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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Bob's Books - Sherlock Holmes: In His Own Words and the Words of Those Who Knew Him by Barry Day

There have been many quote books about Sherlock Holmes. Quotable Sherlock and The Complete Guide to Sherlock Holmes are two such offerings with many fine sayings from the Canon. And notables such as Vincent Starrett, William Baring Gould, Michael Hardwick and Michael Pointer have offered up biographies of the world’s first consulting detective. Barry Day approaches these matters in a new way.
Sherlock Holmes (In His Own Words and in the Words of Those Who KnewHim) is a book that gives us a non-chronological biography of Holmes and the people around him, through extensive quotes from the original stories. You would be hard pressed to find a page that doesn’t have at least four quotations, and most have more than that. Holmes, his methods, Baker Street, the police and villains, and of course, Watson, are all discussed using Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own words about them all.

It is fun to read speculative biographies of Sherlock Holmes. But Day does not venture into that field. He tells us what is definitively known, and he does it with lines from Holmes, Watson and the rest of the Canon’s cast of characters.

The book also looks great, with over sixty black and white illustrations. There is a plethora of Paget, and we see Frederic Dorr Steele’s work before even the introduction. But George Hutchinson’s depiction of the first meeting between Holmes and Watson is shown. We see Watson and the nefarious Baron Gruner as depicted by Howard Elcock. Original drawings by Charles Doyle (Sir Arthur’s father), D. H. Friston, Walter Paget (Sidney’s brother) and J. Frank Wiles can be found as well. There’s something about reading Doyle’s words with an illustration in the vicinity.

Barry Day’s book is one of the most refreshing I have come across. Combining a biography with a quotation text creates a new look at an old subject. That is no easy task in the world of Sherlockiana. I enjoyed the look and flow of this book.

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