Ahead of Sherlock Holmes Day, three contemporary crime writers talk about their association with the timeless sleuth
In sync with the sleuth
I got introduced to the character when I was a child. We didn't have too much of choice back then, moving from Enid Blyton to Sherlock Holmes, to Agatha Christie. The character fascinated me, and there is a story about a snake — The Adventure of the Speckled Band — that's stuck in my head. It's about how someone is trying to do away with children inheriting a fortune. And what I like [about Conan Doyle] is that he doesn't put everything on a plate. You are working with the detective, which I feel that many modern detective novels are missing. They give out everything in black and white.
The Hound of the Baskervilles has also stayed with me. The images of the hounds and the moors, and the fact that you can be confronted with these demonic beasts in the dark, was more fascinating than the actual mystery. When I read it as a kid, it was guaranteed that I wouldn't step out at night for a while.
The whole idea of a historical detective began for me when I received an abridged Sherlock Holmes book as a prize in school. The book opened up everything I had thought about the UK, about the Dickensian era and the grasslands of England. When I read Holmes in the beginning, I remember feeling like I was solving the mystery along with this man. But re-reading it later, I started dwelling more on the character and details like the descriptions of the large castles. More than the stories, it's the characters like Professor Moriarty that I remember. Also, another association I have with the series is through my dog. My peers and seniors would [laughingly] call it The Hound of the Baskervilles, when it was actually this little Pomeranian.
Holmes, the adapter
I read The Hounds of the Baskervilles when I was in school and it had this old-school way of story-telling that I wasn't familiar with. But for me, the resurrection of the character came in the form of the shows [on BBC starring Benedict Cumberbatch]. It's not that Holmes was fading away. But people got to see a modern adaption of the first fictitious detective figure that most of us ever knew. I have seen the films with Robert Downey Jr, too, and the fact that one character can spawn such high-profile adaptations shows how important he is. There are also many literary derivatives, of which Satyajit Ray's Feluda is the most successful.
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