Friday, March 25, 2011

BOOK REVIEW: "The List of Seven"

Mark Frost; Publisher: Avon (September 1, 1993)
“The prospect that I’ve met my match in the exercise of observational deduction brings my competitive tendencies racing to the fore.”
“How will I know these are legitimate inferences and not facts you’ve gathered by some covert means [said Doyle]?”
“You won’t,” said Sparks, flashing his grin again.  “You were born in Edinburgh, Catholic parents of Irish descent and modest means.  You fished and hunted extensively in youth.  You were educated in Jesuit parochial schools.  Your lifelong passions have been literature and medicine.  You attended medical school at the University of Edinburgh, where you studied under an inspirational professor who encouraged you to develop your powers of observation and deduction beyond the scope of their diagnostic application.  Despite your medical training, you have never relinquished your dream of one day making your living exclusively as a man of letters.  Despite your indoctrination into the Church of Rome, you renounced your family’s faith after attending séances and encountering experiences to difficult to reconcile with an adherence to any religious dogma.  You now consider yourself a confirmed, albeit open-minded, agnostic.  You are very handy with a revolver…” (94).
There is an interesting subgenre of Sherlockian pastiches that features not Sherlock Holmes, but his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, as the detective.  These books usually cast Doyle as a Watson figure alongside Dr. Joseph Bell (Doyle’s real-life mentor) or a comparable character’s Sherlock Holmes, with varying degrees of success.  One such book, David Pirie’s The Patient's Eyes: The Dark Beginnings of Sherlock Holmes, has been largely well received, while Howard Engel’s Mr. Doyle & Dr. Bell: A Victorian Mystery, has not.  Frankly, I only recommend the latter if you feel up to stomaching a lukewarm mystery and 212 pages of Sherlockian puns.
You cannot, however, read The List of Seven by Mark Frost without knowing immediately that it is a different breed of Sherlockian novel; this is not entirely surprising, considering that Frost was also one of the scriptwriters for Twin Peaksan entirely different breed of television show.  Frost’s screenwriting talents are apparent in the book’s narration.  There is a unique cinematographic quality in the way Frost sets a scene and the way he narrates a conflict.  His settings are vivid, his dialogue is crisp and fluid, and his characters are alive.  
Frost presents another pastiche where Doyle is solving crime, but this one is different. Doyle is not playing a carbon copy of his famous doctor, and Dr. Bell is nowhere in sight.  Doyle plays opposite Jack Sparks, a charming, athletic, ascetic Special Agent for the Crown, who on first glance seems to be the obvious template for the character-who-will-be-Sherlock-Holmes, but it’s not that simple.  Jack Sparks is no Sherlock Holmes, and Doyle is no Dr. Watson. Although every character in Frost’s novel seems to prefigure some character to come (you may occasionally find yourself muttering, “I see what you did there, Mr. Frost!”), you would do yourself a disservice by trying to force them into predetermined molds.  You would miss the qualities that make each character unique and enjoyable in his own right.
Doyle meets Jack Sparks for the first time on Christmas Day,1884.  His presence has been requested at a séance “as a man of God and science” (3).  Outside the building, before the séance, Doyle quickly and efficiently sizes up the situation and each of its participants (in “Sherlockian” fashion), and we get our first glimpse of the man that Frost imagines Doyle to be.  Inside the building, during the séance, events take a horrible, tragic turn, and Sparks bursts onto the page for the first time (although he initially introduces himself as Armond Sacker).  His manner is less reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes than it is of Robin Hood and Zorro, with some James Bond thrown in for good measure—turning over tables, crashing through doors, and leaping onto moving carriages.
Sparks is more special agent than detective, and Doyle is more detective than doctor, but the one thing that they have in common is that they are matched mentally, able to deduce: “[b]y a man’s finger-nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boots, by his trouser-knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt-cuffs—by each of these things a man’s calling is plainly revealed.” (STUD).  And they need all their abilities, because the mystery in which they have found themselves mired is more than a bit complex…it is equal parts supernatural adventure, political conspiracy, and historical thriller, with a little bit of family drama thrown in for extra spice.  And you never once find yourself wondering if Sherlock Holmes could have done it better.
There are similarities here to the characters and tales that Arthur Conan Doyle will eventually pen, and there is no use denying it.  There are Larry and Barry, the identical twins, once criminals, but now fiercely loyal to Sparks and his work.  There’s a bit of the Irregulars in their rough, streetwise ways.  And there is also Eileen Temple, a beautiful actress with the Manchester Players—that’s certainly the shadow of Irene Adler behind her.  Sparks even has his own version of The Index (which he refers to as "The Brain"), that contains index cards with biographical information on every known criminal (but is written in an obscure code of Sparks’s own devising).
And as for Jack Sparks himself, he plays the violin, smokes a pipe, and uses a magnifying glass.  He lives on Montague Street in a townhouse full of strange things (including a large “Baskervillian” hound named Zeus).  He uses cocaine.  And the entire plot of the novel hinges on Sparks’s archenemy, his brother, the malevolent Alexander Sparks (fans of the 2010 BBC adaptation are chuckling knowingly here), who is every bit as terrifying, vicious, manipulative, and scheming as Professor Moriarty, if not more so.  But none of these things suddenly turns Jack Sparks into Sherlock Holmes.   
Sparks tells Doyle, “I made a sweet, simple fool out of myself,” (156) as he describes his brother’s earliest machinations.  Sparks tells a long story, full of details about his childhood and family, his history and choices.  It is melancholy and heartbreaking.  Sparks is describing himself as a young boy, understandably unable to see through his much older brother’s designs, and it’s difficult to ever imagine Sherlock Holmes in the same position—describing himself as “a sweet, simple fool,” no matter what his age or the circumstances.  But that’s also the crux of the matter—Sherlock Holmes would never speak about himself.  Details about Holmes’s early life are few and far between, and seem practically wrenched from Holmes’s unwilling hands by Dr. Watson (GLOR, MUSG).  After 401 pages of The List of Seven, you walk away feeling as if you know Jack Sparks, at least a little bit.  On the other hand, after 56 short stories and four novels, you wonder if you can ever know Sherlock Holmes at all.  That’s the dividing line; that’s what prevents Jack Sparks from ever being Sherlock Holmes.  But that is a good thing, too, because he becomes his own character, rich and nuanced, and not a cardboard parody of another. 
Frost has written a sequel to The List of Seven, The Six Messiahs, which manages to be one of those rare books that is both a continuation of the original story and an entirely new tale in its own right.  Learn more about these works and the author at Frost’s website.
You have one more day to enter my contest!  Entries are accepted until 11:59 p.m. EST on March 26.  At that time, a random winner will be chosen.
Many thanks to Laura for her wonderful edits to this week’s blog post.  My usual editor is off gallivanting in the Vegas desert, and Laura very kindly volunteered to help me this week.  And she did a fantastic job (especially with a terrible comma-abuser like me)!

Friday, March 18, 2011

“The Meaning of This Extraordinary Performance” (COPP): Granada Television’s “The Devil’s Foot”

“To me, the Sherlock Holmes stories are about a great friendship.  Without Watson, Holmes might well have burnt out on cocaine long ago.  I hope the series shows how important friendship is” (Jeremy Brett).
Have you been paying attention?  I mean, specifically, to this blog?  I hope so, for a lot of reasons, but more relevantly, if you have been paying attention, you’ve probably figured out who my favorite Sherlock Holmes is.  A lot of talented, brilliant actors have taken on the mantle of the Great Detective over the years, so I try to remain unbiased when it comes to this blog.  Having a favorite does not make me blind to all others, of course.  However, as I looked back over my last few posts, I saw that my preference had managed to worm its way in anyway, subtly and stealthily, much to my chagrin.  Whoops.
Anyway, since my secret is out, “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot” is a wonderfully atmospheric story in its original form, and Granada Television is, of course, famous for their nearly compulsively faithful adaptations of the Sherlock Holmes canon.  Cornwall is deliciously gothic and sinister as a setting, but it is one thing to read: “The glamour and mystery of the place, with its sinister atmosphere of forgotten nations, appealed to the imagination of my friend, and he spent much of his time in long walks and solitary meditations upon the moor,” and quite another to see Sherlock Holmes walking pensively and alone amongst the dismal landscape, sitting perched high atop ancient ruins, as his thoughts turn inward—looking pale, diminished, and one stiff breeze away from total collapse.
But if I wanted to speak solely on the subject of atmosphere and setting, I would be writing on DEVI, the original text, and not the television adaptation.  I think that the 1988 version of DEVI is worth discussing on its own merits, based upon the inclusion of three new plot points into the story: Sherlock Holmes’s (literal) abandonment of his cocaine habit on the beaches of Cornwall, the inclusion of Holmes’s nightmarish vision under the influence of Radix pedis diaboli, and, finally, the subsequent aftermath of the vision in which Holmes calls out to Dr. Watson by his first name.  These three additions change the whole tenor of the episode, and can be influential in interpreting the original tale, if you like.
Beginning, of course, at the beginning: after what only seems like a few minutes after their arrival in Cornwall (but who can say, really, in television time), Watson enters the cottage to find Holmes at a table injecting himself with cocaine.  The Doctor says nothing, but his expression speaks volumes, and an exceedingly tense moment passes between the two men, before Watson leaves to tend to their luggage.  Not long after, during a scene in which Watson narrates his companion’s activities during the early days of their holiday, we see Holmes standing alone the beach, taking a deep breath before removing a vial of cocaine for his coat pocket.  He empties the vial onto the sand, and then buries the syringe (and modern medical professionals everywhere cringe…someone could step on that). 
Interestingly, Holmes doesn’t appear to inform Watson of his decisions or his actions, as later in the episode, as Holmes sits recoiling from the pain of withdrawal, Watson seems concerned for his friend, but mostly confused—as if he does not know what to make of this new, odd behavior.  Furthermore, after the spasm passes, Holmes smiles benignly: “Cheer up, Watson.  Sea air, sunshine, patience!” and then, “All will be revealed!”  On the surface, he’s speaking of the case, of course, but his attitude is reminiscent of one presenting a well-thought-out gift to a loved one, and Holmes will absolutely not let the surprise be spoiled until it’s ready.  It’s typical of Sherlock Holmes to attempt something potentially life-threatening or dangerous on his own because he wants to, or because he can, but in this instance he seems to act because he must.
Moving on (and more on the subject of Holmes and his danger-for-danger’s-sake habit): in the original text of DEVI, because of the limited perspective of the narrator, the reader is only given access to Watson’s thoughts as the poison smoke of the devil’s foot root overtakes them.  It is an ugly picture:
“A thick, black cloud swirled before my eyes, and my mind told me that in this cloud, unseen as yet, but about to spring out upon my appalled senses, lurked all that was vaguely horrible, all that was monstrous and inconceivably wicked in the universe. Vague shapes swirled and swam amid the dark cloud-bank, each a menace and a warning of something coming, the advent of some unspeakable dweller upon the threshold, whose very shadow would blast my soul.”
But in this televised version, we see Holmes’s vision, and it is nightmarish, gruesome.  There is endless running, across endless fields, and the ghost of a child in a mirror.  There is blood, and churning water, and ghastly, religious-themed images.  And behind it all, is the specter of Professor Moriarty saying, “You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes, or be trodden under foot” (FINA).  So, we walk away from this scene knowing that Holmes is a haunted man, not immune to fear, as we may have thought (or want to believe, your choice).  The original text leaves the reader blind to what happens to Holmes during the ordeal (though Watson describes his friend as looking “drawn with horror”), and even though Holmes says, “It was an unjustifiable experiment even for one’s self, and doubly so for a friend,” there is no way to know for certain what he went through.  Fear being a relative thing, of course.  A televised version, and this particular one, lends depth to the ordeal, and the viewer sees another instance where, perhaps, Holmes acted because he must, and not because he wanted to—because Holmes’s personal sense of amusement might be twisted, but there are limits.
Finally, Holmes awakes from his vision, screaming, insensible, on the ground outside the cottage, with Watson shaking him and calling his name.  After what seems like a full minute of hysterics, Holmes finally comes to his senses enough to call out to his friend…by his first name.  “John!” he screams.  It is a startling moment, one that Jeremy Brett commented on:
“Well, Holmes is semiconscious at the time, right?  It really was the one time that he could call him John.  I think in extremis he might have said ‘John.’ It gives another slant to it.  I slipped in ‘John’ just to show that, underneath it all, there was just something more than what they say, that Holmes is all mind and no heart.”
It goes back, I think, to who Sherlock Holmes becomes when his layers are stripped away.  There are many interpretations, and they’re all subjective, of course—since this is something we never really see in the canon (just as he never refers to Watson by his first name).  But in a moment of semi-conscious horror, there are going to be very few layers, very little armor.  And there again, we see the things that Holmes must do, and not what he can, or wants to do.
Sometimes readers get caught up in seeing Sherlock Holmes as a man that is driven by proving himself, and demonstrating what he can do to everyone around him; that his every action had a pointed, defensive edge to it, an almost passive-aggressive streak, in which he is determined to show himself capable, and worthy.  Televised adaptations, and particularly clever ones like the 1988 version of “The Devil’s Foot,” serve as excellent reminders that despite what Holmes may have believed or thought of himself, he was still human, with compulsions that prevented him from being entirely separated from the human experience.  He was still one of us, if he only walked amongst us briefly.
One more week to enter my blog contest!  It’s so easy to enter, and the prizes are very cool—a little light reading, a little music.  Sounds like my perfect Sunday afternoon.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Currently on Twitter...

Recently on my Twitter feed, I finished parceling out "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons," in 140 character installments.  A story story becomes awfully long that way, I won't lie, but it turned out to be a surprisingly fun project.  So I'm doing it again.

Currently, I am "tweeting" "The Adventure of the Dying Detective" for those of you interested in seeing Sherlock Holmes during what might be one of his most devious moments.

Check out my Twitter feed for a daily installment, though I can sometimes be inspired to post more than once a day.  And don't forget that you can read through the original canon stories online


Less than two weeks left to enter my contest.  There's some excellent reading material, and a little bit of music up for grabs (all related to Sherlock Holmes, of course).

Friday, March 11, 2011

“North by Ten and by Ten”: The Musgrave Ritual

I like puzzles.  There’s a shock for you—someone who loves mystery novels is also into puzzles.  Hold on to your hats and clutch your pearls, everyone.  I should probably add that my enjoyment of puzzles does not necessarily mean that I am any good at them.  I have half a brain for cryptograms, but lateral thinking problems, logic-based riddles, Sudoku?  I’m sunk.  Forget it.  But it doesn’t stop me from liking them.  It doesn’t extinguish that small flame of hope that one day I’ll be able to solve the obligatory Rubik’s Cube my mother buys me for Christmas every year, bless her.  It just means I usually keep an answer book or cheat sheet around.  I wonder what that says about me.
Anyway, I like puzzles because I like having answers.  I like having answers wrapped up neatly in a little package and handed to me with a pretty bow.  And one of the best examples in the Sherlock Holmes canon of a “pretty little puzzle” is “The Musgrave Ritual.”  It might even be one of the most famous treasure hunt puzzles in all of literature.  T.S. Eliot borrowed liberally from the story when writing “Murder in the Cathedral (Klinger 528),” and it has been adapted for the screen many times, including Basil Rathbone’sSherlock Holmes Faces Death.”
But what I like most about MUSG is that it’s revealing, but not necessarily in the way you might think.  It reveals quite a bit about Sherlock Holmes as a man of logic and deduction, in addition to revealing a lot about his priorities as a detective.  And I don’t think it matters very much that the story took place when he was twenty-five-years old, because he’s telling the story as a thirty-seven-year-old (approximately) man, and his reflections on the case are as revealing as the story he tells.  In the case of “The Musgrave Ritual,” the reader learns more about the character of Sherlock Holmes from the cases that he does not solve, than from the ones he does. 
When Reginald Musgrave approaches his former classmate, Sherlock Holmes, he wants Holmes to deduce what happened to his butler, Brunton, and his second housemaid, Rachel Howells.  He does not ask him to solve the riddle of a centuries-old family tradition, which Musgrave had thought “to be of no practical importance.”  Although Leslie Klinger rightly points out, in The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, if Musgrave didn’t think the ritual was important, why did he bring it with him to his meeting with Holmes (538)?
And while Holmes does find Brunton (or his earthly remains), he cannot definitively say what happened to him.  He can theorize and rationalize all he wants, but with the two witnesses to the incident dead and missing, respectively, he’ll probably never get anywhere.  And he doesn’t seem to care.  Holmes moves effortlessly from imagining Brunton's and Rachel’s last moments together, to the more concrete business of the ancient crown jewels of England, without missing a beat—jumping to his feet and dashing all thoughts of Brunton's dead body from his mind.  And as for Rachel Howells, she is never heard from again, though various stories have put forth theories, such as Michael Doyle’s “The Legacy of Rachel Howells,” which can be read in The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures.
In his 2005 article, “Reflections on ‘The Musgrave Ritual,’” Steven Doyle, author of Sherlock Holmes for Dummies, highlights what might have been Holmes’s intrinsic problem with the other mysteries of MUSG:
“Beneath the surface, beneath the canonical puzzle of what university Holmes attended, the fact of it being an early case, the connection to Charles I, beneath the cryptic Ritual itself, is a story of love, obsession, and betrayal, and of revenge.  Who among us doesn’t recognize themselves in Rachel Howells, or perhaps, God forgive, even Brunton?  Who among us hasn’t at some time wished to dash the support away, and send the slab crashing down on those who have wronged us, perhaps far more than anyone knows?”
Sometimes I wonder if the answer to Doyle’s questions isn’t, perhaps, Sherlock Holmes.  Rachel Howells’s motivations certainly did not matter to him, and he doesn’t spend a great deal of time castigating himself for being unable to figure them out.  He does not care, because he does not understand, and perhaps that does mean he’s never experienced the unpredictable variables of love, obsession, betrayal, and revenge.  He certainly seems unable to process it as a mid-twenty-something, and only seems to grow more understanding of them as he grows older, but only in fits and starts.  But Sherlock Holmes’s apparently stunted emotional life is another blog post entirely.
Indeed, it might be the first time we have documentation of Holmes casting aside that which he cannot concretely prove, but it is certainly not the last.  In “The Six Napoleons,” as Holmes explains the process which led to “the famous black pearl of the Borgias” becoming embedded in a plaster cast of Napoleon Bonaparte, he says: “Beppo had the pearl in his possession. He may have stolen it from Pietro, he may have been Pietro’s confederate, he may have been the go-between of Pietro and his sister. It is of no consequence to us which is the correct solution [Emphasis mine.]”  Holmes doesn’t really care how the pearl ended up in the bust—especially since it probably involved all these sticky relationships—just as long as he found it.
"...there stood a patriarch among oaks,
one of the most magnificent trees that I have ever seen."
In the 1986 television adaptation of MUSG, Holmes’s apathy even causes him to make a significant error in judgment.  The studio altered the original story slightly to bring Watson into the tale, and to accommodate for the fact that Jeremy Brett was no longer able to play a man in his mid-twenties.  Additionally, the ritual itself was changed to due to the fact that producers had been unable to find a filming location that fit all of the ritual’s stringent requirements.  At the end of the episode, as Holmes and Watson drive away, it is the Doctor who posits the theory that perhaps Rachel Howells may have intentionally sent the stone crashing, and also the alternate hypothesis that she had “only been guilty of silence as to [Brunton’s] fate.”  Holmes seems uncharacteristically indifferent about this loose thread and says, “Very probably she's far away from Hurlstone now and carries her secret with her.”
Of course, Holmes is wrong.  In the final scene, the pale, waterlogged face of Rachel Howells’s corpse rises up from the mere.  Her romantic rival, Janet Tregellis, recoils in horror at the sight, and runs away screaming in terror.
It’s fairly obvious that Sherlock Holmes loves pretty little puzzles, and he absolutely wants answers, but that doesn’t mean he wants all of them.  As he once so famously said, "What the deuce is it to me? […] You say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work (STUD)."  What difference is the fate of Brunton or Rachel Howells to his work?  Sherlock Holmes solved the real (interesting) mystery, even if that wasn’t what Musgrave had in mind.  It’s not a pretty picture of my favorite detective, but I think it’s enormously in-character to imagine him staring keenly at the lost crown jewels, brushing Reginald Musgrave away, and saying: “What? The butler?  Nevermind that now, I’ve found something worthwhile.
Still two weeks left to enter my contest!  Never before have I worked so hard to give someone something for free.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Some Thoughts on Character: “The Best of the Professionals” (HOUN)

Detective Inspector Lestrade stands in the doorway of 221B Baker Street, shrugging on his jacket as John Watson watches.  Doctor Watson asks the DI for any insight into the behavior of his new, eccentric flatmate, Sherlock Holmes.  He’s hoping that Lestrade will advise him on how to handle the man’s many apparent foibles; perhaps he’s hoping that Lestrade will tell him that, despite all appearances to the contrary, John Watson has not decided to share a flat with a man who runs after serial killers, like a child runs after an ice cream truck. 
Unfortunately, Lestrade does not give the Doctor any hope, but he does pause, on his way out the door, to explain why he puts up with Holmes’s manic behavior:  “Because I’m desperate, that’s why.  Because Sherlock Holmes is a great man, and I think one day—if we're very, very lucky—he might even be a good one.”  The scene is from the 2010 BBC adaptation, “Sherlock,” but it’s not so difficult to imagine any of the incarnations of Inspector G. Lestrade muttering this sentiment.
With little time and little effort, any reader could summarize Lestrade’s characteristics, as should probably be the case with any supporting character in an extended series.  According to H. Paul Jeffers in his book, Bloody Business: An Anecdotal History of Scotland Yard:
“He is the most famous detective ever to walk the corridors of Scotland Yard, yet he existed only in the fertile imagination of a writer.  He was Inspector Lestrade.  We do not know his first name, only his initial: G.  Although he appears thirteen times in the immortal adventures of Sherlock Holmes, nothing is known of the life outside the Yard of the detective whom Dr. Watson described unflatteringly as sallow, rat-faced, and dark-eyed and whom Holmes saw as quick and energetic but wholly conventional, lacking in imagination, and normally out of his depth—the best of a bad lot who had reached the top in the CID by bulldog tenacity (95).”
Sidney Paget
Lestrade has the honor of appearing in the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study in Scarlet, along with Inspector Tobias Gregson, but beyond that it’s easy to think of his character as merely a method of conveyance—someone has to get the details of the case into Holmes’s hands, why not a member of the police force?  In fact, Lestrade—as with any member of Scotland Yard that appear in the canon—seems almost painfully one-dimensional.  We don’t even know his first name (Gregory? Geoffrey? George? Gerald? Gabriel?), and sometimes it seems that most of the debate over Lestrade centers on the pronunciation of his last name (Long ‘A” sound? Short ‘A’ sound?). 
In Dictionary of the Theatre: Terms, Concepts, and Analysis, Patrice Pavis says that the role of a character is to give off “the illusion of being a human person.”  This is particularly applicable in the case of Inspector Lestrade, because he gives off the illusion of being Sherlock Holmes, and therefore makes the Great Detective himself seem even more real.  Just as Mycroft Holmes makes his younger sibling seem more god-like, Inspector Lestrade makes Sherlock Holmes seem a little more human, his skills and abilities a little more attainable.  Lestrade makes clear the cracks in Holmes’s deductive armor, the places where he is most vulnerable.   
Sherlock Holmes describes Lestrade in “The Cardboard Box” as being, “…absolutely devoid of reason, he is as tenacious as a bulldog when he once understands what he has to do.”  Holmes says this as if it were a characteristic unique to Lestrade, as if it were something charming about the man that made him a little more palatable than the rest of Scotland Yard.  Well, to be totally frank, Mr. Holmes?  You can be “as tenacious as a bulldog” yourself, when you want to be.  When Holmes gets his claws into a case, he has been known to, amongst other things: masquerade as a priest (SCAN), pretend he was dying (DYIN), camp out on a moor for several days without anyone's knowledge (HOUN), and poison himself (DEVI).  Lestrade’s tenacity is, in fact, rather subdued when compared to Holmes’s exploits; making everything the Detective does seem more extreme and wonderful in contrast.
In addition, using a secondary character in this manner makes the on-screen portrayals all the more important, and all the more valid as interpretations.  By using him so sparingly, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle left holes in Lestrade’s character.  Actors can fill in the gaps and smooth out the edges, and the manner in which they interpret the Inspector is ultimately reflected back on Holmes in some way.
Colin Jeavons
Eddie Marsan
Rupert Graves

Colin Jeavons plays a slightly bumbling (though in no way stupid) and awkward Lestrade to Jeremy Brett’s elegant and masterful Sherlock Holmes…who becomes patient and affectionately amused as he watches Lestrade peek inside his case files when he thinks no one is looking.  Eddie Marsan plays a biting and irritated Lestrade to Robert Downey Jr.’s frenetic and feverish Great Detective…whose genius appears even more inspired and enlightened when the police inspector agrees to go along with his insane plan.  And Rupert Graves, who started this entry, plays a Lestrade who seems equal parts weary and put-upon, like the proud parent of a difficult prodigy...and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes suddenly seems younger and more inexperienced, but with a new well of vast, untapped potential.  
Over the past couple of weeks, I've realized a few things as I've been writing; one of which is that it is easy to believe that Sherlock Holmes stands on his own two feet as a character—based on his own merits and abilities—but he really does not.  Sherlock Holmes is influenced and formed by those who surround him in the stories, as much as he influences them.  His character is determined by those in his circle, and that makes him extremely variable.  In "The Secret of Sherlock Holmes," by Jeremy Paul, Holmes says:
“If it wasn’t for Watson, I would have been dead within two years.  A man needs a companion, he cannot sit alone… With his silent reproaches, his hurt looks, Watson controlled my [cocaine] addition.  And our walks, our conversations… the sheer breadth and enthusiasm of his mind on any manner of subjects kept me sane when the black fits were upon me.  There was never a better friend.  And I treated him abominably.”
Dr. Watson makes Holmes accessible, capable of friendship and empathy when we had previously thought him incapable of either.  His brother makes him simultaneously human and god-like.  And, perhaps, if Sherlock Holmes is ever considered a "good" man, and not just a "great" one, it will be because of Inspector Lestrade.  Because he rounds off the edges of Holmes when necessary, he fills in his gaps, and introduces the Great Detective to himself.
I’m giving stuff away!  So make sure you take a minute to enter my contest.  It’s open to all and entries are accepted until 11:59p.m. EST on March 26.