Sherlock Holmes expert to speak in Stockbridge

Thursday October 18, 2012

STOCKBRIDGE -- Sherlock Holmes is far from taking his last bow.

In fact the detective created, killed and resurrected by author and physician Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is now enjoying a revival, from the pages of graphic novels to movie theater and television screens. Holmes even appears as the hero of a number of video games.

Sherlock Holmes emerged from the pen of Arthur Conan Doyle more than 125 years ago, yet he retains his appeal in today's e-world. How did this character, whose creator tried to kill him off after only a handful of stories, survive two world wars and all the technological and social change over the last century?

On Saturday Berkshire County's resident Sherlock Holmes expert, Jeff Bradway, will explore the past and present perceptions of Holmes in a presentation at 1 p.m. at the Stockbridge Library.

A movie first introduced him to Holmes, said Bradway, 50, a Stock bridge native. He was five years old when he saw the grainy black and white images of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John H. Watson, portrayed by Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, on his television screen.

Soon after, he made a trip to the Stockbridge Library, where he found a children's story and picture book on the detective, and his fandom began to flourish.

"The funny thing of it all is that my mother couldn't stand Sherlock Holmes, mostly because she didn't really care for Basil Rathbone. But she acquiesced to my newfound interest," said Bradway.

In the 1970s, he became a fan of the film "The Seven-Per-Cent Solution," in which Watson lures Holmes to seek help from Sigmund Freud. In 1978, Bradway's mother gave him the annotated box set of Sherlock Holmes stories.

"That's when I discovered the world of people who wrote articles on Holmes," said Bradway.

Though he went on to receive a bachelor's and master's degree in history and medieval studies at the University of Massachusetts, Bradway also kept up with his Holmes work.

In the Sherlockian culture of geek fans and scholars, it's called playing "The Game." The players, so to speak, try to determine when, where and how events in Conan Doyle's Holmes stories actually took place. Scholars write papers and give presentations, taking the approach that Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson actually exist and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle serves as Watson's "literary agent."

The Game has been used to explore everything from Holmes' birth date to his family bloodlines.

In 1934, the witty American author Christopher Morley, who enjoyed starting social clubs and was a Conan Doyle devotee, helped found "The Baker Street Irregulars" club, whose members still devote their passion to producing Sherlockian discourse, musings and other inspired projects. Bradway was honored with an induction to the society in 2009, and he attends its annual weekend meeting in New York City each January. Bradway said Peter Blau, a former Pittsfield resident, is the only other Berkshire County inductee known to him.

There are similar Baker Street Irreg ulars scions like the Baker Street Break fast Club (which doesn't usually eat breakfast) in nearby Bennington, Vt., and The Hudson Valley Sciontists in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.

Bradway says the adventures of Sherlock Holmes endure because the stories are "so well-written" and that Holmes still holds his intrigue.

"It's playing with the image of Sherlock Holmes which is so interesting," he said.

The detective has evolved from his deerstalker hat and cape of illustration and stage fame to the disheveled dark locks sported by Robert Downey Jr. in recent Holmes films.

In terms of other modern Holmes projects, Bradway said the BBC series introduced in 2010 is "one of the best" and actor Jude Law is "spot on as Watson" in the latest Holmes films.

Bradway said ultimately he appreciates the character of Sherlock Holmes as a neighborhood guy with dynamic charms and flaws.

"It's not that [Holmes] knows everything, but he figures everything out," he said.

What: ‘Sherlock Holmes: Fact and Fiction,' with local Sherlock Holmes expert Jeff Bradway. Bradway will explore the history of the world's greatest detective from printed page to stage, screen and beyond.

When: Saturday at 1 p.m.

Where: Stockbridge Library, 46 Main St., Stockbridge.

Admission: Free and open all

Information:, (413) 298-5501.


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