This season holds particular significance for followers of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes. It was 125 years ago, in 1887, that Holmes and his chronicler, Doctor John Watson, made their first appearances in A Study in Scarlet,
a novel published in the paperback magazine Beeton’s Christmas Annual. That yarn had previously been called A Tangled Skein and featured sleuth Sherrinford Holmes, who shared rooms at 221B Upper Baker Street in London with a character called Ormond
Sacker. However, author Arthur Conan Doyle, at the time a physician with
a not terribly successful practice in Portsmouth, England, changed all of those
names prior to publication. Thank goodness.
Conan Doyle was paid a remarkably modest £25 for his work, which appeared again a year later in book form, complete with illustrations by the author’s father. Favorably reviewed by the prominent newspapers in Scotland, A Study in Scarlet would be followed by three more Holmes novels and 56 short stories, and help make Conan Doyle one of the world’s best-selling crime novelists.
If you’ve never read A Study in Scarlet … first of all, shame on you! But if you would like to at least hear it being read, an audio recording of the book is available on YouTube. Click here for Chapter One.
READ MORE: “Sherlock at 125,” by Les Blatt (Classic Mysteries).