I have spent 60 hours listening to Stephen Fry reading most of the canon Sherlock Holmes stories. I want to start this out by saying if you enjoy audiobooks and want to listen to Sherlock Holmes, I would spend an audible credit on this collection. You get all but the last set of stories for one credit. Worth it– probably the best deal of the year– it’s 8 books I think. 8 books for 1 credit.
Anyway, the remainder of this post will be about my love of mystery stories.
I am 30 years old, which means, for most of my life, there was this amazing television crime drama on NBC. It’s about New York City’s war on crime, I think many of you may be familiar with the sex crimes spin off of this show. The premise was that In the criminal justice system the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups. The police, who investigate crime and the District Attorneys who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.
When I think of Law and Order, I think of two people. The late Jerry Orbach and Sam Waterston: Detective Lenny Brisco and District Attorney Jack McCoy respectively. These actors were not original characters on the show, but they were long lasting characters that for me, and I believe many fans of the show, when you think about Orginal Flavor Law and Order, think of Lenny’s sarcastic one liners at the opening of shows– usually while standing over a dead body– or ADA McCoy and his unconventional courtroom arguments. This show was consistently good of 20 years. It paved the way for other landmark shows like CSI or NCIS or the Chicago shows. (which are done by the same guy and connected. One of the DA’s in the Justice part is the son of the original ADA on Law and Order. I’m sure there are other things, but I’ve only seen one episode of one Chicago show. It’s just not the same.)
I was watching L&O show at an age when I don’t think I really should have been, like preschool age. Law and Order is basically a part of who I am. I have not seen all the episodes, this show was on for 20 years, but I’ve seen probably close to 80% of them. As an elementary school child who loved Law and Order, I was drawn to mystery stories. I loved the Boxcar Children books, I read a kid’s version of Hound of the Baskervilles in 3rd grade. I read a bunch of books about a man and his cat that solved murders. As I got older, I started to read things like Anne Rule books, true crime novels.
When most of my peers were watching Gilmore Girls or Dawson’s Creek or Buffy, I was watching Law and Order or CSI. I had and still have (with the exception of Supernatural) the same taste in television shows as a person in their mid-fifties– which is weird when you’re 15. I just love crime dramas.
Around 22, I took a dramatic left turn from reading mostly crime novels to reading YA and it all has to do with a silly song about Harry Potter.
Now, you are thinking what does this 500 word nonsense about Law and Order have to do with Sherlock Holmes, the answer is everything.
On CSI, there was a character named Greg. Greg was a lab tech who became a CSI that worked in the field. Greg’s first solo case was about Sherlock Holmes. Well, not Sherlock Holmes a Sherlock Holmes club.
Besides the one kid’s version of Baskervilles that I read when I was 9, my Sherlock Holmes knowledge was mostly the things that people are born knowing. Things like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker’s relationship. I knew “Elementary my dear Watson,” and that when someone said something dumb you made fun of them by calling the Sherlock because Sherlock was super smart. This episode of CSI, however, opened a new world– a world where there were these crime stories that I’ve never read. Crime stories that were supposed to be legendary. Characters that stood against time. Books that I needed to read.
That episode of CSI aired in like 2004. I didn’t read them.
It wasn’t until Tumblr and the BBC show that I really got into it.
This post will not get into the BBC show, I think like many, I started out liking it, but in the end became very frustrated with it.
Because of the BBC show, I bought the leather bound complete set from Barnes and Nobel. I read the first two novels, but with the tiny type face and Victorian style writing, I ended up putting it away– promising to pick it up later. Which I didn’t. Then there was an ad on audible for this set of stories read by Stephen Fry. So I got right on that.
I’m not going to write a review of stories from over 100 years ago. Clearly, they hold up. It’s is surprisingly easy to take this characters and move them into a different time and place and create something that still feels fresh although it’s a story that’s been told repeatedly since the 1880’s. It’s clear for the popularity of Sherlock and Elementry.
My months long adventure with this series of audiobooks was great. I found myself liking the short stories more than the novels, I think that is more because I can solve a crime in an hour rather than a week as I drive to work. To pinpoint a favorite would be impossible. There are so many great stories. I did really love The Sign of Four, which is the second novel.
I think that completing this set of stories brings around my love of crime stories to the beginning. Like the original Law and Order that paved the way for all the crime shows since the 1990’s by changing cop shows, Sherlock Holmes, although not the first ever crime story, created a culture where solving crimes in a literary format was possible.
I find myself wanting to say that there will never be another character like Sherlock, but that’s not true. There have been many a Sherlock Holmes character since Sherlock hung up his deerstalker to live among the bees.
The most obvious of these characters is Gregory House MD, but there are characters like Detective Bobby Goren from Law and Order: Criminal Intent. Grissom of CSI. Apparently, Catherine Willows was created in the shadow of Watson, which I hadn’t thought about until I started researching this post. There is even a huge Irene Adler/ Lady Heather connection that I kind of feel silly for not catching.
Dr. Spencer Reid from Criminal Minds has many Sherlockian traits, as do Spock and Data from Star Trek.
Shawn Spencer and Gus from Psych are Holmes and Waston. This show is sort of a parody of the whole crime drama genre, and who better to parody than the best. Shawn is a play of Sherlock, using his powers of observation to best the police, many times solving the crime before the police and then bringing the police in the last scene and explaining everything. Which is basically every single Sherlock Holmes short story.
Sherlock Holmes is important. I cannot think of another character that has as much of an impact on not just pop culture but all culture. He’s unique in that way. I treasure the time I spent in my car with this spectacular consulting detective and his best good friend Dr. Watson as they solved crimes in 221B Bakers street.
Do you have a favorite Sherlockian based character? Do you have a genre of story that has transformed your identity?
Until next time Internet,