Introducing Nicola Warwick
I forget the moment when I became enthralled by Sherlock Holmes. I suspect it was towards the latter end of the 80s. Radio 2 broadcast a series of half hour dramatisations featuring Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. I never missed them and the half hour from 7p.m. to 7:30p.m. on a Sunday night was dismal once the series came to an end. To my knowledge it's not been repeated but fortunately there are a number of Holmes audiobooks available and I have most of them. Of course, I have all the books too - the ones by Conan Doyle and the ones by his pretenders.
I've even been on Baker Street - the real one in London and the fictitious one at the Granada Studios Tour (now, sadly, defunct). The Baker Street set at the Studios was my favourite part. It captured something of the feel of the period when Sherlock Holmes was abroad in London, chasing after suspects in hansom cabs and hiding out in pea soupers. The sitting room that Holmes shared with Watson was available for viewings and if you looked closely you could spot the bullet holes made by ammunition from the weapon of one of Moriarty's cronies.
And, of course, Granada made the wonderful, and to my mind, the best, dramatisation of the Holmes stories. Jeremy Brett was just the greatest Sherlock Holmes. He had that tall, thin and tortured look that brought amazing credibility to the role and he seemed to have something of Holmes in his personality. Whilst they filmed the series the cast stayed at the V&A hotel in Manchester. All the rooms are themed, based on a TV series or programme. The best suite in the hotel is the Sherlock Holmes suite. I have yet to see the inside of this room.
I have, however, seen the oil painting of Jeremy Brett that he donated to the V&A following filming. When I saw it the picture was on display in the hotel restaurant. It stopped me in my tracks. I didn't know about the painting or the story of the painting and it was a heart stopping moment.
Lately there's been a two parter on TV about the story behind Sherlock Holmes. Who was Holmes? Who was Conan-Doyle? It explores the possibility that Holmes was based on one of Doyle's tutors, Joseph Bell, a forensic scientist who had a secret life conducting autopsies and solving murders that baffled the constabulary. It blended biography with fiction as Bell was seen to solve Sherlockian type crimes, aided by the young Conan-Doyle. As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.