As a film it is good fun. The plot is a total cliché (covert Masonic-style group, with an Aleister Crowley-style leader, attempts to take over the country) but the action keeps the pace at such a level that you simply don't have the time to dwell on its shortcomings until after you've left the cinema. The casting (with the exception of RDJ) is reasonable, at no stage was I bored and I certainly hope for a sequel. The recreation of Victorian London is first-class and the attempt to look at Holmes's more physical side is to be commended. From this perspective I give the film 7/10.
From a Sherlockian perspective it is far from a success. Like many Sherlock Holmes films, not based on a Conan Doyle story, the scriptwriters have attempted to give the film a canonical feel by peppering it with lines/scenes from the original stories. The result is something of a patchwork which, for me, was rather disjointed.
The occasionally comical "Captain Jack Sparrow" Holmes that RDJ gives us is out of place as is his apparent infatuation with Irene Adler. As was to be expected, whenever the filmmakers had to make the choice between fidelity and commercial success they chose the latter. Hence Holmes's drugs were dispensed with (which I consider to be rather cowardly) and replaced with something akin to a drink problem.
Moving on to the rest of the cast, Law’s Watson is excellent. He is entirely convincing as a former soldier but is less convincing as a doctor. His wife-to-be is a rather pointless character. It is clear that she exists purely to act as a wedge between Holmes and Watson and this is reflected in her relative lack of screen time. Irene Adler, as portrayed, is somewhat removed from the Adler in A Scandal in Bohemia but it would have been impossible to have her in the film and not alter her character.
Blackwood made a good melodramatic villain but did not really come across as someone who was an intellectual equal of Holmes. I was left feeling that the Holmes of the books would have dealt with Blackwood in half the time that it took RDJ's
The character I enjoyed the most was the one with the least screen time. I refer to Professor Moriarty. The two scenes in which the character both features and speaks are full of menace. The fact that he is also kept in shadow (clearly to permit freedom of casting in the sequel) adds to the menace.
In view of all the above, from a Sherlockian perspective, I give the film 5/10.
So my overall mark, combining both scores, would be 6/10.
I know I am going to come away with mixed feelings about this film but I am very glad it has been made as it may just tempt some to check out the original books.
I have decided also that once I have seen it I shall produce a free addendum on it which will neatly fit at the back of my first book Eliminate the Impossible.
This means that I am free to focus on Xmas and my first novel. More details as I see fit to release them :-)
3/5 Stars awarded.
Feb - Book two released, German Radio interview re Hound of the Baskervilles (in Dartmoor).
Mar - Waterstones book signing & SHSL Douglas Wilmer event at National Liberal Club.
May - German TV interview at Sherlock Holmes Museum, Baker Street.
Nov - Literary lunch/talk for Living Literature at Sherlock Holmes Hotel, Baker Street.
During all of this I was beavering away at book three which shall be heading towards the publisher shortly.
I hope that 2010 is as interesting.
The cover has also just been re-jigged to include a new quote from one of my proof-readers. This gentleman (who shall for the moment remain nameless and is a senior member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London) gave me such a pleasing assessment of my work that I felt it needed to be included on the back cover. The publisher agreed and the external designers lept into action.
Presently I am indulging myself with one more read-through (which has been worthwhile as I've spotted a couple of silly, but minor, errors). The final document will be sent away within a fortnight.
Blackwells have been very nice followers so far and have even given me a plug. I now wait to see if that causes a spike in sales.
Cross your fingers for me.
Leaving that to one side, the inevitable problem that I face is that there will be comparisons made between my detective (no I'm not writing a pastiche) and the great detective himself. Being a devotee of said Holmes (with three non-fiction titles concerning the creation and his creator under my belt) means my situation is even worse as my knowledge of the Holmes stories is likely to influence what I write.
I have agonised over this (probably a lot more than I should have) and have finally decided to not worry about it. I shall get my story out of my head onto the page and assess it then. To try and do so beforehand is the way that madness lies.
I have also comforted myself with the knowledge that Sherlock Holmes was, to a certain extent, following in the footsteps of Poe's Dupin. So I am, in a way, facing the same problem that Conan Doyle did himself.
In any event this is all in the future as my third non-fiction book is not yet on the shelves.
It immediately decends into a Madonna Vs Ritchie argument.
I am rapidly losing my faith in mankind.
Perhaps I should not celebrate just yet. After all it's not in my hands yet and the good old CWU have already lost several parcels of mine thanks to their strike action.
Plea to the CWU. You have a legal right to strike but at least try to ensure that you clear the bloody backlog when you're done. Thank you.
It seems to me that people are becoming more agressive towards each other largely because, when it is over the Internet, there is little chance of them coming into 'real' contact with the people they are rude/agressive towards - and thus having to face the consequences of their actions (i.e. gettting a slap).
I'm not an angel here. I think I am probably as guilty as the next person. However even I draw the line at some of the xenophobia that seems to be getting indirectly caused by the new Sherlock Holmes film.
There are numerous Web based movie gossip sites and the Sherlock Holmes film has stoked up more debate than most films. However, regardless of how well such debates start out, they all eventually deteriorate into a Brits Vs Yanks slanging match. I have genuinely seen debates on this film that have begun along the lines of 'The film is not canonical because of X Y or Z' which have gone on to entries such as 'you Yanks should leave our books alone' or 'you Brits suck at making films which is why we have to do it for you'.
I am, of course, omitting some of the outrageous comments from both sides which have resorted to insulting people as well as their opinions in the vilest possible terms.
Yes I admit that I find some of the ignorant and ill-informed comments on some of these debates irritating. People arguing over what drugs Sherlock Holmes took (many say Opium - no he didn't). People who suggest that others haven't read the books and then make a remark which shows that they clearly haven't either. It's all maddening and makes me want to press the 'reply' button - yet I don't (well not any longer).
Why? Simply because it is futile. Some people will love this film, some will hate it and most will fall somewhere between those two stools. Sure, there will be loads of things that are wrong. When books are adapted for the screen things are always changed (and I don't pretend to always like the results). I am certain that when I go to see it I will grind my teeth more than once but nothing, repeat nothing, should cause such vitriol to issue forth from people who I like to think are probably quite civil in the 'real' world.
It goes without saying that there are more readers than there are writers and the web has made it far easier for your average 'man in the street' to review books that they have read. However, I have discovered, and it may seem obvious, that there is a whole world of difference between private and public appraisals.
I have no problem with private appraisals. By this I mean things like performance reviews with an employer or similar. Public appraisals are another matter as, by definition, they are open to the whole world.
Before I wrote my first book I had written many reviews of other people's books. For the most part my reviews were positive but on the odd occasion I had been negative. At the time I did not give it much of a thought but all that changed when I got wind of a negative review of my first effort.
The reviewer in question could not bring himself to find a single positive (well not that I noticed) about my book and even suggested that it should not have been published at all. You may be able to imagine how I felt. The best part of a year's worth of work dismissed in a couple of paragraphs.
It was a valuable lesson that I learned that day. The lesson was not to be too eager to slam the work of others. If you genuinely cannot find anything positive to say about a book (or any other product for that matter) then say nothing. Otherwise be critical but in a positive way. Not all people have thick skins (I certainly don't) and to destroy someone's confidence and then claim it was in the interest of consumers is wrong.
This is where I am at right now. My last 'stock take' was about three months ago and I've bought the odd thing since then. So that is my task for this afternoon.
"...one does feel that some of the pastiches that have been written would never have been published if they hadn't had the name Sherlock Holmes attached to them."Dame Jean's comments are undoubetdly true but I don't take quite the same hard line. Providing the author sticks to the style and spirit of the books then I don't really have an issue and there have been many such stories that I have enjoyed.
The ones that annoy me are those that take a giant leap away from Conan Doyle's vision and bring Holmes into combat with demons and ghosts. Pastiches such as these are those which I feel Dame Jean's comments most apply to.
For the last word on the subject we can turn to the great detective himself. His opinion on the subject was put very concisely in 'The Sussex Vampire':
"This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply."Enough said I think.
C'est la vie
My next book The Norwood Author is released at the end of March 2010. For the discounted price of £7.99 (plus P&P to be determined) the first twenty people who email this address:
With the answer to the following question:
In what year did Conan Doyle and J.M. Barrie's play "Jane Annie" show at the Savoy Theatre?
Will be able to purchase a signed (and dedicated) copy.
Those of you who correctly answered my previous promotion (2 people) can rest assured. You have got your copies (subject to payment of course :-) )
18 copies remaining.
I, along with representatives of the organisation who had 'hired' me, began by mingling and exchanging easy conversation before sitting down to a less than stunning buffet lunch. Predictably, some of the diners had issues with the food and service and I spent most of the time cornered by two Swiss ladies who, fortunately, were charming company.
At 1.45pm I was 'interviewed' Wogan-style and spent about 45 mins giving them countless items of useful information about Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle, Victorian London and even a few tit bits on Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple (Lord knows how we ended up on them). My talk, upon conclusion, was greeted with reassuring applause.
Then we got down to the business end of the day - selling my book. Tight so-and-sos only bought six copies between them. The royalties on those (before tax) will just about cover the cost of my travel. There's precious little glamour in being an author.
P.S. One lady fell asleep during my talk. However I keep telling myself this was due to the combination of stodgy food and oppressive heat rather than my wonderful voice.
"Please accept my congratulations on another admirable book! Most of us, I suspect, weren't really aware of the missing chapter in our knowledge of Arthur Conan Doyle's life. You recognised that there was a blank patch on the canvas, and you've completed the portrait. Your achievement merits the terms that Francois le Villard applied to Holmes's work - Magnifique! Coup-de-maitre! Tour-de-force!"
I am, predictably, rather pleased.
This is my latest book 'The Norwood Author' which is released in March 2010. It is a biographical look at the life of Arthur Conan Doyle between the years 1891-1894 when he was resident in Norwood, South London.
All of my books are obtainable via Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble and many other outlets.
However an inconsistency has appeared between some sources I have used and I need to investigate. So this weekend I shall be stuck in the library getting a headache (courtesy of the microfilm reader). I need to compare three newspapers from 1892 and see which one is correct.
Then I need to prepare like crazy for my talk on Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel. This takes place on November 10th and has been organised by Living Literature. It's a closed event, I'm afraid, for a set group of tourists but I hope it will lead to further such events in the future.
Focus Alistair focus...
Finally I got a grip and have determined that I shall finish book one before looking again at the other two. The first two chapters of book one are now complete. They are now away with my informal focus group for assessment.
You would think I would be used to this period having been through it twice before. However this part is never easy. I won't be happy until I get comments back and am able to act on them.
I sincerely hope that my quality control team (for lack of a better description) will get back to me over the next two weeks.
On other matters, I have noticed that my ruthless Internet advertising has borne fruit. Sales of my first two books have picked up over the last few days. Amazon are once again reporting low stock. I wonder if I should produce a special boxed set.
The plain fact is that neither viewpoint is correct. Yes there is plenty of self-published rubbish but there are equal amounts of tripe put out by mainstream publishing houses. To damn someone purely because they funded their own publication is pure literary snobbery.
There are many perfectly good reasons why people self-publish. One common reason is not that they are lacking in talent but that their potential audience is so small (their subject being rather niche) that mainstream publishing houses do not see the books as worthwhile to take on.
Let us not forget that mainstream publishing houses are businesses. They are, of course, concerned with quality but they are more concerned with what will sell. It is for this reason that so many celebs, who cannot write to save their lives, have no trouble getting publishers to put out their books (which are often partly or wholly written by someone else). I name no names but you'll all be able to think of a few examples I'm sure.
I feel a bit better now.
It's a pity as I really wanted to do it.
One word to Warner Bros. - NO!
It would just not be creditable to have him in the role. It would be like casting Morgan Freeman as Gandhi (i.e. just plain wrong). Please, for one second, think beyond the box office takings and look at the original material (go on break the habit of a lifetime!).
You need someone older (in order to be plausible as a Victoria professor). The perfect choice would have to be Gary Oldman. He's well suited to villains, can pass for a professor and has the physical stature to be seen as a worthy opponent to Holmes atop the Reichenbach Falls.
Go on - do it for me.
Nevertheless I cannot stop myself.
I'm also still waiting for my friendly proof-reader to give me his opinion of section two. It's the waiting that plays with my mind the most.
'The book promises to be as valuable a contribution to the study of ACD's life and career as I'd hoped'
It also occurs to me that this is my first UK event (excluding my book signing for Waterstones). My radio and television interviews were for broadcast in Germany. It is good to be finally doing something on my home turf.
This tends to make my life more difficult.
Firstly I have to admit that all my opinions are based purely on the interviews I have read and the two (slightly) different trailers so I am fully prepared to state that my views may alter after seeing the finished article.
But, based on what I do know.....
I am in two minds over this film. On the negative side I have issues with the casting - I think Downey Jnr is miscast and I believe he has been chosen purely because of the high-profile he has gained through his Iron Man film. He is the man of the moment who will guarantee ticket sales. It justifies his casting from a marketing perspective but not from the perspective of authenticity.
I also have issues with the apparently (judging from trailer) OTT action sequences. I've read interviews where people involved have said that the action is okay and canonical because it says in the stories that Holmes was a boxer/fencer/martial artist etc.
This is true but you cannot take one line from the stories and use it as a blank cheque to do whatever you like. We have to accept that we are going to get Hollywood's reinvention of Holmes despite all their protestations that they've gone back to the source material. Perhaps they have but they have chosen to ignore what doesn't suit them. Another blogger summed up my feelings when they said "we don't need reinvention we need rediscovery".
On the plus side however there is the obvious fact that this film will generate significant interest in Sherlock Holmes that extends far beyond Sherlockian Societies. If (and it's a big 'if') this film inspires people to pick up the books and discover the true Holmes then I will applaud it. I have to admit that it was Basil Rathbone's 'The Scarlet Claw' that got me into Holmes and I freely admit that it was hardly a canonical piece of cinema.
So, to sum up, I think this film will be fun and enjoyable but whether it will really be a Sherlock Holmes film remains to be seen.
I've just been on ebay and saw a number of listings for bound copies of The Strand described as having illustrations posed by "Jeremy Brett". Not only does this seller get this wrong he/she also wants the best part of £200 per volume. In reality they are not worth much more than £60 so I suspect they will go unsold.
My favourite auction today was a lot of three bound Strand volumes where the vendor optimistically expects in excess of £600 for the lot. No harm in trying I guess but no serious collector is going to be that daft. That kind of price only befits a first edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles.
The latest version of the latter journal contains a nice article concerning my victory in getting The William Stanley pub in South Norwood to erect a Conan Doyle / Sherlock Holmes display.
If you are a member of either society and have the journals - do have a peek.
I'm keeping those digits crossed again.
I am still on-target for my March release date. I'll be mortified if they don't like it.
Pencilled in for November 10th.
Here is their URL http://www.livingliterature.co.uk/ keep an eye on it for details in future.
So a brief intro for those unfamiliar with my work:
I have been a Sherlock Holmes fan since 1982 but it took me until 2007 to put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard) and produce a book upon the subject. This was entitled "Eliminate the Impossible" (or ETI for short) and was published in February 2008. It received much critical praise (and the odd detractor) and I was sufficiently encouraged to take the material I had cut from the final draft and turn that into a second book. This book, which was released in February 2009, was called "Close to Holmes" (or CTH) and has, so far, done even better than ETI.
I am presently working on my third book which is called "The Norwood Author". This is about the life of Sherlock Holmes's creator - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - during the four year period that he lived in the Norwood area of present-day South-East London.
I have given interviews for both radio and television on the subject of both Holmes and Conan Doyle but so far these have been for broadcast in Germany.
So there you go......more will follow later.