Like many people, detective stories have always been a huge source of comfort for me. And while these days, my comfort crime nearly always consists of Golden Age British mysteries written by one of the Queens of Crime, the real beginning of this enthusiasm was Sherlock Holmes. Specifically Sherlock Holmes as portrayed by Basil Rathbone in the 1940s radio show, The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, particularly the episodes written by Anthony Boucher (the namesake of Bouchercon) and Dennis Green.
Yes, Nigel Bruce is peak Jam Watson, but, always and forever, these are my guys.
Given that I was born in 1985, a 1940s radio serial may seem like a weird thing about which to have nostalgia. However! These shows were released on cassette tapes in the early 90s and they became my family’s go-to road trip listening. I can still sing all the corny ad jingles from memory and so can my brother. The voice acting of Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce is so stellar, their humor and chemistry is so palpable, the details of character and setting so Victorian and piquant, and the mysteries satisfyingly plotted despite the shortness of the episodes and the paucity of suspects.
Best of all, you can listen to many of the best episodes for free on the Internet Archive. Favorite episodes of mine from when I was a young child: The Unfortunate Tobacconist, The Purloined Ruby, The Fifth of November, The Strange Case of the Murder in Wax, The Tell Tale Pigeon Feathers, The Strange Case of the Demon Barber, The April Fool’s Day Adventure, The Headless Monk, and The Adventure of the Uneasy Chair. They are so quick that, if your kids are old enough that they’d sit still for a story with no accompanying visuals, these could easily be something you’d enjoy as a family. I loved them when I was as young as seven, but I cannot pretend to be an average kid. Then again, I have a hard time imagining many second generation Dames Nationals would pass as average either.
If your tastes run more to the classical material, the original Sherlock Holmes stories work beautifully on audiobook. If you’re an Audible subscriber, for just ONE of your monthly credits, you can get a 58-hour Complete Sherlock Holmes— i.e. all four novels and every short story— narrated by the incomparable Simon Vance. Given that I very much resemble this tweet:
You can imagine how much joy said recording has given me over the years.
AND FINALLY, if you want a real deep cut on my childhood Sherlock Holmes obsession, you can rent the weird (wonderful) Holmes-themed comedy WITHOUT A CLUE (only available on iTunes, for some reason??) starring Michael Caine as an alcoholic actor employed by true genius sleuth Dr. Watson (played by BEN KINGSLEY!!) to impersonate Sherlock Holmes, the detective he made up to protect his medical identity who took on a life of his own. The score is by Henry Mancini, it abSOlutely slaps, and I feel strongly you’ll enjoy this weird film if anything about this description sounds appealing.
That’s all for tonight, folks! Let me know if you enjoy any of the above.