A few years ago, I got an email from Jim Hawkins asking for information about our Holmes in the Heartland conference. It was a new name to me but ever since then you could say that I hear of Jim everywhere. Jim is active all over the Sherlockian Facebook groups and Twitter and he is always welcoming of anyone interested in this hobby of ours.
And Jim's gregarious nature comes through in spades with his biggest Sherlockian project to date, The Friends of John Bennett Shaw website and Facebook page. Anything someone could say about Shaw would only scratch the surface of how influential he was. And Jim has taken a great tack at such a large project, he brought everyone in to talk about Shaw. But now it's time for Jim Hawkins to talk about Jim Hawkins, in this week's Interesting Interview!
How do you define the word “Sherlockian"?
One who has more than a
passing interest in Sherlock Holmes and the 60 stories written about him by Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle. Some qualifiers:
a. A Sherlockian has read the entire
canon. I know that sounds harsh and leaves some folks out, but I believe it to
b. A Sherlockian has gone beyond the stories and has read some of the annotated
publications, seeking to fully understand the locale Holmes worked in, and the
social settings he and Watson had to live in. Historical settings are key to
understanding many of the stories.
c. A Sherlockian has joined a local scion society and made friends with other
like-minded people. Being a Sherlockian is not a solitary kind of endeavor. At
the least you have reached out to others to share what you have learned and
learn what others want to share.
How did you become a Sherlockian?
On my 40th
birthday, my wife gifted me with the Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes. Through that I learned that highly educated people across
the country were having great fun in scion societies reading, discussing, and
writing about the Sherlock Holmes stories. And I discovered John Bennett Shaw.
I wanted to join that bunch of people—and I became a Sherlockian.
What was your profession and does that affect how you
enjoy being a Sherlockian?
I am retired from 16 years with
Southwest Airlines, and 12 years of employment with LifeWay Christian Resources
as a music consultant prior to that. I traveled quite a bit with both jobs, and
I was able to visit other scion societies across the country. I was also able
to visit lots of great bookstores, where I immediately went to the Conan
Doyle/Sherlock Holmes shelves.
What is your favorite canonical story?
It’s a double combo here. "The
Final Problem" and "The Empty House." Those stories are eternally
connected for me; one where Holmes disappears, and the other where he
Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others
would find interesting?
That’s easy! He is the first Sherlockian I ever knew, and
the one I have created a website about: John Bennett Shaw. He is one of the
most fascinating men I’ve ever known, Sherlockian or not. But I’m glad he chose
Holmes to center his life around. What he did with all that is simply amazing.
He changed the very nature of being Sherlockian.
What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
am a historian at heart, so I like to immerse myself in the historical setting
of Holmes’ and Watson’s world—the Edwardian, and the Victorian eras. Conan
Doyle was a genius at capturing the setting for his tales, and I admire today’s
writers who can do that same thing, like Lyndsay Faye.
recent article I wrote for the book, Referring to My Notes, was
about Holmes’ Stradivarius violin. I thoroughly enjoyed getting into the world
of luthiers from the 17th and 18th centuries, discovering
the intricacies of fashioning an incredible string instrument that defies the
years and sounds like it did 300 years ago when it was first made.
As curator of the Friends of John Bennett Shaw website, what should people know
about such an influential Sherlockian?
Today’s Sherlockian should know how
much we owe John Shaw for who we are as a collection of literary people--Sherlockians
and Holmesians--and what we do in our scion societies today. He was universally
loved and admired in the U.S. and wherever the Sherlock Holmes stories were
read and discussed. He brought people together and made sure people new to our
ranks found a place to thrive and grow. And he was gender-inclusive long before
it became popular.
must share how important it was to have encouragement from so many friends when
I decided it was time to return to my roots in the Holmes world. I met so many
new friends who knew John Shaw well when he was the BSI “Simpson”, the Sage of
Santa Fe, and Big Brother in his Brothers Three of Moriarty scion society.
the website there are testimonials about Shaw that point out his kindness and
encouragement to everyone who wanted to belong. Mainstream Sherlockians like
Peter Blau, Ray Betzner, Steven Doyle, Tim Johnson, Evelyn Herzog, and Susan Rice (I could go on and on) speak to how important meeting Shaw was for their
own journey in following Holmes.
quote stands out for me that gets to the heart of who John Shaw was, the one by
Philip Schreffler: It is unlikely that any man since Arthur Conan Doyle
himself has brought the authentic and Canonical Sherlock Holmes to so many
people and so many people to Sherlock Holmes. And no man, including Conan
Doyle, ever did it with such love. (Baker
Street Journal, December 1990, Volume 10, No. 4)
You hadn't been as active in this hobby for a
while and have come back in just recent years. How has
Sherlockiana changed since you first got involved in it?
I was out of the mainstream for almost 16 years when I was traveling and
working for Southwest Airlines. Fan groups like 221b Con and Baker Street Babes
came to the forefront during the years I was inactive (on hiatus). So, the
average age of someone who calls him/herself a Sherlockian has gone down
dramatically. It’s wonderful to have these young people joining our ranks, no
matter how they got here—via Cumberbatch, or Jonny Lee Miller and
Lucy Liu, or Robert Downey, Jr. The interest film directors
and television producers have brought to the world of Holmes has been amazing
What book would you recommend
to other Sherlockians?
new Sherlockians I always recommend The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany by
Roger Johnson and Jean Upton. Published in 2012, it is 223 pages (so close that
magic number of 221) of “the essentials” everyone interested in the back story
of our movement should know.
many excellent books are being published nowadays, but devoted fans of Sherlock
Holmes should not overlook the journals, blogs and podcasts being written and
recorded weekly. I mention just a few: The Baker Street Journal (the BSI
official journal, edited by Steven Rothman), The Sherlock Holmes Review
(published by Steven Doyle at Wessex Press), Studies in Starrett (the
blog published by Ray Betzner that focuses on Vincent Starrett), and the
podcast by Steven Doyle, The Fortnightly Dispatch. Some of the finest
writing and reportage on and about our hobby/obsession is found in these
Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10
years from now?
age 77 I don’t look down the road very far. I am confident that we will see
continued growth in our fascinating hobby, particularly in publishing and
movies and television. I personally plan to make the most of my BSI investiture
and participate fully in BSI gatherings. Two BSI friends encouraged me to do
some writing, Dr. Marino Alvarez and Jon Lellenberg. Because of their nudging I
now have a few articles out there in Holmes Land. I was thrilled and amazed to
be able to attend my first Writers Cocktail Party, the one you and I
attended at the invitation of Steven Doyle for the Wessex Press group the day
before we were invested into the BSI on 14 January 2022.