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Showing posts by: Lyndsay Faye click to see Lyndsay Faye's profile
Sat
Aug 30 2014 12:00pm

Historical Crime Fiction: Writing the Lives of the Erased

Painting by artist Carole BremaudYou only live once. Right?

Chances are, unless you believe in reincarnation and are also peculiarly in touch with your past lives on this harsh and often beautiful planet, then your experience will be confined to one existence (never discounting the kindly tips you’ll pick up from friends and strangers).

Perhaps you are a 32-year old male Caucasian pickle magnate who is taste-testing the most perfect fermented vegetables ever to be jarred, and is on the cusp of driving all competitors out of the market? I’d like to hear your story. Equally possibly, you are a 57-year old female African American deep-sea submarine pilot, and are on the verge of retiring to your dream cottage in the West Indies? I’d adore that story too.

No matter who you are or how specific your experience, we all share in the deeply human desire to hear stories both foreign to ourselves in situation, and familiar in emotion.

You really felt that way, as a glamorous jewelry broker in the 1920s, doubting that your lover would stay?the modern real estate magnate thinks. Or, You really felt ostracized and hated when you arrived in America in the 1840s as a Catholic? the recent immigrant thinks. In any case, or every case, sharing anecdotes and feelings is valuable. But what of the people who weren’t glamorous, who weren’t posh or predictable—what of the people who never recorded their musings for posterity?

History is written by the victors, we are famously told. But so much of the joy in historical fiction lies in imagining what it would have been like to be that other person. The losing general, the girl who sat in the corner, the lad whose disability defined him, the criminal whose defense was never heard, the mother whose skin tone prevented her leaving a diary.

The erased, to put it simply.

[More about the ignored and excluded...]

Tue
Jun 10 2014 5:15pm

Slate Nailed It: YA and Detective Fiction Are for Rubes

An article in Slate by Ruth Graham that appeared last week decrying the popularity of YA fiction among adult readers has created quite the backlash from other media forums (including to name a few, Esquire, Flavorwire, CNN, and the Washington Post). While both sides of the issue—scholarly proponents of a higher culture of readership and hayseed YA apologists—have solid points to make, I was arrested by a particular portion of Graham’s article that I think proves her unquestionably correct. After stating with an almost visible squirm in her belly that she is “surrounded by YA-loving adults, both in real life and online,” a circumstance approximating that of being surrounded by clowns with blood on their razor-tipped teeth and which deserves the deepest sympathy from her readers, Graham produced a passage so telling, so profound, and so well-written, that I am honored to reproduce it here:

There’s room for pleasure, escapism, juicy plots, and satisfying endings on the shelves of the serious reader. And if people are reading Eleanor & Park instead of watching Nashville or reading detective novels, so be it, I suppose. But if they are substituting maudlin teen dramas for the complexity of great adult literature, then they are missing something.

Ruth Graham is right, and she expresses herself with heady eloquence on the subject. May I add before moving on to dissect the nuances of this argument, if people are reading The Secret Garden instead of Dark Places, then so be it, I suppose. If people are reading Paper Towns instead of The Name of the Rose, then let them, if they must. If people are reading Lord of the Flies instead of Bleak House, be it thusly, whatever. If people are reading A Ring of Endless Light instead of The Hound of the Baskervilles, thank God, or something. If people are reading Clifford the Big Red Dog instead of committing violent crimes, that’s better, I guess.

First, we are to understand that the “serious reader” does not truck with YA fiction—but if they do truck with YA fiction, at least they aren’t reading detective novels. Graham is correct, but let’s unpack this notion a bit further so that I can explain why her detractors have gone after straw men instead of comprehending the very valid point she is making:

[Nope, can't read “straw” without wanting to pick our teeth...]

Sun
Jan 26 2014 8:30pm

Sherlock Episode 3.03: “His Last Vow” Or I Married an Axe Murderer

We Sherlock Holmes fanatics are suckers for references (direct or indirect, even vague nods, some of us aren’t terribly picky) to the original stories. John Watson suffered one, possibly two, wounds in Afghanistan. Sherlock Holmes keeps tobacco in his Persian slipper. The dog in the nighttime was innocent of any wrongdoing—or action, for that matter. Sherlock Holmes is a jackass, but a jackass whom we love. He solves crimes, yes, but he also determines via the electric intuition of his own (and sometimes John Watson’s) conscience whether or not the criminal should be punished for the crime.  Examples, should one choose to doubt this assertion:

  • Is a father-in-law determined to carry on his false relationship with his daughter-by-marriage so he can keep her inheritance a man who deserves to horsewhipped?  (Holmes says: yes.)
  • Is a man who stole a goose for profit likely to go wrong again if you scare the trousers off his mealy little arse?  (Holmes says: no.)
  • Is a man who killed a wife-beater and sadist—a sadist who incidentally set his spouse’s dog on fire and killed it to teach her a lesson—guilty of murder when he murders that sadist in arguable self-defense?  (Holmes says: no.)

The Sherlock episode “His Last Vow” has absolutely everything to do with this issue of independent moral standing and justice execution.  I would argue that the extent to which the characters in the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes justify their own questionable actions is very important, and I would likewise posit that nowhere is this conundrum better exemplified canonically than in “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.”

Sherlock Holmes greatly enjoys categorizing things. Tobacco ash, for a start.  Mud. The man is a virtuoso in mud studies. Probably also twigs. And pigeon feces. (I am merely extrapolating from known data, and should be clear this is unconfirmed in the canon—but Sherlock Holmes could probably glance at pigeon crap and determine the whereabouts of the bird’s last meal.) Additionally, however, he adores categorizing humans, and I sometimes wonder if he is so very deeply fond of John Watson because John Watson cannot ever be definitively categorized. The smartest men in London, the wickedest men in London, the most beautiful women and the most charitable of ugly men—Holmes has certain standards and systems, and he lives by these rules.

Charles Augustus Milverton? He is “the worst man in London.” The most nefarious, you might wonder, the organizer of half that is evil and nearly all that in undetected in the great metropolis?  No, that was James (or Jim, as the BBC would have him) Moriarty, with whom Holmes always shared a special something.

The worst man in London is another kettle of snakes.

Editor's note: Spoilers and slitherers ahead, you know.

[Hiss and slither on if you dare...]

Sun
Jan 19 2014 11:58pm

Sherlock Episode 3.01 “The Empty Hearse”

Sherlock and John in The Empty HearsOnce upon a time, a hero who feared losing everything—including those most dear to him, though such individuals were few and far between—died in order to bring down a criminal mastermind who had brought far too much evil into the world.  The hero was believed to have been defeated utterly by his friends, was duly mourned but never forgotten, and London life continued in all its glory and chaos.  The hero, meanwhile, descended (as heroes do) to the hellish underworld, where he was faced with many challenges along his path back to life and to redemption.  Eventually, however, after years of toil, the hero returned a changed man; and his companions rejoiced to have him back among the living, fighting the powers of darkness that beset innocent people once more.

Of course, all this happened in the year 1903.  Sherlock Holmes, a man for whom Sir Arthur Conan Doyle cherished about as much affection as he did for the clogged hair that accumulates in even the cleanest household drains, brought his world-famous detective back from the grave that year with the publication of “The Adventure of the Empty House.”  Previously, Doyle had waffled about with The Hound of the Baskervilles, claiming cattishly that Holmes wasn’t undead, he was merely starring in an earlier case, one which happened before that unfortunate incident in which a maths professor weighing about a buck twenty soaking wet nudged a martial artist and amateur boxing champion off a cliffside in Switzerland.

[Not the most dignified way for the man to go out...]

Sun
Jan 12 2014 7:00pm

Sherlock 3.02: “The Sign of Three,” One Wedding, Two Murders, and a Funeral

In a recent interview with Digital Spy writer Catherine Earp posted on the fifth of January, BBC Sherlock’s Martin Freeman is quoted as saying of the program, “No-one is a buffoon in it, and what I really like about it is that it’s writing for grown-ups, where you're not having to cheat the audience.  I’m purely trying to play this part the way I approach everything, which is to be truthful.  I was trying to make Watson a feasible soldier, a feasible doctor.  I wanted to give him a strength and a vulnerability.”

According to the vast majority of Sherlock’s fans—even those who find co-star Benedict Cumberbatch’s cold-blooded Sherlock Holmes a bit like dry ice on the palate from time to time—Freeman’s Dr. (or Captain, depending on your mood) John Hamish Watson is one of the most feasible, strong, and indeed vulnerable Watsons we’ve yet delighted in onscreen.  Those of us preoccupied by the original character as penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (and I count myself “preoccupied” at levels approaching Captain Ahab’s enthusiasm for whales, if not quite Humbert Humbert’s interest in nymphettes) adore the Good Doctor for any number of reasons, of which kindness, bravery, and loyalty are but a few attributes nestled within a deliciously complex person.  He is a man who can bear insults with dignity and wit without ever being diminished by them, a man who can forgive his closest friend (those insults I mentioned? yep, they came from that dude) for faking his own death for a period of years, a man who can both shoot a spectral hound and help wean his best friend (that death thing and those insults I mentioned? same guy) off a drug habit that at one point threatens to “check his remarkable career.”

And it seems as if, at long last, BBC’s Sherlock Holmes is coming round to our view of the matter: John Watson is by far the best and bravest chap to wander the streets in plaid button-downs and avuncular pullovers.

Editor's note: There be episode spoilers ahead, laddies...

[Take me to the woolens and champagne...]

Sat
Sep 7 2013 11:00am

Holmes 2.0: Life in the New Sherlockian Renaissance

Issues of the Baker Street JournalI recently met a lovely woman. She was young, and attractive, and smiling, and redheaded—in short, she seemed perfectly normal.  After about five minutes, however, I’d identified that the object cradled in her lap was an issue of the Baker Street Journal—the unbelievably specific, scholarly publication devoted exclusively to essays about the Great Detective, the periodical that embodies Christopher Morley’s remark, “Never has so much been written by so many for so few.”

She had fooled me, this effortlessly groomed and seemingly sane woman. Like calls to like, however, and I saw through her charade. Like her, I enjoy summer dresses and kitten heels. Like her, I can pass for normal. But I’d contributed to the Baker Street Journal she was holding, for the love of tumblr and all its otters. We are both Sherlockians, hardcore full-frontal triple-X Sherlockians with journal subscriptions, masquerading as… well. 

As not-nerds.

We are not quite normal, we Sherlock Holmes fanatics, supposing normalcy exists. Of late, however, there are a lot of us. There are a very, very great many, in all shapes and sizes and colors and ages, and we daily gain recruits to our geekish hordes. Brainy, you could argue, is the new sexy. Which leads me to ask two questions.

Why now?  And why Holmes?

[Let your nerd flag fly!]

Sat
Feb 16 2013 1:00pm

Fresh Meat: Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, edited by George Mann

Encounters of Sherlock Holmes edited by George MannEncounters of Sherlock Holmes edited by George Mann is an anthology of short fiction featuring Sherlock himself in a variety of genres from steampunk to straight-up horror (available February 19, 2013).

When it comes to fiction, the crossover—blending or marrying two separate universes into a righteous narrative sandwich—is a curious affair. Especially, dare I say, for Sherlockians. Sherlockians make great hay of the crossover, and indeed, I have reaped such hay myself, in combining the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s creations with that of the real Jack the Ripper murders in my first novel. As terrible or wonderful or incredible or outrageous or hamfisted or awesome as the idea in question might be, we cannot seem to help ourselves.

[That could be a good thing...or not...]

Fri
Nov 30 2012 10:30am

Upon the Clear Distinction Between Fandom and the Baker Street Irregulars

In light of the ever-expanding popularity of the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in conjunction with recent adaptations including the Warner Brothers films, the BBC series, and the CBS reimagining, it falls to me to discuss certain disturbing tendencies on the part of new devotees to refer to that venerable institution, the Baker Street Irregulars, as a “fandom” when it is actually a literary society. The youth of the Sherlockian world will be excused for making this dare I say elementary error, since the case for the distinction has not been hitherto laid out. Following the summation of this article, however, fans and traditional Sherlockians alike will have reached a much clearer understanding, and the unfortunate misnomer of referring to the present Irregulars as a “fandom” will doubtless cease and be swiftly forgotten.

(Note: for the purposes of this intellectual exercise, the possibility that the BSI may potentially be a storied and erudite literary society and a happily thriving fandom simultaneously will be ignored. This decision was made in light of the fact that a noun cannot be two things concurrently, the way the Empire State Building is not both a functioning office tower and a tourist destination, and the way Bill Clinton is not both a former president and a saxophone player. Arguments that the BSI is peopled by both cultured readers and by eager fans would only muddy the issue, and therefore will not be entertained here.)

[Clarification at last...]

Wed
Sep 26 2012 6:00pm

Elementary: or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Police Procedural

First of all, I would like to make one thing perfectly clear. If you love CBS’s new crime drama Elementary starring Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson—if you adore it, and have already started making plushies resembling the co-stars and are considering relocation to a dilapidated Manhattan brownstone—then I applaud you and your taste in television. With all sincerity. I think you are wonderful, and I’d like to take you out for a pint. There is room for every new Sherlock Holmes to come down the pipeline; The Great Mouse Detective can coexist in the same world Sherlock Hound occupies, be their species ever so incompatible on paper. Sherlockians like watching new Sherlock Holmes adaptations, period, and we will continue to do so until a production so wholly embodies the detective and the doctor that lo, Paget’s illustrations will have sprung to heady life before our very eyes, and the spirit of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters will at last be recreated to definitive perfection.

But that day has not yet arrived, so we can move forward! (That is, if you're prepared for slightly spoiler-y comments on plot elements.)

[Fuggedabout it! Let's go already!]

Mon
Jun 11 2012 10:30am

It Wasn’t Lupus: A Sherlockian’s Farewell to House MD

It wasn’t lupus.From the day I started watching House MD on November 16, 2004, right up until this last month when the eighth (and final) season finished delicately extricating my heart with a dull ice cream scoop, the show has been a mainstay of my highly selective television viewing. Because, see, I don’t have a television. My husband and I have been without one for eight years now, preferring a projector screen for DVDs and the laptop for more casual fare, and House was the only program—literally solo contender—that was such consistently good programming that I have seen Every. Single. Episode. Bar none.

Well, that’s because I’m a Sherlockian, of course. But we’ll get to that. All in good time.

[Hmmm, whatever could she mean?]

Thu
May 17 2012 2:00pm

A Holmes Fan’s Mistrust of Elementary: An Open Apology to CBS

They Might Be Giants posteIn 1971, Universal Pictures produced a film titled They Might Be Giants starring George C. Scott and Joanne Woodward as, respectively, “Sherlock Holmes” and Dr. Mildred Watson, chronicling their adventures fighting crime in New York City. Sound familiar? But wait, it gets better. This Holmes is in fact a mental patient by the heroic name of Justin Playfair, whose life is in real danger due to his grasping elder brother’s attempt to usurp the family estate. When Dr. Watson is naturally seized upon as Playfair’s partner in imaginary mayhem, the pair gallivant about Manhattan fighting foes both real and illusory, all the while pretending to be the dynamic duo of the Victorian era.

But They Might Be Giants, for all its Sherlockian iconography, isn’t a Sherlock Holmes reimagining. In fact it’s a Don Quixote pastiche, and an admirable one—it’s about defying reality when reality is too grim or too dull or too heartbreaking, about falling in love with heroism and refusing to be told that the world no longer needs justice served up by brilliant vigilantes.

It takes Cervantes’s novel as its inspiration and delightfully tweaks it for a modern era.

It respects the spirit of the source material.

And that, makers of CBS’s Elementary, is why I must apologize to you for recent murmurs of Sherlockian pissiness. Because some of us fear you don’t get that principle. At all.

[But lest you think our hearts are barred. . .]

Sat
Mar 3 2012 11:00am
Excerpt

The Gods of Gotham: New Excerpt

Lyndsay Faye

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay FayeAn excerpt from The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye (available March 15, 2012).

1845. New York City forms its first police force. The great potato famine hits Ireland. These two seemingly disparate events will change New York City. Forever.

Timothy Wilde tends bar near the Exchange, fantasizing about the day he has enough money to win the girl of his dreams. But when his dreams incinerate in a fire that devastates downtown Manhattan, he finds himself disfigured, unemployed, and homeless. His older brother obtains Timothy a job in the newly minted NYPD, but he is highly skeptical of this new “police force.” And he is less than thrilled that his new beat as a “copper star” is the the down-and-out Sixth Ward—at the border of Five Points, the world’s most notorious slum.

One night while making his rounds, Wilde literally runs into a little slip of a girl—a girl not more than ten years old—dashing through the dark in her nightshift . . . covered head to toe in blood.


Chapter 1

When I set down the initial report, sitting at my desk at the Tombs, I wrote:

On the night of August 21, 1845, one of the children escaped.

Of all the sordid trials a New York City policeman faces every day, you wouldn’t expect the one I loathe most to be paperwork. But it is. I get snakes down my spine just thinking about case files.

Police reports are meant to read “X killed Y by means of Z.” But facts without motives, without the story, are just road signs with all the letters worn off. Meaningless as blank tombstones. And I can’t bear reducing lives to the lowest of their statistics. Case notes give me the same parched-headed feeling I get after a night of badly made New England rum. There’s no room in the dry march of data to tell why people did bestial things—love or loathing, defense or greed. Or God, in this particular case, though I don’t suppose God was much pleased by it.

If He was watching. I was watching, and it didn’t please me any too keenly.

For instance, look what happens when I try to write an event from my childhood the way I’m required to write police reports:

In October 1826, in the hamlet of Greenwich Village, a fire broke out in a stable flush adjacent to the home of Timothy Wilde, his elder brother, Valentine Wilde, and his parents, Henry and Sarah; though the blaze started small, both of the adults were killed when the conflagration spread to the main house by means of a kerosene explosion.

I’m Timothy Wilde, and I’ll say right off, that tells you nothing. Nix. I’ve drawn pictures with charcoal all my life to busy my fingers, loosen the feeling of taut cord wrapped round my chest. A single sheet of butcher paper showing a gutted cottage with its blackened bones sticking out would tell you more than that sentence does.

But I’m getting better used to documenting crimes now that I wear the badge of a star police. And there are so many casualties in our local wars over God. I grant there must have been a time long ago when to call yourself a Catholic meant your bootprint was stamped on Protestant necks, but the passage of hundreds of years and a wide, wide ocean ought to have drowned that grudge between us, if anything could. Instead here I sit, penning a bloodbath. All those children, and not only the children, but grown Irish and Amer­icans and anyone ill-starred enough to be caught in the middle, and I only hope that writing it might go a way toward being a fit memo­rial. When I’ve spent enough ink, the sharp scratch of the specifics in my head will dull a little, I’m hoping. I’d assumed that the dry wooden smell of October, the shrewd way the wind twines into my coat sleeves now, would have begun erasing the nightmare of August by this time.

I was wrong. But I’ve been wrong about worse.

[Read the full excerpt of The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye]

Wed
Feb 29 2012 10:30am

The Good Doctor: Big and Small Screen Incarnations of Sherlock Holmes’s Better Half, Part 2

Watson poster of Jude Law for Sherlock Holmes the movie

Yesterday in Part 1, we examined three Watsons (speaking of which, did you catch The Two Watsons comic?), but there are more modern Watsons yet to peruse.

As I said when we began: this one’s for the lovers of brave soldiers, able medics, and steadfast friends. And here’s to John Watson, who flew that flag before it was cool. This one’s for the other half of the partnership: the narrator, the everyman turned superhero, the teller of tales, the conductor of light. Sláinte.

[Watsons, Watsons, everywhere...]

Tue
Feb 28 2012 12:00pm

The Good Doctor: Big and Small Screen Incarnations of Sherlock Holmes’s Better Half, Part 1

Watson poster of Jude Law for Sherlock Holmes the movieHe emerges from a hellscape, bullet-pierced and feverish. Still game for trouble and drawn to the dangers that lurk in the dark. He survived a war-torn desert by the very skin of his teeth, and all the while he was engaged at healing. The perennial paradox of the Army doctor, giving life and taking it, all in the name of honor. When he arrived in London “worn with pain, and weak from the prolonged hardships” he had undergone, with “neither kith nor kin in England, and…therefore free as air,” he found himself bored. Shaken. In financial trouble and spiritual turmoil.

Then Dr. John H. Watson, MD, meets Mr. Sherlock Holmes. So it all works out for the best. Particularly for us: admirers of the fabled pair, and readers grateful for Watson’s efforts with a pen and a service revolver. 

Here’s to the lovers of brave soldiers, able medics, and steadfast friends. This one’s for you.  And here’s to John Watson, who flew that flag before it was cool. This one’s for the other half of the partnership: the narrator, the everyman turned superhero, the teller of tales, the conductor of light. Sláinte.

[And to the men who have portrayed him...let’s raise a glass!]

Tue
Jan 17 2012 10:30am

Sherlock:“The Reichenbach Fall” and The Hero’s Free Tour of the Underworld

Sherlock fades as Moriarty rises

In December of 1893, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was guilty of the premeditated and willful murder of Mr. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, a consulting detective of some public renown. “I have had such an overdose of [Holmes] that I feel towards him as I do toward pâté de foie gras, of which I once ate too much, so that the name of it gives me a sickly feeling to this day,” he had said previously. He wasn’t just whistling Dixie. In a reader response famed for its brevity and the universality of the sentiment among Victorian fans, “You brute,” a woman penned to the author, whose greater work—he imagined—was unfairly shackled to Holmes.

(Perhaps unfairly, SPOILERS abound for those daring to read on.)

The suggestion that people wore mourning bands in the streets to honor the fallen character may be apocryphal. But if I had a mourning band, I’d likely be sporting it today. So maybe it isn’t. And the Strand Magazine did lose approximately 20,000 subscriptions.

“You brutes,” I now address Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, creators of BBC’s hit series Sherlock. But “brutes” as in the High and Holy Poobahs of Most Excellent, Thoughtful, Affecting, and Generally Heart-Incinerating Creators of Dramatic Television Content, Department of Ferocious Winning. Just to be clear.

[—Crystal. Go on!]

Wed
Jan 11 2012 1:30pm

Sherlock and The Hounds of Baskerville: Fear and Loathing in Grimpen Village

Martin Freeman as John Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock on a tor in episode 2 of season 2, The Hounds of BaskervilleIt might be the most widely recognizable phrase in the Sherlock Holmes canon, barring that business about “whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth” (which Holmes did say), and “Elementary, my dear Watson” (which he didn’t say).  The statement is so loaded with the pungent Victorian scent of melodrama and succinctly rendered spookiness that when reading it—somewhere between the ages of around twelve and twenty, as is often the case—one sees the usefulness in fainting couches.

“Mr. Holmes,” Dr. Mortimer asserts, “they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!”

If this final sentence of chapter two of The Hound of the Baskervilles frightens you upon reading it, fantastic.  If a faint shiver or a surge of curiosity instead takes place, well and good.  The fact remains that the statement has become legendary as much for what it doesn’t say as for what it does.  Dr. Mortimer has never seen the devil hound, which is the stuff of local legend and is said to have “tore the throat out of” Hugo Baskerville, and frightened Sir Charles Baskerville to death.

But he has seen footprints.  What made them, and how, and to what extent can he trust the evidence of his own eyes?

Be also warned: Your eyes will see SPOILERS about this episode if you continue!

[A gigantic hound, I believe you said?!]

Wed
Jan 4 2012 10:30am

BBC’s Sherlock Season 2: A Scandal in Belgravia

Holmes and Watson[No, you did not miss the US premiere of the BBC’s Sherlock Season 2. Some of us watched the UK feed and were anxious to discuss it. Believe me, we’ll be doing so again on May 6, when it premieres on this side of the pond! But if you don’t mind a few spoilers, dive on in!]

In the year 1891, when publishing a short story in the Strand Magazine no one realized would change the world of fiction, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle made a brave storytelling decision. Yes, it was also ballsy to take his eccentric, but not very lucratively received, “independent consulting detective” from A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four and turn him into a serial hero—a man who solved crimes not in novella form, which is difficult, but in jewel boxes of perfectly constructed short stories. Which is impossible. Read a tale lifted from The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and try to write something as audacious and delightful and efficient.

Go on.

I dare you.

As I say, the mere notion of creating a supersleuth and then presenting him in a series of articles was an innovative enough notion—yes, Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin also appeared in magazine short stories, and Edgar Allan Poe created the detective genre. But Poe died poor, and Doyle had no intention of doing likewise. No, what I consider to be the unprecedented move for pure talent, wit, and stones in the Adventures is as follows:

Why don’t I create a protagonist, argued Doyle, who is irresistible and eccentric and very nearly omnipotent?

And then, while I’m still building his resume and talking him up in his first short form adventure, why not have him beaten by a girl?

[Why not, indeed?]

Sun
Dec 18 2011 11:00am

Game of Shadows: Testosterone and a Powder Keg of Glitter

I like testosterone.  Always have. If you like your testosterone served piping hot, with more than a splash of Tabasco, a creamy dollop of ultraviolence, and a healthy slice of goggle-wearing, tin car-driving, machine gun-wielding steampunk pie for dessert, look no further than this film.

I’ve a rather rueful confession to make: I collect Sherlock Holmes pastiches (including the ripely terrible ones) and would probably think fondly of a wet paper bag on the side of the road so long as it had the words “Sherlock Holmes” written on it.  That being said, did I enjoy Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, the latest installment in the ever so brawny Ritchie franchise?

Yes. I enjoyed it like a house on fire. In many aspects I loved it, and in one single aspect, the storytelling improves on Arthur Conan Doyle. Heresy! you shout, but I’ll come back to that.

There are SPOILERS ahead, nothing too drastic, but a few salient points. Without giving the Game away, of course.

[Onward, we must!]

Mon
Dec 12 2011 10:30am

Brains vs. Brawn: The Battle for Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes

Pondering Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes: Jude Law as John Watson and Robert Downey, Jr. as The Great Detective

On December 24th of 2009—long, long ago, eons past, before Benedict Timothy Carlton Cumberbatch elevated Belstaff winter wear to the crown prince’s robes of Sherlockian culture—Roger Ebert wrote a review of Guy Ritchie’s hotly anticipated film Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law.  “The less I thought about Sherlock Holmes,” he said, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, “the more I liked Sherlock Holmes.” 

It’s a fair assessment.  The film is a grimy pageant of pseudo-Victorian steampunkery, in which murder, melodrama, mayhem, and yes, an ever-so-slight thread of mystery, too, are churned together into a gloriously gritty Sherlockian piña colada.  That the film isn’t thoughtful is largely irrelevant—it’s cracking good fun, and most critics agreed that the fact things hardly ever exploded in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s sixty-tale series is no reason why things should not explode now.  Sherlock Holmes, he of the masterful intellect and the cherrywood pipe, can exist in a world where things explode indiscriminately and not suffer much by it.  The question now seems to be, will Sherlockians remain pleased with Downey’s manic wit and the explosions surrounding him, when the BBC series Sherlock is also cracking good fun, and deeply thoughtful to boot?

[Hmmm.  Let’s have a puff and cogitate upon it, shall we?]