Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Profile: Jeffrey Marks

Jeffrey Marks will speak on Anthony Boucher and the Baker Street Irregulars 

I first met Jeffrey Marks, one of the speakers at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30, decades ago. We both belonged to a group of budding mystery writers in Cincinnati. Somewhat surprisingly, most of us made it into mystery print one way or another. Jeff did so in several ways, as you will see.  

You are something of a Renaissance mystery man! Tell us briefly about your own mystery writing, your editing of anthologies, your biographies of mystery writers, and your Crippen & Landru work.

Well, my career has been one of many doors opening for me. I started out as a non-fiction writer. Most of my early works were interviews of authors and short works on the history of the mystery genre. Those eventually led me into wanting to write more about one particular author. I’ve always had a good sense of humor (or at least I tell myself that) and so I chose a brilliantly funny author named Craig Rice to profile. Craig was actually a woman, who went by her birth and adopted surnames.

It took me nearly 10 years to find all the research I needed and to write the book. The result was Who Was That Lady?, which went on to be nominated for all the major mystery awards. I had written to a number of women authors around the same time, trying to learn more about Craig, and when I was done with that biography, I wrote a group bio of those women. That then was followed by a work on Anthony Boucher, the namesake of the World Mystery Conference.

While I was working on the biographies, I needed to write some shorter works during that decade, so I practiced my craft with short stories. I edited two mystery anthologies for Ballantine books, and then three more for a smaller press.

That led to six mystery novels, but it also led to my interest in the mystery short story subgenre, and in 2018, I took over as publisher for Crippen & Landru, Publishers, a niche publishing company specializing in single author mystery short story collections.

You are speaking about Anthony Boucher, one of the early Baker Street Irregulars, at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. What’s the particular focus of the talk?

Well, if you want to talk about a Renaissance man, we should definitely talk about Anthony Boucher. He was a writer, editor, New York Times reviewer and much more. He started a scion of the Baker Street Irregulars and he was a frequent writer for the Rathbone/Bruce radio show during the 1940s. Boucher’s knowledge of the Canon was so deep and all-encompassing that he was actually able to pen some of the famous cases mentioned but never chronicled by Doyle. I’m going to talk about some of those cases and Boucher’s involvement with the BSI.

Tell us about your fascination with Boucher – how and why. What are your favorites of his works?

I love learning while I’m writing, and Boucher was involved in so many areas of the mystery genre (as well as the science fiction and fantasy genres) that I learned each time I started to look up one of his interests. I’m also drawn to authors who were once considered stellar, but who have since dropped off the radar of most fans. Even though Bouchercon is named after this man, so few attendees ever heard of him.

My top two favorites are Nine Times Nine, which is a locked room mystery that is in large part a homage to John Dickson Carr, and The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars, and I shouldn’t have to tell you who receives the tribute in that book. 

Do you consider yourself a Sherlockian?

Yes and no. I love all things Sherlock. I’ve seen all of the various TV and movie incarnations. I’ve read the stories and novels multiple times. I saw Jeremy Brett on stage in London. However, I’ve not ever been much of a joiner, so I haven’t participated in the social aspect of being a Sherlockian as much as I could have.

Who are your five favorite mystery writers, in order?

Agatha Christie (I have a complete set of her works as first edition American editions), Ellery Queen, Craig Rice, Joyce Porter, Alice Tilton.

What’s your next big project?

I just completed a proposal for a project on Erle Stanley Gardner. It’s related to his work in criminal justice, and it was new to me to write true crime instead of fictional crime. I am polishing a biography of Ellery Queen, and I’m starting on a new proposal, but I hesitate to say who the subject is until I have some permissions in place.

What question have I not asked you that you would like to answer?

You didn’t ask about our dogs. Of course, a die-hard mystery fan would name his dogs after famous detectives, so my Scottish terriers have been Ellery, Tuppence (aka Penny) and Archie, who is every bit as charming (and irreverent) as his namesake.

Register now for Holmes, Doyle, & Friends and get the early-bird discount. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Profile: Mr. Wright

Vincent W. Wright, Sherlockian Chronologist Extraordinaire 

I’ve probably heard Vincent W. Wright talk more than I've heard any other Sherlockian speaker, including on this episode of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere. And I still want more! Fortunately, I will get more of him at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. Let’s see what he has to say for himself:  

When and how did you become a Sherlockian?

In high school I was loaned the two-volume copy of William S. Baring-Gould’s The Annotated Sherlock Holmes. (I say “loaned” even though I still have them 30 years later.) I was fascinated by them, and read them often. When I moved to Indianapolis from Southern Illinois in 1996, I found that there was a local Sherlock Holmes society (the Illustrious Clients). I contacted them, and I’ve been a member ever since.

You are best known in the Sherlockian world as a chronologist. How many books of chronology do you own?

In total I have 25 chronologies. Not all chronologies are full books. Some are just simple lists of dates, or are online. Of the actual books, of which I believe there 18 or so, I have all but one of them. (And it’s just the first book of what was supposed to be more, thus an incomplete timeline. I don’t reference it much in my work.)

What captivates you about trying to figure when stories took place – given that there can never be a definitive answer?

While I do understand that it’s possible to enjoy the Canon without chronology, I still think it’s important. Some of the biggest problems we have in the Canon are wholly or partially chronologically based (the Master’s birthday, Watson’s wives, the proper dating of ‘The Red-Headed League’), so it’s deeper in the hobby than most realize.

Also, in any contemporary crime drama, one of the first things that has to be nailed down is a timeline of events. Why should it be any different for the greatest crime drama of all time?

Finally, I see it as the height of canonical research. If someone is trying to pin down the dates of a story, they have to look into every single thing about it in order to make a final decision. No detail can be overlooked or ignored.

You are speaking at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. How does your talk ("Around the World in 63,540 Days") relate to Sherlockian chronology?

This will be a rare talk in that chronology doesn’t play into it at all. It’s a fun talk, though not necessarily a scholarly talk. But, every other paper I’ve ever given touches on chronology somehow. It’s just a part of who I am, and my favorite part of the hobby. (Next to the people, of course.)

You’ve talked often at this symposium in past years. What has that been like for you?

Dayton was the first conference I ever attended outside of Indiana. I fell in love with the simplicity of it – dealers, presentations, food, Sherlockian fellowship. When I was first allowed to speak the reception was awesome, and I’ve tried to do it as often as possible. It’s such a relaxing atmosphere. Everyone associated with putting it together has always been wonderful, and I look forward to it every year. (Plus, the conference just keeps getting better and better.)

Tell us a little about your Facebook page, Historical Sherlock.

Historical Sherlock is my way of placing Holmes, Watson, and the entire Canon firmly into Victorian England. I call it “playing The Game in a most unusual way.” It’s like taking The Annotated one step further. I find the things that Holmes and Watson (or anyone in the Canon) would’ve seen or experienced, and I tie it all together.

Example: I recently found information about what is called the worst disaster on the Thames ever – the colliding of the vessels Princess Alice and Bywell Castle. It happened at a spot that is mentioned in the Canon almost exactly. I noted that during the boat chase scene in The Sign of [the] Four the Aurora would’ve gone right by that spot. I tied the accident together chronologically with SIGN, and even got Liz Stride (a Jack the Ripper victim) in there, too.
Sometimes it gets chronological, sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, it’s another way of firmly planting our heroes in their time.

What event(s) are you most looking forward to on the Sherlockian calendar this year?

Dayton is a must-do for me. Same with A Scintillation of Scions in Maryland in June. I haven’t missed one of those in almost a decade.

I’m also scheduled to speak in Toronto in September, and in Baltimore in November. Truly looking forward to both of those. If I can squeeze in a few more conferences here and there, I will.

Register now for Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six and get an early registration discount.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Profile: Bob Katz

Dr. Katz at the Baker Street Irregular dinner last month. Photo by Will Walsh  

Robert Katz, M.D., BSI, is a great raconteur and a swell guy to share a Maryland-to-DC train ride with, followed by breakfast. He’s also one of the great speakers at the Holmes, Doyle, &Friends Six symposium in Dayton, OH, March 29-30. That provided the excuse for asking Bob a few questions:  

When and how did you become a Sherlockian?

My first exposure to Sherlock Holmes came about when I was about 12 years old. I saw one of the Rathbone films on television on a rainy Saturday afternoon. As soon as the film ended, I ran out of the house and went to the local library to borrow one of the books. My interest has continued without interruption since.

Please talk about your involvement with Haverford College and its Sherlockian significance.

I received my undergraduate degree from Haverford College. I’d already read the Canon in the Doubleday edition and was familiar with the Christopher Morley introduction. It was not until I arrived on campus that I learned that Morley was a Haverford graduate. In addition, the Morley Reading Alcove had a comfortable couch and Morley’s books and papers were right at hand. In between regular studies, I had the chance to access them and became familiar with the Sherlockian literature.

Dr. Watson was a doctor. You are a doctor. Discuss! 

My decision to pursue a career in medicine was more influenced by viewings of AJ Cronin’s The Citadel (and the subsequent reading of the book) and a viewing of The Last Angry Man. However, my choice of Pathology as my specialty was very much influenced by the Canon. The stories were written by a physician, narrated by a physician, and to some extent based on a physician. Many of the deductions for which Holmes is so famous are really medical diagnoses. Pathology is really the only field of medicine where one can spend one’s entire career just making diagnoses. Given my Sherlockian pursuits and interest, it’s more likely that Pathology chose me rather than my choosing Pathology!

What are your main involvements in Sherlockian societies?

Having recently retired after founding and moderating The Epilogues of Sherlock Holmes, for 28 years here in New Jersey, my main involvement has been my service as Headmastiff of The Sons of the Copper Beeches in Philadelphia. I do try to attend meetings of East Coast groups as often as possible. On a broader level, I serve a variety of roles within the Baker Street Irregulars, primarily as Co-Publisher of BSI Press and as Billy the Page within the organization itself.  Fortunately, I’ve been retired from medical practice for a while, as these duties are nearly a full-time job. But all are labors of love.

When I was a younger, I knew very few Sherlockians. What has it meant to you to be part of a Sherlockian community?

I was fortunate to have become involved in Sherlockian scion societies while still in medical school. The Sherlockian community has really become my extended family. So many of the important relationships in my life have developed from my Sherlockian and BSI activities. Simply put, my personal life would be much the poorer had I not become a Sherlockian.

When did you become a member of the Baker Street Irregulars?

I attended my first BSI Dinner in 1981 and received the Irregular Shilling (as “Dr. Ainstree”) in 1983. Received the Two Shilling Award in 1995.

What did that feel like for you? 

It’s still hard to describe. I suppose my emotions were akin to those of Sir Lancelot when he first sat down at the Round Table. The BSI was, since my childhood, a legendary organization, populated by real giants of Sherlockian scholarship. To this day, I remain humbled to be a part of the group.

In January, your son became a BSI as well. How was that?

Any parent is happy when a child shares an interest with the parent. When my son received his Irregular Shilling…Well, I just can’t describe how I felt. It’s just something beyond words.

What event(s) are you most looking forward to on the Sherlockian calendar this year?

Of course, I’m very excited about traveling to Dayton for the HD&F event. The BSI Trust will be sponsoring a book fair in New Jersey in late April. Copper Beeches meet in early April and late October. Other local scions meet throughout the year. And then I’ll be attending the BSI Conference at the Lilly Library in November. That should be a wonderful event.

You are speaking at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. In 25 words or less, what’s your theme (as of today)?   

Good try, Dan, but I never let the rabbit out of the hat until it’s time. Needless to say, I hope the audience has as much fun listening as I will in preparing for the presentation.

What question have I not asked you that you would like to answer?

Why would someone want to travel from suburban New Jersey all the way to Dayton in order to attend a gathering of Sherlockians? I’m looking forward to seeing old friends (including you and Ann), hopefully making some new ones, hearing great talks, and also visiting the Air Force Museum. The Sherlockian experience can be summed up very easily: One comes for the stories but stays for the friends.

So register now for Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six and get an early-bird discount.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The Surprising Illustrations in a Holmes for Kids

My friend Rob Nunn blogged recently about the debate as to whether adapting Sherlock Holmes for younger readers is a good thing or not. Personally, I’m not a fan of “Canon light,” but I own several such books and have written about them.

Rob’s blog called to mind a 25-cent purchase that I made last year at a second-hand shop in southern Illinois. It’s a 4-1/8-inch by 5-1/2-inch paperback Illustrated Classic Editions version of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The handwritten inscription inside says “Merry Christmas Aaron from Mr. B, 1985.” I cleverly deduce that it was a present from a teacher to a student.

I thought I already owned this volume (and indeed I did). But even though I’m not a collector, how could risk being wrong when the price was only a quarter?

It turns out that the contents of the volume are identical to the Great Illustrated Classics edition also on my shelves. The Great Illustrated is much bigger at 5-3/4 inches by 8 inches and has a different cover illustration. It’s also a hardback. But inside, the books have the same three adaptions by Malvina G. Vogel – “The Red-Headed League,” “The Adventure of the Speckled Band,” and “the Adventure of the Copper Beaches.” Great selections, I say!

The biggest defect of the adaptations is that they are told in the third person. For heaven’s sake, why? Much of Watson’s character is conveyed to us by the way he tells the tales.

On the upside, the number of interior illustrations by Brendon Lynch is astonishing. There is one every other page. Think of that! The line drawings essentially cover everything that happens in the story, not just the highlights. And in my opinion, they are generally well done. A few are even extraordinary, such as the six deeply shadowed drawings of the long wait in the dark in “The Red-Headed League.”  

Whichever edition you happen to pick up – Great Illustrated Classics or the more modestly named Illustrated Classics Editions, the drawings are worth the price of admission. But I’m still not a fan of adaptations of the Canon for children – except perhaps for the very, very young.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Dayton Event Offers Great Lineup of Speakers

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five, in 2018 

Fresh from the fantastic BSI & Friends Weekend in New York, I’m excitedly looking forward to the next big Sherlockian homecoming event Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six, to be held in Dayton on March 29 & 30, 2019.

Evaluations from last year included the comments:
“Loved all the presenters.”
“Highly diverse. Each very well done in its own way.”
“Uniformly good quality.”
“A good mix of topics and formats.”
“All very good. Great variety of interesting topics.”
“You always have great presenters.”
“Very well produced.”
“Please be sure to promote this; more people need to know how wonderful this is.”

Sponsored by the Agra Treasurers, the “Dayton Symposium” (as it and its predecessor conferences have been familiarly known for almost 40 years) will again have a spectacular lineup of presentations. The 2019 speakers, in alphabetical order, are:

Susan Bailey, winner of the 2018 Morley-Montgomery Award for the best article in the Baker Street Journal;

Shannon Neihart Carlisle, BSI, Beacon Award winner and director of the Junior Sherlock Society for young sleuths;

Robert S. Katz, BSI, retired pathologist and co-editor of four books for the Baker Street Irregulars, including Nerve and Knowledge: Doctors, Medicine and the Sherlockian Canon;  

Ann Margaret Lewis, ASH, author of Murder in the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and The Watson Chronicles;

Jeffrey Marks, biographer of Anthony Boucher, who (among many other Sherlockian distinctions) co-authored many of the radio plays starring Rathbone and Bruce;  

Scott Monty, BSI, the inimitable co-host of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, the first podcast devoted to Sherlock Holmes;

Regina Stinson, BSI, creator of amazing Sherlockian crafts and founder of the Ribston-Pippins scion society; and

Vincent W. Wright, engaging speaker, Sherlockian chronologist, and curator of the “Historical Sherlock” Facebook page.

You won’t want to miss this! So register now, if not sooner, at http://www.agratreasurers.net/holmes--doyle----friends.html. I look forward to seeing you in Dayton, where once again – 

The game is afoot!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Friendship in New York

Monica Schmidt, Ann Margaret Lewis, and Al Shaw at the BSI annual reception 

“It’s all about the friendship.”

Scott Monty says this about the Sherlockian community frequently on the “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere” podcast. And that was in my head a lot over the weekend as Ann and I enjoyed our third BSI & Friends Weekend in New York.

There were many great planned events, to be sure: ASH Wednesday dinner with the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, the BSI Distinguished Lecture Series, open house at the Mysterious Bookshop, the Gaslight Gala, the Merchants Room (where I hawked my books and bought some others), the Beacon Society’s annual meeting, the Baker Street Irregulars’ annual reception, and the S.P.O.D.E. dinner on Saturday evening.

That was all great!

But I also think about hanging out in a more casual way with friends from all over the country – cocktails at the Blue Bar of the Algonquin Hotel, lunch at McSorley’s Pub, pizza, and Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. And we congratulated Monica Schmidt and Mike McSwiggin as they joined the ranks of the Baker Street Irregulars on Friday night.

Along the way we photographed a lot of bow ties -- some of which I provided for the occasion. (Ray Betzner has dubbed me the Top Knot of His Last Bow, a so-far unofficial society of bow-tie-wearing Sherlockians.)  

Ann Lewis, Jacquelynn Bost Morris, Susan Porter, Regina Stinson, and me

Does all this matter? Yes, it does. A lot.

One of my happy tasks over the weekend was to talk to the annual meeting of the Beacon Society, which supports educational efforts to introduce young people to Sherlock Holmes. Our friend Carolyn Senter is funding the R. Joel Senter, Sr. Prize in honor of her late husband. I spoke about Joel for the benefit of those who didn’t have the good fortune to know him. At the end, I quoted Carolyn. 
Then, a sudden illness and the death of Joel shoved him over the Reichenbach and yanked me into a life I didn’t want and didn’t understand.  Here is the amazing part: The Sherlockians, some we knew well, others only casually, and some we had never met, arrived in droves to offer condolences and messages of encouragement. Even months later, I still receive messages from Sherlockians who are keeping me in their thoughts and prayers. The world of Holmes and Watson is so much more than well- educated people moving around within a place “. . . which never existed and so can never die.” It is a world where people reach out, offer ways to learn, and enjoy living. When the time comes, they reach out to rescue the wounded. 
You see – it’s all about the friendship.  

Dan Andriacco, Steven Rothman, Ray Betzner - dedicated bow tie wearers

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

A Personal Look Back at 2018

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five

The year 2018 found me retired, but not retiring. Looking back, I’m astonished at how many wonderful things happened to be me as a writer and as a Sherlockian in this first full year of gainful unemployment.

They included (in no strict order): 
  • Publication of a personal best three novels by three publishers – House of the Doomed (Wessex Press), Death Masque (MX Publishing) and School for Sleuths (Wildside Press).
  • Speaking about Sherlock Holmes to Hugo’s Campions of Chicago, the Red Circle of Washington D.C., the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, an assisted living center in Winchester, Ky., and three audiences in Cincinnati.
  • Receiving the Horace Harker Award from Hugo’s Companions.
  • Assuming leadership of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati, with the title of Most Scandalous Member.
  • Serving as Programme Chairman for the highly successful Holmes, Doyle & Friends Five symposium in Dayton. (See you Six!)  
  • Teaching an eight-week non-credit class on “Sherlockology 101.” 

Many fond memories of fellowship with like-minded lunatics are associated with each of these events.  

Sadly, the year brought losses as well. My good friends Paul Herbert, founder of the Tankerville Club, and R. Joel Senter, co-founder of Classic Specialties and the Sherlockian E-Times, passed beyond the Reichenbach. I hope to do what I can to help keep green their memory.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Henry Baker's Christmas

I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season. -- "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" 

On this Blue Carbuncle Day, and every Blue Carbuncle Day, I wonder about Henry Baker.

Everybody else in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" had this story got a wonderful after-Christmas present. But Henry Baker? We're not so sure. Consider:

Peterson, the commissionaire, got a fat Christmas goose.

The Countess of Morcar got her gem back.

James Ryder got away with grand theft.

John Horner undoubtedly would be cleared, according to Holmes.

Sherlock Holmes got the pleasure of an interesting case.

And Dr. Watson got the pleasure of hunting with Holmes once again.

But of Mr. Henry Baker we hear no more once he has received his replacement goose and ceased to be a factor in his case. Did he live happily ever after with Mrs. Henry Baker?

Holmes deduced that the original goose was a peace-offering to Mrs. B. For what offense? We don't know. But it doesn't take a Sherlock Holmes to deduce the involvement of alcohol, of which the formerly foresighted Henry was too fond.

Let us hope that the undoubtedly long-suffering wife accepted the goose in the contrite spirit in which it was intended, restoring harmony to the Baker household. After all, it was Christmas.

Monday, December 24, 2018