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.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Missing Sherlock Holmes in Cairo

The Sherlock Holmes Pub, Cairo
Baker Street Beat was on a Great Hiatus last week because its author was out of town - in Egypt.

Nowhere does the Canon record that Sherlock Holmes ever visited that country, although he did stop by nearby Khartoum, Sudan, during his own Great Hiatus. Holmes also handled the case of the two Coptic Patriarchs (mentioned in "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman"), and Copts are Egyptian.

More to the point, there is a Sherlock Holmes Pub at the Ramses Hilton in downtown Cairo. So where do you think we went almost immediately after reaching Cairo on Sunday, April 7?

No, guess again. We visited the Hanging Church, once seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope, and the nearby Church of the Holy Virgin.

No one has the time to do everything. The Sherlock Holmes Pub, with few Sherlockian connections beyond the name and a stained glass window, didn't seem as worthy of our time as two deeply historic churches in an ancient country. Looking back, I think we chose wisely (to echo a line in an Indiana Jones movie).

Speaking of Holmes and Egypt, I noticed recently that books in the long-running series of Amelia Peabody historical mysteries by the late Egyptologist  Barbara Mertz (AKA Elizabeth Peters) contain numerous references drawn from the world of Holmes.

In The Curse of the Pharaohs, for example, names of characters include Sir Henry Baskerville (but not the one in The Hound), Karl von Bork, and Charles Milverton.

Later, in The Lion in the Valley, a man identifies himself as Tobias Gregson, "well-known private investigator," and says he was involved in the matter of the Amateur Mendicant Society and the Camberwell poisoning case.

Perhaps there is a stronger connection yet to be uncovered. After all, Arthur Conan Doyle visited Egypt. Why not Sherlock Holmes?

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

A Gathering of Sherlockian Friends

I’m still basking in the afterglow of last weekend’s Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six conference in Dayton, sponsored by the Agra Treasurers. Maybe the emphasis should be on the Friends.

“Great speakers; great fellowship; great time,” said one evaluation by a participant.

The fellowship is a big part of any Sherlockian gathering as friends from various places, who in some cases have little else in common, come from around the country to reconnect in Baker Street.

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six attracted 62 attendees (a recent high) from the East Coast, the Midwest, the South, and Canada to hear eight A-list speakers Saturday on a wide variety of topics. Evaluations described the talks as phenomenal, excellent, high-quality, and fantastic.

Steve Doyle accurately described me as the ringmaster. It was my fun job to introduce:

Bob Katz, who offered a thoroughly plausible theory – supported by the Canonical text – that the young John H. (“Jack”) Watson was a drummer boy wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg;

Susan Bailey, who shared her research into the origins of the character Tonga from The Sign of the Four;

Ann Margaret Lewis, who not only discussed the motets of Lassus – upon which Sherlock Holmes wrote a monograph – but let us listen to beautiful examples;

Scott Monty, who (in bow tie) explored brand names in the Canon and humorously drew connections to some modern brands as well;

Shannon Neihart Castle, who described the workings of her Sherlockian-themed classroom (“it’s a bonny thing”);

Jeffrey Marks, who enlightened us about the work of Anthony Boucher on the Sherlock Holmes radio show with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce;

Vincent Wright, who took us around the world in 63,540 days by drawing hilarious connections among people, places, and dates that one wouldn’t ordinarily think of together;

Regina Stinson, who wrapped up the day with wonderful guided tour of “The Film Life of Sherlock Holmes,” from the first silent movie last less than a minute to the cringe-worthy Holmes & Watson.

What’s next for the Dayton conference, which started under another name in 1981? Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven! Planning is underway now for March 2020. You can expect another great lineup of speakers, and some reorganization of the room to accommodate more guests.

Stay tuned for details later! 

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

On the Case Again with Octavius Bear

My friend and fellow Cincinnatian, Harry DeMaio, is one of the most prolific writers I know, considering that nine books in his Casebooks of Octavius Bear series have been published since 2015, the tenth is coming in September, and the eleventh is in the works.

Book Nine is The Basket Case, in which a star ostrich basketball player is found dead in a New York City alley. A giraffe is suspected. The giraffe’s team coach calls on Octavius to investigate. No wonder Harry describes this as “Alternative Universe Mysteries for Adult Animal Lovers.”

And the hero is a bear with one paw in the world of Sherlock Holmes. I’ll let Harry explain:

“Octavius is a nine-foot-tall, 1400-pound Kodiak Bear/consulting detective/scientist/inventor/seeker of justice/mega-billionaire owner of Universal Ursine Industries/narcoleptic war hero/gourmet-gourmand/somewhat sedentary and grouchy just on general principles. He is a hybrid character somewhat loosely based on Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe with some characteristics of each but definitely his own bear.

“Octavius, among his many talents and accomplishments, is a brilliant, self-taught practitioner in the wide-ranging fields of biology, physics, ursinology, voodoo, teleology, chemistry, apiculture and oenology as well as a first rate electrical, electronic, structural, marine, aeronautical, mechanical and chemical engineer.  He has a few other interesting characteristics such as falling into brief, deep narcoleptic comas – side effects of his successful genetic experiments to eliminate the need for him to hibernate.”

Clearly, Octavius lives in a different universe than we do.

“Here’s the story: About 100,000 years ago, according to scientific experts, a colossal solar flare blasted out from our sun, creating gigantic magnetic storms here on Earth. These highly charged electrical tempests caused startling physical and psychological imbalances in the then-population of our world. The complete nervous systems of some species were totally destroyed.  For example, homo sapiens lost all mental and motor capabilities and rapidly became extinct. Less developed species exposed to the radiation were affected differently. 

“Four-footed and finned mammals, birds and reptiles suddenly found themselves capable of complex thought, enhanced emotions, self-awareness, social consciousness and the ability to communicate, sometimes orally, sometimes telepathically, often both. Both speech production and speech perception slowly progressed with the evolution of tongues, lips, vocal cords and enhanced ear to brain connections. Many species developed opposable digits, fingers or claws, further accelerating civilized progress.

“Alternate universes play an increasing level of importance in each succeeding book.”

That brings us back to The Basket Case.  

“Aside from being based entirely in one location, New York City, and dealing with basketball, Book Nine follows most of the same patterns established in its predecessors with four major exceptions,” Harry says. “Octavius, who was somewhat sedentary in the earlier books, is much more active and directly involved in managing the progress and outcome of the case. The cubs fall in love with Noo Yuck. As I mentioned earlier, alternate universes play an increasing part in the overall structure of these books. Ursula has now become a dominant character.”

Ursula would be the Artificial General Intelligence Unit that has been an integral player in all volumes after Book Six, The Attaché Case.

Other series regulars include:

Maury (Mauritius) Meerkat – sidekick, narrator, detective, and theatrical agent.

Inspector Bruce Wallaroo – Irrepressible but brilliant marsupial; an international law and order genius from Australia; often calls on Octavius and Maury for support.

Bearoness Belinda Béarnaise Bruin Bear (nee Black) – Now wife of Octavius; very rich widow of Bearon Byron Bruin living in Bearmoral Castle in the Shetlands; owner-pilot of the last flying Concorde SST; Gorgeous polar superstar, with the Aquashow, Some Like It Cold.

Arabella and McTavish – Belinda and Octavius’ cubs – mischievous, energetic furballs.

Frau Ilse Schuylkill – Swiss she-wolf; housekeeper-cook; jet pilot and sharpshooter with other very strange and arcane abilities.

The major villain is Imperius Drake, a mad duck with dreams of world (nay!  cosmic) conquest. Once a mild-mannered Mandarin Duck, he is now Moriarty with Wings.” A brilliant but loony anitidae who has developed a serum to make the animal kingdom his slaves, he seeks vengeance for ridicule by the scientific community and the death of his beloved Lee-Li-Li who swallowed all his serum in a vain attempt to stop his madness.

Next up in the series is The Camera Case, in which a movie is being shot at Polar Paradise. An ingenue falls from her suite to her death. Murder? Whodunnit?

Book Eleven, The Würst Case Scenario, will feature artificial food and murder. This series has leghs!  
The Basket Case  is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USAAmazon UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository.

Harry’s website is www.octaviusbearslair.com.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

When Parody Meets Pastiche

The distinction between a pastiche and a parody can be more nebulous than you might think.

In his essay, “The Beginnings of Solar Pons,” August Derleth made it clear that he intended Pons as a pastiche of Sherlock Holmes, “not  parody.” But Vincent Starrett, in praising the Pons stories, wrote that he found in them “a hint – just a mild flavor of burlesque.” He added that “it seems to me the best pastiches must have just that remote flavor of affectionate spoofing.”

Recently, I picked up a copy of Arsene Lupin Versus Herlock Sholmes (also known as The Blonde Lady) at the Mysterious Bookshop in New York. Most crime fiction aficionados at least recognize the Lupin name as that of the famous thief of French fiction. In this episodic novel, which I have known about since I was a boy, Lupin does battle with a character that might fairly be called a burlesque of Sherlock Holmes. The story is serious, but Herlock Sholmes is not.

Even less serious is Sholmes’s sidekick, Wilson. When Sholmes calls Wilson a “triple imbecile,” he is only stating the obvious. Think Nigel Bruce, but not as smart.  

Lupin, on the other hand, is everything that the back cover of the Wildside Press edition of Arsene Lupin Versus Herlock Sholmes proclaims him to be: “witty, charming, brilliant, sly . . . and possibly the greatest thief in the world.”

And still, the best he can do against “Herlock Sholmes” is a draw. To that degree, Sholmes is like the character of which he is a parody. His one book-length appearance is worth reading.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

10 Rules for Writing a Sherlockian Pastiche

The guy on the left never called the one on the right "Sherlock" 

The Complete Sherlock Holmes, in the one-volume Doubleday edition, runs 1122 pages. That is a lot, but not nearly enough. So, hundreds of writers have related thousands of Holmes adventures that Dr. Watson (per Sir Arthur Conan Doyle) never got around to. I myself stand guilty of this, in both short story and novel format.

Some parodies and pastiches are quite good. Others are painful to read, at least for me. As a public service, I have recommended LeahGuinn’s fine monograph on how to write a Holmes story in the style of the original. Now I call your attention to Derrick Belanger’s “10 Rules for Writinga Sherlockian Pastiche.”

This excellent decalogue was written for young people engaged in the training that goes with being a member of the Junior SherlockianSociety. But any adult writer could benefit from it as well. Take for example, rule number three:
You need to read the original Sherlock Holmes stories. You can’t write a pastiche if you don’t know who you are imitating. Pay attention to how Doyle introduces Holmes, how the mystery begins, how his characters interact. Note that Watson calls Sherlock Holmes by his last name, “Holmes” not “Sherlock.” The closer you are to Doyle, the better. 
Obvious, you say? Then why do so many pastiches show no evidence that the author has ever actually read the Canon?

Belanger assumes that the budding author is writing a mystery. Though that’s not actually a necessity, since some of the Canonical Holmes stories are detective stories without being mysteries, I think it’s a more-than-reasonable assumption. And, as a mystery writer myself, I like  his advice in rule eight: 
Know your ending. You have created a client who has brought Holmes a mystery to solve. You have to have Holmes solve the mystery to bring your story to a conclusion, and the ending must be believable. I find that authors who don’t know the ending to their story in advance tend to get lost in the plot and often abandon their story. My advice is to know your ending before you write your story. If you know how the story will end, then you can set up the clues along the way to help you reach your conclusion and make it satisfying to your readers. 
Read all ten rules. And if you are a pastiche writer, please follow them!  

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Profile: Scott Monty

You may be used to hearing Scott Monty and his podcast sidekick, Burt Wolder, interviewing other Sherlockians. Today we turn the tables and interview Scott, who will be one of eight fantastic speakers at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six conference in Dayon, March 29-30.

To hoist you by your own petard, I’ll start with the question you ask every guest on your twice-monthly podcast, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere: When and how did you first encounter Mr. Sherlock Holmes?

Ha! I see what you did there. I talked about this with Burt on Episode 122 (https://ihose.co/ihose122). I was in high school and was doing a research paper about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Because our small-town library didn’t have sources that could adequately inform my paper, I pled my case to my teacher, who let me know that she just saw a Sherlock Holmes expert on PM Magazine on Channel 3 in Hartford. She encouraged me to seek out and document a primary source for my paper, so I called Channel 3 and got the phone number for one Harold “Tyke” Niver, BSI.

He answered the phone, “Baskerville Hall!” and I knew I was in business. Tyke spent an hour with me, describing how Sherlock Holmes became an inextricable icon in popular culture, and what Conan Doyle thought of it all. I had more than enough for a paper, and even better: I discovered enough to make me want to learn more about these “Sherlockians.”

How did you become involved in the Sherlockian community?

It was an immediate byproduct of the call with Tyke. He ran The Men on the Tor, and they met twice a year at Gillette Castle. At the conclusion of the call, Tyke invited me down for their next meeting. I was still 15 years old, so my father had to drive me.

When I entered the Great Hall, I was warmly welcomed by everyone, and I discovered that this group was made up of a cross-section of society: judges, professors, musicians, industrialists, homemakers, writers, and more — all with a common interest. I knew that I had found my people. And ever since then, Tyke and his wife Teddie — both BSIs — have been like my Sherlockian godparents.

I’ve always known a few Sherlockians, but no scion until I was almost 30. What has it meant to you to be part of a Sherlockian community in your more formative years?

There’s really something to be said for joining a group and having someone take you under their wing. That’s what Tyke did for me, and later Dan Posnansky of the Speckled Band. I didn’t ask them to guide me, but they must have seen something in me to want to introduce me to the right people, tell me about the right books and resources, and encourage me to attend the right events.

They really have been like a specialized set of parents for me. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed corresponding with them and seeing them at annual events when possible. And that has added to the feeling that a handful of Sherlockian events seem like family reunions.

You seem to be particularly fascinated with the earlier generation of Sherlockians – Morley, Starrett, Smith, and their contemporaries. Why is that? 

These men are legends in our field. It can be a little difficult for outsiders to appreciate, but the names above are like the Founding Fathers of the Sherlockian movement. They gave it life, they wrote incessantly, and they provided the structure to keep it alive. Not only were they visionaries and passionate, but their writing was exquisite — something we don’t see these days. Oh, we certainly see writing, but Edgar Smith’s prose in particular was beautiful and masterful. Morley’s letters were whimsical and educational. Starrett’s books and columns were insightful and delightful.

What did it feel like to walk in their shoes when you became a member of the Baker Street Irregulars?

It was kind of a shock. And it still is, to be honest. I feel like I’m always standing on the shoulders of giants — of these greats that have come before us. I remind myself that we’re stewards of this august organization — or perhaps organism, as it’s a living thing — and that we should always try to honor their memory, but keep the group moving forward in a respectful yet relevant way.

When was that?
I received my investiture (“Corporal Henry Wood”) in 2001.

Tell me about your involvement with The Baker Street Journal.

Shortly after I was invested, Mike Whelan asked if I'd consider taking over as Business Manager of the BSJ. After doing a bit of research, I accepted and developed a 10-point plan for the Journal. These included, among other things establishing the first web presence for the BSJ at bakerstreetjournal.com, selling the BSJ CD-ROM (now the eBSJ), and initiating an online ordering process for all BSI Press items with PayPal. I stepped down from the role in 2008, but I remain proud of the strong start I gave to the BSI online.

When did you and Burt Wolder launch I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere as the first podcast devoted to Holmes and his world? And how did that come about?

It all started with the Baker Street Blog in August 2005. I was the business manager of the BSJ at the time, and I thought the public deserved more regular and timely updates rather than waiting for a communication every quarter.  (I still do. 😉) I was working for an advertising and marketing agency at the time, and professionally, I was exploring the possibilities of social media. So, the Baker Street Blog became a living laboratory for me.

In early 2007, I decided that a podcast would be a fine complement to the site. After all, Sherlockians were no strangers to audio programming, as the Sherlock Holmes radio shows from the 1940s to the 1990s attested. And like Holmes and Watson, I knew that such an undertaking would be better with a partner. So, I approached Burt, a fellow marketing and communications professional, and we brainstormed about a concept and name. Thus, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere was born. The show frequency, format, and features have changed a bit over the years, but in the last three years, we’ve settled into a good cadence.

In 2013, we integrated the two sites and run everything from there now.

What’s your favorite part of doing the show and the shorter podcast, Trifles?  

My favorite part about doing both of them overall is that I get to interact with Burt. He’s a great Sherlockian and our friendship has grown since we started the shows. His knowledge never ceases to amaze me, and he’s got a wonderful sense of humor that keeps the show light — I think we work well together.

My favorite part of doing IHOSE is talking with our wonderful guests. Don’t get me wrong — I enjoyed the shows in which Burt and I discussed topics (which is really part of why Trifles was born) — but expanding our universe and learning from the great fun other people are having with Sherlock Holmes is a highlight.

How many bow ties do you own?

You know, I haven’t counted recently. I’m going to estimate and say something like 75 or 80. I also own about 400 neckties. And yes, I know. I have a problem.

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)?   

It’s about Sherlock Holmes and advertising; specifically, brand names in the Canon (and brands that should have been in the Canon).

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Holmes, Doyle Profile: Ann Margaret Lewis

My good buddy Ann Margaret Lewis, one of the speakers at Holmes, Doyle, &Friends Six, has many arrows in her quiver. She’s a Sherlockian, a Holmes pasticheur, a science fiction novelist, and trained singer. See how those talents all come together:   

When and how did you become a Sherlockian?

In high school I had read all my mother’s Agatha Christie books, so she suggested I read Sherlock Holmes. I read The Hound of the Baskervilles and was immediately hooked. My mom didn’t know she’d created a monster. (Or maybe she did…)

The topic of your talk at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six is the polyphonic motets of Lassus, a subject upon which Holmes once wrote a monograph. You are singer of great ability. How do Sherlock Holmes and music come together for you?

Great ability? Who am I, Roberta Peters? (laugh) With Holmes and music, I often contemplate what sort of music Holmes would listen to (we know of some, of course), or music he might have grown up with, or was exposed to. I like to do little Victorian selections for our Illustrious Clients Victorian Dinner in January. And, of course, I had Holmes dealing with a singer (Watson’s mysterious second wife) in my novel The Watson Chronicles, so both of my great loves came together in my writing, too.

You’ve written two wonderful books of Holmesian pastiche – Murder at the Vatican: The Church Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes and The Watson Chronicles: A Sherlock Holmes Novel in Stories. What is your philosophy of pastiche writing?

While writing my story, I keep my head solely in the Canon and I do not read other pastiches. First, that prevents idea creep (I don’t want to accidentally steal someone else’s idea). Second, I immerse myself in Doyle’s writing, analyzing word choice, tone, sentence structure, story structure, characterization, description. Avoiding other pastiches helps me stay away from imitating the imitator in those areas. That’s not to say I don’t read other pastiches (I do, including yours, Dan!) I just can’t do it while I’m writing my own.

And you also write science fiction. Tell us a little about that.

I love science fiction, especially space opera. I have had this universe I’m writing now in my head for 20 years begging to come out, but Sherlock stood in the way. (He has a tendency of taking over that way). But now that I’ve told the stories I think I wanted to tell with Sherlock (at least for now) I can jump into my “Gilgamesh meets Star Wars” space opera world for a time. The first novel of my space opera trilogy, Warrior of the Kizan, will be out this spring from Superversive Press.

You worked in New York for DC Comics. Reflect on that experience a little and how it has influenced your other writing.

I was a lowly copy-slave, an editorial assistant, for DC back in the 1990s, so it’s been a while. But I had a lot of great experiences working with the editors there and I met a lot of great people. I especially took a comic book writing class with Denny O’Neill (Batman editor) and learned so much about story structure and visual story telling from him. It was hard work and I was paid little, but what I learned was invaluable.

You are a member of Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, the Vatican Cameos, and S.P.O.D.E. What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?

Friendship. Meeting smart, interesting people who do fascinating things. Eating a lot of great food with great people—that seems to happen all the time.

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

What is my favorite Sherlock Holmes story? It’s really hard for me to pick, but mine is “The Yellow Face” because Holmes changes and grows in that story. My husband often says that one learns more from failure than one learns from success, and I think that is the case with that story.

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

Holmes, Doyle Profile: Susan Bailey

Sherrinford Holmes is speaking at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. No, not the third Holmes brother, but the delightful and energetic Susan Bailey. She sometimes uses the Sherrinford moniker on Facebook. Let's listen to her story:

When and how did you become a Sherlockian?

It was October, 2010. I had gotten in the habit of watching “Masterpiece Theatre” on PBS every Sunday night, regardless of the programming. One Sunday night I turned on the television without even knowing what was on and heard some of the most witty, intelligent, fast-paced dialog that I’d ever seen on television. It was the first BBC Sherlock episode. Nothing I had ever seen on television had excited me as much. After the end of the first three Sherlock episodes, I proceeded immediately to read the entire Canon from beginning to end. After that, I never looked back! As I went deeper into the Canon, Victorian history, and filmic representations of Holmes and Watson, I realized what a deep and rich tradition it was and that there was plenty for me to enjoy. I even spent a few years live tweeting Granada Holmes episodes almost every Thursday night. I met some great friends that way. There are so many ways to be a Sherlockian.

What have been your main involvements in Sherlockian societies?

After hearing about it on the Baker Street Babes podcast, I went to A Scintillation of Scions at 2012 as an attendee. At that conference, I heard about Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City, MD, which was a sponsor of the gathering. I realized that there were people who wanted to get together regularly, in person, to talk about Holmes and Watson and it sort of blew my mind! I started regularly attending Watson’s Tin Box meetings in 2013. In 2014 I became a member of the Scintillation of Scions organizing committee. I was also the Gasogene of Watson’s Tin Box for the year of 2017. It is a lot of fun to meet other people who love the same things you love and enjoy them together.

What has it meant to you to be part of a Sherlockian community?
It really is a community. I’m so proud of Watson’s Tin Box. There are some amazingly supportive and fascinating people amongst the Sherlockians. It’s wonderful to feel like there’s a group of people out there who understand your personal brand of nerdiness.

You won the 2017 Morley-Montgomery Award for your paper, “Whitehall Place Irregulars: Female Searchers and Suspects in Nineteenth-century London.” What did that recognition feel like?

I think overwhelming joy best describes how winning that award felt. I had the idea for that paper for a few years before I wrote it because I wasn’t sure if anyone other than me would find the results interesting. It feels wonderful to get recognition for your work.

Tell us a little about your Sherlockian research in London.

I was so incredibly fortunate to get to take a research trip in July, 2017 to London and Edinburgh. My trip was crowd-funded, so I could not have done it without help from my friends, family, and fellow Sherlockians. I had a hunch that Dr. Watson and Arthur Conan Doyle might have known more about criminals and convicts than they had let on because of their medical training in the dissection room, and that Holmes may have learned how to identify the physical characteristics of criminals from having encountered them on the dissection table at Bart’s. I wanted to look through the original dissection room log books from the period in which Holmes was active. I also wanted to see if I could dig deeper into the relationship between Bart’s Medical School and the notorious Newgate Prison, which was practically across the street from it. I uncovered a lot of amazing connections. I also went up to Edinburgh to look through similar records there. Over the course of my ten-day trip I think I was able to dig up enough raw material to keep my research going for a few years.   

You are speaking at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30 about Tonga. Why Tonga? And what about Tonga?

I have always been interested in The Sign of Four, because I spent about 14 months living in West Bengal, India. Before becoming a Sherlockian, I had known that there was a historical connection between the Andaman Islands and Bengal. Most of the South Asians who had colonized parts of the Andaman Islands were Bengali speakers. One of the amazing things about doing research is that you don’t always find what you expect to find or hope to find, but you might find something even better. I didn’t actually intend to research Tonga on my trip but that’s who I found while looking through the Edinburgh University archives. Doing research requires a very Holmes-like skill set; observe the details and follow the evidence. I don’t want to give away the surprise of my symposium paper! But I will tell you that I believe that I uncovered the source of Doyle’s idea for the character of Tonga.

You sometimes appear on Facebook as Sherrinford Holmes. Do you have some special connection to the third Holmes brother?   
No, sorry. I just picked that name because I was trying to have an incognito account so that I could engage in fandom activities online without people from “real life” trying to find me. I knew that other Sherlockians would probably get the reference. Since then I made another account under my real name. I think of that as my professional account. Feel free to follow either one!

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Holmes, Doyle Profile: Regina Stinson

Regina Stinson and her Sherlockian crafts
My friend Regina Stinson is appearing at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six both as a presenter and as a vendor. But there is much more to her Sherlockian profile than that, as you will learn:  

When and how did you first encounter Mr. Sherlock Holmes?

It was during the summer when I was allowed to stay up and watch the late show on TV—I was probably about 12, or so—when I first saw the Basil Rathbone series of Sherlock Holmes movies. My older brother informed me that these were updated and that the Holmes of the stories was from an earlier era. He also gave me a paperback book containing a collection of short stories. Craving more Holmes, I bought myself a complete Canon and the thing blossomed from there.

You make a wide range of beautiful and creative Sherlockian crafts. How did that come about?

I was looking for a way to support my dear friend Jacquelynn Morris with her symposium, Scintillation of Scions, and being somewhat artistic, I came up with the idea to make a Sherlockian charm bracelet for their auction. It was so popular that people were asking me if I made jewelry to sell. One thing led to another and I began selling my creations. The first symposium I ever sold at was in Dayton. I also sell my items on Etsy under the name Artful Pippin.

You are speaking at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30 about Holmes in the movies, from silent days forward, with clips. That’s a big topic! What’s your particular approach?

I have a Power Point presentation that includes pictures from the various movies and TV programs. This will be a very condensed version of my presentation due to the 20-minute time limit. The original presentation included film clips of nearly all the fifty-plus movies I present with a few interesting anecdotes. In this version, I still include a few of my favorite clips and all the movies are still covered, just a bit more briefly.

Is that a life-long interest of yours?

I would say so. Remember, I was introduced to Holmes through the movies, so I naturally have a fondness for them.

How did you come to start the Ribston-Pippins in 1988? And don’t forget to explain the name!

I had wanted to join a scion society for some time and had made several calls to the contact person for the Amateur Mendicants, but all I got were promises that they would be starting up again soon. (They had been on a long hiatus.) I finally decided that if I wanted to belong to a scion, I’d have to start my own. So, I distributed fliers to libraries and bookstores in my area announcing our first meeting, which took place at our home on November 18, 1988. We had about 12 members at that time and have been studying the Canon and having Sherlockian fun since then! (Ten years later, the Amateur Mendicants started up again.)

Oh yes, the name. We were looking for a name that hadn’t been used before and that sounded interesting. I leafed through Tracy’s Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana when I ran across the term “Ribston-Pippin.” We had a vote at our second meeting and everyone liked that name best. It comes from Watson’s description of one of the men, James Lancaster, who came to interview with “Captain Basil” in “The Adventure of Black Peter.” Subsequently, we acquired a member who actually grew Ribston-pippins in his yard. His chosen nom was “James Lancaster,” of course.

To what other Sherlockian groups do you belong?

I’m in the BSI, ASH, Hounds of the Baskerville (sic), Amateur Mendicants, Watson’s Tin Box, Illustrious Clients, and Bar of Gold.

What has it meant to you over the decades to be part of worldwide community of friends devoted to Sherlock Holmes?

I love being a part of this wonderful community! I’ve met a lot of great people and become close friends with many of them. I feel like I’ve found my people!

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

I was given the investiture of “A Little Ribston-Pippin” in 2006.

What did that feel like?

It was one of the most awesome experiences in my life! I was floating on a cloud for a long time. I’m sincerely honored to be a part of this illustrious organization.

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

Have you ever had anything of your Sherlockian writings published? Yes! I’ve had two small monographs published in the Baker Street Journal, a short story published in Charles Prepolec’s Curious Incidents II, and essays in About Sixty and Sherlock Holmes is Like. I’ve also contributed a monograph to an upcoming Baker Street Irregulars book, Corporals, Colonels and Commissionaires.

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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.

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