Category Archives: The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes

The Final Problem – Not Enough to Save Sherlock

holmes_bbcfinalproblemParts of The Final Problem were interesting and the tension was high throughout. But the final confrontation at Musgrave Manor was completely idiotic and ruined the episode. The psychobabble was tolerable to that point. I will say it was the best episode since the season two finale.
I do like that the last image (for me) of the season/series is a plaque reading Rathbone Place, as opposed to having Holmes and Watson running towards the screen ala Baywatch – really?
If there is a season five, at least there will be no more of the worst Moriarty ever filmed. This show really likes to keep dead people on-screen. Might as well be The Living Dead.
You’re going to see posts about how divided the fan base is over Sherlock, and many inaccurate comments that it’s due to purists who can’t take something different. That’s a completely erroneous view. During the first two seasons, Sherlock was almost universally liked by fans and critics alike. Sure, there were a few crusty folks who only want the original stories and Jeremy Brett. And that’s fine. But it was a negligible number.
The stories in seasons one and two were a brilliant updating of Sherlock Holmes. It was clever yet still reverential to the original tales. After that, the storylines (which were sadly lacking in Holmes deducing and solving crimes) catered to new fans and became exercises in Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis showing how clever they could be. And showing how they didn’t need Doyle for their version of Holmes. And that crippled the show, with huge numbers of fans (including me) turning on it.
That divide occurred during season three.
Bill Martell, a Holmes fan with over a dozen produced screenplays, said the following on his FB page:
The genius of S1 & S2 was that they took the Doyle original stories and found the elements that were the same then and now so they were updated without significant changes. S3 & S4 seem to focus on changing what makes the story’s work. Instead of being about the case they focus on the character *at the expense of the case*. So Dying Detective becomes Lying Detective and is all about Watson’s grief over the death of his wife and Holmes’ guilt over his part in that death. That stuff is not just screenwriter invention it goes against the basics of how the original stories worked.
I hope they pack it in. Just as someone wrote over a hundred years ago that old Sherlock Holmes never seemed to be the same after he came back from the Reichenbach Falls, Sherlock wasn’t the same after season two ended. There were pieces of season four that sounded echoes of seasons one and two, but not nearly enough.
And one last thought. “It is what it is” became the catchphrase for the last two episodes. I think there are valid interpretations ‘in episode,’ – meaning, related to the actual stories. But I think it’s also Gattis and Moffat telling Sherlock fans who criticize the show, “This is what we’re doing with Sherlock Holmes and if you don’t like it, tough sh**.” They don’t care that supporters turned into opponents. “Watch it or not. Like it or not. It is what it is. And that’s whatever we want it to be.”

A Holmes Christmas Carol at Black Gate

christmastree_victorianToday over at BlackGate.com, it’s a retelling of Charles Dickens’ classic, taking place at 221B Baker Street. At over 11,000 words, it’s a full-blown Holmes short story. Click on over!

It is with a certain sense of misgiving that I relate the following tale, which took place during the Christmas season of 1902. I had moved out of our Baker Street lodgings earlier that year, having married only a few months before that most festive of holidays. I now had rooms in Queen Anne Street and was quite busy with my flourishing medical practice. A newly married man, I once again found myself as head of a household, with all of the duties thereof. I saw Holmes infrequently, but had found the time to visit him the day before Christmas. Certain that he would have no plans of any kind, I extended to him an invitation to join my wife and I for Christmas day.

Holmes rebuffed my attempts to have him share in the holiday spirit with us. “Watson, I have no use for the Christmas season. Is it rational to believe a man rose from the dead? And even if it were, do you not see the hypocrisy of it all? For one day, a man will give a beggar a farthing, because it is Christmas. He would pass by that beggar 364 other days and pay him no mind. That is Christmas?”

I could not recall Holmes being so churlish. When we had roomed together, he had not been an avid celebrator of Christmas, but he did accommodate my warm feelings towards the season. Now, left to his own devices, it seemed that his natural contrariness was shining through. I made one last effort to have him spend a pleasant dinner at the Watson household. It was to no avail.

Cool & Lam and The Knife Slipped

esg_knifeComing off of the excellent Q&A with Charles Ardai, ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ followed up with a look at Erle Stanley Gardner’s great PI series, ‘Cool and Lam.’

Gardner is best known as the Perry Mason guy, but I prefer Cool and Lam, myself. Bertha Cool and Donald Lam appeared in 29 novels over 31 years and they are a joy to read.

And just last week, Hard Case Crime released the never before published second novel in the series! I just got my copy and am excited to read it.

Head on over to Black Gate.com and check out my two-weeks of Hard Case Crime and Cool and Lam.

Dirk Gently is Dork Gently

gently_circleIf you read my weekly column over at BlackGate.com, you are probably aware that I am a huge fan of Douglas Adams. While I really like The Hitchhiker’s Guide books, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency is my favorite.

The BBC miniseries starring Houdini and Doyle’s Stephan Magnon wasn’t bad.

Unfortunately, the new Gently miniseries on BBC America is a festering pile of crap. As I wrote this week over at BlackGate.com, the show has nothing to do with Adams’ character and isn’t any good on its own merits, either. I’ve watched the first three episodes and don’t see much point in continuing on. It’s that bad.

UPDATE – I watched the first ten minutes of episode 4. So, an FBI agent, shot by the alien-like clone beings, was turned into a mouse, while one of the clones became his doppleganger. The mouse was then, apparently, eaten by a girl who thinks she’s a dog.

That was it. I erased it from the DVR and cancelled the series (only from my DVR, sadly). This is just about the stupidest show I have seen in my life. What a wasted opportunity to bring Douglas Adams to television.

 

 

Holmes for Halloween!

holmes_halloween

Oops – Wrong picture!

Happy Halloween! To get into the spirit of things, today over at BlackGate.com, I’ve got  a post with some recommended Holmes stories to celebrate the day. I’m a big Robert R. McCammon and F. Paul Wilson fan, but I don’t do a lot of horror. Too creepy for me.

But there’s a mix of scary and supernatural in today’s post.

And click on the story directly below mine: John O’Neill (my editor) and Black Gate won a World Fantasy Award over the weekend!

halloween_shadows

A Good Month at BlackGate.com

swordswizardry_coverI have been writing the Monday morning post over at BlackGate.com since March of 2014. ‘The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ has covered a wide range of topics while still focusing on the greatest private detective of them all.

September was by far my best month there, as I had three of the top ten most-viewed posts. Interestingly, all were gaming-related and had nothing to do with Holmes or the mystery genre. Of course, since it’s a fantasy website, that’s not a huge surprise.

My post looking at why I chose Swords & Wizardry (old school) over Pathfinder (modern school) for my current RPG campaign turned out to be the second most popular post of the year so far. I’m a Pathfinder fan and I’ve got a couple of posts coming on why I still think that is a fine system.

The #7 post for the month, RPGing is Storytelling, looked at how growing up Dungeons & Dragons (along with reading mythology) helped me become a writer (to the extent I am one).

And at #9 was my post on prolific pulpster Lester Dent’s formula for writing a pulp story – with plenty of additional insights from Michael Moorcock.

My post on James Edward Holroyd’s two entries in Otto Penzler’s Sherlock Holmes Library came in at #48.

While I’m going to continue to keep writing about Holmes and mysteries (I have GOT to finish an essay on Erle Stanley Gardner’s Cool and Lam series!), I’m going to be writing more gaming stuff over the course of the next year. I enjoy it and people seem to like it.

Makes sense to me!

And Even More of Otto Penzlers SH Library! (The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes)

penzler_robertsSo, over at BlackGate.com today, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes looks at a fifth book in Otto Penzler’s Sherlock Holmes library. This one is from S.C. Roberts, an accomplished bookman who had a life-long impact on Cambridge.

This is a nifty little collection of essays written by Roberts and a nice addition to a Sherlockian bookshelf. I’ve long been fond of his pastiche, “The Strange Case of the Megatherium Thefts.”

I had previously written a post on Vincent Starrett’s two entries in the series, followed by a post on the two books from James Edward Holroyd.