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.