|Author Mattias Boström four years ago. He still has the beard. See below|
From Holmes to Sherlock, new in English this month from The Mysterious Press, is the story of the birth and enduring life of the character whose name means “detective” in almost every language.
And what a fascinating story it is, as told by Swedish Sherlockian Mattias Boström! “Reads like fiction” is a cliché that’s hard to avoid in describing this engrossing narrative full of quirky characters and twists and turns of plot. The 497 pages of text, followed by 100 pages of notes and index, fly by.
The book begins in 1878 with Arthur Conan Doyle. It ends in 2015 with the rediscovery of the lost William Gillette film of his classic melodrama Sherlock Holmes. The closing lines of the book remind us, however, that the story will go on.
With so much ground to cover – literal ground across many countries as well as metaphorical ground across more than a century – even such a hefty tome as this one couldn’t give detailed attention to everything. So Boström had to be selective about what to sketch lightly and what to put under the magnifying lens. This he did almost perfectly.
Most of the 111 chapters, greatly expanded from the original Swedish version, involve material that I’m somewhat familiar with after more than five decades of Sherlockian reading. And yet, almost every chapter also contains material that was new and interesting to me. From Holmes to Sherlock is neither too elementary nor advanced for anyone interested in the Holmes phenomenon.
It would be hard for me to pick a favorite part, but the account of how the first female members were added to the ranks of the Baker Street Irregulars is among the most dramatic and moving. And the explanation of the Sherlock Holmes copyright ownership, a complex thread running through multiple chapters and many years, was most enlightening to me.
I first interviewed Mattias Boström about this book just over four years ago. I’m delighted to be able to finally read it in English and learn that it’s just as good as I expected. If I had a much smaller Sherlockian library, this book would still be an indispensable part of it.