Today (May 22) is the birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle — the genius behind the prototype of countless fictional detectives, Sherlock Holmes. Although Edgar Allan Poe started the long, twisted and incredibly fun, genre of detective fiction with his ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ (published in 1841 in Graham’s Magazine), no character compares to Sherlock Holmes as a model for all the detectives to come.
Holmes’ use of intense observation and deductive reasoning, his uncanny ability to see what others ignore and his outsider status, are characteristics that appear in all the great detectives. Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and Hercule Poirot come to mind immediately, but there are many, many more.
I named my cat Morse after Collin Dexter’s Chief Inspector Morse. He was an extraordinary character with obvious roots in the Sherlock Holmes model. He was neither a regular guy cop, nor a member of the Oxford elite, but he navigated between the two worlds, doing crossword puzzles, downing his ale, listening to opera and falling hopelessly in love with the wrong women over and over again.
On TV this super-observant outsider has gone to extremes with Monk’s obsessive-compulsive disorder; virtually all the characters in the CSI dynasty of forensic scientists focused on trace evidence; and the super-diagnostician solving impossible medical mysteries — House.
Let’s celebrate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s birthday by enjoying the legacy of great detective stories that followed in his wake.