A typical Interesting Interview participant a few days to get their answers back to me. Steve Mason holds the new speed record by far. From my initial invitation email to him submitting his answers, he was done with all of this in five hours! And I have no doubt it would've been done more quickly if I had responded to the in-between emails sooner. But I'm not surprised by Steve's quick turnaround on a Sherlockian project because it seems that this man lives and breathes Sherlockiana from his home office.
I first met Steve a few years ago when he and his son Rusty were driving to New York from Texas and decided to make a roundabout trip to visit with Sherlockians they hadn't met in person yet. Since then, I've gotten to know him much better and he never ceases to amaze me with all of the projects he has going on. As I was prepping today's post, I started making a running list of all of the Sherlockian projects I know Steve is involved with: He is the head of The Crew of the Barque Lone Star scion, has made their monthly zoom meetings one of the most popular out there, oversees their annual publishing projects, writes the Baker Street Elementary comic strip along with his son, Rusty, and Joe Fay, is the Beacon Society Communications Chair, created the society's website, oversees the Fortescue Scholarship, publishes the Sherlock's Spotlight Gazette, created the Sherlockian Societies website, puts out the canonical word search puzzles, collects Sherlockian actor autographs, cross-stitches Sherlockian projects, and I know there's more that I can't remember!
How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
In lieu of a definition, I would instead say how you know a Sherlockian when you see one. A true Sherlockian is the person who, when first introduced to someone for the first time, will somehow slip the name Sherlock Holmes into the conversation within a reasonable, but quick, time frame. Additionally, a true Sherlockian will show their colors by hanging around others who want to talk about Sherlock Holmes, and not come up with any excuse they can to escape another Sherlockian.
How did you become a Sherlockian?
At the age of seven, I found my father’s copy of the 1949 paperback “Hound of the Baskervilles”, and was hooked, even though I didn’t understand much of it. I re-read the entire Canon over and over again throughout junior high and high school. In 1999, I was so lucky to work with another Sherlockian (Dorothy McManus) while in Washington DC, who took me to my first Scion Society meeting, the Red Circle of DC, where I was blessed to meet Peter Blau. As soon as I returned to Dallas, I searched out the Crew of the Barque Lone Star and started attending their meetings.
What is your favorite canonical story?
It would have to be “The Adventure of the Three Students” as I have had the privilege of administering the Fortescue Scholarship Exams for the Beacon Society for several years. I will always be thankful to Susan Diamond for allowing me that opportunity.
Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
As I assume you are talking about someone who is still with us, I am going to cheat and list two… my two mentors when I first joined the Crew, Don Hobbs and Jim Webb. Both are distinguished Sherlockians, who have given talks internationally. More importantly, both of them believe sincerely in passing it forward. They will always take the time to answer questions and provide guidance to anyone who asks for it. It also helps that both of them have a great sense of humor.
What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
While I collected autographs of those who had portrayed Sherlock Holmes for years (usually just signed programs from plays I attended), Howard Ostrom got me hooked into making it a full-fledged activity. While I will never be an expert on all who have played Sherlock as Howard is (and Russell Merritt, and Roger Johnson, and others), I simply enjoy collecting the autographs and reaching out to as many as I can who have had the thrill of playing Sherlock.
What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?
Since my son, Rusty, Joe Fay, and I continue to produce the “Baker Street Elementary” comic strip on a weekly basis, I find it fun to determine what things can be put into the comic strip that would be time-appropriate… it’s a challenge writing a strip that you can’t include TV, radio, airplanes, basketball, etc. I am very much appreciative to Liese Sherwood-Fabre, with her “The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes” series, which has helped me in this pursuit.
How and why did you become involved with the Beacon Society?
I have always believed that a good Sherlockian is one who wants to pass on our passion to the next generation. Educating students about Sherlock through the Jan Stauber grants, as well as all of the other activities of the Beacon Society, seemed like a wonderful chance to help in this endeavor. I was very honored when Bill Mason asked me to be the Chair of the Communications Committee several years ago. I hope I have enriched the programs. It’s amazing how many wonderful people I have met through the Society.
As a Sherlockian that is behind the scenes in so many projects, what is one that you think more people should know about?
If they have not yet done so, I would highly recommend Sherlockians take the Fortescue Scholarship exams, including the recertification exams. It is a great way for people to review the Canon, and learn more about the Sherlockian world. Everyone who has finished the exams let me know how much they enjoyed taking them.
What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?
I am going to cheat again, by listing 2 books. The first is one of the best books I have ever read on Sherlock Holmes, and that would be Mattias Bostrom’s “From Holmes to Sherlock”. Mattias was simply amazing in the things he found to put in the book that many, if not most, Sherlockians were not aware of.
The other book is one that I think some Sherlockians may have skipped, simply thinking they did not need to read it. That would be Steven Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes for Dummies”. I think even the most astute Sherlockians will learn a few things from the book, and it makes for a wonderful review of the Sherlockian world in which we all love.
Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
I think the Sherlockian world will continue to expand as more and more people write pastiches, essays, plays, parodies, and everything else under the sun. But to paraphrase another creator of a wonderful world for all of us, ““I hope we never lose sight of one thing—that it was all started by two people needing to share expenses.” And as the world of Sherlock Holmes continues to expand, I hope everyone will find the time to read, or re-read the Canon, on a regular basis.