One of the things that has always struck me about Le Prince: so many of his contemporaries, both real and fictional, have gone on to become such vivid and significant figures in popular culture that it is often hard to tell who was real and who wasn’t – Oscar Wilde; Jack the Ripper; Queen Victoria; Buffalo Bill; Annie Oakley, these and others have themselves appeared in so many plays, novels and films that they now appear to us as larger than life, a mix of fact and fiction, while characters such as Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are now so familiar that they are part of our collective imagination, part of our own lives, as if we somehow knew them.
The other thing that has always struck me about Le Prince: his story is the equal, in terms of drama, significance and narrative twist, of all of the above-mentioned figures, and that for over a century we have lost one of the great tales of our age.
And so, in honour of this lost narrative, this character who, like Holmes, Wilde and the Ripper, inhabits the borderlands between the real and the imagined, I have begun to contact Sherlock Holmes societies to tell them about The Shadow Traps and to see if the fictional Holmes might be brought out of retirement to help solve one last (real life) case.
The Red Circle of Washington, a Sherlock Holmes society across the Pond has very kindly agreed to mention The Shadow Traps in their up-coming newsletter, issues of which can be seen here: http://www.redcircledc.org/index.php?id=39 and The Sherlock Holmes Society of London may, I believe, be following suit. Perhaps this might be the start of a new exploration of aspects of the case of Louis Le Prince….
One caveat: while Le Prince’s great achievements and mysterious disappearance are a godsend to a writer, it becomes all too easy to forget that this is an incredibly sad story. There are so many unknowns and yet there are two things of which I am absolutely certain: Le Prince was brilliant, and he was loved. The thrill of the chase, the research and all the detective work makes it easy to forget that there were people left hurt and bereft because of the events of September 16th 1890.
And so, there is a challenge at the heart of the Traps: to tell the story of Le Prince and try and put him, finally, alongside those great Victorian legends we still adore; and at the same time, to pay proper tribute to a real person who went through such agonies in pursuit of the creation of film.
It’s not a challenge to shy away from however, and despite my caveat, all Sherlockians are cordially invited to acquaint themselves with the particulars of the case – and I remain on hand to offer up clues as we go along.
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