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.

Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Just Added to My "To Be Read" Stack!

Last week Ann and I went to New York, spent time with friends at the long Baker Street Irregulars Weekend, and came home with new friends – the books I bought.

We didn’t hit the antiquarian bookstores, and I’m not a collector, so there was nothing rare or hard to get in my suitcase. But there were these delights, in order of purchase:

Golden Age Detective Stories, edited by Otto Penzler (Penzler Publishers). It’s always fun visiting Otto’s legendary Mysterious Bookshop, where I bought this. Although I’ve read most of the 14 stories in this 430-page book, it’s a treat to have them in one volume with Otto’s inscription in the front. I look forward to spending time again with Nero, Ellery, Perry, and their colleagues.

Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects, Curated by Cathy Miranker and Glen S. Miranker (The Grolier Club). This is the catalog for an incredible exhibition we visited on Thursday at the Grolier Club, displaying a fraction of Glen Miranker’s collection. Although I’m not a collector, I’m glad that he is and that he shared some of his gems with the rest of us. How else would I ever get to see hand-written manuscript pages of The Hound of the Baskervilles or original illustrations by Sidney Paget?  

The Finest Assorted Collection: Essays on Sherlock Holmes and Collecting, edited by Peter Eckrich and Rob Nunn, BSI (Gasogene Books). Peter’s inscription to me says “Become a collector!” No thanks, Peter. But I’m already quite a few essays into this book and it’s full of fascinating stories of how and what Sherlockians collect. (Not sure I want to read “The Game’s Adult,” though.)

A Masterpiece of Villany, edited by Ross E. Davies, BSI (Baker Street Irregulars Press). Part of the BSI’s manuscript series, this one is a facsimile of “The Norwood Builder” with an introduction, annotations, and a dozen essays. I have most of the Manuscript Series and plan to get the rest. There is something special about seeing the story in the author’s handwriting, and the essays are always enlightening.

Referring to My Notes: Music and the Sherlockian Canon, edited by Alexander Katz, BSI, and Karen Wilson, BSI (Baker Street Irregulars Press). Everything you ever wanted to know about Holmes and music, even if you didn’t know that you wanted to know it. Part of the BSI’s excellent Professions Series.   

Author/editors Rob Nunn and Karen Wilson were invested into the Baker Street Irregulars on Friday, to no one’s surprise. Congratulations to them!

If you are a Sherlockian, and you have never been to BSI Weekend, there’s always next year. Mark your calendar for the first weekend of January 2023 and look at the Baker Street Irregulars website for details as they unfold.

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Holmes, Watson, and Walking Sticks

                                 

I own several handsome walking sticks, but I’ve never actually used one. Not so Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Doubtless the walking stick was such an indispensable element of a gentleman’s attire in late Victorian England that our friends each carried one most of the time. Specific mentions are relatively few, however.

Young Stamford talks about Holmes “beating the subjects in the dissecting-rooms with a stick,” which probably means a walking stick. The detective carries a “thick oaken cudgel,” later called a stick, when in disguise as an old salt in The Sign of Four. He uses his stick to thump the pavement at a memorable moment in “The Red-headed League.” Was this the same walking stick Holmes that left with his cigarette box at the Reichenbach Falls? No, that was an alpenstock! But we know that “Neither dog nor man liked the look of my stick” in “The Missing Three-Quarter.”

And there’s Watson.

In Chapter Three of The Sign of Four, Watson tells us, “I picked up my hat and my heaviest stick” – clearly indicating that he owned more than one. Four chapters later, Holmes comments, “You have not a pistol, have you?” Watson replies, “I have my stick.” Similarly, Holmes’s inquiry in “The Disappearance of Lady Francis Carfax,” “Are you armed?” elicits Watson’s laconic reply, “My stick!”

And rightly so did the good doctor regard the stick as a potential tool of violence. A walking stick was the murder weapon in “The Cardboard Box” and the suspected weapons in “Silver Blaze” (where the stick in question is a penang-lawyer) and “The Norwood Builder.”

Other individual who carry or raise a walking stick in the Canon include Rueben Hays, Mr. Merryweather, Professor Coram, Sir Eustace Brackenstall, Inspector Gregson, Ted Baldwin, Count Sylvius Negretto, Sir Robert Norberton, Henry Baker, Jephro Rucastle, Judge Trevor, Henry Wood, and Mr. Melas’s captors.

But my favorite use of a walking stick in the Sacred Writings occurs in opening chapter of The Hound of the Baskervilles, where Sherlock Holmes learns so much from the one left behind by James Mortimer, M.R.C.S. “Interesting, though elementary,” Holmes comments. “There are one or two indications upon the stick. It gives us the basis for several deductions.” And so it did.



Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Adventure of the Previous Adventures

Here’s a mystery for you: In the course explaining how he unraveled a particular riddles, why doesn’t Sherlock Holmes ever refer to his own parallel cases the way he does to those of other sleuths?

“As a rule,” he says in “The Red-headed League,” “when I have heard some slight indication of the course of events, I am able to guide myself by the thousands of other similar cases which occur to my memory.” (And Holmes does often refer to other cases from criminal history. He mentions Riga and St. Louis in the first chapter of The Sign of Four, for example.) “In the present instance, I am forced to admit that the facts are, to the best of my belief, unique.”

And yet, although the schemes in “The Stock-broker’s Clerk” and “The Three Garridebs” are inescapably similar to the Red-headed League scam, Holmes never mentions any of these cases in explaining how he arrived at the solution to another. Nor does the hiding of the pearls in “The Six Napoleons” call him to recall the blue carbuncle in the Christmas goose. In fact, he called the Napoleons case “absolutely original in the history of crime.”

And how about “The Norwood Builder” and The Valley of Fear? The former was written first, but the latter is set earlier. Both involve (spoiler alert) a faked death and a hidden room and yet Holmes never alludes to this.

Or did Holmes mention his own previous cases and Watson leave that out of his accounts? After all, it is less of an achievement to solve essentially the same problem two or three times.

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

No Ordinary Canonical Quiz

Time has a way of changing the meaning of things. That’s why it’s good to go into the archives once in a while. I did that recently as I reorganized almost 60 years of Sherlockian material in a file cabinet. One of the treasured items I rediscovered was a pamphlet called “Canonical Nuptials.”

As the subtitle explains, “Canonical Nuptials” is “a quiz relating to weddings in the Sherlock Holmes stories.” The late Paul D. Herbert, BSI, founder and Official Secretary of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati, created it for his own marriage to Barbara Ann Morgan on Feb. 25, 1984. It was printed in a limited edition of 50 copies, signed by the bride and groom, and presented to the guests (of which I was one) as a keepsake.

Like all of Paul’s quizzes, it is quite clever. (“17. What wedding had two grooms on the altar at the same time?”) But what struck me as I opened the quiz for the first time in many years was the first question: “Who went to St. Saviour’s, near King’s Cross, to be married?” I’m not sure I would know the answer if “St. Saviour’s Near King’s Cross” wasn’t my investiture in the Baker Street Irregulars!  And certainly that gives it a meaning for me that it didn't have in 1984.

Paul passed beyond the Reichenbach on Feb. 16, 2018. He was buried Feb. 21 – or 2/21. Barbara Herbert remains the Woman of the Tankerville Club.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

When Christopher Morley Was Wrong


Christopher Morley was wrong.

There, I said it.

In his introduction to the Baker Street Irregulars’ landmark 1948 edition of “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” the BSI founder Morley famously began by writing, “Surely one of the most unusual things in the world: a Christmas story without slush.”

Most TV and radio adaptations move the date of “The Blue Carbuncle” to Christmas eve instead of Dec. 27, but that’s not really necessary. Traditionally, the Twelve Days of Christmas only begin on Christmas and don’t end until Jan. 6, considered by most Sherlockians to be the Master’s birthday.

So “The Blue Carbuncle” is a Christmas story. Morley was right about that. But it is not without slush. Consider how the story ends:

There was a long silence, broken only by his heavy breathing and by the measured tapping of Sherlock Holmes’ finger-tips upon the edge of the table. Then my friend rose and threw open the door.

“Get out!” said he.

“What, sir! Oh, Heaven bless you!”

“No more words. Get out!”

And no more words were needed. There was a rush, a clatter upon the stairs, the bang of a door, and the crisp rattle of running footfalls from the street.

“After all, Watson,” said Holmes, reaching up his hand for his clay pipe, “I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies. If Horner were in danger it would be another thing; but this fellow will not appear against him, and the case must collapse. I suppose that I am commuting a felony, but it is just possible that I am saving a soul. This fellow will not go wrong again; he is too terribly frightened. Send him to jail now, and you make him a jail-bird for life. Besides, it is the season of forgiveness. Chance has put in our way a most singular and whimsical problem, and its solution is its own reward. If you will have the goodness to touch the bell, Doctor, we will begin another investigation, in which also a bird will be the chief feature.”

That is slush – and very good slush indeed!



Tuesday, December 14, 2021

45 Years of Sherlockian Fun and Counting

Mike McSwiggin, BSI, auctioneer extraordinaire, on the job 

The Tankerville Club of Cincinnati, which I am fortunate to lead as Most Scandalous Member, celebrated its 45th anniversary in grand style on Friday at the quarterly dinner meeting. A possible record-high of 40 attended.

Among those present were members who have been part of the club almost as long as I have (41 years next month), two Tankervillians attending their first meeting, and four out-of-town guests – including the fabulous Fabienne Courouge, who came all the way from Paris (France, not Kentucky or Tennessee).

An auction, featuring books and a beautiful goblet fashioned by Fabienne, was especially spirited and competitive. Another highlight of the meeting was the enthusiastic singing of Sherlockian carols, led by trained singer Ann Margaret Lewis, BSI (“The Polyphonic Motets of Lassus”). We also enjoyed toasts, Sherlockian show-and-tell, quiz, and a discussion of “Silver Blaze.”

A number of us made our way to Indianapolis the next day for the epic 75th anniversary meeting of the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis (Fabienne’s real reason for being in the United States).

The Baker Street Irregulars only meet once a year. The rest of the time, Sherlockians are to be found gathering in scion societies. If there is one near you (or even not so near but reachable), join it. If there isn’t, start one. That’s what Paul D. Herbert did 45 years ago, which we celebrated last Friday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

School's In for These Sleuths


Sometimes good things take a while. My latest published mystery novel took about 30 years.

The Medium is the Murder, now available from Belanger books with a terrific cover, is the sequel to School for Sleuths. Both were written in (approximately) 1991, the year in which they are set. The series opener was published in 2018.

Both books are true mysteries, with clues and (I hope) surprise culprits, but they are also strongly comic starting with the premise. They focus on the A-Plus Detective Agency & Famous Detectives School, which is rather like a barber college: Its fees are low because detectives are all students still learning the trade.

As you might expect, these student sleuths vary in age, intelligence, and ability. But Francis Aloysius Finn, the visionary owner of A-Plus, pulls their work together to solve the mysteries with the invaluable help of his super-competent secretary (today she would be a personal assistant), Mrs. Hilary Kendrake.

During the big gap between writing and publication, I never forgot Finn and Kendrake and I’m delighted that they’ve finally seen the light of day. Unlike my first two McCabe-Cody mystery novels – also written decades before publication – the plotlines of these stories were too anchored in the 1990s for me to bring into the present by rewriting. And because I’m interested in writing about the current scene, I won’t be producing any more School for Sleuths adventures.

(I did, however, let an older version one of the student sleuths interact with McCabe and Cody in “Foul Ball,” a novela in my book Murderers’ Row.)    

The manuscripts of both School for Sleuths novels were greatly improved by the editing of Carla Kaessinger Coupe, for which I am very grateful. The Medium is the Murder begins with a jealous husband and quickly veers into matters possibly supernatural involving a New Age channeler. The book ends with Finn closing the door of the A-Plus offices for the night. I’m a little sad that he won’t be opening it again.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Many a Quaint and Curious Volume

 


Although I am not a collector, I am an accumulator. Wonderful pieces of Sherlockiana keep coming my way through the kindness of friends and family.

This happened again recently when an old friend gave me boxes of books that she can’t take with her on a move out of town. By “old friend,” I mean that Carolmarie and I graduated from grade school together in 1966. After a slight hiatus (46 years), we reconnected over Sherlock Holmes.

Some of the treasures she gifted me were reference books or pastiches that I didn’t have or were in better condition that the versions on my shelves. But many of the tomes were anthologies of Canonical tales.

Sherlockian anthologies are always interesting to me because of the bindings and paper, the choice of stories, the illustrations, and the added material such as introductions or annotations.

Some of the more interesting additions to my library (out of many more) via my departing friend are:

Great Cases of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1987 by The Franklin Library, Franklin Center, PA, illustrated by Michael Hooks. This is part of the Franklin Library of Mystery Masterpieces. Its 483 pages of prose includes nine stories from the Adventures, four from Memoirs, and six from Return. The guilt pages and the sepia illustrations are nice, but the real value-added is the Sherlockian Atlas at the end. This is made of five famous maps drawn by the legendary Dr. Julian Wolff.

Sherlock Holmes and Other Detective Stories, published in 1941 by the Illustrated Editions Co., New York, with wood engravings by John Musacchia. I love those engravings! The Holmes tales are “The Red-Headed League,” “A Case of Identity,” “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and The Sign of the Four in that rather curious order. There is only one other detective story, a little-known Arthur Conan Doyle tale called “That Little Square Box.” It’s a stretch to call it a detective story, since it doesn’t have a detective or a crime!

The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Green Flag, and The Adventures of Gerard are part of a matched set of Conan Doyle works published in the early years of the 20th century by P.F. Collier & Son, New York, one of ACD’s early U.S. publishers. The nicest part is the cover, which has an elaborate “CD” for the author’s name surrounded by garlands and an open book.

The Sign of the Four., published in F.M. Lupton Co. in an unknown year. The copyright page is missing. Or was this a pirated copy? And why the period after the title, which also appears after every chapter title? These are deep waters, Watson!

Books are precious, although not as precious as the friends who share them with you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Gobble This: I'm Thankful for Sherlockians

Even with a blog format that can go as long as I want, I don’t have room for everything I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, and every Thanksgiving. High on that list, however, is the ability to again gather in person with the lovable lunatics of the Sherlockian community.   

It’s common to speak of “my home scion.” But I’ve felt at home at every Sherlockian scion meeting I’ve ever attended, from Chicago to Washington, D.C. The most recent case in point was the 33rd anniversary meeting of the Ribston-Pippins in Warren, MI, ably presided over by founder Regina Stinson.

Steve Doyle argued that Professor Moriarty really is a master criminal, Roy Pilot talked about the serendipity that led to him acquiring some remarkable Sherlockian artifacts for his collection, Chris Music facilitated a discussion of “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” and Scott Monty was Scott Monty.

Throw in a Sherlockian Show-and-Tell and some toasts, and it had all the elements of most scion society dinner meetings, plus an anniversary cake. But every scion is slightly different in its traditions, and very different in the most important element of all – the people. If you are a Sherlockian, you should be involved in the scion closest to you, or most congenial to you, and visit others when you can.  

John Bennet Shaw famously said that the only thing necessary for a Sherlockian meeting is two Sherlockians and a bottle – and in an emergency, you can do without one of the Sherlockians. I think he was wrong about that. You need the people. And I’m grateful for them this Thanksgiving week.

The Ribston-Pippins 33rd Anniversary Dinner


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

A Colorful Feast for Eye and Mind


I'll say it again: The Sherlock Holmes Review is a thing of beauty. 

By that I mean the lavishly illustrated publication, reborn as an annual, is delightful to look at. The cover gives you a clue that the images are sharp and the color pops out. Even the typeface and the two-column format reminiscent of the original Holmes stories in The Strand are pleasing to the eye.

Full disclosure: My first published fiction appeared in the original quarterly Sherlock Holmes Review in 1990 and I have a couple of reviews in this one. But I don't think that has influenced the way I feel about this book. My work has appeared in other publications I've not been so taken with!

Importantly, the appeal of the new SHR is more than just skin deep. The articles are uniformly excellent. Nick Meyer gives an overview of his author tour promoting The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols. Jimmy Akin makes the subject of Holmes's Persian slipper interesting. Regina Stinson looks at the illustrators of Sherlock Holmes. Steve Doyle remembers Michael Cox. Ray Betzner convincingly takes us into the mind of Professor Moriarty. Fabienne Courouge analyzes the screen Watsons from the viewpoint of their various functions in the films.

Les Klinger interviews the creator of Elementary, Rachel Gosch makes a surprising connection between Sherlock Holmes and Catwoman (with a scintillating drawing by Frank Cho in red, white, and black), Peter Eckrich looks at the familiar faces that appeared in the Rathbone-Bruce films, Ross Davies discusses Holmes and cricket. And much more!

There's only one short story, but it's a fine pastiche. Ann Margaret Lewis tells the story of the first Mrs. Watson in "The Adventure of the Old Flame."   

Editor Steve Doyle and art director Mark Gagen have also laced the book with memories from the archives of the original SHR. There was a wonderful freshness to that publication that many of us remember fondly, but the annual is a worthy successor. You can order from Wessex Press.