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Interview with Aleš Kolodrubec

Interview with Aleš Kolodrubec

Sherlockian Holmesian

We like our next interviewee a lot, and we are glad that he honoured our site with agreeing to give an interview to us. Aleš Kolodrubec is the President of the Czech Sherlock Holmes Society. We had a Hungarian club and a Hungarian website, and he encouraged us to take the huge step and launch an English language site about Sherlock Holmes. This is our current site Since then he helped our work several times, and we'd like to say thank you for that. He is a VIP member of The Hungarian Sherlock Holmes Club. You can read the first part of the interview below.

Questions about the Great Detective

1. Which is your favourite Holmes story and why?

- Being a Bohemian, I should say A Scandal in Bohemia because of its connection with Bohemia, the woman... However I like other stories, too, and The Blue Carbuncle is on top of them because of its Christmas atmosphere. It has some spell of its own. And we use this story at our Society’s Advent gathering. Well, then there are of course “The Hound of the Baskervilles” – a gothic novel and a ‘real creeper’ – and The Speckled Band and... There are many really good ones among the lot!

2. Which story was the first you read/saw and when?

- First story, and heard (sic!), was “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. And thus the Hound and its howling introduced me to Mr. Sherlock Holmes. When I was six, just before starting my school attendance, my seven-years older cousin listened on Saturday evenings during summer to the broadcasting of a serialised adaptation of this great novel recorded by the then Czechoslovak Radio. Until nowadays I remember its signature tune – the terrifying howling of the Hound. “First read” was A Study in Scarlet and it happened two years later when I borrowed its Czech translation from my parent’s library. And my obsession had slowly begun...

It reminds me of the director of the above mentioned radio adaptation, Mr. Josef Červinka, who acted as a narrator as well as Dr. Watson, attended our Society’s first Annual Meeting in January 2001. He recounted how the howling had been recorded and some other details connected with adaptation.

3. Who is your favourite Sherlock actor and why?

- A hard question, I would say. Shall I start a list? Well, there are several quite good impersonations of Sherlock Holmes. Each reflecting the period. Jeremy Brett who performed the Great Detective in the Granada series between 1984 and 1994. His voice and his appearance were close to what Dr. Watson described in the Canon and Sidney Paget outlined in his illustrations for The Strand. He was an excellent actor, maybe sometimes too “explosive”. And before him there was Peter Cushing or also Douglas Wilmer with his perfect visage and aristocratic manners. I am glad I could be in correspondence with him for some time. He even planned to visit Prague and Bohemia. However, there were others, many of them possessing a trait or two worth of Sherlock Holmes. Years ago I was nicely surprised by Ronald Howard, as well as his sidekick Howard Marion-Crawford, playing in a 1954–55 series of Sherlock Holmes pastiches. And I should not also forget the great Sherlock Holmes played by Russian actor Vasily Livanov!

4. Which are the characteristics you like the most in the detective and why?

- His bohemian manners. And of course his wit, art of deduction, as well as art in the blood. Not forgetting his braveness, sense of justice, especially the higher one.

5. What have you learned from the adventures? What was the most useful?

- Ha ha! From Sherlock Holmes I have learned to smoke a pipe. (Only one, not three in fifty minutes ;-) ) I mean it, really. I was 15 when I bought my first pipe, and I am still a pipe-smoker until today. Also, I liked to carry out chemical experiments as he used to do, to the great joy of my mother I must admit. Not Mrs. Hudson’s in my case. Rather harmful effects of the Great Detective, aren’t they.

Nevertheless, thanks to Mr. Holmes I befriended a lot of wonder people around the world and met numerous interesting celebrities, artists, actors.

6. Which is your most and least liked adaptation, and why?

- Hard to say. We have for example several Czech theatrical adaptations of the Hound. Even one puppet play. And really an excellent one! But we have one rather terrible play, though it was (and still is) performed in an outstanding out-door settings of a castle park. Unfortunately, these versions are not known abroad. With the exception of the puppet one that was played for the participants of the September 2007 expedition of The Sherlock Holmes Society of London symptomatically named “Meet Me in Bohemia.”

And there is also excellent British version of the Hound starring Peter Cushing, for example.

However, I am not very happy with The Last Vampire (The Sussex Vampire adapted by Granada), for example.

7. There are countless Sherlock Holmes adaptations, books, movies, plays and so on. Do you think these come up to the oeuvre of Doyle?

- Yes, and no. Some are more or less faithfully following the Canon, as much as the used medium allows. Others are not. But even poor Doctor Doyle allowed William Gillette “to marry him, or murder or do what you (meaning Gillette) like with him.” Who can then judge! Producers, authors, film director should ask their conscience. Creators have their own ideas, approaches that not always fully meet conceptions of their audience.

8. There are lots of misconceptions about Holmes. With which you come across the most often?

- Misogyny, drug addiction and gayness, I should say.
(Recommended site: Misbelifes about Sherlock Holmes)

9. What Sherlock-related objects are in your possession?

- Oh, many things, too many being a collector and also a bit of a hoarder, I must admit. But not as much as John Bennett Shaw or Richard Lancelyn Green had. Also not in such an order as John had, not having space enough etc.

It is a long story. In 1970s I used to collect autographs, and pieces of graphic arts. When I decided to have commissioned an ex libris – a bookplate – I was considering its topic... and as I was more deeply attracted by Sherlock Holmes and his Canon... the result was obvious: It had to be a Holmesian / Sherlockian one. Thus, my Holmesian art collection started. Other ex libris’ were added during the time, one even for Irene Adler, as well as several illustrations used in Czech magazines and editions of the Canon, or just drawn for my collection.

In that time Mr. Rudolf Čechura, for several decades the only Czech member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London since 1967, brought me together with John Bennett Shaw and Peter Blau, with whom I started to correspond, too. And they introduced me into the Great Game.

Of course, there are many editions of the Canon in the Czech language, and also in foreign languages in my Holmesian library. Plus films on VHS cassettes or later on DVDs. Beside these, I have various memorabilia.

And I should mention I have leaves from the Copper Beeches, a steel poker bent by Dr. Roylott and then straightened by Holmes, a stub of a cigar smoked by Sherlock Holmes at the Goldini’s, a strange cardboard box filled with coarse salt (not mentioning its gruesome content), a black clay pipe...

10. What advice would you give young people who have only started to get acquainted with Holmes?

- To read, and depending on their age, start either with some abridged or comics versions, and/or original stories. To read, reflect and ask questions. And if they wish, they can join the Great Game and “play it as solemnly as a county cricket match at Lord's; the slightest touch of extravagance or burlesque ruins the atmosphere,” as Dorothy Leigh Sayers defined it.

However, it is also important not to forget to laugh, do not take oneself (and Holmes, too) too seriously.

When I read my first canonical story, it was A Study in Scarlet, it was a bit difficult reading for me. A year or two later, I got a collection of pastiches “Chemical Stories of Sherlock Holmes” written for young readers by a Polish author Wacław Gołembowicz. Combination of chemistry and Sherlock Holmes – that was a perfect connection for me at that time. And then I had returned to the original Canon.

11. What do you think, compared to Conan Doyle's original, how much had Sherlock's figure change in popular culture? And do you think all of these changes are needed in order to keep the character "fashionable"?

- Dear me! I have noticed serious changes nowadays. But as I live rather in 1895 then in the 21st century, it is a bit hard for me to answer. It’s rather a question for those who make those alterations, for me often “unfashionable”. Nevertheless, introducing Sherlock Holmes into the 21st century settings is an interesting idea. The whole question is worth a study.

PART 2: Questions about club life - Coming soon

Czech Sherlock Holmes Society Pin

We received a beautiful pins from Mr. Kolodrubec. Thank you very much.
Sherlock Holmes was drawn by the renowned graphic artist Petr Kopl.

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Keywords: Czech Sherlock Holmes Society, Aleš Kolodrubec, Bohemia, sherlockian,
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