Hank Howls For Sherlock


How can Sherlock Holmes be relevant in an era where detectives use DNA to identify suspects and satellites to listen in on telephone conversations?  Holmes observes a man’s dirty trousers and declares, “Your muddy knees suggest that you were the culprit that buried the body.”  Today’s forensic analyst testifies that “the soil found on the defendant’s jeans is composed of 60% clay, 24% sand and 16% Scotts fertilizer, which is an exact match with the soil at Fred and Jean’s Turfview Cemetery.

Here is why The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by A. Conan Doyle is worth reading.  Though Sherlock Holmes was not the first fictional detective, he is easily the most famous.  There are hundreds of different works based on the character of Sherlock Holmes.  The Guinness Book of World Records lists Sherlock Holmes as the “most portrayed movie character of all time.”  There is a society in London and one in New York dedicated to SH.  Both were founded in 1934, and both are still active.  The Sherlock Holmes Museum in Baker Street, London was the first museum in the world dedicated to a fictional character.

Most detectives have cases, but Sherlock and his buddy Watson have adventures.  A typical story is framed like this.  Sherlock and Watson are sitting around the office talking casually when a stranger enters, in a frantic state of mind.  SH gazes at the visitor a moment then proceeds to state several facts about him/her based solely on his brief observation. For example, “you’ve been to China recently, and you employ a careless servant”.  After getting over the initial shock of Holmes’ cerebral powers, the new client describes his/ her problem which is always unusual and mysterious.  Examples, “my employer paid me a weekly salary just because my hair is red, but now he’s disappeared”  or “a man dropped a goose and ran.  I picked it up and gave it to my wife to cook for dinner.  When she opened it up, she found a diamond inside.” The characters are eccentric and the situations outlandish.

How about the author, Doyle?  Anything interesting about him?  Well, he was a physician who talked to dead people and believed in fairies.  His belief in the validity of spiritualism caused a bitter public falling out between him and his good friend Harry Houdini.  He was a “fervent advocate of justice and personally investigated two closed cases, which led to two men being exonerated of the crimes of which they were accused.”

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle is this year’s One Book,One Michiana selection.  It contains twelve stories and is well worth reading.  Pick one up at any SJCPL branch and read one of the stories.  If you do, you will be captivated and eager to read the rest. As if that isn’t enough, the St. Joseph County Public Library is sponsoring dozens of fun Sherlock Holmes related events between March 31 and April 30. Ask any SJCPL employee or check out our website, libraryforlife.org.


LITERARY TIDBIT:  Norman Mailer’s novel, Barbary Shore, is about a Russian spy living in the U.S.  After Barbary Shore was completed, the U.S. Immigration Service arrested the man who lived upstairs from Mailer. The man’s crime? He was Colonel Rudolf Abel, the top Russian spy working in the U.S.


MARGINALLY USEFUL TIDBIT: Most lipstick contains fish scales!  So, fellas, if you kiss your lady and — ah, perhaps it’s best left unsaid.


AN EVEN MORE ANNOYING QUESTION: If you came to my house, Hank’s Hovel, and I offered you 8 ounces of liquid 1,3,7-trimethylzantihine, what would you say?


THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:  82.6 % of statistics are made up on the spot.  Vic Reeves; p.33, Only Joking

Author: hank

I am married with two daughters and one grandchild. After teaching in the inner city of South Bend, IN for many years, I now work at the St. Joseph County Public Library. I started keeping track of the books I read when I was sixteen years old, and now have read over 1700 books with a page count of more than 500,000.


  1. Great column Hank! I liked your humorous take on Sherlock and Watson and also the interesting background on Conan Doyle. I learned some interesting things about him especially his relationship with Houdini. Good job!

  2. The feud/friendship between Doyle and Houdini has been the focus of several books. Here’s an interesting story – Houdini disagreed with Doyle about mediums. Doyle believed in them (he had unresolved issues with his mom) and Houdini considered mediums to be fakers, magicians unwilling to admit to slight of hand, and parasites feeding off grieving families.

    Houdini told his wife that after he died he would attempt to visit her on October 31st. They shared a code word so she would know it was really him. Mrs. Houdini attended several Halloween “festivities” but none of the visitations ever produced the code word.

    • Hank – in fact, you yourself, have posted on the Doyle/Houdini feud – perhaps a few years ago. Might be in the archives.

  3. “The Guinness Book of World Records lists Sherlock Holmes as the “most portrayed movie character of all time.” — That’s pretty neat!

    Nice Howl!

  4. Thanks for the coffee, Hank, and thanks for a great howl as usual

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