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Published 12:30 pm Monday, May 22, 2023
By James Gardner
Clark County Public Library
People recognize the deerstalker hat, the pipe, the magnifying glass and the name of “Watson” being called out while “the game is afoot.” One could say that Sherlock Holmes is a detective, but he may actually be the detective, as in the detective that set the template for all others to follow. Whether it’s Hercule Poirot’s fastidious and logical pursuit of justice or Lieutenant Columbo’s meandering monologues that typically end with the revelation of who committed the crime, the detectives who spend their pages or runtimes relentlessly pursuing justice owe their existence to Sherlock Holmes, who is celebrated every May 22, a day officially recognized as Sherlock Holmes Day. The day is also essential because it is the birthday of Holmes’s creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
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By trade as a physician, Doyle based the character of Sherlock Holmes on his former university professor Joseph Bell. The world’s most famous detective first appeared in the detective novel “A Study in Scarlet” and later in “The Sign of Four.” Both books can be found in “The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: Volume 3” (Mystery F Doyle). Doyle’s creation also appeared in short stories that were published in “Strand Magazine,” but the library has them in “The Annotated Sherlock Holmes; the Four Novels” and the “Fifty-six Short Stories Complete” (823.912 Doyl/v.1). In a way, Sherlock Holmes even grew beyond the author’s control. When Doyle tried to retire the character, having Holmes and his arch-nemesis Moriarty plunge to their deaths off Reichenbach Falls, fan outcry was so loud that Holmes had to be brought back to have more adventures, and those adventures are ongoing.
Those adventures can be found in the multitude of Sherlock shows the library has in its Series section, from the classic “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” (DVD Series SHER) to the modern retelling of Sherlock’s adventures starring Benedict Cumberbatch (DVD Series SHER). Another example of episodic television that seeks to redefine the character is “Elementary”(DVD Series ELEM). This show casts Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes while his stalwart sidekick Dr. Watson is now Dr. Joan Watson and is portrayed by Lucy Liu. As far as movies, Robert Downey Jr. also had the opportunity to bring the character to life in the eponymous 2009 movie as well as its sequel “A Game of Shadows” (DVD Action SHER), showing a Sherlock that can use his fists as well as his wits.
The public refuses to let Sherlock die, and the world really is better for it. Especially if you ask detectives like Poirot and Columbo, or any fictional detective, or any fan of the modern whodunit, it would be fair, in fact, to say that the connection between Sherlock Holmes and all other detective stories that came after is rather the name of that show with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.
For more stories, check out the library’s movie offerings:
On Wednesday, May 24, at 2 p.m., the Kentucky Picture Show presents a profoundly emotional and cinematic film about the true story of Mamie Till Mobley’s relentless pursuit of justice for her 14-year-old son, Emmett Till, who, in 1955, was lynched while visiting his cousins in Mississippi.