Recently I added The Complete Sherlock Holmes above to my Kindle mostly because the price was right -- $.00. Now that I've read the fine introduction by Robert Ryan, I'd have paid a lot more. And I'd also like to read Ryan's own books.
Ryan wrote the recently published Dead Man's Land, a Holmes-less novel about Dr. Watson's service in the Great War. In fact, this edition of The Complete is clearly being offered by Simon & Schuster for free as part of the publisher's marketing campaign for that novel. But that should take nothing away from the fact that this is a nice e-edition with an knowledgeable and insightful, if somewhat self-promotional, introduction.
Not surprisingly, given the author's interest, the introduction focuses on Dr. Watson. Ryan first came to know Sherlock Homes and his loyal friend through BBC Saturday afternoon broadcasts of the old Rathbone-Bruce films. When he came to the Canon as a young reader, Ryan realized something: "Watson, thanks possibly to the buffoon-ish Bruce, was the undersung half of the partnership."
"Who, exactly, is Dr. John H. Watson?" Ryan asks. "We need to ask this question because the stories tell us very little."
Watson is so self-effacing that he shines all the light on Holmes. But Ryan comes up with an answer to his own question, and I think it's a good one: Watson is Arthur Conan Doyle. The similarities in appearance, habits, and character are overwhelming.
"And the great detective's marvelous companion can have no better epitaph," Ryan concludes, "than the one etched on the creator's own headstone: STEEL TRUE, BLADE STRAIGHT. That's Dr. Watson."
Few Sherlockians of any variety would argue with that.
Sherlock Holmes and Young Winston: The Deadwood Stage is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones . Fans outside the US and UK can get free delivery from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle, and Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).What's your favorite introduction to Sherlock Holmes (and Dr. Watson)?