On January 1st, 1881, Dr. John H. Watson, a recently returned wounded veteran from Afghanistan, happened to mention to an old acquaintance that he was in need of new lodgings, having recently realized that he could no long afford to keep living in a hotel in the Strand on his wound pension of eleven shillings and sixpence per day. His acquaintance, Stamford, mentioned that he’d heard someone else mention upon that very day a desire for comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. Intrigued, Watson agreed to accompany Stamford to the lab at Barts hospital to meet this person. Of course, it turned out to be Sherlock Holmes, and the rest is history.
Thus begins one of the most famous friendships ever. When one considers Holmes, so many things spring to mind – the deerstalker, (now a solid part of the tradition, even if finding it mentioned in the original narratives is a stretch,), the pipe, the deductions, the famous profile, and that phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” – again, not found in the original stories, but unforgettably suggestive, nonetheless.
And one of those things most associated with Holmes and Watson is that famous address, 221b Baker Street. It was there that Holmes and Watson agreed to share rooms in early 1881 – initially something of a convenience, as Holmes undoubtedly believed that he had no need for assistance in his work, and Watson was simply hoping for someplace quiet and affordable to recover his shattered health.
But before too many months had passed, Watson became curious about his fellow lodger, and Holmes chose to reveal that he was, in fact, a Consulting Detective. On that same morning, he invited Watson to accompany him upon a murder investigation, and their destiny was fixed into place.
Since then, the Baker Street rooms have been as much a part of the Holmes legend as the deerstalker or the pipe. But what many casual fans forget is that Holmes was living somewhere else before he was introduced to Watson, and before he was able to share the expenses of moving to those comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. Holmes himself gives us just a glimpse of those earlier digs, in Montague Street, “just round the corner from the British Museum”. It was here, he tells us in “The Musgrave Ritual”, that he first lived when he came up to London to set about learning what he would need to know to be the world’s first Consulting Detective, “filling in [his] too abundant leisure time by studying all those branches of science that might make [him] more efficient”
Many people, thinking that Holmes and Watson are simple characters in stories, forget that they both had childhoods and old age. Before Holmes became the legendary person that is now known the world over, he spent an apprenticeship of his own devising, learning of crimes and methods of detection to solve them. He labored to perfect those skills that he would need to accomplish his goals – specialized knowledge of the sciences, such as chemistry; the art of disguise, by way of a period in the world of acting; and refinement of his deductive skills, allowing him to see the vast majority of the facts at a glance in a way that was beyond most men. Later, he would be respected the world over, and greatly influence the methods of Scotland Yard and other police forces around the globe – but there first had to be a period when he earned their trust, and learned for himself which ways would and would not work.
Those days Before Baker Street helped make the hero that is so widely admired today. And while there have been other tales that have explored this portion of Holmes’s life, there can certainly never be enough. Thankfully, a new set of adventures specifically examining Holmes’s life Before Baker Street is now available.
Sherlock Holmes: Before Baker Street contains eleven new Holmes stories, ranging from 1862, when Holmes is eight years old, to just hours before his January 1881 meeting with Dr. Watson in the laboratory at Barts. These pre-Baker Street stories aren’t about some completely different Holmes – readers won’t find out that he’s actually a wizard, or a Vulcan accidentally stranded on Earth in the past, or some sort of bitter and secret offspring of Professor Moriarty. This is the Holmes that is our hero - just younger.
Some of today’s best Sherlockian authors have gathered together to bring greater insight into this important part of Holmes’s life, when he was still quite unknown and somewhat inexperienced, and not yet the knowledgeable and world-famous Holmes that would later state, “There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if you can’t unravel the thousand-and-first.” This was the period of time when Holmes was accumulating those thousand details at his finger ends.
The book contains the following newly discovered tales:
• The Adventure of the Bloody Roses by Jayantika Ganguly
• The Vingt-un Confession by Derrick Belanger
• The Affair of the Aluminium Crutch by S. Subramanian
• The Adventure of the Dead Ringer by Robert Perret
• The Painting in the Parlour by David Marcum
• The Incident of the Absent Thieves by Arthur Hall
• The Devil of the Deverills by S.F. Bennett
• Mr. Chen’s Lesson, or A Man of Honor by Derrick Belanger
• The Adventure of the Amateur Emigrant by Daniel D. Victor
• A Day at the Races by Mark Mower
• The Strange Case of the Necropolis Railway by Geri Schear
Additionally, there is a foreword by noted Sherlockian Steven Rothman, BSI, editor of The Baker Street Journal, and also two additional stories from Watson’s original literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” and “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual”, the only writings in the original Canon that give details about Holmes’s life Before Baker Street.
The book, from Belanger Books, is currently available on Kickstarter, and information can be found at:
I’m very proud to have been involved with this volume, both as the editor and as a contributor, and I highly recommend it to friends of Sherlock Holmes, either on a deep or casual level. There can never be enough stories about the TRUE Sherlock Holmes, and these will happily help to support that requirement. Enjoy!