Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Book Report: "The Adventure of the Black Peter" (Doyle, 1904)

“[Sherlock’s] increasing fame had brought with it an immense practice, and I should be guilt of an indiscretion if I were to even hint at the identity of some of the illustrious clients who crossed our humble threshold in Baker Street.”

--Watson being coy in “The Adventure of the Black Peter”

Leigh: This week, the story we read was one that could have easily turned out awful but I found it surprisingly pleasant. An old sailor called Black Peter is murdered by a harpoon (which is pretty badass) and then a possible suspect is arrested and Sherlock Holmes' logic proves that he didn't do it. 

"We're going to need a bigger harpoon gun!" Shut up Quint." 

I enjoyed this story. Much like the rest of the book so far, it was more adventurous than the older Sherlock Holmes stories and yet it still had some of those older elements that made it a lot of fun. Sure, sitting around waiting for the bad guy to show up can be boring, but doing it in the middle of the night with Holmes and Watson is instantly more fun. Also there's the element of a Red Herring that we don't get too often with Doyle's stories. It is something that can be overused (Law and Order and Scooby Doo come to mind) but I thought it was well done in our story and it gives Holmes another chance to show his line of thinking without just jumping to that.

Other than that, I found this story to be perfectly acceptable. It wasn't outlandish and extravagant but it wasn't boring and nap inducing. Is this okay or should these stories be more than just acceptable.

Austin: I found this to be a little bit more than acceptable but mostly because of making it a new setting with some fun weird props. Like last story, this felt like a Curious George-esque sitting. Sherlock Holmes Goes to the Harbor!

"I lost your yellow hat." "DOES YOUR DEPRAVITY KNOW NO BOUNDS?!"

To me it worked because we saw a cocky Sherlock Holmes. Most of that was created because Watson begins with such an introduction that there's no question the word "bromance" is used a billion times with these two characters. People know about Sherlock Holmes now in this world and that makes him famous. Apparently even the Pope calls upon his services. So that has created even more of an ego with Sherlock. He gets to say lines like:

"I assure you that I am innocent."
"We'll see about that."

And who is he staring in the eye? The man believed to be the murderer. The police are satisfied, they completed their mystery but Sherlock defies them and continues the mystery anyway. The character seems to become a bit more larger than life and I think that's a good thing for the series. In between stories, this guy is practicing stabbing bodies with a harpoon because of course he has!

Am I reading too much into this or has fame gone towards Doyle's and Holmes' head?

Leigh: While Doyle was obviously a very popular writer at the time, I don't think he ever really abused his fame. In Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters, he always seemed really down to earth for being as popular as he was. He didn't flaunt his fame too much and wasn't a personality of the time really. If he was a celebrity, it was in no way the way we think of celebrities now. 

Now Sherlock Holmes on the other hand, he has definitely gotten full of himself at this point. Yes, we know he's the Greatest Detective in the World, but we also know that he makes mistakes (“The Yellow Face” comes to mind). He could've made a mistake in this mystery and the scrawny little guy who was just trying to get back his father's money might've been faking his sickliness. Because we weren't there and the audience has to rely on Watson, we don't know how thin and weak he actually was, we just know he was thin and weak from what Watson has told us. And Watson isn't the MOST reliable narrator. We believe what he says but he's added in commentary from Holmes when Holmes criticizes him for romanticizing things too much. 

"How can I accurately depict what Sherlock looks like without making him sound made up..."

Or, could it be Watson who has gotten full of himself? He's the one who writes the final draft. He's the one who records these mysteries for readers to enjoy. He's the one who writes the dialogue. Maybe he's the one who has gotten too used to fame and excitement and wants more simple mysteries to be outlandish? 

What do you think? Is it Watson or Holmes that needs a reality check?

Austin: Personally, I think that Watson always needs a reality check, but that's what I love so much about his point of view. Yes, I fully understand that Watson is an important member of the team but he's also the Jimmy Olsen to Superman. (Or a better example would be Peter Bogdanovich to Orson Welles.) His best friend is a crime-solving genius. He's literally roommates with one of the coolest people alive and the character is so cool, we're blogging about him over 100 years later.

This is quite possibly one of the funniest pictures ever.

So Watson's hyperbole is part of his charm. He claims to be a journalist and a doctor but throughout the stories you can almost see the drool on his own pages. 

We already have a super logical person in this duo. I never want Watson to take his biography duties super-serious because then we'll lose the fun and joy.


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