Ross K Reads from Eliminate the Impossible

In this video, Ross K reads a small excerpt from my first book Eliminate the Impossible

Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USABarnes and NobleAmazon UKWaterstones UKAmazon KindleKoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

Themes in the Canon

Warning: Some minor plot spoilers. If you've not read the entire canon - be warned.

For the first time I've sat down and had a look at the underlying motives in each of the sixty canonical Sherlock Holmes stories.

I eventually managed to divide them into the following groups: 
  • Self-defence
  • Relationships (positive/noble ones rather than ones that have fallen apart)
  • Espionage
  • Accident
  • Greed
  • Revenge/jealousy

Now of course, some stories cut across more than one category but I’ve placed them under the heading that I consider to have been the greatest influence.

So let’s look at the smaller counts.


The Abbey Grange – The murder of Sir Eustace is deemed to be self-defence
The Three Gables – Isadora Klein seeks a manuscript in order to defend or preserve her (pretty battered) reputation.


The Noble Bachelor – Bride leaves Lord St Simon when she discovers her first husband is alive.
The Yellow Face – The hiding of a child of a former relationship

The Yellow Face

The Three Students – Student sees exam papers early but his father’s former butler convinces him not to benefit from his advanced knowledge
The Missing Three-quarter – Man goes missing to be with the (dying) wife he has hidden from his uncle.
The Creeping Man – Man experiments with drugs to improve his vitality and impress a younger woman
The Blanched Soldier – James Dodd goes in search of his missing friend Godfrey.

The Blanched Soldier

His Last Bow – Holmes’s pre WW1 service


The Lion’s Mane – death caused by jellyfish

The Lion's Mane
This accounts for ten of the sixty stories. All of the others (50) fall into the revenge/jealousy or greed categories (by my count - 21 and 29 respectively). An example of revenge would be The Sign of Four. Even though the treasure means that it touches on greed, the motivation for events is revenge against Major Sholto. An example of greed would be Charles Augustus Milverton where the proceeds of blackmail are the main motivation.

Charles Augustus Milverton

Try going through the stories yourself and see how closely (or not) your assessment tallies with mine.

Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

A better claim for Undershaw

As readers of this blog will know, I am a big supporter of the movement to save Undershaw (Arthur Conan Doyle’s former Surrey home) from redevelopment. It therefore irks me a little when others who also support this aim make inaccurate claims for the house.

The most persistent of these is that Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles at Undershaw. This is only partially true and should therefore not be used as a major literary reason for saving the house.

The story was first serialised in The Strand Magazine and began publication just prior to the opening of William Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes play at the Lyceum Theatre. Conan Doyle wrote the story in chunks and sent it piecemeal to the magazine as he went along. Consequently, parts were written in Dartmoor, parts in central London and some, no doubt, at Undershaw.

A better literary claim for Undershaw is that it was the site of Holmes’s formal rebirth with many, but not all, of the stories making up The Return of Sherlock Holmes having been penned there.


Undershaw - the site of Sherlock Holmes’s rebirth

…is better than…

Undershaw – where some of The Hound of the Baskervilles was written.

For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

To what extent does technology fuel “fandom”?

I was only just into double-figures when Jeremy Brett made his first appearance as Sherlock Holmes in 1984 so I feel positively ancient compared to the new generation of Holmes fans. For me, in the pantheon of great Holmes actors Brett occupies the throne but I acknowledge that it is a generational thing. For the generation before me Douglas Wilmer was number one and for the generation before them it was probably Basil Rathbone.

For the younger generation it is very much a certain Mr Cumberbatch. Why him and not RDJ? Well, I think you need to make a minimum number of appearances before you can be the Holmes of a generation and it is for this reason that Robert Downey Jr will not enter the pantheon (although his appearances will be remembered). A certain Mr Miller might manage it in the eyes of some if Elementary runs for a decent time but I honestly think that Benedict Cumberbatch’s claim on the throne is pretty secure (at least in the eyes of anyone under 30).

Rathbone, Wilmer, Brett & Cumberbatch - some of the pantheon's finest

But how famous would BC be without today’s social media and how famous would Brett and Wilmer have been if Twitter and Facebook (or indeed the internet itself) had been around to not only celebrate them but to also unite fans in their appreciation?

People have told me that there was a significant Brett fan movement in the 1980s and 90s but it managed to pass me by. He has a huge following now but, at the time, I considered myself to be alone in my appreciation of him. In 1994, when Brett last appeared as Holmes, the internet was only just really coming into being and fans probably communicated through good old-fashioned post/mail (aka snail mail) and the letters pages of magazines.

In some respects the lack of technology may have been a bonus to Brett and those before him. It may have been a comfort to know that there was a certain amount of clear blue water between them and their fans. Perhaps this is why Cumberbatch keeps away from social media (at least as far as we all know). Perhaps he wants to maintain a certain amount of distance, a certain amount of mystery, a certain amount of sanity?

I find it especially amusing to speculate what it would have been like for Basil Rathbone had he and Twitter been able to encounter each other. He made no secret of how he came to dislike the character and people’s inability to see him as anyone other than Holmes. How on earth would he have coped with immediate (and sometimes ill-thought out) critiques of his performances on the internet? How would he have coped with knowing that if he ever lost his temper with a fan the news would be global in minutes?

I suspect, not well…..

For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

Repost of NBC video

The NBC story from an earlier post will no longer work from within the blog. You have to follow the link now. Also features Roger Johnson and BSB Kristina Manente @curlyfoureyes

Would you like a Kindlegraph?

If you have any of my books on Kindle and would like a personal dedication you can now ask for one from this link (also see the widget on the right).

What next for Undershaw??

UPDATE: For the latest on Undershaw see this post.

I've had a comment on Twitter where I was asked - what next for Undershaw?

All I can do here is speculate based on what I know as I’m not on the inside.

The first thing to remember is that the owners of Undershaw still own it. The court decision has not changed that. What has changed is the commercial value of the house. A house without planning permission is worth a lot less than one with planning permission.

So what are the possible outcomes?

The owners could draft and submit new plans taking care to address all the oversights that led to their previous planning permission being thrown out. Whether they are prepared to do this is anyone’s guess. However they are clearly looking to ensure that they don’t lose money or they would not have appealed in the first place.

They could just give up and put the house on the market. However the chances of someone buying it are minimal without planning permission to convert it.

The only person who would find it attractive is someone who was prepared to restore it as a single structure for either residential or commercial purposes. Needless to say this will be an enormous financial undertaking.

So what is desperately needed now is an individual or organisation with both the money and the will to undertake this task.

UPDATE: For the latest on Undershaw see this post.

Undershaw - Permission to appeal refused

Permission to appeal refused

As reported by Lynn Gale last night on Twitter, the appeal against the decision to reject Undershaw's planning permission has been refused.

My understanding is that an appeal was made and rejected and then an appeal against the rejection was made and this has now also been rejected. The owner's redevelopment plans for Undershaw are now well and truly squashed.

Visiting the site in early 2012

So the next stage of the battle can now commence. Plans must be put forward for the house's future. Everyone needs to get behind The Undershaw Preservation Trust to help them keep this house in one piece for future generations.

Sherlockian Nostalgia - The House of Fear

The House of Fear is, I think, my favourite of the Basil Rathbone films. 

You're nicked!

As pointed out by Dr. Amanda Field, it is one of the temporally ambiguous films. In her excellent book on the series, Field points out that the films went through a number of distinct phases. Firstly we had the two “Victorian” films with 20th Century Fox; when Universal picked up the franchise we moved onto the Nazi films, the temporally ambiguous films and, finally, the borderline horror films.

Buy it now! Winner of the 2010 Tony & Freda Howlett Award
Returning to this particular film; it is loosely based on The Five Orange Pips and adheres to the lonely house, fixed group of suspects formula so loved by Agatha Christie. It is its temporal ambiguity that makes it for me and the obvious parallels it shares with Agatha Christie’s story And Then There Were None. Even though it is set in the 1940s, the absence of any real technology of the time (there are no telephones in the house for example – not that telephones are particularly a 1940s item - and no electricity) leaves us with only the sartorial standards as any indication of a time period.

I also think that the fact it is black and white also makes a huge difference. I do not think for a second that this film would have the same impact in colour (and that applies to all of the Rathbone films).

If by some chance you've not seen it, put it on your "to do" list.

A slight rebranding

I've decided to re-brand this blog as Doyleockian. This seems to me to be a good blend of its subject matter. My blog has never been wholly Sherlockian or Doylean; it has always been a mixture and the new title reflects that I feel.

The URL will remain the same so that the various links to this site from elsewhere remain unaffected.

Swiss Trip on BBC Website

Read the BBC's take on the SHSL trip to Switzerland.


Where it all started for me

I was just mindlessly Googling (as you do) and came across this picture which brought it all back for me. This is where my journey started.

Does this ring any bells for you Sherlockians out there?

What would you like to see?

I've been writing this blog for a while now so I thought it was about time I asked what people like about it and whether or not there are things you'd like to see more of.

No promises that I'll be able to follow the suggestions but I thought I'd ask. I'll try and accommodate you where I can.

The Conan Doyle Estate - updated website

Here is a link to the web page of the Conan Doyle Estate.

This site contains plenty of information about the work of Arthur Conan Doyle and the work of the Estate who manage those works that are still protected by copyright.

Elementary Pilot - My verdict

In an earlier post (which you can see here) I talked about the CBS show Elementary and how I felt it could not lay claim to being a Sherlock Holmes adaptation when it had lost so much from the original. I concluded by asking whether all it was was a US based police procedural that happened to feature a consulting detective called Sherlock Holmes.

The response to my post was largely positive and this was mostly from people who'd seen the pilot where I had not. My publisher, at my request, put a link to my post on Facebook (which I'm not on) and reported back that while 75% agreed with my assessment 25% did not and had said, in not quite so many words, that I should keep my trap shut until I'd seen it. I was also told that some US based people on Facebook had interpreted my post as some kind of attack on the US itself. Now I've not seen these posts (and don't wish to) so cannot comment on how true that is but if it is true then it's absurd. A critical opinion of a programme is not an attack on the country that made it. If it was the US would need to look out as a lot of the negative opinions I've seen of the show have come from Americans.

Returning to the subject, I can now report that I've seen the pilot and in the words of JLM's Holmes I hate it when I'm right...(I may be paraphrasing slightly).

Now before the show's fans come hunting for me with pitchforks and flaming torches let me elaborate......

I thought it was a well paced episode and the script was good. The plot was, in my opinion, well thought out and the acting was good. In some areas I see parallels with Sherlock which, I suppose, was inevitable. But is it Holmes?

The answer to this is yes but only in the sense that medical series House is Holmes. There are hints - yes but, as I suspected and said, too much of the original, in my opinion, has been taken away (or changed) for it to stake any substantial claim on the source material.

If the BBC created a show set in Glasgow, with a millionaire who dressed up in a costume at night to save people from criminals and then called it Batman people would laugh even though said imaginary show would share elements in common with the tales of the caped crusader. This is, to a certain extent, what I feel we have here. A show with elements in common but more areas of difference.

Again, I state that I thought it was entertaining and would probably watch more of it. But its claim to being a Holmes adaptation is pushing it. A Holmes-style show set in the US is a better assessment. Plenty of you will disagree I'm sure and you are of course welcome to. However, one area where we can all agree (I suspect) is that Sherlock fans have nothing to fear from this show. Although it will run in parallel it will not eclipse Moffat/Gatiss' more canonical adaptation.

The Other Boscombe Valley Mystery

The Boscombe Valley Mystery is the fourth story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. One aspect that has always aroused my curiosity is the Australian connection. Why did Conan Doyle have the roots of the story set in Australia? It is doubtful that it was purely because of the gold rush as there were others around the world at very much the same time. Did the occurrence of an Australian gold rush in Ballarat with its handy last two syllables determine the location or was there something else?

I have come to the conclusion that the Australian connection might well lie, at least in part, with Conan Doyle’s solicitor Alfred Charles Redshawe Williams. Williams, as I think I have shown in my book The Norwood Author, was born and raised in Australia and by 1891 was already firmly established, in England, as Conan Doyle’s solicitor.

In the early part of 1891, when the story was written, Conan Doyle would have had a good deal of business with Williams in connection with his move to South Norwood. Williams already resided in the vicinity at Upper Norwood. In my opinion it is perfectly possible that being in regular contact with the young Australian led to Conan Doyle thinking of Australia when penning the story. It is even possible that Williams was the model for young James McCarthy.

Too tenuous?

My thoughts on Moffatgate

Not strictly a Sherlockian post but hey ho...  

So it seems that, a day or two ago, Steven Moffat decided to leave Twitter. Most sources I’ve seen (and I’ve not seen many) suggest that this was down to the level of abuse he was receiving. Now the subject of this abuse seems to be in some dispute. Some say it was from people proclaiming themselves feminists and who think that Moffat has been sexist via both Doctor Who and Sherlock. Other sources suggest it was abuse from people who simply dislike the way he has run Doctor Who.

Whichever it is is largely irrelevant. As far as I can tell, Steven Moffat has broken no laws while in charge of these two shows and until he does so he is entitled to run them how he likes (that’s why he’s called Showrunner you know). If you don’t like what he’s doing then don’t tune in. If the viewing figures drop things will surely change. Guess what though; the viewing figures do not appear to be dropping.

So we can quite safely conclude that a small but noisy minority has ruined things for the rest of us. It’s all too easy isn’t it to hurl abuse from behind the safety and anonymity of a screen and keyboard? There’s a word for this and I believe it is cowardice. If you wouldn’t say it to his face (and let’s face facts, most of these people would clam up in his presence) then don’t say it through any other medium.

To all those who profess to be pro-Moffat; you do no good by ranting on Twitter about these trolls. All you do is fan the flames. Just ignore them and show yourselves to be the normal self-controlled people I assume you to be.

How much can you deduct from Sherlock?

The launch of Elementary has the Sherlockian world talking. The programme has a virtual monopoly on the attention of Sherlockians due to the lack of any current competition. I have not seen it but I have noticed from Twitter that opinion is polarised.

This begs the question; exactly how much can you change of Sherlock’s world before your programme is nothing more than a crime drama that features someone by the name of Sherlock Holmes?

To my mind the core elements of the original stories are:

1. The lead characters are Sherlock Holmes and John Watson

2. Sherlock Holmes is a consulting detective with an amazing deductive faculty

3. John Watson is a former army doctor

4. The adventures are mostly set in London

5. The time period is Victorian

6. Holmes is an occasional user of cocaine and a heavy smoker

7. Sherlock Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street – where Watson occasionally also resides (between marriages)

There are probably some I’ve missed and you may not agree with all I’ve listed. However, if we take my list for the time being, how many of these items can you lose before a screen adaptation is no longer truly Holmes?

The ITV/Granada adaptation adheres to all seven.

The BBC’s Sherlock adheres to points 1,2,3,4 and 7 and is clearly still very much Sherlock Holmes.

The Warner Bros films adhere to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 with alcohol largely taking the place of the cocaine in point 6.

To the best of my knowledge Elementary only adheres to point 2. I freely admit I haven’t seen it and am relying on what I’ve read about it and heard from those who have seen it. However entertaining it is, if its grip on the source material is as weak as it seems is it really a Sherlock Holmes adaptation or just an US based crime series featuring a character called Sherlock Holmes with an intelligent but relatively ordinary partner?

UPDATE - A link to this post was posted on Facebook and while the response was apparently positive there were some who thought I should not be commenting until I'd seen it. There may be some merit in that but I think it only fair to point out that I'm not commenting on whether or not it is an entertaining program just on the strength of its links to the source material. Rest assured that when I do see it (whenever that is) I shall revisit this post if my mind has been changed.

Follow up post - My Elementary pilot review can be found here.