|Statue of Sherlock Holmes in Switzerland|
A young reader recently sent me some questions for a school project. I was delighted to answer, as follows:
1. What do you think is the most accurate adaption (film) of Conan Doyle’s books? I haven’t seen all of the film and TV adaptations, so my opinion isn’t well informed. But I suspect the Granada TV series from the 1980s starring Jeremy Brett is far more accurate than any full-length movie. Most of the films are not very faithful to the source material, but there are many good portrayals of Sherlock Holmes – Basil Rathbone, Peter Cushing, and Jeremy Bretty among them.
2. Do you think the older or newer adaptations are more accurate? The newer adaptations don’t seem to be going for accuracy. Many Sherlockians enjoy the Robert Downy Jr. movies, for example, but nobody would say they are accurate. In those movies the characters of Holmes and Watson have been altered greatly to fit the action hero model. The TV series “Sherlock” is much more faithful to the characters, even thought the time is moved up to present day and the plots are only loosely drawn from the original stories.
3. Will the character of Holmes forever stay such an important part of (literature) culture? I’m convinced of it!
4. Do you think, in the near future (next fifty years), that the books will remain popular? Why? Yes, indeed! Part of the appeal is the characters, part is the time period, part is the good stories, part is the great writing – there are just so many magic elements that never lose their appeal in any age.
5. How much of an impact has Sherlock Holmes character had on culture in general? The impact has been immense. Sherlock Holmes has become an icon of the Great Detective. Any artist who wants to symbolize a detective will draw the hat, pipe, and magnifying glass associated with Sherlock Holmes (even though they weren’t described that way by Arthur Conan Doyle).
6. How has Sherlock Holmes’s character impacted literature? Edgar Allan Poe invented the eccentric detective, but Conan Doyle popularized it. Mystery fiction would not have been the same if he had never existed.
7. Do you believe that Doyle’s books sparked the mystery writing genre? I don’t have space to list all of the ways that the Holmes canon influenced the development of mystery fiction, but there were many. I wrote a whole speech about it. Perhaps the most obvious is the creation of Dr. Watson as the trusty sidekick who tells the story. That style isn’t used so much any more, but for a long time after Conan Doyle it very common.
8. Since the release of the Robert Downey Jr. movies have you seen an increased of interest in the books? Yes. Even though the Holmes and Watson of those movies aren’t exactly like the ones in the books, the films have caused many readers to turn to the original stories for the first time. The same thing has happened in response to the BBC “Sherlock” TV series.
9. Do you think that the Sherlock Holmes books have had a real life effect on how investigations are done? Do you think they influenced police to base investigations more on scientific fact? History shows that this is true. At one time, the Russian police were required to read the Sherlock Holmes stories to learn how to be good detectives!
10. Do you think that Sherlock Holmes is viewed differently in England when compared with the U.S.A.? Yes. Dedicated American fans – traditionally called Sherlockians – usually take him far more seriously than their counterparts across the ocean!
11. While Sherlock Holmes books are popular in English speaking countries – England, U.S., and Canada –are they popular in non English speaking countries? (Basically) Do the themes of the book translate well to other cultures? Oh, yes, very much so! There are Sherlock Holmes clubs all around the world. The Japanese are especially fond of him. I personally am in communication with Holmes devotees in France, Germany, Portugal, and Scandinavia.
12. Do you think the image of the detective from the books, very intelligent but socially awkward, has influenced how society views people with higher intelligence? I don’t think it created the stereotype, but it may help reinforce it.
13. When did you become interested in Sherlock Holmes? What triggered the interest? I wrote about that in my book, Baker Street Beat. I was about nine years old and a neighbor kid introduced me to the characters – at first in acting out the roles in our play. Soon after, I read the stories. I’ve been reading them now for more than 50 years!