How my interest in Sherlock Holmes got me out of a rut…
Why Dr Watson?
Background: Ever since I read ‘The Hound of The Baskervilles’ at the age of 12, I’ve been a fan of the super-sleuthing bohemian detective Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s infamous investigator and his sidekick Dr Watson, grabbed the imagination of readers all over the world, wowing us with his ingenious methods and deductive powers.
Holmes took the crime world by storm, and that was long before he hit the big time and began making appearances on film, television and radio. But it was the books that inspired me and when I came back to them many years later, Sherlock Holmes seemed like a great topic for a blog. (Click here for access to the Blog).
Initially, The Watson Letters started as a series of emails between myself and a friend, which amounted to little more than idle banter. They were written in what we imagined to be the style of famous writers such as Charles Dickens and Arthur Conan Doyle and simply for our own amusement.
However, after re-reading all the Sherlock Holmes books, I decided to set up a blog in the name of Doctor Watson. But this wasn’t any old blog – it was a means of giving me something to write about that wasn’t too demanding, but would get me writing on a regular basis (I’ve long believed that one of the reasons some writers cite ‘writer’s block’ as the cause of their troubles, is that they’ve got out of the habit of writing every day). So this was my way of ensuring I got my fix.
The Good Doctor
The Blog is set in a not quite post-Victorian, steampunk parallel universe, where all sorts of real and imaginary literary characters can, and do, turn up to confound our hero Sherlock Holmes and his trusty assistant. I thought the blog should be from Watson’s point of view, and since we were setting it in a parallel universe, it didn’t matter what happened, or who turned up to get in their way. Oscar Wilde, Charles Dickens, Florence Nightingale, Wilkie Collins, Mary Shelley and even Conan Doyle himself pop up to tread the metaphorical boards with Dr Jekyll, Shaggy and Scooby, Bill Sikes, Madame Arcati and Long John Silver.
We created our own versions of stories from the annals of Sherlock Holmes, such as the case of the Sussex Vampire (now known as ‘The Vampire that Went Down to Sussex and Then Came Back Again’, with a special appearance from Aleister Crowley) and ‘The Case of the Curse of the Hound of the Hall of the Baskervilles’.
Writing is a lonely occupation and The Watson Letters ship is nowadays steered unaccompanied. However, the banter goes on (though only in my own head) and Watson continues with his observations on the perils of pursuing villains, murderers and other ne’er-do-wells.
The Books of the Blog
The blog is now available in book form, with the first two volumes taken from blog posts up to July 2016. The next volume will be available soon.
Full details for these books are on my Books for Adults page.
Sherlock Holmes on TV
Countless actors have taken on the role of Sherlock Holmes on the small screen, with some making barely a dent in the role and others taking the deerstalker by storm. British actors like Jeremy Brett, who starred in the long-running series on ITV, made the role his own and is considered by his many fans to be the definitive Sherlock Holmes. You can find some of my thoughts and scribblings about Brett, Conan Doyle and co among my many articles at Hub Pages.
Former ‘Vampire’ hunter and star of the Hammer Horror films, Peter Cushing took on the mantle of the great detective in the early Sixties, following on from Douglas Wilmer. Earlier versions of the stories found Ronald Howard in 39 episodes of Sheldon Reynolds’ American series (which nevertheless featured a cast of largely British actors), though many of the stories were new. More recently, Benedict Cumberbatch blasted the stories into the 21st Century with the BBC’s series Sherlock. This series is known for its many nods to Conan Doyle’s original plots, even if most episodes only bear a passing resemblance to the original stories.
And at the Movies
Basil Rathbone’s classic depiction (with bumbling Nigel Bruce as sidekick Watson) was probably the best known movie face of Sherlock Holmes during the 30’s and 40’s, but with Robert Downey Jnr’s villain-kicking interpretation, an infinitely more adventurous Holmes has brought the iconic hero a whole new fanbase.
RDJ’s interpretation brings a lot of humour to the role and while he may not have been quite what Conan Doyle would have chosen, he has thrust the character back into the limelight with a bang.
So, Back to the Blog…
As I said, writing the blog gave me the motivation to write regularly about something I was interested in, and acted as a sort of extended writing exercise. It then led to building a website (also called The Watson Letters) with information about the books, films and TV serials featuring the detecting duo. The website is, alas, no longer with us, but the blog heralds the efforts of our heroes in a post-Victorian parallel universe, where Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson continue their fight against crime…