Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes

Men may come and men may go, as Basil Rathbone had come before and Robert Downey Jr. came later, but for me, Sherlock Holmes in tinsel life means Jeremy Brett. He is the one who lived the character faithful to what Doyle had constructed (Just as Hercule Poirot = David Suchet, although the delectable Peter Ustinov had made a valiant effort earlier). With such a staunch bias to the original, even when depicted in another media (cinema instead of the written word), I shouldn't have attempted reading the written word involving Sherlock Holmes and Watson, by a writer whose name is not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I did. Only out of overwhelming urge to stroll through the swirling mists of Baker's Street one more time, to rest and rejoice in a fresh set of mysteries laid out by, hopefully, an author who raises to our exacting expectation. To my credit, I carefully chose a book, out of the myriad available, that had Jeremy Brett posing as the detective on the wrapper. The Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes by Paul Gilbert. The book started promising in that the language was sufficiently Victorian to transport us back to the early 1900s and I slouched further in the couch with the Kindle DX firmly rested on my tummy with only the right thumb capable of any physical action. The game is afoot.

Each of the story in the book is an "untold mystery" by Watson in the original; cases that were solved spectacularly by Holmes, whose time hasn't come then for public consumption. For instance, "The Affair of the Aluminium Crutch", the third story here, was mentioned in the introductory passages of "The Musgrave Ritual". That ploy, while regaling the reader, unfortunately also sets his expectation high. Premonitory came when I read in the first story titled Baron Maupertuis, a sentence "There is certainly more likelihood of picking up Moriarty's trail again if we take up Lady Beasant's consultation, than if we sit here sucking pipes." Sucking pipes? That usage should have given the game away that the author is belabored to put on this writing style that does not come natural for him. But I am nit-picking; so I thought and I persisted my reading. All the usual suspects from Prof. James Moriarty to esoteric Spaniards were there. But the stories, one after another, came  with an original title by Doyle, and gloriously fell flat. Even an introduction of a uni-sex character (Watson, there are many other forms of attachment between two men), with a reference to the "esteemed and now infamous Mr. Wilde", couldn't save the book. If these are the stories that go with the titles mentioned in passing as "untold mysteries" in the originals by Doyle, by writing them, Paul Gilbert provides now a good reason why they deserve to remain untold.

Having bitten once, I should have shied. I picked another book of similar purpose, a more recent "Between the Thames and the Tiber: Further Adventures by Sherlock Holmes" by Ted Riccardi. I gave up midway through the third story in this collection, which thankfully, also had 'original titles'. There is no additional cause for dislike in this case. Seriously, what these 'stories' -- for, I wouldn't dare anoint them 'mysteries' -- uniformly lack in plump is the fine art of deduction that Doyle originated and enunciated so well through his Sherlock to unravel a seemingly unsolvable mystery through logical appraisal of clues and facts that were at times merely over the top but neither impossible nor implausible. There are more such attempts to write 'Sherlock Holmes mysteries' by other authors (counted seven). I only hope some of those stories pass muster in the mystery and deduction department. Because, with no real talent in English writing, even I can construct Sherlockian sentences (the only thing going right for these books). Like this: After having brought on my undivided attention to bear upon some of the purported mysteries, delivered in wads of accentuated Victorian text, in two manuscripts by seemingly different authors, nevertheless bereft of any real mystery or deduction whatsoever, I could only throw up my arms now in remonstrance and ejaculate, "Catastrophe."


  1. Ravi Venkataraman said...

    The contrast in writing styles between Abi and Arunn is quite apparent. For a moment, as I read this, I wondered how Abi had managed to change his writing style so much.

    Back to the topic, I guess one can try and write in another writer's style, but it will appear unnatural and stilted. It would probably take a really good writer to faithfully imitate another good writer's style convincingly.


  2. VPPartner said...

    Has Arunn read "The Siam Question" by Tmothy Francis Sheil? It is to my mind the best Sherlock Holmes pastiche of the last 20 years and quite faithful in my view to the original canon.

  3. Fëanor said...

    I would suggest anthony horowitz's 'the house of silk' which came out last year as a much better example of holmesiana than most. it helps that horowitz is a crime writer (and quite successful at that - esp. on TV).