Who Shall Live And Who Shall Die
The heading sounds like I'm going to discuss The Walking Dead. Actually, this post is about Adventures In The Strand, a book I just read about Arthur Conan Doyle and his writings for Strand Magazine, where he published most of his Sherlock Holmes stories as well as quite a few other pieces. Conan Doyle was The Strand's greatest attraction from the early 1890s until his death almost 40 years later.
Conan Doyle wrote war stories, boxing stories, historical romance, science fiction and in other genres, but today he's best known--almost solely known--for his detective fiction with Sherlock Holmes. It got me thinking about fate. Conan Doyle felt he wrote better, more important work than Sherlock Holmes (and even killed off Holmes before bringing him back), and his other stuff was popular and well-reviewed in its day. But it's Holmes that lived.
Indeed, so much that was popular around the turn of the last century is forgotten today. There were many fictional characters--including some created by Conan Doyle--whom people loved that no one knows today. And some live on but barely (such as, say, Raffles, gentleman thief, still well known in the 1930s, but not much any more--back then many hoped Holmes would take on Raffles, but Conan Doyle wasn't interested).
Even better, Holmes, while excited by the deductive process, is otherwise hard to handle. He's flinty and condescending, doesn't go in for romance and is a drug addict to boot. Then there's Watson, his chronicler--more the common man, a stand-in for the reader. It's through Watson's words that we get to know Holmes' adventures, while Holmes himself is inscrutable. Characters who come into the scene and solve problems at a high level, but don't give away much of themselves, hold our interest--I'm thinking, for instance, of Jeeves, or Mr. Spock.
So Holmes lives on. But it's not just those movies. The books keep selling, and they've never been out of print. Conan Doyle went in for spiritualism--was actually a sucker for it. But he's been proven right, in a way, since Sherlock Holmes demonstrates there's life after death.