Friday, January 31, 2020

That sure wasn't written for me!

There's a lot of Sherlockian work out there that just wasn't written for us.

I can think of no better example of this than a work that goes back almost fifty years, entitled Sherlock Holmes, Bridge Detective. I mean, do you know of any current Sherlock Holmes fans who are avid bridge players? Whist makes sense as a neo-Victorian "Let's do something that almost happened in a Sherlock Holmes story!" kind of way, but bridge?

It feels like you should be gathering around a 1950s card table with mini-pigs-in-a-blanket and something in a highball glass. In 2005, fifteen years ago, The New York Times reported that about 3 million people still played it once a week, and that total bridge players were less than a third of those playing poker. In the 1940s, forty-four percent of American households had at least one person who played bridge, but as entertainment and game options grew, those generations to whom it was most popular starting aging out. Like fans of Bix Beiderbecke, you can still find loyal adherents out there if you look hard enough, but the chances of getting invited to a Dungeons and Dragons night far outpace those of a bridge night invitation.

I'm not trying to crap on bridge here, but what I am trying to say is, I cannot read Sherlock Holmes, Bridge Detective or its sequel, Sherlock Holmes, Bridge Detective Returns. Author Frank Thomas also wrote some other Holmes pastiches that I can read easily enough, but a book that walks through Holmes and Watson playing bridge, hand by band, showing the cards? That might as well be in a foreign language.

Foreign language Sherlock Holmes books? Also not written for those of us that don't speak the language. And most of us are smart enough not to get angry at Sherlock Holmes books written for non-English speakers in a non-English tongue.  We can also probably let a bridge book off the hook.

It gets a little harder is a book or movie in our own native language with our favorite and familiar characters to look at ourselves objectively to judge whether or not we are in that book's target audience. And most times, you don't know for sure until you're well into it, which makes it even harder to objectively go "my reaction is my own, and I shouldn't expect everyone to have the same feelings."

We all like what we like. The thing that keeps Sherlock Holmes, Bridge Detective on my shelf is the fact that I don't like it, and I don't dislike it. It just is. I wish we could react to more books, movies, etc., that other people love with that same cool distance. Some books just aren't written for us, but that doesn't mean they weren't written for somebody.

And sometimes, it's even enlightening to meet that person and have a little chat. Perhaps someday I'll have time to see what a bridge guru can tell me about that book.


  1. I have a book on my shelf...'HOLMES AND WATSON SOLVE THE almost PERFECT CRIME..LIFE INSURANCE.' (FROM 1976) I LIKE THE ARTWORK (signed BURR)

    1. We just don't get enough "Sherlock Holmes Is Into Something Mundane for Commercial Purposes" books anymore.