Welcome

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.

Monday, October 14, 2019

"A Happy Exception," Says Review

The review below of my Sherlock Holmes novel House of the Doomed is immensely gratifying to me because reviewer Pat Ward not only grasped precisely what I was trying to achieve, she thinks I succeeded! 

The review appears in the Fall 2019 number of Canadian Holmes, the journal of the Bootmakers of Toronto. If you are unfamiliar with this fine publication, check it out. 

Now, the review:

There are now far more Sherlock Holmes pastiches than the 56 short stories and four novels written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Most of these, in my opinion, aren’t very good. House of the  Doomed is one of the happy exceptions. It has an excellent, traditional, English country house mystery and avoids the pastiche’s many sins. Holmes and Watson act and speak like Holmes and Watson. Holmes does not have to save the world, or at least the British Empire. He does not encounter historical figures. There are no romantic interests for Holmes and Watson (Irene Adler does not appear, and Watson doesn’t get any additional wives). The story’s structure is not unlike that of Conan Doyle’s Holmes novels, and at 119 pages, the book is roughly as long as Doyle’s longer works. Unlike many pastiches, this story is not bloated or overwritten, but well-paced and plotted. 

Dan Andriacco is a mystery writer and a Sherlockian, and both are evident in this book. The setting is an old dark house full of potential victims, suspects and possibly a few ghosts. 

House of the Doomed is an excellent mystery, one that compares well with Conan Doyle’s work. It is also that rare thing, a good Sherlock Holmes pastiche. It may not be from Conan Doyle’s pen but it could have been.

Pat Ward

House of the Doomed is available at http://www.wessexpress.com/html/houseofdoomed.html

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Howling with the Hounds (sic)

Dr. Carlina de la Cova at the Hounds dinner (Photo: Monica Schmidt)

After re-reading The Hound of the Baskervilles so many times over the past 50 years, I thought I’d looked at it from just about every angle. Then I attended the annual dinner meeting of the Hounds of the Baskerville(sic) over the weekend.

The scion, founded in 1943 by the legendary Vincent Starrett, is accurately self-described as “Chicago’s original, senior, and most singular Sherlockian society.” Attendance at its only meeting each year is by invitation, as is membership in the group.

This year’s after-dinner speaker was our dear friend Dr. Carlina de la Cova, who offered her unique perspective on The Hound – that of a Sherlockian who is also associate professor of anthropology at the University of South Carolina and a deputy coroner in Colombia, SC.

In brief, she said, “Anthropology is what makes the story what it is.” This is an insight that will inform my future re-readings.

Carlina pointed out that multiple sub-disciplines of the field are represented in the novel: 
  • Physical anthropology
  • Cultural anthropology
  • Linguistic anthropology
  • Criminal anthropology
  • Archeology 

Most importantly: “The mystery is solved with anthropology,” she noted. How so? That has to do with a certain painting of Sir Hugo Baskerville and what it told Sherlock Holmes.

As the Hounds of Baskerville (sic) is a scion rich in history, it is appropriate that the before-dinner speaker imparted a little recent history: Michael Whelan, leader of the Baker Street Irregulars (“Wiggins”), discussed the recent move of the BSI Archives from the East Coast (Harvard) to the Midwest (Lilly Library at Indiana University in Bloomington).

At the end of the evening, Carlina was inducted as a member of the Hounds, along with Mike McSwiggin, BSI, Second Most Dangerous Member of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati; and Rodney Henshaw. Congratulations to them all!

Now, back to Dartmoor . . .     

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Welcome to My World of Mystery



My latest mystery novel, Too Many Clues, marks a minor milestone – the 10th book in the Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mystery series.

(The spine says “Book Nine” because it’s the ninth novel. Rogues Gallery, one of my favorites in the series, is a collection of three novellas and two short stories.)

When I launched the series in 2011 with No Police Like Holmes (FREE on Kindle), I expected that it would be called the Sebastian McCabe series. But early readers liked Jeff Cody, Mac’s brother-in-law and “Watson,” so much that Holmes Sweet Holmes and all the subsequent books have been labeled “A Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody Mystery.” 

As the first two titles suggest, the entire series is an homage to Sherlock Holmes. The Great Detective is mentioned in every book, and his adventures often supply a clue to the solution – although one need not be a Holmes devotee to enjoy them.  

But Sebastian McCabe is more than just a Sherlockian and a professor at a small Catholic university in equally small Erin, Ohio. He is also a mystery writer, a magician, and an amateur sleuth. In other words, he is the embodiment of my fantasy life. Why not? I created him.

Jeff Cody, by contrast, failed at writing mystery novels but is a highly successful foil for Mac, his best friend and brother-in-law. I’ve often related how I once told my wife, Ann, that Jeff was a comic exaggeration of my neurotic tendencies. “Oh, no,” she said, “you’re just like that.”

I beg to differ. Jeff is much taller than me and has red hair. He began the series as a bachelor. In Too Many Clues, he’s the married the father of three. His beloved spouse, Lynda Teal (Cody), has been an integral part of the series since No Police Like Holmes.

Lynda is not the only key character besides Mac and Jeff. A few major characters are in almost every story, such as Jeff’s assistant and her paramour, Police Chief Oscar Hummel. Minor characters pop in and out. “By this time, Dan Andriacco has created a world,” author and editor David Marcum wrote about one of the earlier McCabe-Cody books. That was my intention. I’m always gratified when readers tell me that reading the latest is like going home again.

Part of any world – even my invented one – is change. St. Benignus College, Mac and Jeff’s employer, became St. Benignus University in Erin Go Bloody. By Queen City Corpse, Jeff had a new boss. Lynda has had several jobs as a journalist, and she is now writing a novel.

Too Many Clues brings some of the biggest changes yet as two characters who have been part of Mac and Jeff’s world from the start take their leave and a disarming new assistant chief joins the St. Benignus University Police. Oh, and there are a couple of murders, too.

When people ask me which Dan Andriacco mystery is my favorite, I usually say, “I love all my children.” And that’s true. But I think Too Many Clues is one of the best yet. I hope you agree. 

The Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mystery series need not be read in order of publication. There are no spoilers, and any background necessary is provided in each book.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Some of the Most Interesting People

Bill Mason addresses the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati

Some of the most interesting people I know are Sherlockians.

(That reminds me of the old story about the journalist who is told that he must meet the most interesting people in his line of work. “Yes, I do,” he replies, “and all of them journalists.)

Take Bill Mason, who spoke Friday at the summer meeting of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati. He was a delightful house guest, an engaging conversationalist, and a wonderful after-dinner speaker. I’ve written about Bill before. As it happens, he began his career as a journalist (as did I) before going on to a career in government in Tennessee and D.C.

Bill entertained and enlightened an audience of 32 club members and guests Friday with a presentation called “Show-Off Holmes.” Displaying a masterful command of the Canon, he argued convincingly that the Sherlock Holmes wasn’t vain or egotistical – as portrayed by actors from Basil Rathbone to Benedict Cumberbatch – but just a show-off!

His dazzling scholarship is also on display in Bill’s second book, A Holmes by Any Other Name. In it, he catalogs a dazzling 561 parody names for the Great Detective, many of them from incredibly obscure sources. For example, my favorite – Sheerluck Hums – was created by a 14-year-old who produced in his own arts and letters journal in 1945.

If there were a prize for the most popular parody name, that would go to Herlock Sholmes. Bill records 30 usages, from the 1890s to about 2014. But that’s very close to the Herlock Shomes, which gets another 19 entries in Bill’s book!

You can hear Bill talk about this in his own charming voice on episode 168 of the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast.



Friday, September 20, 2019

Inside 'The Merchant of Menace'

Richard T. Ryan at The Mystery Bookshop in New York  City

“My collection of M’s is a fine one,” Sherlock Holmes once told Dr. Watson. Richard T. Ryan gives us yet another one in the villain of his new pastiche, The Merchant of Venice. It's an ingenious story that made me curious Rich’s writing process.  He was kind enough to answer my questions:

The Merchant of Menace is a clever and memorable title. Did you come up with the title and then craft a story to fit it, or did you plot the story and then name it?

I always start the story first, and usually the title comes to me at some point while I am writing. In this instance, the title came early on. I knew what I wanted my villain to be but the exact phrasing comes from a headline I wrote about Osama bin Laden after he had placed a bounty on American troops during the war on terror. Obviously, there’s also the play on The Merchant of Venice.

The story is strongly anchored in history, including several historical personages who appear in its pages as characters. Is history a major interest of yours?

I was an English major and I minored in history as an undergrad. In grad school, I found the literature and the history to be inextricably linked. Plus, I think if you are a Holmes fan, you have to love the period and all it entails.

One of the major plot engines here is the Tara Brooch. In earlier novels you wrote about the Stone of Destiny and druids. Am I right in perceiving a certain Celtic focus to your writing as well?

That would certainly seem to be the case, but I think of myself more as an Anglophile. In The Stone of Destiny Holmes and Watson travel to Ireland, but the stone is a Scottish treasure and Holmes was working on behalf of the crown. While we can trace the origins of the druids to the ancient Celts, the story is firmly anchored in the rich, mystical history of England. I guess there’s just something about the Celts that I find enormously appealing, and the fact that I graduated from Notre Dame, home of the Fighting Irish, may have something to do with it as well.

Most of your fiction has been Sherlockian. Do you consider yourself a Holmes pasticheur who writes mysteries, or a mystery novelist who writes pastiches?

I am still trying to figure that out. Obviously, I am a Holmes pasticheur, but I don’t think I can consider myself a mystery novelist who writes pastiches quite yet. That may change when I have actually completed a non-Holmesian manuscript.

You were a journalist for about three decades – certainly no Horace Harker! How does that experience influence the plotting process and the writing of your fiction?

In journalism, accuracy is paramount. When you write about Holmes, I feel as though every word is being scrutinized, so the research has to be painstakingly considered. Although I check and re-check everything I write, the occasional gaffe does slip through. I just do my best to keep them to an absolute minimum.

What it comes to Sherlock Holmes, what is your biggest concern?

Given the enormous popularity of Holmes, today’s generation can now sample the Great Detective in such TV shows as “Sherlock” and “Elementary.” He is also on the big screen in “Holmes & Watson” as well as the Robert Downey Jr. motion pictures. There are also hundreds, if not thousands of pastiches. As a result of this proliferation, today’s younger audience may never come to fully appreciate the stories in the Canon. Although every adaptation, no matter what medium, is based on Doyle’s works, with some hewing much closer to the original than others, the simple fact remains that the 56 short stories and four novels are the touchstone, a term first introduced into literary criticism by Matthew Arnold. Younger fans of Holmes and Watson need to understand that they ignore them at their own peril.

Buy The Merchant of Menace in all the usual places or at:   
https://mxpublishing.com/products/the-merchant-of-menace-a-sherlock-holmes-adventure-paperback?fbclid=IwAR38wPNGqth9c9O8n_impPXEgpbJZNkbss34c8bUmlKCvCuXJNV2gjz0Sqw

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

The Saga Continues, But Changes


I don't often say this: Too Many Clues may be one of the best of my 10 Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody books.

Fans of Rex Stout will likely recognize the title as an homage to the Nero Wolfe corpus, which included Too Many Women, Too Many Cooks, Too Many Clients, and the novella "Too Many Detectives."

Certainly my mystery writing has been influenced by decades of re-reading Nero Wolfe as well as Sherlock Holmes, but there are more differences than similarities in our work. One of the big ones is that -- unlike Wolfe and Archie -- my characters age in real time. They are all eight years older than when we first met them in 2011.

Another is that I paint on a broader canvas. By that I mean that many more continuing characters walk through my ages, and their pasts will influence future stories. David Marcum understood what I'm doing when he wrote, "By this time, Dan Andriacco is creating a world."

That world also changes. Some minor characters have come and gone over the years, while others have changed jobs or shifted relationships. In Too Many Clues, for the first time, two major characters who have been in the series ever since No Police Like Holmes will take their leave for good. It will be interesting so see how you readers react. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Mystery of the Missing Holmes

William Gillette as Holmes, in the long-lost film that is lost no longer 

It’s a mystery worthy of the Great Detective himself: More than 100 films about Sherlock Holmes are lost or in need of restoration or preservation.

The great William Gillette’s silent film of his classic stage play Sherlock Holmes was like that – lost for decades – until a print was found in Paris in 2014. Now the UCLA Film & Television Archive have teamed up with the Baker Street Irregulars to search world-wide for similar treasures.

Among the missing are a British production of A Study in Scarlet, produced in 1914; a Danish series, produced by Nordisk films, beginning in 1908; and The Missing Rembrandt, produced in 1932, starring Arthur Wontner.

The Archive and the BSI plan to contact film archives, Sherlock Holmes societies, film historians, collectors, and other potential sources around the world to find, restore, and eventually screen these and other currently lost films.
           
Barbara Roisman Cooper, an Archive Board and BSI member, is heading the project, which is called “Searching for Sherlock: The Game’s Afoot.” For further information about the effort or suggestions regarding the search, she asks that you contact her at peninc1@aol.com.

A week ago, on this blog, I reveled in the joys of putting on a Sherlockian film festival. How I would love to be able to show The Missing Rembrandt – which is now missing itself!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

At the Movies with Sherlock Holmes



From almost the beginning of the movies, Sherlock Holmes was there. And he still is.

Our friend Regina Stinson, BSI, reviewed the 115-year “Screen Life of Sherlock Holmes” in a presentation at the beginning of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati’s first annual Sherlock Holmes Film Festival on Aug. 24.

In a reprise of her delightful talk at the “Holmes, Doyle, & Friends” conference in March, she surveyed more than 50 films and television programs from Sherlock Holmes Baffled in 1903 to Holmes & Watson in 2018. You may have seen the minute-long Baffled, which astonishingly features trick photography. Regina showed all of it, along with many film and TV clips.

Fortunately, none of those clips was from the cringe-worthy Holmes & Watson.  

Regina covered good movies and bad, humorous and serious, movies that were actually about Holmes and some there were about men who thought they were Holmes or prevented to be Holmes. There's a lot of variety out there -- enough for every taste.  

A film festival is a lot of fun. We watched the hilarious Daffy Duck cartoon parody “Deduce, You Say,” Rathbone-Bruce in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Brett-Hardwicke in “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” and Cushing-Morrell in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

We all have our favorite screen Holmes, but Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, and Peter Cushing would certainly be high on most lists.

So, how do we top that lineup next year? I don’t know yet, but we 115 years of material from which to choose!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Classic Introductions to Sherlock Holmes



Some years ago, I had a terrific idea: An anthology of great introductions to Sherlock Holmes. The reason I know it was a terrific idea is that (I later learned) Edgar Smith edited just such a volume published by the Baker Street Irregulars in 1959.

Within the last few weeks I acquired a copy of Introducing Mr. Sherlock Holmes and read it with great enjoyment. There’s a note in the front that says this is a new, limited edition of 350 copies and mine is number 301. One of the neat aspects of the book is that each essay appears just as it did first – in the original type face, etc.  

Without critiquing each of these essays at length, here are the award-winners, in my opinion:

Most enjoyable: A tie between Vincent Starrett and S.C. Roberts, two of the Sherlockian/Holmesian giants of their generation. These essays are full of love and command of the material, plus erudition.

Most disappointing: Dr. Joseph Bell’s 1893 introduction to A Study in Scarlet. ACD’s influential professor seems to have forgotten what he was writing about.

Most inaccurate: The great Howard Haycraft’s introduction to The Boys’ Sherlock Holmes, which I encountered as a boy, has errors of fact on almost every page.

Most surprising: Rex Stout! He attacks Holmes (and, to a lesser degree, Watson) for six pages before offering one positive paragraph at the end. This shocked me more than “Watson Was a Woman”!

Most critically flawed: Fletcher Pratt dismisses The Valley of Fear as he lauds The Hound of the Baskervilles as the only successful Holmes novel. He was wrong.

Most insightful: Anthony Boucher, on the other hand, correctly appreciates the magnificent achievement of The Valley of Fear, correctly noting that the second part is the world’s first hard-boiled detective story.

Most Canonical: Arthur Conan Doyle’s wonderfully nostalgic introduction to The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.  

Most iconic: “In Memorium,” Christopher Morley’s introduction to the Doubleday Complete Sherlock Holmes. How many of us have read it repeatedly? Morley was paid so much for those five pages to visit London on the proceeds. And well worth it!

This was another book that I purchased through Denny Dobry of the BSI Trust. Contact him at dendobry@ptd.net to fill your Sherlockian book needs at good prices.    

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The World is NOT Big Enough



“The world is big enough for us,” Sherlock Holmes said in “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.” Fortunately, pastiche writers don’t always agree.

I just acquired and read The Science-Fictional Holmes, edited by Robert C. Peterson, although I’d read some of the stories in it previously. It’s a great collection – although a short one – published in 1960 by The Council of Four, a scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars. The seven stories give us alien Holmes wannabes, out-of-this world solutions to crimes, and a post-apocalyptic world in which the Canon has become Sacred Writ.  

The authors are Anthony Boucher, Poul Anderson (with and without Gordon R. Dickson), Mack Reynolds and August Derleth, and H. Beam Pipe and John J. McGuire. Most of these tall tales originally appeared in science fiction magazines, and rightly so.

Anderson’s “The Marian Crown Jewels” may be the most well-known story in the book. Boucher wrote the introduction and two of the stories.  The Reynolds-Derleth contributions include two of their four Solar Pons science fiction stories.

This is by no means the only collection of Holmes pastiches that venture into science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror, but it is the first. For good reason, this volume is included in John Bennet Shaw’s legendary “Basic Holmesian Library.”

I bought my copy from the BSI Trust, via Denny Dobry. Denny has a vast storehouse of donated goodies for sale at great prices to benefit the Trust – editions of the Canon, scholarship, pastiches, Sherlockian journals, posters, comics, and reference materials. Send a want list and e-mail address to dendobry@ptd.net and Denny will periodically send you an updated inventory.