Friday, 24 July 2015

It could be you (not me)!

To coincide with William Gillette's birthday (born 24th July 1853) Flicker Alley are running a competition for their upcoming DVD / Blu-ray release of 'Sherlock Holmes' (1916).
Two lucky winners will be the proud recipients of Gillette's only ever appearance as Holmes on film. The competition is open to U.S. and Canada residents only (which sadly rules me out) and it closes on 7th August 2015.

Enter here.

Good luck.

Monday, 18 May 2015

The Moonstone Plug

Okay, this post has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes but it might be of interest to some nonetheless. To celebrate their fourth year, my publisher, Hidden Tiger are running a promotion on one of their earliest releases, namely 'Tales From the Moonstone Inn'. During the next five days (18th - 22nd May) you can download a Kindle copy of it completely free.

'Tales From the Moonstone Inn' is a collection of stories written in the 1920s and 1930s by my great-great uncle, Francis William Strapp, a down-on-his-luck Englishman living in Australia. He was a man who lived a life every bit as captivating and 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For over eighty years the majority of his works remained unpublished, with his hand written manuscripts sitting in the bottom drawer of a family member's bureau.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 novella - '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, letters to the press, photographic illustrations and essays which focus on the author's life and the settings for his stories.

Pick up your copy here before it goes back to its regular price.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Gillette in HD (The Best a Fan Can Get)

William Gillette's 1916 film 'Sherlock Holmes' is coming to Blu-ray. The film which was rediscovered in the vaults of La Cinémathèque Française last year is being released as a Blu-ray / DVD combo on the 20th October 2015.

Bonus Features include:

  • Sherlock Holmes Baffled: a 30 second Mutoscope film from 1900 which features the earliest known portrayal of Sherlock Holmes on film.

  • A Canine Sherlock Holmes: a British silent film from 1912, starring Spot the Urbanora Dog in the title role.

  • Più forte che Sherlock Holmes: an Italian silent film from 1913 also know as Stronger Than Sherlock Holmes.

  • An Interview with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Outtakes from a 1930 broadcast with William Gillette.

  • PDF material: including a transcript of Gillette's 1899 play 'Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts' and a copy of the original contract between Gillette and Essanay Films.

Also included is a booklet which gives information on the restoration project.

Roll on October.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Requiem Goes Unlimited

Requiem for Sherlock Holmes has just been enrolled in Amazon's KDP Select programme, which means that Amazon Prime customers can now download a copy of it for free via Kindle Unlimited.

The book should have gone onto KDP Select last year but we've had no end of trouble getting one particular site to remove the book from their listings (as Amazon insist on exclusivity). I don't want to name names so I'll just call them Burns and Nibble.

Click here to get your copy.

Monday, 13 April 2015

You Never Forget Your First Holmes

When it comes to Doctor Who they always say your favourite Doctor is the one you grew up with. For me it was Tom Baker, he was the first actor I saw play the Gallifreyan time traveller and curiously enough, he was also my first Holmes. He took on the role of the great detective in the 1982 BBC adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, working alongside Terence Rigby's Doctor Watson.

Okay, the production isn't held in the best regard in fandom these days (not to mention Tom himself, who later admitted the part came to him too soon after leaving Doctor Who) but it will always be one of my earliest introductions to Sherlock Holmes and it brings nothing but happy memories whenever I watch it (and the title music still sends chills down my spine after all these years).

Hopefully I'll be able to own it on DVD one day (sadly it's only available in Region 4 at the moment). In the meantime I'll just have to make do with the version that's up on youtube.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Fancy a piece of Benedict Cumberbatch?

You see a lot of weird things whilst surfing the web but this one definitely takes the biscuit - perhaps the chocolate biscuit (sorry).

Shoppers at Stratford's Westfield Shopping Centre were in for a treat (of sorts) when they popped down to get their Easter eggs this week - a life sized chocolate version of the Sherlock actor (although this one wasn't for sale).
The 6ft sculpture which was commissioned by the British television company UKTV, weighs in at 40kg,  took a team of eight artists over 250 hours to complete and was made from over 500 bars of Belgian chocolate.

One happy shopper with Benedict (minus some fingers)

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Sherlock Goes Back To The Future Past

It's finally been confirmed - the Sherlock special will be set in Victorian London. After a disappointing series three (in my opinion) I had all but given up on the show, but it appears they know exactly how to drag me back into the fold. Now I'm like a child again, waiting for Santa to pay a visit (only this time, instead of presents I just want him to bring me the Christmas special).
Roll on Christmas (only 282 days to go).

Friday, 27 February 2015

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy sadly passed away earlier today, aged 83. He was an iconic actor who will be sadly missed. For most he will be remembered as Mr. Spock (and rightly so), but on occasion he donned the famous deerstalker and Inverness cape to play the great Detective.

In 1975 he appeared as Holmes in Sherlock Holmes: Interior Motive, a short education film (15 minutes) for Kentucky Educational Television. The following year he played Holmes on the American stage in an adaption of William Gillette's play Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts, and in 1978 he presented a documentary called In Search of  Sherlock Holmes (which can be found on youtube).

Rest in peace, Mr Nimoy.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Elementary, My Dear Sacker

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson have become household names over the last one hundred and twenty-odd years since their first appearance in 'Beeton's Christmas Annual', to the extent that you would be hard pushed to find someone who hadn't heard of them. But if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had stuck to his original name choices for the Baker Street duo then things could be very different now.

Of course Sherrinford Holmes isn't that far removed from what we are used to (in fact there are some that propose that Sherrinford was Mycroft and Sherlock's elder brother), but we can be thankful that Conan Doyle finally opted for John H. Watson ahead of Ormond Sacker. It's fair to say "Elementary, my dear Sacker" doesn't roll off the tongue.

However, I can't help thinking that in some parallel universe, fans are eagerly awaiting the next installment of this TV series.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Lost Sherlock Holmes Story Unearthed?

First we had the discovery of William Gillette's 1916 film, 'Sherlock Holmes'. Now an unknown Sherlock Holmes story written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle seems to have surfaced.
It appears Conan Doyle wrote 'The Brig Bazaar' as part of a fundraiser to save Selkirk Bridge which was destroyed two years earlier by the great flood of 1902. The short story (1,300 words) appeared in 'The Book o' the Brig,' a collection of stories penned by Conan Doyle and local writers. The book has resided in a local historian's attic for the last 50 years and it will be on display at Selkirk's Community Museum from Saturday, if anyone is in the area.

Time will tell if the story is authentic or if it was just a pastiche written for the book by a local author (popular opinion currently rests on the latter). In the meantime, here is the full transcript of it:

"Sherlock Holmes." - Discovering the Border Burghs, and, by Deduction, the Brig Bazaar

'We've had enough of old romancists and the men of travel, said the Editor, as he blue-pencilled his copy, and made arrangements for the great Saturday edition of the Bazaar Book. 'We want something up-to-date. Why not have a word from "Sherlock Holmes"?'
Editors have only to speak and it is done, at least, they think so. 'Sherlock Holmes!' As well talk of interviewing the Man in the Moon. But it does not do to tell Editors all that you think. I had no objections whatever, I assured the Editor, to buttonhole 'Sherlock Holmes,' but to do so I should have to go to London.
'London!' scornfully sniffed the Great Man. 'And you profess to be a journalist? Have you never heard of the telegraph, the telephone, or the phonograh? Go to London! And are you not aware that all journalists are supposed to be qualified members of the Institute of Fiction, and to be qualified to make use of the Faculty of Imagination? By the use of the latter men have been interviewed, who were hundreds of miles away; some have been "interviewed" without either knowledge or consent. See that you have a topical article ready for the press for Saturday. Good day'.'
I was dismissed and had to find copy by hook or by crook. Well, the Faculty of Imagination might be worth a trial.
The familiar house in Sloan Street met my bewildered gaze. The door was shut, the blinds drawn. I entered; doors are no barrier to one who uses the Faculty of Imagination. The soft light from an electric bulb flooded the room. 'Sherlock Holmes' sits by the side of the table; Dr Watson is on his feet about to leave for the night. Sherlock Holmes, as has lately been shown by a prominent journal, is a pronounced Free Trader. Dr Watson is a mild Protectionist, who would take his gruelling behind a Martello tower, as Lord Goschen wittily put it, but not 'lying down!' The twain had just finished a stiff argument on Fiscal policy. Holmes loq,-
'And when shall I see you again, Watson? The inquiry into the "Mysteries of the Secret Cabinet" will be continued in Edinburgh on Saturday. Do you mind a run down to Scotland? You would get some capital data which you might turn to good account later.'
'I am very sorry,' replied Dr Watson, 'I should have liked to have gone with you, but a prior engagement prevents me. I will, however, have the pleasure of being in kindly Scottish company that day. I, also, am going to Scotland.'
'Ah! Then you are going to the Border country at that time?'
'How do you know that?'
'My dear Watson, it's all a matter of deduction.'
'Will you explain?'
'Well, when a man becomes absorbed in a certain theme, the murder will out some day. In many discussions you and I have on the fiscal question from time to time I have not failed to notice that you have taken up an attitude antagonistic to a certain school of thought, and on several occasions you have commented on the passing of "so-called' reforms, as you describe them, which you say were not the result of a spontaneous movement from or by the people, but solely due to the pressure of the Manchester School of politicians appealing to the mob. One of these allusions you made a peculiar reference to "Huz an' Mainchester" who had "turned the world upside down." The word "Huz" stuck to me, but after consulting many authors without learning anything as to the source of the word, I one day in reading a provincial paper noticed the same expression, which the writer said was descriptive of the way Hawick people looked at the progress of Reform. "Huz an' Mainchester' led the way. So, thought I, Watson has a knowledge of Hawick. I was still further confirmed in this idea by hearing you in several absent moments crooning a weird song of the Norwegian God Thor. Again I made enquires, and writing to a friend in the South country I procured a copy of "Teribus." So, I reasoned, so - there's something in the air! What attraction has Hawick for Watson?'
'Wonderful,' Watson said, 'and -- '
'Yes, and when you characterised the action of the German Government in seeking to hamper Canadian trade by raising her tariff wall against her, as a case of "Sour Plums," and again in a drawing room asked a mutual lady friend to sing you that fine old song, "Braw, braw lads," I was curious enough to look up the old ballad, and finding it had reference to a small town near to Hawick, I began to see a ray of daylight. Hawick had a place in your mind; likewise so had Galashiels - so much was apparent. The question to be decided was why?'
'So far so good. And -- '
'Later still the plot deepened. Why, when I was retailing to you the steps that led up to the arrest of the Norwood builder by the impression of his thumb, I found a very great surprise that you were not listening at all to my reasoning, but were lilting a very sweet - a very sweet tune, Watson - "The Flowers of the Forest;" then I in turn consulted an authority on the subject, and found that that lovely if tragic song had a special reference to Selkirk. And you remember, Watson, how very enthusiastic you grew all of a sudden on the subject of Common-Ridings, and how much you studied the history of James IV., with special reference to Flodden Field. All these things speak, Watson, to the orderly brain of a thinker. Hawick, Galashiels, and Selkirk. What did the combination mean? I felt I must solve the problem, Watson; so that night when you left me, after we had discussed the "Tragedy of a Divided House," I ordered in a ton of tobacco, wrapped my cloak about me, and spent the night in thought. When you came round in the morning the problem was solved. I could not on the accumulative evidence but come to the conclusion that you contemplated another Parliamentary contest. Watson, you have the Border Burghs in your eye!'
'In my heart, Holmes,' said Watson.
'And where do you travel to on Saturday, Watson?'
'I am going to Selkirk; I have an engagement there to open a Bazaar.'
'Is it in aide of a Bridge, Watson?'
'Yes,' replied Watson in surprise; 'but how do you know? I have never mentioned the matter to you.'
'By word, no; but by your action you have revealed the bent of your mind.'
'Let me explain. A week ago you came round to my rooms and asked for a look at "Macaulay's Lays of Ancient Rome." (You know I admire Macaulay's works, and have a full set.) That volume, after a casual look at, you took with you. When you returned it a day or two later I noticed it was marked with a slip of paper at the "Lay of Horatius," and I detected a faint pencil mark on the slip noting that the closing stanza was very appropriate. As you know, Watson, the lay is all descriptive of the keeping of a bridge. Let me remind you how nicely you would perorate -
When the goodman mends his armour
And trims his helmet's plume,
When the goodwife's shuttle merrily
Goes flashing through the loom,
With weeping and with laughter.
Still the story told -
How well Horatius kept the bridge,
In the brave days of old.
Could I, being mortal, help thinking you were bent on some such exploit yourself?'
'Very true!'
'Well, goodbye, Watson; shall be glad of your company after Saturday. Remember Horatius' words when you go to Border Burghs :- "How can man die better than facing fearful odds." But there, these words are only illustrations. Safe journey, and success to the Brig!' 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

The Illustrations of Sherlock Holmes: Charles Altamont Doyle

To follow on from yesterday's post, here are Charles Doyle's illustrations from the 1888 Ward, Lock & Co. publication of 'A Study in Scarlet'. Charles Altamont Doyle was a talented artist in his day but regrettably years of alcoholism had taken their toll by the time these illustrations were made. Sorry about the poor resolution on some of the images.

Monday, 9 February 2015

The Illustrations of Sherlock Holmes: D.H. Friston

Although he would ultimately be overshadowed by his successor, David Henry Friston made a big contribution to the Sherlockian world. As well as illustrating a number of Conan Doyle stories for 'London Society' magazine during the early 1880s , he is responsible for the very first depiction of Sherlock Holmes, which appeared in the 1887 edition of 'Beeton's Christmas Annual'. When 'A Study in Scarlet' came to be published in book form the following year, Friston's illustrations were replaced by those of Arthur Conan Doyle's father, Charles Altamont Doyle (which were vastly inferior).  Most people prefer Sidney Paget's representation of the great detective (myself included if I'm completely honest), but these illustrations do have a certain charm about them.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

A Little Taster of Gillette's Holmes

Fresh from its European premiere at Cinémathèque Française's festival of film restoration, Toute La Mémoire du Monde this weekend, a small snippet from the restored print of William Gillette's 1916 film 'Sherlock Holmes' has surfaced online (courtesy of the BBC).

I can't find the direct link on youtube, but you can view the BBC page here.

It has definitely whetted my appetite and I for one can't wait for its eventual release on DVD / Blu-ray.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

One More For the Collection

As some of you may know, I'm a sucker when it comes to old books. Point me to a second-hand bookshop and I'll happily spend hours there scanning through all the titles. A large chunk of my Sherlock Holmes / Conan Doyle collection is made up of books from around the 1950s (books I purchased way back in the 90s when the Murder One bookstore was still going strong on Charing Cross Road). However, barring a handful of Strand Magazines (the cheaper, non Sherlock Holmes ones) I didn't really have anything that old in my collection - that is until this fine volume arrived in the post last week.

Printed in 1900 by R.F. Fenno & Co. of New York, this edition of 'A Study in Scarlet' is interspersed with lovely photographs of William Gillette as Holmes (publicity photos taken to promote Gillette's play 'Sherlock Holmes: A Drama in Four Acts' which made its Broadway debut the previous year).

An added bonus came when I turned to the back of the book and found 'The Sign of Four', 'A Scandal in Bohemia', 'A Case of Identity' and 'The Boscombe Valley Mystery' nestled snugly at the rear (I was only expecting 'Scarlet').

All I need now is to stumble upon a copy of the 1887 Beeton's Christmas Annual at a local charity shop (hope springs eternal).