The Game's Afoot: Walking as Practice in Sherlockian Literary Geographies

David McLaughlin


This article explores the relationship between readers’ embodied experiences in the world and the creative act of encountering fiction. In particular, it looks at three examples of Sherlock Holmes-inspired literary tourism. Their authors each use walking as a means of encountering the literary spaces of Arthur Conan Doyle’s texts and of deliberately adding to them, expanding the space of Holmes’s world beyond the page. By introducing the concept of ‘expansionary literary geography’, this article suggests that forms of embodied, worldly engagement with literature - whether derided as ‘literary fanship’ or celebrated as literary tourism - can also be forms of reading, acts of creative encounters with fiction, in their own right. Its argument proceeds through close readings of three Sherlockian texts - Arthur Axelrad’s On the Scent (1984), David Hammer’s A Dangerous Game (1997), and Richard Warner’s Guide Book and Instructions for the Ascent of Holmes Peak (1985). It is demonstrated that through the power of walking to combine embodied experience of the actual world with acts of memory and imagination, the three authors’ travels work to inscribe the Sherlock Holmes texts into the world. In this way, their walking and its representation become a form of both reading and writing, a physical experience of the unfolding of narrative in time and space, and a contribution to the imaginative expansion of Holmes’s world.


mobility; walking; expansionary; literary geography; literary tourism; Sherlock Holmes

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Copyright (c) 2016 David McLaughlin