It was good and there was more than one episode. There should be clips on YouTube. Also on YouTube, there is a Russian Sherlock Holmes show. It seems funny when it's all in Russian and no British accents, but the clip was good.

  25. Writers of Sherlock Holmes novels in the 'classic' style hope our version of Holmes and Watson will soon reappear on the silver screen! Here's my latest, just out:

    Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter by Tim Symonds

    Based on a true event in Albert Einstein's life. In late 1903 Einstein's daughter 'Lieserl' disappears without trace in Serbia aged around 21 months. As Holmes exclaims in the Mystery of Einstein's Daughter, "the most ruthless effort has been made by public officials, priests, monks, Einstein's friends, followers, relatives and relatives-by-marriage to seek out and destroy every document with Lieserl’s name on it. The question is – why?"

    ‘Lieserl’s fate shadows the Einstein legend like some unsolved equation’ Scientist Frederic Golden Time Magazine

    First review, from Serbia: http://inserbia.info/news/2014/01/sherlock-holmes-and-the-mystery-of-einsteins-daughter-review/

    Tim Symonds was born in London. He grew up in Somerset, Dorset and Guernsey. After several years working in the Kenya Highlands and along the Zambezi River he emigrated to the United States. He studied in Germany at Göttingen and at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in Political Science. Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery Of Einstein’s Daughter was written in a converted oast house in 'Conan Doyle country', near Rudyard Kipling’s old home Bateman’s in East Sussex and in the forests and hidden valleys of the Sussex High Weald.
    The author’s other detective novels include Sherlock Holmes and The Dead Boer at Scotney Castle and Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Bulgarian Codex.
    He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

    Holmes on justice (The Resident Patient): “Wretch as he was, he was still living under the shield of British law, and I have no doubt, Inspector, that you will see that, though that shield may fail to guard, the sword of justice is still there to avenge.”

  26. Seems I'm the only person who had seen all adaptations you've mentioned and still consider
    that new BBC stuff suck.
    BBC had some reliable young Sherlocks before(eg. Robert Powell) ,and they've done several good adapt in 21 century(02 "Hound", 04 "Silk Stocking", 07 BSI), but the writer's shallow, frivolous, naive overflowing from the show kept challenging my limits all the time. I prefer to watch an episode of Elementary, which is more dextrous in nodding to the canon and shows a much deeper understanding in Holmes' character and Doyle's.