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.