Later this month, I have guest bloggers discussing how they write romance novels. Since they are covering the love aspect of this month’s theme, I thought I’d handle the friendship part of it. And what better way than to highlight the greatest friendship in English literature, the bond between the Great Detective and the Good Doctor in the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
In high school, I watched the TV series with Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes. His portrayal mesmerized me and sent me to the original stories. Between the four novels and the fifty-six short stories that Sir Arthur wrote about his most famous character, I think the short stories are far better. Except for The Hound of the Baskervilles, the novels suffer from a boring second half. The first half involves Holmes solving the mystery. But when the perpetrator of the crime is revealed, he drags down the second half by delivering his backstory.
Some of my favorite short stories are:
- “A Scandal in Bohemia”–I have to love the only story that features the intriguing Irene Adler, the woman who outwitted Holmes
- “The Red-Headed League”–Who created the Red-Headed League to benefit red-headed men? Why is Jabez Wilson told the League will pay him if he sits in an office for four hours a day and copies the Encyclopedia Britannica? And then why does it suddenly disband? The solution is one of Sir Arthur’s most ingenious.
- “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”–One of the best Christmas mysteries ever written. Holmes and Watson must figure out how a stolen jewel ended up in the crop of a Christmas goose.
- “The Adventure of Silver Blaze”–The killer of a horse trainer turns out to be the least likely but most logical suspect.
- “The Empty House”–After he lets Watson believe he died three years ago at the hands of Professor Moriarty, Holmes makes a dramatic return. He enlists Watson’s help in an attempt to capture Moriarty’s right hand man, Colonel Sebastian Moran.
- “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton”–Holmes and Watson decide they are justified in committing burglary to save a woman from a professional blackmailer. I love this story because we get to see how much Watson enjoys his adventures with Holmes. He’s thrilled to the core to be sneaking through the night to commit a noble crime.
- “The Illustrious Client”-– I tend to like the stories where the superhuman reasoning machines are shown to be human after all. While trying to prevent a woman from marrying a sexual predator, Holmes is beat up. Watson is outraged, and once again, Holmes believes he needs to break the law to achieve justice.
- “The Three Garridebs”–While trying to help a client who will receive a large bequest if three people with a rare last name are located, Holmes finally reveals the depth of his feelings for Watson. Watson’s description of seeing this side to his best friend’s nature is both touching and funny.
I think the key to the longevity of these stories is the friendship between Holmes and Watson. Holmes would come across as an inhuman deducing machine if Sir Arthur hadn’t created Watson to be the detective’s friend and biographer. Watson would be just an ordinary Victorian gentleman, no one worth reading about, if he wasn’t the best pal of the world’s greatest detective.
I learned so much about character development from them. To read about how to create interesting friendships for your characters based on Holmes and Watson, click here for an earlier blog post.
What are your favorite literary friendships?
I don’t think I’ve read all those short stories! Have to see if they’re in the collection I have . . . (I remember reading The Red-Headed League, but I think Valley of Fear was my favorite Sherlock adventure.)
Have you seen the BBC Sherlock series, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman? I think BC is a phenomenal Sherlock, and it’s great fun to see him being himself and doing his work in 21st-century London: texting, driving, shooting guns, etc. But the series also does a superb job showing the friendship between him and Dr. Watson: how it develops, how they rely on each other, and how much Sherlock appreciates Watson even if he never expressly says it. One of my favorite shows for so many reasons!
I haven’t seen that series. “The Illustrious Client” and “Charles Augustus Milverton” are favorites because they have such formidable villains.