MJ STEEL COLLINS explains she’s loving reading Sherlock Holmes for the first time after years watching him on the small and big screens
I’m ashamed to say I’m something of a latecomer to Sherlock Holmes. Yes, I’ve seen Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Jeremy Brett ,Tom Baker and Benedict Cumberbatch in action as the great man, but it took a seriously hefty cold last autumn until I finally opened up my copy of The Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes and read A Study in Scarlet. I wound up wondering what had taken me so long. It was fantastic.
In the other half’s family, you just can’t escape Holmes. It’s a family that takes its fandoms seriously, and Sherlock just happens to be one of them. He’s part of the furniture with The Doctor, Poirot, Marple and Wolverine. I wonder if that’s one reason why I put off actually reading Holmes – there just seemed to be so much to take in. I think, sometimes, when you do start getting into something that’s so huge, part of the way to digest it is to make it your own in a strange sort of way. You need to spend time alone with it.
It’s a sign of a great literary creation when it gets under your skin, but sometimes you need to take it in small doses. While I can mainline The Eleventh Doctor or M R James until the cows come home, I do find that Sherlock a bit much.
That said, I had a look over The Penguin a few days ago, and feel game for more with A Sign of Four. Cumberbatch will have to wait a bit – attempting to watch all the first series of Sherlock rather messed with my head – so the books are perhaps the best bet.
There you have the power to create in your mind’s eye a particular view of Holmes that’s more personal and something I can relate to. Moffat version is quite a thing to behold. I suspect mine’s is probably more of a cross between Tom Baker and Peter Cushing. Can’t explain that one!
I think the appeal Holmes has for me thus far is that he very much is his own man, and seems to be the hexagon peg in a triangle hole. I like people who beat their own path. There’s also something poignant in that to be able to deal with how he is, Holmes falls on the drugs and other excesses.
He really is a character that falls from one extreme to the other quickly – to quote a musician I’m fond of, ‘one half’s going where the other half’s just been’. On, then, to the next novel.