Elementary, My Dear Watson!

July 6th, 2007 | Posted in General


I did the above image as part of a new collection of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s Sherlock Holmes stories on audiobook, performed by the incomparable David Ian Davies. The new collection will feature David’s unabridged readings of the entire Conan Doyle “canon” of 56 short stories and 4 novels. I’m a big fan of David’s work and am delighted to both participate with a little artwork and for playing a small part in the collection’s origins.

As I have said many times here, I listen to a lot of audiobooks when I am working in the studio. As I have also said before, I need to listen exclusively to books I am either very familiar with or have already read, so my attention can wander a bit if needed when working. Having read the Conan Doyle Holmes stories many times, the audio recording were a natural choice for listening material. The problem was finding all the stories on audiobook. There are about a million recorded versions of Holmes tales, but at least in download form there existed none that presented the entire canon, from “A Study in Scarlet” to “The Retired Colourman” in chronological order and performed by the same reader(s). It might sound like a small thing, but one gets used to a certain performance with respect to Holmes, Watson and the other players. Different actors perform those roles with different levels of effectiveness, sound levels and quality can vary widely and personal taste of course plays into it. It’s also preferential to hear the stories in the correct order and without any missing ones. They don’t often refer to one another or rely on chronological events, but they sometimes do and “the canon” is almost sacred in Sherlockian circles.

I downloaded several Holmes collections, but by far my favorites where “The Sherlock Holmes Collection” volumes read by David. They are (mostly) unabridged, the sound quality is excellent, but it is David’s performances that are the heart of the recordings. It is truly hard to believe these voices are all coming from one man. He effortlessly switches from one convincing accent to a completely different one, between male and female characters and the narration with seamless ease. The effect is that of a cast from a dramatization, and not that of a single reader. His Holmes is slightly high voiced, with precise enunciations and stresses that embody the superior nature and slight haughtiness of Holmes without the pompus arrogance that some readers give him. His supporting characters are equally convincing and pleasing. However for me it’s his portrayal of Watson that is my favorite. Reminiscent of Nigel Bruce‘s voice from the Basil Rathbone films, he does not make him into the bumbler that those movies sometimes did. David’s Watson is a capable man, fiercely loyal and genuinely taken with admiration for the keen intellect of his friend. His slightly gruff voice and accent lend Watson the air of the former soldier and man of medicine he is. The performaces are a delight.

My problem was that I could not get all the Holmes stories on audiobook from any performer or combination of performers. So upon visiting David’s website I found a contact e-mail and wrote him to both voice my admiration and ask why the collections were so unorganized. Some of the later ones in fact repeated the same stories from earlier volumes, and several contained pastiche tales not written by Conan Doyle at all!

David gratiuouslty wrote me back and we began a dialog as to the need for a full, complete, unabridged and chronological collection of the canon. I was glad to hear that Davis had, in fact, recorded the entire canon but had never offered it collected in such a way. I agreed to do a little art for the project.

I am happy to say that in a few days Audible.com will be featuring “One Voice Chronological: The Consumate Holmes Collections” in a series of volumes that will present the complete canon in unabridged recorded form. This goofy picture of Holmes will be part of the cover art.

I highly recommend it. Even the casual reader will be enthralled by the tales told by David’s mesmerizing voices.


  1. Trevour says:

    Very nice, Tom! How did you accomplish the ‘houndstooth’ patterns in the clothing?

  2. Scott says:

    Nice graphic! And I really agree with you with regard to getting the “taste” for an actor on an audiobook. For me, it’s like listening to a classical recording led by a certain conductor, then hearing another version by a different conductor. Although the quality of the two performances may be equal, I tend to have an affinity for the one that first made the emotional connection with me.

    I’ll definitely put a link to your blog as well as to the new recordings on my own, The Baker Street Blog. In addition, you might be interested to know that I have recently launched a Sherlock Holmes podcast, hosted by another member of the Baker Street Irregulars and yours truly. I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere can be found at http://www.ihearofsherlock.com.

    Thanks again for your devotion to the Master!

  3. Susigolfin says:

    Hello, congratulations for your magnific work. To me (i live in Argentina -and don’t speak English, sorry for the confused sentences) the memories of the “Old magazine Mad” are adorables, lovables and unforgettables. And now i see you, an “Mad-boy” drawing the Great Detective and this is excelent. Thank for sharing.
    A final request: where i can find other drawings or pictures of your Holmes-work?
    Greetings withj admiration, Susana, Buenos Aires, Republica Argentina. (ah, and thank to Mr. Scott Monty for the link too)


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