Sherlock… or Charlotte?

Has anyone else noticed a spate of Sherlock Holmes-o-rama lately?

The BBC has a great 3-parter running at the moment – (poor old Partner in Crime was on the verge of a breakdown the other night when he realised he’d missed the first half hour of the new series). We also have yet another Hollywood version gracing the big screens, and I can’t even count the number of books that have used or built on elements of the Holmes stories.

On one of the Holmes fan-fic sites I found around 110 pages of new Holmes stories posted; in other fiction, Kirsten Miller’s Kiki Strike series (YA) has a group of girls called ‘The Irregulars’; Kate Harrad’s Fausterella endeavour (in which she switches the genders of main characters in the great literary classics) gave us Shirley Holmes… to name but a few.

So why are there so many Holmesian adventures about? I suspect it is because the Holmes stories ignite in the reader a sense of adventure. Most of us love a good mystery, and when the mystery can be driven by wonderful characterisation, sense of place, plus suspense and a dash of humour, it becomes unputdownable. I can only hope Charlotte will be all this and more for Ms12.

Another reason could be that the Holmes stories are – all but one – no longer under copyright.

For the sake of the argument, and since I’m interested in copyright issues as they pertain to writers, here’s what I’ve read about the copyright ownership of Holmes, according to Sherlockian (quote taken directly from the website):

Notes on the ownership of the Sherlock Holmes stories

Copyright in the Sherlock Holmes stories expired in Canada in 1980.

The last copyright on ACD’s work in the United Kingdom expired at the end of the year 2000.

In the United States, the only Sherlock Holmes remaining in copyright is The Case Book, which will enter the public domain between 2016 and 2023.

Some people have suggested that ‘Charlotte Aimes’ sounds a bit like ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Waterson’ is reminiscent of ‘Watson’.

They’d be right!

The character of Charlotte is nothing at all like the real Sherlock, apart from the fact that she enjoys putting two and two together to solve problems. Neither is Waterson like Watson, apart from toying with the idea of becoming a doctor sometime in the future. The fact that they live in Switzerland is a glorious coincidence, since Holmes faces his arch-rival, Moriarty (Moira T. in my version), in Meiringen, not two hours’ drive from where we live in Kanton Zürich. (We’ve even been there, to re-enact the scene.)

But what about all those other Sherlock Holmes remixes? Am I embarrassed that I haven’t come up with an original concept? Nah. These days, one could argue, everything is a remix. I believe originality comes with the writer’s voice. The way they present their version of a story. Or life.

Yep, I’m derivative and proud of it!

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