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. ;-)

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