Since John Watson was first advised of a rum sort in need of sharing the cost of his lodgings, Sherlock Holmes has never been unpopular. Through Conan Doyle’s canon of stories, the countless stage plays, movies, spin off novels and television shows, every generation has had their Sherlock of choice.
There has also been Sherlockian Scholars, writing about the Great Detective, and playing the Great Game, teasing the details of his life and times from the records we have of his most notable cases.
For years now, Scott Monty and Burt Wolder have been presenting “I Hear Of Sherlock Everywhere”, the Podcast, a regular insight into the world of all things Sherlockian.
Hi, would you mind telling us a little about yourselves and your podcast?
We’re both members of the Baker Street Irregulars, an international literary society dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. We’ve been friends for over 20 years and both work in the field of communications and marketing. At one point in early 2007, we decided that the Internet needed a talk radio program rooted in Sherlock Holmes. So we started one.
Do you think there has always Sherlockian Scholars because the character is so popular, some of the fans were bound to be academic in nature, or is there something about Conan Doyle’s character that attracts the scholarly minded?
The notion that Sherlock Holmes stories could be dissected in a scholarly way began with Monsignor Ronald Knox, an English theologian and crime writer. In his first publication, “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes,” he laid out the intellectual exercise of discovering a deeper knowledge of the stories by correlating the Canon with historical fact. He applied the “Higher Criticism” of Biblical scholarship and the Game was born. But it’s always been done with tongue firmly planted in cheek, but with “the solemnity of a cricket match at Lord’s,” as Dorothy Sayers put it.
Over the years you have covered a wide range of interviews and articles, from Sherlock’s original name, and the various adaptions of the stories, to things as diverse as the online “I believe in Sherlock” campaign. Is there any you would consider a highlight?
We’re fairly proud of all of our work, from the interviews we’ve landed with regular, everyday Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts to producers of international hit shows. We were the first to refute the erroneous report of a newly-discovered Conan Doyle story, which Mattias Bostrom wrote for us (Link: https://www.ihearofsherlock.com/2015/02/conan-doyle-didnt-write-lost-sherlock.html). And back in 2007, we played an April Fool’s prank that got picked up by some Hollywood papers (Link: https://www.ihearofsherlock.com/2007/04/is-long-row-veil_1.html)
Between Elementary, Sherlock, and the two Robert Downey Junior films, we have three very recent, very different interpretations of Holmes, that are incredibly popular. Is this perhaps part of the enduring appeal, that the character is so big, different aspects of his character can be explored to produce fresh, new shows?
Every generation has its own Sherlock Holmes. William Gillette, John Barrymore, Arthur Wontner, Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, Douglas Wilmer, Jeremy Brett… each occupied a decade or more in which their interpretation was definitive. And every production that came along had a different approach. That will likely continue, as the character is immortal, and whether he occupies Victorian London or the modern world, is a reflection of ourselves back onto him.
With so many incarnations of the Detective on stage and screen, do you have particular favourites, and why?
Our favourite production is the Granada series, starring Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and David Burke and later Edward Hardwicke as his Watsons. The series, for the most part, was quite faithful to the original stories, and the production values were top-notch.
Perhaps more importantly, do you have a favourite Watson?
Burke and Hardwicke each brought humanity to the role, and Jude Law is actually quite good in the Downey, Jr. films.
As a young lad, first discovering the books at school, I always thought that to create a character like Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle would have to be like Holmes, but given all we know of his life, the crimes Conan Doyle helped solve, his spiritualist beliefs, and his ongoing, friendship and debate, with Harry Houdini, is it fair to say that Doyle was much more of a Watson?
There’s a bit of Conan Doyle in each of Holmes and Watson. He himself helped to solve at least a couple of real life cases: George Edalji and Oscar Slater, both accused of crimes they didn’t commit. So he was like Holmes in that sense. But of course he was also a medical man, a family man, and a great athlete as well – something we see in Watson.
So, is it James or John Watson?
It’s John H. Watson. The ‘H’ stands for Hamish – which is a Scottish version of James.
The canonical stories are littered with references to the “other cases” of Sherlock Holmes. Are there any of these that you wish you could have read?
The one that screams out to everyone – partially because it was in the opening of “The Sussex Vampire” (another eerie favourite) – is the Giant Rat of Sumata, “a case for which the world is not yet prepared.” Why wouldn’t we be prepared? What happened? How large is a giant rat?
Do you have a favourite story from the Canon that would be your rainy day read of choice?
There are so many to choose from! I particularly enjoy the stories within The Return of Sherlock Holmes – so many of them take place in 1895, that magical year. And we find Holmes in top form in those stories: “The Empty House,” “The Norwood Builder,” “The Dancing Men,” “The Abbey Grange,” “Charles Augustus Milverton” – really, the entire collection stands out to me as not having a single loser in it.
How about the scores of novelists who have written new adventures for Holmes. Are there any that stand out as favourites?
Personally, I’m not a fan of pastiches or parodies, but Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven Per-Cent Solution was a groundbreaking work in the 1970s that was well researched and well written. Similarly in recent times, there’s no one who gets Watson’s voice right as well as Lyndsay Faye in Dust and Shadow.
“Weird Sherlock” tales, with Cthulhu, Dracula, Jekyll and Hyde or the likes, have become a genre of its own. Is this a relatively new direction, or is there a long history of Holmes vs the Supernatural?
Holmes has long crossed over into the supernatural. With cases like The Hound of the Baskervilles and “The Sussex Vampire,” it stands to reason.
Sherlockians are seen by many as the first Fandom. Is that a fair way of seeing the community?
I think so. Really, what is a fandom, but a group of enthusiasts who are hungry for more? But in many ways, the Sherlockian (or Holmesian) community is one that I’ve found can use our common interest as an excuse to gather, but then have a raucously good time without having to talk about the stories. We’re a group of literary enthusiasts who enjoy being social.
So, are there any books, films, or characters whose fandoms you look at, and think might be considered as respectable and scholarly as Sherlockians in a few decades?
It’s always difficult to prognosticate, isn’t it? There are many literary genres that already fall into that category, from the P.G. Wodehouse Society to the Jane Austen Society, the Wolfe Pack (Nero Wolfe enthusiasts), and more. If they continue with the streak of popularity, then perhaps the Harry Potter books will see its fandom continue to grow.
What’s on the horizon for Sherlock fans? Is there anything on the way you’re excited about?
We’re just enjoying the current Sherlockian renaissance we happen to be in the midst of. And we’ll gladly take Sherlock Holmes in whatever form comes next.
Is there anything else you would like to discuss?
Thank you for the opportunity. We hope your readers enjoy poking around our site – and checking out our second show, Trifles, in which we discuss some of the minutiae of the stories for 15 minutes at a time.
T.E. Hodden trained in engineering, and works in a specialised role in the transport industry. He is a life long fan of comic books, science fiction, myths, legends, and history. In the past he has contributed to podcasts, blogs, and anthologies. You can discover more about T.E. on the Mom’s Favorite Reads website here: https://moms-favorite-reads.com/moms-authors/t-e-hodden/
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