Building Sherlock


ArthurConanDoyleArthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930)

Arthur Conan Doyle is the Scottish author and creator of the detective-hero, Sherlock Holmes. The character of Sherlock Holmes is one of the most enduring in all of literature, film and TV and pop culture. He is the protagonist in 56 short stories and four novels by Conan Doyle: A Study in Scarlet (1887), The Sign of the Four (1890), The Hound of the Baskervilles (serialised 1901–1902 in The Strand) and The Valley of Fear (serialised 1914–1915 in The Strand). The Universal Sherlock Holmes encyclopedia lists over 25,000 Holmes-related productions and products from classic motion pictures and contemporary television series, comic strips and comic books, video and board games, and a wide variety of theatrical adaptation and stagings, including Broadway musicals, a ballet and even an opera. The copyright for Conan Doyle’s works expired in the United Kingdom at the end of 1980 and all works published in the United States before 1923 are in the public domain, thus allowing playwright, Greg Kramer, and countless other to leverage Holmes’s popularity and legacy in additional stories and adaptations in other media.

It was on a bitterly cold and frosty morning, towards the end of the winter of ’97, that I was awakened by a tugging at my shoulder. It was Holmes. The candle in his hand shone upon his eager, stooping face, and told me at a glance that something was amiss.
“Come, Watson, come!” he cried. “The game is afoot. Not a word! Into your clothes and come!”
The Adventure of the Abbey Grange


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A Study in Scarlet (published 1887 in Beeton’s Christmas Annual)
The Sign of the Four (published 1890 in Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (serialised 1901–1902 in The Strand)
The Valley of Fear (serialised 1914–1915 in The Strand)

Short story collections

The short stories, originally published in magazines, were later collected in five anthologies:

  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (stories published 1891–1892 in The Strand)
  • The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (stories published 1892–1893 in The Strand as further episodes of the Adventures)
  • The Return of Sherlock Holmes (stories published 1903–1904 in The Strand)
  • His Last Bow: Some Later Reminiscences of Sherlock Holmes (stories published 1908–1917)
  • The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (stories published 1921–1927)

Sherlock Holmes is the legendary great detective who solves even the most baffling cases with astute observation, deductive reasoning and very little people skills. As a “consulting detective,” he favors reason and logic above all else and makes very few personal attachments beyond those that benefit him. He calls himself a “high functioning sociopath” because he does not make friends or understand emotions very well, beyond what can be studied. He would make a superior criminal if he were so inclined, but instead he assists the police, and Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade, on their most baffling cases.

Because he has no interest in emotions, he makes no effort to protect those of other people and often comes across as rude, blunt or even cruel. The people in the world he cares about are Mrs. Hudson, his landlady, who tolerates him keeping science experiments in the fridge and shooting holes in the walls; Detective Inspector Greg Lestrade with New Scotland Yard; and Dr. John Watson, who starts out as his roommate and quickly becomes his assistant and chronicler on cases.

Sherlock has a brother, Mycroft, from whom he is estranged. Mycroft goes so far as to refer to himself as Sherlock’s arch enemy, yet they do help each other out when it is absolutely necessary. Sherlock’s actual nemesis is master criminal James Moriarty, who is as intelligent as Sherlock, but uses his wits for crime. Sherlock doesn’t have girlfriends, but is intrigued by Irene Adler, an intelligent criminal and high end escort.

“Eccentric” may be too broad of a word to describe Sherlock Holmes’ pathology and mental state. In today’s parlance, he is very much “OCD” what with his “cat-like” love of personal cleanliness and habitual pipe smoking. He has an aversion to women who disliked and did not trust. Holmes derives pleasure from baffling police inspectors with his deductions, and has supreme confidence – bordering on arrogance – in his intellectual abilities.

With the exception of Watson, Holmes has no real “friends” and avoids social contact of any kind. In The Adventure of the Gloria Scott he tells the doctor “I was never a very sociable fellow, Watson, always rather fond of moping in my rooms and working out my own little methods of thought, so that I never mixed much with the men of my year; … my line of study was quite distinct from that of the other fellows, so that we had no points of contact at all.”

And then, of course, there’s the matter of his drug use. Holmes occasionally uses addictive drugs, especially in the absence of stimulating cases. He uses cocaine, which he injects in a seven-percent solution with a syringe kept in a Morocco leather case. This was the subject of director Herb Ross’ 1976 film, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, where by to treat his friend’s cocaine induced delusions, Watson lures Sherlock Holmes to Sigmund Freud.


Holmes’s primary intellectual detection method is “abductive” reasoning and he adheres strictly to scientific methods, focusing on logic, observation and deduction. He is often depicted analysing physical evidence using that famous magnifying glass of his to examine latent prints (such as footprints, hoof prints and bicycle tracks) to identify actions at a crime scene, along with the optical microscope he keeps at his Baker Street residence. The Sherlock Holmes stories helped marry forensic science–particularly Holmes’ acute observation of small clues– and literature.


Not For All The Tea in China: About the Opium Wars in Sherlock Holmes

Opium dens were prevalent in many parts of the world in the 19th century, most notably China, Southeast Asia, North America and France. Throughout the West, opium dens were frequented by and associated with the Chinese, because the establishments were usually run by Chinese who supplied the opium as well as prepared it for visiting non-Chinese smokers. In the Sherlock Holmes story “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” Dr. Watson goes to an opium den in the East End of London to find Isa Whitney, and in Charles Dickens’s final and uncompleted novel, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, an opium den is a critical element of the story.

In Greg Kramer’s Sherlock Holmes, the Opium Wars at the end of the 19th century are over and Lord Neville St.-John, an outspoken opponent of opium, gives a rousing speech in the House of Lords to encourage voting to ban the illicit drug. Meanwhile, in the docklands, the notorious criminal kingpin, James Moriarty, is plotting to overthrow the upcoming vote, while his long-time assistant, Colonel Moran, and the mysterious Orchid, who runs the Black Orchid opium house, join him.

Also known as the Anglo-Chinese Wars, The Opium Wars were two conflicts between China’s Qing Dynasty and the British Empire. Opium use in China had increased by 2,250% when it began to be consumed recreationally during the 18TH Century, and almost all of their supply was imported from India by the British East India Company, who in turn would bring souvenirs such as silks and ceramics back to Western Europe, where they were wildly popular.

The Chinese court was torn between legalizing the trade in order to tax it and condemning it all together. Various edicts were issued during the 18TH Century, but they did not stop the trade. Finally, in 1838 an aggressive campaign forced dealers to turn over their inventory by literally baracading them in their factories and refusing them access to food. They also boarded ships outside of Chinese water to destroy their cargo, and all British merchants were required to sign a bond that they would not deal in opium or they would be killed.

From the perspective of the British Government, this campaign was one of arbitrary plundering and destruction of property. In 1840, the British Indian Army met the coasts of China. Though the Chinese had elegant weaponry, it was no match for the muskets, cannons, and steamships of the British Empire. When Beijing and the Imperial Palace were threatened, they surrendered.

The terms of their surrender, in the Treaty of Nanjing, were harsh, including the payment of an indemnity, the opening of five ports, and the ceding of Hong Kong.

This treaty continued to be negotiated, with the British seeking more trade, including the legalization of opium, tarif exemption, and British ambassadors in Beijing, all of which the Qing government resisted. In 1856, officials boarded a British-registered ship and removed its crewmen for alleged piracy. The British

Empire and its allies began attacking forts along the Pearl River in 1857, subsequent to the Indian mutany. Once again, the Chinese were forced to surrender, and with the Treaty of Aigun opened even more ports to foreign trade. These terms were immensely unpopular with the government and the fighting resumed, culminating in an enormous battle outside of Beijing. The Chinese army was destroyed, leaving Beijing open to the Anglo-French forces, who freed prisoners and looted the palaces, burning the Old Summer Palace to the ground as punishment for tactics the Chinese had used.

The Convention of Peking held all the terms and more of the Treaty of Aigun. The defeat of the Qing army by a smaller and foreign force had adverse effects on the reputation of the Dynasty, which would last for only 50 years more.