Via Tengrain and By Hook or by Book, I learned that today was international Sherlock Holmes Day, celebrated on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday. We grew up with the collected Sherlock Holmes on one of the numerous bookshelves in the family home, and what a companion he's been- with his scientific approach to crime, his brilliant analytic mind, and his command of Bartitsu, Holmes never failed to supply a bit of mystery and derring-do, all wrapped up in a relatively quick read. Also, Watson's constant ejaculations were hilarious to a young me... if only Sir Arthur Conan Doyle could have known how the language would change.
Tengrain's post mentioned that, while the original Holmes stories are in the public domain, the character of Sherlock Holmes is still privately owned, necessitating permission to use. In the meantime, I've taken great pleasure in stories of the master detective battling cocaine addiction with Freud, matching wits with Dracula, and contending with Lovecraftian horrors. I've read pastiches in which a Holmes expy (WARNING: TV Tropes link, major time sink) solved crimes in a sorcery-infused alternate reality, and in which Holmes was on the trail of a Jack the Ripper and his dog. I discovered with great pleasure that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar has written Holmes-related novels.
Holmes and Watson are enduring characters, starring in stories which can be read as a light diversion in a single sitting, stories in which the readers are constantly amazed by the means in which the great detective deduces the solution to the crime. I think it's the relative brevity of the stories which has led to their longevity and ubiquity- they are a perfect intellectual snack, and once started, the entire anthology is read, in the same fashion that nobody intends to eat an entire bag of potato chips. I think I may have to revisit a Holmes original or two in the quiet watches of the night... with any luck, there will be some fog rolling in off the Hudson to provide the proper mood.