Sunday, January 29, 2023

The New Dance Was in This Form [DANC]

I like Sherlock Holmes.  My daughter likes dance.  So when I saw that a new dance performance called "My Dear Watson" was playing in St. Louis, it seemed like a match made in heaven.

Except that my daughter isn't too interested in Sherlock Holmes and I don't understand modern dance.

The Big Muddy Dance Company's performance closed those gaps for us, though.  "My Dear Watson" is a brand new, 90 minute piece created by Joshua L. Peugh and I had no idea what to expect.  I'm not a widely cultured person, but I like to keep an open mind.  And I'm glad that I did because this was a fun show.  

It took me a bit to figure out how modern dance pieces work.  Why were Holmes and Watson dancing so closely?  How can you tell a mystery story if there's no dialogue?  Why do characters who are dead keep getting up and dancing some more?

This may be a big "duh" moment for folks who get to theater performances more than I do, but I soon realized that when people are dancing together, that is showing that they are talking to one another.  The dead people keep getting up and dancing because the audience is seeing Holmes deduce the events in his investigation.  And how does a mystery work without dialogue?  It's elementary: the story is told through dance.

If you're the type of person who scoffs at new takes on old stories, pass on this performance.  But if you're open-minded when it comes to adaptations, "My Dear Watson" is definitely worth checking out.  The show only ran for two nights in St. Louis this weekend, but it will be available to stream on February 3-5 at  

One thing I really liked about this performance is that it is a brand new story.  No retreads of the classic tales and no reworking of old characters into a new mystery.  (Thank God Adler and Moriarty weren't trotted out for another go round.)  "My Dear Watson" is a straight forward murder mystery that shows what these performers can do.

So let's talk about some of the performances.

Sherlock Holmes is played by Sergio Camacho and Will Brighton is John Watson.  These two bring different energies to their roles, but when they are performing together, it's flawless.  Brighton has a few dance numbers on his own and you can almost feel Dr. Watson's Victorian prose flowing from his poised moves.  Camacho really gets to shine when he is investigating crime scenes, and you can see the manic energy in his eyes as he moves all around.

The Baker Street Irregulars show up for two scenes in the second act, and this group brought a whole new energy to the stage.  You don't expect much "fun" in a show full of murder, but this group provided it for sure.  And watching Sherlock interact with them brought out a new side to his character that the audience hadn't seen up until this point.  

Another standout performance was Jessie Yero, who plays Mrs. Shawcross.  Yero evoked emotion every time she was on stage and was the character my daughter and I talked about the most on the drive home.  

But the pieces I enjoyed the most were the big ensemble numbers.  When you've got twenty or so highly talented dancers on stage, it's amazing how well a story can be told with just movement.  And some of the moves these people pulled off?  If I even thought about some of those positions I'd pull a muscle.  Someone else could describe it much better than I could, but let me just say - wow.

The stage presence of everyone involved added a lot to the show as well.  Scenes set outside were always foggy.  The cast moved through the aisles and front rows during numbers and milled about on the stage to set the mood before the show started.  And the costumes were fantastic.  I'm pretty sure Sherlock's pants alone are worth the price of admission.  If you've ever wondered what Benedict Cumberbatch's wallpaper would look like as a pair of trousers, "My Dear Watson" has answered that for you.

Did "My Dear Watson" make me want to run out and buy season tickets to all of the dance companies in St. Louis?  Not quite.  But did it make for a fun Sherlockian evening? You bet.  If you're at all interested in seeing Sherlock Holmes in a new way, I recommend checking out the streaming performances on February 3-5.  

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Interesting Interview: Nicholas Meyer

Very few people can claim to be responsible for a Sherlockian revolution.  Benedict Cumberbatch, Jeremy Brett, and Basil Rathbone of course.  But this week's Interesting Interview may be one of the only non-actors who can say that.

Nicholas Meyer's novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, brought Holmes back to the forefront of public consciousness.  That book stayed on the bestseller list for the better part of a year and was later turned into an Academy Award nominated movie.  But Nicholas isn't a one-trick pony.  He's since written four more Sherlockian pastiches in between his massive screenwriting career.  (The guy's impressive; just check his website for a full list.)  So what are his thoughts on our hobby?  Keep reading to find out!

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

I am not aware of any official or accepted definition of the term Sherlockian.  I know, for example, that in the UK, the word is generally Holmesian.  I take it both terms imply affection and enthusiasm for stories involving Holmes, Watson and their world.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

I was introduced to the Holmes stories by my father when I was about eleven years old. An enthusiast himself, he gave me the complete one volume edition, edited by Christopher Morley.  My recollection is that I gobbled them up avidly, (though I was certainly perplexed by A Study in Scarlet when I turned the page and found myself in Utah with a whole series of different characters!)

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

My profession is Storyteller.  I write novels but also screenplays for film and television and direct same. In my world - at least so far - there is no such thing as retirement. There's no weekends, no holidays as such and no vacations.  It's all about narrative.  I look forward to dying in harness.

What is your favorite canonical story?

It is very hard for me to pick one favorite Holmes story.  I number "The Devil's Foot," "The Bruce Partington Plans," "Silver Blaze" and "The Red-Headed League" among my favorites, and I'm partial to "The Yellow Face," which shows that Holmes could fail - that fact, I think, makes him the more real.

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

I have always enjoyed reading the works of Michael Harrison and also Trevor Hall.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

There was a time when I really enjoyed reading "the writings about the writings," especially when I originally discovered their existence and they fueled my enthusiasm for writing my own Holmes tale, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution. I've since acquired a small library about Holmes, Watson and their world, though that use has now been put to use in researching my subsequent Holmes stories, The West End Horror, The Canary Trainer, The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols, The Return of the Pharaoh and the forthcoming, Sherlock Holmes and the Telegram From Hell.  

Writing my own Holmes adventures has proved my most enjoyable pastime.  I learn by doing, about Holmes, his world, but also about myself in relation to Holmes.  Over the years I've discovered an obscure kinship between myself and the detective, not, I hasten to add, in terms of talent or achievement, but rather - I tell myself - in terms of sensibility.  Values, if you like.  In sum, Holmes allows me to express myself.

What is your process for writing a new Sherlock Holmes story?

It is very difficult to describe the creative process - mine, for sure.  The first thing that must happen is that I must stumble on an idea that simply won't let go, an idea that to my mind is a natural for Holmes.  Once I am seized by that idea, there follow weeks or months of playing in my head with how Holmes could be integrated into the idea - or vice versa. I take notes, I do research.  Sometimes I wind up abandoning the project altogether; it wasn't as promising as I thought - or I wasn't good enough to lick it.  

Assuming I don't abandon the project, after that, it's much harder to describe: you're at your desk, you're in a state of flow, you look up, it's hours later, and you don't quite know where you've been. I think that trance-like state applies to a lot of creativity, not just writing and not just writing Sherlock Holmes.  When people ask me "how I do it" I can truthfully answer, "I don't know."

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution has widely been credited for creating a resurgence in Sherlock Holmes.  If you had known that during the writing of that novel and movie, would you have done anything differently?

I write the books I would like to read. I don't think I would have done anything differently if I'd been told The Seven-Per-Cent Solution was going to spark a resurgence of interest in Holmes.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Aside from Doyle's originals, I tend to recommend my five Sherlock Holmes novels. Typically I don't read Holmes books by other authors, probably because I worry they might be better than mine!  Thus - The West End Horror, The Canary Trainer, The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols and The Return of the Pharaoh.  I have a sixth Holmes novel in the works, Sherlock Holmes and the Telegram from Hell.

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

Truthfully I have no idea where Holmes will be in the future; I've no idea where WE will be in the future.  Prognostications are notoriously faulty.  The only thing Star Trek seems to have got right are the flip top cell phones.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

A Brief Review of What had Passed [CREE]

The BSI Birthday Weekend has come and gone.  I'm a few days past it and hoping to catch up on my sleep some time soon.  A ton of events took place over those days, many of which I was able to attend and enjoy, but some I had to miss.  So here is a recap of one Sherlockian's weekend in New York:


When I first booked my flight, a 6:30 am departure time seemed like a good idea.  But waking up at 4 am that morning made me question my decision-making skills.  I did learn that I can sleep sitting up and in a mask, so the flight went smoothly.  

I arrived at the Westin Hotel and dropped my luggage off.  Rusty Mason and I headed to Times Square to get tickets to a Broadway show for that night.  I don't know why, but I was fascinated by the knockoff costumed characters walking around.  I'm pretty sure I was in better shape than Captain America that day.  

One place I've always wanted to see in New York was McSorley's.  It has a great tie to Christopher Morley, and the more I read from him, the stronger the pull has gotten.  So I was delighted to be able to meet up with plenty of folks in the back room for lunch that day.

After nodding off in my room, I almost missed my first weekend event, the Wessex Press cocktail hour!  I made it to the Algonquin Hotel only a little late and was able to connect with some great people.  Then it was dinner with Chris Zordan, Crystal Noll, Heather Holloway, and Michael Stallings, and finally off to the bright lights of Broadway.

We got amazing seats to see Kimberly Akimbo.  Even though Tiffany Knight recommended it, the description didn't really grab my attention.  So I was expecting a Comedy Central style show with some songs throughout.  You guys.  Let me tell you, that I was cracking up for the first half of the show and the second act made my heart so full it could've burst.  A fantastic show.

As is the wont of Sherlockians, everyone made it to a bar from their various locations.  The old hangout, O'Lunney's, was a casualty of Covid, but a great pub two blocks from the Westin filled the space very nicely.  Rosie Dunn's was taken over every night by our group, and it was clear that the bartenders appreciated us.  


Friday was a day full of eating.  The morning kicked off with a class reunion for my investiture class at the Red Flame Diner.  People have gone on and on about this place for years but I've never been.  So I was interested to see what the big deal was.  I think there's a lot of nostalgia in all of the descriptions I've heard.  It's a diner.  Our 11 classmates were spread out over three booths, so while I was able to reconnect with Tim Johnson, Laurence Delosian, and David Humphrey at my table, it wasn't set up for a large group.

It was then time for the William Gillette Luncheon, hosted seamlessly by Shana Carter.  This was a tabled event, and I'm always excited to see who I get to sit by at this.  I was lucky enough to sit with Pj Doyle, Beth Gallego, and Michael Stallings.  Lee Shackleford and Tiffany Knight staged Gillette's "The Painful Predicament of Sherlock Holmes."  While not the play that made Gillette synonymous with Sherlock Holmes, this one was perfect for the venue and handled by great performers.

A few brave souls decided to walk down almost to the Hudson River to see a plaque commemorating Nero Wolfe's brownstone from the entertaining mystery series written by Rex Stout.  Mike McSwiggin, Max Magee, David Marcum and I hoofed across town.  I've become a huge Nero Wolfe fan over the past few years and was excited to see the neighborhood, but man did my feet hate me by the end of that walk!

And then it was time for the BSI Dinner.  The men were in black tie and the women in their best dresses for a formal evening together.  A recap of all of the night's toasts and talks will be in an upcoming issue of the Baker Street Journal, so I will save you from my ramblings.  This is the night when everyone enjoys the cocktail hour beforehand and a great dinner follows.  

Of course, everyone is waiting for the investitures to be announced that night and this year's class included some great people.  I was so excited to see Cindy Brown and David Harnois finally get their investiture shillings.  Another overdue name was Dore Nash, a New York Sherlockian who hadn't been invited to a dinner in over twenty years.  But her first year back?  A shilling for her as well!  A lot of folks over the weekend had good things to say about Michael Kean's tenure as Wiggins of the BSI, and his investiture choices continue to make many people happy.

Jacqueline Morris sat next to me and wrote down all of the names called and their investitures, which I promptly texted to Brad Keefauver as soon as the dinner was over so he could share the announcements with everyone at the virtual event happening that night.  Lots of folks were celebrating for their friends that night!

And the celebrating continued in a big way back at Rosie Dunn's after the dinner.  The bar was filled with folks who were genuinely happy for everyone who was recognized and we were even happier to be in the company of our friends that night.  The group got so big that we had to spill over into their upstairs room!  So many stories and toasts were shared that it would take a book to capture them all.  I could tell you about the older Sherlockian who decided to strip his shirt off outside on a January night, or about the sober Sherlockian who woke up Saturday morning to find that his bathtub had been puked in by his roommate, but those are tales for another time... 


The Dealers' Room on Saturday morning is always a highlight.  New releases from BSI Press and Wessex Press are the big news, but other publishers such as Belanger Books and MX Publishing are on hand as well.  And you can count on plenty of second-hand books and custom-made items for sale.  If you can walk out of the Dealers' Room without spending over a hundred dollars on books, you have more self-control than I do!

Saturday's only official event is the BSI Luncheon.  It's amazing how two events held in the same room just a few hours apart can have such different vibes.  The BSI Dinner on Friday night is a formal and elegant affair.  The next afternoon is full of everyone floating around from table to table to visit with friends and enjoy a great buffet lunch.  

Greg Ruby coordinated a small happy hour at a bar after the luncheon.  All kinds of folks visited for a little or a lot during the afternoon, all in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.  In fact it was so relaxed, that two separate people actually fell asleep hanging out on those couches.  This weekend will really take a lot out of you!

Saturday night is full of small get-togethers at restaurants around the city and Lost in New York with a Bunch of Sherlockians for everyone else who is looking for a crowd.  David and I didn't have it in us to do any of those things so when we left the happy hour, we grabbed Subway and ate back at the hotel room.  I was actually able to eat dinner in Manhattan for ten dollars!

A few hours of rest and a few drinks in the Westin bar preceded another night at Rosie Dunn's.  While a smaller crowd than Friday's overflowing group, Saturday still offered plenty of time for drinks with friends until closing time.


My favorite part of the BSI Weekend has always been the ASH Brunch on Sunday.  Completely relaxed and full of good breakfast foods, this final event is like the last day of summer camp.  Everyone who didn't make an early exit from the city gets together one last time for catching up and talking about the year ahead.  In all of my previous trips to New York, I've had to leave about halfway through to catch my flight.  This year I was lucky enough to have an evening flight so I was able to be one of the last ones at the party.  When it's just you, the locals, and the stalwarts staying until Monday, you can really feel like you've made it to the end of the weekend.  

Even the walk back to the hotel after the ASH Brunch feels different.  It's Sunday afternoon in NYC.  The crowds on the sidewalk seem to move at a more relaxed pace.  No one is hustling to the office or an appointment.  And that final walk always takes me past the New York Public Library, a piece of gorgeous architecture that makes me smile just thinking about it.  

After an Uber to the airport and enjoying the hustle and bustle of life swirling around me one last time, I was happy to board my flight back to St. Louis where my family and real life await.  The BSI Weekend is four days of excitement and exhaustion, and I'm already looking forward to the 2024 Weekend.