It was announced in January that The Baker Street Irregulars will have a new face presiding over the organization starting in 2020. That new face is Michael Kean, a longtime Sherlockian from California and was gracious enough to take some time to answer questions to be this month's Interesting Interview. Without further ado, the new head of The Baker Street Irregulars:
How do you define the word "Sherlockian"?
There are no set criteria as to who is a Sherlockian. If a person considers himself a Sherlockian, then in his eyes he is one. Who are we to judge? Were we to set criteria, I would include such areas as interest in and study of the Canon, involvement in Sherlockian organizations and activities, research on and writing about the stories and related topics, and maintaining on-going enthusiasm for Holmes and the world of Sherlock Holmes.
How did you become a Sherlockian?
While in graduate school, my girlfriend (now my wife of fifty years) gave me a copy of the sixty stories as a birthday gift. Several years later, after moving to Philadelphia, I discovered that there were organized groups of individuals, who, like myself, enjoyed the stories and spent time discussing them. My involvement with several local scions opened up a new world to me, and I was invited to the BSI dinner and the following year invested in the BSI.
What is your favorite canonical story?
The Hound of the Baskervilles is my favorite. It has everything! If I had to select a short story, I'd list my favorites as BLUE, SILV, MUSG, PRIO, and BRUC.
Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
One of the reasons that the world of Sherlockian clubdom is so special is that one would find many of its inhabitants interesting even if they were not Sherlockians. The variety of interests, talents and accomplishments among Sherlockians is remarkable. I would find it impossible to select only one of my many colleagues. However, because I've been involved in the BSI for over forty years, I've been fortunate enough to have known some of the "giants" of the Sherlockian world, alas now deceased. Among those, I'd list John Bennett Shaw, Ben Wolf, Ely Liebow, Richard Lancelyn Green, and Ted Schulz.
What subset of Sherlockiana interests you?
I've found that a strong grounding in the life and (other) works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle adds considerably to my understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the Sherlock Holmes stories.
What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?
"The grand game" offers such a great variety of fascinating possibilities, that I've found it difficult to limit my research interests. I'm an oenophile, so I've written on Holmes and wine. I'm a hiker, so I've walked the moors looking for locations in HOUN. I'm partial to English literature, so I've written on Holmes and poetry and on Dickens and Sherlock Holmes. The list goes on...
How have you seen Sherlockiana change and evolve during your time as a Sherlockian?
Interest in Sherlock Holmes and his world is cyclical. I became involved during the mid-1970's when a series of new books and films rekindled public awareness of the Canon. Then there was the BBC/PBS Jeremy Brett series, and more films. The new millennium has added technology to the mix, and introduced another generation to to the great detective.
What are your goals for the future of The Baker Street Irregulars?
Though I have certainly already begun thinking about this, it would be premature for me to comment until I assume the leadership of the Organization. In his two plus decades as "Wiggins," Michael Whelan has greatly enhanced the BSI by creating a publishing program, topical conferences and the BSI Trust and Archives. Continuing to nurture the growth of these initiatives will be as important as introducing new ones. Ultimately, however, our goal should always be governed by focusing on the simple phrase that appears on our certificate of investiture: "Keeping Green the Master's Memory."
What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?
In addition to the complete Canon, I'd suggest that every newly interested Sherlockian read Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street: A Life of the World's First Consulting Detective, by William S. Baring-Gould.
Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
I believe that the world-wide interest in Sherlock Holmes will continue. It may be cyclical, but it will continue to expand, especially internationally. Critical to its longevity, however, is our ability to interest the younger generation in Holmes and Watson. Groups like The Beacon Society will play an important role in doing so. Today's youth continue to be infatuated with the "super hero." And wasn't Sherlock Holmes the world's first "super hero?"