Working Notes – Progress Report and Sherlock (god help me).

I do love a bad boy, and Roman Xerus is currently stirring up all sorts of mischief in Blood Stone.  I’m nearly 150 pages in, and the story is just settling into the guts and heart of it…I think it’s going to be another long one.

I would possibly be a mite further along if it hadn’t been for my bloody son…and my big mouth.

Once upon I used to be a committee member of the Sherlock Holmes society.  I took the stuff that seriously, yes.  And yes, it was also a good excuse to get together a couple of times a year, dress up in late Victorian gear, and drink champagne, while we bashed croquet balls around a cricket oval.

This photo is from quite a few years ago, and my son (the second shortest in the photo) now towers over everyone standing in it.

Around the time this photo was taken, I started writing a Sherlock Holmes book that was eventually published…The Chronicles of the Lost Years was successful enough that the publishers wanted a sequel, and the next year, The Case of the Reluctant Agent was published.  By this time I was living in Canada, and both these books were published by a small press in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  Unfortunately, the second book was released the same week as a six week Canada Post strike began…and the book died on the vine.  This is a fate that simply couldn’t happen to ebooks these days, but this was a trade paperback, and none of my promotion efforts were worth spit, if the books weren’t on the bookstore shelves.

But this isn’t a tale of woe.  I’m simply pointing out that Sherlock Holmes and I go back a long way.  We’ve been intimate, he and I, on more than one occassion.

I’ve waxed eloquent on the two Sherlock Holmes movies staring Robert Downey Jnr. (or have I?  Did I ever get around to raving about the sequel, yet?).

About the same time that the first Downey Jnr. movie came out, I also heard the BBC were bringing out a series called, simply, Sherlock.  They were updating Sherlock Holmes, planting him and Watson firmly in twenty-first century Baker Street, and giving his character some appropriate spring cleaning.

Well…  You can imagine that that sort of tweaking and fiddling went over like a lead balloon with me.

Then I saw images of the actor playing Holmes and that did it.  Benedict Cumberbatch looked impossibly young and clean cut.  Almost twinkling in the eyes.  There was no character in his face, no hint of the dark monsters Holmes carried in his psyche, or the brilliant mind at work.  I was frankly offended.

Besides, I was having my mad passionate affair with the movie franchise and didn’t want to be distracted.

So I managed to shovel the knowledge about the series to the back of my mind and forget it.

Then I made the mistake of mentioning the series to my son (the tall one).  He’s always been curious about Holmes because of my raving obsession interest.  My big mouth…

He acquired both the first and second season of Sherlock (they’re oddly constructed seasons – only three episodes per season, each 90 minutes long).  And he told me his mistake was that he started watching Season 1 Episode 1 at nine at night.  At around 3 a.m. he came up for air, staggered off to bed, moved through the day like an automaton, until he could get back to his computer and watch the rest…which he finished that night, before falling into bed and almost sleeping around the clock — the next day was his day off.  Lucky timing.  He got up on the evening of his day off and started watching them all over again.


He started telling me little bits and peices about the show, but I had just seen Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and was immersed in the joy of the sequel movie and didn’t want to be interested in the TV show with the unlikely lead.

But little by little my son’s tidbits started to register.  About how psychotic Moriarty was.  About how anti-social Holmes really was…something a lot of directors seem to pull their punches on — perhaps they’re afraid they’ll offend audiences?  And the one that finally got me:  About how truly wicked and on-edge Irene Adler was.

They didn’t turn Adler into a simple “love interest”?  At last!

The coat. Sigh.

So with some huge reservations, I sat down to watch the first episode, “A Study In Pink.”  (The original Conan Doyle story was “A Study in Scarlet“).

Mark bailed on the show mentally about forty minutes in even though he impatiently hung in there for the entire episode.  He won’t watch another one, I know.  He couldn’t stand how rude Holmes was.  It made him squirm.  But Mark is the sort of guy that can talk to anyone and have them chatting away like he’s their best friend inside five minutes.  So Holmes is a character that he finds hard to understand or even watch.

I tried hard to dislike the sweet young thing playing Holmes.  I really did.

But while he’s certainly young, that’s about his only fault.  Cumberbatch actually is six foot two inches tall – Sherlock Holmes’ height — unlike other actors who have played him.  And he’s slender…with wide shoulders.  Holmes’ dimensions.  And, the one that got me:  He’s a baritone.  So he gets to say the most outrageous things in a deep, precisely modulated voice, with a clipped, deliberate pronounciation that makes it sound so much more cutting.    For instance:  “I dislike being outnumbered. It makes for too much stupid in the room.

For most of the series, he wears an overcoat and scarf, the coat with the collar turned up, that makes him look…well, edible.  It’s a look that harkens back to the original Holmes from illustrations in The Strand magazine, and later in the series, there’s an homage to those illustrations when Sherlock ends up wearing a deerstalker cap to go with the look.

But I was completely and utterly sold on the series when, toward the end of the first episode, Holmes is put under intense pressure by the police, who are searching 221B for his drug stash.  He’s trying to logically argue his way out of it, and as he hasn’t made a lot of friends on the policeforce because he keeps showing them up (one of the detectives calls him “the Freak”), they’re not giving him much airtime, and are screaming back at him.

Finally, he turns to the detective he likes the least, who has just called him a psychopath for the third or fourth time, and says disdainfully in his deep voice:  “I’m not a psychopath, I’m a highly functioning sociopath. Do your research.

If you’d like a small taste of this Sherlock, there’s a clip on YouTube from the first episode, when Holmes and Watson first meet.  It encapsulates everything about Holmes in one neat scene.

I didn’t get to watch the entire two seasons in one sitting — I had to go to work, and other stuff got in the way.  But I kept thinking about that episode, on and off, for the next week or so, and I was twitching to watch more.

Finally, I found time to myself (rare), and sat down to watch the next episode…and didn’t get up again until the entire two seasons were done.   It was very late…or very early, depending on your perspective, by the time I got to bed.  I didn’t sleep much, anyway.

Wow…oh wow.

Episode 1 from Season 2 is the infamous Irene Adler one.  I say infamous, because there was an uproar when it was first aired in England.  Holmes first meets Irene Adler when she strolls into her living room wearing nothing but high heels and a smile.  But I will be talking about “A Scandal in Belgravia” for my next Pulse Pause post, as that’s the reason I haven’t written nearly as much as I should have on Blood Stone for the last three days…

Tracy, the smitten.


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