What drove John H. Watson?
We sometimes see his relationship with Sherlock Holmes as a key, Watson as that friend who is always willing to come along for the ride. We also sometimes see him as a man looking for adventures or whatever it was he got or didn't get in Afghanistan. But after having spent a few days reading about and listening to true crime podcasters Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark, I started to wonder if Watson wasn't just a little bit of a "murderino."
"Murderino" is the term the My Favorite Murder podcasters came up with for those whose interest in true crime becomes the past-time of choice. Lately, more than one of my friends or family has become hooked on Netflix documentaries or podcasts on the criminal side of things. And we know Sherlock Holmes was definitely a murderino, as evidenced by that three months of just reading about true crime he once seems to have done.
Yes, yes, all of Sherlocks investigations were notably not murders. But Scotland Yard notably didn't come to him for anything less than the crime of murder, and, after all, removing the murderers from society the most important of investigatory purposes?
We don't get to see a whole lot of John Watson's life when he is completely without Sherlock Holmes. There's just two bits, really -- with Stamford before he meets Sherlock, and in the first half of "The Empty House," when he thinks Holmes has been dead for years. And what is John Watson doing, in that later part of his life, when there's no Sherlock Holmes and he's left to his own devices?
He's visiting a murder scene.
"It can be imagined that my close intimacy with Sherlock Holmes had interested me deeply in crime, and that after his disappearance I never failed to read with care the various problems which came before the public." ("Disappearance" instead of "death" is a bit of a spoiler there from Watson.)
Watson practically uses the words "my favorite murder" when describing his attraction to the killing of Ronald Adair. He spends a whole day reading and considering it, then uses his evening stroll to take a walk to the house where the murder occurred. Does he hope that one of the Scotland Yarders he was familiar with might let him in for a look? One has to wonder.
When Sherlock Holmes disappeared from his life in 1891, John Watson almost immediately began publishing his records of their investigations. He took a break from publishing after December of 1893, but we'll never know just how long that break might have gone on, for three months later, Sherlock Holmes was back and Watson was again too busy for working out his prose.
His pipeline to London's true crime had returned.