Thursday, April 14, 2011

What's Up, Holmes, says Dr. Watson

There’s No Holmes like Holmes

I read my first Sherlock Holmes story in my junior year of high school. I hated high school, was longing to be rid of it, and I was going through all the books in the house simply looking for something interesting to read that would take me away for a little while. I’d read all of my mother’s Agatha Christies, so she suggested reading The Hound of the Baskervilles. And….in a fashion uncharacteristic of most teenagers, I did.

In the opening pages, Holmes asks his friend Dr. Watson to analyze a walking stick left behind in their rooms by someone who had visited while they were out. Watson makes some observations about the stick, guessing about the owner. Holmes then takes the stick and shows Watson how he was completely wrong in all of his deductions.

I loved this character already!

But it only got more interesting when that visitor returned and told the Holmes and Watson about the legend of the hound of Hell who haunted the Baskerville family, and how the late Sir Charles Baskerville was found dead with footprints of a giant hound beside the body. I couldn’t put the book down and was utterly frustrated when Holmes “vanished” partway through the book, leaving Watson to investigate the situation in Dartmoore, only to appear suddenly later having been spying on the whole situation from afar.

Now – I relate a bit of the play-by-play on my first reading of Sherlock Holmes to make a point. Teenagers and sometimes pre-teens (if they have a decent vocabulary or the tenacity to look up words in the dictionary) can read the original tales written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Teenage boys were, after all, his intended audience, and most of his readers at the turn of the last century were young people.

And yet there are new young-adult series starring the Sherlock Holmes character. I’ll mention specifically the Enola Holmes series by Nancy Springer as well as the Young Sherlock Holmes books by Andrew Lane. While both of these series have received critical acclaim, and I don’t fault the authors for writing Holmes books (I mean…I just have to look in the mirror), I just have to wonder, why not simply offer kids the original Holmes stories first? I have freshmen in my high school classes who have read and enjoyed Holmes, and I’d say from age 14 years up, they can usually manage.

For first-time readers, I recommend short stories first. The tales I usually suggest are: “The Red Headed League,” followed by “The Blue Carbuncle” (especially around Christmas time), “The Speckled Band,” “Silver Blaze,” “The Greek Interpreter,” and “The Dancing Men.” After these, “The Final Problem,” and “The Empty House” can be read as a set. One could then progress to other stories and the novels, of which The Hound of the Baskervilles is the best.

Even better….all of these stories can be tried without plunking down money. They can be found online right here complete with the original illustrations! That way, if a young reader likes all the original tales, they can invest in a great hard copy and then move on to the stories written by other people who simply loved the character enough to keep telling stories about him, like, say….me.

Summary of Ann's latest release, Murder in the Vatican: A sudden death in the Vatican. An international incident over stolen artifacts. A priest’s wrongful imprisonment for murder. In this collection of three as yet untold tales, hinted at in the original Holmes stories, the voices of Dr. John H. Watson and the legendary Pope Leo XIII reveal how the great Sherlock Holmes brought these grim ecclesial cases to startling and poignant conclusions.

And here's some more information about Ann! Born and raised in Waterford, Michigan, Ann Margaret Lewis attended Michigan State University, where she received her Bachelor's degree in English Literature. She began her writing career writing tie-in children’s books and short stories for DC Comics. Most recently she published a second edition of her book, Star Wars: The New Essential Guide to Alien Species, for Random House.

Her latest book is Murder in the Vatican:The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes published by Wessex Press. She is also co-writing a historical novel entitled Roman which tells the true story of a priest in 1840s southern Indiana who was accused of assaulting a woman in a confessional.

Ann has many interests from music to art history, to theology and all forms of literature. She is the President of the Catholic Writers Guild, an international organization for Catholic Writers and the coordinator of the Catholic Writers Conference LIVE. Ann lives in Indianapolis, Indiana with her husband Joseph Lewis and their son, Raymond.

Watch her You Tube video here. You can purchase her book through Amazon or directly from her publisher. To learn more about Ann and her writing, visit her website.


Karina Fabian said...

Thanks for posting this, Katie. My ten-year-old has discovered Sherlock Holmes. It's great to see kids stretching their horizons.

Karina Fabian

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Very cool!
Holmes is one of those amazing characters that will live on. It's no wonder people still love the original as well as the new tales! :)

widdershins said...

Holmes is one of those characters that never grow predictable even with multiple readings. I go through my set every decade or so (which is more than enough time for me to forget the plot and who-dun-it) and drift away into the intricacies of Victorian England for days at an end.