Review: Anthony Horowitz, Sherlock Holmes and Cousin Dracula

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Holmes In the 21st Century

During the years of the 2000s, we began hearing of TV and film series undergoing a "reboot" in order to replace older cast members with younger actors and to take a particular series in a new direction.

Such was Star Trek® (2009). Sherlock on the BBC television network is a reboot of the Holmes universe, begun in 2010 as a miniseries of three 90-minute broadcasts that end in a temendous cliffhanger. Several years of this series have even seen a Special Feature in which Holmes and Watson work in the late 1880s, complete with full period costumes.

The series reboot casts Holmes as a thrity-something loose cannon and is compelling to watch. Watson is more proactive than he has been in Victorian London, but still a veteran of an Afghan war. Holmes in this reboot shows us more than ever that Gregory House of House MD is based on Sherlock Holmes - their obsession with solving the puzzle is an addiction.

In literature, the estates of deceased authors are able to provide permission to new authors to continue a series of novels. Agatha Christie forbade this to occur, permanently, so we will have no more of the entertaining Hercule Poirot (or not much - one pastiche was written).

Perry Mason mysteries by book and TV continued for a time after the death of Erle Stanley Gardner and even Raymond Burr, with the permission of Gardner's wife Jean; a new series starring Mary Markham was unsuccessful decades later, however.

The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle estate carefully screens authors and their ideas today and presents them with permission to use the Sherlock Holmes series characters in pastiche, some of them very good. However, YA (for young adults) author Anthony Horowitz OBE received permission in January 2011 to write a new Holmes novel and seems to present his story ideas as a first in a series of a reboot rather than a simpler continuation of the original timeline in pastiche.

Horowitz wrote these Holmes novels and novellas: House of Silk, Moriarty, and The Three Monarchs. Look for them to become films.

Brass microscope in case, much like one found in various Holmes Museums.
Brass microscope in case, much like one found in various Holmes Museums. | Source

Horowitz and Holmes

"'Orion Books, which will release the novel in Britain in September (2011), said Mr. Horowitz’s “passion for Holmes and his consummate narrative trickery will ensure that this new story will not only blow away Conan Doyle aficionados but also bring the sleuth to a whole new audience.”' -- DAVE ITSKOFF, Artsbeat Blog, New York Times .

Star Trek® has enjoyed a following of 49 years as of September 2015, with novels and generations of major motion pictures carrying it forward.

Sherlock Holmes has carried its following much longer, adding new generations each decade for over 120 years in 2015. It looks to be going forward as well. An interesting project in 100 years' time would be to compare Holmes and Trek again in order to determine their comparative appeal. In the meantime, we can watch reruns of Star Trek: The Next Generation, in which Data becomes Holmes in the holodeck and on foreign planets.

Anthony Horowitz wrote House of Silk with permission of the Arthur Conan Doyle estate leaders. The Sherlock Holmes Society as a whole approved of the finished product. It is a story of vandalized art and a gang of Irish art thieves. Holmes goes to prison. A pastor and his wife rent out orphans to wealthy people. A lot goes on in this novel and bits like including the Baker Street Irregulars and one of the Royals in a compromising position remind readers of the original 19th century stories.

Anthony Horowitz Writes Alex Rider

Tower Bridge, London
Tower Bridge, London | Source

Circus of Scotland Yard

Lestrade and the Sawdust Ring (The Lestrade Mystery Series)
Lestrade and the Sawdust Ring (The Lestrade Mystery Series)

Lestrade runs away with the circus in order to nab a criminal. He must come up with a believable act for under the big top.

 

Imagine Rathbone and Lugosi in Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula

Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes
Basil Rathbone as Sherlock Holmes
Bela Lugosi as Dracula
Bela Lugosi as Dracula
Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula
Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula

Find out how Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are related in this novel.

 

Four Favorite New Holmes Authors

At least three writers have delivered outstanding Sherlockian novels.

One such writer and historian from the Isle of Mann is M.J. Trow, who has completed 16 Sholto Lestrade mysteries. These stories are dramatic, yet filled with puns, literary references, and humor surrounding Sholto Lestrade, man and boy.

Reading these novels makes me wish that Conan Doyle had apportioned a larger role to the Scotland Yard character in the original Holmes stories. I like these Trow Lestrade very much. In a few of these books, Lestrade's daughter has grown up to work with him behind the scenes at Scotland Yard. The two together are great fun. The Lestrade in the BBC series Sherlock is not that sort of character - bland, really, but he's a bit humorous.

A second relevant author is one that listened to Holmes and Watson on the radio as a boy and was given the work of writing the radio stories into a book with illustrations later in life. This is Ken Greenwald, who has not written any additional Holmes books afterward. Having not heard the original radio programs, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and its illustrations that much resemble Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. I( saw the movies on Saturday afternoon TV in high school and reading this book is like viewing the films again.

A third remarkable author is J. Robert King, who is also a video/online game designer and member of the writing group called the Alliterates. His The Shadow of Reichenbach Falls is fantastic, incredible, and unforgettable. It is one of my favorites to read and own.

The story is funny and brings in even older well known mystery characters and literary references. Part of its humor lies in the fact that Holmes has lost his memory while retaining his great skills of deduction. The book also presents a Moriarity backstory prior to his criminal career for probably the first time and it makes the villain a sympathetic character. It is a Moriarity that people can like.

I sincerely hope that Mr. King writes a sequel to Richenbach Falls.

I must add a fourth author to this mix by including Stephen Seitz and his Sherlock Holmes and the Plague of Dracula. It is the best of the Holmes-Dracula stories and characterizations to date, and Watson is no dolt, either. Another plus is the discovery that Dracula and Holmes are distant cousins.

Planned sequels include one concerning the boyhood of Sherlock Holmes and one about the detective and a famous blacksmith.

© 2011 Patty Inglish

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Comments 6 comments

Docmo profile image

Docmo 5 years ago from UK

Great news- I recently picked up two new 'Young Sherlock Holmes' novels - 'Red Leech' and 'Death Cloud' by an author called Andrew Lane- yet to read them... Alex Horowitz is a very good writer. His TV series 'Foyle's war' is outstanding mystery series set during the war. thanks!


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

That should be interesting to see if they reach the same fascination. Thank, Patty, for pointing this out to us.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

@Docmo - I've heard about the Young Sherlock novels and forgotten about them, so thank you very much for the reminder. I will now look into them as well. Sherlock never ends, I think. Great comments!

@Hello, hello - It's intriguing and fun. What got me interested were the Saturday afternoon TV showings of Sherlock Holmes and Nigel Bruce when I was 16 or 17. Then I was too consumed by work, then I discovered Half Price books and all the Holmes and Doyle I ccound handle, then the others. Much fun! Thanks for writing.


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

I really liked this article. Personally, I have a hard time imagining anyone else in Basil's shoes. To me, he was the perfect Holmes. It should be interesting to see what happens.


dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

It is hard to improve on classics.


Patty Inglish, MS profile image

Patty Inglish, MS 5 years ago from North America Author

Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett were my favorites, but I always think of rathbone first.

dahoglund - I agree, though I really like the Lestrade the Trow produces. lol

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