banned books

There's been a big upshot in interest in Sherlock Holmes ever since the novels entered the public domain. The BBC launched a popular television series which set that world on fire, and as an illustrator, I've had all sorts of requests for various “fan art” which I am happy to share. Sherlock Holmes has played an important role in the development of modern day forensics, but not without a controversial censoring which cited Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's anti-Mormon sentiments as the cause. All of which adds to his appeal so I thought it would be a perfect topic for discussion since I sell banned books on my website.

Sherlock Holmes, a fictional detective, was a scientist and the first to use forensics to solve a case. He used science combined with bullet trajectory, blood splatters, and fingerprints to catch criminals. In an era when heresay was all that was needed to convict criminals, Sherlock Holmes' forensic methods were revolutionary. Many techniques using the analysis of ashes, mud, and gunpowder appeared in Sherlock Holmes novels before they were used by law enforcement. For instance, Holmes is credited as a forefather of fingerprint analysis which was first mentioned in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's “The Sign of the Four,” written in 1890 more than a decade before Scotland Yard incorporated it.

Forensic science is a critical element of the criminal justice system. Forensic officers, such as the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, examine and analyze evidence from crime scenes to develop objective findings that can assist in investigations. They take photographs and physical measurements of the scene, identify and collect evidence, and maintain the proper chain of custody of evidence. With today's technology, DNA and other evidence can be stored for decades which can help convict criminals who have eluded law enforcement or it can be used to exonerate prisoners who were wrongfully convicted.

A bachelors degree in forensic science typically takes four years of study. Some police departments, however, accept candidates with a high school education and grant them on-the-job training which can take between six months to a year. Some departments may prefer a background in chemistry or biology to equip officers with laboratory skills. Many police departments require a degree and will expect the officer to have experience in police work or a related field such as intelligence gathering and analysis. It is clear Sherlock Holmes had a formal education. Holmes enthusiasts have debated for years about whether it was Oxford or Cambridge University, citing various 'clues' in the detective novels because the author does not specify where he went. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author, was himself a physician.

While the Sherlock Holmes novels have had many positive aspects for law enforcement, they have had their flaws as well. The Albemarle County School Board voted to remove Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's first Sherlock Holmes novel, “A Study in Scarlet” from its sixth grade reading list based on age appropriateness after a parent complained about its anti- Mormon sentiments. The father felt the novel was a bad first introduction of the religion to young readers. The story includes a flashback to 19th-century Utah, where a father and his daughter are rescued by Mormons on the premise that they would convert to the Mormon faith. There are numerous negative statements about that religion.


  • "Nothing would ever induce him to allow his daughter to wed a Mormon. Such a marriage he regarded as no marriage at all, but as a shame and a disgrace."
  • "The man who held out against the Church vanished away, and none knew whither he had gone or what had befallen him."
  • "The supply of adult women was running short ... fresh women appeared in the harems of the Elders – women who pined and wept, and bore upon their faces the traces of an unextinguishable horror".

When a book is controversial, banning the material is not the best solution. Books have so much to offer, and censorship silences the author entirely. Books are banned for many different reasons by many different groups of people; religion is just one topic. For instance the “Holy Bible” is banned in 52 countries because it is considered offensive to God. When you read a novel, you need to take the good parts with the bad and be open minded. Although the school board agreed to pull the book from the sixth-grade curriculum, members said they might introduce it in the high school curriculum and perhaps use the book to teach a lesson in forgiveness.

Now that the Sherlock Holmes novels are in the public domain and are hugely popular, his appeal makes it fun to design fan art and I hope to do more designs in the future. Whether you read the books for the controversy, or just because you love a good detective story, you don't want to see classics such as these get banned. As it turns out, there's a happy ending to this story. In 1923, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was invited to speak at the University of Utah during an American lecture tour.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

About the Author: Karen Strum is a Tampa Bay illustrator available for freelance projects. A unique cast of characters in her style can be designed for use in advertisements and materials for which you want something extra special. Karen's cartoons use retro imagery and vintage color palettes that add charm to every image she creates whether it is a comic, logo, diagram, book cover, or concept image. [Send an Email]


Sold Out