Sunday, December 17, 2023

Interesting Interview: Jerry Kegley

For the final Interesting Interview of 2023, let's get to know one of the friendliest and most outgoing Sherlockians out there, Jerry Kegley.  Jerry has been running a scion for longer than some Sherlockians have been alive and every time I see him, his fires seem to be burning brighter and brighter!  Seriously, this guy seems to never flag in his devotion to Holmes and Watson.

Jerry and his wife Chrys run one of the BSI Weekend's biggest events, and it was created as a way to include everyone.  Folks, Jerry Kegley is the personification of a big tent Sherlockian.  And if you've ever gotten to meet him in real life, that holds true in every way.  Jerry welcomes everyone in this hobby and never makes a newbie feel like they need to prove themselves to be included in his fun.  I think you'll see that this attitude continues through his answers this week!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”? 

This answer has evolved over time. When I was new to this community, I thought a Sherlockian was someone with more than a passing acquaintance with Sherlock Holmes. A Sherlockian was a scholar, or an erudite individual who studied the Canon and had specialized knowledge on related topics. This somewhat strident view has softened considerably as my association with Mr. Holmes creeps toward its sixth decade. People come at things in many ways and my feeling now is all Holmes is good Holmes. If you sit at the table, then you’re a Sherlockian. A vast feast is laid before you and it’s your choice on how much or how little to partake.      

How did you become a Sherlockian?

As a youth, the Universal films of Rathbone and Bruce were my gateway drug. Note, that the 20th Century Fox offerings were not a part of the early equation. My Holmes was a “Noir” adjacent Nazi hunting Detective/Spy very much of the era in which the movies were produced. This changed when my now Brother-in-law handed me a copy of Doubleday’s The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Mind blown! 

I entered the gaslit Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes where a part of me has resided ever since.  The second part of this story involved relocating to California from Illinois when I was eighteen. With few friends early on, and little social interaction, I discovered the local scion society and met some kindred spirits. Many of these people are in my own scion, The Curious Collectors of Baker Street, and are among my closest friends to this day.     

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

I am a retired Assistant Vice President, Communications Regional Manager for Bank of America. In retirement, I do commission painting of wargame miniatures under the moniker of Colonel Winky’s Warriors.  

The funny thing is that being a Sherlockian might have been a big part of getting my foot in the door at BofA in the first place. Part of my resume contained copies of the CCOBS’ newsletter as samples of my writing. As a bit of an aside, before entering the corporate world I worked five years as a Private Investigator doing sub rosa work. You might say this question is backwards as being a Sherlockian has affected how I enjoyed my profession.  

What is your favorite canonical story?

Hands down Hound of the Baskervilles. Going back to the gifting of The Complete Sherlock Holmes from my Brother-in-law, he recommended that I start with HOUN. Most of the literature that I was interested in then was of the gothic or horror genre like Dracula, Frankenstein, or Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Hound’s milieu hit that touchstone and left an indelible mark. The Sherlock Holmes as he was written came to life and as I said above, mind blown!

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

Jeff Hart, BSI.  If you want to talk to a font of knowledge on topics from Sherlock Holmes, film, TV, comic books, and literature in general and back along a divergent route, then spend some time with Jeff. 

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

Victorian Military History. In this case, Watson’s adventures in Afghanistan, the Indian Mutiny, Boer War, Colonel Sebastian Moran, etc. I’ve written about Watson’s wound, who he might be inspired by, and a myriad of articles on Canonical military matters. I am also an avid tabletop historic miniatures wargamer so this era in colonial warfare is often of inspiration. I’d have to say it’s my second passion next to Mr. Holmes. 

You and your wife Chrys serve as co-presidents of The Curious Collectors of Baker Street.  What is it like running a scion with your spouse?

Special! To be able to share a labor of love with the one you love is a blessing. Chrys and I have been at the helm of the CCOBS for 32 years, which is one less than we’ve been married. We kid each other that marriage is a blood sport and the CCOBS has caused some of that blood to be shed but we would not have it any other way. Having Chrys at my side and vice versa is of immense benefit, as we can function as sounding boards for ideas, issues, and the like. The fact that we hold this strong of a common interest in what is supposed to be a hobby is rare to me. 

One of the proudest moments of my life was when Mike Whelan called her name and invested her in the BSI. Not because she is my wife… (Okay, I love that my wife is a BSI), but because I know how hard she worked to deserve the honor.

Coincidentally, the insert item that I sent to the BSI for inclusion in the 2024 BSI Dinner packets is a write up of Chrys and my 32 years with the CCOBS.   

Lost in New York with a Bunch of Sherlockians has become a BSI Weekend mainstay.  How did that start and how have you seen it evolve over the years?

As one attends the BSI Weekend from year to year, the cadre of likeminded individuals grows and flourishes around you. The only drawback is finding a space you can all hang out in. By 2002 (I’ve been attending the BSI Weekend since 1995, Chrys since 1996) this had become evident to us, and the question was now how do we manage Saturday night? As we sat in our hotel room on Wednesday of that year’s bacchanalia, that very question was posed. Chrys, to the rest of our disbelief said, “Let’s have an event.” She proceeded to pull the phone book (yes, there still was such a thing) out of the bedside table and looked up restaurants with banquet rooms. One of the first she came across was the now defunct Kennedy’s on West 57th. Phone calls were made, and we stopped by and set up the first Lost. 

It would be an overstatement to say our first gathering was a resounding success. Through word of mouth, we rounded up fourteen of our Sherlockian friends in the Library Room at Kennedy’s. There would be ten more dinners there and eleven more in three different locals that have come to be known as “Lost In New York With A Bunch Of Sherlockians.” The event had been established as a Saturday night refuge for the “disjecta membra” of the BSI Weekend, it now has become a sold-out nightcap. 

Lost is another labor of love for Chrys, and I. It’s our way of giving back to a community that has given us so much. 

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

That’s a tough one, there are so many deserving of a plug. Beyond the rabbit hole inducing classics like Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street or The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. I must give a nod to Mitch Cullin’s A Slight Trick of the Mind (2005). Mitch’s take on an aging Holmes losing those mental faculties he was renowned for was both moving and insightful. The film Mr. Holmes with Ian McKellen was based on this book.

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

Right where it should be, vibrant and strong. Although, I hope during that time, we see another shot in the arm (pun intended) akin to the one that took place more recently with the Downey Jr. films, BBC Sherlock, and Elementary on TV and the plethora of reading material the “Free Sherlock” movement brought us. We have seen the Golden and Silver Age of Sherlockiana, how about Platinum?

Sunday, December 10, 2023

I Was Sufficiently Conversant with Holmes's Methods [RESI]

The general public will often write off Dr. John H. Watson as a doofus.  Portrayals like Nigel Bruce, Dudley Moore, and John C. Reilly haven't helped matters much.  And in "The Creeping Man," Watson goes so far as to say such negative things about himself as that Holmes may as well talk to his bedstead instead of him for all he did to help.  But I argue that those aren't true accounts of the man who wrote the Canon and that a better account of of Dr. Watson's intelligence can be viewed in "The Resident Patient."

First of all, this man can WRITE.  Just the opening line of this story will get you to take notice:

In glancing over the somewhat incoherent series of memoirs with which I have endeavoured to illustrate a few of the mental peculiarities of my friend, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, I have been struck by the difficulty which I have experienced in picking out examples which shall in every way answer my purpose.

No dullard is putting out prose like this.  

But as we get into the story, you see Watson display his intelligence throughout.  When Holmes and Watson return from their walk, a brougham was parked in front of their building.  Holmes deduces that a general practitioner, who has not been in practice for long, has come to consult them.  Watson is able to follow Holmes's deductions by

see[ing] that the nature and state of the various medical instruments in the wicker basket which hung in the lamp-light inside the brougham had given him the data for his swift deduction.  The light in our window above showed that this late visit was indeed intended for us.

This is a far cry from the man in "The Red-Headed League" who said "I was always oppressed with a sense of my own stupidity in my dealings with Sherlock Holmes."  No, the Watson we read about in RESI is keeping pace with his friend here.

And how has Watson been spending his free time before this case starts?  Reading yellow-backed novels or staring off into space?  No, this man has been reading monographs on obscure nervous legions.  I don't know how many of us are reading arcane pieces of writings related to our professional fields, but this is a sure sign of Watson's intelligence as far as I'm concerned.

Another argument against "Stupid Watson" is that Sherlock Holmes wouldn't tolerate a dummy following him everywhere.  In fact, Sherlock Holmes values Watson and his time.  He recognizes that Watson has better things to do than follow him around on pointless errands.  If Holmes viewed Watson as a hapless sidekick, I doubt he would have felt the need to apologize to his friend for bringing him out on a fool's errand for their first visit to Brook Street.

Watson does have a suggestion to make to Holmes along the way.  He offers that the story of the Russian and his son were made up by Trevelyan and that the doctor is behind all of the trouble.  Although Holmes disproves Watson's theory, he admits that "it was one of the first solutions which occurred to me."  Although Watson is a step or two behind Holmes in deducing things, he's clearly not lost during all of this.

And once there's a dead body involved, Watson's medical knowledge is of use.  He states that Blessington had been dead for about three hours by the time that they arrived, judging by the rigidity of the dead man's muscles, aligning with Inspector Lanner's report that the death occurred around five a.m.

Now, am I saying that Dr. Watson is ready to strike out and begin solving crimes on his own?  Probably not.  But I think we should all appreciate that this man is not only a great writer and brave companion, but also a worthy partner in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes.

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Interesting Interview: Daniel Stashower

Do you have a friend-of-a-friend that you don't know all that well, but think very highly of?  In the Sherlockian world for me, that's Daniel Stashower.  Award winning author, man who wowed the BSI dinner last year, and one of my favorite writers.  But here's the thing, when I talk about Mr. Stashower to other Sherlockians that know him, they always say something like, "Oh yeah, he's a great guy!"  They don't mention his Edgar Award or his Agatha Award.  Nothing about the myriad of places he's been published or his ability to bring history to life on the page.  People just like to talk about how friendly and nice he is.  

So I reached out and asked Dan for an interview.  Sure enough, his reply was just as friendly as advertised.  And you know what?  The guy is funny too!  (I'll let you guess which line in this week's interview made my wife ask me why I was giggling.)  If you're already friends with Dan Stashower, kick back and enjoy.  And if you've only admired him from afar, now's your chance to get to know him a little better with this week's Interesting Interview!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

Broadly. When I was younger, I’d have probably given you a prescription of learned texts, but people seem to be coming in through a lot of different doors these days, and that’s all to the good.  One could do worse than to follow the example of Peter Blau, who has been running the Red Circle of Washington, D.C., for roughly 50 years.  If you show up and fill out your name tag, you’re in.  Here’s me wearing the tag I filled out in 1985.

 How did you become a Sherlockian?

My friends are tired of hearing me tell this story, but here goes.  My hometown theater, the Cleveland Play House, put on a production of the Gillette play when I was eleven or twelve years old. I auditioned for the role of Billy. I already had a pretty serious case of Baker Street fever at this stage – I’d read the stories and watched re-runs of the Rathbone films – and I came to the audition wearing a deerstalker hat, thinking that this would give me an edge.  

It didn’t. I didn’t get the part, so I decided to make my mark on the theater by writing a play. Remember: I was eleven or twelve. The play was called “Sherlock Holmes Versus the Lizard People.” It may not have been strictly canonical. It found Holmes and Watson struggling to fend off an invasion by a formidable army of lizard people, who had the advantage of hovering space ships and laser pistols.  I recall only one line of the dialogue: “Look out, Holmes!  That lizard has a grenade!” It’s too much to say that it launched my career as a writer – it’s too much to say that anyone even read it – but I came away from the experience more in love with Sherlock Holmes than ever.

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

Hell yes!  Being a writer in the Sherlockian community is a pleasure and a privilege. You get to rub elbows with some of the best writers in the business today, and you’re carrying on a tradition that stretches back to the founders.  Here I am with two of my favorites – Jan Burke and S.J. Rozan. (That’s me in the middle.)

What is your favorite canonical story?

SCAN.  I love everything about this story, and it’s the one that lit the fuse when I was a kid.  That first paragraph is the high-water mark of the canon for me. I love every word of it. Believe me, I’m not throwing shade at “the footprints of a gigantic hound” or “the curious incident of the dog in the night-time” – all of the stories throw off sparks. But SCAN rises to the top every time.

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

I regret that today’s younger Sherlockians will never have the opportunity of getting to know Jon Lellenberg, my friend and collaborator on such projects as Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters and Dangerous Work:  Diary of an Arctic Adventure. We spent many hours in various Irish pubs talking of anything and everything — P.G. Wodehouse, Confederate cipher disks, the films of William Powell, the perfect martini olive, the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus — everything.  I never got his limits, to coin a phrase. Our sodality – a word he favored – is poorer for his absence. 

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

It’s amazing how many Sherlockians also have an interest in magic and magicians. I can’t explain it – and Holmes would remind us that a conjurer gets no credit when once he has explained his trick – but it astonishes me. We have many top hats scattered in among the deerstalkers.

As someone who has written a biography about Arthur Conan Doyle, what's something you wish more Sherlockians knew about the man?

When I wrote Teller of Tales, I wanted to throw some light on Conan Doyle’s belief in spiritualism.  As I said in the book, I hoped to examine that aspect of his life with sympathy rather than derision. 

How has your role as a historian influenced the way you enjoy the Canon?

There’s a bit in Conan Doyle’s memoir where he talks about his love of history against the backdrop of his early days in Southsea: 

“The history of the past carries on into the history of today, the new torpedo-boat flies past the old Victory with the same white ensign flying from each, and the old Elizabethan culverins and sakers can still be seen in the same walk which brings you to the huge artillery of the forts. There is a great glamour there to any one with the historic sense — a sense which I drank in with my mother's milk.”

How great is that? He makes you feel the sweep of history, even as you’re reaching for a dictionary to look up “culverins” and “sakers.”

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Over the weekend I came across a bound volume of The Strand. I love reading the pieces that run alongside the Holmes stories – it’s a wonderfully eccentric time capsule.  So I’ve been reading up on the use of phonographs to train parrots, and “Picture Forgers and Their Methods,” and the correlation between “Inches and Eminence,” illustrated by photos of famous authors arranged shortest to tallest. (Bad luck, Kipling!  Sorry, Thomas Hardy! Even in this, Conan Doyle towers above.)

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

Bear with me; this is a roundabout answer. I am distantly related to an old-time science fiction editor named Hugo Gernsback, who published Amazing Stories magazine, and for whom the “Hugo” award is named. Each year at the holidays, Gernsback put out a trifling monograph called “Forecast,” in which he predicted future scientific marvels such flying cars and interplanetary travel.  In that spirit, I’m calling for a scion on Mars by 2040.  Let’s make this happen, people. 

Sunday, November 12, 2023

The History of This Terrible Business [GLOR]

"The case might have been dealt leniently with, but the laws were more harshly administered thirty years ago than now, and on my twenty-third birthday I found myself chained as a felon with thirty-seven other convicts in 'tween-decks of the bark Gloria Scott, bound for Australia."

James Armitage was far from the first person to face penal transportation for his crimes.  England had been shipping out its convicts for over 200 years by the time Armitage was unable to pay his debts in 1855.  Transportation was assigned for almost every crime conceivable, but the overwhelming majority of prisoners were transported for small thefts (such as food and clothing) and unpaid debts.  Terms of punishment were typically for 7 years, 14 years, or life.

More than 40,000 prisoners were sent to the American colonies before the Revolutionary War, but once America became independent, Australia was the new destination for British convicts.  The British government hoped that their new convict destination would deter crime, as it was a place that was considered the most remote place on Earth and was a three- to four-month journey by ship.

As Armitage said, "the old convict ships had been largely used as transports in the Black Sea" during the Crimean War.  Armitage and co. were lucky to have the Gloria Scott as their transport ship, as conditions on the average one were much more harsh.  Convicts typically were four to a cell and the security stricter than what that this group was able to overcome.  The hatchways would only be wide enough for one person to pass at a time and each watch would require ten soldiers with guns loaded.  Hardly the crew of men trying to affix bayonets to their muskets as prisoners rushed them that we read about in this tale.

Once in Australia, the majority of convicts built roads or worked for land owners as free labor Monday through Saturday, sunrise to sunset.  If convicts were well-behaved during their terms, they could be issued a ticket-of-leave which allowed them freedom outside of their prescribed work hours each day.  But any misbehavior was quickly met with flogging of up to 300 lashes.

When their terms ended, the majority of convicts stayed in Australia and populated the country; booking passage back to England was out of the question for the overwhelming majority of ex-cons.  And when the British government offered them free land, seed, food, and other resources to populate the colony, it was an easy decision for many of them.

By Armitage's time, transportation was beginning to slow.  Prisons were being built in England and the discovery of gold in Australia brought an influx of "respectable" citizens to the colony.  1868 saw the last transport ship unloading her passengers.  By then, over 160,000 convicts had been transported to Australia for crimes ranging from murder to pickpocketing, and in 2015 20% of Australian citizens could trace their heritage to convict transportation.

So while James Armitage's escape from captivity was a bloody and terrifying one, the future that lay ahead for the convicts aboard the Gloria Scott was nothing to look forward to.  And if the mutiny had not happened, James Armitage never would have returned to England and had his son, Victor Trevor who became friends with Sherlock Holmes.  And Sherlock Holmes never would have shown off his "merest hobby" of observation to James Armitage, prompting the man to say the words that launched Sherlock Holmes on his destiny:

"...[I]t seems to me that all the detectives of fact and of fancy would be children in your hands.  That's your line of life, sir.."

And we Sherlockians are better for it.


Constitutional Rights Foundation:,they%20worked%20off%20their%20sentences.

National Museum of Australia:

Stain or badge of honour? Convict heritage inspires mixed feelings:

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Interesting Interview: David Harnois

There are some Sherlockians who pop into the zeitgeist for a moment and then have to settle back into the real world, much to the chagrin of our hobby.  David Harnois is a prime example of this phenomenon.  In 2014, he began the podcast, I Am Lost Without My Boswell, and for the following few years he was everywhere: being interviewed on podcasts, speaking at conferences, etc.  David has stayed active in local and regional Sherlockian activities in Iowa and the Midwest, but the greater Sherlockian world misses his dulcet tones and fun energy since life has settled him a bit.

David is one of those guys who is just a delight to be around.  He's one of the first people I want to add to every event invite list.  The guy charms everyone in the room while still energizing those around him.  If you haven't had the privilege to of meeting him in person, please enjoy this interview with everyone's favorite Sherlockian voice, David Harnois!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

At this point, I'd say at bare minimum someone who engages with a local scion, be that in person or online.  It indicates an interest in the character and stories beyond just a casual enjoyment of them.  There are people who have been attending scion meetings for decades, and have never gone beyond that, but I'd still call them Sherlockians.  Not everyone can, or has the interest, to venture beyond their home scion, and there is absolutely nothing that diminishes your status as a Sherlockian in that.  Some people go the opposite direction, and hook as many Sherlockian events as they can straight into their veins

How did you become a Sherlockian?

After playing Holmes onstage in 2013, and starting Boswell in 2014 I eventually got linked up with Monica Schmidt and the Younger Stamfords via Dick Caplan in 2015 I believe, and it was all downhill from there.  

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

I work for a local print shop called Copyworks, and I also work for the University of Northern Iowa Theatre Department as the scenic studio supervisor.  The latter certainly makes it hard to turn off my critical brain on the occasion I get to take in Holmesian media either on stage or screen.  It's hard not to critique performance and design elements of shows under normal circumstances, but it's even harder when it's material you're much more familiar with. 

What is your favorite canonical story?

Oh boy, that's a good question.  Right now, I'd say BLUE.  The ending is always such a nice moment where we get a moral struggle in Holmes, and you see past his usually clinical exterior.  Mercy vs the letter of the law; who doesn't enjoy a good moral conundrum?

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

Tiffany Knight.  She's a fellow theatre professional, who knows more about costuming than I ever will.  In tandem with that, she has an amazing sense of fashion, which parlays into her extravagant formalwear, as well as her incredibly impressive cosplay she puts together.  She's also just a delightful person to be around and talk to, not to mention listen to if you have the chance to hear her wonderful singing.  AND last but not least, she's also performing in our future production of BERY, so you get to hear her voice acting as well.  She's just a sweet, talented person, and we're all lucky for knowing her.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

Granada Holmes will always have a special place in my heart as an area of interest. Jeremy Brett is my hands down favorite onscreen Holmes, and it will take a LOT to unseat him from that spot.  In other media, comic book adaptations are (generally) a fun avenue to explore.  Dynamite was publishing an original series in the vein of the canon at one point that I found rather enjoyable. Wildstorm (now under the DC umbrella) had a great far more fanciful pair of stories involving the undead.  Dark Horse has translated French comics that pitted Holmes against vampires; tested his sanity against the Necronomicon; and had him tracking down abducted writers around London.  IDW also did a fun adaptation of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution which is worth a read.  That's a very deep rabbit hole to go down.  

There are plenty of newer Sherlockians who have come along since I am Lost Without My Boswell aired.  How would you describe the production to folks who haven't heard of it yet?

Some jerk in Iowa plays Sherlock Holmes, and gets other people to come along for the ride.  Kidding aside, the actual description is that Boswell is an entirely volunteer driven effort to produce audio dramatizations of the entire canon.  It doesn't matter where you are in the world, or your level of experience.  As long as you can get me decent sounding audio, and take direction well, you can help further this project.  

As someone who played Sherlock Holmes for five years, how did that period influence how you enjoy the Canon?

It's hard to not read things in my own voice, or think about how I'd want a passage to sound with other actors, or thinking about how a sound effect moment would play out.  I sort of mentally live adapt while reading, and that's basically impossible to turn off at this point.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

As I brought up comic books, and it is October, I'm going with Victorian Undead: Sherlock Holmes VS Zombies!  There is also a sequel vs Dracula.  Both have a fun story, and some really nice art to go along with them.  So track them down and do some Halloween reading.  

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

Still chugging along.  Depending on the wider media world, we may get another influx of younger folks, which is certainly good to help sustain things.  I'm sure there will still be books, articles, and essays being written; disagreements about chronology; and people just enjoying the stories we all love so much.  

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Interesting Interview: Mary Alcaro

Man, are you in for a treat this week!  Mary Alcaro is an east coast Sherlockian that is well-known throughout the region.  Whether it's attending ASH events or overseeing The Sons of the Copper Beeches scion, many folks know and admire her for her energy, wit, and intelligence.  But if you're not from that part of the country, this week's Interesting Interview subject may not be too familiar.

Well, let's rectify that.  I've talked with Mary a handful of times at Birthday Weekend events in January and have always found her to be a wonderful person to spend time with.  She's the type of person you wish you could spend just another hour or so with because you're having such a great conversation.  And that's why I'm excited about the following interview.  From pre-teen interest in Holmes to a life in academia, Sherlokiana has been a part of Mary's life for a while.  This week's answers are wide-ranging and can take you down quite a few rabbit holes.  So settle in, and get to know Mary Alcaro a little better!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

To me, a Sherlockian is anyone who loves Sherlock Holmes or his world– regardless of whether they come to it through the Canon or through film or fan work, whether they play the Game or approach it through a scholarly lens. There’s a certain social element, I think, to being a Sherlockian that separates it from loving Sherlock Holmes– but you don’t have to belong to a scion or a group to be a Sherlockian. You might be a shy Sherlockian who just hasn’t found their people yet!

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I think my story is very similar to many others. I was a shy, bookish kid, precocious, anxious; when I was twelve, at a particularly difficult period of time in my life, I discovered my dad’s copy of the Canon in our house. I devoured it. And then I took to the Internet to find more. I tell people that I found Sherlockiana at possibly the best time to be on the Internet. It was 2002 so the Internet was just big enough that you could find information about Holmes and the BSI and all the history and lore around it, but not so vast that you couldn’t read pretty much everything if you wanted to. The Baker Street Webring was still around and active, but a lot of Sherlockiana felt a bit like a secret society, or something underground. From where I was sitting, it felt like it was something for men of a certain age and status, and I was awestruck. I distinctly remember subscribing to the BSJ under my first initial only, and not wanting anyone in my real life to know what a huge obsession Sherlockiana was for me, while also not wanting anyone in the Sherlockian world to know that I was a preteen girl. 

Eventually, when I was twenty, I submitted a paper I had written to the BSJ, totally on a whim. And this larger-than-life Sherlockian figure who I had only read about, Editor Steven Rothman, took a chance on this total nobody and published it. Shortly thereafter, Lyndsay Faye reached out to me on Facebook to say she had read my piece (!) and invited me to an ASH Wednesday in New York, where I was also living at the time. That’s when I really felt I had “become” a Sherlockian. 

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

So I used to teach high school English, and now I’m in academia, currently finishing a PhD in English Literature (specifically medieval literature) at Rutgers University. Typically, this means that I also teach college writing or literature courses, but at the moment I’m lucky enough to be on a dissertation fellowship so for now I’m “just” writing. 

I think working in the academy has affected how I come to the stories; I tend to really notice certain themes or trends, like social class dynamics or imperialistic views that bleed through the stories. I’ve always been interested in the way that gender norms factor into the plots and characters’ relationship dynamics. But there are also aspects of Sherlockiana that are just plain fun to me, and reading and analyzing literature for a living hasn’t tainted that enjoyment at all– if anything, it’s enhanced it. 

What is your favorite canonical story?

Hmm, this is a tough question! I think that The Sign of Four is my favorite because I love Holmes and Watson’s dynamic, and of course, there’s a TON of weird, problematic stuff happening with race and class to unpack– and there’s Toby! But one of my dark horse favorites is “The Blanched Soldier;” I find that story to be so deeply moving, and so, so often overlooked because it’s in The Casebook

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

Oh my goodness there are so many interesting Sherlockians, many of whom are much better known than I am. I will just say that it was a great honor and pleasure that I got to know Susan Rice in her lifetime. She was the perfect Sherlockian– knowledgeable, and welcoming, and warm, and brilliant, and funny. She was a wonderful human being. This interview got me thinking about the future of Sherlockiana, and so I will say, if knowing her personally is impossible, then I hope that everyone who comes to Sherlockiana will know about her, for many years to come.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

I suppose I’m very “academic” about the way I come to Sherlockiana, because that’s my background, but I will also say I’m here for the queer stuff :) There is so much in the Canon itself that is queer, and also a large number of LGBTQIA Sherlockians– and none of that is new! It’s wonderful to look through the old scholarship, and see those strains of criticism, but also been around for ages, in June Thomson’s Sherlockian biographical work, in Internet fanfic, in the people who have founded the most influential Sherlockian groups… I think there’s a lot of potential work to be done, too. So Far Down Queer Street is a really exciting project that’s still in its infancy, and I hope there's space for me to get involved with that in the future. 

As one of the cohosts of Sherlock Mondays at The Rosenbach, what can viewers look forward to in future sessions?

Ed Pettit is brilliant at this, all his Biblio-ventures have been amazing, and I’m among excellent company with Monica Schmidt, Anastasia Klimchynskaya, and Curtis Armstrong as co-hosts. It’s a really approachable way to get into the stories and to Sherlockiana as a whole. What’s nice about doing short stories is that it’s low commitment– you can drop in on weeks that work with your schedule and not have to commit to reading a whole novel. And of course, you get to try all the cocktails I’ve been making up for the stories we’re reading (I’ve also trained as a bartender). I know we also have some special guests lined up, but you’ll have to tune in to see who those folks are!

Your repertoire of talks and papers touch upon plague and disease quite often.  How do you think the canonical stories would differ if that aspect of everyday life showed up more frequently?

You know, I’m actually always surprised at how little disease shows up as a plot point in the Canon, especially considering the fact that Conan Doyle was a physician and that he lived through a time when there were some pretty nasty epidemics out there, including several virulent strains of influenza, as well as typhoid when he was in South Africa. A lot of what we see of disease in the Canon is fictionalized, like the Tapinuli Fever Holmes pretends to have contracted in “The Dying Detective,” which is a made up disease (I’ve argued that it might be based on “enteric fever”) or else a disease not acting the way it “should,” like the bizarre nature of “pseudo-leprosy” in “The Blanched Soldier.” Holmes restores order to Victorian society when crime or scandal threatens that order, but he is no match for the microbe. I suspect if Conan Doyle had included more disease, Watson might have more to do, and that might steal some of Holmes’s thunder.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

To be honest, I am really not a big fan of mystery as a genre– I love the Canon because of the characters. I love a character-driven narrative, with an immersive environment. I suppose I can suggest a couple crime-oriented books. So in that vein, I recommend Erik Larson’s Devil in the White City, which is actually a nonfiction account of H.H. Holmes (presumably no relation to our Holmes?), a serial killer at the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. In a somewhat different genre– though there is a crime element– I always recommend Donna Tart’s The Secret History. It’s a dark, moody book about a bunch of very intelligent college students who make very stupid choices with dire consequences. It’s gorgeously written, very atmospheric, so in that regard, I think it might have some similarity to the Canon.

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

Sherlockiana is growing and expanding all the time– and most wonderfully, I see it moving away from Hollywood and back into the realm of the amateur enthusiast. Letters from Watson is a great way to get people involved in Sherlockiana, and I’ve really been enjoying podcast work like However Improbable, which is incredible– I hope the future of Sherlockiana has more Marisa Mercurio and Sarah Kolb. Things are ever so slowly getting more diverse, across age, gender, race, sexual orientation, etc. It’s not actually 1895, and as much as we want to keep that world alive, some things should not look like 1895. In that regard, our little bubble still has a bit of a ways to go to become more inclusive, particularly to people with lower incomes, or to people from different social classes. Sherlockiana is for everyone, and I hope we continue to see people from all walks of life coming to Holmes.

For my part, running a group like The Sons of the Copper Beeches is a balancing act of keeping our old traditions alive while creating space for new ones to be born. It’s exciting to be leading a 75+ year old BSI scion society, and I see my BSI and ASH investments as a tremendous honor and privilege. I love this world and want to keep it alive. We have such a rich history, full of fascinating figures, and some truly wonderful people– I think of the old guard, Bob Katz, Steve Rothman, Ray Betzner– who handed the scion over to me, Jenn Eaker, and Ross Davies, as like, my Sherlockian godfathers. I also want to be someone who helps bring Sherlock Holmes to the next generation, who makes sure that we breathe life into it and keep the conversation running for generations to come. 

Saturday, September 23, 2023

Interesting Interview: James O'Leary

I'm going to bet that the name James O'Leary is familiar to many Sherlockians.  But how many of us know the actual man?  He and I have crossed paths on the Internet and have had pleasant conversations at Sherlockian events, but I've never felt like I got to know James.  That was a big reason I wanted him to be a part of this Interesting Interview series.  

If you have met James or read any of his writings, you'll know that he is a very intelligent guy with heartfelt opinions.  He's written a great monograph that the John H. Watson Society put out a while back, has been an active writer on the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere website, and pops up in all kinds of Sherlockian conversations on the Internet.  His writings are always focused on a canonical subject, but this week the subject is James himself!  So let's get to know one of the newest members of The Baker Street Irregulars, James O'Leary!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

I can only answer as to how I define myself as a Sherlockian. For me it's a literary pursuit, and playing the Games as honoring the genius of Arthur Conan Doyle; by reading Sherlock Holmes and John Watson as real people and the adventures as true events lightly fictionalized by Watson. That's not to say that I don't appreciate or enjoy pastiche or visual and audio representations of the pair, just that my desert island pick would be the Canon and Higher Criticism. I respect the differences of an individual's personal Sherlockian experience.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

While I had seen Daddy Duck and Mr. Magoo on TV and read Encyclopedia Brown, America's Sherlock Holmes in sneakers, I first met Holmes in the sixth grade (back when that was in elementary school) when the class read HOUN. In middle school I found The Adventures and The Memoirs then in high school the rest of the Canon and the Higher Criticism. That's when I considered myself a Sherlockian. I subscribed to the BSJ and the Baker Street Miscellanea. This was during the Great Boom of the '70s--a heady time to be a budding Sherlockian.

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

I've worked for the United States Postal Service for ten years and work and non-work do not intersect.

What is your favorite canonical story?

I‘ve decided that if I'm forced to pick one story then I have chosen CREE as my designated answer. You could look at it as the perfect pastiche--strange goings on in a suburban or exurban house, puzzling most members of the household, a damsel in distress and weird sexuality. It is not science fictional; ignore Holmes' musings about thick and horny knuckles and survival of the least fit prolonging their worthless lives with a fountain of youth--Watson has the last word when he says that this is a case best left to an alienist, though he buries it in the middle of the story with lumbago--rejuvenescence was a topic ripped from the headlines with rich and famous males using monkey glands to restore physical and sexual vitality. There's a lot going in the story people miss.

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

What a tough question! I don't think I could narrow it down to a couple dozen people. I'd suggest listening to I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere and Steve Doyle's Fortnightly Dispatch. Or attend a local scion society meeting. You're bound to meet someone interesting.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?


As an active chronologist, what can the average Sherlockian learn from paying attention to the discussion around the dating of the stories?

This is an example of why chronology is important and it has nothing to do with the date of any individual story. You will hear some Sherlockians say that Watson's writings are responsible for Holmes' fame—think of the film The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes taking place in 1887 and Watson’s Strand stories a public hit (The Strand started in January 1891)—but that is chronologically impossible. While Watson wanted to write up A Study in Scarlet to let the public know of Holmes’ role in solving the Stangerson/ Drebber murders, he could not sell his manuscript until 1886 and it wasn’t published until November 1887, six months after “Europe was ringing with his name and when his room was literally ankle-deep with congratulatory telegrams” with the press disclosure of the “whole question of the Netherland-Sumatra Company and of the colossal schemes of Baron Maupertuis.” Holmes was famous of his own accord before the less-than-best-sellers STUD and SIGN saw print and presumed dead when the public sensation Strand series started in July 1891.

After Holmes returned in 1894, he forbade Watson to publish until he was on the eve of retirement. These facts have baring when Mycroft says, “I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you became his chronicler,” in GREE; when Stapleton says, “It is useless for us to pretend that we do not know you, Dr. Watson. The records of your detective have reached us here, and you could not celebrate him without being known yourself,” in HOUN; or when John Douglas says, “I've heard of you. You are the historian of this bunch. Well, Dr. Watson, you've never had such a story as that pass through your hands before, and I'd lay my last dollar on that,” in VALL.

You were an avid promoter of Elementary during its run.  What argument would you make to a newer Sherlockian to sell them on this show? 

Forget about the arguments made in 2012 that the BBC is a quality outfit and Sherlock is made by fanboys for fans while American network TV is schlock made by hacks trying to turn out a knockoff to make bucks. Elementary wanted to tell its own Holmes story through the lens of the Canon and the lens of the mythos fans built around it. Through seven seasons the teams behind the show demonstrated deep knowledge of the Canon and the acting  was uniformly excellent if almost never recognized at award time. I would direct anyone interested to check out my blog posts at IHOSE “Addiction, Elementary and Doyle” from October 4, 2013, “Elementary and the Hound” from March 25, 2016, and “Elementary’s Mycroft and Morland Holmes — A Tale of Doyle's Two Mycrofts” from June 25, 2016.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

I would recommend The Grand Game Volumes I and II from the BSI Press and The Best of the Sherlock Holmes Journal Volumes I and II from the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. You’ll be reading the best Higher Criticism of the last 120 plus years.

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

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. (I can write that better than I can pronounce it!) I think the essence of Sherlockiana has been remarkably consistent; the comradery, fellowship and genericity. The tent has gotten larger and that is a trend I hope continues.

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Interesting Interview: Ann Kimbrough

This week's Interesting Interview is with a Sherlockian a lot of folks might not know yet, Ann Kimbrough.  Ann is relatively new to Sherlockiana, so now is everyone's chance to get to know her so that we can all say, "I knew her way back when..."

I first met Ann at Holmes, Doyle, and Friends in March.  She presented on her new Sherlockian middle grade series that allows tradition to interact with today.  I've read a lot of Sherlockian books, and I've never seen Ann's take on the canonical tales before.  An added bonus is that they are told through graphic novels, so I immediately knew I wanted them in my classroom library!  Ann's new take on the Canon would be enough to warrant an interview, but she was so energetic and friendly in Dayton and St. Louis, that she simply must be promoted.  If you ever see Ann Kimbrough at a future Sherlockian event, make sure to say hi.  Your day will be much better for doing so!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

A Sherlockian is a real human being who believes a fictional human being is real, and devours all things about this person and his sidekick, Dr. Watson.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I haven’t officially converted, but perhaps it’s a status that just creeps up on you, until you say to yourself: “Ah, yes, it has happened.” I guess I could say that now. Today. Oh, wow, what a moment! I am a Sherlockian. Okay, cool. Knew it would be official, eventually. Glad you were here to witness it. Witnesses are very important in Sherlock’s world. However, it all must have started for me during the Pandemic. I needed something to inspire me, you see, and I’d read an article on stories that had just entered the public domain—which meant anyone could use them for anything! That intrigued me, and led to reading my first Sherlock Holmes adventure.

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

I’m a writer, now, working for myself; but I used to work in Los Angeles making TV commercials and music videos. Remember Madonna’s "Vogue" video? I was there. Being a writer has a big impact on my Sherlockian-mindset, as I can never get too far away from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s incredible skill as a storyteller.

What is your favorite canonical story?

I like "Silver Blaze." The horse did it! Who’d have thought? But as I continue to go through the Canon, that might change.

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

I’m impressed by Monica Schmidt. I want to be her, when I grow up. She’s what they used to call—a dame—and a smart cookie; not to mention, she has the best Ginger. I’d have to say, Monica and her husband Bill (the Ginger) are two amazingly fun people, and that’s saying a lot since I have many favorites that have welcomed me into the fold, like Rich Krisciunas, the Pied-Piper of keeping newbies like me in the know about Sherlockian events; Steve Mason, who is a Sherlockian guru (see Sherlock's Spotlight); Tom Campbell of the Sherlock Holmes Society of Cape Fear, who welcomes everyone on Zoom; and the classy and lovely couple—Dan & Ann Andriacco… did you know we’re starting a very unofficial Ann Club. It’s called Sherlocki-Anns. And there’s always Rob Nunn to add a little style to the gang, along with his teaching skills that seem to be needed everywhere. I honestly haven’t met a Sherlockian that didn’t impress me! So much so, I can’t stop at one.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

The subset written for kids. My Sherlockian writing was sparked from the fact that no one really teaches us how to think. Maybe they should, and why not teach kids to think like Sherlock?

Where did the idea for your Text Me Mysteries come from?

Boredom. As I mentioned, I needed something new to write during the pandemic. Everything I’d been working on was based in normal daily life, and suddenly, the norm seemed to be gone. Sherlock is timeless, and I was just struck by the idea of what if Sherlock was text messaging with modern-day teenagers? Maybe they could help him with a case, and learn something about deductive reasoning along the way.

As someone who's attended some of her first Sherlockian events recently, what would you say to encourage others to join you at future events?

Attending a Sherlockian event changed everything, for me, and I recommend it. You get to meet the coolest people, and it’s so wonderful to be around other people that get this part of you. Zoom meetings, too, are a great way to join this group, but attending in person is so much fun. Everyone is welcoming, and you’ll make a lot of friends!

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Would it be wrong to recommend my own graphic novels? LOL At least, I recommend them to that middle-grader to young adult in your life. For the rest of us, I’ve just been reading Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters by Jon Lellenberg, Daniel Stashower & Charles Foley. It’s mostly the letters that Conan Doyle wrote to his mother, but some are to friends and other family. They encompass his adult life and are fascinating! A real look inside at the man and the writer.

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

I see it continuing—forever! So far, there have been so many versions of Sherlock, why would the future be any different? At their core, the original stories still hold up. More Watsons and more Sherlocks, I say!