The Reichenbach Falls Moment

Reading & Writing

The Death of Sherlock Holmes

At the peak of his popularity, Sean Connery walked away from James Bond, and failed to make the best film in the series to date, ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’. Instead, the producers opted for ‘Big Fry Man’ George Lazenby, whose personality proved so unpleasant that Diana Rigg ate garlic before having to kiss him. Connery clearly regretted his decision and came back, but it was too late.

He wasn’t the first person to get out on a high and belatedly realise he’d made a mistake. Stars fret about typecasting and flee, although there’s little evidence that typecasting ever hurt anyone. I was told that Christopher Lee once bumped into Patrick Macnee in a lift in Canada and asked him was he was doing. Macnee told him he was shooting ‘The Avengers’. ‘You always are, dear boy,’ said Lee, who hated being known for Dracula and told anyone at the drop of a hat that he’d been in ‘The King & I’.

Authors do it, too. Conan Doyle killed off his creation in what became known as the Great Hiatus (one of the hardest words in English to pronounce correctly) and brought him back for ‘The Adventure of the Empty House’. Georges Simenon didn’t want to be remembered for Maigret but for his stand-alone novels (which were admittedly much better and less formulaic) and Sir Arthur Sullivan hated being loved for ‘The Mikado’, preferring the hymns and sacred music which he felt would outlive the operettas.

Why do creators want to kill their creations? If you love something enough to construct such a work, and it proves successful (a feat in itself) why then try to bury it? The argument is that popularity typecasts the inventor, but actually it immortalises work as well. Everyone recalls Sherlock Holmes before Freeman’s Dr. Thorndyke partly because Conan Doyle wrote more short stories (although there were more Thorndyke novels). But the Holmes stories are entirely devoid of any humour, whereas the Thorndyke books are often amusing. Generally, the public likes its crime played straight.

Obviously I think about such matters because of the Bryant & May novels – although with those I find myself as happy as the public to meet up with the old codgers again.

8 comments on “The Reichenbach Falls Moment”

  1. Peter Lee says:

    Ah, so hopefully this means you’ve not bumped them off in book 12 🙂

  2. Ford says:

    The final Bryant and May has to be called “Waterloo Sunset” 🙂

  3. Brian Evans says:

    Do I perceive the watermark “Look and Learn” in the middle of the picture? I used to get this children’s mag weekly. I’m sorry I ever got rid of them.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    There does have to be a final Bryant and May eventually and Waterloo Sunset would be a great title. It’s not time yet, though.

  5. Alan Morgan says:

    As you’ve said, you love to spend time with our elderly chums. For others it can be a chore, not wanting to write more of the same, wanting to write other stuff about other, newer chums. Where you find yourself writing the same stuff within increasing (possibly market) demands. When it’s a grind, but that’s where the rent comes from or what the publishers demands of you. When it’s a job that you have to do when you could be doing a slightly different and more exciting job using the same skills.

    There doesn’t *really* have to be a final B&M whilst Chris wants to write ’em, does there?

  6. Jo W says:

    Oh yes,I can see the logo too,Brian. I, too,wish I’d kept my copies of that informative ‘comic’. But maybe ‘im indoors might have objected. I should have smuggled them up into the loft,to sit alongside all the copies of ‘Roy of the Rovers’ that our son still hasn’t found room for in his house!! 😊

  7. Vivienne says:

    I can quite see that an author might have a different take on his/her creations than the readers, but gets drawn into the popularity trap and then hates it. We readers can only be grateful if writers keep feeding our addiction in a comfortable reassuring way and not kill off our heroes before we’re tired of them. Any way, apparently I have to tackle more Bryant & May before I’m properly in the picture! And I still think Sean Connery was a pretty good match. I was an early fan, reading Fleming under the desk in Divinity lessons.

  8. Chris Lancaster says:

    Funnily enough, Look and Learn gave me my introduction to Sherlock Holmes. I started getting it every week in about 1979 (when I was aged eight), and loved it. I caught the end of the illustrated serialisation of Three Men in a Boat, which was followed by a serialisation ofThe Sign of Four. I’m sure I would have discovered Holmes in any case, but thanks to Look and Learn I pestered my parents for a set of Holmes books. They duly obliged the following Christmas – at age nine, it was the best Christmas present I had ever had!

Comments are closed.