Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Leslie S. Klinger and Sherlock Holmes

I mentioned recently the Sherlockian pastiche that I’ve been labouring over. As a way of practising the craft of writing, trying such a different style and voice is quite a useful exercise, as well as enjoyable. This is the fifth story I’ve written about the great consulting detective. Who knows? One day I may get the chance to collect them all into a single volume. Anyway, this time around, my attempt to think myself into the world that Conan Doyle created was assisted by a wonderful research tool,

There are plenty of books about Holmes, some of them excellent, but my main source nowadays for information about the man himself, Watson, and their world, is The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited in three volumes by Leslie S. Klinger, a monumental and expertly researched piece of work. (It’s also attractively produced and, in terms of value for money, very reasonably priced.)

It may give an idea of the quality of Klinger's achievement to say that John Le Carre, no less, contributes an Introduction. He describes Watson’s voice as belonging to ‘a tweedy, no-nonsense colonial Britisher at ease with himself’ and adds: ‘Professional critics can’t lay a glove on Conan Doyle, and never could.’ And he offers quite a tribute: ‘With no Sherlock Holmes, would I have invented George Smiley?’

Klinger’s own introduction, ‘The World of Sherlock Holmes’, is a fascinating read, and his annotations to the stories provide vast amounts of background information about the stories, answering questions like: ‘who was Watson actually married to, and when?’ For a writer following in Conan Doyle’s footsteps, Klinger’s work is invaluable. Open any page at random and there is almost certain to be something of interest that’s a bit out of the ordinary – for instance, a chart to help the reader decide which particular snake was the ‘swamp adder’ which featured in ‘The Speckled Band.’ There is also a lot of very entertaining trivia – I’m tempted to suggest that, even if you hate Sherlock (but, really, how could you?) you would find plenty here to amuse and entertain you, including various insights on the late Victorian era. But above all, for anyone wishing to re-acquaint themselves with the Canon, the Klinger editions are, quite simply, a source of almost endless pleasure

6 comments:

Ali Karim said...

I have to agree - The Klinger Holmes volumes are pride of place in my house and very good to dip into / As a Holmes buff they are essential in any library - more so that they appear as a huge labour of love -

If you haven't got the set, I strongly suggest you grab them - definative is a word over-used, but in this case it is justified

Ali

blimeyhecks said...

On a slightly different note, have you read the Neil Gaiman Sherlock Holmes story, set in the world of H.P. Lovecraft? Brilliant, if strange!

Martin Edwards said...

I haven't read the Neil Gaiman story. He's one of all too many good writers I've never got round to. What is the title?

blimeyhecks said...

Hi Martin, he is a strange writer...his work has definitely got better as he has got older. He certainly has got an imagination, above anything else. It's called 'A Study In Emerald' and won The Hugo Award for best short story in 04. I read it in one of Gaiman's anthologies, but now looking at the blurb the actual anthology it originally came from is called 'Shadows over Baker St' by John Pelan may be worth a look!

blimeyhecks said...

Aha - I found a link to it on Gaiman's website, it can be read as a Pdf:

http://www.neilgaiman.com/mediafiles/exclusive/shortstories/emerald.pdf

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks very much - I'll look forward to reading it.