Mystery writer speaks to English class


Writer and attourney Leslie Klinger speaks to members of Adam Levine’s English IV: Criminal Minds class about the Sherlock Holmes franchise and his passion for stories and their characters. Credit: Crystal Baik

Crystal Baik

Winner of the 2019 Edgar Award and 2015 Anthony Award Leslie Klinger spoke to the English IV: Criminal Minds class about his career studying Sherlock Holmes on Sept. 11. Klinger said he considers himself “the world’s first consulting Sherlockian,” a scholar of the fictional private detective Sherlock Holmes.

Klinger began the virtual session with a brief history about the intertwined lives of Sherlock Holmes, Holmes’s assistant John Watson and the author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Klinger said that though the characters in Doyle’s stories are fictitious, he views them as real, dynamic individuals.

“At [some] point in my talk, somebody raises their hand and says, ‘Excuse me, Professor Klinger, I’m confused,'” Klinger said. “‘Is Sherlock Holmes real or fictional?’ And my answer is always the same: ‘yes.'”

Klinger discusses his work in the Sherlock Holmes industry today

Klinger proceeded to discuss the empowering message behind the Laurie King series about Mary Russell, inspired by Sherlock Holmes. He also described his role as a technical advisor for the recent “Enola Holmes” film on Netflix, starring actress Millie Bobby Brown.

“I am really pleased to have been involved [with Enola Holmes] because it shows that a woman can be just as smart as Sherlock Holmes,” Klinger said. “I am also a big fan of the Laurie King series, in which Laurie records that Sherlock Holmes in retirement meets a woman named Mary Russell, and she is clearly just as smart and just as capable as Sherlock Holmes.”

Klinger said he has compiled an assortment of Sherlock Holmes materials, such as stories or comics, throughout his life.

“I have the Deadpool comic, in which he kills Sherlock Holmes,” Klinger said. “I am not quite a vacuum cleaner about things Sherlockian but pretty close. I have 400, maybe 600, Sherlock Holmes comics.”

Klinger also spoke about how Sherlock Holmes still appeals to the public today , around 130 years after the first stories were published.

“Part of it, to me, is the plasticity of Holmes,” Klinger said. “So right now, for example, there is a great Japanese manga show called ‘Miss Sherlock.’ These characters can be reshaped without losing their core identities. Conan Doyle and Watson were Victorian males, and that was the world they knew, and that’s what they wrote about. These characters have given us the opportunity to think about how these iconic characters might have changed and might have reacted to different worlds.”

Student shares her thoughts about the presentation

Valentina Gaxiola ’21 said she appreciated Klinger’s enthusiasm for the Sherlock Holmes franchise.

“I think it was really cool that our teacher was able to get in touch with someone who is so knowledgeable ,” Gaxiola said. “It was great to see how passionate he was and how he turned what he was passionate about into something he could pursue successfully, considering that he is also a practicing lawyer.”

English teacher Adam Levine said he reached out to Klinger as he prepared to teach Criminal Minds this year, hoping to give his seniors an opportunity to hear from crime writers and scholars firsthand.

“I’m glad he addressed the lore of Sherlock Holmes and the impact of this character on popular culture,” Levine said. “Mr. Klinger is a celebrity in the Sherlock Holmes community, and it was a real treat to hear a world-renowned scholar share his passion for his subject.”