One of the first grown-up books that I remember reading as a child was The Complete Sherlock Holmes, all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writing starring his most famous creation, packed into one volume. How I loved that book and how I loved Holmes. He was an eccentric and an iconoclast, just what I longed to be.
It was from Sherlock that I learned my love of the mystery. I still devour mystery novels by the dozens each year.
In recent years, I've even been able to enjoy my old friend Holmes in well-written mysteries once again. Author Laurie R. King has a pastiche series going, beginning with The Beekeeper's Apprentice, that stars Holmes and his protege Mary Russell, a protege who later became (horrors!) his wife! Conan Doyle may still be spinning in his grave over that turn of events, but, in fact, the series is very well done and I feel that it is true to the original spirit of Holmes.
Holmes, of course, is one of the most enduring characters in literature and he has been interpreted by many others in both film and literature over the years. He is a character who is malleable enough to lend himself to many interpretations.
When I was growing up, I used to love coming home from school in the afternoon and watching those old black-and-white movies with Basil Rathbone. I never tired of them. There are many other film versions of Holmes, but my favorite still is Jeremy Brett in the old PBS Mystery series. His protrayal of Holmes was brilliant and just right, which is to say that he played Holmes exactly as I had always imagined him.
Which brings me up to today when I saw the new film "Sherlock Holmes" with Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock and Jude Law as Dr. Watson. I must say the film is a hoot and I thoroughly enjoyed it, even Holmes' frequent resorts to bare-knuckled fisticuffs - which, of course, my real Holmes would never have done. It's certainly a different way of imagining Holmes, but he's a big enough character to encompass even this alternative interpretation.
I always found it interesting that Conan Doyle came to hate Sherlock Holmes so much that he finally killed him off. He said, "If I had not killed him, he would certainly have killed me." In the end, though, Sherlock refused to die and Conan Doyle had to bring him back to life, at the demand of his readers.
Conan Doyle is now long dead, but his famous consulting detective lives on and is reinterpreted by each new era. I wonder how Doyle would feel about that.