Thursday, May 28, 2020

When I Look Back On It [CARD]

I got a wonderfully surprising Facebook message the other day.  Someone I had sent an interview request to back in September of last year saw my message once she loosened up her security settings and reached out to me after all this time!

That got me thinking about all of the cool people that have graced this blog over the past two years.  I feel like I've barely scratched the surface of interesting Sherlockians but looking at the list it's quite a good collection of names!

March 2018: Beth Gallego

April 2018: Brad Keefauver

May 2018: Carlina De La Cova

June 2018: Vicki Delaney

July 2018: Ray Betzner

September 2018: Ashley Polasek

October 2018: Vincent Wright

November 2018: Leah Guinn

December 2018: Shannon Carlisle

January 2019: Curtis Armstrong

February 2019: Leslie Klinger

March 2019: Lyndsay Faye

April 2019: Michael Kean

May 2019: Heather Holloway

June 2019: Mattias Bostrom

July 2019: Tassy Hayden

August 2019: Liza Potts

September 2019: Peter Blau

October 2019: Dan Andriacco

December 2019: Scott Monty

January 2020: Elinor Gray

February 2020: Bob Katz

March 2020: Monica Schmidt

April 2020: Susan Rice

May 2020: Burt Wolder

Who are some people you'd like to see interviewed here in the future?  Send me an email or leave a name in the comments of some folks that should be added.  I have a good sized wish list, but am always looking to talk with more Sherlockians.  In fact, I have so many I want to get to, my goal is to do two interviews per month over the summer.  There are just so many great Sherlockians out there!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

An Absorbing Interview [BRUC]

I love a good Sherlockian podcast.  And we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to them.  There are plenty out there for your specific tastes.  And if you're omnivorous, it's possible that you would never run out of material!

And this week, a new one joined the ranks!  One that I predict will be a show that I make time for every day it comes out.  The Baker Street Irregulars put out their first episode of "The Fortnightly Dispatch," a video podcast meant to have discussions with Sherlockians and connect with scion societies. 

Hosted by Steve Doyle, the first episode is a lovely discussion with Ray Betzner.  Steve and Ray are old friends and it shines through.  Ray is an expert on Vincent Starrett, and shared many wonderful stories about one of the most important names in the founding of Sherlockiana.

I'll be honest with you, when I saw that this was a video podcast, I can't say I was all that interested.  I'm an audio podcast guy.  But I gave it a shot, thinking I would watch a few minutes of this and then check out the James and the Giant Peach read along videos that had also been released that day starring Meryl Streep and Benedict Cumberbatch in one and Nick Kroll and Liam and Chris Hemsworth in another. 

I was absolutely transfixed by The Fortnightly Dispatch and watched it all the way through in one sitting.  You hear that?  Steve Doyle and Ray Betzner beat out Meryl Streep, Cumberbatch, and the Hemsworths this week as far as I'm concerned.

Ray talked about Starrett's masterwork: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, and the origins of 221B, a sonnet known to many Sherlockians around the world.  And then he made everyone jealous when he showed us the manuscript page of 221B that he owns!

Steve's guiding questions and Ray's ability to tell great stories made for such a great watch.  In a time when we can't get together, this partially fills that void.  Watching friends talk about Sherlock Holmes and our hobby is a great way to pass some time.

And reveling in those libraries behind each of them is a whole different kind of pleasure!

P.S. I was texting with a friend earlier this week about all of the Sherlockian podcasts out there, and promised to send him a list.  I figured why not just put a list up here for everyone to see?  It's by no means exhaustive, but I think you'll see what I mean when I said there are plenty out there for your tastes!

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere


The Watsonian Weekly

The Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes Podcast

From Adler to Amberley

I Grok Sherlock

Sherlock Holmes is Real

The Final Podblem

The Baker Street Babes

Three Patch Podcast

I Am Lost Without My Boswell

Classic Radio Shows: Sherlock Holmes

Doings of Doyle (Not quite Sherlockian....yet)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Interesting Interview: Burt Wolder

If you've met Burt Wolder in person, you've been lucky enough to spend time with one of the nicest men in Sherlockiana.  Burt has been a Sherlockian for over fifty years, and he seems delighted with every Sherlockian topic he comes across.  Whether he's giving hilariously bad answers to the Canonical Couplet on I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, or dazzling you with his deep knowledge of the week's given topic on Trifles, Burt is a pleasure to spend time with.  And I was lucky enough to get him to say a few words about our hobby for this month's Interesting Interview.

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

I think it’s like any other passion, interest or hobby, any other specialty. You would expect coin collectors, numismatists, for example, to know other collectors, to read journals about collecting, to understand the arcana of mints, issues, designs, medallic art. You would expect people with a passion for art or oil painting or for the piano to know the groundbreakers, the virtuosos in the field, to know about the turning points, the innovations, the great moments.  To know things that will not be general knowledge.  A Sherlockian is someone with all those characteristics, but with a particular focus on the world’s first consulting detective, on the records of his cases and sometimes on the people who make up the community that’s grown up around all that. It’s a very elastic term, and can encompass people who collect Victorian antiques, or manuscripts, or illustrations, or first editions, or who write their own fan fiction, or who might have a couple of Inverness coats or caped-back ulsters in their closets

How did you become a Sherlockian?

By reading, which some people might think is the only way to become a Sherlockian, but it’s not so. Over the years Scott Monty and I have spoken to several people whose first connection with Sherlock Holmes was through a cartoon or a movie or comic book. I became an enthusiast at the moment I discovered there was such a thing as being an enthusiast, and that there were other enthusiasts. It was after the Baring-Gould annotated was published. I don’t remember any of my school friends who were particularly interested. I had first read the stories when I was in the fifth grade. Julian Wolff put me in contact with Steve Clarkson, who helped me connect with people of my own age in my area, so he made my first connections.

What is your favorite canonical story?

Well, that depends on your criteria for selecting a favorite. When I was first reading the cases the ones that had the greatest impact on me were “The Speckled Band,” because of the snake; “The Red-Headed League,” just for the fun of it; The Hound of the Baskervilles, because it such a great story, and “The Final Problem” because it was so sad, and because of the Paget illustrations. I also loved The Sign of the Four — who could resist a peg-legged villain and an Andaman Islander, apparently wandering around London with nobody noticing? One of the cases that I have the greatest respect for today as a more informed adult is The Valley of Fear, because I think Conan Doyle was at the top of his game at that point.

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

It’s harder to find a Sherlockian who isn’t interesting. In the last few years we’ve had books about Bliss Austin, and Vincent Starrett has been widely written about, and soon we will have a book about Julian Wolff. There has been much written about John Bennett Shaw, and Chris Morley was an amazing character. Marina Stajic, a toxicologist and a great writer, is interesting. We have to count Helene Yuhasova, the poet laureate of the BSI, as a Sherlockian, and her story is interesting. An old friend, Chris Steinbrunner, has been in my thoughts this week, along with Robert L. Fish; Bob Fish wrote the Schlock Holmes stories, and a good deal else. My friend Albert Silverstein is interesting:  he was one of the last children evacuated to England from Austria, put on a train by his parents when he was about four years old as part of the Kindertransport rescue program. Did I mention Susan Rice and Evy Herzog?  They are interesting, great writers and great Sherlockians.  Hey, how about you?  You’re interesting.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

I’m really interested in everything on the subject to some degree, but I suppose my big interests are around research, writing, papers, comedies, plays, art and illustration, and on Conan Doyle. And interviews, or at least just talking about Sherlock Holmes, which is something that Scott Monty and I have done for an astonishingly long time through our podcasts.


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

Anything, as long as I can figure out a research path. I was delighted to be asked to write a chapter in Trenches: The War Service Of Sherlock Holmes about Holmes’s experiences as Altamont, and about Irish secret societies. For a forthcoming book I just completed an essay on the Royal Navy and the Admiralty in the Victorian and Edwardian eras. I wrote about BSI members and horse racing Upon the Turf: Horse Racing and the Sherlockian Canon. And I am just starting a new essay on Holmes’s return from the Great Hiatus and how his new cases were presented to the public. I jump at any chance to spend time at the New York Public Library.

You were part of the influx of young Sherlockians in the 60's and 70's.  What was it like being part of that community?

It was great fun, but it was a blur. I was a shy kid and very much in awe of people like Julian Wolff and the other adults who were then prominent in The Baker Street Irregulars. I had a lot of fun with Andy Page, but he was light years ahead of me in Sherlockian scholarship.

I Hear of Sherlock has been cranking out episodes for 13 years now.  How did it all get started?

It was timely.  Audio equipment, radio, old time radio, sound recording and editing, all these things had been hobbies of mine since I had been a teenager, but this was a new medium, a whole new toolkit, with digital audio and the internet. It’s something that Scott Monty and I began talking about. We were both early fans of podcasts, and it seemed to us that there was a lot to talk about when it came to Sherlock Holmes. And that was before the BBC Sherlock and the latest renaissance.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Just one book? I suppose I have to cheat and say any annotated addition, Les Klinger’s most recent set, or the Sherlock Holmes Reference Library, or the Baring-Gould annotated, if I can get away with classifying those as just one book. Beyond that, I suppose I’d have to recommend The Grand Game, which gathered really great Sherlockian scholarship in two volumes. For sheer enjoyment I recommend Michael Dirda’s On Conan Doyle – Or the Whole Art of Storytelling all the time to people I suspect of being great readers.

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

Flourishing in ways unexpected, I’ll bet.  I don’t know that the past has much predictive value, except at a high level.  Popular culture will still be important, and popular culture and Sherlock Holmes will have moved on unpredictably. I am looking forward to it.  I’m optimistic.