It’s a great time to be a Sherlock Holmes fan, with Guy Ritchie’s steampunk juggernauts thundering across our cinema screens, Elementary giving us a transatlantic rehab Holmes and a female Watson, and of course, of course, Sherlock – as I write in early autumn 2013, we await the whys and wherefores of Sherlock’s resurrection from that fall…
The process of writing this quiz book has refreshed so many memories. Poring over the Conan Doyle canon and turning again to Sherlock has filled me with admiration anew for all of Gatiss and Moffat’s sly nods to the originals, affectionate while entirely modern. But above all, to cast an eagle’s eye over a century and more of Sherlock interpretations, from William Gillette’s Edwardian stage performances to Basil Rathbone’s wartime derring-do, from Jeremy Brett’s definitive television depiction to the zeitgeisty shows of today, is to see how every generation can successfully recast Sherlock in their own image. Rathbone’s Holmes is incisively straightforward, a suitably no-nonsense hero for a world at war; Brett’s Holmes is a twitchy, neurotic performance for an age familiar with the idea of the psychoanalyst’s couch and wanting darkness in all its heroes; and today’s Sherlock is either an autistic savant or a drying out drug-addict. Conan Doyle has given us a Sherlock-shaped mould into which we can cast our molten fears and obsessions, over and over again, and the mould shows no sign of breaking just yet.
Who’s the greatest Sherlock? For myself it depends on my thirst of the moment: if I’m craving a swig of Holmes Classic then I’ll unscrew a bottle of Brett; if I’m in the mood for an illicit brew, full of all sorts of perilous wartime additives, then I’ll dust down a vintage Rathbone ’42; but if I want a Holmes that fizzes on my tongue and froths in my nostrils and makes me feel alive, right now, then I’ll order a triple-shot Cumberbatchaccino from Speedy’s Cafe.
But what do you care what I think? Every Sherlock is a true child of the original, headstrong and rebellious, but carrying his father’s DNA. It’s all good. So why are you wasting time reading this? Have fun with the quizzes!