56 stories in 56 days – The Red Headed League

On a personal level, re-reading this story brings me some relief on two particular points involving my own novel, writes Charlotte Anne Walters.

Firstly, I decided to write that Watson lived in Kensington as I remembered this to be so in the original stories but couldn’t for the life of me remember in which story I had read it.  I looked though my well-thumbed Penguin Complete Sherlock Holmes many times but could not find the Kensington reference.  Eventually I simply decided to take a risk and stuck with it regardless.  So I was very pleased to see that it is in the Red Headed League that Watson makes reference to his house in Kensington, meaning that I did get it right after all.

Another point of detail which caused me angst was the furniture issue – what did people sit on in Victorian England?  I couldn’t keep putting everyone in arm chairs and fireside chairs but obviously no-one would sit on the sofa.  I therefore took a risk that settee would be an acceptable alternative, even though my husband thought this was still too modern a name.  So when Watson uses the word settee himself on the opening page of The League, I couldn’t help but raise a satisfied smile.

At the beginning of the narrative, Holmes rather touchingly refers to Watson as his partner and helper when describing him to Mr Wilson, which is a big improvement on simply biographer.  It acknowledges the active role Watson plays in the adventures and the word partner even infers an equal status to Holmes which is very interesting.  Watson lives up to this description by bravely accompanying Holmes, Jones and the bank director into the cellar of the bank despite Holmes making it clear danger will be involved and an army revolver required.

In the Granada series, the RHL is one of my favourite episodes containing a great performance from Richard Wilson (pre Victor Meldrew) as Duncan Ross and Tim McInnerny as John Clay.  I seem to recall that the TV dramatisation makes more of the bank director’s scepticism at Holmes’ suggestion the gold is to be stolen and it is, of course, always most enjoyable when Holmes proves his doubters wrong.

The story contains much humour and is very clever in its conception.  Also, more light is shed upon the workings of Holmes’ mind when Watson states – ‘The swing of his nature took him from extreme languor to devouring energy,’ further suggesting, arguably, a mental instability.

Finally, there is mention of a vegetarian restaurant and I had no idea such a concept existed in Victorian England.  There I was fretting about settees being too modern  but the folk of late nineteenth century London were actually popping out for hummus and falafel on a regular basis.  Great stuff!

The Red Headed League scores 7 out of 10.

* I watched a repeat of Gracie last night on the BBC starring Tom Hollander as the husband of Gracie Fields. It confirmed my thoughts in a previous blog about what a great Watson he would make. If I am lucky enough to have my book turned into a film/TV drama I will hunt him down and see what he thinks – then I’ll let you all know.  And while on the subject, I do still think there’s something very Holmesian about actor Steve John Shepherd.

Barefoot on Baker Street is now  published. Here are some of the ways you can order it.

You can pre-order my book in America here.

You can purchase the American Kindle version here

You can pre-order my book in the UK here.

You can purchase the UK Kindle version here.

* Tomorrow I’ll be looking at A Case of Identity. From now on the pressures of work will mean that I’ll endeavour to get the blogs up by 7pm.

About barefootonbakerstreet

Author from Shropshire
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4 Responses to 56 stories in 56 days – The Red Headed League

  1. The words “sofa” and “settee” both date back to the early eighteenth century, when the thing itself came into use. The piece of furniture at 221B Baker Street is called by both names in the stories — “sofa” occurs for example in “The Cardboard Box”.
    If one is worried about the antiquity of a word or an expression, it’s a good idea to consult the Oxford English Dictionary, or an on-line etymological dictionary. Obviously it’s important to avoid anachronisms in a period-piece.

    • I did love writing a period novel but it can be quite restrictive. You write a fantastic page but then have to interupt the creative flow to Google whether they had lemonade in Victorian England, or whether men wore wedding rings, or if it was called a pub or public house or gin house etc. You just know that there will be readers out there who know a lot more about history than you do and one wrong word could ruin the whole scene for them. Then factoring in the importance of getting my Holmes facts correct too did make it a challenging project but I do love a challenge!

  2. I lived in Kensington at the time of this adventure having taken up a practice there on my marriage to Mary Morstan. Some have assumed my practice was in Paddington because I mention being close to Paddington Station in ENGR. The walk from Kensington across Hyde Park towards Oxford Street and Baker Street was always a pleasant one. My relationship with Holmes had developed considerably over the thirty or so cases we had been involved in up to then and this was a dozen or so cases after SCAN. The supressed humour that we struggled to contain is wonderfully portrayed in the Granada version of REDH. It is also one of my favourites. I am now looking forward to reading Barefoot on Baker Street!

    • I think one of the best things about the Granada series was the way in which they picked up on the humour – in a subtle but effective way. And yes, you’re right – it was the Paddington station ref that confused me.

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