Twenty five years ago, on Sept 12, 1995, Mr. Jeremy Brett passed away.
When I was eight…
I was an eight-year-old who adored Sherlock Holmes. I cried at the conclusion of the Final Problem and cheered for the Empty Room (as one does). And when I discovered there was an actual end to the canon, that the stories were not limitless? I simply flipped back to the front of volume one and started over, discovering new favorite moments along the way. I allowed myself to swept up in the words, characters, and stories again and again.
At some point, I’m not certain as to when and under what circumstances, I discovered that there was an official fan club: The Baker Street Irregulars. But you couldn’t just send in a membership application and get your magnifying glass equivalent of a secret decoder ring or something, oh no. One must merit membership. Okay. Well then! I set myself upon the lofty task of solving one of the immortal questions surrounding the great detective. I was to determine, through science, deduction, intense study of the canon, whether Holmes was right- or left-handed! (Remember. I was eight, so this seemed a fantastic and fully worthy idea.)
Several days crouched on the floor of my bedroom with half a dozen volumes, a pack of sticky notes, graph paper, pencils, pens, and little labeled cutouts meant to represent the various furnishings of 221B… I concluded that Sherlock Holmes was more than likely right-handed with a tendency towards ambidextrous-ity when the situation called for it.
(Also, my being eight years old and it being the early 90s, I did not publish my findings.)
When I was nine…
The Walt Disney company gave full endorsement to us littles who thought it perfectly acceptable to walk around with our “nose stuck in a book”.
My reading obsession continued, the basis of it being Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s works, of course.
But, by then, my love of my new public library — and the joys of summer break + the family room VCR — led me in a roundabout way to the Granada Sherlock Holmes series.
I was stunned. My favorite stories… had been put on film??
One by one, the tapes made their way through our house. I discovered I was not the only person with such interests. Far too often, the episode I wanted to watch next was unavailable by the time I had returned the tape which I had checked out. In all likelihood, the same mild inconvenience was felt by this other mysterious Sherlockian (whom I never did encounter.)
(Gosh, one episode per tape! It was quite the game to try to make it through the series and I had to watch it all out of order. In many ways, it made the whole endeavor more rewarding in that I couldn’t ‘Netflix’ my way through it all in the space of a day.)
Honestly, I think I might have imprinted on Jeremy Brett’s Holmes like a baby chicken. His mannerisms, his patterns of diction, expressions– these all spoke to me, they gave me permission to sit in a chair a certain way, to wave my hands thus.
When I was fifteen…
Knowing my keen interest in all things Holmesian, my mom saved for me the morning paper on January 4, 1996. “Happy Birthday, Mr. Holmes” the headline proclaimed. I, of course, read the article with great interest. And then my breath caught in my chest–I remember the moment with such clarity even now. Halfway down the article, the phrase ‘the late Jeremy Brett’ caught my eye. The late? What?! No! I simply could not be. Words fail me even now. That heartache, that stunned sadness, refuses to be put onto the page in any clear form. This was how I found out. Months after the fact. For our local papers had not even marked Mr. Brett’s passing. (In this age of trending topics and instant news, this lag in information now feels unreal. I guess I could say that, for me, Mr. Brett lived a little longer.)
I have dared the impossible. Correction, improbable. 😉 One morning, last summer, I woke up with the absolutely blazing need to tell a story.
Now, I write full time so this is not unusual. But this? This was Holmes. Holmes who is not mine and whom so many love so very much.
I decided that there was no harm in at least getting the story removed from my mind and onto the page. It was an exercise much like my handedness problem from–well, I won’t disclose how many years ago. Feel free to do some math and guesswork.
Suffice it to say, the book comes out later this year and I cried when I held the proof copy. The release date of November 3 was chosen with specific purpose.
I now own the full run of the Granada Sherlock Holmes series on DVD.
And Mr. Jeremy Brett is still very much missed.