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, October 19, 2021

The Coulourful Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The gentleman on the left has red hair; trust me.  

Have you ever noticed how colourful the Sherlock Holmes saga is? The Canon is filled with titles that feature colours, from A Study in Scarlet all the way to “The Adventure of the Black Spaniel” 40 years later.

(If you’re not familiar with the latter, it’s the manuscript title of the story that became “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place.” It was the last Canonical Holmes story published, apparently the last written, and praised lavishly on this blog last week.)

In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, we find “The Red-headed League,” “The Five Orange Pips,” “The Blue Carbuncle,” and “The Copper Beeches.” The colour pace slows down a bit in The Memoirs, with only “Silver Blaze” and “The Yellow Face.” The Return gives us “Black Peter” and “The Golden Pince-nez,” and His Last Bow has “The Red Circle.”

As Canon winds down with The Case-Book, I’m going out on a limb to count “The Blanched Soldier” and “The Retired Colourman” as well as the aforementioned “The Black Spaniel.”

Even without the last three, that gives us a solid 10 stories with colours in the titles out of a total of 60 tales. Surely that is unusual!

In my own 20 mystery books (including three scheduled for publication), I don’t have a single title with a colour in it. But that will be remedied in the book I am plotting now to appear in 2023, which is what had me thinking about the colourful Mr. Holmes.

As to which colour that title will include – wait and see.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Final Holmes is Good Holmes

In re-reading “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place” recently to prepare for a meeting of the Agra Treasurers of Dayton, I was reminded of the falsity of the old canard that the later Sherlock Holmes stories invariably aren’t up to scratch.

Some of them aren’t, of course – and neither are some of the earlier stories. But “Shoscombe,” the very last Canonical story published and apparently the last written, is an excellent mystery of the “what is being done” type seen in so many Holmes stories. The mystery isn’t whodunit, whydunit, or howdunit, but what is going on with Sir Robert Norberton.

The solution involves (spoiler alert!) an impersonation that is worlds more believable than the one in “A Case of Identity,” the second Holmes short story published. And along the way we get a nice opening, good old Watson, good detecting, good dialogue, good scenes, and a nice ending.

Opening: “Sherlock Holmes had been bending for a long time over a low-power microscope.” That puts us right there in Baker Street where we belong.

Good old Watson: He may spend half his wound pension playing the ponies, but he’s “a rich vein” of information about Shoscombe Old Place and Sir Robert in this tale.    

Good detecting: Holmes first explores the wrong theory that Sir Robert killed his sister, but that is part of the process. Borrowing Lady Beatrice’s spaniel enables him to establish that she is not the woman in the carriage. He then follows the bone to the crypt. This is not one of those regrettable stories where Holmes does essentially nothing.

Good dialogue: “This is Baker Street, not Harley Street.” “These are deep waters, Mr. Mason; deep and rather dirty.” “We are getting some cards in our hand, Watson.” “Dogs don’t make mistakes.”   

Good scenes: The confrontation at the haunted crypt is downright gothic! For an earlier blog post on that, click here.  

Ending: The final paragraph, while not memorable, is distinctly Watsonesque and closes out the Canon on a somehow pleasantly elegiac note.

In sum, the last Sherlock Holmes adventure may not be of the very first rank but is nowhere near the bottom. The author of this racing-related story did not limp to the finish line.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Cool Gift, but Should I Open It?

Although I’m not a collector, I have some cool Sherlockiana. Case in point: This recent birthday present from our oldest son – a 9-inch action figure of Star Trek TNG’s Lt. Commander Data as Sherlock Holmes!

Who could ever forget those two episodes in which our favorite android dons the deerstalker and pipe and enters the holodeck, where it is 1895, to do battle with You Know Whom?

But with this great gift comes a great conundrum: To open or not to open? Data/Holmes has never been out of his box. My inclination is to leave it that way. But his deerstalker has fallen off and lies at his feet. My challenge is:  

Do I open the box, set the hat in place, and reseal the box?

Do I open the box, set the hat in place, and remove the figure from the box for display in my library or living room?

Do I leave the box as is and impress Sherlockian visitors with my incredible self-control?

Give me your vote, dear reader. What would you do?

Back of the box 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Publication Day For My Latest Mystery!

Today is publication day for the 10th novel and 12th book overall in my primary mystery series!

Best-selling author Bonnie MacBird says: “Sherlockian Dan Andriacco pleases his readers once more with No Ghosts Need Apply, the latest of his Sebastian McCabeJeff Cody light-hearted mysteries set in the fictional university town of Erin, Ohio, present day . . .  The wit and sly observations in the narrative voice are thoroughly enjoyable, and the mystery is deftly handled with the author’s signature expertise in plotting.”

“The world is big enough for us,” Sherlock Holmes once told Dr. Watson. “No ghosts need apply.”

But amateur sleuth Sebastian McCabe and his chronicler Jeff Cody don’t have a choice when a popular TV reality show comes to Erin, Ohio, to record a Halloween special about the entity disturbing a local gastropub known as The Speakeasy.

Jackie O’Brien was a bootlegger and speakeasy owner gunned down in 1920. Ever since, his unquiet spirit has been said to haunt the building where it happened – one which, after many transformations over the years, is once again a speakeasy of sorts.

There may be skeptics, but Erin’s exorcist is not among them. Nor is Sebastian McCabe, who has been up close and personal with the ghost. Both are among those interviewed by Stuart Diamond, specialist in the strange, who has come to town along with Chef Stephen Lipinski and his producer wife to record the episode of the show Dining (Way) Out.

What was expected to be some fun publicity for the gastropub turns into a nightmare after someone is shot to death one night in the same place and in the same way as Jackie O’Brien almost exactly 100 years earlier.

Police Chief Oscar Hummel recognizes this as Mac’s kind of case, but Mac and Jeff are forced to become virtual sleuths most of the time when the restaurant and many other businesses are shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before he solves the murder–and a second homicide–Mac makes an embarrassing blunder in one lesser case and scores a great triumph in another.

No Ghosts Need Apply is available in all the usual places, including here at Amazon. 


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Collection? Library? That's Debatable

My library isn't a collection 

From the very first post on this blog 10 years ago, I have always insisted that I have a library and not a connection. In fact, I was taken aback when a friend of mine laughed because I told her I am not a collector. She obviously doesn’t know any real collectors.

A few of the Sherlockian books that I own might be classified as “collectable,” but that’s of secondary consideration to me. I acquire books for their content, not their pristine dust jackets. And many of them I use for researching in writing trifling monographs. To that extent, my library could be called a research library.

All of this came to mind recently while listening to a wonderful episode of the “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere” podcast devoted to the “Shaw 100” – John Bennett Shaw’s ever-changing list of what he called “A Basic Holmesian Library.” Check it out at your favorite podcast source or at  https://www.ihearofsherlock.com/

Near the end of the episode, hosts Scott Monty and Burt Wolder engage with guest Tim Johnson on the issue of how difficult it would be for someone who is not a multi-millionaire to acquire all the volumes on this list. (Answer: Very difficult.) It’s a natural question, I suppose, since Shaw was the Sherlockian collector par excellence and apparently aimed his list at collectors. But I call your attention to the title of his list: “A Basic Holmesian Library.”  

I would argue that a collection is a library, but a library doesn't have to be a collection. These terms are rather fungible, and I suspect that some collectors will disagree.   

Without focusing on it as a goal, and without emptying my pockets, I have gradually acquired the great majority of books on JBS’s list. But for the most part, they are not in the first editions with dust jackets that collectors prize so much. Nor has the pursuit of some elusive volume ever kept me awake at night. If what you want is a library and not a collection, it’s not that expensive or difficult to build one.

When I informed Bill Mason several years ago that I’m not a collector, he said, “Well, you’re a lucky man.” But I’m sure that collectors are lucky, too. If you are among them, good luck with the chase!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Dipping into Edgar W. Smith

Anybody who’s been a Sherlockian for more than five minutes knows about the generosity of the breed. I was the recipient of that virtue again recently when our friend Joe Eckrich gifted me with a copy of Edgar W. Smith’s Baker Street and Beyond Together with Some Trifling Monographs

This was one of a number of red, limited-edition softcovers the Baker Street Irregulars published during Smith’s reign. In this case, it’s number 319 out of 350. I also have The Incunabular Sherlock Holmes (1958) and Introducing Mr. Sherlock Holmes (1959). Smith edited those two, whereas he wrote the volume at hand and published it in 1957.

The Baker Street and Beyond part, which takes up perhaps a third of the book, is a reprint of a Sherlockian gazetteer first published in 1940. It lists every location in the Canon, supplemented by five wonderful maps drawn by Dr. Julian Wolff, an amateur cartographer of no small talent.

The rest of the book consists of essays (or monographs, if you prefer), verse, and a pastiche.

Although I’m no chronologist, Smith’s forays along that line seem fine to me. My favorite essay in the book, however, is “The Napoleon of Crime” about You Know Who. It is closely reasoned, drawing inferences from the text. Other essays go a little further afield in discussing such now-familiar topics as Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper and what really happened during the Great Hiatus.

Smith’s pastiche of “The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore” is seldom reprinted for good reason, in my opinion, and my taste in Sherlockian verse runs more to Helene Yuhasova if I can’t have T.S. Eliot. But Edgar W. Smith was a truly colossus of the Sherlockian world, in some ways the true founder of the Baker Street Irregulars as we now have it, and I’m grateful and excited to add this volume to my library.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Sherlock Holmes, Misogynist? Bunkum!

Victoria Hunter presents her problem

 A lot of ineffable twaddle has been written about Sherlock Holmes and women, and in two different directions.

On the one hand, there is the totally unsupported balderdash that he had romantic feelings and more for Mrs. Godfrey Norton.

Equally fallacious, however, is the good Watson’s assertion that he “disliked and distrusted the sex.” Testimonies to the contrary are numerous in the form of stories where he is protective of women without being condescending. Just ask Eugenia Ronder, the veiled lodger.

I call your attention particularly to Violet Hunter. Watson tells us that Holmes “manifested no further interest in her once she had ceased to be the centre of one of his problems . . .” Romantic interest, he means. But the text makes it clear that Miss Hunter is not just a piece of the puzzle to him. Consider:

  • Watson says that “he would always wind up by muttering that no sister of his should ever have accepted such a situation.” And, indeed, he appears to have a brotherly concern.  
  • “You seem to have acted all through this matter like a very brave and sensible girl, Miss Hunter,” Holmes says. High praise! The term “girl” is not dismissive here, as is quickly clear.
  • The praise continues. “Do you think that you could perform one more test? I should not ask it if I did not think you a quite exceptional woman.”
  • “You have done very well indeed!” Holmes tells Miss Hunter later.

“Disliked and distrusted”? Not remotely. Sherlock Holmes was hardly a feminist of any stripe, but he was no misogynist either.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Holmes, Wolfe, and Their Admirers

The first Nero Wolfe novel, 1934 

“I’ve never read a Nero Wolfe story.”

So said (approximately) one Sherlockian friend of mine to another Sherlockian friend of mine. Sherlockian #2 immediately sent Sherlockian #1 a CARE package of Wolfe books.

Why is there such an overlap of Sherlockians and Wolfeans? Rex Stout, the creator of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, was an early member of the Baker Street Irregulars. (Coincidentally, he wrote the first Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, in 1934, the year the BSI started.) But there is much more to it than that.

When I attended an early Black Orchids dinner in New York in 1979, the room was packed with Sherlockians – my friend John McAleer, Chris Steinbrunner, Otto Penzler, and Isaac Asimov spring to mind. Today, the Werowance of the Wolfe Pack, Ira Brad Matetsky, is also a BSI and a Sherlockian scholar of note.

Although Holmes and Wolfe are very different – and Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin even more so – I believe that their adventures have three things in common that have little to do with the stories as mysteries:

  • The lead characters, minor characters, and the villains are all great. They pop off the page.
  • The writing is terrific. Pick a page of the weakest story in the Canon or the Corpus and read it out loud to see what I mean.
  • More than anything else, though, Holmes and Wolfe inhabit immersive worlds that we want to go back to again and again. Nuno Robles, a Portuguese reader of my own Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mysteries, was kind enough to say that opening a new one was like going home again. That’s the feeling of re-reading a Holmes or Wolfe adventure for the fourth or fourtieth time.

I’ll be interested to hear how Sherlockian friend #1 reacts to Nero Wolfe. I suspect that he will soon be working on a chronology of the Wolfe stories.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Real Mrs. Hudson of 221B

The capture of Colonel Moran was made possible by Mrs. Hudson

A posting this week by Dave Price had me thinking about the redoubtable Mrs. Hudson.

As Dave pointed out, William Hyder’s 11-page article on “The Martha Myth” in the March 1991 issue of the Baker Street Journal effectively destroyed the idea that Mrs. Hudson was also Holmes’s “old housekeeper” in “The Lion’s Mane” and/or “Martha” the spy in “His Last Bow.” Rob Nunn did likewise on his blog last year: http://interestingthoughelementary.blogspot.com/2020/07/that-is-martha-last.html

The triple identity fantasy was born of the fertile mind of Vincent Starrett an d later adopted by others, including William S. Baring-Gould (who, let’s be honest, made a lot of stuff up).

  • But what do we really know about Mrs. Hudson? A surprising amount!She is the landlady of 221B Baker Street, not a housekeeper (every Canonical reference).
  • In that capacity, she “was a long-suffering woman” who “stood in the deepest awe” of Sherlock Holmes, whose “payments were princely” (DYIN).
  •  She had cronies (FIVE).
  • On numerous occasions she ushered in the clients or others (SIGN, VALL, BLAC, WIST), brought in a cablegram (DANC), or presented a card (GARR).
  •  Although she is first mentioned by name in The Sign of Four, she most likely was the landlady right from the beginning in A Study in Scarlet with her “stately tread.” Nobody really knows who Mrs. Turner is (SCAN).  
  •  “Her cuisine is a little limited, but she has as good an idea of breakfast as a Scotchwoman” (NAVA).
  • Those grubby Baker Street Irregulars freaked her out (STUD, SIGN), but who can blame her for that?
  •  She was absolutely essential to Holmes’s plan for capturing Colonel Sebastian Moran as she turned the wax bust every quarter of an hour (EMPT). Undoubtedly she didn’t hesitate when asked.

In many ways, Mrs. Hudson was truly the woman in the life of Sherlock Holmes.