Monday, June 25, 2018

So Sinister Was the Impression

I've been reading Diane Gilbert Madsen's Cracking the Code of the Canon, an interesting take on data from the 56 short stories.  The book doesn't consist of essays or research like the typical scholarly book would.  Instead, it is a statistical categorization of information from the Canon.  Wow, I made that sound really dry.  She backs up her data with descriptions and opinions of her findings.  I promise, this isn't some Stats 101 textbook.

One of these categorizations Madsen makes is grouping the criminals in the Canon.  She groups them into "Super Villains," "Exceptional Female Villainesses" and "Demi Villains."  For whatever reason, I had just gone down an internet rabbit hole and spent the previous night reading about a group of Spider-Man super villains named The Sinister Six.  And, because I'm apt to let my mind run rampant with connecting Sherlock Holmes to unrelated things, I spent some time thinking, who would Sherlock Holmes' Sinister Six be?

Spider-Man's Sinister Six was almost spearheaded by the evil genius, Doctor Octopus, and was typically bent on revenge against the hero.  So, using that same framework, I decided that Sherlock's Sinister Six would all have to join together after their respective bouts with Holmes, so anyone that dies in their story would automatically be out.

Madsen lists Professor Moriarty, Colonel Moran, John Clay and Baron Gruner as her super villains.  I think Moriarty and Moran are shoo ins, due to their being the only villains to appear in more than one story, and their history of working together.  Moriarty is obviously the criminal genius in this situation, recruiting others to form this made up team of super villains.

British behavior will be expected in this group, so I think we have to rule Gruner out.  I don't see him as one who would work well with others, anyway.

Victorian society was very concerned with class, so if this is a team that will be meeting and working behind their public personae, we are probably going to want to keep membership to the genteel class, that way no suspicions would arise when Moran plays cards with one of the members in his club, or a member visits Moriarty at his university office.  John Clay attended Eton and Oxford, is the fourth smartest man in London, is the third most daring, and has royal blood.  If he escaped prison after being pulled out of that tunnel, I think we have our third member.

But you know who wouldn't have to escape from prison?  Our next three members, Jephro Rucastle, Sir George Burnwell and James Wilder.  Three villains who all have a reason to want revenge on Holmes yet never went to prison for their crimes.

After Rucastle's first run-in with The Great Detective, he was left broken, mangled, and without his daughter's income.  Unable to leave the house, he has spent his time learning - no, obsessing - about his revenge on Sherlock Holmes.  Imagine his one interaction with Holmes from Rucastle's point of view: he returned home, found his daughter had escaped, a stranger in her room, and when Rucastle tried to protect his home, his own mastiff turned on him, only to be shot and killed by the stranger's accomplice.  Jephro Rucastle is a man bent on revenge.

Sir George Burnwell had a fortune literally ripped from his hands in The Beryl Coronet.  Try as he may, he couldn't overpower Sherlock Holmes, and was forced to flee to freedom with his amor, Mary.  Whether they stayed together is anyone's guess.  But we can be sure that Burnwell wants his revenge on Holmes.

Wilder has every reason to hate Holmes.  He's already prone to hate; just look at how he feels about his stepbrother.  Holmes shows up, ruins his kidnapping scheme, gets his partner put in jail and Wilder gets shipped off to Australia.  Wilder could have found his fortune there, and is spurred on by his hatred for Holmes, that when he comes back to England, he is flush with cash, a (dubious) inroad to the peerage, and would be a perfect recruit for Moran to bring in under his wing.

These six villains have plenty of reasons to wish the end of Sherlock Holmes.  The Great Detective should probably be thankful that they never crossed paths...

P.S. As I went through the list of villains, from Madsen's book, some other names jumped out at me as people who would want revenge on Holmes, but had to be discounted for other reasons.  So, here is my list of honorable mentions.
  • Richard Brunton (MUSG) Pro: very intelligent  Con: dead
  • Charles Augustus Milverton (CHAS) Pro: inroads with many powerful families  Con: dead
  • Hugo Oberstein (BRUC) Pro: meticulous planning  Con: nobody trusts a spy
  • Abe Slaney (DANC) Pro: works well in criminal organization  Con: American
  • Von Bork (LAST) Pro: good wine  Con: no one wants to work with someone working against England
  • Isadora Klein (3GAB) Pro: has her husband's money to spend  Con: Spanish
  • Killer Evans (3GAR) Pro: has a counterfeiting press  Con: American
  • Jack Ferguson - (SUSS) Pro: Plots out in advance  Con: too young
  • Count Sylvius (MAZA) Pro: part of upper society  Con: probably just Moran anyway

Sunday, June 17, 2018

If You Would Kindly Go Over It All Again

Before I get to this week's topic, we are less than two months away from Holmes in the Heartland!  If you haven't registered yet,  you can do so HERE.  If you're interested, but can't commit yet, we have a Facebook event page where you can keep up to date on speakers and participants.

I'm on vacation this week, but I didn't want to miss a post.  So, I wanted to revisit some of my favorite blog posts from the past year.

Sherlockian Imprinting
A recollection of my early interest in Sherlockiana and wondering why some versions stick with me over others.

I Tried to Puzzle It Out
My very favorite post I've ever had.  I found a way to share my love of Sherlockiana with my daughter over the course of a couple of days.

Listen to This, Mister Holmes!
A rundown of some of my favorite Sherlockian things to listen to.

Light Houses, My Boy!  Beacons of the Future!
Each year, I get to spend two weeks teaching my fifth grade students about Sherlock Holmes, and it is the best part of the school year!

An Open Letter to Stephen Moffatt
With over 6,000 reads, this post really blew up!  By far my most popular post, I still stand by how much I don't want another season of Sherlock.

Interesting Interviews: Beth Gallego
I really love doing the Interesting Interviews each month.  There are so many great Sherlockians out there and I love giving them a platform to talk about their interests.  Beth was my very first interview and a great one.

I Am a Sherlockian
Who's a Sherlockian?  We all are.  And we should encourage everyone to join us.  Plus, Ashley Polasek reaffirms why she should be the queen of the Sherlockians.

See you next week!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Outside of a Show I Have Never Seen

Out of the blue last week, I received an email from a prominent Sherlockian complimenting me on this blog.  I was flying pretty high on that for a few days!

He asked me about one of my first posts where I proposed a Sherlockian reality show, The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Game is Afoot.  Nothing more ever came from that post, but it was fun to speculate.

In fact, I find myself coming up with Sherlockian TV shows more often than I think the average person would.  Besides the reality show mentioned above, I also developed an animated Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on Nickelodeon one day while I was mowing the lawn.  Half of the episodes would be adapted from canonical stories, and half would be new stories. 

(I do a lot of book to TV adaptations in my head while I'm mowing.  And I don't even watch TV that much.  Unless there's a baseball game on or my wife and I are watching Parks and Rec reruns, I rarely even have the TV on.  I'm weird.)

But this email prompted me to think up a new Sherlockian TV show.  If you've ever walked by a TV when ESPN was on, you've probably seen something that looked like this:

One of ESPN's most famous shows is Around the Horn, a daily show where four panelists debate the day's sports news and are awarded points based on their insights.  Points are awarded and taken away at the host's discretion.  The winner of the show gets to have 30 seconds of Face Time, where they can talk freely about any topic they choose.

And, this show is all done in good fun.  There are obviously disagreements, but everyone is knows the rules and the debates are typically friendly.

See where I'm going with this?

We need a Sherlockian Around the Horn!

Think about all of the different types of Sherlockians out there.  There are thousands of possible panelists:

  • People who only go to their local scion society meetings and don't care about the wider Sherlockian world
  • Sherlockian Twitter fiends
  • Luddites
  • Brettheads
  • Cumberbitches (does anyone still use this term?)
  • Rathbone enthusiasts
  • Elementary fans
  • Shippers
  • Pastiche fans
  • Pastiche haters
  • Scholars
  • Fan fiction fans
  • Cosplayers
  • Chronologists
  • Baby boomers
  • Millennials

This list could go on for a long time.  And I know we can fall into more than one category.  So do the panelists on Around the Horn.  They are all sports fans/reporters.  They just have different opinions on stuff.  We are all Sherlockians.  We just have different opinions on stuff.

People have been thinking and writing about Sherlock Holmes for over a hundred years.  I'm sure a Sherlockian Around the Horn could come up with lots of topics for debate.

  • Is Johnlock canonical?
  • How many wives did Watson have?
  • Who is the worst villain?
  • Excited about a third RDJ film?
  • Opinions on Elementary and Sherlock
  • Which Watson has the best mustache?
  • Does Holmes use deductive or inductive reasoning?
  • How important is Doyle to being a Sherlockian?
  • Thoughts on new pastiches or scholarly books

Can you tell I was mowing the lawn today?

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Interesting Interviews: Vicki Delany

This month's Interesting Interview is with author Vicki Delany.  Vicki is a former president of The Crime Writers of Canada, a long time Sherlockian, and author of more books than I can count.  Her cozy mysteries include the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series, which currently has three titles out, and a fourth coming this fall.

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

My personal definition is someone who is not only just a fan of the Great Detective, but takes their enthusiasm a step further to examine the characters and the plots of the books or movies deeper than the average keen reader does.  I maintain that someone who might be a fan of the TV shows, movies, or pastiche novels, isn’t a true Sherlockian without having read the full Canon. A true Sherlockian is someone who capitalizes the Great Detective.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I read the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle early on in my life and enjoyed them, but my real interest started with the Jeremy Brett TV series. I loved Brett’s portrait of the Great Detective and all the hidden emotions he brought to it. After that I re-read the stories with a better eye for nuance and detail.

What is your favorite canonical story?

The Speckled Band. Truly creepy, in more ways than one. I have an article on The Speckled Band coming later this year in an academic publication (Villains, Victims and Violets) in which I examine the characters of Helen and Julia Stoner and the choices (or lack thereof) facing them through a feminist lens.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

I love the short story collections offering various interpretations of Sherlock Holmes. Some very clever pastiche novels are being written today.  Some are not so clever.

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

In my Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series, every book and item of merchandise offered for sale exists in the real world.  I love looking for books for my character Gemma to refer to her customers or to read herself.

Why do you think that so many Sherlockians enjoy cozy mysteries?

Cozy mysteries are true puzzle mysteries. The clues are laid down for the reader to follow. The astute reader should have a good chance of reaching the correct conclusion at the same time as the fictional detective. I think Sherlockians are almost by definition lovers of puzzles: written ones at any rate. The cozy mystery detective is not a professional.  Which means she or he doesn’t have access to forensic analysis, CCTV camera footage, phone records, bank and police records etc etc. Like the Great Detective, they have little more than their intelligence and observation of the people around them to help them solve the crime.

How did you come up with the idea for The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries?

I was casting about for an idea for an interesting bookstore for my character to own, and hit on the idea of a store dedicated to Sherlock Holmes.  There isn’t much more popular in the world of popular culture today than Sherlock Holmes, and it’s entirely feasible to have a store dedicated to nothing but Holmes. But then, almost without my planning it, Gemma Doyle, the main character, became Sherlock-like. She has a mind like Holmes – for good and not-so-good. It’s been enormous fun to try to recreate Sherlock as a modern young woman.

Can you give us any hints as to what book four, "A Scandal in Scarlet" might hold for your fans?

A Scandal in Scarlet, coming in November 2018, is the fourth book in the series.  Gemma Doyle and her business partner Jayne Wilson host an afternoon tea and silent auction at Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, next door to The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, as a fundraiser for Scarlet House, West London’s museum. But when the chair of the museum board is found strangled in the storage room, and the police seem to be focusing on the wrong (according to Gemma) suspect, the game is once again afoot and it’s up to the usually perceptive Gemma and the loyal, but ever-confused Jayne, to sort out the impossible and the improbable to arrive at the truth. 

One doesn’t have to be a Sherlockian to enjoy the books in this series, but I hope being so adds to the pleasure. I occasionally drop a few references that non-Sherlockians won’t pick up, but failure to do so doesn’t interfere with the story. For example, there are seventeen steps to the second floor of 222 Baker Street.

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

As I said above, I particularly love some of the short story anthologies, such as Echoes ofSherlock Holmes and In the Company ofSherlock Holmes, edited by Leslie S. Klinger. My favourite anthology is Holmes for the Holidays. I love the MaryRussell books by Laurie R. King. And I like the collection of essays edited by Christopher Redmond beginning with AboutSixty. (Full confession, I have a piece in the next one Sherlock Holmes Is Like). I was lucky enough to get a signed cozy of FromHolmes to Sherlock from Mattias Bostrom at Malice Domestic, and I am planning on relaxing with that by the pool this summer.

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

Stronger and stronger. The enthusiasm for all things Sherlock is not dying down any time soon.