Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Immortal Sherlock Holmes

George Mann is the author of the Newbury and Hobbes and The Ghost series of novels, as well as numerous short stories, novellas and audiobooks. He has edited and written a number of Sherlock books including Encounters of Sherlock Holmes, More Encounters of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlock Holmes: The Spirit Box.

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sent Holmes tumbling to his apparent death over the Reichenbach Falls in 1893, it was, to all intents and purposes, the end of the world's foremost consulting detective. Doyle originally had no intention of reviving the character - in his mind, Holmes was dead, the stories were over, and the author could spend his days concerning himself with other things, much to his relief. 
What Doyle didn't realise, however, was that he'd come to the decision too late. Holmes had already outgrown his creator. Adored by the reading masses, Holmes had become a hero, a legend, a figurehead. There was a public outcry, and it wasn't long before Doyle felt compelled to revive the character, explaining how Holmes had survived the fall through his usual brand of cunning and resourcefulness. 
Holmes has continued his adventures ever since, persevering long after Doyle's death, still solving seemingly impossible crimes, even now.

What's intriguing is how Holmes, perhaps more than any other fictional character in the English language (and far beyond) has transcended his creator, and, indeed, the fiction in which his story began.

For Holmes has become more than a simple character, a device for telling clever detective stories - Holmes has passed into myth, like Hercules, Frankenstein's monster, or Romeo and Juliet before him. 

The line between fiction and history has been irrevocably blurred. Holmes is so ubiquitous that those unfamiliar with the original stories sometimes mistakenly believe the character to be a real historical figure. Indeed - pilgrims can visit his house on Baker Street in London, and his ongoing adventures are chronicled in any number of stage plays, television series, radio plays, novels and stories. 
Why is it that Holmes should have endured where so many other characters have passed into obscurity?

Perhaps it's because, in the Sherlock Holmes stories, Doyle created a template for the modern detective story, that even now percolates through almost all crime and mystery fiction on the shelves in bookshops and libraries around the world. Perhaps it's because that same template has been adopted by television, and that every time we sit down to watch an onscreen detective take on a new case, we're reminded of the original master, and his outlandish and fiendishly clever techniques - techniques that are often imitated, adopted or borrowed by those who came in his wake. Perhaps it's simply a tribute to the remarkable portrait Doyle painted of two men, Holmes and his indefatigable Boswell, Dr. John Watson, of their atypical friendship, and the fact that these characters continue to loom larger than life. 
What's clear is that many of us feel a deep affection for the character, and a certain responsibility to continue his adventures; to continue chronicling the exploits of this great master, so he is never forgotten. More than that, there's a selfish impulse, too, to somehow become a small part of Holmes's on-going story, to contribute, to give something back to a character who has given so much to us. 
As each generation finds a new way to engage with the character - some coming to him through the original canon, others through modern television adaptations or pastiches - a new group of people are inspired to create new and fascinating adventures for him. 

It's in this way that Holmes lives on, and will surely live on for centuries to come. As his fall over the raging Reichenbach Falls proved all those years ago - Holmes is essentially immortal. 

Associates of Sherlock Holmes Edited by George Mann (£7.99, Titan Books)
For the first time, famous associates of the Great Detective – clients, colleagues, and villains – tell their own stories in these brand-new adventures. Follow Inspector Lestrade as he and Sherlock Holmes pursue a killer to rival Jack the Ripper; sit with Mycroft Holmes as he solves a case from the Diogenes Club; take a drink with Irene Adler and Dr Watson in a Parisian cafĂ©; and join Colonel Sebastian Moran on the hunt for a supposedly mythical creature…  

You can find more information about George Mann and his work on his website.  You can also follow him on Twitter @George_Mann and follow him on Facebook.

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