A spirited account of how Sherlock became a household name.
Arthur Conan Doyle’s literary creation was, of course, a hit from the moment he first bowed in 1887, with eager readers awaiting his every move in the pages of The Strand and books for the next couple of decades. But Holmes, writes Swedish Sherlock-ian Boström, might have remained a musty artifact from the Victorian past had not a small army of fans and creators taken pains to keep him updated. If it’s true that every generation needs a fresh translation of Homer, then it seems that every generation has also gotten its own Sherlock. As a creator of the beloved Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman vehicle observed, “to prove Holmes immortal…it’s essential he’s not preserved in Victorian aspic—but allowed to live again!” Boström takes the story from Conan Doyle’s pen all the way up to the most recent emanations, not just the Cumberbatch-ian Sherlock, but also Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock on the CBS drama Elementary. By the end of the second season, Miller had “beat the record for the actor who had portrayed Sherlock Holmes the most times in films or on television.” Take that, Basil Rathbone! Of course, old Basil played his generational role, as did the dutiful screenwriters and film executives who marshalled Holmes into the Allied ranks during World War II, an ideological struggle “woven into a number of film series that were already underway—regardless of whether they were about Tarzan or starred the comedy duo of Abbott and Costello.” Indeed, Boström’s weaving of the Holmes story into the larger one of popular culture and the mass-entertainment industry is the best part of this very good book.
For fans of literature, film history, and Conan Doyle alike, a fine complement to the best works of Sherlock-iana.