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Monday, April 9, 2012

Quintessential Quote #46

"Crime is common. Logic is rare. Therefore it is upon the logic rather than upon the crime that you should dwell."
-- Sherlock Holmes, "The Adventure of the Copper Beaches"
I'm not sure whether crime is more or less common than it was in the late Victorian era, but I'm convinced that logic is even more rare!

However, let's focus on the third sentence of this familiar complaint to Dr. Watson. Not for the first or last time, Holmes is criticizing what he sees as the good doctor's emphasis on the sensational in his cases and the lost opportunity to make them instructional.

As a mystery writer myself, it's easy for me to say that this critique is as uninformed as it is unfair. But don't take my word for it. Read this:

"I am compelled to admit that, having taken my pen in my hand, I do begin to realize that the matter must be presented in such a way as may interest the reader."

You may recognize those words of Sherlock Holmes from the first paragraph of "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier," the first adventure that he wrote up himself.

Later on in the story, Holmes shows further appreciation for the art of the story-teller: "Alas, that I should have to show my hand so when I tell my own story! It was by concealing such links in the chain that Watson was enabled to produce his meretricious finales."

I know just what he means. That's why I decided, like Arthur Conan Doyle, Rex Stout, and so many before me, to write my mysteries from the point of a view of narrator who is not the detective.

Whose accounts would you rather read, those written by Watson or those written by Holmes?

1 comment:

  1. Interesting post. Watson makes a much better narrator and Holmes realizes it.

    -TD McKinney