|To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.|
Mickey Spillane, whose Mike Hammer books sold millions of copies each in the 1950s and early 1960s, once said, “The first chapter sells the book. The last chapter sells the next book.” In other words: Hook them in the beginning, and leave them wanting more at the end.
Arthur Conan Doyle is a writer of great beginnings and great endings.
The openings of the Sherlock Holmes stories are great not only because they catch your attention, but also because they are well written.
It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning during the winter of ’97 that I was awakened by a tugging at my shoulder. It was Holmes. The candle in his hand shone on his eager, stooping face, and told me at a glance that something was amiss.
“I am inclined to think –” said I.“I should certainly do so,” said Sherlock Holmes, impatiently.
And the unforgettable:
To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.
You will have seen, though you may not have observed, that all three of these openings include the Master’s name. Cornelis Helling, a Dutch Serhlockian, noted in the December 1963 number of The Baker Street Journal that fully 37 of the 60 stories (including half the novels) include the name of Sherlock Holmes in the first sentence! In three others he is mentioned implicitly, for a total of 40 stories – two-thirds of the total. Great beginnings with a great name!
If that indicates a certain lack of variety in approach, I never heard anyone complain. Nor will I.