Sunday, 7 July 2013

"Seventeen Steps to 221B"

This book, which recently arrived at the Carr residence, is a collection of essays by such noted Sherlockian scholars as Dorothy L. Sayers ('The Dates in the Red-Headed League'), Professor S.C. Roberts ('The Chronological Problem') and Gavin Brend ('The Route of the Blue Carbuncle'). First published in 1967 by Harper /Collins, it now forms part of the Otto Penzler Sherlock Holmes Library of books available on Amazon.There are seventeen pieces in all, and the title comes from that famous put-down of poor Watson in 'A Scandal in Bohemia':

"You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear. For example, you have frequently seen the steps that lead up to this room."
"How often?"
"Well, some hundreds of times."
"Then how many are there?"
"How many! I don't know."
Quite so!You have not observed, and yet you have seen. That is just my point. Now, I know that there are seventeen steps, because I have both seen and observed."

Anyone aspiring to write in the style of Conan Doyle would do well to read a longish effort ('The Adventure of the Deptford Horror') said to be written by his younger son, Adrian:  "Holmes lifted the stick to the carriage-window and tilted it so that the daylight shone upon the handle."You will perceive," he went on, "that there is a slight but regular scraping that has worn through the polish along the left side of the handle just where the ring finger of a left-handed man would close upon the grip. Ebony is among the toughest of woods and it would require considerable time to cause such wear and a ring of some harder metal than gold. You are left-handed Mr. Wilson and wear a silver ring on your middle finger."

And: "It was one of those grey, brooding summer days when London is at its worst and, as we rattled over Blackfriars Bridge, I  noted that wreaths of mist were rising from the river like the poisonous vapours of some hot jungle swamp. The more spacious streets of the West End had given place to the great commercial thoroughfares, resounding with the stamp and clatter of the dray-horses, and these in turn merged at last into a maze of dingy streets that, following the course of the river, grew more and more wretched in their squalor the nearer we approached  to that labyrinth of tidal basins and dark, evil-smelling lanes that were once the ancient cradle of England's sea trade and of an empire's wealth."  

If this was produced by Adrian, he was a better writer than his father!

1 comment:

  1. 'Theobald' Wilson is the 'canary trainer' mentioned in the canonical tale 'Black Peter'. In my own book I use 'canary' to mean 'prostitute', common parlance in the 19th century.