Sunday, March 13, 2022

Interesting Interview: Christian Monggaard

I'm going to bet that many readers aren't familiar with this week's Interesting Interview.  But Denmark's Christian Monggaard is definitely a Sherlockian who would be a great guy to spend some time with.  A Danish journalist, author, and collector, Christian has made it a point to amass a wonderful collection of the Shaw 100 List.  

I got to know Christian through his piece in The Finest Assorted Collection, and found his approach to our hobby a great one.  He is all about writing for the public and enjoying Sherlockiana with others.  If you are willing to let Google Translate do some work, Christian's website is a real treasure trove of writing about film, books, and Sherlockiana.  You'll get a real feel for a guy who knows his craft and is passionate about his interests.  But if you want to get a taste of Christian's take on Sherlock Holmes and the Sherlockian scene in Denmark, then dive on in to this week's Interesting Interview!

How do you define the word "Sherlockian"?

I think I have a very broad definition of the word, but I do believe you should have more than a passing interest in Sherlock Holmes, his biographer and literary agent. That interest could also be in the films and TV shows – or comic books. Usually, it all leads back to the source, the original stories and the writings on the writings. I began with the books, took a detour to the films and TV shows and now I am back with the books, keeping my eye on everything else. 

How did you become a Sherlockian? 


I have been reading Sherlock Holmes all my life. When I was born my mother places three things on the shelf above my crib: A Donald Duck magazine, a book with Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators and a book of Sherlock Holmes stories. Those three items have more or less shaped my life. In my teens in the 80's I began rereading the books – and a lot of other classic British crime stories – watched the Jeremy Brett series and really fell in love with Sherlock Holmes. 

At that time, I also became aware of The Danish Baker Street Irregulars/Sherlock Holmes Klubben i Danmark and for a short while corresponded with then president and famous Sherlockian, Henry Lauritzen. I didn’t become a member until 25 years later – and I am now on the board – though I did write quite a few articles on Sherlock Holmes in the newspaper, Dagbladet Information, at which I am the film- and TV-editor. I do believe I have always been a Sherlockian at heart, but it wasn’t until I joined the club here in Denmark, I really felt a part of the Sherlockian community and dared call myself one. 

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


I recently turned 50 and have been writing professionally for almost 30 years. I am a journalist, film critic and editor at a daily Danish newspaper, Dagbladet Information, and I have been so for 25 years now. Before that I was the editor of a film magazine. And even before that I briefly studied classical archaeology at the University of Copenhagen. I have written a dozen books on cinema, TV and Danish film directors. 

Because of my work and my love of the moving image I have always been very interested in the film and TV adaptations of Sherlock Holmes, and I think that I have reviewed every show and film that has to with Holmes during my years as a critic. I also had the pleasure of interviewing some of the people behind those films and shows – for example Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss (Sherlock) and John Musker and Ron Clements (The Great Mouse Detective). 


What is your favorite canonical story? 


That would be The Hound of the Baskervilles. Probably not the most obvious choice, but I really like the combination of mystery and horror. It is very suspenseful and gothic and playful at the same time. And there are at least three great dramatizations: The one from 1939 with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, the Hammer Horror one from 1959 with Peter Cushing and André Morell and directed by Terence Fisher, and of course the Granada one with Jeremy Brett and Edward Hardwicke. 

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


There are a lot of Sherlockians I find interesting: Edgar Smith, Vincent Starrett, Christopher Morley, John Bennett Shaw etc. But there is one I would love to talk to for a couple of hours or days to get his full perspective on Holmes, Watson, Doyle and the Canon, and that is Stephen Fry. I am a big fan of his and I love his audiobook version of the stories. He has been a Sherlockian for many years, and he is himself a fascinating, brilliant and knowledgeable man with a great sense of humour. I think it would be very exciting to be in his company talking Sherlock Holmes.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you? 

It must be the films, TV shows and comic books. I can combine three of the great loves of my life that way. Sherlock Holmes is a very flexible, elastic character and you can use him for many things and in many ways – you just have to do it with love and knowledge AND respect the spirit of the original stories.

What does the Danish Sherlockian world look like? 

It is not very big and not that active, but it has gotten somewhat bigger and younger during the last 5-10 years, mostly because of the BBC series, Sherlock. That show got a lot of younger people, many of them women, hooked on Sherlock Holmes and that lead them to the books and the club. The members of the club itself meet up a couple of times a year, and we publish a magazine, Sherlockiana, three times a year. We have a small handful of scions that meet more regularly, talking about the books, the films, TV shows, radio adaptations and the like. 

Recently one of our members, Palle Schantz Lauridsen, became a doctor in Sherlock Holmes at the University of Copenhagen, and another long-time member, Svend Ranild, who is also the editor of Sherlockiana, was invested in the Baker Street Irregulars. I must say that we sometimes look towards America, a bit envious of the Sherlockian world there. It seems to be very dynamic and full of scions meeting and publishing a lot. 


What is it about the Shaw 100 that so fascinates you as a collector? 

There are several things. Most importantly it has been a good guide while becoming a ’professional’ Sherlockian. It has helped me get a lot of the books I need in my collection. And when I began collecting according to the Shaw 100, I decided I would get all the books on all the different iterations of the list. So, it is more like the Shaw 150. 

Also, as a collector – I collect films, LEGO sets, books, comic books and much more – I sometimes find it difficult limiting myself and the Shaw 100 gave me a goal to pursue, and some kinds of boundaries to stay within. I must admit that I haven’t kept to that list only and my Sherlockian collection is quite big now. In his essay on collecting Sherlockiana John Bennett Shaw writes about having a shelf, a collection or a library. I believe I have a library. 

Also, I really like his idea of sharing: If you have one book, you brag. If you have two, you share. I have that kind of relationship with a Sherlockian friend of mine, Michael Skov Lambek, who is also a collector, and it is very fun and rewarding. Collecting Sherlockiana has also made me friends in the international Sherlockian community, and I owe Denny Dobry a big thanks for getting me many of the books I needed in my collection. 

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians? 

Again, there are so many, but I must say that I cherish The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes with annotations by Leslie S. Klinger. When I read one of the stories, I also like to read what Klinger writes about it. And then of course The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett, one of the pillars of the Sherlockian world. I have a first edition of that book, with a dust jacket and signed by Starrett.

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

That’s a tough one. I really don’t know. But I do hope that it only grows bigger and even more connected. One of the positive by-products of the pandemic is that a lot of talks, meetings, lectures are now also done online which gives us in Denmark the possibility to participate much more than usual. I was supposed to be at the BSI Weekend and Dinner in January, but I couldn’t make it because of Covid concerns. That meant I also missed the opening of Glen and Cathy Miranker’s exhibition, Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects, at the Grolier Club. But later I got to watch a talk with Nicholas Basbanes and Glen Miranker online from the club and about the exhibition, and that was a real treat. 

I have always had the impression that the Sherlockian community is a generous and welcoming one, very connected across the globe. Technology has only made that part easier. After I had my first article in The Baker Street Journal last year – on Sherlock Holmes and The Three Investigators – and an essay in the book on colleting Sherlockiana, that you, Rob Nunn, edited with Peter Eckrich, I have received e-mails from other Sherlockians wanting to connect. That is a very nice feeling.

Also, the interest in Sherlock Holmes really doesn’t seem to wane. New books, pastiches and studies are being published all the time. New websites and podcasts pop up. A new Enola Holmes film is on its way – I look forward to that – and potentially exciting new TV shows and comic books are coming. I can recommend the French-language Dans la tête de Sherlock Holmes. It is a very inventive and beautiful comic book that plays with both the artform and its central character. Two volumes have been published so far. A third is thankfully on the way.

1 comment:

  1. What a great interview and what a very informative guy Christian is.
    A really interesting interview.