Mr Holmes

27 Aug

A few of you may remember that I read and reviewed Mitch Cullin’s book “A Slight Trick of the Mind” last year (https://margysmusings.wordpress.com/2014/08/10/a-slight-trick-of-the-mind/).

When I was in London I had the opportunity to see the film adaptation starring Sir Ian McKellen as Sherlock Holmes.  I admit to being privately doubtful as to whether I would enjoy it, but it was an evening out with a good friend, so I was happy to go.

I am so very glad I did.  “Mr Holmes” is a brilliant movie.  It makes a book that is virtually incomprehensible into something magical.  I am usually anti books being adapted into movies because, in my opinion, the book is usually buggered beyond all recognition.  However, “Mr Holmes” is that extremely rare creature, a movie that is better than the book that spawned it.

Sir Ian McKellen is delightful as the 93 year old Sherlock Holmes trying to recall the case that drove him into retirement.  Sir Ian’s talents as an actor are incredible.  He quite literally had me in tears as Holmes struggled with the dementia and the frailty of extreme old age.

Two actors whose roles were little more than cameos do deserve special mention.

Nicholas Rowe plays an actor playing Sherlock Holmes in a movie about Holmes’ final case.  Full of pomp and dignity, he was delightful as an almost caricature of the character.  Given the time period that that part of the movie is set in, Nicholas Rowe was basically playing Basil Rathbone playing Sherlock Holmes.  He did an excellent job, making the small scene memorable.  Sherlockians who see the film will have a quiet chuckle to themselves.  Nicholas played the teenage Sherlock Holmes in the movie “The Young Sherlock Holmes” back in the 1980s.

The special mention goes to Roger Allam as Holmes’ doctor, Dr Barrie.  The character is a soft-hearted curmudgeon that really deserved more screen time.  Roger Allam had what was probably the only truly humourous lines in the movie, but as they rely on the context of the scene, I can’t quote them here.  You’ll have to watch the movie for yourself.

I hesitate to recommend the movie to the casual movie goer.  I think you really do need to have at least a passing familiarity with Sherlock Holmes and his world to really enjoy the film.  But for the dedicated Sherlockian, I have no hesitation in giving the movie 5 stars and suggesting you hurry along the the cinema to see it, or get the dvd when it becomes available.

Benedict Cumberbatch in Hamlet

25 Aug

I was fortunate enough when I was in London to have a ticket to one of the previews of “Hamlet”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.

This isn’t going to be a review of the play.  Enough unqualified people have shoved their oar into that particular pond without me now shoving mine into the morass.  This is my impression of Benedict in what has become an iconic role.

I, like so many others, discovered Benedict via the BBC show “Sherlock”.  It was obvious from the first episode that here was an actor of incredible talent.  Apart from “Sherlock”, I have since watched Benedict in other things, my favourite being both versions of Nick Dear’s play “Frankenstein”, which really made me wish I could see Benedict live on stage.  I got that chance on 12th August 2015.

The role of Hamlet is one that really tests the mettle of an actor.  Apart from the final scene, the majority of the play’s drama rests on the shoulders of this one actor.  It is a role that can make an actor’s reputation, or sink him without trace.  Sir Derek Jacobi was my favourite Hamlet.  After seeing what Benedict did with the role, I now have a new definitive Hamlet.  The one I hear and see in my mind’s eye whenever I read the play, which is a lot.

Benedict’s Hamlet is a brilliantly conflicted character.  Hamlet starts off quiet and gentle, playing records and gently grieving, and then Benedict’s energy just explodes onto the stage, leaving the audience breathless.

Hamlet’s madness taking the form of a return to childhood was a perfect touch, as far as I was concerned.  The psychological return to a happier time when his father was alive and Hamlet a mere boy, gave the madness a poignancy that is often lacking in productions of the play.

Benedict, thankfully, played down the often incestuous overtones of Hamlet’s relationship with his mother Gertrude.  Those scenes have always made me feel slightly nauseous.  Thankfully, there is no hint of an Oedipus Complex in this production.

Benedict handles the extremes of the play with a deft hand.  From the madness, to the bawdy humour, to the anguish and anger of revenge, to grieving for Ophelia, Benedict never gives less than his whole heart.  One line, “O vengeance!”, cried from the depths of Hamlet’s soul, quite literally made the hair on the back on my neck stand up.

Benedict’s handling of Hamlet is, I hesitate to use the word perfection, but to me that is what it is.  He creates a Hamlet that aligns completely with my personal vision of the character.

Benedict is such a powerful actor with an enormous stage presence that television and film mute quite a bit.  You can tell he’s a good actor on screen, but it takes seeing him perform on stage to get a real measure of his brilliance.

I’m Back….

23 Aug

Did you miss me?

Back from three weeks in London with lots of experiences to share and ideas for blog posts.

Thank you for being patient in my absence.

Sorry, No Posts for a Month

23 Jul

I’m off to London on Monday for three weeks. :)

I hope to have lots of interesting experiences to blog about when I return.

Will be going to Benedict Cumberbatch’s “Hamlet” so you may see a review of that.  Hoping to visit the Sherlock Holmes Museum as well.

Look forward to posting interesting things when I return.

Take care and be good. ;)

Introducing Improbable Press…

20 Jul

There is a new kid on the Sherlock Holmes publishing block, “Improbable Press” which specializes in romantic and erotic Sherlock Holmes fiction.  I got a chance to have an online chat with two of the authors, Atlin Merrick and Narrelle Harris, about the new publisher and the first books.

Q: What can readers expect to see from the new publishing company?  

ATLIN: If you already read Narrelle M. Harris, Verity Burns, and Atlin Merrick…you can expect to see more of the same. Gleefully told mystery stories featuring John Watson and Sherlock Holmes — with the lovely addition that the boys are partners in all senses of the word, in bed and out. All the romance! All the erotica! And mysteries! And adventure! Also I need to cut back on the caffeine!  

Q: Will the books appeal to traditional Sherlock Holmes fans as well as enthusiastic Johnlockers?

NARRELLE: That might depend on how interested they are in the idea of Holmes and Watson as a couple. If they just don’t read the characters that way, probably not, but if they, too, have viewed the Conan Doyle stories has having queer subtext, or are open to the idea, I think so. The mysteries and crime solving are still a huge part of the books we’re each writing, whether they’re set in the modern day or, like mine, in the Victorian era.

ATLIN: Do the books have to appeal to them? It’ll be great if they do — again, these are mystery tales for the most part, adventure stories — they also have romance. If folks like any of those things they should like these stories. Narrelle, Verity, and I already know that many, many traditional Holmesian enthusiasts also read romantic/erotic stories about these men!  

Q: You all started out as fan fiction writers (I’ve read some of each of your Sherlock fiction BTW and enjoyed it) was it difficult to make a style switch from short stories to novels?

NARRELLE: I think it may be a bit more complicated than that. I’ve been writing stories ever since I was little, but I first wrote fanfic about 35 years ago, in Blake’s 7 and Star Trek, mainly, but then I began to work on original stories. I’ve had six books published in the interim, a number of short stories and even a play. I also make a crust doing corporate writing. Atlin comes from a background of corporate writing too. I don’t know about Verity, but I imagine we’ve all come from a really varied background of what and how we write. I came back to fanfic in 2012 because of Sherlock, in part to find fun again, because I was having a debilitating round of writer’s block on a novel I haven’t actually finished yet, though it’s now fully plotted. I have written a LOT of stuff since then though, so it seems to have worked… As for the switch from short to long form – when I first wrote novels, that was a big change from the short works I’d been doing. Then I got into that stride and my attempt to write shorter works for publication was a challenge. But by then, the internet had happened and my husband and I were running an online theatre review site called Stage Left. I learned a lot about concise writing, and that helped with short story technique a lot. Now I switch fairly easily between short and long form, because it’s all about the idea I’m exploring and how much room it needs to unfold. Just recently I submitted a new novel to my usual publisher, Clan Destine Press, but also three short stories to three different anthologies. I’ve had one acceptance so far (though they’re still working through submissions so I’m not allowed to say which one yet) and I really hope at least one of the other two makes it, as I’m really proud of the story. I’m delighted you enjoy the Sherlock fic though. It’s been a fertile ground in which other projects have been growing.

ATLIN: I’ve been writing professionally long before writing fan fiction, which is the case with many of us I think. I know quite a number of fandom writers who make a living with their writing—articles, books, business features, every sort of pen to paper. I think we all of us end up writing the fan fiction for the sheer joy of it. And if you wonder why so much of it is sexual, well there’s not yet enough sexually explicit anything geared toward women. Some of us can fix that!

Q: What came first for you, BBC Sherlock or the original Sherlock Holmes stories?

NARRELLE: Actually, Jeremy Brett’s Granada series came first for me. Until then, I was aware of Holmes – of course I was – but I thought the avuncular detective and a stupid sidekick were uninspiring. Along comes Brett and David Burke (and later Edward Hardwicke) and they were so sharp and fascinating, so textured and amazing. I went to ACD from there. I wasn’t sure I’d like a modern version, but I thought it was a great idea to try – and my husband and I both loved the first and second seasons.

ATLIN: I read the stories when I was a little girl—I appear to be the only one who doesn’t love “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”—then saw the Granada series, but was subsumed under a tidal wave of adoration for all things Sherlock when I saw the BBC’s Sherlock.

Q: What appeals to you about the Sherlock Holmes/John Watson relationship (with or without Johnlock goggles)?

NARRELLE: With or without the romantic aspect, they have a great friendship and huge respect and loyalty towards each other. You sometimes wouldn’t think that Holmes respects Watson all that much, but if you read canon you can see how much stick they give each other. Watson takes opportunities to point out Holmes’s flaws as well as his genius. I like that they can have their deep friendship without having to agree on all things or like the same things. They are two individuals, but they fit together, they complement each other with their skills and qualities. When you go back to the stories, you see how playful and humorous they are in their discussions. They tease each other a lot, and laugh together all the time. It’s right down there in print. They have an easy friendship, and whether or not it’s spoken out loud, a very obvious affection for each other. They argue of course, and Holmes can be quite rude, but Watson rarely takes it very personally – and he lets Holmes know when he’s gone too far. Holmes invariably apologises if he’s caused Watson genuine distress. People tend to think of Watson as the conventional one, and he is more conventional than Holmes, but Watson himself comments on the Bohemian life they live – he was reading La Vie de la Boheme in A Study in Scarlet, and he also often notes that they both have a love of the bizarre. They have such a strong bond, and Watson is never jealous of or offended by Holmes’s intellectual superiority, and I think that’s a great lesson for people in self esteem and confidence. You don’t have to be just like someone else to be their great friend, or to love them. All you have to do is respect each other, and your differences, and see how well you can make those differences as well as the shared things work together.

ATLIN: The canon is 600,000 words about a rare friendship. About two men who have crazy adventures together, sit by the fire, and who, though wildly different fit, fit, fit one another.

Q: Can you give us a hint about the plots of the first few books to be released?

NARRELLE: I can give you the idea of mine, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy. It’s set in 1893, and Watson is in mourning because not only his great friend has died, but Mary has just died in childbirth. He’s shocked to receive a telegram, apparently from Holmes, summoning him to Australia. It’s not a happy reunion. Watson is enraged and hurt beyond measure, but Holmes has his own unhappiness which had prompted him to leave in such a fashion. They’ll have to put their anger aside to solve the case and save lives, as they chase one of Moriarty’s surviving lieutenants through Melbourne and across Victoria. The identity of the ‘Colonial Boy’ is multifaceted, but I’ll leave that for the book.

ATLIN: The Night They Met, like The Day They Met, will be stories of other ways the boys could have met, only these tales will have romantic twists and moody midnight settings. The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes will be John Watson’s narrative rectification of likening Sherlock Holmes to a machine—which he does in canon as well as in Sherlock. John will do this by sharing the story of six very different loves in Sherlock’s life (and yes, John is at the heart of this) showing not only Sherlock’s humanity, but how love made him the man he is.

Q: Where and when will readers be able to purchase the books?

NARRELLE: Mine is due out in 2016. I’m still writing it, so the exact date isn’t available yet.  

ATLIN: The Night They Met will be available September or October 2015, with The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes following a few months later and any online purveyor will sell them—Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Bookdepository. You can also buy them from the publisher directly, or the authors directly.

Q: Will they be available in both paper and electronic versions?  NARRELLE and ATLIN: Yes, they will!

Great Australian Ghost Stories

30 Jun

Excellent book of Australian ghost stories, written by Richard Davis and published by ABC books.  Some of the stories are rather sweet, and others are downright bloody terrifying!

Where possible the writer has researched the background thoroughly, and several well known ghost stories are pretty much proved to be that, just stories.  On the other hand, others are not so easily explained.

The story of a Sydney medical student’s possessed laptop was particularly horrifying.  I actually had real difficulty settling down to sleep after reading it.

It was also scary, but not really a surprise, to discover there is a genuine haunted house only a couple of blocks from where I live.  The writer gave the street but not the number, but he didn’t need too.  I knew EXACTLY which house it is.  I’ve loathed going near the place since I shifted into the area.  It always makes me uneasy and uncomfortable.

Well written, and well leavened with humour, I cannot recommend this book to highly to those with an interest in this subject.

Might be a little hard to get for non-Australian readers, but for Aussies, Dymocks is currently selling it cheap, which is where I picked up my copy at the weekend.

Nights Out in London

24 Jun

It’s getting closer… in just over a month my London trip will be a reality.

Regular readers of my blog will be aware that I have a ticket for this year’s hottest London show: “Hamlet” starring Benedict Cumberbatch.  However, in the last month my theatre going in London has gone from one show to three.

I am now fortunate enough to be attending “Constellations” starring Loo Brealey that is transferring to the West End for a run.

Then, to put the icing on the cake of my trip, I will also be attending the Proms concert at the Albert Hall – “Sherlock Holmes – Music of the Mind”.  To place a metaphorical cherry on top of this, Mark Gatiss is reading excerpts from the original Sherlock Holmes stories at this.

I know I had said to friends that one can’t go to London without going at least once to the theatre, I have to admit that I wasn’t expecting to go three times.

I would like to see Mark Gatiss in “Three Days in the Country”, but I think that would be stretching my budget just a little too far.

This trip is going to be magical.  I expect to come home with lots to blog about.

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