One of the earliest signs that I was a true geek was in seventh grade and I picked up The Hound of the Baskervilles.
I promptly fell in love with Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories.
In short order, I graduated from the paperback editions in the school library to what is still one of my most prized possessions: the classic Annotated Sherlock Holmes by William S. Baring-Gould.
With the new movie starring Robert Downey Jr. coming out on Christmas Day, it seemed a good time to share some of the best of the millions of all things Holmes out there, especially for kids who see the movie, like it, and want to read more about Holmes.
And even though the list is long, it’s just a tiny taste of what is available about Sherlock Holmes. For instance, the Sherlock Ninja comic on the list below is one I found through just last week through my livejournal flist.
Doyle wasn’t too thrilled about the popularity of his character initially. One wonders what he’d think of Sherlock Holmes today.
The Hound of the Baskervilles Illustrated Classic. A wonderful illustrated version of the most well-known Holmes story.
Enola Holmes series. Victorian-era young adult mysteries by American author Nancy Springer that features Enola, the spirited but much younger sister of Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes.
The Case of the Baker Street Irregular by Robert Newman–a young boy lost in London needs the help of Sherlock Holmes.
Basil of Baker Street. Sherlock is a mouse and Moriarty is a rat. Disney made it into a movie called The Great Mouse Detective, which is worth seeing but be warned–a little girl’s father is attacked in the beginning. It scared my daughter off the movie for about a year.
The Encyclopedia Brown stories. No, he’s not Holmes, he’s an American boy in modern times but he’s clearly inspired by Holmes and uses his brain to solve all manner of mysteries. A great start for any child who wants to read mysteries.
The above mentioned Great Mouse Detective of Baker Street, of course.
Young Sherlock Holmes. Yes, it plays with the Canon quite a bit, re-imagining Holmes and Watson as boarding school roommates and it does strain credulity with the underground complex sequence. But it also has great action, a terrific swordfight at the end, and does stay true to the spirit of Holmes.
For Older Children and Adults:
I’ve just included my very favorites otherwise the list would take up several posts.
First, the original stories, which stand the test of time. I started with Hound of the Baskervilles but The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which collects the first set of Doyle’s stories, is a perfect start, especially since it contains A Scandal in Bohemia, the only appearance of Irene Adler. (At least in Doyle’s stories. She frequently pops up elsewhere, like in the new film.)
Better yet, there are numerous collected books of all the stories available in both hardcover and paperback.
I also like the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes which has all the short stories and novels plus updated commentary discussing the Canon. It’s beautifully illustrated and packaged though I prefer my old Baring-Gould set.
Nicolas Meyer wrote a couple of fine books about Holmes, the well-known The Seven Per Cent Solution and the more obscure West End Horror, which co-stars George Bernard Shaw.
For those who want a complete mosh-up of Holmes, try Manly Wade Wellman’s Sherlock Holmes and the War of the Worlds. It’s not particularly true to Canon but I love the placement of Holmes in the middle of H.G. Wells’ novel, plus we get Professor Challenger too.
The gold standard for Holmes visual adaptations is, of course, the Granada Television series adaptations that starred Jeremy Brett.
This television series, aired on PBS as part of Mystery, brought Holmes back to to the basics of the original stories. Jeremy Brett is fantastically eccentric and smart and Watson finally gets his due as a competent partner and physician and not the bumbling idiot best represented by Nigel Bruce’s Watson in the Basil Rathbone films.
Murder by Decree stars Christopher Plummer and has Holmes chasing Jack the Ripper around Victorian London. James Mason’s Watson is written rather stupidly but Plummer is wonderful as Holmes and it’s a good mystery.
Without a Clue is a comedy in which Dr. Watson is actually the brilliant detective and Sherlock Holmes is simply an actor hired by Watson to front for him. I adore Watson, so I loved the idea and that Watson is played by Ben Kingsley and Holmes by Michael Caine made it even better.
One adaptation to avoid is a Hands of a Murderer-Sherlock Holmes. Edward Woodward takes on the title role here and while he’s one of my favorite actors (and I’m so sorry he passed away this year) Woodward is seriously miscast in this. He would have been a terrific Moriarty. Perhaps if he and Anthony Andrews had swapped roles, it might have worked. But do go find The Equalizer or Breaker Morant.
And, as promised, Sherlock Ninja. I don’t have the full issue but the preview is promising.
There is also a recent Sherlock Holmes comic from Dynamite Entertainment, written by Leah Moore with art by John Reppion and some wonderful covers by John Cassaday.
And finally, if that is not enough Holmes for you, there are places where you can still visit him.
There’s the official Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street in London. (Though the Holmes geek in me can’t resist pointing out that Holmes’ address, 221B Baker Street, did not exist in Victorian London. Obviously, Watson was trying to give out a false location to keep curiosity seekers away.)
In America, there’s Gillette’s Castle’s in Connecticut, which I wrote about this summer for Geek Dad, and there’s The University of Minnesota Sherlock Holmes collection.
I’ve never been but, damn, that collection is impressive.
There may be a visit to Minnesota in my future.