Monday, May 28, 2018

For the First Time Our Eyes Rested Upon This Presentment

Book Riot recently celebrated celebrated Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday by dedicating the whole day's coverage to article relating to Holmes and his creator.  It's serendipious that they highlighted our interests this week, because one of their podcasts, All The Books, recently posed the question, If you could go back and reread one book for the first time, what would it be?

I've been wrestling with that question all week, because if I chose a Sherlock Holmes story, I don't know which one I'd pick.

I immediately thought of my favorite story, The Sign of Four.  I love this story!

Mary Morstan!

A locked room mystery!

The Baker Street Irregulars!


The great boat chase!


...Oh, and then a long backstory.  I remember how uninterested I was (and still am) in Jonathan Small's backstory.  Although SIGN is my favorite, I don't think it's the one to go back and reread for the first time.

Of course, some of the more popular stories jump out: Speckled Band, Scandal in Bohemia, and The Red Headed League.  But, I'm lucky enough to teach these stories to my fifth graders each year, so I get to see the revelations in these stories on their faces over and over.  I can always count on hearing things like, "What?  It's a snake!" or "Irene Adler is awesome!" every November.  (Plus watching how creeped out they are by Jephro Rucastle in Copper Beeches is always a delight.)  Seeing kids come upon great turns in these stories is its own kind of special delight, so I think the big three get a pass on this one, as well.

What about the introduction of Holmes' arch rival in The Final Problem?  

No.  Moriarty is overrated.

So, I think that leaves us with the other big name in the Canon, The Hound of the Baskervilles.  My very first Sherlock Holmes book was "Revenge of the Hound" by Michael Hardwick when I was in sixth grade.  I'd never read a Sherlock Holmes story before, but this had a cool cover and was in a Scholastic book order.  Twenty some odd years later, I found the same book in my mom's basement after I'd become a Sherlockian, so it already has the nostalgia factor working for it.

But when I finally read The Hound of the Baskervilles years and years after Hardwick's book, I was caught completely off guard.  What a fantastic novel!  I don't think I have to sell anyone that reads this blog on the merits of HOUN, but I will make a claim that I think it should be part of a high school literary curriculum.  Doyle is a master at setting the scene in his stories, and HOUN shows him at the top of his game.

So, my choice for the one book I could go back and read again for the first time would be Hound of the Baskervilles.  I would probably go into it just like I had before, thinking it was going to be Sherlock Holmes investigating a murderous ghost dog.  I would expect to all over again appreciate Watson's leading man role, be intrigued at the escaped convict subplot, be skeeved out by Stapleton and his odd behavior, and be on the edge of my seat for the climactic end.

Yes, Hound of the Baskervilles it is!  I may even go back and reread it again just for the hell of it.

So, what about you?  If you could go back and reread one Holmes story again for the very first time, what would it be?

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Arrange the Extracts in Their Order of Time

In a hobby like Sherlockiana, you can say you've been interested in it for more than a decade, and still be considered relatively new.  Because there's just so much out there! 

I swear, for every book I read, I add two more to my To Be Read list.  There are so many avenues to do deep dives into that can take months, if not years, before you could feel well-versed enough to offer an opinion on some topics. 

This probably isn't true for everyone, but I have an compulsion to know as much as I can about a topic that I am currently interested in.  And the most recent episode of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere made me come face-to-face with the mountain of Sherlockian research that I find interesting, but daunts me the most:


Episode 144 of IHOSE was a great interview with Vincent Wright, a deeply invested chronologist.  I got to meet Vincent all-to-briefly in Dayton earlier this year, and after listening to his interview this week just reinforced my feeling of "Hey, I need to get to know this guy better!" that I had after the Dayton Symposium. 

(Side note, Vincent graciously offered to be a speaker at Holmes in the Heartland, but we already had a full slate of speakers.  Talk about an embarrassment of riches!  Next year maybe....?)

Thinking about chronology is inescapable.  After reading the Canon over and over again for more than a decade, I've developed a few half-baked ideas of the chronological outline of theses stories, and as The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street followed Holmes and Watson from St. Bart's to Von Bork, I had to hitch my wagon to a given chronology as the outline for my book. 

At last month's Parallel Case of St. Louis meeting, we debated the date that William Baring-Gould had assigned to The Cardboard Box.  There are plenty of chronologies out there, and my guess is that most of us are familiar with at least a few of them.  Some of them are better than others, but none of them are slam dunks.  So it's easy for folks like me to sit on the sidelines and pick at their weak spots. 

But, as Scott, Burt and Vincent talked about the ins and outs of chronology, It became very clear to me just how much I didn't know.  And to be a good chronologist, you've got to know A LOT.

Chronology has always been interesting to me, but once I go over that cliff, I know I'm never coming back. 

Do you trust Watson's dating implicitly?  If so, how do you account for Watson dating Wisteria Lodge at 1892?  If that date is suspect, what else can be called into question?

Do you take into account the publication history of Watson's stories as Holmes references them?  Or was Holmes privy to Watson's writings before they were published in The Strand?

What's more important in dating the stories, the weather reports from London or train schedules? 

Can we trust that Holmes was EXACTLY sixty years old during His Last Bow?

How many times was Watson married?

Do we think that there was only one page boy at Baker Street, or was it a position filled by numerous people whom might not all have been named Billy?

See, this is a VERY slippery slope.  And these are just the questions I came up with as I sat down to write this post.  Who knows how far down the rabbit hole I could go if I allowed myself to.  As mentioned above, I'm a compulsive.  That's why I purposely keep chronology at arm's length.  Because I don't know if I'm ready to delve into that much madness.


Monday, May 14, 2018

It Would Be Time For Me To Announce

The day has finally arrived!  Registration for the first ever Holmes in the Heartland opened today and we want YOU to join us in St. Louis on August 10-12!

I've posted about the planning of the conference plenty, but let me just say, that the people putting this thing together are some of the most top notch Sherlockians out there.  Our goal is to create a conference that highlights the new St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection at the St. Louis Public Library while also creating an event that can bring Sherlockians of all stripes together for some scholarship and socialization. 

Friday night will celebrate our city of St. Louis with The Blues Carbuncle tour of the National Blues Museum and have some 221BBQ at Sugarfire Smokehouse.

Saturday is a day full of Sherlockian scholarship with talks from:
Tim Johnson
Bill Cochran
Tassy Hayden
Don Hobbs
Brad Keefauver
Bill Mason
Mary Schroeder
The Black Knights Fighting Group
And a surprise guest
with dinner following at historic Favazza's Italian restaurant.

Sunday will find us touring the Becker Medical Library to learn about Victorian medicine and capping the weekend off with an afternoon tea at the London Tea Room.

We know that people's travel schedules or budgets allow for different levels of participation, so this weekend is an a la carte menu.  You can choose one, two, or all three days to register for.  The Parallel Case of St. Louis is an open and friendly group of Sherlockians, and we are hoping you'll join us in St. Louis this August for the first of what will hopefully be a long running conference.

Come at once if convenient—if inconvenient come all the same.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Interesting Interviews: Carlina De La Cova

The beginning of May is one of the busiest times for any educator.  So I want to take a moment to especially thank this month's interviewee, Dr. Carline de la Cova, for taking time to answer my questions.  Carlina is such an interesting and pleasant Sherlockian, that I just couldn't wait for more people to hear from her!  She is an associate professor of anthropology and Undergraduate Director at the University of South Carolina, where she also teaches a course on the forensics of Sherlock Holmes.  Carlina contributed to "About Sixty" and "About Being a Sherlockian" and spoke at last year's Nerve and Knowledge II symposium in Indiana.

And that's just Carlina's resume as a Sherlockian on paper!  I got to meet her in Indiana last year and was enamored by how gregarious and intelligent she was.  She was in high demand at the after party following her talk, and once you've met Carlina, it's easy to see why.  Carlina is active on Twitter and she is one of the friendliest Sherlockians on there.  And that's saying something!  Carlina is a true hidden gem of Sherlockiana, and hopefully some of you will get to know her a little better after this interview...

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

There’s been much debate about the word “Sherlockian”. Traditionally, it has been linked to individuals that actively engage in research or produce scholarship about the Canon. However, as times have changed and new interpretations of Sherlock Holmes have emerged, this term has become more inclusive to those that not only research the Canon, but enjoy all adaptations and stories tied to Sherlock Holmes.

I call myself a Sherlockian as I not only enjoy the different mediums Sherlock Holmes has been translated and re-created in (television, film, radio, comic books, pastiches), but I also actively engage in Sherlockian research. However, I do not believe the term “Sherlockian” should be a term of exclusion. Long story short, I have my own personal definition of the term, but I am pretty flexible about how others use the term. At the end of the day, all Sherlockians love Sherlock Holmes.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

Like many, I met Sherlock Holmes in grade school. I began seriously reading the stories in high school. I was fortunate that my introduction to Sherlock Holmes coincided with the then ongoing Granada series. However, as I indicated in Chris Redmond’s About Being a Sherlockian, Holmes’ keen observational skills, his belief system, and his definition of justice inspired me to become a Sherlockian. A day does not pass that I do not use Holmes’ methods in my work. The forensic anthropologist must have keen observational skills to identify a skeletonized decedent. Furthermore, they must be ever conscious of justice. Our work provides justice for the voiceless and allows us to unsilence those that have been intentionally, or historically, silenced.

What is your favorite canonical story?

My absolute favorite Sherlock Holmes story is the Hound of the Baskervilles, followed by the Sussex Vampire. HOUN is so rich in culture, early anthropological and forensic thought, and archaeology. Every time I read it, I always find something new. From Mortimer’s famous words, “I covet your skull,” to the rich archaeological landscapes of the tors on Dartmoor. HOUN even plays on traditional folklore, with the black dog embodying the hellhound that leaves death in its path. Furthermore, the story is rich with references to heritable criminality and criminal anthropology.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

All things! Seriously! I love podcasts, blogs, comics, literary criticism, historical deconstruction, and collecting. Anything that is Sherlock Holmes interests me! If I had to pick one though, it would be literary criticism and Sherlockian scholarship. I’m also quite keen on works that tie Sherlock Holmes to the historical period, events, and peoples that he was contemporary with.

What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?

As an anthropologist, I’m particularly interested in concepts of early anthropological theory, archaeology, criminal anthropology, and forensic anthropology in the Canon. I have no doubt Holmes was an anthropologist. To be a man of science during his time period, and to comprehend crime and criminal behavior, meant that one had to have knowledge of basic contemporaneous anthropological theory and methods (some of which have fallen out of favor today, but that’s another blog for another time).

Are you currently working on any Sherlockian projects?

I am currently balancing Sherlockian projects with my academic publications. At the moment I am working on translating my Nerve and Knowledge II presentation on anthropology into an article for the Baker Street Journal. I also hope to write a book in the future that will serve as a companion to my Sherlock Holmes class that I teach at the University of South Carolina.

What Sherlockian things do you like to read other than the Canon?

In the past I’ve enjoyed Nicholas Meyer, Laurie R. King, and other Holmes centered pastiches. I also enjoy a good Sherlockian comic book or graphic novel. Most importantly, however, I love reading Sherlockian scholarship, especially biographies and reference-related books that tie Sherlock Holmes to newspapers, important historical figures, and actual methodologies.

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?

Sherlock Holmes has walked amongst us for over 160 years. I do not see that changing anytime soon. He has had and will continue to have numerous resurgences in popularity. I think even after we have burnt out our mortal coils Sherlock Holmes will still remain, inspiring future generations. Due to this, I believe Sherlockiana will continue to thrive in the next five to ten years. Oh wouldn’t it be neat if it moved into the virtual world, like virtual reality? I could wrap my head around that….a VR landscape of the Hound of the Baskervilles!