Monday, August 28, 2017

Nerve and Knowledge

This weekend, I attended my first Baker Street Irregulars event, Nerve and Knowledge II: Doctors, Medicine and the Sherlockian Canon, hosted by the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis.

As of Thursday night, I didn't have anyone to go with, and I was weighing the options of going to my first major Sherlockian event by myself, or skipping the thing entirely.  I was able to convince Joe Eckrich, founder of The Parallel Case of St. Louis, to go with me and I am so glad that we made the trip to Indiana on Saturday.

Being the book nerds that we are, we left my house in Edwardsville, IL early enough to allow us time to visit Black Dog Books in Zionsville, IN.  Let me tell you, if you are anywhere in the Indianapolis area, this is a bookstore you want to check out.  There is a shelf just for Sherlock Holmes books.  And we're not talking just pastiches.  If I could have afforded it, I would've walked out of there with an armful of Sherlockian scholarship.  But I live on a budget and my wife is quick to point that out when it comes to books.

Being somewhat deficient in planning skills, Joe and I didn't account for the time change between Illinois and Indiana, and ended up being late to dinner.  Whoops!  Bill Mason, a thoroughly delightful Tennessee Sherlockian visited with us for a while, but it was looking like Joe and I were going to be hanging out in a booth by ourselves.  But we weren't the only ones to be relegated to outside the main crowd.  Luckily, Court Brown of Art in the Blood also showed up after the main seating area had been filled and we got to share dinner with her.  This was my first interaction with someone at the event that involved the phrase, "I know you from Twitter!"  And happily, it wouldn't be the last.

After dinner, the entire group headed to the Indiana Medical History Museum for the night's program.  The Medical History Museum is part of the old Central State Hospital, built in 1895.  Stepping inside the building is like stepping back in time.  The program took place in the teaching amphitheater where autopsies were performed.  And other rooms in the building hold a variety of medical instruments and specimens from that time.  Including lots of samples of brains (My daughter was not impressed with this picture when I showed it to her the next day).

But the main event were the night's speakers.  The 70 or so members of the audience were treated to two great talks by Sherlockian medicos.  Carlina de la Cova spoke first about the use of anthropology in the canon.  She took us through the history of anthropology and phrenology in criminal work and why some people would be considered a hereditary criminal just by the shape of their skull (including Christopher Eccleston).  Her talk was titled "I Covet Your Skull," and for anyone familiar with The Hound of the Baskervilles, that line immediately strikes a familiar tone.  After writing my own novel about criminals, her attention to the description of Moriarty's heredity features and skull were especially interesting.

After a brief intermission where I was able to buy another book, this time a copy of Out of the Abyss from the BSI Press, it was time for that book's editor to speak.  Bob Katz gave an entertaining talk on Holmes' own knowledge of medical studies throughout the stories.  By highlighting the philosophy that it's not what's said but what is NOT said in the stories, he highlighted a instances from The Creeping Man, The Solitary Cyclist, The Lion's Mane, and The Blanched Soldier.  Using these inferences throughout Holmes' career, Bob argued that Holmes had studied medicine while at university.  Not only did Bob have to convince a room of Sherlockians that he could prove Holmes' collegiate studies, he also had to do so as the room darkened as night fell and only one overhead light worked!

The program wrapped up, and the crowd milled around and started to disperse.  I admit, I didn't want the night to end!  I had gone to Indianapolis to meet new Sherlockians and the night was young.  So when Steve Doyle suggested we head to a local restaurant to keep the night going, I was ecstatic.  A nice crowd of Sherlockians headed out including myself, Joe Eckrich, Leah and Brett Guinn, Bob Katz, Court Brown, Steve Doyle, Carlina de la Cova, and Mike and Mary Ann Whelan.  Of course we covered Sherlockian topics (like an upcoming BSI Manuscript that sounds phenomenal), but talk around the table covered all kinds of topics ranging from medical school stories to basketball arenas and social media.

At one point, I took a copy of The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street down to Steve, the publisher of The Baker Street Journal.  The next thing I know, Mike Whelan has pulled up a chair and the three of us are discussing the importance of Moriarty in the Holmes canon and why he is such a prominent character outside of the canon.

Less than 48 hours before this conversation, I was considering not going to the event.  I decided to go and ended up swapping canonical theories with the editor of the BSJ and the head of the BSI.  How could I have been thinking about not going to this event?  That was an insane thought!

In the end, the night wrapped up and everyone went the separate ways.  But travelling to meet with other Sherlockians was something I'm very glad that I did.  The Illustrious Clients and the BSI put on a great program, but the real highlight of the event was all of the people in attendance.  Sherlockians really are the best people.

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