At an estate sale after my grandfather passed away when I was little, I stumbled across a collection of books. These books didn’t look like the colorful, illustrated books I had at home. They were relatively nicely bound, they had the titles impressed on the front – they looked official; they looked important.
They were the complete works of Frost, Shakespeare, Poe, and Conan Doyle. I’d been tasked with taking stuff out of the garage and putting it in the “for sale” area, but instead I approached my mother with the books and my best “Pleeeeeeeeeeease?” expression. It didn’t take much convincing.
I read much of Poe and Shakespeare. I read ALL of Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. I couldn’t get enough.
One thing I always loved about Sherlock Holmes was that throughout the story, the clues are laid out for you – you can solve the mystery yourself, if you know how to interpret the clues. I never did.
Most modern adaptations of Sherlock Holmes are concerned with his interactions with Dr. Moriarty and Irene Adler, but in the books, these characters only appeared in a few stories. Most of the stories were more ‘one-off’ affairs, sort of like a TV episode, where everything is wrapped up at the end of the story.
In the books, Sherlock Holmes was obsessed with cigar ash. He had categorized, catalogued, and could recognize the ash of any tobacco. He was also obsessed with disguises, and in contrast with some recent depictions, only rarely fought – though he was quite capable of doing so.
One thing that has made it into most adaptations, but which surprised my young mind nonetheless, was that Holmes was a drug addict. Specifically, a heroin user, albeit an arguably high-functioning one.
It’s been said that Sherlock Holmes was based off a real person that Conan Doyle had met. A doctor that was so astute in observing his patient’s symptoms that he could tell you with little to no difficulty exactly what ailed any particular person without much need for examination. I don’t know how true that is, and it must be seen through the lens of outdated medical practices and beliefs (which were much simpler), but it’s still a fascinating thought nonetheless, don’t you think?
Oh, also: Sherlock Holmes NEVER said “Elementary, my dear Watson”.
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