Friday, November 25, 2011

Beastly Manners -- The Hound of the Baskervilles

I'm going to begin this post with a mild spoiler. But I'm sure this whole post will be just full of spoilers.

I personally was annoyed, when I read Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" and found out the identity of the two ladies' murderers. The murderer was a beast. At the same time, there was something very comic-booky about it that I liked a lot.

Like in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book Hound of the Baskervilles depends on a beast to commit the murder which serves as the starting-point for the book. But whereas the man who "owns" the beast in Poe's story is not in control of the beast -- in fact, he's just as afraid of the beast as the women being murdered -- there is a bit more of an element of control in Doyle's story.

Poe's story, in my opinion, is also not much of a story, whereas Doyle's story is more of a story. By that I mean what I suppose most people as shallow as I mean -- there's not a lot of real action. In fact, Poe's Auguste Dupin stories, which are said to be the beginning of the detective novel genre, don't seem to be much like stories at all. Rather, a murder occurs, the details are all laid out, and there either is or -- in "The Case of Marie Roget" -- isn't a resolution.

But in Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles, there is a story, a dramatic through-line, I guess I mean: plenty to hold a person's interest. And there's plenty of action.

But what also interests me about Poe's stories and Doyle's Hound of the Baskervilles is that they begin in somewhat the same style: the detective has to kind of show off his skills by using his assistant as something of a foil. This shows the audience that the detective is really a smart guy, I guess. But it also, I think, must put the audience in the mood for thinking a little bit outside of day-to-day life and logic in order to participate in solving the mystery.

In Poe's story, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," the story is told from the viewpoint of the assistant-character, who is more of a benefactor to Poe's detective, Auguste Dupin, than an assistant. But I can't remember the name of this assistant character off-hand. The story actually begins, I think, with the man discussing how he met Dupin. But it then moves into Dupin doing a little detective work at the assistant-character's expense.

The detective Dupin has watched the assistant-character's reactions to some bit of jostling on the street, followed by the man's eye movements to the ground and up to the sky. As Dupin watches the man react to various pieces of scenery, and possibly make some kind of body gestures as well, Dupin deduces that the man is thinking about a play the two men had seen the previous night, and of the physical deficiencies of one of the main characters.

This bit of deduction by Dupin, based on nothing more than the glances of the assistant-character and his body gestures, amazes the man almost as much as if Dupin had actually read his mind. And, I suppose, the audience is also supposed to be amazed to the same degree. But to me it seems to require a whole lot of leaps of faith -- and not for much purpose. I don't find Dupin's deduction very interesting, anyway.

This piece of showmanship is often used at the beginning of the Sherlock Holmes stories, often at the expense of Holmes' assistant, Dr. Watson. Like in the Auguste Dupin stories, the Holmes stories are told from the point of view of Dr. Watson. So we, as the audience, can experience Dr. Watson's amazement with Holmes' deductions along with Watson.

The difference is that in the Sherlock Holmes stories, even if the deductions are "elementary" as opposed to being huge stretches, they're often practical and fun.

The showmanship at the beginning of Hound of the Baskervilles is also very interesting because Dr. Watson is first charged with making the deduction. A person has visited the house on Baker Street, where Watson and Holmes live. He's left after not receiving an answer from Holmes or Watson. But he's left his walking-stick at the Baker Street house.

Watson is asked by Holmes to deduce who the owner of the walking-stick could be, given certain characteristics of the thing. After Watson has made a full round of observations, Holmes appears to be very pleased with Watson. But, it turns out -- Watson has basically made all the wrong deductions!

As Holmes puts everything right regarding the deductions that should properly be made based on the characteristics of the cane, the owner of the cane shows up, confirming everything Holmes has said.

The owner of the cane is a Dr. Mortimer, who once practiced medicine at Charing Cross Hospital, but, having gotten married, has moved to the country to practice. Dr. Mortimer has moved up into the north of England, to an area called Dartmoor. He lives out on the moors -- an area partly desolate with craggy, grey rocks, and partly imposing with sinking, muddy mire.

The neighborhood of Dartmoor is really small. There are only a few households of any consequence, and only a couple of intellectually interesting people. There are Mr. Stapleton, the naturalist, Mr. Falkland, an eccentric lawyer, Mr. Baskerville, a wealthy landowner, and Dr. Mortimer himself.

Only -- Baskerville has died. Dr. Mortimer explains the details by showing Holmes and Watson a couple of documents. One is an old paper discussing the curse of the Baskervilles. There was one extremely vicious Baskerville, generations ago, who had brought down on himself and all his descendants, apparently, the curse of a hell-hound. This Baskerville had actually been killed by something like a hell-hound.

Now, only recently, as Dr. Mortimer illustrates to Holmes and Watson by another document, the most recent Baskerville has been killed, also, according to Dr. Mortimer, by something very much like a hell-hound. Dr. Mortimer doesn't want to believe that the murder was actually committed by some supernatural being such as a hell-hound.

But Dr. Mortimer really doesn't know how the murder could have been committed. What's more, the new tenant of the Baskerville residence, a young man named Henry, who's been living in America, is arriving in London today to be taken to Dartmoor by Dr. Mortimer. Dr. Mortimer wants to know what's going on so he can protect the Sir Henry Baskerville. So Mortimer enlists the help of England's greatest practical mind, Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes needs time to think over the case. So he asks Mortimer to come back the next day, along with Henry. Mortimer agrees. The next day Henry and Mortimer arrive. Holmes, at Mortimer's request, doesn't discuss the curse of the hell-hound.

But Henry already has a foreboding of evil. He's received an anonymous letter, made by pasting words from a newspaper to a blank piece of paper. The letter tells Henry not to come up to Baskerville Hall because his life is in danger. In addition, Henry, after spending one night at his hotel, has found himself missing one boot of a brand new pair he'd bought!

After this discussion, Henry and Mortimer leave Baker Street (I can't remember why -- they may have to make some kind of arrangements for something). Holmes and Watson follow Henry and Mortimer back into the heart of London. But Holmes and Watson, keeping their distance, notice that Henry and Mortimer are being followed by a man in a horse-drawn carriage!

Holmes dashes for the horse-drawn carriage. But it speeds up and escapes before Holmes can practically get into a carriage of his own. The only thing Holmes could make out about the man in the carriage was that he had a long beard with a square cut. Holmes assumes that the beard was fake.

After some investigation and some diversion (I think going to a picture gallery), Holmes and Watson -- I think -- go back home. They investigate the man who had been driving the horse-drawn carriage that had been following Henry and Mortimer. But they don't get much information out of him.

The next morning, Holmes and Watson meet Henry and Mortimer at their hotel. Henry's brand new boot is still missing. But Henry is also missing one of his old boots as well, now! Henry seems to be really upset. But then he finds his new boot in a place where he was sure he'd looked for it a few times.

Holmes is interested in Henry's case. But he says he can't investigate it -- he's dealing with a very important case in London. So he has to stay here. Instead -- Holmes sends Watson up to Baskerville Hall, Dartmoor, with Mortimer and Henry. The next day Watson, Henry, and Mortimer all head up to the north of England, to the desolate moors of Dartmoor.

Watson is charged with sticking close to Henry whenever Henry leaves Baskerville Hall. But he also has to do investigations of the people in Dartmoor, and send his accounts of his investigations to Holmes in letters.

Watson generally conducts these investigations by himself, while Henry is busy taking care of the accounts left to him by the previous Baskerville. Baskerville Hall is something of a center of funds for Dartmoor. Dartmoor has become dependent on the wealth of Baskerville Hall for its subsistence.

So Watson heads out to the neigborhood of the moor to meet the various people here. Everybody lives pretty separated from everybody else. Dr. Mortimer seems to live quite a distance away.

A Mr. Falkland, an eccentric lawyer who is always sueing everybody at Dartmoor for some infringement or another, also lives at a small distance. He would have plenty of money. But he wastes money on his legal cases, and so has found himself in tight conditions. To make money, he sits on his roof and uses a telescope to do some kind of work for some government agency -- but I can't remember what.

Another resident of the hall is a young naturalist named Stapleton. Watson crosses paths with Stapleton as Stapleton is running through the moors, trying to catch a rare and elusive butterfly in his net.

This would be, for most people, a dangerous occupation, as the moors -- even though in many places they look like regular meadows of grass -- are filled with muddy areas that are just as entrapping as quicksand. These areas could lead to a man's death. They often lead to the death of wayward horses or cattle. But Stapleton brags that he knows these areas better than anyone else, and that he can navigate the most dangerous portions of them.

Stapleton is thin, suave, charismatic (it's all telegraphed right there, in my opinion, and anybody interested only in the whodunity could probably just stop reading the book at that point). He invites Watson to his house, just a ways down the road. As Watson and Stapleton are talking, a terrible howling sound fills the air. Watson wonders what it is. Stapleton says that he doesn't know, but that all the villagers (of whom you don't actually see too many in the story) say it's the hell-hound that has killed the previous tenant of Baskerville Hall.

Watson goes to Stapleton's house and meets Miss Stapleton, who is introduced as Stapleton's sister. Stapleton, it is told, used to be run a boarding-school on the west, I believe, of England. But, Stapleton says, some kind of epidemic really affected the school, and so the school had to be shut down. Stapleton and his sister decided to move out to Dartmoor because of its quietness and remoteness, which Stapleton thought would help him study his science better.

Watson leaves Stapleton's house and walks down the road. Apparently, Stapleton's sister is just as much a master of navigating the dangerous mires of the moors, as well: for she has cut across one of the meadows to meet Watson further on down the path. Miss Stapleton warns Watson against the curse of the Baskervilles. Watson tells Miss Stapleton that if she likes, she can come meet Henry Baskerville himself at Baskerville Hall.

So Stapleton and Miss Stapleton go to Baskerville Hall for dinner one night. Henry falls in love with Miss Stapleton. But Miss Stapleton seems only concerned with getting Henry out of Dartmoor and back to safety. Nevertheless -- and much against Watson's better wishes -- Henry and Miss Stapleton start taking opportunities to go out walking by themselves.

Watson manages to spy on Henry and Miss Stapleton on one of these occasions. On this occasion, which Watson watches from a nearby promontory, Henry finally makes romantic advances toward Miss Stapleton. But Stapleton intervenes. He pulls Miss Stapleton away violently. He seems tremendously angry at both Henry and Miss Stapleton.

Later on Stapleton justifies his anger by saying he's always been extremely attached to his sister. However, he will approve of Henry's love for Miss Stapleton as long as Henry can keep from mentioning or acting on his love for Miss Stapleton for the next three months, to help Stapleton get accommodated to the fact of Henry's love for the woman. Henry agrees to this proposition.

In the meantime, the two servants at Baskerville Hall, a Mr. and Mrs. Barrymore, are posing a mystery of their own. Watson has seen Mr. Barrymore approach a window late at night. He waves a lantern in front of the window and then lets out a kind of haunted moan.

Watson doesn't know what this is all about. But it turns out that Henry has also heard the strange noises made by the servant in the hallway late at night. So Watson and Henry decide to find out what Barrymore is doing at the window.

It turns out that, just before Henry arrived at Baskerville Hall -- but after the previous tenant had been murdered -- a murderous convict had escaped from a nearby prison. This convict, it turns out, is Mrs. Barrymore's little brother.

The convict is hiding in the craggy hills of Dartmoor, evading the police, for a couple of weeks. He plans to take a steamship to South America when it leaves. But he has to wait to leave Dartmoor until right before the ship is ready to leave.

In the meantime, Barrymore, at Mrs. Barrymore's request, has been bringing out food for the convict at night. The light before the window is a signal to the convict regarding where to go for his food. Barrymore's groan, obviously, is his detestation for having to be a part of the whole scenario at all.

Watson and Henry decide to see how much of Barrymore's story is true. So they decide on this night to take the food out to the convict. But the convict gets startled by the two men and makes a mad dash away from them. Watson and Henry can't keep up.

But when Watson and Henry are walking out of the craggy hills and back to Baskerville Hall, they see a completely different figure standing up in the full circle of the moon atop one of the hills. Who this man is is a complete mystery to them.

Barrymore and Henry have an argument the next day. Henry wants to talk to the police about the convict. But Barrymore and Mrs. Barrymore win Henry over to their side. In exchange for having hurt Barrymore's feelings, Henry is convinced by Barrymore -- I think -- to give Barrymore some of his old wardrobe, as Henry has just bought a new wardrobe.

Not long after this -- I can't remember how it happened, now -- but either Henry or Watson retrieved a half-burnt piece of paper from a chimney in the study at Baskerville Hall. The paper had been intended for complete destruction. It appeared to be addressed to the murdered Baskerville. It had been, apparently, from a lady. And it directed the Baskerville to meet the lady at an appointed time and place -- very nearly the time and place where the man had been murdered!

The initials of the lady who had written the letter were L.L. The only L.L. known in the area was a Laura Lyons, in a neighboring town. So Watson goes to the neighboring town and interviews Laura Lyons.

Mrs. Lyons is actually the estranged daughter of the eccentric lawyer Mr. Falkland. A while back, an impulsive poet came up to the north of England. Laura Lyons caught the poet's eye. The poet married Laura but then up and left her. Mrs. Lyons had been trying for some time to get a divorce from the poet, Mr. Lyons. Laura's father wouldn't help her.

Eventually, Mrs. Lyons says, Mr. Stapleton suggested that the previous Baskerville be enlisted to help Laura get her divorce. After all, Baskerville Hall was a source of funds and, often, counsel for Dartmoor's residents. So Mrs. Lyons went along with Mr. Stapleton's suggestion. Stapleton said he'd help.

Stapleton finally came to Mrs. Lyons one night and urged her to have the previous Baskerville meet her on the very night on which he'd ended up being murdered. But Mrs. Lyons insisted she didn't know anything else about the whole situation.

Watson asks Mrs. Lyons if she'd talk about this with anybody. But she won't. She finds the whole matter shameful. And, besides, she won't talk about it at all if it would do anything to compromise Stapleton's standing. And it would. Already she looks suspect -- she'd written a note to Baskerville to get him to come out. But if anybody knew it was at Stapleton's bidding, Stapleton would look suspect as well.

Watson can't understand Mrs. Lyons' allegiance to Stapleton. But Watson, to see what else he could come to understand about the character of Mrs. Lyons, goes to visit Mrs. Lyons' estranged father, Mr. Falkland.

Mr. Falkland, upon meeting Watson, is worked up about some case he's involved with. Somehow the police were against him -- I can't remember how. But Mr. Falkland brags that if the police won't help him, he won't help the police. He confides in Watson that he knows where the convict is.

Watson is terribly frightened at this prospect. He assumes it could get Henry and even himself in trouble. They've just decided not to say anything to the police. That's basically the same thing as aiding a crime. And if the convict gets caught, would he give everything away?

But Watson keeps his cool and lets Mr. Falkland tell his story. As Falkland tells his story, he actually, looking out the window, sees a figure dotting the hills. Excited to show Watson the convict, Falkland pulls out his telescope and lets Watson use it. What Watson sees is actually a young boy carrying a knapsack of goods up to a stone hut on one of the hills.

Watson assumes this child isn't carrying the food to the convict -- the Barrymores do that. He assumes the food is being carried to the mysterious figure he and Henry had seen on the night they'd chased the convict.

So Watson makes some excuse and leaves Falkland to go back to working on his law cases. He rushes out to the hills, to where he'd seen the child. He works his way through the hills, to the stone hut to which he'd assumed the child had delivered the food. He actually finds the foods, still wrapped up in the knapsack. Along with the food in the knapsack is a message: "Watson has gone to visit L.L."

Watson realizes that this mysterious figure has been following him! He suddenly hears the steps of the mysterious person returning to the hut. Watson has a gun with him. He draws his gun and prepares to meet --

None other than Sherlock Holmes!

Holmes explains that he'd been conducting his own investigations in parallel with Watson, though in secret. He used the other investigation as a front, so nobody would suspect that he was here. He had received all of Watson's reports, which he'd found useful as a supplement to his own investigations.

Holmes is now certain that the person guilty of the murder of the previous tenant of Baskerville Hall was -- Stapleton. But he doesn't have enough evidence to go to trial yet. However, Holmes has a secret. Miss Stapleton isn't Stapleton's sister. She's Stapleton's wife. Holmes also guesses that Stapleton has fooled Mrs. Lyons into falling in love with him, making the need for getting the divorce even more urgent.

Holmes believes that if he can prove to Mrs. Lyons that Stapleton is actually married to Miss Stapleton, Mrs. Lyons, feeling betrayed, will willingly provide her witness against Stapleton. This -- and a trap Holmes hopes to lay for Stapleton -- should be enough evidence for a trial.

The sun is setting, and Holmes tells Watson to go back home and make sure Henry is doing alright. But just at that moment, the horrendous howl splits the air again -- the howl Stapleton had pointed out as belonging -- according to the villagers -- to the Hound of the Baskervilles, the murderous hell-hound. But Holmes and Watson also hear a man's scream!

Holmes and Watson run in the direction of the man's scream. They find, at the bottom of a cliff, a man in Henry Baskerville's clothes, dead from a jump from the top of the cliff. Watson and Holmes are sorely ashamed. They both figure they'd been in charge of protecting Henry. But the Hound of the Baskervilles had reached him, while they were both busy talking about the case. Now he's dead.

But as Holmes and Watson prepare to carry the body back to Baskerville Hall, they realize it isn't Henry at all. It's the convict! The convict had been given Henry's old clothes, which Henry had given Barrymore. The hell-hound -- whatever it was -- had been set on the convict because it had been mistaken for Henry.

Of no surprise to Watson and Holmes, Stapleton soon approaches the murder scene. Stapleton is surprised to see Holmes, who he'd though was in London, investigating a different mystery. But he's even more surprised to see a man who isn't Henry lying dead on the ground. Stapleton leaves the scene.

Holmes and Watson go back to Baskerville Hall to explain everything to Henry. Holmes expects that Henry will likely get an invitation to dinner from Stapleton. In fact, Henry says, he has just received one. Holmes tells Henry to go to the dinner. It's for the very next evening. In the meantime, Holmes and Watson pretend as if they are going back to London the next day.

The next day, Holmes and Watson both go investigating in secret. They go back to Mrs. Lyons' house and give her the proof, which Holmes had dug up by going through the records of old boarding-schools -- Stapleton said he'd run a boarding-school in the west of England. Mrs. Lyons, feeling betrayed, says that she certainly will testify, regardless of what it would do to Stapleton.

In the evening, Holmes and Watson, along with a police officer -- along to witness the scene of Stapleton's new crime in progress -- hide in the shadows outside while Henry is having dinners with the Stapletons.

I'll save the final details of the story for anybody who's interested. Needless to say, there is a chase, it does involve a hell-hound. And the hell-hound is quite scary.

There are some fun similarities between this detective novel and another detective novel I've recently read: The Robots of Dawn, by Isaac Asimov. The Robots of Dawn moves from the planet Earth to the planet Aurora. Earth is a land of underground caves and cities crammed full of people. Aurora, by contrast, is populated and designed such that the world, in general, looks almost empty -- but far too manicured to look uninhabited.

In The Robots of Dawn, the detective Lije Baley has to go from residence to residence, or from office building to office building, to interview one person at a time. As Baley interviews each person, he gets a whole new picture of the world he's visiting.

I think this technique is a kind of mainstay of science fiction. It's a part of all fiction, though. Fiction gives you something new. It -- doesn't necessarily have to teach you. But it's nice if it makes you feel like it takes you away to some new place. You learn something new because you've gone somewhere new. I think of this aspect of fiction as being like a "travelogue."

I don't think it's any surprise to people that science fiction, to some degree, sprung out of allegory, and especially out of utopian visions. One of the first science fiction works, William Morris' News from Nowhere, is a combination of science fiction and Utopia.

But The Robots of Dawn is part science fiction and part detective novel. And -- I think -- while science fiction explores new worlds, detective novels explore manners. Dashiell Hammett's book The Thin Man is a pretty good example of this. You get to know the manners of an upper class family through the investigation of a murder. Raymond Chandler's The Long Goodbye is even better as an exploration of the manners of a certain group of people.

Actually, I think Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe mystery The High Window is an even better example -- not because it's better written, but because the joint-work is all more obvious -- of how detective novels work to explore manners as well as mysteries.

A lot of times -- as in the case of The Hound of the Baskervilles -- it's pretty well telegraphed who the murderer is. What's more interesting is the drama surrounding the murder. What are the conditions that led to the murder? What are everybody's connections to each other? These kinds of things are often revealed to the detective at first through his interviews.

These interviews are almost painfully obvious in The Robots of Dawn -- where all Lije Baley can do is drive from place to place, like a travelling salesman, and learn new things about the situation from the people he talks to. They're almost as obvious in The High Window, where Marlowe has tons of lengthy conversations with the various family members of the father who'd fallen to his death from -- a high window.

What's nice about The Long Goodbye, though, is all the action that Marlowe goes through as he's doing his detective work. And there is a similar pattern of action in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The beginning of the story is a kind of moving away from Edgar Allan Poe's style of detective story, with the showmanship and the logical discussion of things. And as it goes farther on, the story becomes more of an exploration of manners in situ, according to the more modern tradition of detective stories, founded on, I guess, the allegory, utopia, and science fiction story.

But Doyle punctuates these interviews with action, drama, romance. Holmes chases the horse-drawn carriage through the London Street. Watson watches as Henry's advances toward Miss Stapleton are rebuffed violently by Stapleton. Watson and Henry take food out to the convict and are almost attacked -- only to find another mysterious figure peering down on them. Watson draws his gun on Sherlock Holmes unintentionally, then Holmes and Watson find a murdered man. Not to mention the great climactic scenes!

The story of The Hound of the Baskervilles isn't just the main mystery. If it were the main mystery, it could possibly make a pretty good short story, but not a novella. The real draw that keeps people reading is all the other stuff going on: the love story, the story of the convict, the quirky characters. And, of course, Watson is such a charming character, and so earnest about doing a good job on his own, that you root for him.

I think that Agatha Christie's book The Mirror Crack'd is a lovely outgrowth on this kind of story, in terms of the overall atmosphere and drama being what really draws people in. In that book, however, the drama is much more powerful, much more sinister, too, even though it's not about something as monstrous as a hell-hound.

Christie's book is about a quiet suburban town being developed in the 1960s. Instead of moving from a hustling, bustling London scene and into a quiet scene, like The Robots of Dawn and The Hound of the Baskervilles do, The Mirror Crack'd watches a new society being implanted on the older society -- watches as the quiet society is supplanted by a developing, hustling, bustling society.

Christie's detective, Jane Marple, also gleans her information about the society coming into her world through fashion and gossip magazines -- even though Marple eventually says that she mainly learns from those magazines that the lives of stars are very similar to the lives of average people.

This could, of course, also be said about Dartmoor. Dartmoor life isn't too far off from London life. And the different households in Dartmoor are representative of different households in London. The thing is, that they're all put into isolation -- isolation from each other, and isolation with each other. So one may really see how these various aspects of society interact with each other.

But, even though I am rather dull, I don't want to make it sound like I'm so dull that I think the portrait of manners is just a subject for detective novels. However -- if you look, for instance, through Dickens' book Bleak House, there's a kind of portrait of manners that is very similar to and yet different from the portrait of manners in a detective novel.

In my opinion, the characters of Dickens, though they are often in rather dire straits, are often also in situations where they have a lot of leisure time. This is very pronounced, in my opinion, in Bleak House. And I feel like a lot of novels, while they have that "travelogue" feel to them, base that "travelogue" feel on a sense of free time or vactation time or leisure time.

Detective novels make leisure time into a profession. So Watson isn't out in the country on a holiday. He's out in the country on an assignment. He's taking care of a job. All detectives may look like they have nothing but leisure time. But they're all out working.

And so I think the detective novel is a kind of singular way of exploring the manners of society while also not implying that free time is needed in order to do this. It's a kind of way of integrating the increasingly profession-driven element of society into literature.

There's an interesting section of The Hound of the Baskervilles, where Henry is told by Sherlock Holmes that he must trust Holmes, do whatever Holmes says, and not second-guess anything Holmes says he himself is going to do. Henry agrees to this. Holmes later tells Henry that he is going to leave Dartmoor and go back to London with Watson. Henry is immediately going to give up his trust in Holmes. Thankfully he doesn't, and the story is allowed to work its way to the climax.

This air of secrecy, of one character not knowing what the other character is doing or thinking, becomes more and more a part of the professional environment, especially in competitively capitalistic societies. The less people know about a project. Projects become compartmentalized, too -- and people don't "need" to know the other secret parts of the overall secret project.

Watson himself doesn't know what Holmes is doing. He doesn't know that Holmes is actually in Dartmoor. And, at first, when Holmes tells Henry he and Watson are going back to London, Watson genuinely believes Holmes. Holmes doesn't tell Watson otherwise, in fact, until the train leaves for London without Holmes and Watson on it.

There's a hierarchy of knowledge. Everybody in the situation is exploring the manners of their society in their own way. But only certain people know certain things. It's the part of the detective to know all the main secrets and to disclose only those necessary to disclose, and to work at discovering the secrets other people aren't willing to disclose.

This may just sound like a regular part of society in general, and may not have anything to do with being a phenomenon of an increasingly competitive, professional, and compartmentalized world-view. But I think if you look at this phenomenon in its full development, you'll see how it relates to professionalism very plainly.

The full development, in my opinion, would be the TV show Star Trek. In many of the episodes of Star Trek, Spock or Kirk will surprise the rest of the crew (and hopefully the TV-viewing audience) by making some decision that seems to assist evil. Or sometimes -- god, Spock seems to do it all the time -- Spock or Kirk will accept death penalty as a punishment for something instead of giving away all the information regarding something.

If you look at the hierarchy of Star Trek, it's basically an office in space. And I know that partly there's supposed to be a feeling of the ship being like a peaceful version of a military unit. But I think what mainly shows itself is that quality of the ship being like a big office in space.

And so, there are times when Kirk, as the boss, or Spock, as the second in command, has to carry out these secret projects. They can't tell anybody what's really going on. Sometimes Spock can't even tell Kirk, and sometimes Kirk can't even tell Spock. The holder of the most information has to carry out the project in complete secrecy. Once the project is completed, most of the information will be plain. And it can all be discussed.

So this is a really developed level the professional outlook. But it's also, apparently, exploring manners of society in some kind of allegorical form, like mystery on one level, might be supposed to do as well. After all, Star Trek is about a crew on a five-year mission to explore new worlds and so forth.

I guess the courtroom drama would be even more developed, and it would be a return to the detective novel style. But Star Trek obviously developed as a phenomoenon after the soap opera dramas that were, in a sense, the beginnings of courtroom dramas. So my ideas may not be fully clarified on that point -- or any point -- yet.