Odds are, if you’re sitting down to read this book, you believe that you he’s a detective, even the most famous detective of them all. You know he’s English. You likely know he has a friend named Watson. You probably even have a vague idea of what he looks like. But if that’s the extent of your knowledge, then you’re definitely ready to read on! Sherlock Holmes for Dummies
By any measure, Sherlock Holmes is the greatest character ever created in literature. Holmes’s popularity extends around the world. His influence on popular culture is immense (and shows up in the most surprising places). He has inspired a following of enthusiasts and fans that’s unprecedented for a fictional character from a work of literature. And the stories that comprise his adventures offer endless and fascinating new discoveries to his readers.
Over the past 100 years, enough articles, essays, periodicals, and books have been produced about the Great Detective to literally fill a library. Because of this, approaching the world of Sherlock Holmes can be daunting. But that’s what Sherlock Holmes For Dummies is for. Here you’ll find a general reference offering insight and entrance into the fascinating and exciting world of Sherlock Holmes.
However, this book isn’t an encyclopedia. (There are actual Sherlock Holmes encyclopedias for that.) As in any field of study, some topics covered here are simply informational, while others venture into subjects that have been debated for decades. Sherlock Holmes For Dummies definitely has opinions, but it’s never dogmatic. Half the fun of reading about the character is the variety of responses readers have to the stories and the evolving character of Holmes himself.
About the Authors
Steven Doyle has been a Sherlockian since the age of 14, when his parents gave him a copy of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes for Christmas. Doyle is a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, as well as several other Sherlock Holmes societies, including the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis.
Doyle has also had a long career in Sherlockian publishing. In 1987, Doyle founded and edited the quarterly journal The Sherlock Holmes Review. This critically acclaimed periodical ran for 10 years. In 1992 he cofounded Wessex Press, a high-quality small press specializing in Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and other topics of related interest. Wessex Press (and its imprint, Gasogene Books) is the premier Sherlockian publisher in the world. Finally, in 2008, Doyle assumed the role of publisher for The Baker Street Journal, the official quarterly publication of the Baker Street Irregulars. Doyle has also authored countless essays and articles and edited or co-edited five books: The Illustrious Clients Fourth Casebook, The Illustrious Clients Second Case-Notes, Holmes in the Heartland: The Illustrious Clients Fifth Casebook, Murderland, and G. K. Chesterton’s Sherlock Holmes. He lives in Zionsville, Indiana, a suburb of Indianapolis, with his wife, Pamela, and their three cats.
David A. Crowder
David A. Crowder has authored or coauthored more than 25 books, including the bestsellers Building a Web Site For Dummies and Cliffs Notes Getting on the Internet. His two most recent books were both listed as essential for all library collections by the magazine Library Journal.
Dr. Crowder is a professor in the School of Languages at the University of Antioquia in Colombia. He is equally at home with high technology or with working his way through the backcountry on horseback or in a dugout canoe. When he is not writing, he spends his time with his wife, Angela, wandering through villages in the Andes or frolicking in the Caribbean surf.
To my parents, who gave their son a Christmas gift that never stopped giving, and to my wife, Pamela, who has always allowed Mr. Holmes to share our home.
– Steven Doyle
Special thanks go out to a number of people who offered advice, help, and encouragement during the writing of this book. My team at Wiley Publishing was terrific; Michael Lewis, Tracy Barr, Tim Gallan, and Todd Lothery made the entire process a pleasure, and their feedback materially improved the book. Melanie Hoffman gave insight and encouragement – thanks, Mel! Mark Gagen gets special mention – our London photo safari provided many of the illustrations in this volume. Thanks also to my great friends Mike Whelan, Roy Pilot, Don Curtis, and my brother, Patrick. And finally, special thanks to my wife, Pamela Wampler, whose feedback and encouragement on this project helped keep me going. Thanks, everyone!
About This Book
When fans start to talk about their favorite detective, newcomers are often amazed at the number of topics that can fall under the umbrella of “Sherlock Holmes.” You might presume that, because these are mystery stories, most conversations would revolve around the tales themselves – sort of like what you’d find in a book club, where everyone reads the same volume and discusses it. But there’s so much more than that!
In this book, each chapter is devoted to a different area of interest, and subsections break down the chapter into more specific topics. The world of Sherlock Holmes covers an amazing array of subjects, including
The origins of Sherlock Holmes and early detective fiction.
The stories, including plots, characters, continuing themes, and common threads.
The influence of Holmes on detective fiction, from his contemporaries to today.
The life and work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.
Holmes’s life outside the stories, including film and TV adaptations, pastiche and parody, and fan clubs.
Unlike many of the Sherlock Holmes reference books, handbooks, and encyclopedias published over the years, this book is organized so that you can dive in anywhere. No chapter is dependent upon any other, so if you see something that grabs your attention in the table of contents, just turn to it and go. Think of the book as a sort of “random access” publication.
Conventions Used in This Book
I use some conventions in the book that you may not be familiar with. These are mostly terms that new Sherlock Holmes readers may not know, such as:
Sherlockian is the term for American devotees of Sherlock Holmes. British fans are called Holmesians.
Sherlockiana means of the Sherlockian universe. So, for instance, a book can be called a volume of Sherlockiana.
The canon is what Sherlockians call the original 60 Sherlock Holmes stories.
The Great Detective is another term for Sherlock Holmes himself.
The Good Doctor refers to Holmes’s friend and colleague, Dr. Watson.
Beyond the conventions specific to the Holmes stories, here are a few others it would help you to know:
New words or terms appear in italics.
Bold text makes it easy to spot keywords in bulleted lists.
Monofont is used for Web addresses.
What You’re Not to Read
This book has lots of great stuff throughout, but none of it needs to be read in order, and some of it can be skipped altogether! I’ve organized and designed it so that you can quickly identify what the subject is and easily understand what it’s saying. Beyond that, I’ve put in a lot of extra stuff that may be of interest. This material amplifies or reinforces the main topic of the chapter, but it isn’t vital to read it in order to get the major points. This optional material includes
Sidebars: The shaded boxes that are scattered throughout the book contain extra material that I may touch on in the chapter but that isn’t crucial to your understanding of the subject.
Anything with a Technical Stuff icon: Text next to one of these icons is interesting (I hope) supplementary material that, again, isn’t necessary to your understanding of the topic at hand.
If you’re getting ready to plunge into this book, it’s only fair to tell you that I made certain assumptions about you when writing it.
You’ve heard of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a basic assumption (Holmes would call it “elementary”), but that’s where we start.
You’re literate, curious, and intrigued by the phenomenon of Holmes’s popularity. You’ve had some vague sense that this character was special somehow, and now you’ve decided to look into it.
You want to get up-to-speed on the subject quickly and easily. You want some good, insightful information and commentary, but you don’t want to spend a lifetime getting it.
You like stuff like this – detective fiction, mysteries, genre movies. You think this stuff is cool!
How This Book Is Organized
This book is organized into five parts to divide the material into broad subjects and help you quickly locate a topic on Sherlock Holmes you may be interested in.
Part I: Elementary Beginnings and Background
This first part is the basic introduction to Sherlock Holmes – the plots of the stories and the fascinating history of their publication. In addition, you meet Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who created the world’s greatest detective, and you find out about Victorian London, the time and place that the Holmes stories take place.
Part II: What a Bunch of Characters!
Few stories in literature are populated with as many fascinating characters as the tales that make up the Sherlockian canon. In this part you get a detailed profile of Sherlock Holmes himself, and you’ll be amazed at the depth of the characterization. You also meet his friend, Dr. Watson, as well as other characters, including cops, bad guys, victims, and damsels in distress.
Part III: Holmes and His Adventures
In addition to rich characters, the Holmes stories are full of atmosphere and history, providing a window into the Victorian age. This part describes the “typical” Sherlock Holmes story and takes a detailed look at the most famous Holmes novel of them all, The Hound of the Baskervilles. I also examine common themes that occur throughout the 60 stories.
Part IV: Beyond Baker Street
The influence of Sherlock Holmes has, from the beginning, spread far beyond the original stories, and even beyond the printed page. This part looks at how Holmes has inspired thousands of imitators, first in parody and pastiche, and then later in new detectives created to resemble the Great Detective. It also examines Holmes on the stage and screen and looks at the character’s unprecedented fan following.
Part V: The Part of Tens
What are the ten unsolved mysteries found in the canon? If I want to visit the actual places where the stories happened, where should I go? What are the ten most important books about Holmes that I should have on my shelf? What are the most memorable quotes of Sherlock Holmes? You can find the answers to these burning questions in this part!
I also include an appendix that lists the hundreds of active Sherlockian societies in the United States. If you want to find a fan club to join, here’s the list!
Icons Used in This Book
In the left margin throughout this book, I use icons to point to information that may be fun, interesting, memorable, or useful.
This icon points out important information that you want to remember.
This icon is next to material that helps reinforce information in the text but that isn’t necessary to know. It’s perfectly okay to skip the info that appears with this icon if you feel like it.
This icon alerts you to topics in the text that have parallels and relevance to similar subjects today, showing a continuity between events in the past and the present. Again, though not vital to a comprehension of the material, this information does add another level of understanding.
I use this icon primarily to give readers helpful tips. For instance, Chapter 17 discusses Sherlockian places to visit, and the Tip icon offers pointers on when to go and what to see.
Where to Go from Here
This book is organized so that you can jump in wherever you want. This nonlinear format lets you start wherever your interests take you and proceed according to your whims. Do you need a basic introduction to Sherlock Holmes? Head to Chapter 1. Perhaps you’re more interested in film and television adaptations of the Great Detective. If so, you want to go to Chapter 14. For broad categories, turn to the table of contents. For more specific topics, check out the index.
If you’re not sure where to start, you can begin at the beginning with Part I. It gives you a snapshot of Sherlock Holmes, the background of his creation, and the stories.
Contents at a Glance
Part 1: Elementary Beginnings and Background.
Chapter 1: A Snapshot of Sherlock Holmes and the Stories
That Made Him Famous
Chapter 2: The Great Detective and His Life in Crime
Chapter 3: Arthur Conan Doyle: The Doctor Who Created the Detective
Chapter 4: Life in the Days of London Fog
Part II: What a Bunch of Characters!
Chapter 5: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson
Chapter 6: Cops, Landladies, and Others: The Supporting Characters
Chapter 7: Villains, Victims, and Damsels in Distress
Part III: Holmes and His Adventures
Chapter 8: The “Typical” Sherlock Holmes Story.
Chapter 9: Delving into “The Hound of the Baskervilles”
Chapter 10: The Gaslight Goes Away: The “Modern” Stories.
Chapter 11: Common Themes and Threads
Chapter 12: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes.
Part IV: Beyond Baker Street
Chapter 13: The Sincerest Form of Flattery
Chapter 14: Adapting Holmes for Stage and Screen
Chapter 15: Communities of Sherlockians
Part V: The Part of Tens
Chapter 16: Ten Unsolved Mysteries
Chapter 17: Ten Sherlockian Places to Visit
Chapter 18: Ten Books Every Sherlockian Should Have
Chapter 19: Ten Notable Quotes and Passages
Appendix: Active Sherlock Holmes Societies in North America