The Seven-Per-Cent Solution
April 24, 2020 11:18 AM - by Meyer, Nicholas - Subscribe

A Sherlock Holmes pastiche, and one of the best-selling novels of 1974, by author and Hollywood director/screenwriter Nicholas Meyer.

Wikipedia summary: "Published as a 'lost manuscript' of the late Dr. John H. Watson, the book recounts Holmes' recovery from cocaine addiction (with the help of Sigmund Freud) and his subsequent prevention of a European war through the unravelling of a sinister kidnapping plot."

"What a splendid book, what grand fun… A corking good read and a cracking good adventure that performs the delicious miracle of bringing back to life the greatest detective of them all." - Chicago Tribune

"A gem… Delightful reading for everyone." - The Wall Street Journal

Meyer adapted his novel into an apparently-not-very-faithful 1976 film starring Nicol Williamson as Holmes, Robert Duvall as Watson, Alan Arkin as Freud, Laurence Olivier as Moriarty, and Charles Gray as Mycroft Holmes (a role he would later reprise in Granada's Holmes TV series).

Nicholas Meyer previously on FanFare:
The View from the Bridge
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (3 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Had no idea this was a book by Meyer himself! Going to read it and check back in later.

Assuming there is any similarity in the plot, it exploits inconsistencies and Doyle's make-it-up-as-you-go-along approach to the original Holmes stories quite nicely. Most especially, there is absolutely no reference to Holmes' drug habit after his return from his supposed death, and of course the Moriarty stuff essentially comes out of nowhere and goes nowhere.
posted by mark k at 2:04 PM on April 24, 2020

I had no idea there was a movie; I read the book pretty young, after I’d read the canonical Holmes, and I recall enjoying it at the time.
posted by tautological at 11:59 AM on April 26, 2020

I finished the book this weekend, and from what I remember movie is quite faithful to it except for a couple changes in the second half (for the worse IMO.)

Meyer obviously really loves Holmes. He does a pretty good job recreating expository logic chains, and understands that Holmes was an athletic, jujitsu knowing detective who can handle an action scene.

The '70s was the high point for what Sydney Lumet called the "rubber ducky" school of screenwriting--explain some complex character by getting to some key moment in the past, as in someone getting their rubber ducky taken away and that's why they are a deranged killer. (MASH seemed to have a few episodes a season like this, explicitly involving a psychiatrist acting like a detective.) I've never like this, so I expected those parts of the Freud interactions to have aged very poorly, and was pleasantly surprised to see they didn't bother me at all. In the highly stylized world of Holmes "solving" his problems fits right in, artificial and unrealistic but satisfying nonetheless.

I alluded to the Holmes fandom community in my first comment, but having read the book Meyer makes it really explicit that he's acting as a Holmes fan. There was a massive corpus of Holmes "scholarship" , doing things like figuring out dates from matching phases of the moon, days of the week and tide tables to point out that Watson had clearly screwed up the timeline or Holmes was withholding something or whatever. It's like the most obsessive internet communities of today, but all with printed fanzines and newsletters (and back in pre-word processor days when those took more effort too.) All commentary was written with the conceit that Holmes and Watson were real people, which of course means the numerous inconsistencies needed to be explained, tongue usually quite firmly in cheek. (I wish modern fandoms that want to obsess about details to this level--and many do--would adopt this playful tone instead of a "gotcha" mode more often.)
posted by mark k at 8:53 AM on May 4, 2020 [1 favorite]

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