Pratik Basu is a prolific and published author who has worn several caps; cook, housekeeper, animal lover, cigar afficionado and most recently, CEO Buena Vista Television and FTV
Having spent my impressionable years in the stimulating company of the greatest fictional detectives ever conceived, held in thrall – often till late in the night, reading by torchlight under a cover so as
not to awaken my parents who had declared “Lights out” hours earlier – by the honed, observational skills and brilliant deductive reasoning of Sherlock Holmes or the meticulous methodology and psychological insight of Hercule Poirot, I have come to believe that some things are sacred and when they cease to be, their “good is oft interred with their bones” (as Mark Antony famously mouthed in Act 3 Scene 2 of the Bard’s Julius C and, with more such pithy observations, managed to turn the tables on the dagger-wielding Brutus – of “Et tu, Brute” fame – who had shown the early advantage). And that is as it should be, the memory of the good preserved with
Which is why this new, burgeoning trend of the estates (read “inheritors”) of the matchless legacies of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming and, the most blasphemous of all, even “PG,” commissioning (quite the appropriate word this, because the endeavour is nothing but crass commercial enterprise disguised as homage) contemporary writers to resurrect the creations of authors long dead, fills me, first, with anticipation, dread, soon after and, finally, deep dissatisfaction.
Take, for example, one such recent publication by an author who, for purposes of propriety and discretion, will remain nameless, that digs up Poirot from the grave that Christie consigned him to in Curtain and, quite literally, hangs him out to dry, brilliantined hair, waxed moustache and all. Touted as a publishing event to rival The Second Coming (which wasn’t a publishing event but quite momentous nonetheless), it is an abomination to readers like me who, having devoured the 33 novels and 54 short stories that comprise the original Poirot inheritance were rewarded for our loyalty by David Suchet’s pitch-perfect, 25-year, television portrayal of the Belgian detective with the egg-shaped head and character idiosyncrasies far too many to mention, not the least being an abhorrence for dust, a speck of which, according to his loyal, long-suffering companion, Captain Hastings, would have caused him more pain than a bullet wound!
In his exhumed incarnation, Poirot is almost unrecognizable: he is overbearing
The best fictional detectives – Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Jane Marple, Nero Wolfe, Jules Maigret, Peter Wimsey, Philip Marlowe, Sam Spade – have the ability not only to challenge our brain to solve a puzzle before they do but, by transporting us to the here and now of their situation, invoke our imagination to be at one with theirs, our eye for detail as sharp and our memories as accurate, thereby making the suspense of the whodunit more gripping, the puzzle more fascinating and the eventual solution more participative. To be able to do that requires a talent and originality of thought far greater than what a counterfeiter can reproduce however much of an official sanction he or she might have from the respective legacy holders.
Like sleeping dogs, dead detectives must be allowed to lie, their inheritance intact, undiluted and untainted.