Book Review: Sherlock Chronicles

Steve Tribe

Sherlock Chronicles

Sherlock Chronicles

by Steve Tribe
Dey Street, 320 pp., $29.99

What chemistry of people, ideas, a moment of time converges to allow a specific story to impact a huge swath of the populace? Confronted with mysterious success, a fan has but two options: Enjoy the product without investigating process, or dive deep into the creation myth and hope that by better understanding how what you loved came to be, you can better cherish it.

Sherlock Chronicles is for those staunchly in the latter category. A book episode of How It's Made for the hit BBC detective drama, Chronicles slavishly follows the show's production process from pitch to the completion of its third and most recent season. For people like myself with only a piddling understanding of what goes on behind the scenes of a television show, the asides with various designers and crew members offer an intriguing look behind the curtain. Most engaging to me were the a-ha moments Tribe recounts: showrunners Moffat and Gatiss' modernization concept legitimized by the fact that Watson could still be a veteran from the war in Afghanistan as he was in the original stories, director Toby Haynes' encounter with a double-decker bus leading to the realization that the exterior of St. Bart's hospital was an ideal location for the Reichenbach Fall stunt, the choice of suit helping make Andrew Scott such a dapper and disturbing Moriarty.

There's little to discover about the people, however. All the interviewees are perfectly polite but rarely stray from their talking points. There's nary a page on Sherlock's oft-discussed homoeroticism (save Gatiss' distressingly flip comment on the show's willingness to play "the gay joke"), much less introspection into the inherent challenges of bringing an older work into a contemporary setting where social norms have greatly altered. This, coupled with a staid layout and the fact the photos included, while beautiful, are overwhelmingly stills from the episodes rather than candids, leaves the book with a clinical air. The best behind-the-scenes books leave the reader with a sense of intimacy with the creators. Not so here: A little too much like Watson, Tribe sees but does not observe the magic behind a show so many people have grown to love.

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