Monday, November 19, 2007

OBSESSIONS AND ICONS PART TWO





I did manage to see part of another program during the Sherlock Holmes weekend. This was entitled the Shackles of Sherlock, which told of the attempts by Arthur Conan Doyle to be regarded as a serious writer of historical novels, and escape from his Great Detective.



I do remember that my father loved Conan Doyle's Brigadier Gerard stories set during the Napoleonic Wars.
His efforts were not rewarded as his readers were obsessed with Holmes and objected when he killed him off at the Reichenbach Falls in 1893.
The publication of the Final Problem cost the Strand Magazine twenty thousand subscribers, and lead to an outbreak of black armbands.
If those that are obsessed with Sherlock Holmes, and believe that he was a real, get short shrift from Richard A. Posner then I wonder what he would make of the Wolfe Pack.
Rex Stout, the creator of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, was a longtime member of the Baker Street Irregulars. His enormously fat practically immovable detective who solved crimes with his brain, was yet another tribute to the Holmes intellect.
Just as Dr Watson is the narrator in the Conan Doyle stories, Archie Goodwin narrates for Rex Stout.
There are some conflicting theories about whether Sherlock Holmes had an affair with Irene Adler [A Scandal in Bohemia], and the product of that union was Nero Wolfe.
Was Wolfe born in Montenegro, or Trenton, New Jersey?
Well it does not matter because it is believed he fought in the Montenegrin Army in the Great War, and in the novel The Black Mountain Wolfe and Archie attempt to avenge the death of Wolfe's old friend Marko Vukvic, and his adopted daughter Carla Britton, in a story set in Montenegro.
The Wolfe Pack meet on the 1 December to award an Archie Lifetime Achievement Award, and the speakers will include the Montenegrin Ambassador!
The present holders of an Archie are an exclusive group:
Rex Stout, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie
The contenders to join them are:
Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, Ngaio Marsh, Edgar Allen Poe and Dorothy L. Sayers

I was trying to think of a modern crime fiction author whose creation had assumed a sort of existence beyond the pages of his books. An author whose work is linked with his city so firmly in the mind that one can't think about that city without thinking of the detective.
It has to be Edinburgh, and Ian Rankin's detective John Rebus.
But is Ian Rankin overrated? Is John Rebus such an eccentric figure and such a unique creation as to warrant Rankin's inclusion into the most exhalted company of crime fiction writers?
Or is Rankin just a nice guy who writes about yet another world weary detective?
to be continued............

8 Comments:

Blogger Maxine said...

Oxford and Morse (and no, I haven't watched the TV series, I've read these books since the very beginning when working in student vacations in Blackwell's bookshop).
Adam Dalgleish (P D James) was, in his day, quite iconic I think, but only latterly has he been associated with the Fens.
Inspector Wexford and his fictional Norfolk town whose name I forget. (again, I do not watch the TV series)
John Harvey's 10-book Nottingham series featuring Resnik is wonderfully place-ist, with a Polish accent.
I could come up with others, I suspect, if I could but remember.


I have not seen the Rankin/Rebus TV series either, but I like Rebus and look forward to reading more of what you make of him. It is quite interesting when one has read a series before it hits the big time (eg Rebus, Morse) and then the characters with whom one is familiar suddenly become "everyone's property" and "best sellers". Quite disconcerting when TV gets a look-in.

1:54 PM  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Lawrence Block's Matt Scudder is indelibly linked to New York City, but there are far too many fictional detectives working those streets for any one to epitomize the city by him or herself, I'd say.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine, thanks for Oxford and Morse. I have only read a few of the books but enjoyed the TV series immensely.
Ruth Rendell's Reg Wexford is set in Kingsmarkham and I had read all of the series before it came out on TV. I did not enjoy them as much when they became "everyone's property". I had imagined Wexford very differently from George Baker and could not readjust.
P.D.James is a wonderful writer but I have not watched the TV adaptations except A Certain Justice which was very well done.
I have not read any Resnik, but I will remedy that soon. Any recommendations?

Neither of the TV Rebus, or is the plural Rebi, are quite what I imagined him to be like.
Nothing will surpass the casting of Warren Clarke as Andy Dalziel, spot on.

Thanks linkmeister, I loved the Matt Scudder books I have read, and have two more on my TBR mountain.
I agree about NY, which could also apply to LA,and I forgot Spenser and Boston, and Travis McGee and Fort Lauderdale.

6:12 AM  
Anonymous Maxine said...

I agree with you, Uriah, that when one has grown to love a character through books and then see a TV (or film) portrayal, it loses some of the magic. I'm a bit wary of ever watching the Camilleri series for that reason.

The Resnik series is good but I recommend reading them in order (being me!). There are 10 of them. I expect they are listed in order on Euro Crime. For some reason, they are a bit underrated -- but then so was Rankin for a long time. Resnik is a less "exaggerated" character than Rebus, though no less a loner in his own way. I think there is a TV series of him, come to think of it, but, naturally, haven't seen it!

10:39 AM  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

S'alright, I forgot Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee of Hillerman's Navajo tribal police. It helps if you've lived in Arizona (which I have -- go Wildcats!).

I did think of McGee, but as I recall, much of his activity isn't in Lauderdale but state- and sometimes nationwide.

10:59 AM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Maxine, the TV actor who plays Montalbano is a bit thinner than I imagined the gourmet and greedy guts detective. But I think I could put up with that if I read all the books first. I will try the Resnicks some time.

Thanks linkmeister, we had a Hillerman holiday a few years ago and saw a Navajo Tribal policeman at Chinle. Where there was a superbly clean motel and great Navajo stew to eat.
I forgot McGee gets around.

11:58 AM  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Dammit, yet another one I forgot: Gregor Demarkian in Philadelphia. Jane Haddam has written 20 or 21 books about him. They're very dense, with social commentary and occasional theology mixed in. They give you a sense of Philly Main Line and Catholic society.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Thanks linkmeister, Gregor Demarkian sounds interesting. In our house I am the dense one, and my wife is the theologian so I might enjoy Jane Haddam's books.

4:29 PM  

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