Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Will Benedict go the way of Basil?

I have now caught up with all of the second season of Sherlock and find myself asking 'will Benedict's performance as Holmes end up going the same way as Basil Rathbone's?'

I think most people who don't think Rathbone is one of the top Holmes' of the silver screen never look beyond the material he had to work with.

And by the same token, those of us who believe he will always be in the top three, look way beyond the bad scripts and the weak Dr. Watson he was given.

The new BBC series Sherlock I think is one of the best things to happen to Holmes in a long time. The preformances of all the key players are excellent and Benedict and Martin, for many, will always rank up there with Rathbone and Bruce and Brett and Hardwick/Burke.
And although the Robert Downey Jr's.movies have also brought new attention to the great detective, Mr. Downey will never make to many list as the quintisintual Holmes.

But, just like with Rathbone, will bad writing or scripts of the new 'Sherlock' get in the way of recognition they may someday deserve for their renditions.

The final episode of the second season had to many convoluted turns of events to make the story fun to follow. We don't see Holmes always one step ahead, or if you prefer, one step behind Moriarty, but usually several steps. I did like the doubt placed about Holmes within Scotland Yard, and the way that was going, but how they got there was well over done. But to not have Holmes actually figure out hardly any of the clues was very disappointing.

With the current set of writers within the series, is it going to go in the direction of Dr. Who (and if you are into Who, that will be alright) or will it become more faithful to the Canon. Dr. Who is a wonderful show for what it is (I guess. I have never seen it), but it is not the Canon of Sherlock Holmes.

I think that it can be argued that Benedict will always be remembered as a great Holmes, and I think his acting credentials will keep him out of being stereotyped like Ratbone, but only time will tell how the series will hold up.

After watching Baskerville twice, I ended up being OK with the story, but not loving it.
I found several things I really liked about Scandal, but again did not love it.
The performances in Final were excellent, but the story went why over the top.
If Benedict's Holmes becomes to quirky,  the series will not last. But if we see the thinking machine with a dash of being human, he will be hard to beat. It is up to the writers.

 Bad scripts will have more to do with how Robert Downey Jr. will be remembered as Holmes than will his acting abilities.
This will also true for Benedict.

Just my thoughts.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on the Three Gables

This past Friday was the monthly meeting of The Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn, and I had the presentation to do. Our story was 3GAB, and my thoughts follow. I hope you enjoy and it makes you think a little more about this less favored case.

Some thoughts on Three Gables

When I first returned to this story to prepare for this presentation I sure did regret that I had picked this month for a paper.
On first read or first reread the story is very weak and uninteresting. It is often argued that this case was not written by Watson at all.
As is the case with most presentations prepared for the Canon, and was true with this one, my first choice for argument or discussion, ‘Is Douglas Maberly Bi-polar?’ soon proved to be unsatisfactory. What was first thought may be relevant soon turned out to be not quite so.
So I read it again. And again. And yet again, often still disappointed that I chose doing a paper on this story.
As soon as I found my writing taking me in one direction, the argument ever proved weak or non-existent.
But luckily those weaknesses lead me to the conclusions I am still exploring with this paper.

If we are playing the game, and we are indeed for this story, this time, then we must chose one of two ways to explore this story.
We could chose to explore this story purely for the strength of its literary quality, which we usually find lacking.
Or we could examine it as Watson has given it to us, still believing he wrote it and use what ever powers of deduction we may have learned after reading so many stories and come up with some other conclusions.

When we read this story most of us start coming up with a list of dislikes and contradictions that irritate us. The most prevalent one, usually, is that Holmes appears so out of character. The two most common arguments for this are, either he fell off of the drug wagon, or that the case was not recorded by Watson.

It’s not that the tale does not start well or get our attention. With an opening line like;
I don't think that any of my adventures with Mr. Sherlock Holmes opened quite so abruptly, or so dramatically, as that which I associate with The Three Gables.’. Is defiantly a grabber, you just want to read what comes next; ‘I had not seen Holmes for some days and had no idea of the new channel into which his activities had been directed. He was in a chatty mood that morning, however, and had just settled me into the well-worn low armchair on one side of the fire, while he had curled down with his pipe in his mouth upon the opposite chair, when our visitor arrived. If I had said that a mad bull had arrived it would give a clearer impression of what occurred’, we just know we are in for a treat of a case, right?

So here we sit wine glass at hand, slippers on, comforter pulled up around us, fire in the hearth, ready for a good read.

Were we disappointed?

Usually the consensus is yes.

The story lacks substance and most of the things we like about the Canon, right?

On all the favorite lists I explored the highest this case ever ranked was 33. Usually it came in around about third or fourth from the bottom, only beating out the likes of VEIL, BLAN, and MAZA. It is favored slightly more by the rest of the world than it is by American Sherlockians.

But one thing we can say about this case is that it sure gives us lots to talk about, with most of it putting Holmes in a rather bad light.

And when reading this case, I, like probably many others, wonder why it was put in the Canon of Sherlock Holmes. There is nothing outstanding about the case. We see no great display of deduction, leaving most Sherlockians wishing another case had been in the place in the Canon instead. (After all, aren’t there plenty more to chose from?)

One of the features most loved about reading the Canon is the wonderful descriptions Watson places in the stories of locations and settings.

In SCAN, the introduction without dialog goes on for four very long (and enjoyable!) paragraphs. Just about any one of which is longer in description than all of the descriptive narrative in 3GAB.

If we were to remove the non-dialog lines from 3GAB it would hardly affect the page count at all. There are, on quick count, only about six non-dialog paragraphs in this whole case.

With the exception of the first enticing paragraph the others fall well short of what we have come to expect from Watson’s writings.
 We get none of the wonderful musings in the cab or on a train. No insights about the inhabitants along the way. And his description of the building called Three Gables makes us wonder why it was called that in the first place.
And if we do remove the lack-luster effort that is the few paragraphs of stage settings, we end up with stilted, sometimes abusive, often seemly poorly written dialog?
The repartee between the individuals and the verbal combatants is far below what we have come to expect.
If I am not mistaken this is the only tale were four letter words are used.

Watson does not usually have trouble conveying class status by manner of speech or dialect. (Other than, I would argue, when he writes American.)

Yet over and over again in this story the conversations appear much struggled.
Holmes turns uncharacteristic phrases. Dixie is almost totally unreadable. And Susan, well, Susan is another thing all together.
And what is perhaps even more noticeable is Watson’s verbal absence from the narrative.
I believe, again on quick count, that Watson has only four or five lines of dialog in the whole case, and even those are delivered in a Nigel Bruce Watson sort of way.

We never get the back and forth dialog of deduction detection between the two roommates. I mention here again SCAN, where, right after those first four wonderful stage setting paragraphs we are treated to a couple of pages of Holmes and Watson exchanging observations (yes Watson is good at observation also, just of different things) and inputs and congenial chit-chat. One of the things we feast on as Sherlockians.

And, unfortunately it is in the dialog, especially as it pertains to Holmes, where lays the most problems for me.

Why the lack of effort or interest in this case?

Is there a tension between Holmes and Watson that makes for this lackluster effort?
Is Watson tired of being left out of the loop and only makes a half hearted effort with this case. Our does Watson have a deadline to meet and this was the best he could come up with.

With that earlier stated opening paragraph, the one stating Holmes is in a chatty mood, we are lead to believe all is well in the world of 1895, well, 1903.

Watson is no longer living at Baker St. and stops by to visit Holmes. After that brief introduction we are hoping for that amiable exchange between the two men that is sometimes frustrating to Watson, almost always instructive and always hoped for by readers.

But with Dixie’s entrance that all falls by the way side.
Although that could have been a very dramatic start to an exciting case, we are soon disappointed by a very out of character exchange.

We are not use to seeing Holmes respond to individuals, no matter their class background, that we see him display towards Dixie. He is very verbally abusive and condescending towards Dixie. And if it wasn’t for our previous experience with Holmes in YELL, his treatment of Dixie could almost be passed off as racist. And although slavery had ended in England before Holmes was born, racist issues were very present in Victorian times. But we don’t expect them from Holmes.
We always expect Holmes to verbally hold his own when confront by an adversaries, but we do not expect it in such, shall we say, a flippant abusive way.

If we agree with Bill Cochran’s book and his suggestion that Holmes returned from the hiatus as a kinder, more tolerant, easier going man, then his behavior seems even more out of character.

When dealing with the likes of Milveton and others like him, verbal confrontation is usually reserved and almost gentleman like. Verbal one-upmanship seems almost more important than a physical confrontation. But with Dixie contempt is the earmark of the exchange.

Was Dixie such a loathsome individual that Holmes felt no compunction towards him?

And what about his treatment of Susan, the definitely loath-some maid who seemingly has almost as much trouble with English as Dixie and also has a potty mouth.
From first dramatic entrance Susan makes by being manhandled by Holmes, his treatment of her is almost identical to Dixie’s.
As we have experienced in most of the other stories, Holmes’ handling of the service class and working class is usually respectful and not condescending. His manners are usually the same no matter who he is dealing with.
Once again, even with the likes of Moriarty and Milveton, the dialog is more like a verbal sword fight, than an impingement of ones character.
He even goes so far as to suggest to Susan that she may not have long to live.

Another interesting side note on Holmes’ behavior that has been documented by many others is Holmes’ lack of energy or interest in pursuing the other cases that he mentions. Suggesting, slightly, that they may connected to this one, but never explaining why.
One observer, perhaps from Peoria, has noted; ‘That if Holmes was so busy with other cases, why didn’t he pass information on to Lestrade or someone else about the Perkins murder?’ and maybe the activities of the Spencer John gang.

We also see this lack of energy when he is leaving 3GABs and leaves the examination of Douglas’ trunks to the widow. Also at the mansion Holmes totally relies on the information provided by the police about the burglary and makes no effort to examine the house or grounds. SO out of character!

Uncharacteristically, we also find Holmes fawning over Douglas Maberly with a reverence we all hoped he held only for the Queen.
We are use to Watson, the ever descriptive expert, dressing up the individual traits of the characters within the case, but not Holmes.

The only thing, on first read, consistent about Holmes’ behavior is that it is inconsistent.

Much has been made about the dress and manner of speech of Steve Dixie, from his use over and over again of the word ‘Masser’ and his quick change from bully to his subservient behavior towards Holmes’.
Most of this would suggest an American ex-slave. Even the name Dixie, in all its etymologies, references the southern states of the U.S.
In one instance we see him as a large bruiser ready to do the dirty work for his boss, the next we see him as a cowering giant making sure he leaves 221b ‘with no hard feelings.’
I could see someone like Moriarty having that type of effect on this individual, but not Holmes, unless there is some reason we have not yet discovered.
There are no real good reasons for Dixie to continually use the word Masser when talking to Holmes, especially, as others have also noted, since he had no trouble saying the word ‘mister’ when quoting his boss.
It has been suggested in Peoria that the word was a replacement for another couple of words starting with M and F.
Dixie’s dialog throughout is, on first read, very roughly written, almost portraying an ignorant ex-slave or brain damaged boxer. A bruiser of no significant merit except to do someone’s dirty work.

I think it can be agreed upon that the servant Suzy is kind of a loathsome individual, at least as she is described by Watson. Her speech is not much better than Dixie’s, and there is very little lady like about her behavior. Unlike, seemingly,  Dixie, she doesn’t seem particularly intimidated by the situation she finds herself in. Nothing Holmes says seems to make her want to plead for reprieve, like Ryder did in BLUE.
Why is she not afraid of repercussions for her involvement in this tale?

Poor Douglas Maberly!
 My first argument in this case was going to be unfavorable for Douglas, and although I still think him a lovelorn sap, I no longer think he was Bipolar.
More likely is it that he is a minor diplomat who got in way over his head in not only matters of the heart but, perhaps, matters of state intrigue.

At one point we have Holmes practically fawning over Douglas and stating that he was such a striking individual, full of life and that all London knew of him. ‘He lived intensely - -  every fiber of him.’
We have to assume, by Holmes knowledge and description of him, that Douglas was not this ‘poor penniless commoner’ that Isodora refused to marry.
We know he was an attaché to Rome for the British government. We are told that the widow Maberly ‘bore every mark of refinement and culture.’ Surely this was passed on the Douglas, and refinement and culture does not come cheap.
We know he was well known, and seemly travelled in high circles for ‘all of London knew him’ He was a ‘magnificent creature’, ‘splendid and debonair’.
And since he travelled in such high circles it is hardly likely that he knew nothing about Isodora’s reputation.

If we take this case on first reading face value, we can hardly condemn Isodora’s behavior to the extent we are told Holmes’ does. Even if we do not condone Isodora’s life style, we can hardly blame her for trying to protect herself. We are told, by Holmes, that Douglas was writing a book about their relationship with all intent on destroying her reputation.
Where Holmes found it ok to protect the king’s reputation in SCAN, why does this not hold true in this case.
Arguments can and have been made about whether or not this book Douglas was writing could ruin the reputation of some one who’s behavior and life style is so well known.
And although Holmes judges Isodora as the one at fault, for the original sin, he finds no fault in Douglas’ behavior.
After all, it was not Isodora, as the story reads, who was trying to destroy Douglas.
Is Isodora so different from Irene Adler?

When ‘Playing the Game’, we are expected to examine every little detail within the Canon and find truth or exception.
We try to document individuals as historic people or locations as landmarks. We look for contemporary facts that we draw on for things mentioned by Watson.

But maybe, because we perceive the writing of 3GAB as inferior to most of the other cases, we dismiss the clues Watson has given us.
Maybe we should look at this as a treat from Watson, a gift where we get to practice our deductive reasoning’s.

From the very beginning of this case Watson is explaining to us that there are things he can not tell us, probably to protect some one high up, or the British government itself, or that he does not know all the details of.

We are told Holmes is in a chatty mood but Watson does not, or can not tell us why.

When Watson describes the entrance of this giant black man and we first hear him speak, our preconceived ideas and images of how a black man should look and behave take over the narrative. We see an uneducated black boxer, probably an ex-slave (is the clue in the name Dixie?) who can only speak in mono-slavic phrases. We see him as a dirty sewer rat, sent on high handed duties. Which probably is his real purpose?

But what if we slow the opening scene down a bit and set the tempo a little more dramatically.
Take away any preconceived images we may have of Dixie.
Slow down the dialog, remove any images you may form of Dixie being subservient and easily intimidated and drip a little contempt on the word ‘Masser’ every time it is said. Interpreted this way the exchange takes on a little different atmosphere.
Re-read the dialog by Dixie like someone who is not intimidated by Holmes and is speaking as forcefully as Holmes does and faining an illiterate manner of speech.
Place the inflections more carefully and give him a Michael Clarke Duncan type of voice.
It would explain even more why Watson would need to pick up the poker.
It is in this opening exchange that we first, reading between the lines, become aware that there is more going on than Watson is going to let us believe. Holmes or Watson is holding something back from us.

Although Holmes shows very little interest in the death of Perkins at this point, or for that matter, seems to show no interest in his death at all, we have to believe that lack of interest is because he realizes that his death is part of a much bigger picture that he is already working on.

We should realize at this point that Holmes knows more about the goings on at Three Gables and with other individuals involved than Watson (or Holmes) is letting on.

Our next stop is Three Gables where we meet the Mrs. Maberly, widow of an old client of Holmes. It is during this introduction, after a brief reminisce about the late Mortimer Maberly that we become aware that Holmes is familiar with her now deceased son.
And it is here that we see the unaccustomed fawning by Holmes over the late Douglas.
If we are aware of Holmes gift for the theatrics and acting, then it is not hard to imagine Holmes putting on a ‘show’ for the benefit of a grieving mother, who we should believe knows nothing truly about the goings on of her son.

We should also realize here that the visit to the Three Gable was not to investigate the goings on with the widow, but to gain more information about the goings on of the Spencer John gang.
If we believe the death of Perkins is part of this case, which is not mentioned again after the opening scene, we can surmise that Holmes’ visit to Three Gables is made necessary by Perkin’s death.
Perkins was probably an agent for the British Government tasked to follow Douglas’ belonging from Italy back to England. Holborn Bar is not far the docks of London and could easily be the route the luggage took to Three Gable which is located only about sixteen miles from Holborn. In an attempt to retrieve what ever was in the luggage, the bad guys could have killed Perkins.
Holmes did not need to examine the luggage, he already know what was in it.

Holmes is gathering more pieces of the puzzle to a case that is still being kept from the readers.

At this point we are introduced to wheezy Susan, and we are once again surprised by how out of character Holmes treatment of her is. He is very condescending and tactless. I think can only be another example of Holmes knowing more than he is letting on. He knows that Susan works for the Spencer John gang, but he knows this case leads beyond them and he still does not know to whom. But he can not explain all this to the widow because of the depth her sons was involved.

It is only since Douglas’ stuff has arrived from Italy that the problems at Three Gables began.
But as all the clues indicate, Three Gables is not where the case started for Holmes.
If we take all the times Holmes is dismissive about other cases he mentions, the fact that he was so chatty, the knowledge he as of all the other principles in the story, we have to except that more was going on than just an unpublished manuscript.

Douglas lived in Italy, Isodora has a nice home in London, ‘one of the finest on the block’, Watson says.
Douglas is an attaché to Italy for the British Government, which means he could have responsibilities within his job of a specific nature.
Isodora is an adventuress, a term more apropos in her circumstances then perhaps assigned to Irene Adler. She has no known occupation, it seems, other than marrying for money, so we are told and can freely travel.

And we have a missing novel.

On first glance in would seem this case has a lot of similarities to SCAN. And there are a few.
If we take it on written face value, the story could be one of blackmail and revenge, and trying to protect ones self.

But the hostility Holmes has towards all involved, with the exception of Mrs. Maberly, would suggest something else is going on.

Reading between the lines, I would suggest there are more similarities to BRUC, SECO or even CHAS.

I am sure Douglas was infatuated with Isodora, but that was the plan from the beginning.
She probably seduced him to get to the papers she needed. Maybe even liking him in the end, but realizing it would spoil her plans. Not wishing him dead, but still needing to further her plans, she tried to scare him off.
Douglas had some paper, some plan, some document she or her client wanted. Something concerning the relationship between England and Italy, something Douglas knew about or had access to. Italy at this point in history was trying in many ways to catch up with the rest of Europe to once again become a world power.

Now, there is nothing to indicate that Isodora set out to kill Douglas, but with the need to get whatever it is he had that she needed out of the country, his death served her well by, probably, allowing a diplomats luggage to travel freely between countries.

At this point if we want to see Douglas in a more favorable light, there could be enough evidence to suggest Douglas was killed because he did know what was going on, or finally show some backbone, and was killed for his efforts. Perkins could even be an alias for Douglas.

We also have to except here that Holmes, or Mycroft knew about most of this, and that is why Holmes had so many answers before he ever went to Three Gables.
At no time did any of the information he gathered from Susan or Dixie contribute to the resolution of the case and they probably had no idea what was really going on.

I would also suggest that Isodora and her party were probably very disappointed to find a manuscript in a diplomat’s bag, which was probably placed there by Holmes or the British Government after having retrieved the missing documents somewhere along the line.

Dixie may have been working undercover, or he may have deduced that he was involved with a group that was going to get him in a lot more trouble than he wanted and he was trying to find a way out when Holmes talked to him outside Three Gables.

The reason for Susan’s badly written dialog was that Watson was trying to give us a clue that she was not English. A foreign domestic if you prefer, and since we are never told how long she has worked for the widow, we must except that is probably since about the time Douglas died.

The reason Sherlock was so chatty when Watson arrive that morning because he was explaining all this to the good doctor. But even when this story was published in 1926 the information was still too sensitive to let the real story out.
He even gives us a clue to this by having Isodora state;
‘It was all there, under different names, of course; but who in all London would have failed to recognize it?’

She knows that the whole escapade is about to unravel because Holmes tells us her gang is at that very moment being rounded up by the police.

But somewhere in all this Holmes does not believe either he or the government has enough information to implicate Isodora, or can not afford to have what she knows get out, so he says; ‘I suppose I shall have to compound a felony as usual. . .’.
Suggesting he has probably had to do this under-cover type of work before?

Which we know he has.

From the very beginning Watson leads us down a path allowing us to stumble, almost Watson like, on the clues that tell the real story of 3GAB.

If we like, we can imagine that this case is a gift from Watson that allows us for once to step into the shoes of the master. We can easily imagine more things and plots at work here than the written story implies. And much like the latest, sadly, Sherlock Holmes movie, we can see that there were more groups involved in this case than just an adventuress and Holmes.

We as good Sherlockians can not imagine, or except that Watson could write such a bad story.

Friday, June 22, 2012

More from (for) Irene. . .

Irene Adler: how to butcher a brilliant woman character

SPOILER WARNING: This post discusses the plot of Sherlock: A Scandal in Belgravia and the original source material, Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia.
It’s pretty when a story written over 120 years ago has better gender politics than its modern reimagining. With BBC’s Sherlock, this is exactly what happened. The most recent episode, A Scandal in Belgravia puts a modern spin on the Holmes story A Scandal in Bohemiaand manages to engage in a horrifying mess of feminism-fail by the end.
The feminism-fail is hardly surprising when the series is written by Stephen Moffat, whose previous works include heteronormative, binary-obsessedCoupling and episodes of Doctor Who which include womb-magic resurrecting the dead and saving some trees among other horrors. For much of Sherlock, I was actually pretty impressed with Moff. Maybe, just maybe, he had finally managed to write a female character who was awesome.
And this is the thing. For at least 80 minutes, the character Irene Adler wasreally awesome. Irene Adler was updated from a controversial opera singer who had affairs with the nobility to a dominatrix to the rich and famous. As with the original, Adler was portrayed as incredibly smart–an intellectual match for Holmes himself.
In the original story, Adler is clever enough to fool Holmes himself and escape, not allowing a scandalous photograph of a Bohemian royal to fall into Holmes’s hands and sneaking herself out of the country. All in all, she is fierce, resourceful and clever. Holmes himself is impressed and learns that women can be clever. Given the story was written rather some time ago, this is progressive in a way which seems thoroughly sexist these days.
In Sherlock, for the first 80 minutes, the character of Adler is much the same. She is an intellectual foil to Sherlock, anticipating his every move in order to stop him getting hold of an iPhone containing scandalous photographs of what we can only assume is Kate Middleton in a ball gag.  In the first scene in which she and Sherlock meet, Adler is completely naked. I read this scene as Adler being intelligent enough to know that Holmes has a nasty habit of reading all sorts of details about a person’s life from their clothes, and therefore gave him little to go on, although given the sexism towards the end, I may be optimistic in this assessment.
Everything goes horribly wrong at the end. Out of nowhere, Adler reveals that much of her security arrangements and her outfoxing of Holmes is down to advice received from Moriarty. That’s right. Irene Adler goes from being the fierce, resourceful, clever woman to being somebody who had to ask a man for help in order to succeed. She is not allowed to be brilliant in her own right, only through the advice from a dude who has some tension with the main dude in the show. In the space of a few lines, Adler is reduced from an active force to a passive pawn in Moriarty and Holmes’s ongoing cock-duelling.
It gets worse. We are shown what had appeared to be moments of affection between her and Holmes that we had been shown previously in the episode, and Holmes informs us that he was actually checking her pulse and pupil dilation, and he has concluded that she loves him. This is in spite of the fact that Adler has previously pointed out to Watson that she is gay. Holmes being Holmes, he is right. Holmes is such an uber-dude that a lesbian has fallen in love with him and thoroughly fucked up all of her security arrangements by the password to the only thing keeping her safe being an allusion to her crush.
Adler is left friendless due to her fluttery lady-emotions being her downfall, and we are solemnly informed that she has been beheaded by terrorists. Fortunately for Adler, in the last few moments of the show we are informed what actually happened: she was rescued from certain by Holmes. In the course of the episode, Adler goes from being a genuinely awesome female character to a damsel in distress who is propped up entirely by men.
While the original story was written over a century ago, none of this bullshit happened. Adler is consistently portrayed as strong and bright. Yes, she does what she does so she can get married, but here’s the crucial point: she does it all herself. 
Not so for the recent adaptation. In this, we are shown that as women, we’re always going to need a man to rescue us. We just can’t do it on our own: were we to try, we’d end up losing vital documents and on the headless end of a jihadi-beheading. Once again, Moff has managed to put women in the place he want them.
I would gladly keep the sparkling, sexy, sharp Irene Adler of most of the episode, and cut off the end entirely. And if the BBC need to fill up the full 90 minutes, why not extend the scene where she is beating Sherlock Holmes with a cane? And perhaps, let’s see him beg for mercy. Twice.

Credit where credit is due. . .

Because it's Friday and I didn't get my cartoon done yet. . .

I have never heard of this!!

What do you think Irene?

Is Sherlock sexist? Steven Moffat's wanton women

In Moffat's hands the power of Irene Adler, Sherlock Holmes's female adversary, was sexual, not intellectual. A regressive step
Sherlock Holmes, aka Benedict Cumberbatch, saves Irene Adler, played by Lara Pulver, in a departure from the Arthur Conan Doyle story. Photograph: Colin Hutton/BBC/Hartswood Films
The instant Irene Adler's scarlet-tipped fingers extended across the frame on Sunday night, it seemed certain that Steven Moffat's rewriting of Sherlock Holmes's famed female adversary would cause some consternation. The series opener of Sherlock – watched live by almost 10 million people – updated Arthur Conan Doyle's A Scandal in Bohemia, the short story in which Holmes is, unusually, outwitted by an acute American adventuress in possession of a compromising picture of the Bohemian king. The woman Holmes referred to as "the woman" was remade by Moffat as a high-class dominatrix saved only from certain death by the dramatic intervention of our hero. While Conan Doyle's original is hardly an exemplar of gender evolution, you've got to worry when a woman comes off worse in 2012 than in 1891.
In many ways the Holmes stories are a perfect fit for Moffat's skill-set. The puzzle-box plotting, the 24/7 bromance, the fetishisation of "masculine" reason over pesky "feminine" emotion, all suit him right down to the ground. In the case of his stewardship of Doctor Who, Moffat's tendency to write women plucked straight from a box marked "tired old tropes" (drip/scold/temptress/earth mother to name but a few), and his consequent failure to sketch a compelling central dynamic between the lead and his companion, has seriously affected the show's dramatic power. But no such trouble with Sherlock.
Doctor Who has never just been about a dashing alien who happens to be wicked smart. The Doctor cares about stuff, and uses his considerable noodle to fight injustice, tyranny and exploitation. By contrast, Holmes is in it for no reason other than Reason. An insufficiently stimulating case will be summarily dismissed as "boring". A Scandal in Bohemia opens with Conan Doyle sidelining feeling as "grit in a sensitive instrument", a spanner in the works of the world's "most perfect reasoning and observing machine". Unlike Who – where, famously, the evil of the Daleks is linked directly to their rejection of human emotion – Conan Doyle paints a hyper-rational universe almost made just for Moffat.
In this context, what Moffat would do with Adler was always going to be interesting. From a certain perspective, Conan Doyle's character is something of a "proto-feminist", a woman of great intellect and formidable agency, who, above all, proves to be a match for Holmes. It's not unproblematic that both author and protagonist respect Adler only because she has a "soul of steel" and "the mind of the most resolute of men". She's not a waste of space, it is suggested, because she escapes the weakness of her sex and can act, symbolically, as a man. But, importantly, she makes her own way in the world. In the climactic scene of Conan Doyle's story, emotion initially leads her to betray herself, and – like all women – when confronted by danger, she protects the thing she cares about (which, according to Holmes, is invariably either babies or jewellery). However, after these events, having had time to reflect coolly, Adler realises she has given herself away and plans the escape by which she gets one over on Holmes.
However, even this ambiguous portrait of female power proved too much for Moffat to stomach. Granted, he allowed her to keep her smarts. But, at the same time, her acumen and agency were undermined every which way. Not-so-subtly channelling the spirit of the predatory femme fatal, Adler's power became, in Moffat's hands, less a matter of brains, and more a matter of knowing "what men like" and how to give it to them; of having them by the sexual short and curlies, or, perhaps more aptly, on a nice short leash. Her masterminding of a cunning criminal plan was, it was revealed late in the day, not her own doing, but dependent on the advice of Holmes's arch nemesis, James Moriarty. A move that, bloggerStavvers noted, neatly reduced her from "an active force to a passive pawn in Moriarty and Holmes's ongoing cock-duelling".
More troubling still, Moffat's Adler blatantly fails to outwit Holmes. Despite identifying as a lesbian, her scheme is ultimately undone by her great big girly crush on Sherlock, an irresistible brain-rot that leads her to trash the security she has fought for from the start of the show with a gesture about as sophisticated – or purposeful – as scrawling love hearts on an exercise book. As a result, Moffat sends Adler out into the world without the information she has always relied on for protection, having made herself entirely vulnerable for the love of a man. Lest we haven't got the point yet, Holmes hammers it home. "Sentiment," he tells us, "is a chemical defect found in the losing side."
And then there was the jaw-dropping finale, which somehow managed to smoosh together a double-bill of two of patriarchy's top-10 fantasies. All those troubled by female sexual power – or the persistent punctuation of orgasmic text alerts – were treated to the sight of the vamp laid low, down on her knees, about to have her block knocked off by a great big sword. And, at the same time, our hero miraculously appeared to save his damsel in distress. Medusa and Perseus, Rapunzel and her prince, all wrapped up in a potent little bundle. Symbolically speaking, it was really quite impressive. But for those of us crazies who like to think that women are, y'know, just regular human beings, it was, politically, really quite regressive.

Credit where credit is due is Jane's byline. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An interesting review of Brett's Holmes. . .

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes Question

Jeremy Brett (1933-1995) has inherited the mantle of Sherlock Holmes from Basil Rathbone (1893-1967) – indeed, many who have never had the pleasure of seeing Rathbone’s definitive turn as the Great Detective now imagine Brett when mentally picturing Sherlock Holmes.  This is something of a shame.

The standard critical consensus on this is that Brett revitalized Holmes, that his characterization was the closest to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s original conception, and that the episodes of Granada’s television series were the most faithful adaptations ever.

Well …. most of these perceptions are not quite true.

The Granda series did not revitalize interest in Sherlock Holmes; rather, the Granada television series is probably the culminating event in what was a decade-long revival of interest.  Throughout the 1970s, interest in Sherlock Holmes was nearly as high as it had been during Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s lifetime.  Holmes returned to bestseller lists with Nicholas Meyer’s novels The Seven Per-Cent Solution (1974) and The West End Horror (1976); in fact, Seven Per-Cent received a glossy film treatment by Herb Ross in 1976, starring a woefully miscast Nicole Williamson (born 1938) as Holmes and Robert Duval (born 1931) as Watson.  In addition, the Royal Shakespeare Society revived William Gillette’s play Sherlock Holmes, running for many years on Broadway with such actors as John Wood (1930-2011), John Neville (born 1925) and Robert Stephens (1931-1995) in the lead role, and Paul Giovanni’s Crucifer of Blood also opened on Broadway in 1978, starring a sterlingPaxton Whitehead as the Great Detective.

So, when Granada launched its series in 1984, it was really riding the crest of an almost unprecedented decade-long renaissance for the character.

As for the series itself, it is also not exactly true that the series episodes – largely scripted by John Hawkesworth and Jeremy Paul – were particularly close to Conan Doyle’s stories.  To be sure the level of fidelity was higher than Rathbone’s anti-Nazi war-time excursions, but the series all too often tacked on endings found nowhere in Doyle, or added irrelevant digressions to pad running time.  Indeed, the most faithful adaptations of Doyle were committed not to television, but to radio in two excellent series of adoptions starring, alternately, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson, and,Carleton Hobbs and Norman Shelley, as Holmes and Watson, respectively.

Which takes us, finally, to Brett.  Any dramatized Sherlock Holmes story passes or fails largely on the strength of the actors playing the parts of Holmes and Watson.  Brett was very lucky indeed in his Watsons.  For the first two seasons Watson was portrayed by David Burke (born 1934).  Burke’s Watson was not the boob he is often portrayed to be lesser films, but, rather a competent medico somewhat in awe of the Great Detective’s powers.  There was certainly nothing wrong with Burke’s performance, but it lacked warmth and that touch of complicity with the audience that makes a compelling Watson.  Watson is the stand-in for our selves and, as such, Burke perhaps looked a tad too much like the late Joseph Stalin for his characterization to be totally effective.

Burke was replaced after the second season for the rest of the series by the extremely talented Edward Hardwick (1932-2011).  Hardwick, son of actor Cedric Hardwick, was simply the finest screen Watson we have had: warm, intelligent, steady, comforting and capable.  He was an eminently watchable actor, and his recent passing is a great loss.

Which brings us, finally, to Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes.   If I seem reluctant to address his performance, it’s because I am.  His turn as Holmes has always left me deeply ambivalent – Brett was a beguiling, amusing and melodramatic presence, but he just wasn’t Sherlock Holmes to me.

In the first two seasons, it seemed as if Brett was determined to be the nastiestHolmes on film.  In The Adventure of the Dancing Men, one of the earliest episodes, Brett’s Holmes is rude and condescending to a client in ways never found in Doyle.  In The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle he bellows "I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies” in a manner more reminiscent of a possessedLinda Blair than Sherlock Holmes.  His boxing scene in The Solitary Cyclist is laughable, and some of his line readings in The Final Problem are simply bizarre.  His laugh is a strangled bark and he is too cool, too aloof, and too … reptilian.

None of these embellishments are particularly surprising when one keeps in mind Brett’s initial thoughts on the character – Jeremy Brett hated Sherlock Holmes.  In an interview with The Armchair Detective prior to the American debut of the series, Brett commented that Holmes was a dreadful man; indeed, he wouldn’t “even cross the street to meet him.”  This is hardly the Holmes of Doyle, who was capable of both great charm and great courtesy, whom Watson wrote of as one with a depth of “loyalty and love” and who had “a great heart as well as a great brain.”

However, after these first two years, something happened offstage that forever altered his performance as Holmes for the rest of the series run.  In 1985, Brett came to the United States to star in a Broadway revival of Frederick Lonsdale’s Aren’t We All?, also starring Claudette Colbert and Rex Harrison.  (Brett and Harrison worked together, of course, in the 1964 film version of My Fair Lady.)  While in the US Brett was on the receiving end of a torrential flood of love and admiration from Sherlock Holmes disciples.  He was applauded, feted and lionized – he was, after nearly 30 years of acting – a star with groupies.

This, I think, more than anything changed his Holmes.  The change is evident in his return to the series immediately after his US tour, and in the first episode (also his first with Edward Hardwick), The Adventure of the Empty House.  This new Holmes is warmer, funnier, and more affectionate.  Indeed, his badinage with Henry Baskerville in the two-part Hound of the Baskervilles is almost … playful.  

However, despite all the softening of the character, Brett’s Holmes was still too mannered, too bizarre, and too twitchy to be fully embraceable.  Brett was an actor with melodramatic tendencies too deeply pronounced for him to etch a characterization on a more approachable, human scale.  And his Holmes suffered from his excesses.  In addition, unfortunate illnesses and weight problems so altered Brett’s appearance throughout the remainder of the run that at times he looked like a dissipated Peter Lorre, and sometimes more like Mycroft rather than Sherlock Holmes.  His obesity at times seemed to amplify a somewhat natural effeminacy in his line readings, and the overall result near the end was dire.

Now for the many Brett fans out there who feel as if I have spat on an icon, I just want to underscore that I don’t think Brett was a bad actor.  He delivered many fine performances, for example, in the television versions of The Picture of Dorian Gray(a superb Basil Hallward) and An Ideal Husband (simply the best Lord Goring I have ever seen).  He is certainly fetching in My Fair Lady, and he was always a dependable television villain.  Nor was he a terrible Sherlock Holmes – for that, simply look to Charlton HestonChristopher Lee, or Nicole Williamson – he simply was a poorly conceived one.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A fine find. . .

One of the first parodies of Holmes here;

 The Adventure of Sherlaw Kombs

'Short stories by a colleague of Jerome K. Jerome, and friend of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Barr probably wrote the first parody of Sherlock Holmes (included in this collection). He co-edited “The Idler” with Jerome.'

The Idler

This is an interesting time-line.


Monday, June 11, 2012

I am not quite as ready to write it off. . . .

Casting Lucy Liu as Dr 'Joan' Watson will ruin one of the great bromances of all time
Everyone knows Dr Watson should have a moustache (Photo: REX)
Everyone knows Dr Watson should have a moustache (Photo: REX)
Lucy Liu will play Sherlock Holmes's sidekick in a new American series called Elementary. Set in New York, it stars Jonny Lee Miller as the great detective – a former consultant to Scotland Yard whose addiction problems have resulted in a spell in rehab in the States – while Liu will play “Joan” Watson, a former doctor who has lost her license.
Everything about this is wrong.
Sherlock Holmes has a well known "aversion to women". It suits his priest-like devotion to his job, as well as his autistic levels of detachment, which find "the motives of women … so inscrutable". Holmes embodies that very Victorian combination of exquisite manners and deep distrust around all women, with the exception of Mrs Hudson, his housekeeper.
But more importantly, detective stories were the original buddy movies. Whether it is the fraternal Poirot and Hastings, or the master-and-valet relationship Lord Peter Wimsey and Sergeant Bunter, or even the father-and-son banter between Morse and Lewis, sleuths are at their best when not trying to seduce their partner.
When two men live or work closely together, their average age is halved. All their juvenile hobbies and eccentric habits come out to play. But throw a woman into the mix, and they start tidying up, buying new socks and leaving the loo seat down. You lose the comic interludes that are essential in a murder mystery to offset all the blood and misery.
What is so odd about this choice is that there’s already a TV series that updates Sherlock Holmes for American audiences. Granted the limping misanthrope Gregory House is a long way away from the detective who inspired him. But the most enjoyable thing about the series remains the relationship between House and Dr James Wilson: whether elaborate pranks, passive-aggressive psychological games or the rare times when their friendship is tested to breaking point.
None of that is possible if Sherlock Holmes spends his entire time telling survivor stories from his addiction in an attempt to get Watson into bed.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

I just can't stop!!!!

Tea with Sherlock Holmes

What was Sherlock Holmes' favourite tea? Many say Lapsang Souchong, that smoky tea reminiscent of camp fires ... and briar pipes.
But although tea is mentioned in a number of the stories, nowhere does Conan Doyle name a specific variety that Holmes preferred.
Following are all the tea references in the canon (the complete collection of Holmes stories). The quotations are taken from The Complete Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with a preface by Christopher Morley; published by Doubleday & Company, Inc. They may vary somewhat in other versions.

 ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
A Study in Scarlet
   Part 2, The Country of the Saints; Chapter 1, On the great alkali plain
"Gone, eh!" said the little girl. "Funny, she didn't say good-bye; she 'most always did if she was just goin' over to auntie's for tea, and now she's been away three days. Say, it's awful dry, ain't it? Ain't there no water nor nothing to eat?"
The Sign of Four
    Chapter 3, In quest of a solution
"There is no great mystery in this matter," he said, taking the cup of tea which I had poured out for him; "the facts appear to admit of only one explanation."
The Boscombe Valley Mystery
"I have ordered a carriage," said Lestrade as we sat over a cup of tea. "I knew your energetic nature, and that you would not be happy until you had been on the scene of the crime."
The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet
I had just finished my tea when he returned, evidently in excellent spirits, swinging an old elastic-sided boot in his hand. He chucked it down into a corner and helped himself to a cup of tea.
The Yellow Face
But we had not a very long time to wait for that. It came just as we had finished our tea.
The "Gloria Scott"
" 'It was the year '55, when the Crimean War was at its height, and the old convict ships had been largely used as transports in the Black Sea. The government was compelled, therefore, to use smaller and less suitable vessels for sending out their prisoners. TheGloria Scott had been in the Chinese tea-trade, but she was an old-fashioned, heavy-bowed, broad-beamed craft, and the new clippers had cut her out. She was a five-hundred-ton boat; and besides her thirty-eight jail-birds, she carried twenty-six of a crew, eighteen soldiers, a captain, three mates, a doctor, a chaplain, and four warders. Nearly a hundred souls were in her, all told, when we set sail from Falmouth.
"That was the narrative which I read that night to young Trevor, and I think, Watson, that under the circumstances it was a dramatic one. The good fellow was heart-broken at it, and went out to the Terai tea planting, where I hear that he is doing well. As to the sailor and Beddoes, neither of them was ever heard of again after that day on which the letter of warning was written. They both disappeared utterly and completely. No complaint had been lodged with the police, so that Beddoes had mistaken a threat for a deed. Hudson had been seen lurking about, and it was believed by the police that he had done away with Beddoes and had fled. For myself I believe that the truth was exactly the opposite. I think that it is most probable that Beddoes, pushed to desperation and believing himself to have been already betrayed, had revenged himself upon Hudson, and had fled from the country with as much money as he could lay his hands on. Those are the facts of the case, Doctor, and if they are of any use to your collection, I am sure that they are very heartily at your service."
The Crooked Man
"There is a room which is used as a morning-room at Lachine. This faces the road and opens by a large glass folding-door on to the lawn. The lawn is thirty yards across and is only divided from the highway by a low wall with an iron rail above it. It was into this room that Mrs. Barclay went upon her return. The blinds were not down, for the room was seldom used in the evening, but Mrs. Barclay herself lit the lamp and then rang the bell, asking Jane Stewart, the housemaid, to bring her a cup of tea, which was quite contrary to her usual habits. The colonel had been sitting in the dining-room, but, hearing that his wife had returned, he joined her in the morning-room. The coachman saw him cross the hall and enter it. He was never seen again alive.
"The tea which had been ordered was brought up at the end of ten minutes; but the maid, as she approached the door, was surprised to hear the voices of her master and mistress in furious altercation. She knocked without receiving any answer, and even turned the handle, but only to find that the door was locked upon the inside...
"It is quite certain that when Mrs. Barclay left the house at half-past seven she was on good terms with her husband. She was never, as I think I have said, ostentatiously affectionate, but she was heard by the coachman chatting with the colonel in a friendly fashion. Now, it was equally certain that, immediately on her return, she had gone to the room in which she was least likely to see her husband, had flown to tea as an agitated woman will, and finally, on his coming in to her, had broken into violent recriminations. Therefore something had occurred between seven-thirty and nine o'clock which had completely altered her feelings towards him. But Miss Morrison had been with her during the whole of that hour and a half. It was absolutely certain, therefore, in spite of her denial, that she must know something of the matter.
The Resident Patient
"He has a cup of tea taken in to him early every morning. When the maid entered, about seven, there the unfortunate fellow was hanging in the middle of the room. He had tied his cord to the hook on which the heavy lamp used to hang, and he had jumped off from the top of the very box that he showed us yesterday."
The Greek Interpreter
It was after tea on a summer evening, and the conversation, which had roamed in a desultory, spasmodic fashion from golf clubs to the causes of the change in the obliquity of the ecliptic, came round at last to the question of atavism and hereditary aptitudes. The point under discussion was, how far any singular gift in an individual was due to his ancestry and how far to his own early training.
The Naval Treaty
The table was all laid, and just as I was about to ring Mrs. Hudson entered with the tea and coffee. A few minutes later she brought in three covers, and we all drew up to the table, Holmes ravenous, I curious, and Phelps in the gloomiest state of depression.
"I'll tell you what I did first, and how I came to do it afterwards," said he. "After leaving you at the station I went for a charming walk through some admirable Surrey scenery to a pretty little village called Ripley, where I had my tea at an inn and took the precaution of filling my flask and of putting a paper of sandwiches in my pocket. There I remained until evening, when I set off for Woking again and found myself in the highroad outside Briarbrae just after sunset.
The Adventure of the Three Students
"To-day, about three o'clock, the proofs of this paper arrived from the printers. The exercise consists of half a chapter of Thucydides. I   had to read it over carefully, as the text must be absolutely correct. At four-thirty my task was not yet completed. I had, however, promised to take tea in a friend's rooms, so I left the proof upon my desk. I was absent rather more than an hour.
"You are aware, Mr. Holmes, that our college doors are double -- a green baize one within and a heavy oak one without. As I approached my outer door, I was amazed to see a key in it. For an instant I imagined that I had left my own there, but on feeling in my pocket I found that it was all right. The only duplicate which existed, so far as I knew, was that which belonged to my servant, Bannister -- a man who has looked after my room for ten years, and whose honesty is absolutely above suspicion. I found that the key was indeed his, that he had entered my room to know if I wanted tea, and that he had very carelessly left the key in the door when he came out. His visit to my room must have been within a very few minutes of my leaving it. His forgetfulness about the key would have mattered little upon any other occasion, but on this one day it has produced the most deplorable consequences.
"It was about half-past four. That is Mr. Soames' tea time."

The Adventure of the Abbey Grange
It was not until we had consumed some hot tea at the station and taken our places in the Kentish train that we were sufficiently thawed, he to speak and I to listen. Holmes drew a note from his pocket, and read aloud: ...

The Valley of Fear
    Chapter 3, The tragedy of Birlstone
"Mrs. Douglas had visitors to tea," said Ames. "I couldn't raise it until they went. Then I wound it up myself."
    Chapter 6, A dawning light
"I wish none of their confidences," said Holmes, when I reported to him what had occurred. He had spent the whole afternoon at the Manor House in consultation with his two colleagues, and returned about five with a ravenous appetite for a high tea which I had ordered for him. "No confidences, Watson; for they are mighty awkward if it comes to an arrest for conspiracy and murder."

The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
" 'Well, I don't know now whether it was pure devilry on the part of this woman, or whether she thought that she could turn me against my wife by encouraging her to misbehave. Anyway, she took a house just two streets off and let lodgings to sailors. Fairbairn used to stay there, and Mary would go round to have tea with her sister and him. How often she went I don't know, but I followed her one day, and as I broke in at the door Fairbairn got away over the back garden wall, like the cowardly skunk that he was. I swore to my wife that I would kill her if I found her in his company again, and I led her back with me, sobbing and trembling, and as white as a piece of paper. There was no trace of love between us any longer. I could see that she hated me and feared me, and when the thought of it drove me to drink, then she despised me as well.

The Adventure of the Devil's Foot
I have said that scattered towers marked the villages which dotted this part of Cornwall. The nearest of these was the hamlet of Tredannick Wollas, where the cottages of a couple of hundred inhabitants clustered round an ancient, moss-grown church. The vicar of the parish, Mr. Roundhay, was something of an archaeologist, and as such Holmes had made his acquaintance. He was a middle-aged man, portly and affable, with a considerable fund of local lore. At his invitation we had taken tea at the vicarage and had come to know, also, Mr. Mortimer Tregennis, an independent gentleman, who increased the clergyman's scanty resources by taking rooms in his large, straggling house...

The Adventure of the Illustrious Client
"There was no difficulty about that, for I simply sent in my card. He is an excellent antagonist, cool as ice, silky voiced and soothing as one of your fashionable consultants, and poisonous as a cobra. He has breeding in him -- a real aristocrat of crime, with a superficial suggestion of afternoon tea and all the cruelty of the grave behind it. Yes, I am glad to have had my attention called to Baron Adelbert Gruner."

The Adventure of the Three Gables
"No, I don't think I have anything rarer than a Crown Derby tea-set"
"That would hardly justify all this mystery. Besides, why should they not openly state what they want? If they covet your tea-set, they can surely offer a price for it without buying you out, lock, stock, and barrel. No, as I read it, there is something which you do not know that you have, and which you would not give up if you did know."

The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire
Our client, Mr. Robert Ferguson, of Ferguson and Muirhead, tea brokers, of Mincing Lane, has made some inquiry from us in a communication of even date concerning vampires. As our firm specializes entirely upon the assessment of machinery the matter hardly comes within our purview, and we have therefore recommended Mr. Ferguson to call upon you and lay the matter before you. We have not forgotten your successful action in the case of Matilda Briggs.
"The tea is ready, Dolores," said Ferguson. "See that your mistress has everything she can wish."
A smart maid, the only modern thing which we had seen in the house, had brought in some tea. As she was serving it the door opened and a youth entered the room. He was a remarkable lad, pale-faced and fair-haired, with excitable light blue eyes which blazed into a sudden flame of emotion and joy as they rested upon his father. He rushed forward and threw his arms round his neck with the abandon of a loving girl.
Referring to your letter of the 19th, I beg to state that I have looked into the inquiry of your client, Mr. Robert Ferguson, of Ferguson and Muirhead, tea brokers, of Mincing Lane, and that the matter has been brought to a satisfactory conclusion. With thanks for your recommendation, I am, sir,
                                      Faithfully yours,
                                      Sherlock Holmes

The Adventure of the Creeping Man
"The real source," said Holmes, "lies, of course in that untimely love affair which gave our impetuous professor the idea that he could only gain his wish by turning himself into a younger man ... There is an early train to town, Watson, but I think we shall just have time for a cup of tea at the Chequers before we catch it."

The Adventure of the Lion's Mane
But that work met with an annoying interruption. I had hardly swallowed my early cup of tea and was starting for the each when I had a call from Inspector Bardle of the Sussex Constabulary -- a steady, solid, bovine man with thoughtful eyes, which looked at me now with a very troubled expression.

 Credit where credit is due. . .