One of the inspirations for Atticus Priest is Sherlock Holmes, the quintessential flawed detective. I’ve loved Sherlock for years, since I was a child, and I got my hands on a second-hand omnibus of all of the short stories, and then, another omnibus containing the four longer stories – both books still sit proudly on my bookshelves.
Reading those stories really fired my imagination, not least because the impression I had of the character from the various old black and white films that I would occasionally happen upon was very much at odds with the character in the stories. Those old films often portrayed Holmes as being almost infallible, with Watson bumbling along behind him, spluttering incredulously at whatever deduction Holmes came up with.
The stories offer a much richer character than that – Holmes is a genius, but massively flawed. He is rude, mercurial and unreliable. He has no patience and often little empathy, and struggles with his demons, not least his drug addiction. Watson is by no means an idiot either – hugely capable, brave and loyal, and even deferred to by Holmes in some rare areas where he has the advantage of expertise or experience.
My love of the character was cemented by the definitive interpretation – the phenomenal British ITV adaptations of the stories from the 1980s. Whenever I think of Holmes, I think of Jeremy Brett, with his manic, angular performance, not only perfectly bringing those old Strand illustrations to life, but embodying Holmes, warts and all.
If you haven’t seen these, then I strongly recommend you seek them out – the producers very wisely made the decision that Conan Doyle might have a pretty good idea what works as a story, and don’t find any reason to deviate from the text too much. There’s no point being slavish for slavishness sake, and that decision was a wise one.
I hope Atticus proves to be as interesting a character as Sherlock. The longevity would also be nice…