Search for "Sherlock Holmes" on any internet bookseller's site,
and thousands upon thousands of titles will appear. Since Conan
Doyle's time, writers have been tempted to create their own tales
using Holmes as inspiration. Every Holmes is different. Some authors
concentrate upon Holmes's drug addiction or have him meet a famous
historical figure (Nicolas Meyer's The Seven-Percent Solution
does both). Some focus on his relationship with Watson, while others
invent a lady-friend for him or choose a female acquaintance from
the books to be his paramour. Sometimes Moriarty returns, sometimes
Holmes's brother Mycroft. Occasionally Holmes acquires offspring.
In the past two years alone, at least two dozen novels or short
story collections have come out, not to mention several new editions
of the original works.
Here are some recent fictional treatments: Caleb Carr's The Italian
Secretary (Carroll & Graf, 2005) takes Holmes and Watson into
the realm of the supernatural. In Mitch Cullin's A Slight Trick
of the Mind (Nan A. Talese, 2005), Holmes is in his nineties
and has become rather forgetful. Laurie King's series (published
by Bantam) portrays an aging, but still vital, Holmes and his young
wife. Thos. Kent Miller in The Great Detective at the Crucible
of Life (Wildside Press, 2005) involves Holmes in a Rider Haggard
story in Africa, and Sherlock Holmes and the Search for Excalibur
(Authorhouse, 2005) winds up a trilogy by Luke Steven Fullenkamp
in which Holmes and Moriarty seek the famous sword. (If that seems
far-fetched, consider this: in a 1958 short story called "The Martian
Crown Jewels," science-fiction author Poul Anderson sent Holmes
to Mars.) Some authors focus on Mrs. Hudson, Holmes and Watson's
faithful landlady, or on other minor characters. Others stay busy
figuring out what Holmes did during those years between "The Final
Problem" and "The Empty House," when Watson thought him dead.
For those who want to return to the source, a new version of the
original writings is now available: The New Annotated Sherlock
Holmes has come out in three volumes, two for the short stories
and a third for the novels. It is edited by Leslie S. Klinger and
published by Norton. One caveat: the notes and commentary all play
"the Grand Game," and assume that Holmes and Watson were real people.
The Grand Game
What do we really know about Holmes? Who is he? Where was he born,
who were his parents, where did he go to school? Is he English?
French? American? These questions are irrelevant, you might argue,
because we know that Holmes is a literary character, not a real
person. A large group of dedicated people from all over the world
might not agree. They call themselves Sherlockians, and they play
at "the Grand Game," according to which Holmes and Watson are real
people and Conan Doyle is their rather incompetent literary agent.
In 1912, Ronald A. Knox, a detective-story writer and Catholic priest,
wrote an article called "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes,"
in which he satirized the ponderous jargon of literary criticism.
The article's assumption that Sherlock Holmes was a real person
caught the fancy of writer and editor Christopher Morley, who formed
a Sherlockian club called the Baker Street Irregulars that continues
to meet today. Their website can be found here: www.bakerstreetjournal.com.
Other Sherlockian societies with their own publications also exist
and can be found on the web.