The literary world was sent into frenzy last month when the Conan-Doyle estate, along with Orion publishing announced that a new Sherlock Holmes novel was to be released. The honour has been bestowed upon esteemed screenwriter and crime-thriller author Anthony Horowitz. He has been writing stories and TV series’ in this field for many years. He’s picked up several awards for his self penned TV series Foyle’s War. He’s also written a weighty tome in the form of the Alex Ryder series. Just about to release the ninth and final book in the series, it’s a sort of James Bond for kids. Now this isn’t wholly shocking, given the incredibly successful year that 2010 was for the world famous sleuth. He scored half a billion dollars at the box office with Guy Ritchie’s take on the classic. The BBC had one of their biggest hits of the year with the Holmes mini-series. It seems only natural for them to strike while the iron is hot. For purists of the original stories this will hardly seem at all news worthy. As you will know that since Conan-Doyle’s death in 1915, a long line of authors have taken a stab at making their mark on the great detective’s mythology, with varying degrees of success. This is however, the first time the Conan-Doyle estate has openly sanctioned an official new novel. In previous efforts, different authors have put an entirely new spin on Holmes’ character, changing the genre, period settings and so forth. In an interview with the BBC, Horowitz has promised; "My Holmes is going to be exactly the Holmes of the novels without any new information on my part, I don't want to take any liberties with this great iconic figure." The main difference to the original stories will be the crime itself. He Said; "What I think is different in my book is the nature of the crime, the world in which he gets involved. "I do have a certain reservation about ... reinventions of old famous books which sometimes have a smack of desperation about them. Some work better than others and Holmes struck me as being right for this sort of reinvention." Thankfully he has the intelligence and integrity to keep the original spirit unchanged. One would imagine this will soften the inevitable cries of purist hatred when the book is published. They Conan-Doyle estate did also commission a series of novels about Holmes’ early years. These were written by friend and colleague of Horowitz, Andy Lane. He seems confident that Horowitz will be able to deliver the goods with this new series. He said; "My feelings on Anthony Horowitz writing a new Sherlock Holmes novel are a queasy mixture of happiness that such a talented writer is going to have a crack at it, and professional jealousy that he got the gig and I didn't. I'm positive he'll be able to do the series justice -- he can handle characterisation, action and description with equal deftness (the swine) and I'm sure that's why the Estate chose him.” Holmes isn’t the only iconic crime-fighter to be receiving a 21st century rebirth. A new James Bond novel has also been commissioned by the Ian Fleming-Estate. In the era that brought Jason Bourne to the forefront of secret agent heroism, Bond needed to be resurrected so as not to look like an ageing PC Plod type. So now the story has been brought to a contemporary setting with modern
gadgetry and political motivations. Thus crafting an approach that will horrify the fans as much as it will excite. There hasn’t exactly been a critical backlash against the project; however there hasn’t been an eruption of excitement either. The Observer’s book editor William Skidelsky has already voiced his hesitance of the idea of a new novel being published. He said; “It de-values the original work because it sends out the signal that any current, talented author can write the same works that the dead author wrote. When in fact literature is such an individual, personal thing, and unique thing that it’s really not like that.” Whilst this is a valid point of view, we have to consider that we are now living in a new age. With the online world taking over, we are part of a global community where everyone has a voice. And whether we like it or not, originality is all but dead and gone. Writer Ian Dickerson says; "Horowitz has proven himself time and again as a great writer of detective stories and you've only got to look at his creation of Foyle's War to know that he can write in period very well. I'm sure he will do Holmes and Watson justice.” He went on to say, “I am biased when it comes to continuing an author's work. It very much depends on the author who's doing the writing; if they can match the style of writing and story-telling then there's no reason why it won't enhance the legacy. But you have to pick your writers carefully. One only has to look at the wildly varying quality of James Bond continuations to see that. But generally a good story and a good story-teller will always be popular. Match that with some great characters-like Holmes and Watson--and you're in for a treat.” The fan consensus on this, potentially new series is, as always highly divided. If you were to look upon any blog, social network thread or message board you would be bombarded with arguments for and against. Some see it as a fantastic opportunity for newbie’s to get excited about the subject again. Others see it as sacrilege. Their argument is; If people want to read a Holmes story, why not just read one of the originals? Avid fan Jamie Donnelly thinks; “Horowitz can do darkness and horror which is a good start for a Sherlock Holmes novel, but I don't know if he will be able to carry off the same attention to detail that Doyle wove into his stories. But then that might be a good thing, a fresh look at Sherlock Holmes would probably be better than Horowitz trying to exactly the same as Doyle and it ending up like a failed ghost writing experiment. “He could even be really brave and set it in the modern era, like the BBC series. Whatever he does it probably won’t be as good as Doyle’s stuff, but I will still read it anyway.” Uber fan Pete Johnson of Alabama USA thinks, “Talented writer but you can't recreate Holmes!" While it may not be as eloquent as the arguments for, perhaps that is all that needs to be said. There is very little argument that the Holmes novels are anything short of a masterpiece. Continuing without Doyle is a risky proposition. But you know the old saying, ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ The gravy train of artistic reinvention is showing no signs of stopping or slowing down. So will we sit and curse on our blogs and internet comment sections? Or will we take the wins as and when they come? We just have to wait until September to find out which this will be.