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Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The Hound of the Baskervilles

May 14, 2018

When I was four or five years old I somehow acquired a Ladybird Horror Classics edition of ‘The Hound of The Baskervilles’. This one in fact:

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If that cover, or the equally terrifying illustrations within weren’t enough to scare a young child, the book also came with a cassette. The “horror” theme of this publication continued with the introductory music – Mussorsky’s ‘Night on a Bare Mountain’ – and the reading, which managed to emphasise the most horrific passages with its tone of blank dread. Look, some kind soul has uploaded it to youtube, so you can hear what I mean. The passage from 3:50 onwards is particularly gruesome.

Naturally this was immediately my favourite book, and I would insist on listening to it at bedtime every night. This possibly led to a lifelong interest in spoken word recordings, a mortal fear of large dogs and a feeling of lingering injustice to the noble-sounding name of Stapleton

I hadn’t read the real book until this year and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it’s just as good as I feared it wouldn’t be. It’s easily the best of the Sherlock Holmes novels, from the way it starts out as a standard Holmes short story (with a very sinister undertone) to the way Sherlock spends half the book as essentially a ghost (remember that he was supposed to be dead in 1902), to the fantastically dramatic ending out on the Grimpen Mire.

Unfortunately as far as I’m aware nobody has apparently made a decent film version of the story. From this list the Peter Cushing version is ok, but messes with the story too much, the Peter Cook / Kenneth Williams version is a silly mess, the 2002 BBC version is a complete misfire, and the episode of Sherlock from 2012 is perhaps the weakest in that whole series. Nobody seems to have recreated that atmosphere, and nobody has made a dog as terrifying as the one on that audiobook. But there are quite a few I haven’t seen, so please let me know if there is a good one out there.

 

Here is the book on Amazon, here is the public domain text, and here is a free audiobook version on LibriVox, though as always I recommend this version read by Derek Jacobi.

From → 1902

One Comment
  1. Matthew White permalink

    I second everything you said about this book/cassette. I got it as a birthday present as a kid. It did exactly the same for me as it did you. The musical score was utterly haunting and threatening. To this day, it’s one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever heard – utterly emotive. It fits the story perfectly.

    The characters and sounds were amazing. The crows on the moors; Sir Hugo; etc., etc.

    Fantastic!

    Like

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