Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Could Conan Doyle sell his Sherlock Holmes today?

Sherlock Holmes. Very popular right now, upon that we can probably all agree.

So it almost seems silly to pose this question, but let it simmer in your brain-pot for a bit and see if it cooks:

Could Conan Doyle sell his Sherlock Holmes today and attain the popularity he did in the 1890s?

There is, of course, the obvious bit: no great market for short stories these days, and short stories were where Sherlock Holmes shined brightest. Sure, episodic TV has a certain similarity, but Conan Doyle's scripts were never his strong suit. Still, Doyle, could, and did, write many a novel, so he could probably get over that little hurdle.

Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes was neither the slam-bang action Holmes that Guy Ritchie sold movie audiences, nor the more relationship-oriented Holmes that Moffat and Gatiss sold TV audiences. His continuity was definitely not up to modern standards, and one has to wonder how he would have handled fan interaction on Twitter. His less-than-loving attitude toward Holmes definitely wouldn't have endeared him to the fans, nor the fans to him.

Once one starts considering Conan Doyle's personality in the equation, it almost seems like a Conan Doyle born into the modern era would head more toward military fiction to start with, and come out with a Sherlock Holmes who had more of a British Jack Reacher vibe. He would probably not have tried aiming toward the more female end of the market, where Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey live, but historical novels, perhaps with a touch of the supernatural, could have been his turf.

But Sherlock Holmes? That unique and complex product of the Victorian era? Could anything like him have been produced in our current climate? As much fun as some of our current adaptations can be, I don't know if Sherlock Holmes would exist as a popular character today if he wasn't a popular character before.

While Moffat and Gatiss managed to move Sherlock Holmes to the modern day with great success, it's harder to imagine Conan Doyle coming forward into this day and time with equal ease. And to have him, once here, pull off Sherlock Holmes all over again, if said fellow had never existed?

Now that is a mental puzzle worthy of a Holmes-level intellect, and we would have to create such a fellow to ponder it anyway. If we had a Conan Doyle. And a chicken or an egg.

Blogger tip of the day: Don't write when you're falling asleep, no matter how good the idea seemed this afternoon!

1 comment:

  1. He has pulled it off.
    I would bet that most of the people keeping 'Sherlock' going now a days were not Sherlockians before it came out.
    Doyle did not write in 'Victorian' times, he wrote in modern times.
    Your point about would Holmes be more like a Tom Clancy character is a good one.
    'Sherlock' is written in modern times for modern people.
    Now, if you mean, "could he have made it as a writer, writing books or short stories about Holmes", you may have a point.
    I think what you should, could, do, is write all the stories in a modern setting and see how they come out.
    Something to think about, thanks.