Sunday, May 30, 2021

Interesting Interview: Nancy Holder

Last weekend, Nancy Holder won a Bram Stoker Award for Mary Shelley Presents.  And this wasn't her first!  She's won five others before this year.  Clearly, Nancy Holder is a horror writer at the top of her profession.  So where does she go after winning another major award? To be this week's Interesting Interview!

Nancy Holder is one of the friendliest Sherlockians I've know but I've never met in real life.  Through Twitter and Zoom, we've gotten to know each other and she is just a delight!  I'm lucky enough to be part of her newest project, Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street, which she co-edited with Margie Deck and let me tell you, this is a going to be a fun project.  The lineup of authors is almost as impressive as Nancy's bibliography.  Oh, you think she's just an impressive Sherlockian?  Do the shows and movies Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Wonder Woman, Ghostbusters, Wishbone, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Teen Wolf ring a bell?  Because Nancy has written novelizations for all of them (Her contributions for Buffy alone are more than 20).  And that's not even mentioning all of her original books!  This lady should have pages and pages on the internet devoted to all of the books that she's put out over the years.  Oh wait - she does.  

But we are here to focus on Nancy's love of Sherlock Holmes.  So here we go with this week's Interesting Interview!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

A Sherlockian is someone who has more than a passing interest in Sherlock Holmes and his world. They have read the Canon and know something about the era in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and John H. Watson lived and wrote. 

How did you become a Sherlockian?

Basil of Baker Street was my gateway into Sherlock Holmes. My father, who gave me the book when I was in the second grade, mentioned that the character of Basil was named after Basil Rathbone, an actor who portrayed Sherlock Holmes in movies. My first Holmes movie was one of Rathbone's wartime films, and I saw it on a Saturday afternoon TV show called Science Fiction Theater. I was a bit confused because Basil the mouse is a creature of the Victorian age, but this movie was set during World War II. I also didn't know why a Sherlock Holmes movie was being presented as a science fiction film. So using my kid brain, I decided SH was a time traveler! 

My father and grandfather were huge mystery readers and I read mysteries as a little girl, but mostly Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Then I started reading horror and loved Edgar Allan Poe. I read the C. Auguste Dupin stories, which led me back to Sherlock Holmes. This time I stayed, and read the Canon. 

Through my work as a horror writer, I met Les Klinger, and found out he was a BSI. He introduced me to the BSI world, which I explain to civilians is like the Rescue Aid Society in Disney's The Rescuers. (I'm a fan of The Great Mouse Detective, of course!)

Les Klinger, Dana Cameron, and I at "WonderCon," a popular culture convention in Anaheim, California. Dana and I ate Easter brunch together at a Disneyland restaurant that weekend.

What is your favorite canonical story?

Given my professional background in horror and dark fantasy, it's no surprise that it's The Hound of the Baskervilles. It's capital G-Gothic, with a gloomy, foreboding moor; a possibly haunted house: a woman weeping in the middle of the night; buried family secrets; murder, possibly by supernatural means—what's not to love? 

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

My co-editor Margie Deck is a well-kept secret to some, but the friend of many Sherlockians world-wide. Margie is one of the most creative people I know, making visual art and writing. She works on the John H Watson Society annual treasure hunt, a position she has held before. We've been teammates in the past. She knows her Canon backwards and forwards and she has an astonishing Sherlockian library. Her Canon crush is John Clay. She created a beautiful rendering of the Curse of the Baskervilles, which hangs in my office. She's also a highly skilled amateur baker, which occasioned the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street, although Baking Street is not a cookbook and it's not all about baking. She and her husband cruise around Washington state in his Mustang and she's a devoted dog mom.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

I'm interested in placing the work of ACD in a broad context, exploring his influence on other writers who in turn influenced him. I really enjoy discovering who else was working on detective fiction while ACD was involved with Holmes. A while ago I wrote a pastiche pairing Holmes/Watson with Lady Molly of Scotland Yard. My big secret project is to someday write a book exploring the similarities of the lives and literary output of Mary Shelley, EA Poe, and ACD. And of course, as you would expect, I'm interested in the great British baking of the Victorian age. 

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

I like learning more about the times in which SH live(s)--Victorian, Edwardian, and post WWI. My sister used to be a reenactor specializing in the American Civil War (also called the War Between the States) and her area was early medicine/sanitation. Through her I learned about Florence Nightingale. I love intersections like that. I love knowing that ACD visited Tacoma the same year Walt Disney moved to Hollywood and opened his studio (1923). Disney moved there in part because his brother had tuberculosis and he sought a kinder climate--a familiar familial situation for us Sherlockians!

And I love researching the food of the times. There are so many rituals surrounding food--what people eat says a lot about who they are. I love it that Holmes goes out for a nice meal now and then. I enjoy reading about the details of Victorian baking--it hadn't dawned on me that early Victorians didn't have oven thermometers. Things like that. 

How did you and Margie Deck come up with the idea for Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street?

Margie herownself came up with the idea. She was talking with another Sherlockian about the pandemic mania for baking and the funny pun of baking/Baker Street. That person said "that would make a cool book." Margie came to me and asked me if I would be interested in editing the book with her. I've been an editor for many years. I've edited about half a dozen other anthologies (non-Sherlockian), and I loved her idea--and I love her! We are in a number of scions together, our home scion being the Sound of the Baskervilles here in Washington state. But it was Margie's idea from the get-go.

Many folks might not be familiar with The Domino Lady, that you partnered up with Holmes for a book a few years back.  What was it about The Domino Lady that appealed to you and why did you think she would pair nicely with Holmes for your adventures?

I've been a writer on The Domino Lady (as we say in the comic book business) for many years. I've written Domino Lady comics and short stories, and I also co-created her daughter for a new set of stories that will be released soon. The Domino Lady is a character from the pulp era of the 1930's--she's Berkeley grad socialite Ellen Patrick  by day and a sexy crime-fighter by night. She wears a domino mask and a slinky gown when she's on the prowl. She's brave and saucy and bold. I love her. 

I wanted to write Sherlock Holmes-specific comics forever but wasn't getting the opportunity, so I "guest-starred" him in my work on The Domino Lady. I've done 2 comics and a short story pairing Holmes and The Domino Lady for Moonstone Books. In the comics, I sent him to 1930's Egypt with Ellen. In my prose short story, he thwarts her attempt to steal the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

A book of mine? Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street! Or the novelization of the movie Crimson Peak. It's very Gothic and set in during Sherlockian times (1900). A Sherlockian book by someone else? Les Klinger's annotated volumes. And I love Bonnie MacBird's pastiche novels

Bonnie MacBird and I at the Criterion Bar in London (renamed Il Granaio)

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

The introduction of Zoom and Skype has really opened up the Sherlockian community/made us all aware of just how many communities we actually are. I've been able to attend meetings of many societies I've only wished I could get to before the pandemic. I've made new friends and gotten involved with societies with really specific interests, such as Theatre-Goers Homeward Bound, the Tea Brokers of Mincing Lane and the Barely Coronets. 

Like a lot of Sherlockians, I came for SH and stayed for the Sherlockians! I think this interconnecting will expand and draw in folks who see SH in all kinds of unusual ways. As he is so recognizable, I think creative people will continue to focus on him; I see enhanced virtual reality films and games, making him even more present in the zeitgeist.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Pinnacles Which Marked the Site [BOSC]

Two new Sherlockian sites which could more easily connect folks our hobby and change the way we use the Canon debuted this month.

The first, Chapter and Verse Holmes, may at first make some people scratch their heads and ask why.  All I can say to answer that is that it was created by the genius of Paul Thomas Miller.  If you aren't familiar with how this man's particular mind works, I would encourage you to read my interview with him.  

Paul has a knack for creating things that no one has thought of before and often things that people wonder why it was needed.  But his work ultimately ends up being delightful and sometimes even useful.  My prediction is that Chapter and Verse Holmes will be very useful to folks who are willing to embrace it.  I have already used it a few times to search for a certain item in the Canon.  And since I haven't had the need to cite his work yet, this week's post title seems like an appropriate time: (BOSC 1:368)

And don't just take my word for it, Watson himself points out that you can always learn something new (STUD 6:3).  Even if you end up not adopting this new tool, I would heartily recommend reading Paul's introduction in the opening pages of the pdf.  You would think after creating his own chronology, he would've learned not to take on such large tasks anymore, but it seems like the man is willing to sacrifice his eyesight and time with his family for our hobby.  It's the least we could do to try it ourselves (SIGN 1:13)

The other site that launched a few days ago is one I'm very excited about, and not just because I'm part of the team working on it.  Sherlockian Societies is a page hosted by The Beacon Society, but isn't strictly about educating students.  It's a tool that will be used for any student of the Canon.  The team behind this site includes Steve Mason, Mike McSwiggin, Greg Ruby, Tamar Zeffren, and myself.  I'm in unbelievably good company here!

The purpose of this site is to be a central hub for information about any active Sherlockian society out there.  It's not trying to be an exhaustive collection of information, but a starting point for many Sherlockians.  The goal is to connect anyone interested with in-person groups that they can read about and hopefully join.  

Looking to see if a city has a society you could check out? The interactive map that was originally hosted on the Crew of the Barque Lone Star site can be found on

Want to know what a Sherlockian society even is?  An overview of what societies can be and the different types can be found on

Curious about what publications societies put out?  A treasury of society newsletters is being built on

Want to read about specific societies?  Monthly spotlights of societies will be posted on

Trying to find that piece of information you sort of remember but can't quite put your finger on?  Links to The Baker Street Almanac, Sherlockian Calendar, and Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press can be found on

Heard about a great presentation from a meeting and want to see what it was all about?  Text from society presentations will be hosted at

So do yourself a favor this week and set aside some time to spend on Chapter and Verse Holmes and Sherlockian Societies.  Otherwise, you may just end up like Jefferson Hope (STUD 10:101).

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Interesting Interview: Nicholas Utechin

Just when I thought Sherlockians - I'm sorry, Holmesians can't get any nicer, along comes this week's Interesting Interview subject, Nicholas Utechin.  Since I first got into this hobby, Nick has been one of the names that I've seen time and time again.  And every time it came up, I've always been impressed with the man's work, knowledge, and longevity in this hobby of ours.  Well, let me tell you, those all pale in comparison to what a nice guy Nick is!  Our email exchanges this week in preparation for tonight's interview have been a highlight every time I got something from him in my inbox.  

If you're reading this blog, there's a good chance that you know Nick Utechin as the longtime editor of The Sherlock Holmes Journal, or author of a number of books such as Sherlock Holmes at Oxford or Sherlock Holmes: Amazing and Extraordinary Facts.  And the man isn't stopping any time soon!  He's just edited a new book celebrating the history of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London in its 70th anniversary year, This August and Scholarly Body, he's been popping up in Zoom meetings all over the place for presentations, and he brought canonical insight to a Sherlockian puzzle that came out last year!  And I think his knowledge, passion, and connections all come down to two things: he loves Sherlock Holmes and he's a great guy.  So let's kick off the month of May with a true delight, Nicholas Utechin!

How do you define the word ‘Sherlockian’?

In the same way that I would the word ‘Holmesian’ – which we use more often over on this side of the Atlantic!   Basically, anyone who wishes to take matters just that bit further than merely reading and enjoying the stories.   You may want to dress up in Victorian clothing, you may be able to afford the odd Beeton’s Christmas Annual or Lippincott’s Monthly, you may adore Gillette, Saintsbury, Wontner or Wilmer, or you may enjoy playing “the game” – that is, the pseudo-scholarship.

Those who espouse “fandom” are not necessarily Sherlockians.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I became a Holmesian in 1966, at the age of 14.  My mother had tried me on The Hound of the Baskervilles some years earlier, but it was a touch too early and I was frightened.   Then my great-aunt wisely gave me the John Murray Omnibus edition of the Short Stories when I was 12.   The crucial breakthrough came when my mother took out of the public library the English edition of Baring-Gould’s Biography – and there at the back was an address for The Sherlock Holmes Journal, of which I had previously never heard.   I wrote to the Editor, the Marquess of Donegall, and his assistant (an unsung heroine called Miss Cecelia Freeman) put me in touch with the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.   It really all spiralled out of control from there.

The fact that I am a third cousin twice removed of Basil Rathbone (my middle name is Rathbone) may have helped. 

What is your favo(u)rite canonical story?

“The Bruce-Partington Plans”.   It has absolutely everything: dense fog, Mycroft, a proper mystery, a good murder and splendid deductions and denouement.   It has the added benefit of being a chronologist’s nightmare: there is absolutely no work to be done on the dates of the case!

With Dame Jean Conan Doyle in the early 1980s

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

This is an invidious question, for which, I fear, I cannot give an answer.   I have been around for such a long time plying this great hobby and meeting or corresponding with so many other enthusiasts that to pluck one name simply is not on.   I apologise!

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

No single one.   I was lucky enough to start collecting the classic works of scholarship when they were not yet too expensive.   In more recent years, I have managed to put together a reasonable number of single issue Strand Magazines containing Holmes stories; I still need (please?!) one or two Collier’s Magazines with Steele covers, and have picked up a few Harper’s Weeklies.   

Autographs of actors associated with Holmes are fun to accumulate.   

It has long been apparent that I shall never be in a position to own an original Holmes drawing by Paget or Steele, so I have begun a little mini-collection of non-Sherlockian works by artists who have done Holmes illustrations: thus, I have an illustration Sidney Paget did for The Tragedy of the Korosko, an unpublished (I believe!) watercolour by his brother Walter, and a 1916 draft of a Collier’s cover by Dorr Steele, as well as works by other lesser-known artists.

With Douglas Wilmer at his home to record an interview for the Baker Street Irregulars

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

I have been fairly eclectic.   My first published article – back in 1969 – pointed out the lies Holmes told Watson at the outset of FINA: in later years, I have proved that Holmes murdered Moriarty at the Falls, discussed Moran’s shooting of Ronald Adair (indeed, I have written long mini-biographies of the Professor and the Colonel), and worked out Mycroft’s true role in EMPT.   During the 30-years I edited The Sherlock Holmes Journal, I had quite enough to do without contributing to the scholarship; but since then I have hit upon the main reason for Holmes having gone to Montpellier during the Great Hiatus, worked out why Sherlock turned down a knighthood, and identified “Emsworth, the Crimean VC” (BLAN)…and lots more.

Back in 1977, I entered what has become known as the “Controversity” with my brochure Sherlock Holmes at Oxford; in 2018, Gasogene Books published my Complete Paget Portfolio.

So: a fairly broad spectrum – helped perhaps by being friends with editors and publishers!

Launching my Paget book at the Bloomington SH conference in 2018

As a long-time member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, what are some positive trends you've seen in our hobby over the years?

That’s a very broad question – and again not an easy one to answer.   It goes without saying that the admitting of women to such groups as the Baker Street Irregulars and the Sons of the Copper Beeches was long overdue (although I freely admit that I was made a member of both when they were still men-only.)   The way that younger people continue to be ensnared in the web of Sherlockiana in all sorts of ways is a triumph: the re-inventions in the BBC’s Sherlock and the two Guy Ritchie films were, as we all know, of paramount importance.   While Enola Holmes was not a Sherlock film and and a decision has been made not to renew The Irregulars, Netflix has successfully continued the general media journey.   Why there were so many (any?!) series of Elementary is utterly beyond me, but anything that manages to continue to spread the word 134 years after STUD first appeared is “a good thing”.

One of the best things I did during lockdown last year was The World of Sherlock Holmes puzzle and I was absolutely delighted to see your explanatory essay that identifies so many of the Easter eggs throughout the puzzle.  How did you become involved with this project and what was your role in the development of the puzzle and its explanation?

I’m glad you enjoyed it (I can’t do jigsaw puzzles at all…let alone 1,000-piece ones!)   This is an easy question to answer: I was approached by the producer/manufacturer and asked to come up with essential characters, essential objects, a few extra-canonical personages, and some locations to be hidden around the picture.   I then had to write the accompanying text/crib accounting for who everyone/thing is.   I had no contact with the artist whatsoever: he just had to work with the material I provided.   The fact that he is primarily an architectural illustrator is fairly apparent.   Ludicrously I forgot Scotland Yard – and sadly I was only paid a small buy-out fee and so am not on royalties!

They also want me to come up with some thoughts about a set of Sherlock Holmes playing cards – which is proving somewhat problematic.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

So, so difficult to come up with just one…Since you are compelling me to do so, I shall have to say D. Martin Dakin’s A Sherlock Holmes Commentary.   The mixture of scholarship, clever writing, and humo(u)r is, I think, unparalleled in our field.   I don’t know how many of your readers subscribe to The Baker Street Journal (they all should), but there is more on Dakin in an article I had published in Vol. 66 No. 1 (Spring 2016).

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

I couldn’t begin to guess.   The only thing I so hope for is that the printed page will still exist.   I would say that, wouldn’t I, since I am the age I am, and chair the Publishing Sub-Committee of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.  Rude as it is to a blogger such as yourself, nothing beats hard copy.

That said, as mailing charges mount up grotesquely, who knows?

With Val McDermid at the SHSL Annual Dinner, 2020