Sunday, April 17, 2022

The Celebrated Author [VALL]

I find Sherlockian history interesting, but the actual people who have participated in this hobby are even more fascinating and entertaining in my opinion.  And for my money, the writings by Christopher Morley and Vincent Starrett are always worth checking out.  I'm branching out from these two authors' Sherlockian writings to their larger bibliographies, but Morley just loves Holmes too much to stay away for long.

Christopher Morley is known among Sherlockians as the founder of the Baker Street Irregulars.  But to many others in the world, he was first and foremost and first-class writer.  His novel, Kitty Foyle, was turned into a Hollywood movie in 1940 and starred Ginger Rogers.  

But for me, Morley's strength comes in his essays and short stories.  I've read a few collections and recently finished The Ironing Board.  I knew that this collection included "On Belonging to Clubs" in which Morley famously laments his small creation called the Baker Street Irregulars had grown into a movement with scions spread across the country.  This is only one paragraph in an eleven page piece and while as a Sherlockian, I call it a famous line, to most folks I guess it wouldn't be much more than a passing comment in a larger story of Morley's views on clubbing up back in the day.

But as I breezed through this delightful collection, I came across so many more Sherlockian moments that show just how deep Holmes was ingrained in Morley's lifeblood.  The short story "Time of Life" is a fun creeper that name checks The Hound of the Baskervilles and in which a character states that it is his job to notice what others don't. (Wonder where that line came from?)

A few pieces on and you come across "An American Gentleman" where Morley lays out the argument that Robert Louis Stevenson was a major influence on Arthur Conan Doyle's writing style.

After that is the essay "A Christmas Story Without Slush."  In my naivete, I had always thought that Morley's comment about "The Blue Carbuncle" was just that - a comment.  But no!  There is a whole essay on the excellence that is BLUE.  A treat to read at any time of year, Doyle's story or Morley's essay about it.

Another fun turn in The Ironing Board is a few short stories starring Dove Dulcet, former literary agent and amateur detective.  This character now works for military intelligence and is helped out immensely by a certain London detective's sister.  

"Watson a la Mode" is another essay that delves straight into the Canon.  In this one, Morley makes a case that Watson got out of the medical trade and made his money by going into dressmaking.  Some of today's Sherlockian essays can be pretty tongue-in-cheek, and you'll find the roots of that tradition in this 1946 piece.

So if you are someone who enjoys essays or literary ramblings, let me encourage you to track down the wider writings of Christopher Morley.  And don't worry, you may find yourself immersed in stories about a church that exists under a bypass or tributes to folks Morley finds important, but don't worry dear Sherlockian.  When it comes to Christopher Morley, sooner or later all roads seem to lead back to Baker Street.

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