Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Hound of the Baskervilles (copy)

Who knew a classic who-done-it could be this atmospheric! It has playfulness between the main characters, Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes. It has intrigue wrapped around every clue encountered. The backdrop feels ominous with its, “long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills.” Finally, the story takes place in October.

Of course, I am alluding to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. I selected it for the Northwest Reading Roundtable, sponsored by Sycamore Bank, through a recommendation from one of our instructors. I did not have the opportunity to read this in school and thought it might be fun; in addition, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins is over 400 pages where The Hound is short.

Doyle’s biography mentions Collins and Edgar Allan Poe as his inspirations. He was especially intrigued with Poe, going as far as to write a forgotten short story in the author’s style. It was his serial stories of Sherlock Holmes that granted him financial success. He teamed up with The Strand, a London based magazine, then released the Holmes’ stories for a monthly stipend.

Doyle considered these Holmes/Watson stories “commercial” and not literary. The magazine deadline demanded he write faster than normal with little time to flesh out characters. Each story is plot-driven but has literary elements such as symbolism and imagery. His “commercial” skills became our modern day mystery genre.

Doyle grew tired of the duo and killed off Holmes in The Final Problem. This infuriated fans and the magazine lost 20,000 subscriptions because of the fictional death. Doyle was rather pleased though and decided to try other ventures such as going off to war.

The Hound of the Baskervilles marks Doyle’s reappearance of Holmes 10 years later. Fans were ecstatic with his return and did not mind that the author gave no explanation for the miraculous resurrection within the story. Readers had more to focus on with the expanding clues and possible suspects.

If you have not read this classic, pick it up! Heck, I’ll share my copy. People need exposure to Doyle’s cleverness. Oh, and if you find a book signed Dr. John Watson, take it to the nearest Antiques Road Show. Doyle often autographed things handed to him in this manner.

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