Sunday, January 7, 2018

About Being a Sherlockian: An Interview with Chris Redmond

Yesterday was the date generally recognized as Sherlock Holmes' birthday.  People all across the world celebrated in their own ways.  I was lucky enough to have breakfast and then lunch with two different groups of Sherlockians for very different purposes.  I can't imagine a better way to celebrate the Great Detective's birthday than spending time with other Sherlockians.

Steve and Rusty Mason of Dallas' scion society, The Crew of the Barque Lone Star, were passing through the St. Louis area on their way to the BSI Weekend in New York.  They had dinner Friday night with some members of The Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn and The Parallel Case of St. Louis, but I was unable to attend.  Luckily for me, they wanted to meet the next morning and we had a great time.  I'd never met either of these guys in person before, but I work with Steve on The Beacon Society and have communicated with him a lot.  After two and a half hours, we had to break up our little get together so they could get on the road, and I had my next appointment for the day.  I gave them a copy of The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, and they gave me copies of the two newest installments of Baker Street Elementary, as well as some authentic Texas beer.  I wish I could've spent more time with them.  Steve and Rusty are some great guys, and if the Dallas area Sherlockians are half as cool as them, there's a pretty great scion down there!

The second part of my day was meeting with other members of The Parallel Case of St. Louis, my home scion.  We are in the process of planning a Sherlockian event, and sat down to meet in person.  As the five of us hashed out ideas and made decisions, I had to take a second to pinch myself to realize how lucky I am to be part of this group.  While none of us at the table were fresh out of college, we were what I presume to be "young" by Sherlockian standards.  All of us have very different careers, from the opera to the library to the medical field, and we all have our own Sherlockian origin stories.  One member of the planning committee has been a part of The Parallel Case for over 20 years, while another just got into this in 2016.  But everyone at the table was working towards a common goal: to create an event that celebrates Sherlock Holmes and allows for Sherlockians to come together and meet new people.  Needless to say, I'm very excited not just about the people I'm working with, but the project we are working on.   I am hoping that we can announce our project by next month.  Stay tuned!

But all of this is just a lead up to this week's post.  My day with Dallas and St. Louis Sherlockians really drove home what a great, welcoming, and different community we are.  And there is a new book out that celebrates that.  Chris Redmond is one of our living treasures in Sherlockiana.  Not only is he knowledgeable and has an impressive output, but he is always welcoming to new members of our little hobby.  Chris has spent the last few years very active on Twitter openly discussing Sherlockiana with newcomers as well as editing two books about the Canon and Sherlockiana as a whole.  Both of these books (as well as a forthcoming third) include a mixture of old guard and fresh faces.  Chris was also the mastermind behind the internet's first big Sherlock Holmes site,  He has published too many books to mention here, but a quick Amazon search of his name will make your TBR list explode.

As I read Chris' latest collection, About Being a Sherlockian (which, full disclosure, I have an article in), I had so many questions about the curation of the project.  Chris was kind enough to answer my questions via email last week, and I am happy to share his insights with you now.

The newest anthology you've edited, About Being a Sherlockian, is about the different avenues that Sherlockiana takes in our daily lives.  What is your definition of a "Sherlockian"?

Well, a Sherlockian is somebody who’s seriously interested in Sherlock Holmes. Beyond that, I try to address this question somewhat in my Introduction to the new anthology, but really the whole book was created in an attempt to answer it.

How did you become a Sherlockian yourself?

Quite recently I’ve realized that I may have had my first exposure to Sherlock Holmes through the wonderful children’s book Freddy the Detective by Walter R. Brooks, of which I currently have three copies on my shelves. After that, I read the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was in my early teens, as so many people do, or at least did in my generation. Most of them grow out of it, but a lucky few never do, and that was me. I’ve been an active Sherlockian now since 1964.

What sparked this project into being?

About Being a Sherlockian is a successor to About Sixty, the anthology I produced last year with essays by 60 Sherlockians each championing one of the original 60 Canonical tales as “the best”. I had so much enjoyment out of that project, and the idea of a book by 60 diverse Sherlockian authors was so well received, that I was eager to do it again, and I thought it would be a compelling way to describe the breadth and diversity of Sherlockian life.

How did you choose the sixty participants and their topics for About Being a Sherlockian?

The new book includes 19 authors who also appeared in About Sixty, and 41 newcomers. I tried to cover as many different aspects of Sherlockiana as possible, so I looked for a collector or two, a society organizer or two, a librarian, a pastiche author, an actor, and so on. I also tried for diversity in age and geography, and a balance of the sexes. The majority of the authors, though not all, are people I know as friends, either in person or through online activity.

How did you choose to arrange the sixty essays in the book?

It took a while to think that through, but eventually I grouped them into five sections, with names evocative of the five books of canonical short stories: “The Advent of Sherlock Holmes” with an emphasis on how people first met Holmes and how they have grown in this community; “The Members”, mostly about Sherlockian societies; “The Retooling”, about new understandings of Sherlock Holmes and new ways of being a Sherlockian; “His Latest Bows”, about some individual variations and explorations; and “The Book-Case”, about Sherlockians as authors, readers, and traffickers in books.

I know all sixty essays are your favorite for different reasons, but are there some that stick out for particular reasons?

There’s such a variety that it’s impossible to rank them. This book has four essays by authors who are fairly well known outside just the Sherlockian world, and I was glad to get them involved early — they added credibility as the book took shape. But many of the other 56 pieces are gems too. Someone said this week that they were brought to tears twice reading the book, by the words of Mattias Boström and Tim Johnson, and I can understand why. I’m also proud to have included a memorable, flag-planting essay by Elinor Gray, an advocate of Holmes as “queer detective”; a touching reminiscence by John Sherwood about his experiences impersonating Holmes; and the wonderful “The Bones of Justice” by Carlina de la Cova.

You aren't a Sherlockian that lets the grass grow underneath him.  What projects are on the horizon for you?

There will be a third 60-author anthology next year, Sherlock Holmes Is Like, with essays comparing Sherlock Holmes to figures of history, mythology and literature, including Houdini, Robin Hood, Hamlet, Doctor Who, and Peter Pan. The authors will include many veterans of the first two collections, but about half of them will be newcomers.

No matter the subject matter, if Chris Redmond is behind the project.  You know it's going to be good!

1 comment:

  1. I was certainly moved to tears by the Bostrom and Johnson essays. I may have mentioned that in my post. These feelings go deep, and all of us who have followed the adventures of Sherlock Holmes most of our adult lives understand why.