Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Detective

Posted by Matt Kuhns on Dec 31, 2012

All of the real-life great detectives I profiled in Brilliant Deduction have some sort of connection with their fictional counterparts’ world. Sometimes direct “crossovers” in person, sometimes inspiration for fictional analogues. And sometimes it’s hard to tell, as with the relationship between “Paddington” Pollaky and Sherlock Holmes, which I spend some time exploring in the book.

I suspect that the former was a part inspiration for the latter, though it’s possible that some or all of the associations between them are unintentional. I’m certain that’s the case with a couple of other fictional characters who, in one way or another, remind me of “the well-known Pollaky of Paddington Green.”

I’ll probably always think of Pollaky whenever I watch the magnificent Life and Death of Colonel Blimp from now on, in at least one scene; oddly enough, moreover, out of all the film’s memorable characters it’s the governess Edith who recalls Pollaky. An Englishwoman in Germany when the title character meets her, Edith explains that so far as she can discern she has only one real skill, that being an excellent command of the English language. As teaching English to English children would be “carrying coals to Newcastle,” she had elected to seek employment on the Continent where English fluency might command more of a premium. I don’t know why Pollaky made the opposite journey in his own youth, but I can’t help guessing that something of the same thinking may have played a role.

Pollaky had a good grasp of several languages, apparently, though unlike Edith it’s also a mystery as to which, precisely, was his native tongue. Which leads to one more, presumably unintentional fictional parallel: Toby Esterhase.

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