The game is afoot!

I mentioned in a previous post that I am a Sherlockian. This tends to strike people as being a bit bats, a little like being a scholar of the history of Middle Earth, whilst pretending it wasn't made up out of whole cloth. The idea is that, from one counterfactual premise -- that Holmes and Watson were real people, with Doyle being Watson's literary agent -- you jump off into a huge game of recreational research and logic, where you try to figure out where and when the cases happened, in what order, who some of the "disguised" names might really have been, etc. Sherlockians, in fact, call it "The Great Game", which if you've been watching the BBC's modern series Sherlock you'll note they used as the title of the finale of series one. It's loads of fun if you're the sort of person who reads academic papers in your spare time, which I am -- I have a lot of anecdotes that start with sentences like "It was Friday, so I was drinking and reading neuropharmacology papers on the internet..." -- and since the core set of materials you use for your initial "facts" is so compact and easy to find, it's not difficult to get yourself quickly up to speed.

The canon, as participants call the four collected novels and fifty-six short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which feature Sherlock Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson, is widely available online. I'm not sure about European copyright law, but in the US all but the last book of short stories ("The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes") are in the public domain, and therefore available in a variety of formats from Project Gutenberg. Physical books of the complete canon are also quite common to find; Barnes & Noble at one point included it in their collection of inexpensive leather-bound classics volumes, and there's a paperback edition available from If audiobooks are more your style, I'm not familiar with any of the commercial ones myself, but the Librivox free audiobook collection has a reading of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" by a wonderful lady named Ruth Golding, which would be an excellent place for a first-time reader to start.

If you'd rather see Holmes in action on the screen, then the Granada television series starring Jeremy Brett is widely considered to be one of the best and most faithful adaptations to the original books. I've seen them all, and while Brett's story personally is a bit heartbreaking near the end, he did indeed turn in a phenomenal performance as the great detective.

The number of looser adaptations, new takes, and spinoffs of the concept of Sherlock Holmes is far, far too great to list them in their entirety, although from time to time I'll pop up and spotlight some of my favorites. If anyone has any suggestions, feel free to leave them in the comments.


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