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, November 8, 2017

Meet the Irrepressible Monica Schmidt

The Sherlockian world has been blessed in this decade with an influx of energetic young enthusiasts. One such is Monica Schmidt, whom I have had the pleasure of encountering repeatedly at events around the country. I decided it was time to ask her a few questions. Her interest in Holmes didn’t begin with the BBC’s Sherlock.    

When/how did you first become acquainted with Mr. Sherlock Holmes?
In January of 1987, I was 5 ½ years-old.  I have a memory of watching a movie on TV featuring a guy who had been cryogenically frozen and woken up in the modern day (The Return of Sherlock Holmes, starring Michael Pennington).  This guy wore a funny hat and cape, had an accent, and was a detective.  And then my mother made me go to bed before I could catch the name of the movie or watch its conclusion.  But the memory of that character stuck with me. When I was 7 or 8, I came across a children’s edition of The Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes (featuring abridged versions of BLUE, RED, and SPEC).  Thanks to the cover art, I recognized that this Sherlock Holmes fellow must have been the same one from that movie I remembered. I really enjoyed those stories and thirsted for more.  A year or so later, I came across Jeremy Brett’s Holmes on PBS and got hooked. I started devouring all things Sherlockian and I haven’t stopped. 

What’s your favorite canonical Holmes story and why?
This question is like asking which are your favorite children. But, if I must choose, I would probably have to pick BLUE because it was the first story I read and therefore it’s a sentimental favorite.  The story is set during the winter holiday season (which is always a favorite time of year) and it’s become a custom in my household to re-read the story and watch the Granada version of the tale over the Christmas holiday.  Also, as someone who works closely with the criminal justice system, I like that the story also plays with the idea of legal vs. social justice:  Holmes allows Ryder to go free because he recognizes justice is not served by making Ryder into a jailbird. 

How does your day job as an addiction counselor give you insight to Holmes?
I’m a licensed mental health counselor, but I specialize in the treatment of addictions (alcohol, drugs, and gambling).  So, I’d like to think I have a fair amount of insight regarding Holmes’s drug use as well as his mental health.  Because Holmes is a hero to many, I like to give presentations about the intersection between mental health and the Canon as a way of educating the public about what addiction or mental health concerns actually look like (as compared to the extreme pop-culture stereotypes we are presented with in movies and on TV).  

How did you get involved in the Younger Stamfords?
I had to go to Minnesota to find my local scion in Iowa City. My first Sherlockian event was the Norwegian Explorers/University of Minnesota Sherlockian conference in 2010.  While I was at the conference, I sat next to Peter Blau (had no idea who he was) and we chatted about youthful engagement in the community.  I convinced him that a Sherlockian scion needs a web presence if it is to draw younger people… and this is why The Red Circle of DC has a website.  I mentioned to him that I had searched the Internet and could not find a scion close to me in Iowa City or Cedar Rapids.  Of course, the idea of searching in books never occurred to this ’net-savvy young lady.  Peter pointed at Dr. Richard (Dick) Caplan, founder of the Younger Stamfords, and told me to go talk to him.  Thank you, Peter, for making sure I found my way. 

How did you become the scion’s president?
Dick Caplan founded the Younger Stamfords in 1988 and decided he would step down from running it after 25 years – just before his 84th birthday in 2013.  In a small market like Iowa City, there are a lot of people who are interested in attending, but not a lot of people who are interested in doing.  Therefore, if you found a group, you may be president for life.  When Dick decided to step down, he resigned himself to the idea that the scion may disband.  I was crushed at this idea because I had just connected with the group and couldn’t bear the idea of the scion going defunct.  So, even though I was the scion’s youngest (and least experienced) member, I volunteered to carry the banner.   

What other groups and scion societies have you been involved with?
In taking over the Younger Stamfords, I made a promise to myself (and an unspoken one to Dick) to educate myself about the greater Sherlockian community so I could feel like I earned the honor of running a scion.  So, I jumped in with both feet.  I am a member of The Hounds of the Baskerville (sic) in Chicago, The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, The Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota, The O’Lunney’s of Helston Asylum, The Torists International Sherlockian Society, The Wizards of Iz (Sherlockian Brunch Club), The Fourth Garrideb, The Criterion Bar Association, The Friends of the Great Grimpen Mire, The Hansom Cab Clock Club,  and 140 Varieties of Tobacco Ash, as well as The Sons of the Copper Beeches.  

How do you think Midwestern scion societies are different from those on the coasts?
Every scion has its own distinct traditions and unique flavor, so grouping or generalizing them would do a disservice to all the organizations.  But I can say that, within the Midwest, The Illustrious Clients (1947) to the east; The Norwegian Explorers (1948) to the west; and The Hounds of the Baskerville (sic) (1943) and Hugo’s Companions (1948) in the middle in Chicago have acted as long-standing anchors of Sherlockian activity and scholarship in flyover country.  In the Midwest, scions are a little more geographically spread out and siloed (far less membership overlap than one would find in the Mid-Atlantic region), which means that it takes a larger effort for someone in the heartland to fill up one’s calendar of Sherlockian events. 

What has it mean to you to be part of the broader Sherlock Holmes community?
For me, being part of the broader Sherlockian community means being able to look forward while upholding tradition.  It is eye-opening when one reads the biographies of those Sherlockians who have come before:  so many men and women did great things. Many were at the top of their professions or made major contributions to their fields in addition to making their mark in the Sherlockian community through scholarship and scion involvement.  It’s a great honor to follow in the footsteps of those giants of yesteryear and to be able to make our own contribution to the community they helped craft.

What is something you think people should know about you?
Nearly everything I’ve done in this community is the result of a lot of other people giving me a chance.  People have allowed me to attend their scion meetings.  Someone reached out and invited me to their event.  Or maybe a person spoke up on my behalf because they believed I would be a good fit.  Others have asked me if I would write a paper, do a presentation, or work on a project.  It’s humbling when others have believed in me even when I may not have believed in myself and that people expect great things of me.  And I have always tried to make sure that no one regretted their decision to include me.  It’s a privilege of being involved in the Sherlockian community.  

You can hear Monica speak at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five in Dayton on March 10, 2018. Register here. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Books, Anyone?

I'm still basking in the afterglow of a great day at Cincinnati's annual Books by the Banks book fair last Saturday. Queen City Corpse, the latest Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody adventure, is off to a great start!

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Downsize My Way, Please!

Downsizing is a good thing – especially when a friend downsizes some goodies my way!

Such was the happy case recently when playwright/composer Mark Friedman gifted me with a nicely framed poster from John Wood’s legendary turn as Sherlock Holmes in the iconic William Gillette play on Broadway in the mid-1970s. Mark attended the play and bought the poster, which now resides on the wall of my Sherlock Holmes library.

The Royal Shakespeare Company’s

I love the way the poster hyped the melodramatic aspects of the play – which is, after all, a melodrama. It noted the presence of:


Yes, the ending is unbelievable to most Sherlockians – the most unbelievable part of the whole play, to me.

Mark Friedman and writing partner Janet Vogt have written more musicals than I have fingers and toes. One of them is a gem called “Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of the Crown Jewel,” which has been performed by 15 companies so far. Mark will play excerpts during his talk at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five symposium in Dayton in March. Register now!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Despite Reichenbach, Moriarty Lives

Is any character in alleged fiction of the last 150 years as much of an archetype as Sherlock Holmes?

Well, yes - Professor Moriarty is. Just as Holmes is the archetype of the Great Detective, Moriarty is the epitome of the Master Criminal. Before him there was none in fiction, and every one that followed owes something to him.

Moriarty is one of a trio of characters from the Holmes Canon, along with Irene Adler and Mycroft Holmes, who intrigue us because they are great creations about whom we know so little. That is a gap that pastiche writers fill with endless creativity. For example, both Mycroft and Moriarty have been portrayed as the original "M" of James Bond's secret service.

Recently I picked up a copy of The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Professor Moriarty, an anthology of 37 new tales edited by Maxim Jakubowski, and was pleasantly surprised at the overall quality. As in an collection of stories by different writers, some are understandably stronger than others. But most are quite good, well written and entertaining.

The variety of approaches in these three dozen stories is astonishing. Most are not written from the pen of Dr. Watson. In fact, one is narrated by the Professor himself. Many give us a young Moriarty who is already devilish, and two involve Moriarty seeking psychiatric help. One ventures into steampunk with a young heroine who turns out to have a surprising identity. In several, the name Sherlock Holmes never appears. 

Since quite a few of the stories take place after Reichenbach and Moriarty is still alive, it's safe to safe that Sherlockian orthodoxy is not observed within these pages. But who cares? The point is to have fun, and this is a fun book. Even though I didn't believe a word of it.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Coming Clean with Sherlock Holmes

What does an unemployed philosopher do? Think up cool Sherlock Holmes products, in part.

Ann and I returned home this week from a sojourn in Maryland where, at the Books with a Past bookstore at historic Savage Mill, we found a cute little bar of soap bearing the Master's image. It was produced by the Unemployed Philosophers Guild, the fine folks who also gave us the Sherlock Holmes doll, finger puppet, notebook and card, along with many other literary gems. 

We bought several bars for ourselves and for friends (not to imply that the intended recipients are in need of washing),

What I admire most about this product is the attention to detail and the knowledge of Sherlock Holmes that went into a $3.95 bar of soap. For example, the description on the website begins with a a familiar quote from the Great Detective: 

"It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important." Enjoy your next bath with the soap worthy of a fastidious gentleman and the world's first consulting detective! 

The bar itself proclaims it to be, with acceptable self-promotion, "A most Salubrious and Beneficial cleanser for the Beekeeper and consulting Detective alike." That's on one side. The other side says: "Wash away what you see, but you do not observe." As any real devotee knows, that's pure Holmes! So is the back of the bar, which urges purchasers to "Vanquish the Napoleon of grime!"

The two ends of the package are decorated with an inky fingerprint, which can only be an homage to "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder."

The only problem I foresee is that I don't want to destroy the package to get to the soap!

Thursday, October 5, 2017

An Adventure in Sherlockian Spousal Support

Although I’ve been a Sherlockian for more than half a century, I’d never heard of my interest referred to as a “hobby” until perhaps half a dozen years ago. But the term fits.

If a man has a hobby he follows it up, whatever his other pursuits may be,” Sherlock Holmes says in “The Adventure of the Illustrious Client.” That is one of just many uses of the word in the Canon.

One of the characteristics of hobbies is that they generally aren’t solitary. Name a hobby, and there is an association for it. By one count, there are almost 1,000 Sherlock Holmes societies in this beautiful world. A good deal of the fun is sharing our passion with others, meeting fascinating people who would be otherwise unknown to us.  

This has been my joy since the publication of my first Holmes-centric book, Baker Street Beat, in 2011. At that point I entered the larger world of Holmes-mania beyond Ohio and made wonderful friends around the world, both in cyberspace and in person.   

But even better – great as that is – I am blessed to have a wife who, though not herself a dedicated Sherlockian, has jumped into my hobby with a will. Ann is always on the lookout for a Sherlockian connection on our travels near and far, ready to take a picture or buy an obscure artifact related to that Baker Street guy.

On a brief trip this week not far from home to celebrate my retirement from the day job, she spotted the magical address of 221 (Main Street, not Baker) in Madison, Indiana. She had a photo almost before I knew what she was doing.

That’s what I call spousal support!  

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Publication Day for the Latest McCabe-Cody!

“Where do we hide the body?”

This is the startling question that Jeff Cody and his wife, Lynda, hear during a wedding reception on the first night of the QueenCon mystery conference in Cincinnati. Not only are the whispered words unnerving, there is no one nearby to have spoken them.

Jeff’s brother-in-law, mystery writer and amateur sleuth Sebastian McCabe, discounts the puzzle with what seems to be a logical and reassuring explanation. But murder does come to QueenCon – and to a victim who seems to make no sense.

Mac’s usual freewheeling style of mystery-solving runs into a roadblock in the form of a homicide captain who has been his enemy since the seventh grade. So Jeff and Lynda wind up doing his legwork, and what they had expected to be a fun weekend is harder than any day at the office.

Queen City Corpse is available in all the usual places, including Amazon. Buy it now! 

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

From One Great Mystery Writer to Another

No, I am still not a collector, just as I wrote in my very first blog post. But once in a while, I touch a book that has a magic connection for me. So it was earlier this month at Black Dog Books in Zionsville, Ind.

The volume in question was a copy of In the Queens' Parlor, a delightful collection of essays by Ellery Queen. As almost every mystery reader knows, Queen was the joint pseudonym of cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee. Dannay was the editor/critic of the duo, and a member of the Baker Street Irregulars. One of the essays in the book, often reprinted in many forms, tells the story of his first encounter with Holmes as a boy.

I’ve owned copy of the book’s first printing, with a dust jacket in good shape, for probably more than thirty years. I bought it at a library sale for 75 cents. But the copy I picked off a shelf at Black Dog Books was different: It included an inscription from Ellery Queen to Rex Stout.

That’s amazing for a couple of reasons: 
  • ·         This is a book about books, so an author giving it to another author is perfect.
  • ·         The book contains an anecdote about Queen and Stout, connecting Nero Wolfe to Sherlock Holmes, as I have written about before. 

So one of my favorite Golden Age mystery writers inscribed a book to another and I actually got to hold it. It couldn’t get much better than that.

But it did.

My wonderful wife and children bought the book for me as an early birthday present. Now when I hold it in my hands, I know that this unique volume is mine. This must be how collectors feel all the time!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Holmes from Hell

For some reason, I enjoy off-the-wall riffs on Sherlock Holmes – just the sort of thing that you may hate. Maybe it’s because nobody takes that sort of things too seriously, including the author, and there is often a high degree of humor involved.

Warlock Holmes: The Hell-Hound of the Baskervilles had me laughing out loud in places. But it took a while. Since I hadn’t read the first book, Warlock Holmes – A Study in Brimstone, I was a bit at sea at first. It was a little hard to come to grips with the idea that Watson had killed Holmes but kept the body, which was slowly reanimating.

Also, the aptly named Warlock Holmes has demons at his beck and call, sort of like street Arabs from hell.

The description of the book on Amazon is hard to improve upon (except that I have inserted an Oxford comma where needed):   
The game’s afoot once more as Holmes and Watson face off against Moriarty’s gang, the Pinkertons, flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death, and the dreaded Pumpcrow. Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes. 

They forgot to mention that Mrs. Hudson is a shrew.  

In addition to the title story, the volume also contains four other adventures. All are based on original Sherlock Holmes stories. The creative distortion of these classic tales adds something to the enjoyment for devotees – or to the outrage, depending on your viewpoint.  

If you occasionally like your Baker Street with a big dash of humor (of the Three Stooges variety), Warlock is the Holmes to try.  

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Hard-Boiled Holmes with a Cover to Match!

I’ve long thought that one of the most underrated volumes in the Canon is The Valley of Fear. It’s really two great tales in one – an excellent mystery unraveled by Sherlock Holmes, and a backstory that Steven Doyle says (correctly) is the world’s first hard-boiled detective story.

My favorable opinion is not a complete outlier. Mystery great John Dickson Carr listed Valley as one of the 10 best mystery novels, and Curtis Armstrong, BSI, said recently on the “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere” podcast that it is his current favorite of the Holmes novels. Curtis called it “noir,” which is pretty much another way of saying hard-boiled.

Steve Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes for Dummies first alerted me to the ground-breaking nature of the second part of the book, “The Scowrers.” How fitting, then, that it was in Steve’s magnificent library that I first saw the incredible Hard Case Crime edition of the book published in 2009.   

Hard Case is a paperback series of private eye novels, old and new. Whether a particular volume just came out of the author’s computer or was first published in 1917, the front and back cover always evokes the style of the Mike Hammer books from the 1950s. Accordingly, the front The Valley of Fear in this edition features a scantily clad damsel and the chilling words, “They All Answered to The BODYMASTER!” It also correctly notes, “INSPIRED BY A TRUE STORY.” 

The back cover is even more over-the-top: 
 A sawed-off shotgun blast to the face leaves one man dead – and reveals a secret that has pursued another across an ocean and set the world’s most ruthless criminal on his trail. The man needs the help of a great detective . . . but could even Sherlock Holmes help him now?
That’s great writing, folks!

Happily, a copy of this edition came my way recently as a gift from Gary Reibert of the Agra Treasurers in Dayton. It’s a wonderful addition to my Sherlockian library, and I will always prize it.