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.