Friday, 22 November 2013

Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Missing Films

I thought I'd write about the lost films of Sherlock Holmes this week. Last month's Doctor Who finds have shown that nothing is beyond hope. What follows is a list (by no means definitive) of missing Sherlock Holmes films.

A Study in Scarlet (1914)
One of the first adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. The part of Holmes was played by James Bragington, and diverging slightly from the original story, there was no Doctor Watson. James Bragington was not an actor by trade, he was in fact an auditor employed by the studio and was chosen purely because he looked the part. It is a very sought after film, to the extent that the British Film Institute is actively seeking it due to its historical significance.

Sherlock Holmes (1916)
The Essanay Studios adaptation of the stage-play 'Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts' starred its co-writer, the legendary Sherlock Holmes actor William Gillette in the title role. Gillette was well versed in the mannerisms of the great detective, having played Holmes on the stage for the past seventeen years. Barring a handful of photographic stills, no print of the film is currently known to exist. (UPDATE: a print of this film was discovered in France and announced in October 2014 - details can be found here)

The Valley of Fear (1916)
An adaptation of Conan Doyle's final Sherlock Holmes novel. The film version of 'The Valley of Fear' was released in May 1916, only one year after the original had been serialised in The Strand Magazine. The film starred Sherlock Holmes stalwart Harry Arthur Saintsbury, a veteran of the stage, playing Holmes in his only film credit.

The Missing Rembrandt (1932)
An apt title for a lost film if there ever was one. Arthur Wontner played Sherlock Holmes in five "talkies" from 1931 to 1937. Out of these five films 'The Missing Rembrandt', an adaptation of Conan Doyle's 'Charles Augustus Milverton', is the only one not known to exist.

The fate of Silent cinema is sad to say the least, with as little as 20% of the entire output still in existence. The remainder was lost or destroyed for a variety of reasons. Firstly, the nitrate film stock used was highly flammable, and a great deal was destroyed due to safety fears at the onset of WWI, with the metal canisters and spools melted down for the war effort. Secondly, as the "talkies" grew in popularity silent cinema became less and less relevant. Further prints were destroyed when the studios reasoned that the old reels that they had cluttering up their archives were now surplus to requirements, with re-screenings unlikely. The final cull occurred quite accidentally when a fire erupted at the MGM studios in California on the 13th of May 1967. Vault No. 7 was completely destroyed in the course of the blaze, with hundreds of films lost. The most noted of these being Lon Chaney's 1927 film 'London After Midnight'.

It is not only the films of Sherlock Holmes that have suffered, television has had its casualties too. The 1951 BBC series  'Sherlock Holmes' was transmitted live and not recorded, so as a consequence none of the six episodes produced are known to exist. Another lost tale of Sherlock Holmes is the 1953 CBS production of 'The Adventure of the Black Baronet', an adaptation of a story written by Adrian Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's son. The episode, a pilot for a series that never got commissioned, starred Basil Rathbone in the title role, some seven years after his last Sherlock Holmes film for Universal. Lastly, and most significantly (to my mind at least), we come to the excellent 1968 BBC series starring Peter Cushing as Holmes. Out of the sixteen episodes filmed, only six remain in the archives, depriving us of adaptations of 'The Second Stain', 'The Dancing Men', 'The Greek Interpreter', 'The Naval Treaty', 'The Problem of Thor Bridge', 'The Musgrave Ritual', 'Black Peter', 'Wisteria Lodge', 'Shoscombe Old Place' and 'The Solitary Cyclist'.

Hopefully some of the above will resurface one day. After all, John Barrymore's 'Sherlock Holmes' (1922) and Arthur Wontner's 'The Sleeping Cardinal' (1931) were both once considered lost, only to be later rediscovered.

What is lost can also be found.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

An Interview With David Ruffle

Recently I was able to catch up with David Ruffle, author of the Lyme Regis trilogy, and speak to him about his new book - The Abyss: A Journey With Jack The Ripper.

Your latest book, The Abyss: A Journey with Jack the Ripper
will be released early next month. Without giving too much
away, could you tell us a little bit about it?

It started off as a book about no-one in particular,
just a look at a life, but then early on I decided to turn
it into fictional episodes from a fictional Jack The Ripper's
life. I suppose I wanted a different perspective on the
whole Ripper murders. The five 'canonical' victims get to
tell their own stories in their own words up to and beyond
their deaths. It's just a slim volume, but it says everything
I wanted to say and I hope I manage to bring the flavour of life in Whitechapel at that time to life.

How difficult was it for you to keep Sherlock Holmes out of the book, considering the story is set in Victorian London?

Actually, it was easy. Whichever direction the book had taken, Holmes was never going to figure.

Why do you think Jack the Ripper still fascinates people, 125 years after the events took place?

The squalor, the horror, the atmosphere of those evil streets and the most telling fact of all, he was never caught.

What kind of research did you have to do in preparation for the book?

I have a few books on the subject so they were obviously a great help as were the good old internet searches which reveal everything you ever wanted to know about the crimes, the victims, the investigation and life in the East End.

Your Lyme Regis trilogy has been a great success, do you plan to bring Holmes and Watson back to Lyme Regis for a fourth instalment?

Three was and is the limit for this series. Lyme Regis was and still is a small town and further appearances by Holmes and Watson in Victorian/Edwardian times in the town would stretch credibility too far. I am also conscious that the peripheral characters would be in danger of turning the series into some kind of soap-opera. So, as much fun as they were to write, there will be no more.
Your children’s book, Sherlock Holmes and the Missing Snowman is a lovely story and I intend to read it to my son over the Christmas period. Do you plan to write any more books for children?
At this moment in time I have no plans to do so......but in the future......who knows!
Is there anything you are currently working on?
My current project is a contemporary comic novel partly set in Lyme Regis. We meet a young family, new arrivals in Lyme and flashback to see how they met etc and how their early lives were and the effects of dodgy knees.
Do you find it difficult organising time to write? Have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
I try not to organise and just write when I feel I like it which can mean some 3am appointments with my laptop!! Perhaps though that is the reason why I don't seem to suffer from writer's from
When you’re not busy writing, which authors do you like to read?
Give me a PG Wodehouse and I am happy. Have got into Nordic crime fiction quite heavily so Henning Mankell and Jo Nesbo figure a lot recently. William Trevor is perhaps my favourite author and I have a great regard for the comic novels of David Nobbs (creator of Reggie Perrin etc) who was kind enough to let me 'pinch' a couple of paragraphs of his to use in Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Trials.
Finally, if you could write a pastiche about any fictional character (ignoring any copyright issues), who would it be?
Good question. Ponders. Have dabbled with a Doctor Who and Holmes crossover so I lean towards Doctor Who....let's face it there is so much scope with a Time Lord!

The Abyss: A Journey With Jack The Ripper will be released on the 9th December, it can be pre-ordered from Amazon stores in the UK and US.
For David's other books, check out his author pages on and


Monday, 11 November 2013

Sherlock Finds a Home on Kobo

Readers of ebooks might be interested to know that the following Hidden Tiger books can now be found on the Kobo bookstore.

Requiem for Sherlock Holmes
My debut book, which contains the novella 'Sherlock Holmes and the Ancestral Horror' and the short stories 'The Montague Secret', 'The Devil is in the Detail', 'The Lazarus Trap' and 'The Penitent Man'. Stories which push Holmes' wits, not to mention his emotions, to the limit.

The first chapter of 'Sherlock Holmes and the Ancestral Horror' can be viewed for free here.

Needless to say, Requiem for Sherlock Holmes is still available from and Amazon stores in the UK and US (as well as other territories).

Mysteries and Adventures
The very first collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works ever published. Originally released in Great Britain in 1890 by the Walter Scott Company, Mysteries and Adventures collected together seven of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s earliest fictional works. Three years later, two international editions were issued which featured five additional stories.

This publication is based on the Continental edition and contains the stories:
'The Gully of Bluemansdyke', 'The Parson of Jackman's Gulch', 'My Friend The Murderer', 'The Silver Hatchet', 'The Man From Archangel', 'That Little Square Box', 'A Night Among the Nihilists', 'Selecting a Ghost', 'The Mystery of Sasassa Valley', 'Our Derby Sweepstakes', 'The American's Tale' and 'Bones: The April Fool of Harvey's Sluice'. Some of these stories can be difficult to find in printed form.

The narratives in Mysteries and Adventures dance confidently across the genres, touching upon colonial life, political upheaval, the supernatural, romance and the furrow he would later plough to great acclaim, crime.
These twelve entertaining tales plot Doyle's development from budding young writer to the great author that he quickly became.

The collection also contains a new introduction, written by myself, which explores Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's early life and the history of the twelve stories presented in this volume.

Mysteries and Adventures can also be found on lulu and Amazon in the UK and US (and other territories).

Tales from The Moonstone Inn
Whilst this book has nothing at all to do with Sherlock Holmes or Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I believe it is well worth a view. It was written in the 1920s and 1930s by my great-great uncle, Francis William Strapp, a down-on-his-luck Englishman living in Australia. His life seems to be every bit as mysterious as the stories he wrote, from his near-death experience in Sydney to the reasons behind his decision to emigrate to Australia, leaving his wife behind.

For over eighty years the majority of his works remained unpublished, his hand written manuscripts sitting in the bottom drawer of a family member's bureau. In 2011, seventy-four years after his death, his surviving works finally found their way into print.

The book contains two novellas - 'The Moonstone Inn' and 'The Man Who Tossed a Sixpence', mystery adventures set in Australia and the South Pacific. In them, the reader will come across dark schemes and evil deeds, hidden hoards and guarded secrets, mixed in with a smattering of romance. The collection also contains two short stories (one of which can be sampled freely from the Hidden Tiger Website), letters to the press, photographic illustrations and essays which focus on the author's life and the settings for his stories.

Paperback editions of this book can be found via the Hidden Tiger Website

Get an amazing 50% off at the Kobo Bookstore. Just enter the promotional code NOVEND50 at the checkout to receive your discount (code expires at midnight on the 18th November).

Kobo ebooks are sold in the epub format, which are viewable on a varied range of ereaders, tablets and devices.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

A Good Week for Reviews

I would have to admit that reviews for my book, Requiem for Sherlock Holmes, have been thin on the ground since it was first published, late last year. Thankfully, they seem to be like the London buses and two of them have arrived in quick sucession - and boy were they worth the wait.

The first came from David Ruffle in his blog. David's is a name that would be familiar to most readers of Sherlock Holmes pastiches, due in part to his excellent Lyme Regis trilogy. The scarcety of reviews beforehand means that barely a day goes by without my reading it, and it's got to a stage that I must stop or else my head will no longer fit through the door. Not wishing to do a cut and paste job and pinch someone else's work, the review can be found here.

Hot on the heels of this came another review, this time on and from The Baker Street Society. Another great review that is very much appreciated.

I truly cannot thank these two reviewers enough, their kind words have been warmly received by me and my family (especially my mother, who has printed off both reviews and has been showing them to all her friends, whilst beaming with pride).

It's definitely true what they say, 'good things come to those who wait'.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Charles Brookfield: The First Sherlock Holmes

Seeing as this is my very first blog post (ever), I thought it would be apt if I were to write a short piece about the very first person to portray Sherlock Holmes – Charles Brookfield. Well, here goes …
November 1893, the month before Sherlock Holmes supposedly fell to his death at the end of the adventure ‘The Final Problem’, saw the character make his debut on the stage. ‘Under the Clock’, a one-act musical satire, opened on the twenty-fifth of November at the Royal Court Theatre, London, forming part of a triple bill. The play was written by Charles Brookfield and Seymour Hicks, who would also portray Holmes and Watson respectively (albeit with a strange choice of wardrobe – Holmes wore black tights and sported a full beard, while Watson’s apparel included a monocle and a pirate’s cap).
 Charles Brookfield as Sherlock Holmes

The play and its satirical tone, which was merely used as a front to throw mocking asides at certain members of the acting establishment, was given short shrift by the reviewers as well as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. Despite this, the play achieved seventy-eight performances before the curtain fell for the final time on the twenty-fifth January, 1894.
Seymour Hicks would enjoy a long career on the stage and the silver screen. He played a great many roles, but the one that he is best remembered for is that of Ebenezer Scrooge, the cold-hearted miser from Charles Dickens’ classic ‘A Christmas Carol’. Not only did he regularly perform the part on stage from 1901 onwards, but he played the role twice on the big screen. Firstly in the 1913 silent film ‘Scrooge’ released by the Zenith Film Company, and again in 1935, with the first full ‘talkie’ version, which was released by Twickenham Film Studios. Seymour Hicks died in 1949, aged 78.
The latter stages of Charles Brookfield's career were not as sucessful as that of his Watson. He was heavily criticised for his involvement in the libel case against Oscar Wilde in 1895. He gave up acting in 1898 after a serious illness which saw him diagnosed with an advanced form of tuberculosis. He continued writing theatrical works while he convalesced; the most noted of these was the musical comedy 'The Belle of Mayfair' in 1906. He died in 1913, aged 56.