It is a new year and I wanted to start off this new season of Interesting Interviews with a Sherlockian that not many folks will know, but are excited about his book. Peter Eckrich is the sparking plug behind the new book from Wessex Press that I announced last month, The Finest Assorted Collection. Working alongside him as we put together so many wonderful essays was a ton of fun.
Peter is someone who's been known around St. Louis and Illinois Sherlockian circles for a while. His dad, Joe Eckrich, raised him up right, going to all kinds of Sherlockian activities. Peter has carried that interest with him over the years and the fire is still burning. It's all I can do to get him to focus on this book coming out next weekend before he wants to start corralling folks for a new project! So, get to know a name that will probably be new to many folks, but one whose Holmes fires burn just as bright.
How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
I define the word Sherlockian as anyone who enjoys Sherlock Holmes in any form.
How did you become a Sherlockian?
The short answer is I was born into it. The longer answer is: My father was a Sherlockian from before I was born. There are early pictures of me as a baby with a deerstalker and a pipe. My brother enjoyed dressing me up. As a child I enjoyed going to different Sherlockian meetings and events with my Dad.
I remember attending The Occupants of The Empty House where I met Gordon Speck and Bill Cochran. I also remember attending meetings of The Harpooners of The Sea Unicorn, and attending conferences in Dayton. I enjoyed the Basil Rathbone movies as a child. I drifted away from Sherlock Holmes for a long time. I rekindled my passion for it when I attended the Nerve and Knowledge event in Indianapolis. I have been going strong since.
What is your profession and does that affect how you enjoy being a Sherlockian?
I am a 5th grade teacher and as such I love reading and I love helping students find a passion for reading. The greatest part of teaching reading is when you see a child finish a book and they close it for the last time. That sense of accomplishment that is on their faces and the excitement to start a new book is the best feeling as a teacher.
What is your favorite canonical story?
Man I am going to sound like such a noob, but I enjoy The Hound and the "Speckled Band." I also really like The Valley of Fear.
Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?
I have met so many fascinating people in this hobby. Someone I wish people could have met was Gordon Speck. Gordon was a kind man. I have to share a story. I was raising money to take my students to Washington DC. One day I received a check in the mail from Gordon. That is just what kind of guy he was.
Other Sherlockians I have to mention would be Gabriele Mazzoni and David Marcum. Gabriele is a collector from Italy. He has a tremendous collection and is an extremely passionate and kind individual. David has raised over $100,000 for Undershaw School with his MX Anthologies.
What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
I am not a Sherlockian who gets caught up in the use of a word or how many times Watson was shot or where. I do find learning about the Victorian time period to be very interesting. I respect those that are so passionate about these other aspects, but the time period is fascinating.
How did you come up with the idea for The Finest Assorted Collection?
Being the child of a collector, I had an interesting childhood. I visited bookstores, antique malls, flea markets, and estate sales with my father. He was always in search of that missing item. I caught the collecting bug early. First it was baseball cards and then came autographs. I am still a huge autograph collector, but I have a nice book collection now as well. Anyway, I saw that my father was not unusual in the world of Sherlockians. I heard stories about John Bennett Shaw and others. So many Sherlockians were collectors. I was fascinated by these stories and I figured others would be too.
As a second generation Sherlockian, what influence did your dad have on your interests in Sherlockiana?
He has had a huge influence. His knowledge about Holmes and the history of the BSI has been invaluable. He has recommended some great books that have helped me learn. That and the fact that he is always sending me home with more books. The hobby is more fun when you have someone to share it with.
What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?
Even though they are well known, I have really enjoyed the BSI Manuscript series. They are extremely well done and full of information.
Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
In some ways it will not have changed. There will always be passionate people who want to share their passion with other like minded people. In other ways it will be different, as new members always bring new ideas. No matter what, Holmes and Watson will live on forever.