Book Review : Sherlock Holmes as a Pipe Smoker

There is always one huge problem with trying to write any book concerning Sherlock Holmes or Arthur Conan Doyle.

The rather large elephant in the room is - originality. Even Arthur Conan Doyle struggled to be original - with some of his Sherlock Holmes stories sharing very similar central themes. For the pastiche writer, the problem is similar. Trying to write something that does not share too much in common with an ACD story, or another pastiche, is always a trial. Perhaps it is why some pastiches stray a long way from Doyle - it's one way of endeavouring to ensure some degree of originality. However that will only last so long.

Now you must also spare a thought for the non-fiction Sherlockian or Doylean writer. For us (as you know, I am one) the problem is no less acute. All the usual ideas for non-fiction books have been done many times. Time and again you'll think you've found something new only to find that it has been done (even if poorly or briefly).

I therefore take my hat off to Thomas Gwinner for his book Sherlock Holmes as a Pipe Smoker. It's not an original subject, as he admits, but, as paths go, it is not a well trodden one and thus it is one that benefits from another visit.

Over the course of 100 or so pages, Gwinner extracts every pipe and tobacco related fact from the canon and uses them to make points about such things as Holmes's favourite pipe, how many pipes he had, when he most often smoked, where and so on.

It's not a book for the casual Sherlockian. Rather it is one for the focused devotee who is hungry for new facts or angles on all aspects of the stories no matter how apparently trivial or minor.

It does need a little work on the formatting front and there is some repetition that could (I don't say should) be addressed.

On the Orange Pip scale - I give it three pips out of five.

Written by Alistair Duncan
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1 comment:

  1. I fully agree with you about this attempt to find something new, and how difficult it is!