I just finished A Study in Scarlet, the first Sherlock Holmes episode. (I have obligated myself to finish the entire body of Sherlock Holmes....something every literate American is supposed to have done, but never actually has. I must confess I have several, to be obfuscatory, "discontinuities" in my classic literary repertoire, but I am making a sincere, conscious effort to atone). Be that as it may, I am astonished at the breadth of Sir Conan Doyle's writing. If you were dropped into the middle of the story, where the antagonist's background in the early Mormon days of Utah is regaled, you would have thought this was a Western novel by the likes of Louis L'amour or his peers. How that Victorian Englishman was able to capture the "vibes" of the American West is truly astonishing. His "western" writing was as convincingly American as it gets....and then he seemlessly switches to his English mode. I had to check to see if I was really in a Sherlock Holmes story.
Every time I feel I've reached another level of competence in my writing, I read something like this, and feel I have to start at the bottom rung again. It's humbling, humiliating, and just a little discouraging. I only have a couple of decades left to obtain greatness....I only pray that can happen before I'm totally senile!
If there's any consolation, it's that treasures like this are still waiting to be discovered. Doyle did it with a pen and paper...I have a lot more "cheats" available to me than he did.
I don't know if that should encourage me, or worry me.
Causes Eric Nichols Supports
Free Burma Rangers, Partners Ministries (Thailand), Literacy council of Alaska, Access Alaska.