hradzka: (rex the wonder dog on skis)
So, I was thinking about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle today, as one does, and I remembered out of nowhere that, oh yeah, in addition to having the dinner with Oscar Wilde that led Wilde to go home and write THE PICTURE OF DORIAN GRAY, Doyle corresponded with Robert Louis Stevenson. Specifically, I remembered that Robert Louis Stevenson had written Doyle about Dr. Joseph Bell, who was a big inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Looking for the quote, my Googling led me to a citation to the obituary of Robert Scot Skirving.

The name Scot Skirving made me sit up and pay attention. Know why? Because Scot Skirving is the maiden name of Leila Maturin, who was the mutual friend of Robert Louis Stevenson and Joseph Merrick, a.k.a. the Elephant Man.

Read more... )
hradzka: (jim with pipe)
I happened to pick up W.S. Baring-Gould's ANNOTATED SHERLOCK HOLMES over lunch, and lemme tell you, it is danged interesting to contemplate the introduction when you have ready access to an iPhone with an inflation calculator app, because W.S. Baring-Gould tells you how much money Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made. Even better, Baring-Gould generously translates these prices into their equivalents in the corresponding years' dollars. This means that I can plug Doyle's earnings into my iPhone and figure out how he was doing, as a doctor and as a writer. In case I haven't mentioned it, the future is awesome.

I honestly don't know whether to stare in slackjawed admiration or just travel back in time to strangle him. )
hradzka: (jim with pipe)
THE VALLEY OF FEAR is the weakest of the long Holmes adventures, because it's not a Holmes adventure insomuch as an attempt by Conan Doyle to make one of his historical novels saleable. You start off with a Holmes investigation, get sidetracked into a boring thing about counterfeiting and unions, and wind up with Holmes again at the end. Holmes and Watson are transparently tacked on, and I really can't recommend it. It's not even worth a summary, in part because I was too bored to figure out what was going on. It does, however, have one bit that's awfully endearing characterization, as well as being slashy as hell:

It was late that night when Holmes returned from his solitary excursion. We slept in a double-bedded room, which was the best that the little country inn could do for us. I was already asleep when I was partly awakened by his entrance.

"Well, Holmes," I murmured, "have you found anything out?"

He stood beside me in silence, his candle in his hand. Then the tall, lean figure inclined towards me. "I say, Watson," he whispered, "would you be afraid to sleep in the same room with a lunatic, a man with softening of the brain, an idiot whose mind has lost its grip?"

"Not in the least," I answered in astonishment.

"Ah, that's lucky," he said, and not another word would he utter that night.


(Say it with me, "Awww, *Holmes*.")
hradzka: (jim with pipe)
“The Sign of the Four,” Conan Doyle’s second Holmes novel, is underrated. It’s not one of those titles people instantly remember as A HOLMES STORY, like “A Study in Scarlet” or “Silver Blaze.” But it’s flat-out terrific, full of excitement and great character work; and it’s arguably the most cinematic of the Holmes stories, save perhaps “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

And there are interesting angles for the cracktastic LJ fandom, if the series had had one. Um, this got longish. )
hradzka: (jim with pipe)
Goddamn it, [livejournal.com profile] __marcelo! It's your fault.

So I’m reading Sherlock Holmes again. It’s been a good few years since I read the Holmes stories, and I know a lot more about storytelling now, and about fandom, than I did back then. As a kid, I loved Holmes; as an adult, who occasionally scribbles stuff, I’m even more impressed.

Some comments on “A Study in Scarlet” in a minute, but first: Livia’s comments about what a weird, cracktastic Peter Wimsey LJ fandom would be like got me thinking about what LJ fandom would have been like for a whole bunch of properties that never got to experience it. (I wound up writing a post on that, then thinking better of it, because one of those properties was something we all should be really, really grateful never got a cracktastic LJ fandom, and mentioning it in public would a) offend a lot of people and b) put me on the path straight to hell.) Holmes got me thinking about it over again.

It would have been a weird LJ fandom. )
hradzka: (jim with pipe)
For [livejournal.com profile] cyano
Five things Dr. John H. Watson thought but never said

1. Watson never let Holmes know just how much he really worried about his friend's health. There were times he thought about switching Holmes's cocaine with powdered milk. There were also times he thought about switching it with strychnine.

2. When Watson was in Afghanistan, one of the Pathans where he was stationed often went about singing a local folksong. Watson never had much of an ear for music, so he was surprised to find himself whistling it at odd moments. In time, he learned the lyrics well enough to sing them with gusto, much to the shock of his superior officer. When he found out what they meant, he never uttered them again. Even now, sometimes the tune still niggles at the edges of his consciousness, but he doesn't dare to whistle it, because with his luck Holmes would know it.

3. Watson thought Mycroft really wasn't smarter than Sherlock, not in any way that mattered. But there was no telling them that.

4. Quite by chance, Watson happened to run into Inspector Lestrade one evening. They made awkward conversation for a while, and then went to a pub, where Lestrade got horribly drunk and asked Watson if he thought anyone would remember him as anything but the policeman who always ran to Sherlock Holmes. Watson told him that Holmes had always said Lestrade was the best of the lot at Scotland Yard, which was true. That he himself disagreed with Holmes's assessment, however, was something Watson tactfully neglected to mention.

5. After Watson married, he moved from 221B Baker Street and set up house with Mary. He didn't feel bad about leaving, because he loved Mary and Holmes's fame meant that he didn't need Watson's help with the rent any more. But there were moments of disquiet. One came to him late at night, after Holmes had finally come to dinner for the first time. Holmes said little, ate less, thanked Mary graciously for dinner, and left, forgetting his hat. When he slid into his coat, the sleeve rode up, and Watson saw the puncture-marks.

That night, Watson thought very seriously about offering Holmes one of the spare bedrooms and office space in the parlor they weren't using. He almost mentioned the idea to Mary. Then he remembered everything she had been through already, and hesitated to bring more upon her doorstep. Holmes would wave off the idea anyway, and whatever would become of Mrs. Hudson? He knew Mary felt kindly toward Holmes, not only for what he'd done for her, but for what he'd done for a wounded young man fresh from the war, but shepherding Watson was enough; he couldn't ask her to help him shepherd Holmes, too. He knocked out his pipe and went to bed, and after breakfast and a quick stop at his practice, he set out for 221B to see what was afoot.

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YOU NEED A BOOK

A POEM EVERY DAY

The collected poems from my descent into madness year spent writing daily poems are now available from Lulu as the cheapest 330-page book they would let me make ($16.20). If that's too pricey, you can also get it from Lulu as a free download, or just click on the "a poem every day" tag to read them here. But if you did buy one, that'd be awesome.

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