All roads lead to Baker Street for writers

Share
Related Topics

On Boxing Day on BBC-TV they showed a Sherlock Holmes adventure called The Case of the Silk Stocking, starring Rupert Everett as the great detective. If you are puzzled not to recognise the name of this Holmes story, puzzle no longer. It was written by Alan Cubitt, and although my wife and I thought Everett very good in the role, and enjoyed some of the goings on, the story was shaping up quite preposterously by the time some visitors rang our door bell, and we missed the final five minutes and never found out what happened.

What I was not shocked by was the fact that anyone should attempt to concoct a new story based on 221b Baker Street, even if it did involve inventing a completely new fiancée for Dr Watson. Because although it may seem to be sacrilege to imagine you can do the job as well as Conan Doyle, it must also be one of the most universal instincts among writers.

Even Bert Coules has done it. Hehas adapted all the Holmes stories and the four novels for Radio 4, starring Clive Merrison as Holmes. That's 50 stories or more. And when Mr Coules had no more Holmes yarns to adapt, how did he use the skill and knowledge he had gained from vicariously living in Baker Street for so long? Why, he overcame his respect for Conan Doyle and concocted a clutch of brand-new Holmes stories of his own. I heard some of them on Radio 4, and they weren't bad, even if they were slightly far-fetched and over-wrought.

But then, some of Conan Doyle's own stories are pretty far-fetched and odd themselves. The later ones depend more on recondite knowledge and stage machinery than anything else. There are far fewer good touches of character. Some, like The Lion's Mane, need a knowledge of poisonous jellyfish more than of human nature. It is almost as if Conan Doyle was doing his own pastiche of himself.

Well, if he was, he was in good company. It is quite extraordinary how many people have tried to add to the Holmes canon. I cannot imagine anyone writing a new Maigret or Poirot mystery, but the lure of Holmes is quite different. There was a whole series of wartime black-and-white films featuring Holmes in new, lurid, generally anti-Nazi, plots. Billy Wilder did it. Frank Richards, author of the Billy Bunter stories, did it. (In a spirit of healthy mockery, mark you. He wrote a series of knockabout yarns featuring a madcap detective called "Herlock Sholmes".)

I admit to having succumbed to the temptation myself. When the Royal Shakespeare Company first revived the original stage version of Sherlock Holmes, I thought it was a shame not to have staged a Shakespearean version, and I waded out into blank verse with a Bardic transformation of Hamlet, The Case of The Danish Prince. Much later, I collaborated with actor/ musician Simon Gilman to do an hour-long show for the Edinburgh Fringe entitled The Death of Tchaikovsky: a Sherlock Holmes Mystery, which, though I say it myself, was as convincing an explanation of Tchaikovsky's mysterious death as any I have read.

In fact, if anyone out there saw the Sherlock Holmes film with Rupert Everett last Boxing Day, and can remember the ending which we missed, I would be very happy for them to write to me and tell me, in return for which I will tell you how Tchaikovsky happened to be on holiday by the Reichenbach Falls and what he witnessed as Moriarty and Holmes grappled on the edge of the void.

A reader writes: Dear Mr Kington, do you mean to tell me this whole piece was just a pathetic attempt to find out something you missed on the TV?

Miles Kington writes: Well, yes. But it's not so much for me as for the wife.

A reader writes: It is still disgraceful. Wait till the editor reads this!

Miles Kington writes: No danger of that, old chap. He has far better things to do.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game