If a novel set in London in 1883 seems an unlikley choice to receive the first app treatment by French digital entertainment company Byook, think again.
The Guiness World Records consistently lists Sherlock Holmes as the ‘most portrayed movie character.’ Robert Downey Jr. and, in recent stroke of genius modern-day take, Benedict Cumberbatch join over 70 actors in a line-up including Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and, Rupert Everett. And, of those who got away, it is reported that Peter O’Toole was to take the lead in Billy Wilder’s 1970 screen version. Make no mistake, Byook are transparent about their intent to borrow tricks from the big screen, claiming to have utilised ‘codes and rules defined by movies.’
So, what is Holmes’s enduring appeal? Complexity of character, most certianly. A hero who understood the dark side of his own character as well as the cesspool-like qualities of London life. Sebastian Faulks recently dubbed him the ‘first superhero’, both physical and intellectual, treading the fine line between logic and lunacy. Difficult, he is an obsessive, chronic depressive, unable to form human relationships. Certain aspects of his lifestyle appear darker to today’s reader than at the time of writing; his drug of choice, cocaine, was legal in 19th Century England.
Ruth Rendell says that you read Conan Doyle, not for the mystery, but for Holmes himself:
“I abhor the dull routine of existence…That is why I have chosen my own particular profession, or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world.” (The Sign of Four)
He has this seamless fascination for us. In fact, Conan Doyle’s portrayal of Holmes was so convincing that readers beleived he was real. When his author attempted to kill him off on 4th May 1891, workers in the City of London wore black armbands in mourning.
This begs the question, why, when the story-telling is so vivid, does the reader need the victims’ screams to resonate, blood to spread over the pages and rain to fall into the palm of your hand? ‘Every page, another experience’ (as all reading should be). Have our imaginations failed us? It is, of course, a gimic, designed to appeal to tech-addicted teens’ love of gadgetery. Try to prise that iPhone away without security in attendance for back-up. But deliver a book into that clawlike hand…elementary.