Monday, June 25, 2012

Sherlock returns, 1952

Sherlock Holmes, it is said, is one of the most recognizable literary figures in the world, right up there with Tarzan and Superman.

In 1952 Life published a new story featuring Holmes, written as a collaboration between Adrian Conan Doyle (Sherlock’s creator Conan Doyle’s youngest son) and John Dickson Carr, a very popular mystery novelist and Doyle biographer.

Life considered it so important they included it in their Christmas issue, uninterrupted by the ubiquitous advertising that intruded on nearly every page of the magazine. An article on the creation of the story doesn’t escape that dubious distinction, though, and the ads are back.

A couple of years ago I found a library copy of The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes by Doyle and Carr, and this is a picture of its dust jacket. There are twelve stories in the book, including “The Adventure of the Seven Clocks,” published by Life.

The last few years have seen a tinkering with—if not an outright dismantling of—the Holmes tradition established by Arthur Conan Doyle. Many books have been written using the Holmes character, including the classic Seven Per Cent Solution by Nicholas Meyer. An updating of the characters to the modern era has been shown on television, and then there is the two-fisted revisionist Holmes movies with Robert Downey Jr. (To be fair, being an action hero as portrayed in the Downey movies is not that much of a stretch, when you read in the Life article that Holmes was once a boxer.)

Personally, I prefer the original Holmes set firmly in the last couple of decades of the 19th century. The new stuff is kind of fun, but I don’t think it’s anywhere near as interesting as the classic portrayal by Jeremy Brett, which lasted from 1984 until his death in 1995.

“The Adventure of the Seven Clocks” Copyright © 1952 Adrian Conan Doyle
Life editorial material Copyright © 1952, 2012 Time-Life, Inc.

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