Sunday, June 28, 2020

I Had Given Myself Up Entirely [LION]

"The Lion's Mane" takes place in 1907 and was probably written by Sherlock Holmes in 1919 or 1920, when the detective was in his mid-sixties.  The man in this story is a strikingly different one that readers first met in A Study in Scarlet more than thirty years before.  He is a man who has rid the world of evil, stopped dangerous machinations, and foiled formidable foes.  One might expect Sherlock Holmes to be a grizzled veteran from his years of war against crime, that movie trope of the old bad-ass who is called out of retirement for one more case.  But instead, we see a softer and friendlier Holmes than the man who lived in Baker Street.

Maud Bellamy gives the reader a strong argument for the softening of Sherlock Holmes.  The man who "did not observe" how attractive Mary Morstan was in The Sign of the Four describes Maud Bellamy as "so rare a flower" and says "that no young man would cross her path unscathed" due to her great beauty.  Holmes also tells Miss Bellamy that he values a woman's instinct.  This is a changed man from SIGN that said, "Women are never to be entirely trusted - not the best of them."

In LION, Holmes says he is always friendly with his neighbor, Harold Stackhurst, and that "he was the one man who was on such terms with me that we could drop in on each other in the evenings without an invitation."  This is a far cry from the man in "The Five Orange Pips" who says that aside from Watson, he has no friends.  In that same breath, Holmes flatly states that he does not encourage visitors.  So, not only in retirement does Holmes have a friend who drops in to visit him, but Holmes tells us that he will go out on the occasional social call himself!

Holmes's relationship with his housekeeper also shows a change in his personality.  It's clear that this woman is not his former landlady, Mrs. Hudson, but a paid domestic servant.  We see time and again that Sherlock Holmes is a Victorian gentleman with Victorian attitudes towards servants throughout the Canon.  That is why it is so telling that he allows gossip at his breakfast table from the housekeeper.  Holmes tells the reader that he does "not encourage such conversations" but allows this instance because her news of McPherson's dog arrested his attention.  But notice that his statement of not encouraging gossip leaves room for allowing things here and there, and just like the occasional visit from Harold Stackhurst, one could imagine Holmes engaging his housekeeper in random discussions about what she had heard through "that strange wireless by which such people collect the news of the country-side."

And speaking of dogs here is just one more change in the emotional makeup of the Great Detective.  In this story, Holmes talks about the "beautiful, faithful nature of dogs" in relation to the creature's death.  This from the same man who gave a "a perfect shriek of delight" before he poisoned a dog in A Study in Scarlet with what Watson described as a sober manner.

But the biggest change of all is how Sherlock Holmes is using his mind at this stage of his life.  In his first chronicle, Holmes tells Watson that he considers
that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.  A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.
And that is just how things are for him in retirement.  Holmes says that his mind "is like a crowded box-room with packets of all sorts stowed away therein - so many that I may well have but a vague perception of what was there."  Of all the changes in Sherlock Holmes over the years, this is the most glaring.  We have seen him time and time again honing his knowledge, so much so that he would go days on end without eating to help focus his mind and said that he was just a brain; the rest of him was a mere appendage.  Now, any old fact that is interesting is taking up space in his brain attic.

Friendships, gossip, and feelings aside, this is the proof that Sherlock Holmes has really retired.  Like an over-the-hill athlete, he is no longer exercising in a specific and targeted way, but still likes general work outs.  Readers who are always hoping for that trope of getting Sherlock Holmes called out of retirement for one more case should give up.  The Great Detective is truly retired at this point, and enjoying the life he never allowed himself to have in London.  And a well-deserved retirement it is.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Interesting Interview: Laurie King

Laurie King turned the Sherlockian world upside down in 1994 when she introduced Sherlock Holmes to Mary Russell.  Over the past two and a half decades, these two characters have discovered secrets of Christianity, revisited the Hound, engaged in espionage, and even took part in an early movie production.  Last week, the newest chapter in the Russell and Holmes saga, Riviera Gold, came out placing this dynamic duo in Jazz Age France with Mrs. Hudson in the middle of a murder investigation.  (On a personal note, I love Laurie's Russell and Holmes books and am really looking forward to delving into this newest installment.)

But Laurie King hasn't just extended the Sherlockian Canon for her readers.  She has also created a great modern day detective series based around San Francisco's Kate Martinelli, other delightful standalone novels, and done some serious Sherlockian editing!  Working with Les Klinger, Laurie edited The Grand Game Volumes 1 and 2 for BSI Books, making landmark early Sherlockian scholarship easily available to the modern-day reader.  (Seriously, these two books should be in every Sherlockian library.)  And along with Klinger, she has overseen five Sherlockian-inspired anthologies by a gigantic list of popular writers.

I could go on and on and on about how impressive Laurie King is, but let's let her do the talking from now on:

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

Someone who has a special place in their heart for The Great Detective. It helps if you’re
willing to believe that Holmes, Watson, and the others lived, and were not some fictional
construct of Dr Conan Doyle. It helps even more, especially for those of us still writing the
stories, if you believe that since Holmes’ obituary has yet to appear in The Times of London, that
has to mean he is still alive.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

Well, I began by reading the Conan Doyle stories, then writing stories that began in 1915, after
Sir Arthur was finished with him. And eventually I was invited to become a BSI, when I’d
demonstrated my appreciation and respect for the characters—and after I’d proven my academic
skills by giving a BSI lecture (on Watson’s War Wound, with a close focus on the bullet itself.)

What is your favorite canonical story?

I ought to say “The Red Circle,” since that is my investiture name, but I so like the fact that the
woman gets the better of Holmes in “Scandal in Bohemia” that I have to go for that one. “Good
night, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” indeed.

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

I have met a lot of interesting Sherlockians, but my closest partnership is with Les Klinger (“The
Abbey Grange”), who forgives all my temerities when it comes to The Great Detective.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

Being what my daughter calls a “recovering academic,” I have a weakness for scholarship—the
more footnotes, the greater pomposity, and the more firmly tongue-in-cheek, the better.

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

I had a grand time a couple of books ago (The Murder of Mary Russell) doing a lot of very close
analysis of the early stories and their timelines. Unlike the others in the series, which are set
from 1915 on, large sections of that book take place in the Victorian era, as it ties together Mrs.
Hudson the landlady with the sailor Hudson from the “Gloria Scott” case. We also get to meet a
very young Sherlock Holmes, which was fun to write.

In the 26 years that the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes stories have been coming out,
what has been your favorite development with the series?

In two recent books, including the new one (Riviera Gold), Mrs. Hudson gets center stage, as a
feisty old lady who has spent much of her life getting around her employer, Holmes.

Your fifth mystery anthology full of stories inspired by Sherlock Holmes, In League with Sherlock Holmes, comes out at the end of this year and is full of authors who don't typically write about Holmes.  How did this series get started and how do you keep finding so many wonderful authors to fill these volumes?

Les Klinger and I were at a mystery conference where he ran a panel about Sherlock Holmes,
with all the panelists guests of honor. He and I were talking afterward, wondering if they had
ever dabbled in writing a Holmes story, when a little light went on over his head. So we started
with them, and the collection has taken on a life of its own. All the contributors to the five books
are people we know and whose work we love, who are invariably thrilled to have an excuse to
play the Holmes game.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Since much of my base research was collected in the 80's when I was first starting the series,
many of my favorites are older: Michael Harrison, HRF Keating, Dorothy Sayers, and WS
Baring-Gould. More recent is Les Klinger’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which belongs on the
shelf—one of the sturdier shelves—of every Sherlockian. And of course, anyone interested in
academic Sherlockiana would be wise to invest $3 in Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes, an e-
book containing the definitive study on Watson’s War Wound, selections from Holmes’ lost
treatise on beekeeping, and the rationale behind the alternate chronology of the Laurie King

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

I hope and trust that the entire Sherlock Holmes world will continue to shift into the more
neglected corners of the literary world, with the voices of a joyously diverse set of characters
continuing to ring the changes in this unlikely passion of ours.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Interesting Interview: Steven Doyle

Steven Doyle seems to always be cranking out new Sherlockian projects.  He is one half of the powerhouse Sherlockian publisher, Wessex Press, the publisher of the Baker Street Journal, producer and host of the new video podcast, the Fortnightly Dispatch, (the new episode just came out today) and that's just his biggest Sherlockian projects!  He's also in a rock band, host of legendary St. Patrick's Day parties, part of a Walking Dead fan show, and launching a new imprint from Wessex focusing on tales of horror.

Steve is a guy who always makes time for other Sherlockians.  I've been to a few of the same events as Steve, and he's always engaged in a conversation with someone.  And when meal time rolls around, you can usually count on Steve finding out how many people he can cram into a room so everyone can hang out together.  Although, you should be careful at those meals, because the last time he and I ate together I promised him that I would watch the Dudley Moore Hound of the Baskervilles movie.  And since he was kind enough to do this interview, I guess I'd better get around to watching that soon....

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

My definition of the word “Sherlockian” is similar to the term “musician.” Many people casually
enjoy music, or even play a bit, which is perfectly fine. But to be a musician implies a certain
amount of time, knowledge, and effort put forth on the subject. For me, it is the same with being
a Sherlockian.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I fell in love with the literature of Sherlock Holmes at the age of 14 when I received facsimile
first editions of Adventures and Memoirs for Christmas. I was completely enthralled by both the
stories and the Paget illustrations. I became a Sherlockian when, shortly after this, I read the
Pinnacle paperback edition of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett, In the
Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes, by Michael Harrison, and The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, by
Nicholas Meyer. I read these very shortly after I had devoured the Canon, and each of them
taught me, in their own way, what this game we play is about.

What is your favorite canonical story?

Actually, they are two stories which are really one story, that being “The Final Problem” and
“The Empty House.” There is so much going on in this whole story arc that I believe an entire
book could be written on it. There’s the Christological cycle of sacrificial death and resurrection.
There’s Moriarty as Holmes’s doppelganger. Then there is the presentation of evil, or perhaps I
should say Evil, as pervasive yet invisible…I could go on and on.

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

Living or dead? There are so many it is difficult to pick. For newer generations of Sherlockians, I
recommend going back and reading not only the writings of the old Irregulars (which are
foundational to our hobby and demonstrate why they still matter), but about their lives as well.
These were accomplished, interesting people who created our hobby. As for living Sherlockians,
Roy Pilot, co-author of The Annotated Lost World and The Annotated White Company, is
someone who has been a mentor, inspiration, and friend for thirty years.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

I have a number. It is well-known that I have a love of Sherlockian cinema…actually cinema,
television, radio, and stage…all the dramatic interpretations of the character. I think it speaks to
our longing to see Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in the flesh. I also love that it is a vehicle for
how Holmes is a reflection of the era in which he is being portrayed. Another is the history
Sherlockian publishing, particularly small press publishing right back to its earliest form. And
lately I’ve had a growing fascination with the history of the very first BSI dinner. But that is the
great thing about our hobby…there is so much that can capture your attention.

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

There’s no specific thing…what I like to research is whatever it is that has my attention and
enthusiasm at the moment. This could be anything from researching an ancient meeting of my
local scion society, to an obscure term in one of the stories, or the cultural context that a
particular Holmes film was released during. Whatever it is that has my attention.

How has being a Sherlockian publisher changed from the early issues of The Sherlock
Holmes Review to the books you put out in 2020?

The biggest change is the democratization of print and publishing technology. When we started
The Review, creating it meant literally physically making it by hand…that is a huge change. But
it is more than that. Today, literally anyone put a book into print. (The same goes for other
media, by the way…think video and YouTube). This creates both tremendous opportunities for
writers, but also increased challenges for readers… “how do I have some assurance that what I
am investing my time and money in will be something worthy of reading?” I also think, despite
those who decry publishers as “gatekeepers”, it increases the need for editors and publishers. The
notion that “gatekeepers” aren’t appropriate anymore don’t understand that publishing isn’t just
about the writers. It is about the readers, and being fair and true to them as well.

What was the impetus for launching The Fortnightly Dispatch?

The Fortnightly Dispatch actually wasn’t my idea. The idea came from the BSI, who wanted to
do some kind of timely outreach in this unnatural time of isolation. As publisher of The Baker
Street Journal, and someone who is a video producer and communications professional, I was
suggested as host and producer. As host, I want to the podcast to provide knowledge of the deep,
fascinating hobby we enjoy. So many newer Sherlockians don’t have the means to learn of or
experience the history of the Sherlockian Universe…a rich history which anchors and informs
our world to this day. In recent years it has been suggested that all of that is over, that the
Sherlockian world has changed, and has moved on. But that is patent nonsense, and the response
to the podcast has been an affirmation of the this.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Gosh…so hard to pick just one. I am going old-school…I would pick The Annotated Sherlock
Holmes by William S. Baring-Gould. So much of everything we are as Sherlockians is embodied
in that foundational volume.

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

It is almost impossible to predict, but I have hopes that the fractious nature of the last ten years
will be behind us, and we’ll see a new found appreciation for what the Sherlockian world is,
while we move forward to embrace new ways to experience it. But I’ll leave however that works
out to the future.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

The Starting Point of So Many Remarkable Adventures [MAZA]

Most Sherlockians don't like "The Mazarin Stone."  I have to admit it had been a few years since I've read it, and after revisiting it this week I don't either.  For a while I held it in a slightly higher regard because I used it as a coda to the Colonel Moran plot in my novel The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, but that was because I used the source material for my adaptation, not this version.

"The Mazarin Stone" was first published in the October 1921 edition of The Strand Magazine, but that was not the first time fans had seen Sherlock Holmes fool an air-rifle toting big game hunter with a wax dummy.  No, this ploy was used just a few months before in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's short-lived one-act play, The Crown Diamond: An Evening with Sherlock Holmes.

Oh were you thinking of another story?  Nope, this is about Doyle's play.

According to the introduction to The Theatrical Sherlock Holmes by Paul Stuart Hayes, The Crown Diamond was a big hit, touring for over a year around England and being a financial boon to Doyle in his later years.  The public had only had one Sherlock Holmes story published in the last eleven years, "His Last Bow," and The Crown Diamond showed Doyle that there was still an audience for The Great Detective.

The Crown Diamond would go on to be adapted into MAZA, and this would be the first story of the final set of Sherlock Holmes stories to be released.  No matter our opinion on MAZA (and mine is not good), we have this story to thank for some of the lasting impressions we have of Holmes.  MAZA opened the door for "The Problem of Thor Bridge" and "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client."  Without MAZA, we never would have gotten to see Holmes in retirement as we do in "The Adventure of the Lion's Mane" or his loyalty to Watson from "The Adventure of the Three Garridebs."

Although MAZA is pretty universally panned, it's an important part of the Sherlockian Canon, because without it, we may never have gotten to read a full 1/5 of the stories we've come to rely on for entertainment over the years.

Lord Cantlemere tells Holmes, "We are greatly your debtors" and we could say the same to Doyle.  So here's to "The Mazarin Stone," the wilted vegetable in an otherwise delightful Sherlockian feast!

Monday, June 1, 2020

Interesting Interview: Jay Ganguly

Jay Ganguly is a powerhouse.  Secretary General of the Sherlock Holmes Society of India, author of Holmes Sutra, and maybe the most impressive in my eyes, editor of the Proceedings from the Pondicherry Lodge newsletter (The latest entry is over 250 pages long, that's some serious work!).  But beneath all of this is a Sherlockian who loves her books about the Great Detective. 

I sent Jay an invitation to be interviewed last Fall, but unbeknownst to me, the message got caught in her Facebook security settings.  So when I got a reply out of the blue last week, it was a very pleasant surprise!  I've wanted to interview her for quite some time and am very pleased to share a little insight into how Sherlockiana is enjoyed in India!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

Anyone with an affinity for Sherlock Holmes, whichever Avatar it might be. Because I believe in the essence of Sherlock Holmes, and that could be anywhere!

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I was twelve and bored and my Dad gave me a battered old copy of The Return of Sherlock Holmes. A few days later, I had read the full Canon, got my own new copy of the full and fallen hopelessly in love with the great detective!

What is your favorite canonical story?

Keeps changing...but on top of my list are usually DYIN, DEVI, 3GAR and SIGN. I like PRIO, MAZA and ILLU, too.

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

Ah, the list it too big! I don't think I've ever met or interacted with a non-interesting Sherlockian! If I absolutely had to name one... perhaps Petr Kopl from the Czech Republic. He's a brilliant graphic novelist and his adaptations of Sherlock Holmes are out of the world. Some of his graphic novels are available in English as well - I wish all of them were. I'd especially recommend his A Scandal in Bohemia. Oh, and he's the one that drew the gorgeous image that we use for the Sherlock Holmes Society of India.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

Er... anything, really. I've been known to buy random things just because they have "Sherlock" or "Holmes" or "221" on it. And I'm crazy about Sherlockian stories - traditional pastiches, media adaptations, comics, fanfiction... anything!

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

Stories, stories and more stories! I look up other information when I have to write/discuss/present anything.

How did the the Sherlock Holmes Society of India start?

It was started by Mr. Sumal Surendranath in May 2001. He's the President of SHSI and one of the best people I know. (Another very interesting Sherlockian!)

How are you able to coordinate a society that includes such a large country?

We've always been online - so it's not really a problem. We did try having annual meetings for a while, but with everyone spread out across the country, it didn't really work out very well.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Right now? The summer issue of my e-magazine "Proceedings of the Pondicherry Lodge". The entire MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories (I can gush about it for days). Any of the pastiche collections from Belanger Books (my favourites are Holmes Away From Home and Before Baker Street) Any of Petr's graphic novels. The three books of Bonnie MacBird. The three books of Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Anything at all by Nicholas Meyer (though The Seven Percent Solution is my favourite). The Mandala of Sherlock Holmes by Jamyang Norbu. Er... I'll shut up now or it'll never end.

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

Riding another crest, I believe. Sumal often says that Sherlockian interest waxes and wanes like a wave - we got a high recently with BBC Sherlock bringing in a flood of interested youngsters...and it's not as high at the moment. Perhaps it'll peak again in a few years.