The Great Detective: The Amazing Rise and Immortal Life of Sherlock Holmes
October 11th, 2015 by Aldouspi

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A wickedly smart and rollicking journey through the birth, life, and afterlives of popular culture's most beloved sleuth

Today he is the inspiration for fiction adaptations, blockbuster movies, hit television shows, raucous Twitter banter, and thriving subcultures. More than a century after Sherlock Holmes first capered into our world, what is it about Arthur Conan Doyle’s peculiar creation that continues to fascinate us? Journalist and lifelong Sherlock fan Zach Dundas set out to find the answer.

The result is The Great Detective: a history of an idea, a biography of someone who never lived, a tour of the borderland between reality and fiction, and a joyful romp through the world Conan Doyle bequeathed us.

Through sparkling new readings of the original stories, Dundas unearths the inspirations behind Holmes and his indispensable companion, Dr. John Watson, and reveals how Conan Doyle's tales laid the groundwork for an infinitely remixable myth, kept alive over the decades by writers, actors, and readers. This investigation leads Dundas on travels into the heart of the Holmesian universe. The Great Detective transports us from New York City's Fifth Avenue and the boozy annual gathering of one of the world's oldest and most exclusive Sherlock Holmes fan societies; to a freezing Devon heath out of The Hound of the Baskervilles; to sunny Pasadena, where Dundas chats with the creators of the smash BBC series Sherlock and even finagles a cameo appearance by Benedict Cumberbatch himself. Along the way, Dundas discovers and celebrates the ingredients that have made Holmes go viral — then, now, and as long as the game’s afoot.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0544214048
  • ISBN-13: 978-0544214040
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds

Customer Reviews

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One person found this helpful.
 on October 5, 2015
By Teresa A. Gaebler
A must read for any true Sherlock Holmes fan. Beautifully (and to me most important) with a terrific sense of humor, Zach Dundas misses nothing while telling his tale, and who played the most popular Holmes on stage and screen. This is one book that I am keeping to read again and again!

Outstanding overview of Doyle, the Canon, and the world of Sherlockians from an excellent writer.

One person found this helpful.
 on July 4, 2015
By Stringcat3
Dundas, an excellent writer, gives an outstanding overview of Doyle, the Canon and the Sherlockian/Holmesian world. Fluid, humorous, intelligent, sometimes gossipy and always well-researched, Dundas dug up information I didn't know and provided fresh insights.

Absolute must read for my Sherlock fan!

One person found this helpful.
 on July 27, 2015
By James Goulding
Absolute must read for my Sherlock fan! Filled with fun facts, great interviews from a wide array of the people who make-up Sherlock lovers everywhere.

Way to go Zach Dundas

 on July 17, 2016
By Daryl Gadbow
A wonderful history of Sherlock Holmes and the endless lives the Great Detective has experienced over the years. I loved it.

Excellent in parts, worth a read for fans, skipped some of it though

One person found this helpful.
 on June 18, 2015
By Kratze
Still reading this, but nearly done. This book is clearly written by one of the world's most slavering Sherlock fans. His reverence and devotion to the topic shine through on every page. If you are NOT the type who is dying to belong to a Sherlock club, this might occasionally be a bit off-putting, but you cannot but agree that the man loves his subject. And he knows loads about it, I must say.

Four Stars

 on August 14, 2015
By John D. Wilson
Great overview of Sherlock Holmes and his legacy!

Incredibly detailed, beautifully organized and extremely amusing

13 people found this helpful.
 on March 28, 2015
By Trudie Barreras
Zach Dundas has done a masterful thoroughgoing survey of the many iterations of the Sherlock Holmes from Arthur Conan Doyle’s original inception at the end of the 19th century to the present. His writing is incredibly detailed, beautifully organized and – the biggest selling point – extremely amusing. He includes enough autobiographical material, detailing his pre-teen fascination with “The Great Detective”, to keep the narrative real and personal, not simply academic.

The Mythology of Holmes and Watson

One person found this helpful.
 on January 1, 2016
By Joe Muszynski
"The Great Detective" is one of the finest books I have ever read about mythology and how it works in the world today - even if it doesn't really directly address its subject in terms of myth. As a set of tales - which have spawned countless other tales - from which a set of readers examine the world and their own places within it, Holmes and his relationship with Watson are one of the widest spread mythologies of our time. Their countless reinventions in every media show how many people look to Holmes for, at least, enjoyment, and for those for whom it really is always 1895, a bit of guidance into how to be one's self in the modern world. There are perhaps no better culture heroes to do this with than Watson, and Holmes is close behind. Dundas - as many readers - was drawn into the Great Game as a young reader, which continues as a world in which much value can be found through the writing of this book. He examines why Holmes and Watson lived on after its own author moved on, and that is almost always due to a subject becoming a mythology. Entertaining, yet read it closely and you will begin to understand how stories are what we really live within.

Strongly well-written, surprisingly page-turning, perceptive and thought provoking. Loved it!

One person found this helpful.
 on November 13, 2015
By Robert Pater
First off, I'm a Sherlock aficionado. Well, not to the degree of some who join Irregulars and other societies or traipse about in full Victorian cosplay regalia to Holmes' conferences. But I read "the Canon" at 13 and since then have voraciously consumed so many pastiches (from entertaining to truly awful) that I'm almost (well maybe not fully) burned out on these. Second, I generally draw my line at Sherlock analyses, life and times, sexual/relationship assessments, was he or wasn't he just about anything. But there was something about this book that drew me. And I'm very glad it did. I write nonfiction articles in my field, one such book to my name and enjoy good writing. But Zach Dundas surpassed "good writing." His tell-a-story-to-a-friend-over-a-drink style in The Great Detective was tasty, insightful and enlightening. Between the stories and anecdotes and sidelights, I learned a lot - about myself and my preferences as well as about this seminal world-renowned persona/archetype. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended to anyone interested in being entertained or further exploring the allure of the great Mr. Holmes.

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