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Reading list: 221B Baker Street and Beyond
My tentative reading list for "Summer of Sherlock" 2019 -- and probably beyond:
A mix of books by and about Arthur Conan Doyle (mostly, but not only Holmes-related), as well as a few books by ACD's and Sherlock Holmes's contemporaries and competitors.
I've also set aside the two "Rivals of Sherlock Holmes" DVD sets featuring some of the era's other (then: celebrated) detectives as portrayed by a series of well-known British actors, released a few years ago. And it just might be time to rewatch the complete Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett.
Note: I started to listen to this quite a while ago and loved it, but RL intervened. So even though I've already gotten through the first two novels, for "Summer of Sherlock" I think I'm going to set the clock back to zero and start all over ... and hopefully get through the entire beauty that this is in one go this time around.
Note: "The Return of Sherlock Holmes" and "His Last Bow" -- the final entries in the Derek Jacobi recordings of ACD's complete Holmes canon that I have yet to listen to. Can't ever have too much Sherlock in your life, can you? Especially not with readers such as Stephen Fry, Derek Jacobi ...
Note: ... Edward Hardwicke, the one and only Watson ever. This is one of three "three tales of ..." outtake from a series of recordings made a few decades ago; since I very much enjoyed the two other outtakes, I have no doubt I'll enjoy this one as well. Includes "The Crooked Man," "The Greek Interpreter," and one of my all-time favorite Holmes stories, "The Naval Treaty." ("Mrs. Hudson has risen to the occasion. Her cuisine is a little limited, but she has as good an idea of breakfast as a Scotswoman ...")
Note: Dunno about "ultimate", but this is a nice audio collection featuring John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.
Note: "Essential" has all the makings of a vast overstatement, but it's a recording featuring (inter alia) David Timson, Tim Pigott-Smith and Rupert Degas, and includes a biography (by Hesketh Pearson), "The Speckled Band", an excerpt from "The Lost World" and ACD's defence of the Cottingley Fairies. That's enough varied contents to give it a shot -- and in fact it turned out to be a very well put-together collection; a much better cross-section of and introduction to ACD's work than I thought would have been possible in the space of roughly 7 hours of listening.
Note: ACD's chilling warning, in the clothes of a short story, what may happen if Britain is ever cut off from outside resources. Chilling reading, particularly in the days of Brexit.
Note: This had been sitting on my TBR forever -- "Summer of Sherlock" sounded like the perfect occasion to finally get around to reading it. I'm glad I finally did.
Note: Ditto this book (still TBR for the moment, though).
Note: One of ACD's horror short stories -- a mummy is brought back to life by an overeager university student with unforeseen consequences. (Wizard's Apprentice, anybody?)
Note: Also a horror short story, albeit without Egyptian overtones.
Note: Not so much a Holmes pastiche but a six degrees of separation sort of sequel: Golden Age Hollywood meets an American Sherlock Holmes society, and promptly, murder ensues. It came highly recommended by MbD, so how could I resist?
Note: ACD sued, so Leblanc had to change the name of Arsène Lupin's opponent. Time to find out what the fuss was all about.
Note: I find I'm disappointed with most Holmes pastiches, but I'm willing to give this volume and / or the one listed below at least a fair shot. If they fail to come up to scratch, however, these may very well be my final forays into the world of pastiches.
Note: I probably wouldn't revisit this one, but there's a recording by Nigel Anthony that I'm interested in. We'll see.
Note: Another book that's been sitting on my TBR forever. The connections to the Holmes canon are tenuous; yet, there seem to be certain parallels between the MC's brother and Mycroft Holmes. (I hope that doesn't make the MC too obvious a play on Sherlock himself.) Again, we'll see.
Note: Contains a series of essays on Holmes. Buddy read with BT and "a reading life" is in the making -- yey!
Note: *The* most acclaimed of the many Holmes biographies out there, and it is actually interested in *all* of the man's life, not merely the spiritualism bit. Not perfect (there doesn't seem to be such a thing when it comes to biographies of ACD), but indeed probably the best of the lot.
Note: Since I'll be reading Stashower's biography, it only seemed logical to also acquire the volume of ACD's letters edited by him as a companion read.
Note: Included in the "Essential Sir Arthur Conan Doyle" audio collection; in a way the perfect counterpoint to Stashower, as Pearson personally knew ACD and (like Stashower much later) had access to his personal papers, before they became unavailable to research as a result of a family dispute. Tries to gloss over a few "uncomfortable" things and to talk down the spiritualism, but written lively and engagingly, and a fairly good complementary resource to Stashower's bio.
Note: Published decades ago, but still considered *the* definitive biography of Holmes, with the entire canon as well as a plethora of other works as sources.
Note: I haven't seen this one yet and I doubt how much it can add to Baring-Gould, but I guess I'll just have to find out!
Note: Nothing earthshattering, but good basic information and pretty pictures, including from the 221B Baker Street museum.
(Also, come on, it's got Jeremy Brett as Holmes on the cover. How can I possibly *not* own this?)
Note: Planning candy for my next trip to London -- regardless how many of these places I've already been to in other contexts. (And who knows, this one is bound to contain the odd true nugget, too.)
Note: *The* quintessential, one and only Holmes -- and a great actor all around. R.I.P., Mr. Brett, you are very much missed.
Note: Not "Bending the Willow", but the next best thing, I suppose -- empathetic and well-researched; unfortunately lacking in sources and endnotes -- which casts doubt on some of the author's novelistic flights of fancy, even if for other parts the sources are obvious even if they're not explicitly named.
Note: The inside scoop of the TV series starring Jeremy Brett.
Note: More inside scoop straight from the same horse's mouth. To fans, absolutely indispensable reading.
Note: A well-written and insightful blow-by-blow assessment and reference guide of the iconic Granada TV series, by an author who is obviously both an industry insider and a fan of both the original Canon and the Granada series (and of Jeremy Brett).
Note: Chiefly Brett again, but also a look at all the other actors who played Holmes before him.
Note: Moving on to ACD's / Holmes's contemporaries and competitors -- one of the earliest women sleuths. And decidedly less of a one trick pony than "The Old Man in the Corner" and his friend, the lady journalist, turned out to be.
Note: Immortalized on screen courtesy of Hitchcock and Ivor Novello -- time to finally explore the literary original, too.
Note: *The* first ever female detective in literary history. Props for being ahead of her time as far as her occupation is concerned, though going by BT's and Tigus's responses, sadly very much a creature of her time in other respects. Still, no reason not to finally make her acquaintance.
Note: Leaving aside Wilkie Collins's books and parts of Dickens's "Bleak House", the first English detective novel. Props to the British Library for unearthing it and making it part of its series of reissued classic crime novels.
Note: On the other side of the pond, Otto Penzler's American Crime Classics series is tapping into essentially the same market; in part also with books set in England (Head was born and raised British and emigrated to the U.S. with his friend, W.H. Auden). This one is described as a satirical take on Sherlock Holmes ... hmmm.
Note: Clayton Rawson's "Great Merlini" was celebrated in his day, but has since been forgotten -- even when I started my foray into classic / Golden Age mystery novels some 2 years ago, I was still having trouble finding affordable editions. I'm not sure how much farther our acquaintance will go after this book, but I'm definitely happy to finally meet "The Great Merlini" for myself.
Note: By contrast, Austin Freeman's "Dr. Thorndyke" novels never went entirely out of print, and we've met once before (in "The Eye of Osiris"). This is where the series started, however, so now that there seems to be a renewed effort to republish the series as a whole, the moment may have come to renew our acquaintance.
Note: Romney Pringle, like Dr. Thorndyke, owes his existence to R. Austin Freemann -- in a cooperation with John J. Pitcairn; writing together as Clifford Ashdown. A conman masquerading as a cycling literary agent, he may not be entirely my kind of thing (there is only so much I can take of Raffles and Arsène Lupin at any given time, too), but he definitely does qualify as one of Holmes's better-known competitors, so he'd be missing from this list if I didn't include him. And who knows, he may yet surprise me after all ...
Note: Mr. Hazell the railway detective and I, by contrast, have met before (courtesy of a Benedict Cumberbatch audio collection) -- but while I'm at it, I may as well revisit the print version of the stories and read those not included in the audio. They're short enough as they are, and Mr. Hazell is definitely one of the nicer Golden Age detectives; even if he can get a bit "technical" at times. And, sign of the times and how far we've come ... back then, vegetarianism was considered one of those "eccentricities" that make for interesting attributes of a fictional detective -- these days, that would hardly make him stand out anymore.
Note: The gritty side of turn-of-the-century London -- this should appeal to the noir fan in me.
Note: And another series by Morrison -- this one, featuring a detective who even shared Holmes's publication outlet in the Strand Magazine.
Note: Another Strand Magazine fellow of Holmes's and arguably one of his best-known rivals way back when, blind supersleuth Max Carrados and I have met courtesy of an audio collection narrated expertly by Stephen Fry. I'm not actually sure this novel-length adventure of his is going to end up being one of my favorites, but what with Collins Crime Club so obligingly reprinting it, I may as well give it a shot!
Note: This, by contrast, is one of the books I've been looking forward to reading for quite a while. So again, props to Collins Crime Club for now making that an affordable possibility!
Note: This one, I knew absolutely nothing about before embarking on my exploration of Golden Age crime fiction, and again I am not entirely sure how it will ultimately fare with me. But I am definitely intrigued enough to give it try.
Note: Another mystery (this one, from the othe side of the pond) I've wanted to read for the longest time -- so much so that I actually bought it twice. High time to prevent a third purchase by actually reading the darned thing at last!
Note: Ditto (albeit minus the double purchase) for this entry by one of the other great American "mothers" of the genre. I loved her novella "Locked Doors" but had decidedly less use for "The Red Lamp", so chances this one is going to fare well with me are about even ... only one way to find out what it's going to be!
Note: Speaking of genuine literary discoveries, though, did you know that E.F. Benson also wrote two mysteries? (I didn't, either, before starting on this foray into the beginnings of crime fiction.) I'm very curious how they will turn out.
Note: A creature of many makers, Sexton Blake was originally a contemporary of Holmes but was kept alive by new writer after new writer, way beyond his natural lifespan. Some of his literary fathers include fairly prominent mystery writers of their days, so I am curious how he fares in comparison to Holmes ... and his (original) other contemporaries.
Note: One of the detectives I became aware of because of the "Rivals of Sherlock Holmes" TV series; a French detective living in England (though if Dame Agatha is to be believed, *not* the inspriation for Hercule Poirot). One of the books into which I'm going absolutely blindly, just curious how we'll be faring in each other's company.
Note: Conversely, Mr. Laxworthy is an Englishman who has settled in the South of France (and apparently can be seen flitting all over the Mediterranean). Phillips Oppenheim was an extremely prolific writer and I had heard his name before, however not the one of this particular detective. The setting of the novels, even if nothing else, holds considerable promise.
Note: Another internationally-minded sleuth -- this one probably also qualifies for "Summer of Spies Redux".
Note: Staying in "forn parts" (as Granny Weatherwax would say), this novel from Australia was one of the most influential mysteries of its day and is even credited with having influenced ACD. Reason enough to take a look at it!
Note: Speaking of influences, one American creation clearly inspired by Holmes was Prof. Van Dusen, "The Thinking Machine" -- an armchair detective if there ever was one and Nero Wolfe's major predecessor (along, of course, with Poe's M. Dupin). Let's see where exactly between his famous colleagues his "ratiocination" method places him.
Note: The American brother in spirit to Ernest Bramah's Max Carrados -- likewise inspired by Sherlock Holmes as much as M. Dupin.
Note: And of course we can't have a list on ACD's competitors without Mr. Van Dine -- whose Philo Vance I've encountered once before, in "The Kennel Murder Case", but I think I might as well go all the way back to the beginning and roll the series up from the first book onwards.
Note: Finally, two detectives from Germany's neighboring countries: "Detektiv Dagobert" from turn-of-the-century Vienna ...
Note: ... and Wachtmeister (Sergeant) Studer from Switzerland!
Note: And, by way of an honorary entry -- I mean, come on, how could I seriously NOT have wanted to read this, having gotten my hands on the (gorgeously illustrated) hardcover edition?!
Note: Both volumes, as a matter of fact.
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