Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Bring Me The Books [BLUE]

I am beyond excited to announce two new books!  

While I've talked about these in bits and pieces, today is my first official public announcement of The Finest Assorted Collection: Essays on Collecting Sherlock Holmes and The Common Place Book: 2021.  I figured it would make sense to announce them both on the same day, so let's start announcing!

The Finest Assorted Collection is an anthology that I co-edited with Peter Eckrich.  It is a look at the collecting habit that we have in Sherlockiana.  Twenty-seven Sherlockians have contributed essays to this anthology about their specific Sherlockian collections.  From the hyper-specific to the all-encompassing, there are plenty of essays in here that will have you feel like a kindred spirit, make your mouth water, and make your spouse realize your collection isn't so bad after all!  

This anthology was such a delight to work on with Peter.  We got some great folks to work with and editing this project was a real highlight of my Sherlockian career.  So who is in this book?  How about I just show you the Table of Contents:

Introduction by Peter Eckrich & Rob Nunn
Colligo Ergo Sum by Barbara Rusch
A Three-Dimensional Collection by Denny Dobry
Stranded in The Strand: An 80 Step Program by Charles Prepolec
Hard and Charm Collecting: A Case from Italy by Gabriele Mazzoni
Collecting Books I Cannot Read by Don Hobbs
The Many Evolutions of a Collector by Howard Ostrom
From the Screen to My Library: Collecting Shelockian Cinema by Steven Doyle
The Signature is Very Suggestive by Joe Eckrich
Collecting for the Brain Attic by Ashley Polasek
The Intangible Things by Monica Schmidt
A Three Pipe Problem by Al Shaw
Mr. Holmes, They Were the Footprints of a Gigantic Hound! by Don Pollock
That’s Old News by Mattias Boström
A Case of Ancient Coins by Greg Ruby
“I trust that you don’t consider your collection closed.” – The Never-ending Quest for Traditional Pastiches by David Marcum
Confessions of a Chronology Collector by Mike McSwiggin
The Game’s Adult by Leslie Klinger
A Bohemian Collection by Lee Vann
Collecting the Art of Holmes by Amanda Downs
Art in the Blood by Jerry Margolin
Happy Mother’s Day, Sherlock! by Sonia Fetherston
For the Common Good: Libraries Collecting Sherlockiana by Tim Johnson
Delighted as a Child by Beth Gallego
Detective Pikachu, I Choose You!: Collecting Sherlockian Toys by Robert Perret
All the Selectivity of a Vacuum Cleaner by Paul Thomas Miller
The Collector’s Collector by Christian Monggaard
Living with Johnny Appleseed: Hijacked Planes, Couch Surfing, and the Search for the Holy Grail by Barbara Shaw

You can see why this project was such a fun one to work on!  Many of these authors have been Interesting Interviews over the past few years, and you can bet the ones that haven't been interviewed yet will be soon!

The Finest Assorted Collection: Essays on Collecting Sherlock Holmes will be available from Wessex Press on January 15.

But if you don't want to wait until next month, The Common-Place Book is available now!  This is a collection of 13 pieces of Sherlockian writings I've done over the years with twelve of the chapters covering canonical tales.  Some have appeared on this blog, others in journals, and some were presented at Sherlockian meetings.  

The idea behind this book is that so many of us have our writings scattered all over the place, it might be nice to have things collected under one cover.  This is a slim volume at a slim price.  My hope is to put one of these out each year.  Lord knows there's plenty of writing out there to collect!  

And for those of you who want a peek inside before pulling the trigger, here is the Table of Contents for this book:

My First Night Among the Sherlockians
A Lasting Image of Baker Street
And Now as to the Villains
A Pupil for the Scientific Methods
Each is Suggestive
Then I Will Go Back to Him with Some Faked Papers
A Very Pretty Hash You Have Made of It
Old Friends Overstatements 
The Starting Point of so Many Remarkable Adventures
A Study in Steadfast
There is Moriarty Himself
Somewhat Incoherent in Consequence
A Toast to Holmes and Watson

Two more books to add to our already stuffed bookshelves?  Yup.  Add them to your collection and enjoy!

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Interesting Interview: Derrick Belanger

Let's close out the 2021 Interesting Interviews with one of the most likeable people in all of Sherlockiana: Derrick Belanger!  Derrick is such a great guy, and it always brings a smile to my face when I think of him being in front of a classroom.  His energy and positivity are infectious, and I can only imagine what he is like in a classroom!  I've never been lucky enough to see Derrick teach, but I hope his students and their families realize what a great guy they have in that classroom.

But Derrick isn't just a model educator.  He's also half of Belanger Books along with his brother Brian.  Belanger Books burst on to the scene in 2015 and their output just seems to increase with every year.  I honestly couldn't tell you how many titles Belanger Books has put out in just six years, but once you get to know Derrick, no number would surprise you.  I was delighted to participate in 2019's Irregular Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with a few of my students and I was blown away with Derrick's deft hand at editing and publishing.  If you have any interest at all in Sherlockian pastiche, Belanger Books can keep you stocked up for a long time!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

A Sherlockian is (1) a person who absolutely loves Sherlock Holmes and (2) a person who considers themselves a Sherlockian. I think for the first time ever we’ve entered a period where having knowledge of the canon is no longer required to be a Sherlockian. I’ve now met people who are huge fans of BBC Sherlock who consider themselves Sherlockians but have practically no knowledge of Doyle.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

To be honest, I don’t remember. I’ve enjoyed Sherlock Holmes stories since as long as I can remember. If I had to pick a specific time, it would have been when I was fourteen and read, A Study in Scarlet for the first time for a book report. When I read that book, I was blown away by Doyle’s shift in the middle of the book from Holmes to events in the Utah desert. I’d never read a book structured that way, and I loved it. I then started reading the other stories in the canon that I hadn’t read before, and I also became a fan of Doyle’s horror stories which are some of my personal favorites.

What is your profession and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian?

I am currently a special education teacher at Horizon High School in Thornton, Colorado. Teaching, by its nature, is Sherlockian. A good teacher has to know each and every student that he or she works with, analyze their needs, and find the best way to meet those needs so that they excel in their educational journey. I also think it is critical to teach students to think like Sherlock Holmes. I’ve given an author talk to elementary and middle school age students called You are Sherlock Holmes where I do some activities to get students to observe, analyze, and deduce. For more on my work as a Sherlockian teacher, please see this interview I gave to Chalkbeat, the education centered online newspaper, back in 2017.

What is your favorite canonical story?

I can only pick one? That’s not fair! There are at least a dozen going through my head at the moment. Since I have to pick one, I think with it being the holiday season, I’ll go with “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”. It shows Holmes’s excellent detective skills as well as his compassion. I read it at least once a year on Blue Carbuncle Day.

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

I would like to shine a light on a local Sherlockian in the Denver area and say Larry Feldman. Larry runs the Outpatients, a subgroup of Dr. Watson’s Neglected Patients, my local scion society. We meet the first Sunday of the month at Pint’s Pub in Denver where we take a quiz on and discuss one of the stories in the canon. I am always impressed at the amount of research Larry does before each meeting. I always learn something new about each story from his talks.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

That’s an easy one - pastiches! I love reading new Sherlock Holmes stories, both those that are traditional and those that take Holmes in a new direction. That’s why I became a publisher.

Which came first, your interest in Sherlock Holmes or your interest in Solar Pons?

My interest in Sherlock Holmes came long before my interest in Solar Pons. I didn’t discover The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street until I was in college. Once I discovered him, though, I read as many of the stories in the Pontine canon as I could find. As August Derleth said, “Solar Pons came into being out of Sherlock Holmes . . . .” I think one has to start with Holmes and be a Sherlockian to truly appreciate just how good the Solar Pons stories are.

How did Belanger Books come about and what can we look forward to in 2022?

Belanger Books came about in 2015. Brian (my brother) and I wanted to start our own publishing company that focused on new Sherlock Holmes books but also published other genres such as mysteries, science fiction, steampunk, and children’s books. While we’ve mostly published Sherlock Holmes and Solar Pons books, we do have a number of other titles such as our two-volume collection A Tribute to H.G. Wells, Stories Inspired by the Master of Science Fiction, the gothic mystery Not Forgetting Adele: a Sequel to Jane Eyre, and the cozy mystery Deadly Vintage.

We have a great lineup of new Sherlock Holmes and Solar Pons books coming out in 2022. First up will be David Marcum’s two volume anthology, the Nefarious Villains of Sherlock Holmes which just wrapped up on Kickstarter. Then we have Thaddeus Tuffentsamer’s two volume anthology, Sherlock Holmes: Adventures through the Multiverse which features tales of various versions of Sherlock Holmes. That will be followed by The Novellas of Solar Pons which will feature short novels and lengthy stories of The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street. Next comes the third and fourth volumes of John Linwood Grant’s excellent series Sherlock Holmes and the Occult Detectives as well as a collection of new Carnacki, the Ghost Finder stories. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: Medical Mysteries is collection of traditional Sherlock Holmes stories that connect to the theme of “medical mystery”. A portion of the proceeds raised from the book will go to help fund research work on this disease to the Denver Research Institute, one of several non-profit (501c3) organizations mandated by the U.S. Congress to help orchestrate research relevant for military veterans. We will also release Steel True, Blade Straight, a collection of stories, poetry and scholarship inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. All proceeds from the Anthology will be donated to The Beacon Society, a 501c(3) nonprofit scion society of The Baker Street Irregulars (BSI), that serves as a link to other scion societies, providing teachers, librarians, children museums, and children theaters with local resources to bring the magic of Sherlock Holmes to life.

In the second half of 2022, we will publish Gaslight Ghouls, a new book edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec in their Gaslight Sherlock Holmes horror series. I’m very excited about that one. We’ll also have the second volume of Dan Andriacco’s The Essential Sherlock Holmes. Rich Ryan will continue his series, Sherlock Holmes: A Year of Mystery with the 1883 and 1884 books. David Marcum will have an all-new collection of his Solar Pons stories, and we will also have the third volume of the Pontine Dossier: Millennial Edition. Beyond those, we will also have the sequel to Deadly Vintage, Harry DeMaio’s second collection of Sherlock Holmes multiverse adventures with the Glamorous Ghost, and possibly a collection of stories teaming Sherlock Holmes with Father Brown. 2022 promises to be a very exciting year!

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Every Sherlockian should read Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by William S. Baring-Gould. Outside of the canon, it is my absolute favorite Holmes book. For Holmes scholars, Baring-Gould provides an excellent timeline of Holmes's life from birth to death. I find his take on Holmes’s childhood and schooling to be particularly compelling. For those who like more fringy Holmes theories or alternate takes, he also has Holmes investigating bigfoot and wrestling an escaped pterodactyl from The Lost World. What I love about this book is that it has something for everyone.

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

In ten years, I believe Holmes will be even more popular than he is now. There will be more movie and tv versions of the character. My guess is that we’ll have more multiverse and team-up stories with Sherlock Holmes. With every story in the canon entering the public domain in America in the next couple of years, I think more and more creators will feel free to use the character in their work.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

The Stout Gentleman [REDH]

I've often heard that the BSI History Series from the 90s was a great set, and I finally got to start reading one of them, Irregular Records of the Early 'Forties.  This is a book that's going to take me a while to read through because every page is filled with the interesting BSI's of yesteryear and takes me down rabbit holes of discovery (I just ordered a biography of Christopher Morley that I never knew existed right before I started this post!).

This volume kicks off with 1941, the year that Rex Stout delivered his infamous 'Watson was a Woman' talk.  For those of us interested in Sherlockian history, this story has been around and around.  But the minutiae around the talk are even more interesting:

*Stout had been invited to speak at the dinner, and Edgar Smith's hope was that he would speak to a recent article from the Saturday Evening Post that disparaged the Sherlock Holmes stories.  Stout took a different path for his talk.

*The attendance at that dinner included 26 people and cost five dollars a head.  Quite different from current dinners that have to cap attendance at 300 and have a significantly higher price tag.

*While it's been speculated that Holmes and Irene Norton were the parents of Stout's detective, Nero Wolfe, Stout's infamous talk actually proposed that these two were the parents of Lord Peter Wimsey!

Julian Wolff responded at the following year's BSI dinner (again a $5 cover) with "That Was No Lady - A Reply to Mr. Stout With Which Are Included Some Observations Upon the Nature of Dr. Watson's Wound."  But Stout was not in attendance that year (41 others were though), so Edgar Smith sent him a letter addressed to "Rex (Iconoclast) Stout" where he informed the author of the rebuttal fired at him and included the text.  Most of us have heard the story of that text which ended with the coded "Nuts to Rex Stout," but many have not seen the shots that Smith fired at Stout in his letter:

"My dear Sir or Madam:

There are those, I know, who would urge that I address you not as Rex, but outright as Regina, in vengeance for the aspersions you have cast upon the masculinity of Sherlock's revered helpmeet.  But I refrain."

All of this was in good fun, of course.  Stout continued to attend BSI functions and emcee many of them for the coming years.  He was also awarded the first Two Shilling Award by the BSI in 1962.  And once The Baker Street Journal started publication, Edgar Smith even reached out to Stout asking him to contribute a piece to the journal, maybe what Nero Wolfe's viewpoint was toward Sherlock Holmes.  That's an article I would love to read!

So many things from history get boiled down to a few talking points, and Sherlockiana is no different.  But I'm finding that looking beyond those oft-repeated highlights are a very rewarding endeavor.  There's a lot of fun stuff out there!

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Interesting Interview: Sandy Kozin

If the Sherlockian world of Zoom has a mascot, my vote would go to Sandy Kozin.  This unassuming senior citizen harbors a secret addiction: Internet Sherlockiana.  Sandy started out as a Sherlockian that many of us know: she was happy attending her local and regional Sherlockian events.  But then more connectivity presented itself.  Along the way, she started participating in listservs.  And then Zoom meetings.  And podcasting.  

And Sandy isn't just a fly on the wall in these areas.  If you've been on a Zoom meeting in the past year and a half, you know she is happy to join in any conversation and she knows her stuff.  And her limerick game is so spot-on that you can see them on The Hounds of the Internet and hear them on The Watsonian Weekly.  For a lady who says she's not very technologically adept, she sure does have quite a presence!

How do you define the word "Sherlockian" ?

It's more of a self-defined word.  If you like Sherlock Holmes and have a continuing interest in anything about him, you would be a Sherlockian.   If you like others who like Sherlock Holmes and want to spend time with them, you are more involved Sherlockian.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I had always loved the Rathbone movies and stayed up many a night watching one.  When my parents moved, my father gave me his two-volume Annotated, which I read cover to cover before shelving.  But I didn't do much else.  However, I knew Tom and Dorothy Stix socially.  Tom insisted I come to a meeting of Mrs. Hudson's Cliffdwellers at his home.  I liked the bright, funny, interesting people, and I did fairly well on the quiz, an ego-booster.  As time went on, I attended more meetings, then other meetings of other local groups I heard about.  I liked Holmes; I liked the people, so I was a Sherlockian.

What was your profession and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian?

Mostly I was an at-home mother; the occasional jobs I took were not a profession and had no relevance at all to the Master.

What is your favorite canonical story?

It can vary, but (ho-hum), it's probably HOUN.

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

Almost every Sherlockian is interesting in one way or another, and the answer has changed over time, but right now I'd say Steve Mason would be a great guy to get to know.  He runs a terrific scion, does so much more for the Sherlockian world, is smart, funny, welcoming, helpful, patient, and has figured out how he's going to have both a virtual and face-to-face scion when the time comes!

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

I came for Holmes; I stayed for the people.  I love the variety, the breadth of knowledge, and the wit I find in any group.  These are good people.  I grew up in New York City and have often told people that a Sherlockian meeting was the only place I'd use my purse as a seat marker and wander around a big room without any worry at all.

I can't even begin to count the number of Sherlockian limericks you've produced over the years.  How do you boil the stories down into such pithy rhymes?

When I was quite young, my parents gave me a book of Lear's limericks, which I read and read and read and read.  The form got imprinted on my brain.  Practice helps, but like anything else, some people "hear" the form, and some don't.   As for boiling down, I suspect that most non-Sherlockians would find them skimpy indeed, but I find it great fun to do them, so I keep doing them.

As an active member of The Hounds of the Internet and many Zoom meetings, why do you think Sherlockiana works so well on the Internet?

#1 - It's easy.  Turn on a computer, get comfy, and go  spend time with some wonderful  people.   

#2 -  No travel,  no expense.  I'm going to meetings across the country and locally with no traffic and parking problems and no time wasted en route.  

#3 - I get to see people I'd never see otherwise and some I met years ago who live distances and even time zones away.  

#4 - Maybe the most significant:  What Sherlockians do, by and large, is exchange ideas, about the Canon and much else.  So all that's needed is a way to let people convey their ideas to one another, and the internet allows and encourages that.  We can't play tennis on Zoom, but we can and do have lots of fun with verbal volleys.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Re-read the Canon.  After that, it depends on what you like.

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

I think the internet will have a strong continuing effect.  There will still be in person meetings, but more and more they will find a way to make them hybrid, so those interested in a group from far away can enjoy part of a meeting.  Some event or other will bring in new, younger members, as happens periodically, and those busy young people will find ways to join together that suit them.  I can't imagine what, but then until I got Zoom, I had no idea such a thing had uses outside the business world.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Interesting Interview: Chris Zordan

Chris Zordan is a Sherlockian that instantly brings a smile to the face of those who know him.  Gregarious and outgoing, I doubt if he's ever met a Sherlockian stranger.  And if he were just his welcoming self, that would be plenty.  But no, Chris is one of those guys who puts in the work to keep events, scholarship, and plenty of other aspects of Sherlockiana world humming.  He is one of the board members of his local scion, The Priory Scholars of NYC, a curator for Sherlockian.net, has had articles published in BSI books such as Upon the Turf and Nerve and  Knowledge, and helped coordinate the Gaslight Gala for years.

But many folks will know Chris from his presence at 221B Con every year.  His official title is the convention photographer, but you can only imagine the impact that he and his sidekick, Skwirel, have on everyone he comes into contact with in Atlanta.  A tireless supporter and frequent panelist, Chris's decades of Sherlockian activities welcome all comers to the fold.  So let's get to know Mr. Zordan a little better, shall we?

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”? 

I like to think “big tent” when it comes to defining “Sherlockian”.   In my mind if you read the stories, enjoy the characters, enjoy the various media that surround Canon, and so on, you are a Sherlockian.  It’s a self-declared thing that really only requires that you feel some connection to these characters.

How did you become a Sherlockian? 

Jeremy Brett is responsible for my first encounter with Sherlock Holmes.  I was I guess 13-14 years old and watched one of the Granada episodes, I forget which one, and Dad saw I was very into it.  He pointed me to the Doubleday edition on the bookshelf, I started reading the stories, and the stories have been my constant companion since then.  

Five or so years later I picked up copies of Steve Rothman’s Standard Doyle Company and Philip Shreffler’s Sherlock Holmes by Gas-Lamp and that’s how I learned about the BSI, the BSJ, and that there are a lot of others who love these stories the way I did.  I finally was able to attend a Scion meeting in 2011 and now I spend a lot of my free time on Sherlock Holmes events.

What is your profession and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian? 

I am an analytical chemist working the pharmaceutical industry.  My interest in science generally started moving towards chemistry in specific at about the same time I discovered Sherlock Holmes.  Clearly there is a strong cross-over with being a Sherlockian, especially since chemistry makes Watson’s famous list.  The biggest cross-over is how I’ve become interested in the history of chemistry, especially during the Victorian era.  While Holmes’ chemistry is familiar to me, it’s basically taught in high-school now.  The current state of the science is very different and it’s been fun to learn how chemistry of ca. 1880 advanced to what I do on a daily basis.

What is your favorite canonical story? 

It’s hard to point to just one, but if I go by the stories I re-read most frequently I can point to HOUN, SCAN, CHAS, ILLU, and the American section of Valley of Fear.  Nick Martorelli enjoys the irony that this is the part that doesn’t have Sherlock in it.  I also like re-reading the first few chapters of STUD because I always get a thrill from the “meeting” scene.

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

I’m going to cop out on this one and instead of naming one specific person I’m going to say this – every time you are at an event and have the chance to chat with someone new, do it.  I’ve heard some great stories and heard some cool takes on Canon just by having a chat with someone I’d never spoken with before.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?  

I one of those odd ducks who actually likes capital “C” chronology, so there’s that.  I also like the geography questions; I’m a big fan of Michael Harrison’s works around geography of the Canon.  And the Manuscript Series from BSI Press is a fun read both because we get to see the manuscript; we get a large dose of scholarship focused on one story. 

Anyone who knows you knows about Skwirel.  Can you tell everyone else about him?

He was a gift from a woman I dated when I was in graduate school.  I had squirrels nesting in the crawl space above my apartment and she gave me this small, plush squirrel to “protect” me from them.  Skwirel developed as a personality I used as a way to be cute/flirt with her.  His personality branched out a bit when I started doing “Skwirel” for friends’ kids and my nephews.  

When I started going to 221B Con, his personality expanded again.  I don’t cosplay, but Skwirel does – he has a bespoke Inverness and deerstalker.  Thanks, Mom!  So now he has a following at Con.   My sister says Skwirel is my whimsy and she is probably right on the money.

What does your curator role as part of Sherlockian.net entail?

Mostly it means keeping an eye on the content related to the “Celebrate” links to be sure the page is up-to-date.  Recommending new groups or resources for live meetings, if links change or are broken are mostly what I do.  Liza Potts and her team at MSU do the heavy lifting of keeping the site running, mine is more of an advisory role. 

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?   

I’m going to cheat and recommend one Sherlockian related and one not.  In the Sherlockian sphere I would point at Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters edited by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower, and Charles Foley.  I find it interesting because we get a biography of ACD largely in his own words.  

I also recommend Winston Churchill’s history of the Second World War, the full version covers six volumes but there is a one-volume abridged version as well.  Churchill was participant, witness, and chronicler of the war and much like A Life in Letters the first-hand/person feel makes the history come alive.

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

I see it probably ramping up for another “generational” cycle.  We’re about 10 years out from BBC “Sherlock” and looking back it seems that every 20 or so years there is something that brings Sherlock Holmes into the forefront of popular culture.  That will bring an influx of people who either right now are too young to be reading the stories, or perhaps unaware that this larger Sherlockian world exists.  The internet makes it easier, but a Meetup group for Sherlock Holmes was started in New York a few years ago and it took a while for it to cross-pollinate with the existing Scions in the city.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Interesting Interview: Mickey Fromkin

This week's Interesting Interview might be the most beloved Sherlockian out there: Mickey Fromkin.  Anyone who's met Mickey knows that my words can't even come close to capturing how delightful she is!  Half of one of the true power couples in Sherlockiana with her late wife, Susan Rice, Mickey has been a fixture in so many things: The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, the whole New York Sherlockian scene, The William Gillette Memorial Luncheon, and more scholarship than you can shake a stick at.

But Mickey is quick to give everyone else the credit for all of her involvement.  Truly, if you look at anything big in Sherlockiana from the past 40 years, you will probably find Mickey's name somewhere in the fine print.  And that's because she doesn't want the credit.  Mickey contributes so much to our hobby because she really enjoys it and chooses to spend her energy creatively.  (Side note, she even responded to my initial email about being interviewed this week by saying she didn't know if she was interesting enough!)  I think you'll agree with me that this interview is long overdue and Mickey Fromkin is way more than interesting, she's a Sherlockian treasure.

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

That’s the $64,000 question, isn’t it, and the subject of much debate. First of all, I subscribe to the notion that “all Holmes is good Holmes,” and that anyone who self-identifies as a Sherlockian is a Sherlockian. It’s rather like religion. In fact, I list “Orthodox Sherlockian” as my religion in my Facebook profile. 

It’s not just a hobby or a literary preference, but a way of life. We have our Sacred Writings, our scholarship, our rituals (Musgrave and otherwise), our music, our fellowship. As in other religions, some of us are strict fundamentalists, some dogmatists, some ritualists, some exclusionary (tsk), some welcoming (yay!), some simply social. I had a friend who called himself a back-door Sherlockian; he absorbed Sherlockian knowledge by osmosis from hanging around with Sherlockians. Another friend of more than 55 years became a member of the Sons of the Copper Beeches and ASH within the past couple of years. We do recruit!

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I was a late bloomer. Unlike the fortunate souls who discovered Holmes around the age of eleven or so, I didn’t have any real Sherlockian experience until I was in my early thirties. Oh, I suppose I read a story or two in schoolbooks, and saw a few Rathbone/Bruce movies on the television.  I even bought a deerstalker in London in 1965, but I just thought it was a practical winter hat. 

I first read the Canon In its entirety when I acquired Baring-Gould’s Annotated in college through the book club that advertised in the New York Times, but no bells rang. Like almost everything good in my life, I owe becoming a Sherlockian to my beloved late wife, Susan Rice. When we met and fell in love in 1980, she swept me into her Sherlockian world, and dragged me to a life-changing and never-ending series of happy gatherings with Our Tribe. By May, 1981 we had both joined ASH; by 1994 we had both been invested in the Baker Street Irregulars, and the rest is history. 

What is your previous profession and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian?

I’m a retired civil servant, so other than a fellow-feeling with Mycroft, my profession was largely unconnected to my Sherlockian life. I worked for 30 years in the Social Security Disability program, which involved evaluating medical reports, so I suppose I also had the Watsonian connection as well. 

What is your favorite canonical story?

I know this isn’t an earth-shaking choice, but it’s hard to beat The Hound of the Baskervilles, though choosing one story is a bit like choosing one’s favorite child. 

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

It’s glib to respond by saying there are no uninteresting Sherlockians. It’s also false, but fortunately the uninteresting ones are few, far-between, and still generally lovely people. Many of the most interesting Sherlockians have been the subjects of previous interviews here, but one notably interesting person has not been (unless I’m very much mistaken): Evelyn Herzog. 

Evy has been the Principal Unprincipled Adventuress since 1968 (!), and it’s almost inconceivable that women would have the place we now occupy in the Sherlockian world without her. She’s smart as a whip, startlingly funny, a true scholar, and the warmest, most welcoming friend one could imagine. She, deservedly, became a Baker Street Irregular in 1991, along with my Susan, as part of the first group of women to be invested by Tom Stix. 

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

May I punt by saying everything except chronology? Chronology makes my head hurt. Seriously, I have a great fondness for Sherlockian verse and music. I know, there’s a lot of bad examples of both floating about, but the good stuff is very good indeed. I’ve contributed a few examples of what I hope are good songs to the ASH and Priory Scholars repertoire, which accounts for my BSI investiture being The Missing Three-Quarter. Tom Stix told me it was a reference to musical notation; I don’t play rugby. I also collect, in a small way, Victoriana, in tribute to my ASH investiture, A Certain Gracious Lady.  

Every time I come across a big Sherlockian research project, your name seems to be attached somehow.  What is it about the history of this hobby that interests you so much?

My blushes, Nunn!  Frankly, I’ve always considered myself a sidekick rather than a principal player. If it hadn’t been for Susan, a true force of nature, I would still be that shy person at the back of the room, if I were in the room at all. I’ve always said that I was the Alice B. Toklas (cooking) to her Gertrude Stein (writing). It was always a joy, however, to help Susan with her research (I love research) and to be her first editor. Sherlockian history is a never-ending trove of delight. I can’t think of many other subjects that yield as much personal and intellectual stimulation. Susan introduced me to the most fascinating people.  And aren’t Sherlockians the best? But remember: it’s not a hobby! 

You and Susan oversaw the William Gillette Memorial Luncheon for a very long time.  What are one or two highlights from your tenure with such a large event?

It was thirty years, quite a run. Here’s the history: Susan and I had been happily attending the Gillette Luncheon together since 1981. It was run, then, by Lisa McGaw, who took over from Clif Andrew, the founder of the feast. In 1989, being aware that Lisa, who lived in North Carolina, might be happy to have someone in New York to provide local assistance, Susan wrote to Lisa and asked if she could be of any help. To her surprise, Lisa, who was in poor health, asked if Susan would be willing to take over running the luncheon entirely. Susan was hesitant, but I encouraged her, promising to handle all of the paperwork. 

So for all those years, 1990 through 2020, Susan dealt with restaurants and programs, while I handled the mailing list, record-keeping, and money. The luncheon is now in the capable hands of Jenn Eaker, who was hugely helpful to us in the past few years, when Susan’s health was failing. The best part of checking everyone into the luncheon, while Susan took care of last-minute details with the staff, was that I got to be able to put faces to names. My favorite part of the luncheon was the yearly entertainment by The Friends of Bogie’s (Andrew Joffe, Sarah Montague, and Paul Singleton), endlessly creative and enjoyable. 

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Must I pick just one? The Canon goes without saying. Every time I read a story, even after all these decades, I find something new. Anyone who hasn’t read Lyndsay Faye’s Dust and Shadow, to my mind the single best novel-length pastiche, is missing a treat. Mattias Bosrtöm’s From Holmes to Sherlock is simply brilliant. And, if I may add one more, rather solispsitically, Susan’s Dubious and Questionable Memories: A History of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (Baker Street Journal Christmas Annual 2004).  

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

I always say that it’s obvious that I’m an optimist, because I’m a Democrat and a Mets fan. I feel fully justified in my optimism about the Sherlockian future, however. When I became involved in the 1980s, there weren’t many young faces in any Sherlockian crowd, and there was much moaning from the elders that they would die off and leave little behind. It’s very different now. Bright young things are animating our ranks, and former bright young things, now moving into middle age, are bringing in new bright young things, and some bright and not so young. Popular culture and the internet have been great resources. When we were forced by the pandemic to meet online, we lost some of the immediacy of personal contact, and sometimes suffered from Zoom fatigue, but gained the ability to interact with fellow Sherlockians around the world without the expense or hassles of travel. 

One of the secret weapons of New York Sherlockians, a source of bringing in and welcoming new faces when groups around the country seemed to be faltering, is the institution of ASH Wednesday.  M.E. Rich, back in the 1990s, came up with the idea of Sherlockians meeting informally on the first Wednesday of each month for dinner and camaraderie. Because there is no program, and importantly no quiz, first-time attendees can relax and not be worried about having to prove themselves. And once Sherlockians meet other Sherlockians, the hook is set. 

Sunday, November 7, 2021

Some Scattered Ash [STUD]

Last week started out with one of the best ways a week can start out, with an email from a Sherlockian.  Evy Herzog emailed to offer me membership in The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes!  What an absolute honor!  

So, on November 21, I will be investitured as "Your old school-fellow" at their Autumn meeting.  I was so happy when my friend, Bill Mason, was investitured earlier this year, so I can only imagine how big of a goofy-looking grin I will have on my face on that day.  

But you don't have to be a member of ASH to attend their meetings.  The beauty of ASH is that they welcome all comers!  So check out the details of the event on their page here and hopefully I will see you on the November 21!

P.S. If you're interested in attending another meeting, please feel free to check out the next Parallel Case of St. Louis meeting this Saturday at 1:00 CST.  You can always count on a good discussion there!

Sunday, October 31, 2021

Interesting Interview: Peggy Perdue

When I think of this week's Interesting Interview subject, Peggy Perdue, the first word that comes to mind is "delightful."  Many people know her as the curator of the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection at the Toronto Reference Library, which is a position she held for thirteen years.  And if you're anything like me, you are very jealous of her for that time!  Peggy has recently been promoted and serves in an advisory role to the new curator.  

In Peggy's own words, she says she's mostly a hobbyist now.  And what a hobbyist this lady is!  A quick Google search for Peggy Perdue will show you the breadth of her Sherlockian knowledge.  Talks on pop culture, Victorian phobias, advertising, and more will keep you occupied for a while.  And I just learned that Peggy has her own Sherlockian blog, mentioned below.  Anyone who can combine baking and the Canon to create STUDmuffins, is more than any old "hobbyist"!  So enjoy another wonderful Canadian in this week's interview, Peggy Perdue!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
I'd say a Sherlockian is someone who has a strong need to share their appreciation for Sherlock Holmes with other people. It doesn't matter whether the person is by nature an introvert or an extrovert, clubbable or unclubbable, scholarly or inexperienced; such a person will not consider their time with Holmes complete until they have engaged with others about it in some form. Anyone can be a devoted fan all by themselves in an armchair, but I think it takes other people to make someone a Sherlockian.

How did you become a Sherlockian?
I have always enjoyed Victorian literature, and I distinctly remember my first encounter with Sherlock Holmes in the late 1980s. When I joined Toronto Public Library many years later, the idea of actually getting to work with the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection seemed an unattainable pipe dream--or a three-pipe dream, if you like. However, when the position as curator became available in 2005, I managed to get the job. When I started, I just thought I was going to be working with an interesting rare book collection--I'd never even heard of a "Sherlockian." It wasn't long before I found out all about it! Now many of my closest friends are Sherlockians and I wouldn't have it any other way.

What is your profession and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian? 
I'm a rare book librarian and, as mentioned above, for 13 years I had the great privilege of being curator of Toronto Public Library's Arthur Conan Doyle Collection. I now have a more senior role in the department but there are still plenty of opportunities to do things with the collection in cooperation with our curator Jessie Amaolo. That being said, I actually love being a "civilian" now. Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle aren't a full-time job anymore, and I can truly say "I play the game for the game's own sake."

What is your favorite canonical story? 
Speaking as an incurable romantic and a Watsonian, it has to be "The Sign of Four." Boy meets girl, girl meets boy, bottom of the river meets treasure, detective solves case--what more can one ask for?

Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
Where to start? You have covered so many truly interesting people in these interviews, and there are so many more left to be interviewed. I think I'll abandon any idea of mentioning one or two particular friends and omitting the rest. Instead, since I've mentioned the ACD Collection a couple of times already, I'm going to recommend the current curator Jessie Amaolo. She's doing a great job with the collection, and she isn't yet very well known in the larger Sherlockian world.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
Sherlockian travel is a thing I'd like to get back to soon. I also love the artsy-craftsy side of the hobby. Whatever one's creative outlet, one needs inspiration in order to face a blank page or a blank canvas, and like many, I find Sherlock Holmes to be the perfect muse. It's not an exaggeration to say that this has gotten me through the pandemic, whether it's creating recipes for my baking blog sherlockforpudding.blogspot.com, sketching a portrait of Moriarty in tea leaves, or working on my current project, crocheting an Arthur Conan Doily.

So often newer Sherlockians will stick with the stories and forego delving into the life of Arthur Conan Doyle.  As someone who has written and given talks about different facets of the man's life, what argument would you make to get folks to investigate him more?
To paraphrase Sir Arthur himself, Conan Doyle's life was often stranger than anything he could invent, and just sharing some stories about him is the best way to get people interested. I think it's fair to say that there's been an increased interest in Conan Doyle in recent years among both new and longtime Sherlockians, with far fewer people now fully entrenched in the "literary agent" angle. The last time someone got really angry at me for mentioning his authorship was 2009. I almost miss that old fighting spirit. 

This year is the tenth anniversary of your Beacon Award!  Looking back on such a big project, what are some highlights from implementing it? 
The project was to do outreach presentations to children as a way to have the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection participate in the library's Summer Reading Club, which featured a detective fiction theme that year. I once spent a couple of happy years working as a children's librarian, so the biggest highlight for me was just the opportunity to work with small people again. Even very young children can understand the basic concept of what a detective is. We had great fun playing with disguises, solving riddles and codes and practicing careful observation.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians? 
Too many to choose from again...how about A Taste For Honey by Gerald Heard? It's often been out of print since its first publication in 1941, but Otto Penzler published an edition in 2019, so it shouldn't be too difficult to get hold of now. The book is an interesting blip on the timeline of Sherlockian activity; it belongs neither to the early turn of the century parodies nor the late 20th/early 21st century pastiche boom. To read it is to step away from the familiar, modern world of Sherlockiana and occupy a space where only the author and the reader agree that it would be a good idea to pop Conan Doyle's famous detective into a new story. 

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
Living in the mountains at high altitude. No, sorry I'm just kidding--that's a quote from Groundhog Day. I'm deflecting because honestly, I don't know. The only thing I'm sure of is that it will continue. Holmes and Watson have stood the test of time too long now to fade quietly away.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Interesting Interview: Steven Rothman

The number 60 is an important one for Sherlockians.  So, for my 60th Interesting Interview, I knew it had to be someone who was a real standout among such a wonderful group of people as Sherlockians.  Steve Rothman definitely fits that bill.  Many people will know Steven as the editor of the Baker Street Journal and that would be bona fides enough to want to know what this guy has to say.  I am an unabashed fan of the BSJ and am continually impressed and entertained with the product that Steve puts out.  

Over the past few years, I've also come to appreciate the writings of Christopher Morley and Mr. Rothman is an expert on this founding father of our hobby.  Through emailing about these two interests, I've come to know Steve a little bit, and he is unbelievably nice.  Anytime I've had a question about Morley, Steve is always quick with answers and a welcoming manner.  And as someone who has been on the receiving end of his gentle yet reassuring BSJ submission responses, I can personally tell you that Steve is thoughtful and inviting in all of our conversations.  I think that warm personality will shine through in this landmark interview.

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

I frequently say that, to a Sherlockian, all things are Sherlockian. Even more, I would insist that all who define themselves as Sherlockian are. So you could be a print Sherlockian and have no connection with the hobby other than reading and rereading the Canon (a term of which you may not be aware). Or you could be a Sherlockian who spends a great deal of time watching Holmes on a screen. You can be a scholarly Sherlockian, trying to explicate the text, to unfurl the hidden details of the vanished Edwardian world. You can be a cosplay Sherlockian whose greatest joy is dressing up in some related way. You can be Watsonic, Milvertonian, Morantic, Moriartian, or Adlerite. Really, there are probably as many ways to be a Sherlockian as there are Sherlockians. And I approve of all of them because, deep down, they all love the stories about the detective who lives in Baker Street.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

Before I could really read, my father gave me an illustrated Sherlock Holmes, with pictures and text on every page. It had “The Red-Headed League,” “The Speckled Band,” and “The Final Problem.” Maybe there were one or two more. I found it terrifying: the lantern-lit man emerging in the dark cellar, the man with the snake wrapped ’round his head, the struggle at the Falls. All it did was give me the willies. A few years later, at eight or nine, I read The Adventures and found them okay. I read The Hound as well.

But I did not really become a Sherlockian until I was 12 and ordered a remaindered copy of Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street for a dollar. Why? I have pondered that question for many years. But when the book arrived, I devoured it. I found it hilarious. Here was an author arguing that the clearly fictitious Sherlock Holmes was a real man, indeed was still alive at some quite advanced age. There were footnotes and bibliography. I drove my friends and family quite crazy for a long time, insisting that Holmes was real. I looked up every book Baring-Gould referenced, but my library only had Starrett’s Private Life

Fortunately for me, I lived quite close to Haverford College, and Chris Morley’s alma mater had a number of works of early scholarship. I gulped them down hungrily. (I had—quite separately—come upon Morley’s work at the same time, although it was probably another year before I put Chris and Sherlock together. That was a happy moment!) 

What is your profession and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian?

I catalogue rare books for a bookshop. It allows me to handle a never-ending stream of amazing material and use effectively a head filled with quite miscellaneous knowledge. Now and then, we get in something Sherlockian or by a Sherlockian. For instance, two years ago we bought a very large library of Civil War books from North Carolina. It included a sizable collection of the work of Manly Wade Wellman, who received his shilling (“Wisteria Lodge”) in 1951. I was able to dive into this collection of paperbacks, pulp magazines, etc., with more passion than otherwise, as I knew it to be the work of one of us.

What is your favorite canonical story?

My favorite story has been, since the snowy winter day I first read it, The Valley of Fear. It was set in Pennsylvania, as am I. It has a locked room murder, the only compelling “middle section” of any of the novels, and Moriarty. And it has some wonderful lines. For instance, T. S. Eliot—who, by the way, shared an office with Frank Morley, creator of the BSI crossword puzzle, at Faber & Faber—was lunching with the Wednesday Club, a group of intellectuals, in the mid-1950s, when he was asked what his favorite line in literature was. He immediately responded:

        “Well,” cried Boss McGinty at last, “is he here? Is Birdy Edwards here?”

        “Yes,” McMurdo answered slowly, “Birdy Edwards is here. I am Birdy Edwards.”

Was Eliot kidding? Did he just love the drama of those lines? Scholars have debated it for years. But Eliot did love Holmes and incorporated line from “The Musgrave Ritual” into his 1935 verse play Murder in the Cathedral. Most likely Tom Eliot was just using the lines as a way of deflating his fellow diner’s ego.

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

Besides Christopher Morley? Everyone who cares about both Holmes and Conan Doyle would benefit from a deep dive into the work of Richard Lancelyn Green (“The Three Gables”), a scholar and collector of endless energy and curiosity who left us far too early. His contributions to our field may never be matched. Let’s leave it at that. It would be too difficult to choose among my many friends who are still among us.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

Book collecting. I have been collecting books, letters, and manuscripts in a serious way since I was 12 and, though I know it is not for everyone, have found the bibliophilic world to be welcoming, intellectually challenging, and infinitely rewarding. I have also found endless amusement in reading the Spiritualist works of ACD, though I realize that is not for everyone.

What do you look for in pieces that you include in the Baker Street Journal?

New ideas, good ideas, and good writing. As does every editor. I am always looking for new voices as well. I regard Sherlockian scholarship to be a part of popular culture, a field that has always interested me. So I do enjoy it when offered a piece that connects Baker Street to something new. I am constantly pleased by the imagination and effort of the work that comes my way. 

Christopher Morley is obviously an important person to our hobby. What is a fact about him that many Sherlockians might not know?

Hmmm. Morley was the eldest of three brothers, all of whom were Rhodes Scholars and studied at Oxford. Their father, a Cambridge man, mused that his sons’ time in Oxford didn’t seem to have done them any lasting harm.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

For a real time-capsule collection of Sherlockian scholarship, try The Milvertonians of Hampstead, edited by Nick Utechin (Gasogene Books, 2020). The Milvertonians were a London group in the 1950s and 1960s devoted to the single story. Their publications are quite uncommon, and Nick did a great job discovering their story.

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

I think more of our life will migrate onto the internet. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we can share our joys around the world immediately. Perhaps more works will be published on line, with many links to easily allow us to follow a line of inquiry from one source to another. I hope that we all continue to search out those younger than us who have an interest and encourage them to have fun with Holmes. We need more Baker Street ravers.