Sherlock Holmes

Book Review: Sherlock Holmes: The Vanishing Man (Philip Purser-Hallard)

One of the beautiful things about Sherlock Holmes–the character–being out of copyright is that publishing houses like Titan Books can keep bringing us licensed adventures of Arthur Conan-Doyle’s iconic detective from an array of different writers.

The Vanishing Man is one such tale. Conan Doyle’s stories often were novellas or even short stories as Dr. John Watson, erstwhile partner to the unique and maddening genius Holmes, would recount their ‘problems’ to the reader, and Philip Purser-Hallard gets a full novel sized plot for the detective duo to unravel. In doing so, he doesn’t remotely reinvent the wheel. This is a classic, traditional Holmes & Watson case, set in their heyday during 1896, which could slot perfectly well amongst Conan Doyle’s canon. The Vanishing Man has a solid central mystery, a litany of garish and exuberant Victorian characters, and the joy of a conclusion in which we see Sherlock putting it all together in front of our eyes.

In short, The Vanishing Man is going to scratch the Holmesian itch for fans of these stories nicely.


That Same Old Dream: Dr. No (1962 – James Bond #1)

Over the course of 2019 and into 2020, in the run up to the 25th James Bond movie, I am going to be deep diving into every Bond film in depth, revisiting one of my favourite franchises.

We start at the beginning with 1962’s Dr. No…

It struck me watching Dr. No just how much the most recent James Bond film to date, Spectre, called back to the very first cinematic outing for 007.

In Spectre, Bond pursues an urbane, calm and collected super-villain who wears Nehru jackets, like in Dr. No. Said villain in Spectre only truly reveals himself fully in the third act, while charming Bond and his female companion with a luxury suite and fine clothing, like in Dr. No. Given the villain in question is Ernst Stavro Blofeld, arguably the most iconic bad guy in the Bond lexicon, it is easy to suggest Spectre is first and foremost inspired by Donald Pleasance in You Only Live Twice, but Christoph Waltz’ modern take on 007’s arch enemy has far more in common with Joseph Wiseman’s Doctor No, certainly when it comes to performance and style. Dr. No may not be a film which perfectly nails the historic James Bond movie formula but there is not one of the twenty-four films that follow it across half a century that do not owe a debt to this somewhat quieter beginning.

It is easy to dismiss Dr. No as a stepping stone to the embarrassment of riches to come in From Russia With Love or Goldfinger, but that is to lend a disservice to a picture steadily growing finer with age. A picture that puts in place a range of Bond movie aspects that without question made the franchise a global, beloved success.