Little did author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle know when he begrudgingly brought his character Sherlock Holmes back to life by popular demand that it was only the first of many resurrections.
Eighty-one years after the death of Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the detective in the deerstalker cap and pipe has yet to fall into obscurity – in fact, he’s more popular than ever. His latest incarnation is the novel "The House of Silk" by Anthony Horowitz, a British writer known for his Alex Rider young adult series and for his TV writing credits on the British series “Foyle’s War” and “Midsomer Murders.”
Horowitz’s novel is the first non-Doyle tale to get the blessing from the author's estate.
Horowitz told The Wall Street Journal that part of the appeal of writing a new Sherlock story was the inspiration Doyle’s stories had given him to become a writer.
“I’ve been a lifelong admirer of the Sherlock Holmes novels,” he said. “My whole career was kick-started by them. I’d read them first when I was seventeen years old….. As soon as I had this commission, I went back to [the stories], and I like them as much now as I did when I was 17. In fact, I like them even more."
In “The House of Silk,” the famous detective and his friend and assistant Watson meet an art dealer in November 1890. The dealer asks Holmes for help with a man with scars on his face who’s been following him, and Holmes and Watson discover a criminal ring who use bits of white silk as their signature.
Horowitz told the Journal that he tried to combine the traditional feel of the Holmes stories as well as modern crime sensibilities by “immersing myself in the world of Holmes and Watson, but with a fast placed plot with loads of twists."
“Nobody’s guessed the ending,” he said. “Not yet.”
Horowitz’s book came out on Tuesday, but Holmes fans have a few more releases to look forward to over the next few months. “Sherlock Holmes 2: A Game of Shadows,” starring Robert Downey Jr. as the eccentric detective and Jude Law as a more dapper than usual version of his sidekick, will be released Dec. 16 after the success of last winter’s movie “Sherlock Holmes” with the same two leads.
Also, a second season of the newest British take on the stories, the BBC series titled “Sherlock,” will premiere in 2012. The television show, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Holmes and “The Hobbit” star Martin Freeman as Watson, puts a modern twist on the story, having Watson recently returned from Afghanistan and setting the two detectives in modern-day London.
For those who prefer their detective between book covers, “A Study in Sherlock: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon,” with stories by authors including Neil Gaiman and Lee Child and edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, was released Oct. 25, while “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” and “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” by Doyle were re-released last month.
It seems the detective has never really gone away, for fans of all ages. The museum with the address of 221B Baker Street in London (actually located between 237 and 241), which recreates the fictional home shared by Holmes and Watson, posted on their website this letter that they received in 1998.
“Dear Sherlock Holmes,
I have heard that some of the lads of London help you from time to time in solving crimes. I would like to let you know that I also am at your service. Any time you need help solving some of the cases which are connected with the United States of America, I will be there for you, especially if the case involves dinosaurs or fish, as these subjects are my specialty. Just let me know. Give my regards to Dr. Watson,
Brandon Sellers (5 y/o).”
Horowitz told the BBC he doesn’t think there’s any danger of Sherlock fatigue.
“I don't think so, though I'm rather happy that my book has come out first,” he replied on whether he was worried the public would tire of Holmes. “I think that [the different versions] can all live comfortably together.”
He said the lasting appeal of stories about the detective lie in their timelessness.
“Conan Doyle is the father of all modern crime fiction,” Horowitz told the Wall Street Journal. “He’s where it all began – story structure, elegance the way clues are used. It’s a master class in crime writing. It doesn’t get better. This wasn’t the case of dusting off an antique. It’s still a perfectly tuned engine.”
Molly Driscoll is a Monitor contributor.