Sunday, February 17, 2019

We Must Cast Round for Another Scent (HOUN)

I wonder if Watson ever had writer's block?

He had such a wealth of material to choose from, did the choices ever seem too much for him?  All of that great content just waiting to be shared with your readers!  Imagine if you're Sherlock Holmes' biographer, and the public is waiting for your next story.  It had better be a good one!  Show the people how smart or brave the great detective is, Watson!

No pressure.

On a MUCH smaller scale, I found myself facing the same dilemma this week.  I've agreed to write a short story for an upcoming Sherlock Holmes book for kids being published by Belanger Books.  I also have a student who is contributing a story.  I've been focusing all of my time helping her polish her work and haven't started mine at all.

Procrastinate much?

So yesterday, I sat down to start.  Now, this story has to be engaging and suitable for elementary school children, so there are some parameters to work with right away.  I had originally thought to do something with animals.  But not a "little girl lost her puppy and Sherlock Holmes helps her find it" type of story.  Those have been done plenty.  I was going to do something with Charles Jamrach’s Exotic Menagerie, a real life museum that existed in Victorian London.  I had a faint outline in my head, but once I started reading up on the place, I quickly realized that there are a lot more possibilities there than for just a kids book.  Plus, I didn't want to get too technical, and that would've taken a lot of exposition up front.  A good way to lose your young audience.

For whatever reason, I wanted to build my story around a true event.  So after a quick perusal of events that happened in London in the 1890's, I'd come up with a few ideas:

The first international hockey match
Baseball being introduced to London (It is spring training time after all...)
The beginning of the Proms concerts
The Oxford and Cambridge boat race

I ended up settling on another topic completely and I feel like my story is off to a good start after one day.  (Except I haven't come up with an ending yet.  I probably should've done that first...)

But then my lack of a solid topic carried over into today's blog post.  Should I talk about my planned book purchases, new podcasts I'm enjoying, excitement about a trip to The Mysterious Bookshop, thoughts on diversity in Sherlockiana, hopes for the next Holmes in the Heartland weekend?  I flirted with all of these topics and may return to one or two of them in due time, but didn't feel up to it today.  So here I am, blogging about not having a topic.

And that brings me back to Watson.

I picture him in one of two ways, mostly: action sidekick to the great detective or prodigious writer scratching away at his desk.  There are plenty of other versions of Watson out there: ladies man, billiards player, Chinese pottery expert.  But tonight, I'm going to emulate another Watson: laconic reader.  I'm off to dip into my current read and know that even the best writers had to have their off days, so some schlub rambling on the internet is allowed to as well.

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Interesting Interview: Leslie Klinger

Leslie Klinger is the type of Sherlockian who is always working on some kind of project.  He has released SEVEN books in the past two years alone.  And these aren't flimsy volumes, either.  I got his "Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920's" as a Christmas present, and I nearly gave myself a hernia picking it up! 

His writing and research has covered everything from Dracula and Frankenstein to wrongfully accused prisoners.  In the next two months, he has "In the Shadow of Agatha Christie: Classic Crime Fiction by Forgotten Female Writers: 1850-1917" and "Ghost Stories: Classic Tales of Horror and Suspense."

But this is a Sherlockian blog, so let's talk about why Leslie Klinger is one of the big names in Sherlockiana.

More than a decade ago, Klinger took up the mantle of Sherlockian Annotator and put out "The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes," a three volume set that picked up where the seminal Baring-Gould anthology left off so many decades ago.  And if that weren't enough minutiae for us, he then turned around and produced The Sherlock Holmes Reference Library, which went into even more specific detail of the 60 stories and their apocrypha.  Klinger was also awarded the Morley-Montgomery Award at this year's BSI Dinner for his article "The Origins of Sherlock Holmes: Crime Fiction before Conan Doyle."

Needless to say, Leslie Klinger is a busy man.  So it's a huge pleasure for him to take time and answer questions for us this month.  Settle in for some thoughts on our hobby from one of the most prominent Sherlockians of the current age.

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
There’s no litmus test for Sherlockians. If you say you’re one, you are! It’s an attitude, not a skill set.

How did you become a Sherlockian?
I was hooked by William Baring-Gould’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes—the footnotes revealed the 60+ years of scholarship and also made clear that there was a universe of amateur scholars out there. I immediately subscribed to the Baker Street Journal and later, when I moved to L.A., joined a local scion society.

What is your favorite canonical story?
The Blue Carbuncle, a perfect blend of sentiment, brilliant deductions, and the warm friendship of the Great Detective and the Good Doctor.

Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
Among living Sherlockians, certainly Peter Blau has more stories than anyone else. I’m also taken by fresh and interesting perspectives—let me recommend my young friend Lucy Kiefer! But I am blessed with so many long-time friends among the BSI that it’s hard to single out just one: Fromkin, Rice, Burke, Cameron, Rozan, Faye, Peck, Margolin, Hobbs, Dahlinger, Katz, Kean, Rothman, Fusco, Homer, Dirda, three Rosenblatts, and especially Neil Gaiman, Laurie King and Mike Whelan—all very dear to me. I shudder to think whom I’ve omitted!

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
The scholarship, obviously. So many fascinating topics left to explore!

What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?
I’m especially interested in textual variations and the perplexing question of who made what changes. I’ve been privileged to read and write about many of the manuscripts and hope to explore more.

Your latest project, "Classic American Crime Fiction of the 1920's" is a treasure trove of the genre at it's beginnings. Did you find any trends in researching this that would interest Sherlockians in particular?
The annotations in that book are another demonstration, I hope, of the fruits of close reading. Quality books are mirrors of their times, and these 1920s classics are no exception. The treasures are in the details as well as the themes. Reading and re-reading the Canon always leads to fresh discoveries. Like “slow food,” slow reading is an entirely different experience than one’s first read of a story.

Another ongoing project you have is a series of books influenced by Sherlock Holmes Canon. The latest, "For the Sake of the Game," boasts a diverse list of authors. How do you recruit your writers for these books?
Lately, we’ve been turning away great writers who ask us if they can play in this particular sandbox! Recruiting has always been easy—Laurie and I ask our friends!

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?
You mean besides my own New Annotated Sherlock Holmes? I think the most overlooked book of scholarship is D. Martin Dakin’s A Sherlock Holmes Commentary. For more of my thoughts on this, see the pair of articles I did for the BSJ about the state of SH scholarship in 2002 and 2003. Another fine way to dive into the scholarship is the two-volume set that Laurie King and I co-edited for the BSI: The Grand Game: A Celebration of Sherlockian Scholarship.

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
I see no risk that the candle is dimming. The quantity and quality of SH scholarship continues unabated, and I’m thrilled to see a growth of interest among the younger generations of readers. Though we’re wrapping up a Golden Age (with the end of the Downey films and Sherlock and Elementary), I expect that many of those who joined the ranks of Sherlockians strictly because of the films or TV shows will stay and become the venerable senior Sherlockians leading future generations.