Jul 012014
 
• The last I heard from John Kenyon, the editor of Grift Magazine, he was delivering his favorite books of 2013 list. That was back in early December of last year. Since then, the word went out that Grift had folded--which seemed a damn shame. But suddenly, the print periodical is back. “Things will creak into operation here online in the next couple of weeks,” he writes. “In the meantime, what I’m really excited to announce is that plans are underway for a third print issue. I’m going to try a theme issue this time around, with the content focusing however tangentially on MUSIC. As we explain in the freshly revised submission guidelines, ‘the fiction should include some element of music. Maybe it’s a (literal) roving band that commits crimes, maybe there is a concert, or a favorite song … or a musical instrument used as a weapon. Be inventive. The non-fiction ought to deal at least in part with this subject as well.’” Kenyon will begin accepting submissions again in July.

• This last weekend’s mail brought me a copy of Black Scat Review, the quite handsome, “irregularly” published magazine, which includes in its latest, “Lit Noir” issue an essay I wrote about my fascination with vintage crime and detective novels. It includes remarks on works by Erle Stanley Gardner, Ellery Queen, Ed Lacy, O.G. Benson, Talmage Powell, and others. Also among the contents of this edition are contributions by Kelli Stanley, Michael Hemmingson, Susan Siegrist, Tom Larsen, and others. You can snag a copy for yourself here.

• A year ago, I installed the opening from Return of the Saint on The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page. (You can find that here.) But I don’t remember ever watching that 1978-1979 British TV series, which brought new vigor to Leslie Charteris’ do-gooder series character, Simon Templar, portrayed in this case by Ian Ogilvy rather than Roger Moore (who’d starred in the 1962-1969 ITC series, The Saint). Apparently, it was no easy thing to bring Templar back to the small-screen, as the blog Cult TV Lounge explains:
The idea of reviving The Saint had been around almost from the time that production ceased on the original series. A major problem was of course casting. The problem was not just that Roger Moore was so completely identified as Simon Templar, it was also that Moore had very much defined the character. Any new actor stepping into the role was going to have to be to some extent in the same style, otherwise the new series would simply be another generic action series rather than an authentic Saint series. Ian Ogilvy proved to be the best possible choice. He even slightly resembled Roger Moore and he had no difficulty adapting to the role. Perhaps he does not have quite as much charisma as Roger Moore but he does fit the character as defined in the later Saint stories pretty well.
Cult TV Lounge is a recent discovery of mine, and I’ve been quite enjoying it. In addition to that Saint post, check out this one about Stefanie Powers’ 1966-1967 NBC series, The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.

• British critic/wit Mike Ripley is out a wee bit early with his July installment of “Getting Away with Murder,” his column for Shots. Among the topics being considered this time: London’s recent “More Bloody Foreigners” event; the return to print of “two of spy fiction’s hard men--David Callan and John Craig”; and new works by C.J. Sansom, Dominique Manotti, James Ellroy, Deon Meyer, Stella Rimington, David Downing, and “Sam Alexander.”

• A quick reminder: The Wolfe Pack, the New York-based Nero Wolfe/Rex Stout fan group, is soliciting entries to its ninth annual Black Orchid Novella Award competition. As a Pack news release explains, “Entries must be 15,000 to 20,000 words in length, and must be postmarked by May 31, 2015. The winner will be announced at The Wolfe Pack’s Annual Black Orchid Banquet in New York City, December 5, 2015.” More details about entering your work are here.

The New York Times’ Dan Saltzstein takes a spin through San Francisco’s noir side, led by Hammett tour guide Don Herron.

Who remembers Silk Stalkings?

Salon’s Julia Cooke isn’t impressed by American television’s growing contingent of female spies, the lot of them trying to balance work and family. As she remarks,
Sex appeal, instincts, singularity of mission: the necessary traits of a female spy on TV. And another characteristic unites these shows: They are male-generated worlds populated by women conceived of by men.

The male-drawn women of TV spyland seem to point toward a singular, blunt perspective on the debates dominating American feminism today. No, they say, you can’t have “it all.” Yes, they say, you will be forever swapping hats, though by occasionally dipping into the “simpler” pleasures of domestic life, you may find relief. Yes, you will be expected to be beautiful. These characters are television clichés, but they are also feminine clichés, bundled together and then pulled apart piece by piece: they can’t be controlled or entirely understood, they are electroshock-therapy-crazy, dangerously seductive, a collection of body parts to be ogled.
• Friend of The Rap Sheet Michael G. Jacob, who with his wife, Daniella De Gregorio, penned five novels about early 19th-century Prussian magistrate-cum-sleuth Hanno Stiffeniis (including 2009’s A Visible Darkness), wrote recently to say that he’s hard at work on a fresh project: “Well, we have just sold the first one in a brand-new series, Cry Wolf. Severn House Crime will publish it in England in November and on March 1, 2015, in the States. We are planning to do at least three of them. We’re halfway through number two at the moment (entitled Marzio Dies), having a lot of fun. The central theme is the Calabrian mafia--the ’ndrangheta--and its rapid spread throughout Italy, bringing violence and corruption to sleepy places like the town in Umbria where we live, and totally devastating the lives of anyone who gets involved with them.” I look forward to seeing Cry Wolf and its sequels in my local bookshop.

• John “J.F.” Norris has posted, in his blog Pretty Sinister Books, a fine assessment of A Sad Song Singing (1963), one of my favorite Thomas B. Dewey novels starring his Chicago private eye, Mac.

• That’s a shame. Eighty-one-year-old actor Robert Vaughn, who starred in the 1964-1968 NBC-TV series The Man from U.N.C.L.E., “told fans during an appearance at the Dean Martin Expo in New York that he was never approached about doing a cameo” in director Guy Ritchie’s forthcoming Man from U.N.C.L.E. feature film. The HMSS Weblog notes that when Vaughn was asked what sort of cameo appearance he’d have liked to do, he joked, “I would have wanted to be the guy pressing the clothes.”

Crimespree Magazine’s Jeremy Lynch reports that Stuart Neville’s 2013 thriller, Ratlines, is being developed as a TV program by Ireland-based Ripple World Pictures and Los Angeles-based KGB Films. “Neville will not just handle writing duties, but will also act as an executive producer for the proposed series,” Lynch adds.

• Meanwhile, happy 10th anniversary to Crimespree!

• Which are the 10 episodes that show Peter Falk’s Columboto be “the most iconic TV detective of all time”? A.V. Club’s Gwen Ihnat’s picks include the pilot, Prescription: Murder, “Étude In Black” (starring John Cassavetes), “A Friend in Need” (starring Richard Kiley), “Try and Catch Me” (starring Ruth Gordon), and “Butterfly in Shades of Grey” (the second episode featuring William Shatner). Sadly, one of my personal favorites, “Negative Reaction” (which featured Dick Van Dyke as a murderous photographer), didn’t make the cut.

• And though 1950’s The Drowning Pool isn’t one of my favorites among Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer P.I. novels, I’m pleased to see it win favorable notice in blogger NancyO’s The Crime Segments.

• Did the often bizarre, 1990-1991 ABC-TV series Twin Peaks really prepare the stage for what some critics call our present “golden age” of television? That’s the case
proffered by Salon’s James Orbesen, who contends that “Many of the defining aspects of Twin Peaks can seem clichéd today: Its narrative intricacy, its darkness, its reliance on antiheroes. But that’s just because we are by now so used to the show’s sensibility in our televised diet. What set this show apart has so thoroughly been assimilated that talking about it is like pointing to the sky and calling it blue. But this engaging, surreal and occasionally frustrating, 30-episode series about the hunt for a prom queen’s killer was ahead of its time. Many of today’s modern classics owe it a debt audiences might not be aware of.”

• If you haven’t noticed yet, Kevin Burton Smith has refreshed his Thrilling Detective Web Site with new stories by Frederick Zackel (looking back at the 1974 film Chinatown), Thomas Pluck (doing his own reassessment of Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye), Ben Solomon (reminding us of Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation), and others. Click here to find Smith’s comments on this latest update.

This September conference looks like great fun!

• The Cult TV Blog is busy now, looking back fondly at Danger Man (aka Secret Agent), the 1960-1962 UK series featuring Patrick McGoohan as secret agent John Drake.

• By the way, if you haven’t seen the opening title sequence from that show in a while, it’s one of the latest additions to The Rap Sheet’s YouTube page. You can see it here.

• Megan Abbott dreamcasts the film to be made someday from her new novel, The Fever (Little, Brown). “I never think of specific people while writing a book,” she remarks in My Book, the Movie. “It would feel too specific, maybe limiting. But, as a movie-lover since childhood, once the book is complete, I often imagine the possibilities. And so I find myself doing that with The Fever.”

• In today’s Guardian, Melanie (aka M.J.) McGrath, author of The Boy in the Snow and the forthcoming The Bone Seeker, muses on why it is that women enjoy reading rater explicit crime fiction. “For women required in youth to be decorous and in maturity to be invisible,” she writes, “crime fiction gives us permission to touch on our own indecorous feelings of rage, aggression and vengefulness, sentiments we’re encouraged to pack away somewhere, along with the big underwear and the tampons, where they won’t offend.”

Nineteen things you may not know about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, from The Daily Telegraph. No. 3: “He wasn’t knighted for his fiction. In 1902, the writer was knighted by King Edward VII. He was also appointed a Deputy-Lieutenant of Surrey. However, he wasn’t knighted for having created Sherlock Holmes. He was made a knight for his work on a non-fiction pamphlet regarding the Boer War.”

A fine review of Philip Kerr’s Prayer.

• In a new interview with Neal Thompson of Amazon, Alan Furst talks about his work on Midnight in Europe (Random House), his 13th historical spy thriller.

• Finally, organizers of PulpFest 2014 have announced their latest set of eight nominees for the Munsey Award, “annually presented to a deserving individual who has given of himself or herself for the betterment of the pulp [fiction] community …” In addition, one person--convention “grunt work” expert J. Barry Traylor--has been put forward as a possible recipient of the Rusty Hevelin Service Award, “designed to recognize those individuals within the pulp community who have worked long and hard for the pulp community with little thought for individual recognition.” Winners will be presented on Saturday, August 9, during PulpFest in Columbus, Ohio.
Jun 182014
 
We can only wait to see the legal repercussions of this ruling:
A federal judge has rejected a copyright appeal brought by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, opening the way for writers, filmmakers and other creators to make free use of Sherlock Holmes, his sidekick Watson and any elements of their story that appeared in Conan Doyle works published prior to Jan. 1, 1923.

The ruling, issued by Richard Posner of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, affirmed a district court ruling, last December, that the characters were no longer protected by American copyright, and so could be used without paying any permission fees.

In a ruling that cited “Star Wars” as well as Shakespeare, Judge Posner also rejected the estate’s claim that Holmes was a “complex” character, who in contrast to “flat” characters like Amos and Andy, was not fully fleshed out until Conan Doyle laid down his pen, and so remained under protection until the last copyright on the 10 Holmes stories published after 1922 expires.

“What this has to do with copyright law eludes us,” Judge Posner wrote tartly.
You can read more on this decision here and here.
Apr 072014
 

Amazing_Stories 27-08As we learned in our April 4th post, “Origins of Science Fiction,” magazines began to reach a much wider audience as Europe and America became more industrialized. Increasingly urban and literate societies required cheap, entertaining, and easily accessible entertainment to escape the drudgery of the mills and offices. Since magazines could be produced cheaply and in a timely fashion, the last quarter of the nineteenth century became “The Age of the Storytellers.” Beginning around 1880, when Robert Louis Stevenson started to publish his first works of fiction, the world would witness the birth of the popular fiction magazine as well as the pulp magazine.

Strand 1891-07Stevenson’s “Treasure Island,” first serialized in 1881-82, helped to provide the spark for other authors to try their hand at similar fiction. Works such as H. Rider Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885), “She” (1886), and “Allan Quatermain” (1887), as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s “A Study in Scarlet” (1887) demonstrated the need for an inexpensive, popular fiction magazine to be published on a regular basis. Shortly after Christmas in 1890, the first of these—The Strand Magazine—was launched by George Newnes. Filled with illustrations, the periodical really took off during the summer of 1891 with the start of Conan Doyle’s “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” introducing one of the most successful continuing character series of all time.

With the success of The Strand Magazine came a host of imitators, among them Pearson’s Magazine. It debuted in late 1895 and soon became one of the leading publishers of magazine science fiction, featuring the future war stories of George Griffith and the scientific romances of Herbert George Wells. “The War of the Worlds” and “The Invisible Man,” both originally published in Pearson’s in 1897, are still enjoyed today, over a century after their initial appearances. Educated in the sciences as well as a literary genius, Wells’ mastery of both science and fiction was readily apparent. His later science fiction, including “The First Men in the Moon” (1900-1901) and “The Country of the Blind “1904), would run in The Strand.

In our next installment, we’ll turn our attention across the pond where an American entrepreneur named Frank A. Munsey was busy turning a struggling magazine into the first American all-fiction magazine.

War of the Worlds

To learn more about the images used in this post, click on the illustrations. Click here for references consulted for this article.

 

May 222013
 

As a great many other mystery bloggers have already pointed out today, this is the 154th anniversary of the birth of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. The Holmes stories - just 4 novels and 56 short stories - are truly "elementary" in the sense of being "elemental": they are the building blocks on which much of today's mystery fiction rests.

Perhaps you're a relative newcomer to mysteries. Perhaps you know Holmes best from the movies and/or television series. That's fine - but I hope that what you see will convince you to try the original stories. They remain extremely readable.

I came to mysteries through reading all the Holmes stories when I was 10 years old, and I still reread them periodically - in fact, I'm about due for another go-around. In any case, I hope you'll pause, raise your favorite beverage in a toast to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, to Sherlock Holmes, and to mystery.

May 222013
 
I never have trouble remembering Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday, for it coincides with the anniversary of my founding The Rap Sheet (a subject about which I shall have more to say anon). Had that physician turned author not died in July 1930, he’d be celebrating his 154th birthday today, having been born in 1859.

On this occasion, let me direct you to a fairly good biography of Conan Doyle here, a video of the author talking about his life and career (which I’ve posted before on this page, but which many readers probably have not seen), and David Abrams’ review of the 2007 book Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters, by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, and Charles Foley. Oh, and if you didn’t see it before, here is James McCreet’s Rap Sheet piece looking back at some of the more preposterous deductions made in the Sherlock Holmes stories.

(Hat tip to MysteryFanfare.)

READ MORE:Sherlock Holmes Is on the Case,” by Margot Kinberg (Confessions of a Mystery Novelist ...).
Jan 232013
 
A weekly alert for followers of crime, mystery, and thriller fiction.

Dead Man’s Land, by Robert Ryan (Simon & Schuster UK):
This novel was published in Great Britain at the beginning of the month; but as I live way out here in Seattle, and there’s no U.S. edition of Dead Man’s Land (in fact, author Robert Ryan doesn’t seem to have been published much in the States at all), I only recently received a copy of the book and found the chance to read it.

I am very glad I did.

As Ryan explains in a short essay for Crime Time, Dead Man’s Land was not originally his idea. His publisher was shopping around for “a work of fiction featuring a ‘detective in the trenches of World War I,’” and Ryan came up with a splendid solution: Why not send Dr. John H. Watson, of Sherlock Holmes fame, to the front lines in France, where he’d find himself involved in a homicide investigation? Of course, Watson would’ve been fairly old in 1918, when the action here takes place (in his mid-60s, by most reckonings). That, however, proved to be a surmountable problem. In Dead Man’s Land, we find Watson--who, after all, was a battlefield surgeon before becoming the chronicler of a crime-solver’s escapades--in Flanders Fields as a major with the Royal Army Medical Corps, and “an expert in the new techniques of blood transfusion.”

He becomes grudgingly accustomed to the quotidian deaths of thousands of soldiers, the persistent bomb barrages, the pressures that weigh heavily upon physicians and nurses under such circumstances, and the appalling atmosphere of the trenches (“black tar from lamp wicks, the constant cigarettes, not to mention the tang of rat piss and the sour smell of unwashed clothes”). Yet, when a sergeant suddenly perishes of an elusive ailment that turns his skin blue and his hands into claws, the horrific routines of war are upset. Blame is cast initially upon Watson’s blood transfusions; but when other, similar deaths are discovered, the old man’s sublimated sleuthing sensitivities are aroused, and his pursuit of a murderer with old grudges to exercise draws him into a deadly confrontation that must finally be settled in the worst possible place: the bleak no-man’s-land between the opposing armies.

Ryan’s portrayal of battlefield conditions is thorough and captivating, his cast of suspects sufficiently well drawn to have fooled me, and his capturing of Holmes’ associate faithful enough to have won the backing of Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate. The author has left himself room to write a sequel. I hope he will do just that.
Dec 022012
 
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).
May 062012
 

Masterpiece Mystery!’s teaser for Sherlock, Season 2.

“Do you think you could survive for just a few minutes without showing off?” That line, delivered by a bewigged and bothered judge in the final episode of the sophomore season of Sherlock--the BBC-TV drama making its return to American TV sets tomorrow night, courtesy of PBS’ Masterpiece Mystery! series--nicely emphasizes one of the storytelling strengths of this popular program.

Rather than striving simply to update Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s tales of London-based consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, writers Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat have employed the shift from the late 19th century to the early 21st to crank up the volume on this sleuth as an anachronism. As played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Holmes is a creature of the intellect, mostly misanthropic, thoroughly blind to the niceties of modern civilization, and so unfamiliar with the customs of contemporary celebrity that he thinks he can go about his business of freelance ratiocination--showing off!--without hindrance from the law or the media. Yet, his coldly cerebral pursuit of audacious malefactors continues to endear him to today’s TV audiences. This is credited largely to the fact that we see Holmes in the BBC series the same way we did in Conan Doyle’s tales--through the compassionate eyes of his far-less-perfect chronicler and companion, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), who must frequently remind the detective to keep his too-honest opinions to himself and demonstrate at least some of the manners expected in human interaction. Holmes comes off in Sherlock as at once disturbingly superior and deserving of our sympathies. We laugh at his eccentricities and moments of eye-rolling arrogance, but want to save him from his own manifest weaknesses.

Although I still see Jeremy Brett as the ideal performer to portray Conan Doyle’s original Holmes--which he did so well in Granada Television’s 1984-1994 adaptations of the Holmes yarns--I’ve developed substantial appreciation for Cumberbatch’s re-interpretation of the character. And Freeman’s Watson is a particularly brilliant foil, his friendship with the Great Detective growing despite the latter’s oft-uttered indifference to such relationships.

The first set of three, 90-minute Sherlock movies inspired by Conan Doyle’s fiction--and broadcast during the fall of 2010 here in the States--demonstrated Gatiss and Moffat’s willingness to diverge greatly from the Holmes canon, yet remain faithful to its spirit. We might best call their efforts “creative interpretations.” People unfamiliar with the source material could find value in the rapid pace, plot complexities, and visual elegance of those episodes, while the rest of us--better acquainted with the world of 221B Baker Street--recognized the writers’ in-jokes.

Those opening episodes, though, were a mere warm-up to Season 2. Over the next three Sundays, Masterpiece Mystery! will broadcast new Sherlock installments, including two of the best yet made.

Tomorrow night’s show (beginning at 9 p.m. ET/PT) is one of those. Titled “A Scandal in Belgravia,” it’s based (more or less) on the 1891 short story “A Scandal in Bohemia.” The original tale found Holmes and Watson working for the betrothed King of Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), who needs their assistance to recover a potentially scandalous photograph, evidence of his onetime affair with a smart and resourceful American opera singer named Irene Adler. In Gatiss and Moffat’s version, a female member of Britain’s royal family hopes to retrieve compromising photos taken of her in company with the smart and resourceful dominatrix, Irene Adler (Lara Pulver). “A worthy match for the aloof detective, Adler masterfully maneuvers her many assets in a game that Sherlock is ill-prepared to fight: love,” as the PBS Web site explains. Yes, Holmes fulfills his promises to get the photographs back, but he succeeds only with the lovely Ms. Adler’s acquiescence. In return, she later asks for his aid in fleeing killers who want a secret code she’s filched from the Ministry of Defense--the key to information relating to a terrorist plot involving airplane sabotage. But what none of this tells you, is that “A Scandal in Belgravia” is one of Sherlock’s sexiest episodes; at one point, a gorgeously made-up but starkly nude Irene confronts the sleuth, and her absolute absence of attire leaves him unable to deduce anything about her. Subsequently, she adds her number to his cell phone, along with a ringtone--sounding remarkably like a woman’s erotic sigh--that
goes off whenever she sends him a text message. As you might expect, that ringtone is used to great comic effect as the story unfolds.

A behind-the-scenes trailer for “A Scandal in Belgavia” is embedded on the left. Meanwhile, the Holmes-obsessed Web site, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, recently did an interview with actress Pulver--covering, in part, this opening episode of Sherlock, Season 2--that can be enjoyed here.

Next up in the series will be “The Hounds of Baskerville,” set to show on May 13. Taking its cues from the 1902 novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles--one of my favorite Conan Doyle works--“Hounds” finds Holmes and Watson probing the area around Baskerville, a top-secret military compound in the hinterlands. Not far from there resides Henry Knight, whose father was supposedly killed decades ago by a giant, demonic hound--an animal Knight claims he’s spotted again, and that he very much fears. The plot provides some novel twists on the original, with plenty of night frights and military secrecy adding to its suspense; but the resolution is somewhat less satisfying than that of Conan Doyle’s justly acclaimed novel.

Finally, on Sunday, May 20, tune in for “The Reichenbach Fall,” an unusual installment, if only because its title bears no resemblance to the short story from which it takes inspiration: 1893’s “The Final Problem,” in which Holmes allegedly perishes in a tumble off Switzerland’s Reichenbach Falls, locked in battle with his arch nemesis, Professor James Moriarty. He would later be resurrected in 1903’s “The Adventure of the Empty House.”*

“The Reichenbach Fall” alludes to that spectacular encounter in the form of a supposedly priceless painting of the tall Swiss cascade, which Holmes recovers near the beginning of this episode. However, the action in “Reichenbach” is firmly set in London, where the detective is called to testify against the insane criminal mastermind, Jim Moriarty (played by Andrew Scott), who has recently broken into the Tower of London and threatened the safety of the crown jewels on display. After Moriarty is declared--against all reason--to be “not guilty” of this headline-making transgression, he enters into a dangerous cat-and-mouse game with Holmes, determined to destroy the sleuth’s reputation and, in the process, prove that he, Moriarty, is the greater genius. The plot turns here tumble upon one another, making Holmes and Watson fugitives from the law and concluding with ... well, I won’t tell you how this outstanding episode ends, except to say that it will leave you scratching your head--in a good way--and looking forward to the third season of Sherlock.

That third season is already set to begin filming in early 2013, and Gatiss confirms that the first new episode will be loosely based on “The Adventure of the Empty House.” How loosely? “There’s certain things about ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’ which feel set in stone because that’s how Sherlock comes back,” he told the Associated Press not long ago. “But at the same time we feel free to invent and to introduce new stuff to it. I always found it a little unlikely that Dr. Watson’s only reaction was to faint, for instance--as opposed to possibly a stream of terrible swear words.”

I can hear Martin Freeman delivering those curses already ...

Below: BBC One’s teaser for “The Reichenbach Fall.”



* Arthur Conan Doyle hadn’t planned to write more about Holmes and Watson, by the way. He’d grown quite tired of his series protagonist, and wanted to be rid of him. But his decision to do away with Holmes “incurred the terrible wrath of his readers,” recalls Steve Thompson, who wrote “The Reichenbach Fall” and also provides the introduction to BBC Books’ recent edition of The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, the volume containing “The Final Problem.” “Sacks of abusive mail arrived on Doyle’s doorstep in London. He was pilloried in the newspapers. A press cartoon depicted Doyle weeping over the coffin. He even reported being hit in the street by a woman with an umbrella. He was, after all, the man who had murdered their beloved Sherlock Holmes.” Conan Doyle finally agreed to bring Holmes back, and then continued publishing his adventures into the late 1920s.

READ MORE:Sherlock’s Masterful Return,” by Willa Paskin (Salon); “Sherlock: A Character Who’s More Than Elementary,” by John Powers (National Public Radio); “New Sherlock Returns to PBS,” by Bill Hirschman (Mystery Scene); “Ruffians, Pickpockets, and Jewel Fences: What Was Crime-fighting Actually Like in Sherlock Holmes-era London?,” by Paul Collins (Slate); “Elementary, My Dear Viewer,” by June Thomas (Slate); “Sherlock @ PBS: Cumberbatch Returns” (I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere).