The Sign of Four, a graphic novel adapted by Ian Edginton and illustrated by I.N.J. Culbrand, provides a faithful version of the Arthur Conan Doyle story. Like all the Sherlock stories I’ve read, it’s a quick read that engages from the start. The illustrations look very modern in their style. It took me awhile to get used to a Sherlock with a Jay Leno chin, but it didn’t bother me.
Unless you’re pressed for time, make sure you read the original. This is fine, but not great.
English: Second of the four illustrations included in the edition of Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes by AC Doyle published in 1894 by A. L. Burt in New York. (Source: Wikipedia)
Sherlock, season 3 begins on PBS tonight. In anticipation, I’ve read “The Empty House,” the Arthur Conan Doyle (ACD) short story that the episode is based on. It’s been years since I’ve read a Sherlock story. When I was in high school, I was in the Sherlock Holmes Society and read several. Doyle knows how to tell a good story. His style is direct and compelling. His hero, Sherlock is brilliant yet flawed and he captures the friendship between Holmes and Watson very well. They’re able to speak frankly, though Watson sometimes refrains from commenting because he feels he won’t be listened to or in other cases, is in awe of his friend’s mental prowess.
“The Empty House” was the first story of Holmes’ return or resurrection. Fans will remember that Doyle grew tired of his popular character. Apparently, ACD suffered more than Watson from being overshadowed by Sherlock. Try as he might, he wanted Sherlock gone, but the public clamored for more and after 10 years, ACD relented and wrote, “The Empty House” in which Sherlock returns to solve the case of the murder of Ronald Adair.
Highlights include Sherlock explaining how and why he cheated death and fooled Moriarty and Watson holding what might be the first literary intervention when he voices disproval of Sherlock’s use of (the then legal) cocaine. Like the modern Sherlock played by Benedict Cumberbatch, the original Sherlock used stimulants to stave off the boredom of ordinary life.
I delighted in how often Sherlock quotes Shakespeare and recommend getting an annotated book like The Oxford Sherlock Holmes, which illuminates all the references and quotations.
Reading the story this time around, I was struck by how much screenwriters Moffat and Gatiss borrow from the original. I’m not complaining. In fact I applaud them for their faithful, clever adaptations.
Tonight American fans see what the duo has done to explain Sherlock’s death. How could he fake his death so convincingly? The YouTube video above provides a thoughtful analysis. If it’s correct, Moffat and Gatiss would have closely followed what happened in the original story. Folks in the U.K. already know what happened. In North America we’ll soon find out.
Do read the originals. They’re well written and you’ll gain insight. For next week I’m finishing The Sign of Four.
[Chandler] wrote as if pain hurt and life mattered.
The New Yorker.
I just love Raymond Chandler and can’t believe I didn’t read his novels till this year. The High Window has Philip Marlowe working for a nasty, rich, cold-hearted widow whose ex-husband’s rare gold coin has been stolen. The story starts simply enough, but soon the body count piles up. First a rookie detective who was following Marlowe is killed. Next an expert Marlowe spoke with, then a third body appears. All are connected to Marlowe, though not closely.
The best thing about Chandler’s writing is the prose. His style is one of a kind. Here are some examples:
“I have a damn fool of a son,” she said. “But I’m very fond of him. About a year ago he made an idiotic marriage, without my consent. This was foolish of him because he is quite incapable of earning a living and he has no money except what I give him, and I am not generous with money. The lady he chose, or who chose him, was a night club singer. Her name, appropriately enough, was Linda Conquest. They have lived her in this house. We didn’t quarrel because I don’t allow people to quarrel with me in my house, but there has not been good feeling between us. I have paid their expenses, given each of them a car, made the lady a sufficient but not gaudy allowance for clothes and so on. No doubt she found life rather dull. No doubt she found my son dull. I find him dull myself. At any rate she moved out, very abruptly, a week or so ago, without leaving a forwarding address or saying goodbye.” (p.12)
He held an empty smeared glass in his hand. It looked as if somebody had been keeping goldfish in it. He was a lanky man with carroty short hair growing down to a point on his forehead. He had a long narrow head packed with shabby cunning. Greenish eyes stared under orange eyebrows. His ears were large and might have flapped in a high wind. He had a long nose that would be into things. The whole face was a trained face, a face that would know how to keep a secret, a face that held the effortlessness of composure of a corpse in the morgue. (p. 76)
After reading The Long Goodbye, Chandler’s become one of my favorite writers. Happy Birthday!
It’s the birthday of Raymond Chandler, born in Chicago (1888). His parents were Irish, and after his father left the family, his mother moved them back to Ireland, and he grew up there and in England. Later, he moved back to America and settled in California.
He wrote pulp fiction about the city of Los Angeles and a detective there named Philip Marlowe. Chandler’s first novel was The Big Sleep (1939), which sold well and was made into a movie in 1946 with Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall — William Faulkner co-wrote the screenplay. Chandler wrote seven more novels featuring Philip Marlowe, who became the quintessential “hard-boiled” private eye, tough and street-smart and full of wise cracks. In Farewell, My Lovely(1940), Marlowe says: “I needed a drink, I needed a lot of life insurance, I needed a vacation, I needed a home in the country. What I had was a coat, a hat and a gun.”
Chandler was never any good at coming up with plots. He had to study and steal from other mystery writers like Dashiell Hammett. But he knew how to create atmosphere. One of his early stories, “Red Wind” (1938), begins: “There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that . meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen.”
Chandler is famous for his metaphors. In one novel he wrote, “She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looked by moonlight.” In another he wrote, “She gave me a smile I could feel in my hip pocket.
You must be logged in to post a comment.