Friday, December 27, 2019

By Studying Their Children [COPP]

Every year, I get to spend two weeks introducing my fifth graders to the Sherlock Holmes Canon.  As we wrap up 2019 and look forward to 2020, I wanted to end the year with some of their thoughts on the stories we covered in class.  Beacons of the future!

The Blue Carbuncle

"I like how the plumber changed his life."

"I liked how it went from one place to another and had a lot of people in it."

"The gem fell out of the goose with its guts."

"I didn't like that they killed the goose."

The Red-Headed League
"I don't really get why [Jabez Wilson] took a job copying the encyclopedia."

"I like how Sherlock predicted it would happen on that night."

"I think it's interesting that you never really know what Holmes is thinking."

"The crook thought he outsmarted Sherlock Holmes and his partner escaped, but little did he know there was a policeman over there waiting for him."

"I thought it was so cool how Vincent and Duncan dug a tunnel in two months."

"I like how Sherlock used his walking stick to see if the ground was hollow."

The Speckled Band
"I like how the snake came into the bedroom."

"'The Speckled Band' was fun because of how Holmes hit the snake to make it attack the step-father."

"I LOVED 'The Speckled Band' because in the end the murderer was killed by his own weapon."

"It was very adventurous."

"I feel like Dr. Roylott deserved to die for killing his daughter."


The Copper Beeches
"It was weird that a girl's hair was locked in a drawer."

"I didn't like that they treated the poor dog so bad."

"I liked all the strange clues."

"I liked all the locked doors in the unused hallway."

"Copper Beeches reminds me of a scary story because the house is very old and the family is evil."

"I didn't like that the girl had to cut her hair."

A Scandal in Bohemia
"I like this one because it shows that Sherlock Holmes can get outsmarted."

"I like how Mrs. Adler kept the photograph."

"It was cool when they threw the smoke bomb."

"The letter she left basically explains that she's smarter than him."

"I like that the king didn't want his fiancee to know who he dated."

"I didn't like how Sherlock got outsmarted."

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Interesting Interview: Scott Monty

Scott Monty is a Sherlockian empire.  Along with co-host Burt Wolder, he puts out at least SIX podcasts a month, two long-form interviews via I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, and a weekly bite-sized show, Trifles, where they go into minute details about the Canon.

For most of us, that would be more than enough to keep us occupied.  But not Scott!  He also maintains the website I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, the premier site for Sherlockian news.  He is also the moderator of the Facebook group, The Strangers' Room, a place for online Sherlockian discussion.

Oh, and he has a family and day job on top of all of that!  To pay the mortgage, he works as a speaker and coach for the business world.  You can find his thoughts in that field on and view his Fit to be Tied videos on his YouTube channel.  And even if you're not interested in the business world, his videos are worth a watch because they are filmed in front of Scott's great Sherlockian library!

Getting back to Scott the Sherlockian, let's wrap up 2019's Interesting Interview series with one of the hardest working Sherlockians out there:

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
Ah, the great debate about who's worthy and who isn't. To me, it's anyone who's interested enough in Sherlock Holmes to read, watch or listen to their favorite expression of Holmes more than once. I don't think it requires the reading of the original stories (although I'd encourage people to read the stories if they haven't yet). But it does suggest that someone has more than a passing interest in the character.

We actually did an episode of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere in which we discussed this very thing, called (appropriately enough) Who Is a Sherlockian? In that episode we read the Editor's Gas Lamp from Vol. 3, No. 2 of The Baker Street Journal from 1948, titled "Who Is a Baker Street Irregular?", which included this description:

[He is anyone] "who feels his-pulses quicken and his step seem lighter whenever, in a darkling world, he turns the corner of reality into the most magic of all streets. He is one of that legion who cluster about the banners which Dr. Watson and his followers have raised, and who occasionally, as the spirit moves them, raise a modest banner of their own. He is a zealot in his own right, and a defender arid protagonist of the zeal in others that seeks to keep alive the cause in which he shares belief."

How did you become a Sherlockian?
It was quite by accident. I was doing a research paper in high school, and complained to my teacher that there weren't many secondary sources about Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle, whom I had just discovered the previous summer. She directed me to the local television station to do some sleuthing for the phone number of the leader of a Sherlockian society who had just appeared on "Evening Magazine."

When I dialed Tyke Niver, he answered the phone, "Baskerville Hall!" and I knew I reached the right guy. He was so generous with his time. We spent an hour on the phone together, ending with Tyke kindly inviting me to the next meeting of the Men on the Tor at Gillette Castle.

When I arrived (courtesy of my father, as I was too young to drive), I walked into the Great Hall of Gillette Castle, which was filled with teachers, engineers, businessmen, homemakers, tradesmen, and every strata of society you could imagine. And they all welcomed me and made me feel as if I had been a longtime member.

When I went away to school in Boston, I discovered other Sherlockian societies around New England and readily joined them all. I competed in quizzes, wrote papers, subscribed to the Baker Street Journal, and formed friendships that have lasted to this day. 

What is your favorite canonical story?
That's like asking a lady her age. Or like asking a parent about their favorite child. I'm glad to open the Canon to any page if I randomly take it off the shelf. I do confess a particular like for The Return, as that collection has the most stories that take place in the iconic 1895, have some of the best illustrations by Paget and Steele, and have some of the more interesting plots and memorable characters.

Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
That's like asking about my favorite story!

I tend to be quite sociable at most events, so I meet many Sherlockians. Plus, I've had occasion to interview quite a few on IHOSE, which we bill as the Sherlockian equivalent of Fresh Air.

To me, Sherlockians who have other associated hobbies are the most interesting. Perhaps they're interested in cryptography like Glen Miranker, or are Wodehousians like Curtis Armstrong, or portray William and Helen Gillette at Gillette Castle like Tyke and Teddie Niver, or came up with the legendary Sherlockian Dinners at the Culinary Institute of America like Al and Julie Rosenblatt.

As you can see, there's no lack of interesting people in Sherlockian circles. 

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
I've always been a big fan of the Granada series. Jeremy Brett was my first Holmes, and he came onto the scene at about the same time that I first spoke to Tyke. You can hear the influence of that series in the introduction of every episode of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere at at the conclusion of every episode of Trifles.

As far as collecting, I'm particularly interested in pre-1960 original scholarship from members of the Baker Street Irregulars. H.W. Bell, Edgar Smith, Christopher Morley, Vincent Starrett, Jay Finley Christ, and others wrote some excellent books and pamphlets during this time that hold up well. That's my focus.

What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?
I can't say I do much research, really. With Trifles, we're always picking a different topic to discuss, and we've done over 150 shows, so I tend to keep an open mind about topics.

Similarly, every two weeks we run a comic strip called "Baker Street Elementary," which Steve Mason shares with me. I decided that rather than just posting the panels, I'd create some sort of commentary, essay or scholarship to precede each. And some weeks, it's quite the challenge!

Between Trifles topics and the Baker Street Elementary essays, it really requires a broad and deep knowledge of the Canon — something gained from my early and avid interest, which led to winning many quizzes. That plus the Granada series, which used dialog and direct quotes liberally from the original stories. So much of it was burned into my brain at an impressionable age.

What does the production of a typical episode of "I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere" entail?
We try to plan out our editorial calendar for the year, getting a sense of the guests we'd like to have. These include authors of books from our sponsors, Wessex Press and the BSI Press (they're both churning out titles!). We also look for interesting Sherlockians who come to our attention in a variety of ways. We have a steady stream of pitches from authors and publishers as well.

In addition, we're always looking to speak with celebrities related to Sherlock Holmes. We've had a number of them turn us down because of age. These include the late actors Sir Roger Moore, Freddie Jones, Peter Salis, and the still-living Colin Jeavons.

So, the most onerous part is booking guests. Then Burt and I need to match up our schedules with theirs. We have a call with them and record the bulk of the program, followed by the "bookends" of the show, which includes our quiz "Canonical Couplets." From there, I work on the editing, taking out as many "ums" and "ahs" as possible, tightening up awkward silences, and making sure that dogs do nothing in the podcast-time. I add music, mix it all together and end with an mp3 file, which gets uploaded to our hosting service.

Then, I create show notes which include a description of the show and any relevant links. We post it early for our Patreon supporters, and then I post it to Every subscriber gets an email updating them on it, and we share across social media.

Whew! If that sounds like a lot of work, it is.

If Sherlock Holmes were one of your clients as executive advisor and coach, what would be some recommendations you give the Great Detective? 
What a fascinating question! I'm not sure he would be a client. He's a little too high strung and independent.

If I did somehow convince myself to take him on, I suppose I'd ask him to use a little more empathy in his methods. He certainly knew how to turn it on when necessary, but he's more prone to being impatient and curt with people.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?
Well, if they haven't yet read the stories, I'd go with the Doubleday edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. For those who have read the stories, I think Edgar Smith's Profile by Gaslight provides a nice overview of the Game.

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
I'd like to think we'll be in the midst of another wave of interest in Sherlock Holmes. These things tend to come in cycles, and in another ten years, we'll be ready for the next surge.

The internet will remain, of course. This is something I saw back in 2001 when I gave the Baker Street Journal a website and online ordering for the first time. We'll definitely see more immersive technology such as augmented reality and virtual reality come into play. And maybe a game or other interactive experience related to voice assistants like Alexa or Google Home.
Whatever media of the future there are, we'll hear of Sherlock there!

And yes, I hope Burt and I will still be doing the show then. ;-)

Saturday, December 7, 2019

These Good People [ENGR]

Spending time with fellow Sherlockians is the best part of our hobby.

Take a moment to think of some other Sherlockians that you talk with on a regular basis: scion members, online messages, emails, phone calls, etc.  Are these folks you would have crossed paths with if it weren't for the shared interest in Sherlock Holmes?  Probably not, and I'm going to bet that they your life is better for them.  How many times have they made you laugh, got you to view something through a different lens, or helped you to enjoy an afternoon, evening, or weekend?

Yeah, fellow Sherlockians are pretty great.

And there are so many different kinds of us!  Different careers, ages, outlooks, you name it, there's a Sherlockian to fit it.  Sure, many Sherlockians are old, white men.  (I'm getting pretty close to that myself)  And a lot of those old, white men are absolute delights to spend time with.  And look at the online world of Sherlockiana: the times, they are a changing.  The new takes on Sherlockiana, creative outlets for canonical thought, and some flat-out craziness will definitely keep us from getting stale!

I have spent the last six months talking with so many different types of Sherlockians and reading their thoughts on our shared interest for an upcoming book project, and I can't help but love this group of folks.  Everyone brings something unique to a Sherlockian discussion, whether you've reread the Canon annually for decades or you're having your first Twitter exchange with another Sherlockian.

But man, the meetings and events are where the real magic happens!  I'm active in three scions in St. Louis, and I always walk away from them happy I spent time with the people in the room.  In fact, I start to feel a little twitchy if I go too long without attending a meeting (Holmes wasn't the only one with an addiction, apparently).  

And the events?  If someone cares enough to travel, spend the money, and spend a weekend talking about a detective from 130 years ago, they are my kind of people!  Holmes in the Heartland (shameless plug: register for 2020 HERE), Holmes, Doyle & Friends, and the Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota triennial conference are three conferences I've been lucky enough to attend, and there are plenty more that are on my bucket list (221B Con, Scintillation of Scions, Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium, etc.).

And the granddaddy of them all: the Baker Street Irregulars' birthday weekend in January.  I've never gone before because it's such a financial commitment, and I knew that I would feel like I missed out on something if I went to the weekend but not the dinner.  So I've abstained until I could do it all.

And this year I will.

Yesterday, I received an invitation to the BSI dinner, along with information about all of the other Sherlockian events happening in New York in January.  Even though I can't do it all ("Someday, I will get to an Adventuresses dinner," he said, staring longingly into the distance), I can't begin to tell you how excited I am to spend another weekend with Sherlockians!  Bookstores, dinners, lunches, talks, drinks (and drinks and drinks) with people who love the Canon as much, if not more than I do!  

Sherlockians are good people.  And spending time with Sherlockians is time well spent.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Interesting Interview: Dan Andriacco

Dan Andriacco does not let the Sherlockian grass grow beneath his feet.  It seems that this man (along with his equally impressive wife) are constantly putting out new content.  Dan has his own Sherlockian blog, Baker Street Beat, keeps popping up in The Baker Street Journal, has put out so many books that I couldn't even count, is active in Sherlockiana all across Ohio, and is very busy with one of the most well-known Sherlockian conferences, Holmes, Doyle and Friends.  I could have easily done THREE interviews with him, but I'm sure he's busy on his next project as I type this so one will have to do!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
Anyone who adopts the label!

How did you become a Sherlockian?
Only now, answering this question, does it occur to me that I became a Sherlockian not when I
read the Canon and fell in love with Sherlock Holmes, but when I read Vincent Starrett’s The
Private Life of Sherlock Holmes and fell in love with the Writings about the Writings. In doing
so, I effectively became a member of a world-wide community, even though I didn’t know any
other Sherlockians at the time.

What is your favorite canonical story?
“His Last Bow,” which for me has the best beginning paragraph and the best ending paragraph in
the Canon, is my favorite story. I memorized the “Good old Watson!” passage when I was in the
seventh grade. I also love the Holmes-Watson interaction and the glimpse at Holmes beyond
Baker Street. In recent years, I’ve also come to love “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington
Plans” as the tale that has almost everything we love – Mycroft, Lestrade, spies, a good mystery
with a clever solution, and Holmes and Watson committing burglary in a good cause.

Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
Christopher Morley, founder of the Baker Street Irregulars. Oh, did you mean somebody who’s
alive? I couldn’t possibly name just one interesting Sherlockian, or even just a dozen. As a
group, Sherlockians are the most fascinating, fun, friendly, and kind folks I know. There are
exceptions, but not many.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
I love reading material about and by the first generation of Sherlockians and Holmesians –
Morley, Starrett, Edgar W. Smith, Ronald A. Knox, Dorothy L. Sayers, S.C. Roberts, etc.

What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?
Much of my essay writing about Holmes has been what I consider literary analysis, in which I
take a close look at the construction of the stories. For example, my first article in The Baker
Street Journal was about gothic elements in the Canon. The second was more broadly about
common plot tropes. (The third and fourth were about the Sherlockian connections of Freddy the
Pig and Orson Welles, respectively.) I’ve also written about journalists in the Canon and the
government service of Sherlock Holmes.

How did the McCabe and Cody mysteries come about?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved mystery fiction and wanted to be a mystery writer. I
worked very hard at that in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I gave up then, but unexpectedly
returned to the scene of the crime more than two decades later. The first two published McCabe
and Cody novels are rewritten versions of earlier works. The characters just came to me, and
they stuck with me even when I wasn’t writing fiction. McCabe is a Sherlockian, a mystery
writer, a professor, a magician – about the only thing he can’t do is use contractions! The most
fun in writing the series is that I’ve created a whole town and a large cast of continuing
characters. Nuno Robles, a fan in Lisbon, Portugal, recently wrote to me that, “every new Cody
and Mac book is like going home after a long journey. It feels good. It’s a cozy place.”

You’ve been a key player in the Holmes, Doyle and Friends conference over the past few
years.  How has that weekend grown and changed during your involvement?
What many Sherlockians call “the Dayton Symposium” has been operated under various names
since 1981. I think the peak year was 1991, with 118 in attendance. It’s no secret that there was a
decline to the point where attendance sank to just 18 in 2012. After a one-year hiatus, the Agra
Treasurers of Dayton scion society took over operation of the symposium and gave it the current
name in 2014. Attendance has been climbing ever since, to 62 last year. I’ve been the
“programme coordinator,” in charge of finding presenters, since the 2018 event. Most of the
speakers for 2020 are already on tap. My goal is to present a memorable line-up of informative,
engaging, and humorous speakers on a variety of Sherlockian topics.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?
Mattias Boström’s From Holmes to Sherlock, hands down. It’s an amazingly complete and
detailed history of not only Sherlock Holmes, but the Sherlockian community. It goes down
some amazing alleys along the way.

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
“How can you tell?” as Sherlock Holmes said in “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger.”
Sherlockian interest waxes and wanes. Most likely we will see some fall-off from the high level
of interest touched off by BBC Sherlock, Elementary, and the Robert Downey Jr. movies over
the past 10 years or so. Some individuals brought into the fold during this period will wander
away, but not all. And at some point, there will be yet another return of Sherlock Holmes.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

With a Glow of Admiration I Watched Holmes [CHAS]

Today was one of those glorious days where I didn't have to leave my house.  I slept in, had a couple cups of coffee, finished a book, started another, watched the Cardinals game, etc., etc.

But there were plenty of chores to be done as well.  Cleaning up from my daughter's birthday party yesterday, laundry, taking care of the dogs.  And my most Sherlockian chore of all: ironing my dress shirts.

A quick search of the Canon for the word "iron" will give you dozens of responses.  Iron constitutions, iron boxes, iron safes, iron rings, and even iron grips.  But nothing specifically about ironing shirts.  But to me, ironing my dress shirts will always be a Sherlock Holmes time.  Because that's when I watch Jeremy Brett.

I typically iron my shirts about once a month, getting in an episode or two each time.  So I'm slowly working my way through the Granada series.  I know there are a limited number of episodes and that they go downhill in the later years, so I won't let myself burn through them too quickly.  Granada, to me, is like a vintage wine.  It's a limited resource and you can only enjoy your first sip one time.

Today's episode was Silver Blaze.  What a delightful way to spend an afternoon.  One thing I really love about this series is the additions to Watson's role that we get.  So many of Holmes's lines are tossed Watson's way to make him more of the series.  In Silver Blaze, Watson gets to ask all of the questions of the maid and stable-boy, and we get to see him explaining some of the events to Colonel Ross at the end.  Granada's Watson, whether it's David Burke or Edward Hardwicke, is a competent addition to Holmes's agency.  And the interplay between Brett and his two Watsons is such a joy to watch!

Every time I dip back into these episodes, the rest of my day is just a little bit better.  You can tell that the people who put this show together were fans of the Canon.  In Silver Blaze, Holmes and Watson are moving across the moor tracking the lost horse, and the score is so lively and perfectly fit for their movements.

I've posted about my love of Sherlockian podcasts before, but since that post another one has come to be something I love: The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes Podcast.  This monthly show is an in-depth look at each episode of the beloved Granada series starting with Scandal in Bohemia and working their way through episode by episode.  Host Gus gives the typical show recap, but mixed in with that is always a nice biography of one of the people associated with the show's production.  Of course you're going to get background information on the actors, but who knew that the composers and directors would be so interesting?

But my favorite part of The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes Podcast is the second part, when Gus is joined by his brother Luke and they discuss the episode much like a scion society would discuss a canonical story.  The listener gets some great banter about the show, chronology, and scholarship, but as both of these guys work in the film industry, some really interesting information on the production values of the shows are mixed in as well.  Listening to this podcast has made me appreciate the Granada episodes that much more.  Of course I love watching Brett be brilliant, but now I also appreciate specific shots and musical cues as well.

So, treat yourself sometime soon to a revisit to Jeremy Brett and checking out The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes Podcast.  Small joys like these can make even mundane tasks like ironing your dress shirts pleasant.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

A Complete Change Freshened Me Up Wonderfully [SIGN]

Yesterday I sat down to type up this week's blog post and it was just a bunch of whining that I can't go to November's BSI event in Indiana or Scintillation of Scions next summer.  I got about three paragraphs in and realized how miserable it all sounded.  And that's not what Sherlockiana is about.

Luckily, I had a much better Sherlockian day today!

I am working on a Sherlockian book project with my friend Peter Eckrich and 33 other wonderful folks.  Today, Peter and I spent three hours at a coffee house editing and talking about the submissions for this project and it just reinforced what a great group of folks Sherlockians are.  If this project pans out, I think y'all are in for a real treat!

So why sit around and mope about the things I can't do?  There's too much in the Sherlockian world to try and do it all.  BSI Weekend, The Left Coast Sherlockian Symposium, Nicholas Meyer at the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis...  Hell, I've even had to stop going to one of my local scions because I just couldn't get out to their meetings.

And that's okay.

Instead, I'm going to be happy that there are so many things going on across the country and that our hobby is booming.  This is an embarrassment of riches!  Think of all of the books that come out each year, how many journals you can subscribe to, the number of Facebook groups you can join, email groups to join, scion societies to attend, Tumblrs to follow, and the list goes on and on.

So this is a reminder to myself and whomever else needs to hear this:  There's a lot to be excited for in our hobby. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a project to edit, an event to plan, an article to write, books to read, emails to send.....

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Then I Will Go Back to Him With Some Faked Papers [VALL]

"The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter" is a work of fiction.

Of course it was written by John H. Watson, M.D.  But there's some nonsense in this story.  Mostly the last two paragraphs.  But I'm getting ahead of myself. 

We all know the story:

Watson and Holmes are having tea. 

Holmes says, "BTW did you know I had a brother?" 

Watson probably does a spit-take and it's off to the Diogenes Club! 

Brother Mycroft is fat and better at detecting how many kids someone has than Sherlock is.

Mycroft's neighbor comes over with a problem: he saw a guy who's been kidnapped, translates some threats from a small giggling man, and gets dumped in the middle of nowhere. 

Mycroft places ads in a bunch of papers and Sherlock and Watson go home. 

Mycroft NEVER diverts from his habit, except for this one time (and the time submarine plans were stolen, and the time he had to drive a cab, etc. etc.) and he rolls into Baker Street with news. 

Time to go rescue a Greek man. 

Oh, and the neighbor has been kidnapped again. 

But first - warrants! 

Bureaucracy, yada yada... 

Finally, the scene of the crime. 

Oh no, the door is locked.

Holmes unlocks a window.

Gregson: “It is a mercy that you are on the side of the force, and not against it, Mr. Holmes."  (Man, that would be a fun idea for a book!)

The Greek man is dead, the neighbor is saved by good old brandy, and a woman ends up kidnapped.

Holmes says, "Case closed."

And then we get these two paragraphs:

"And this was the singular case of the Grecian Interpreter, the explanation of which is still involved in some mystery. We were able to find out, by communicating with the gentleman who had answered the advertisement, that the unfortunate young lady came of a wealthy Grecian family, and that she had been on a visit to some friends in England. While there she had met a young man named Harold Latimer, who had acquired an ascendancy over her and had eventually persuaded her to fly with him. Her friends, shocked at the event, had contented themselves with informing her brother at Athens, and had then washed their hands of the matter. The brother, on his arrival in England, had imprudently placed himself in the power of Latimer and of his associate, whose name was Wilson Kemp—a man of the foulest antecedents. These two, finding that through his ignorance of the language he was helpless in their hands, had kept him a prisoner, and had endeavored by cruelty and starvation to make him sign away his own and his sister's property. They had kept him in the house without the girl's knowledge, and the plaster over the face had been for the purpose of making recognition difficult in case she should ever catch a glimpse of him. Her feminine perception, however, had instantly seen through the disguise when, on the occasion of the interpreter's visit, she had seen him for the first time. The poor girl, however, was herself a prisoner, for there was no one about the house except the man who acted as coachman, and his wife, both of whom were tools of the conspirators. Finding that their secret was out, and that their prisoner was not to be coerced, the two villains with the girl had fled away at a few hours' notice from the furnished house which they had hired, having first, as they thought, taken vengeance both upon the man who had defied and the one who had betrayed them.

Months afterwards a curious newspaper cutting reached us from Buda-Pesth. It told how two Englishmen who had been traveling with a woman had met with a tragic end. They had each been stabbed, it seems, and the Hungarian police were of opinion that they had quarreled and had inflicted mortal injuries upon each other. Holmes, however, is, I fancy, of a different way of thinking, and holds to this day that, if one could find the Grecian girl, one might learn how the wrongs of herself and her brother came to be avenged."

Lies, all lies!

Let's say you are John Watson and you've been writing about your amazing roommate for about ten years now.  Things are going well.  Those Strand checks are coming in and you've got money for the track and billiards with Thurston.  But then you hear that said roommate has an even more amazing older brother.  (Never mind that this has been a secret for a decade for some reason)  This will be an amazing story to write up!  Bonus: there's a mystery attached to it.

And then Holmes doesn't care.

A man was murdered, his sister kidnapped, and another man almost killed.  And Sherlock Holmes is done looking into things. 

This does not make for a good story.  But Watson is not about to let a story slip away.  With a few fabrications, we have a classic Sherlockian tale.  I've read this store time and time again, and I've never been struck by the hollow ring of these final paragraphs before. 

Why would Sophy Kratides's landlord know all about her brother's plight?

Who would have known enough to send a newspaper clipping to Sherlock Holmes?

How did Sophy Kratides disappear without a trace after taking out her captors?

There are too many unanswered questions at the end of the story.  We love a happy ending, but this one wraps up a little too neatly.  I argue that Watson wanted to write up The Greek Interpreter but had to use artistic license to keep his audience happy.  And don't give me that whole "Mycroft was working for Moriarty" business.  My money is on an author who knew what the people wanted.

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Interesting Interview: Peter Blau

Peter Blau is a name that Sherlockians hear almost from day one in this hobby.  He is an avid collector, clearing-house of information, and a genuinely nice guy.  I've subscribed to The Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press for years and have corresponded with Peter through a few emails here and always found him to be affable.

But last month I got to meet Peter.  And when I introduced myself to him in Minneapolis, I expected a cursory "Hello, how are you?" and then he would be off to talk to folks more important than myself.  What I got was a man who was happy to talk with anyone interested in Sherlock Holmes and found him coming up to my dealer's table more than a few times that weekend to talk to me about specific issues of The Baker Street Journal, the birthday weekend, John Bennett Shaw, and other tidbits.

But don't just take my word for it.  Peter has been an invested member of the Baker Street Irregulars for 60 years now.  Sure, plenty of folks can do that by living long enough, but how many of them have been so influential and left such a positive impact on those they've come in to contact with to warrant a book about their Sherlockian influence while they were still alive?

So, read on.  And enjoy this month's Interesting Interview with Peter Blau, Sherlockian Extraordinaire.

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

I think that a Sherlockian is someone who enjoys the Sherlock Holmes stories, and does something more.  That something can include reading (or writing) Sherlockian scholarship and pseudo-scholarship, reading (or writing) pastiches, joining a Sherlockian society, playing the Grand Game that some of us enjoy so much, collecting, teaching, and on and on.   

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I don't remember anything about reading my first Sherlock Holmes story, but I found the world of Sherlockians thanks to Ben Abramson, who in 1948 persuaded my father to subscribe to the Baker Street Journal for me . . . I started writing to people who contributed to the BSJ, and was delighted when they actually replied.

What is your favorite canonical story?

I always say it's the one I've read most recently . . . in this case "The Missing Three-Quarter" . . . all the stories have something that's both interesting and enjoyable.

Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?

It was the late John Bennett Shaw who taught me just about everything I know about enjoying the world of Sherlockians. . . and there's a Facebook page for The Friends of John Bennett Shaw that shows just how much he has meant to so many people.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

I enjoy collecting, and of course collecting.

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

My special interest at the moment is in Sherlockian drama . . . stage, screen, radio, and television.

What is one of the biggest changes you have seen in Sherlockiana during your time in this hobby?

There so many more Sherlockians now, thanks to new media and new ways people find the world of Sherlockians.

How did Scuttlebutt come about?

It began as pieces of paper on which I paragraphed gossip to send to John Bennett Shaw, and he did the same.  Then it became "information sheets" with limited circulation, and then (and now) an actual newsletter.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Zach Dundas' The Great Detective and Mattias Bostrom's From Holmes to Sherlock

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

I've no idea . . . predictions seem always to be wrong when it comes to the future.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

I Confess That I am Surprised and Disappointed [SIGN]

After last week's exciting news of Holmes in the Heartland, I'm sorry to take a less enthusiastic tone this week.  But this topic is near and dear to my heart, and I feel that I've been misled by someone very important to me.

The topic: Book Recommendations

The perpetrator: Sherlock Holmes

As someone who does a book recommendation segment on The Watsonian Weekly podcast, I'm always looking for Sherlockian books to tell others about.  As a Sherlockian, I'm always looking for interesting books that I haven't read yet.  In fact, I have an ongoing TBR list that is three pages long, and two and a half shelves of books in my basement just waiting to be read.

So I view it as an important time investment when I read a Sherlockian book.  Life's too short to read bad books, right?

That's why I was so disappointed by Mr. Holmes.

"Let me recommend this book,—one of the most remarkable ever penned. It is Winwood Reade's Martyrdom of Man," Holmes says in The Sign of Four.

Sherlock Holmes can't be wrong.  So for years, I've expected this book to be a worthwhile addition to my shelves.  Well, I finally got around to reading it last week.  And let me NOT recommend this book.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't the literary version of Holmes and Watson, where I would be hard pressed to come up with any enjoyable parts.  Reade makes some very interesting points in his history of the world, but he never seems to decide if he wants to be writing a history text or an opinion piece on religion.  

And it's a long book.  It took forever to read and was confusing.  At first I thought it was just me.  School was back in session, I was exhausted every night, and had little time to read outside of the demands of work and family.  I was starting to wonder if I wasn't paying attention as I read.  Things started sounding familiar later in the book.  Was I rereading pages I'd already read?  No.  Winwood Reade repeats himself in this book a lot.

Some Sherlockians like to have a copy of every book mentioned in the Canon.  Clark Russell sea stories, Bradshaw, Catallus, etc.  I love books and I always thought I'd end up there someday.  But if I have a book on my shelf, I want to have read it.  And I don't know if I can trust Sherlock Holmes to recommend books to me anymore.  Holmes's book recommendations are never to be entirely trusted,—not the best of them.