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.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Still Hounded by The Hound


One of my Sherlockian maxims is, “You can’t have too many copies of The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

That’s obvious, I know. Although I’m not a collector, I own about 90 copies of that masterpiece, each bought for a specific reason. I’ve written about this too often to provide the links. Until recently, however, I didn’t have the bookpublished by the Baker Street Irregulars. I filled that lacuna during the Baker Street Irregulars & Friends Weekend in New York. And high time, too!

In 2001, as part of its wonderful Manuscript Series, the BSI published a volume containing a facsimile of the handwritten manuscript of Chapter XI of The Hound, along with the typescript of the chapter and nine often-insightful essays.

As a mystery writer myself, I was fascinated to see how few changes the author (Arthur Conan Doyle? Dr. Watson?) made in the manuscript, and what those changes were. Many of the alterations showed a careful writer in search of the precise word – “keen” becomes “eager” near the bottom of the first page, for example. In other kind of change, the real village of Newton Abbot in Devon becomes the “Combe Tracey” familiar to readers in the revisions.

Like Sherlock Holmes with magnifying glass in hand, the essayists in this volume examine The Hound as a work of literature from many different angles – the plot, the atmosphere, the many hypothesized sources. Richard Lancelyn Green makes a strong argument, but to me ultimately unconvincing, that the story was suggested by a tale about a snake in The Strand magazine.

Michael Dirda’s “The Spell of The Hound” closes out the book with a charming reminiscence of his own first reading of the work which introduced him to Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

A special treat of this volume is a reprint of an ad for the American edition of The Hound. It ran in the May 10, 1902 issue of The Publisher’s Weekly. The three paragraphs of text, unillustrated, contains this startling statement: “The new Sherlock Holmes novel may be dead one hundred years from now, but it’s very much alive today.”

Dead one hundred years from now? How wrong could a publisher get?!  


Friday, January 13, 2017

A Canonical Toast and the Answers to a Quiz

Holmes overpowers Von Bork
I was unexpectedly asked to offer a toast to Von Bork, Sherlock Holmes’s antagonist in the chronologically last Sherlock Holmes story, at the Gaslight Gala a week ago today during the Baker Street Irregulars & Friends Weekend in New York. The wording follows. And at the end – answers to a quiz!   

More than 50 years ago, when I was in the seventh grade, I first read, fell in love with, and memorized the final paragraph of “His Last Bow.” And so, it is a great joy and a singular honor for me to propose a toast tonight to a key character from that story – one for whom I retain a special fondness.  
           
You no doubt recall that on the second of August, the most terrible August in the history of the world, two famous Germans stood talking in low, confidential tones beside the stone parapet of a garden walk on the English coast. The glowing ends of their cigars resembled some malignant fiend looking down in the darkness. It is to one of them that we raise our glasses now. He was Sherlock Holmes’s last known opponent . . . but was he truly a villain? Well, you shall judge for yourselves.

I refer, of course, to “a remarkable man . . . a man who could hardly be matched among all the devoted agents of the Kaiser” –
·                     A man who was a master spy, the most astute secret-service man in Europe;
·                     A man who, as a born sportsman, yachted against his hosts, hunted with them, played polo, matched them at every game, and took the prize at Olympia; 
·                     A man who grudged Altamont nothing and paid him well;
·                     A man who was a kind master by his own lights, trying to protect his servant Martha by sending her to Germany along with his wife in August 1914;
·                     A man whose cousin Heinrich was the Imperial Envoy when Sherlock Holmes prevented a scandal in Bohemia;
·                     A man who owned a remarkable wine, an Imperial Tokay, from the Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph’s special cellar at the Schoenbrunn Palace;
·                     A man who could have inspired a new village inn called The Dangling Prussian had he been so foolish as to shout for help while being kidnapped by Holmes and Watson;
·                     A man who was the herald of an East Wind coming, such a wind as never blew on England yet;
·                     And a man who – despite all of that – was never accorded a first name in the text!   

Fellow Sherlockians, let us lift our glasses of Imperial Tokay – we wish! – and toast our favorite German spy, Herr Von Bork, by saying –

Prost!

Here are the answers to Karen Wilson’s quiz on “Sherlockian Firsts and Lasts” at the Gaslight Gala.
1.      C. August Dupin
2.      Beeton’s Christmas Annual
3.      “A Scandal in Bohemia”
4.      “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”
5.      “‘The Gloria Scott’”
6.      A Study in Scarlet
7.      “How are you?”
8.      “His Last Bow.”
9.      D. H. Friston, Charles Altamont Doyle
10.  Sherrinford
11.  William Gillette
12.  The Hound of the Baskervilles
13.  The Voice of Terror
14.  The Last Sherlock Holmes Story
15.  The Final Solution
16.  Sherlock’s Last Case
17.  Granada
18.  The Benedict Cumberbatch
19.  1934

20.  1992 (although the decision to admit women to the BSI was made in 1991 and that is their investiture year) 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

A Quiz About Sherlockian Firsts and Lasts


Those three images of Sherlock Holmes were my prizes. 


One of the many high points of the Baker Street Irregulars & Friends Weekend 2017 in New York was Gaslight Gala on Friday night, flawlessly hosted by Carla Coupe and Mary Alcaro. It was just plain fun. More about that in a future post.

To my surprise and delight, I won the quiz about Sherlockian first and lasts. I don’t usually do well on quizzes, but general knowledge seems to be my strong suit. By popular demand, here’s the quiz, which was compiled by Karen Wilson:
  1. Even Arthur Conan Doyle acknowledged that the first detective in fiction was not Holmes, but which literary character disparaged by him in A Study in Scarlet?
  2. In what publication did Sherlock Holmes make his debut?
  3. What was the first Holmes short story to be published?
  4. What was the last Holmes short story to be published?
  5. In the Canon’s internal chronology, what is Holmes’s first case?
  6. In the Canon’s internal chronology, what is Watson’s first case?
  7. What is the first sentence uttered by Holmes to Dr. Watson?
  8. In the Canon’s internal chronology, what is Holmes’s and Watson’s last case?
  9. The first illustrator of a Sherlock Holmes story was not Sidney Paget. For two points, who did the first magazine illustrations? (Or, for one point, who did the first book illustrations?)
  10. In ACD’s first draft of his first Holmes story, what was the detective’s first name?
  11. The first radio adaptation was “The Speckled Band,” by Edith Meiser, in 1930. In it, Holmes was voiced by what actor much better known for playing the detective in another medium?
  12. 20th C. Fox’s two Sherlock Holmes films were both released in 1939. Which came out first?
  13. What was Universal Studios’ first Sherlock Holmes film, inspired by “His Last Bow”?
  14. In what 1978 pastiche by Michael Dibdin does Holmes meet the Ripper “up close and personal”?
  15. This 2004 novella by Michael Chabon never names its Holmes hero, but its title is a macabre riff on one of Dr. Watson’s.
  16. In 1987, Frank Langella starred on Broadway as a rather unpleasant incarnation of the title character in what play by Charles Marowitz, which ran for 124 performances?
  17. Ciaran Hinds appeared as a tragic Jim Browner in the 41st and final episode of the Holmes series by what production company?
  18. Which of the three current Holmes portrayers recently gave an interview teasing that “this may be the last time I play Sherlock Holmes”?
  19. In what year was the first BSI dinner held?
  20. In what year did the BSI dinner first admit women?

Putting one of my prizes to good use!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Year of Sherlockian Delights


The beginning of the new year is the perfect time to pick up A Curious Collection of Dates: Through the Year with Sherlock Holmes and read it every day.

And if you don't already have a copy, get one.

This is a day book, meaning it has an entry for every day of the year - in this case, all of them related in some way to the phenomenon that is Sherlock Holmes. Today, for example, you can read about one of the early Holmes parodists (the creator of "Picklock Holes") and about the founding of the Western Morning News (whose type face once gave young Sherlock Holmes some trouble.)

A Curious Collection of Dates is not only a great idea, but superbly executed. I have been reading it daily since May. And when I get back to where I started, I just may begin again. If I haven't persuaded you yet, check out what wrote about it last year. 

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Another Adventure of Sherlock Holmes


As 2016 winds down to its final days, I have taken up a task I never imagined as recently as mid-year: I’m writing a full-length Sherlock Holmes novel. 

At least, Arthur Conan Doyle would have considered it full length. His four Holmes novels ranged in size from The Sign of the Four, at 43,372 words, to The Hound of the Baskervilles, at 59,452 words. Mine will fall within that range, probably at the lower end. Many pastiches are twice as long, which spoils verisimilitude for me before I open the book. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy such a novel, but I will never get lost in the fantasy that it’s the real thing. 

My work in progress is an attempt to write a book that ACD might have written in terms of plot, character, and style so far as I can imitate a master writer. That means no steam punk, no famous historical characters, and “no ghosts need apply.” Lots of fun books have contained those elements, but mine won’t.  

What will it have? Spoiler alert: It’s narrated by Dr. Watson. And it probably won’t hurt to say that the plot will include elements that the creator of Sherlock Holmes used over and over again in his 60 short stories and novels about the Great Detective: 
  • a damsel in distress
  • an American;
  • a secret society;
  • revenge;
  • and burglary (by Holmes).   
I’ve written two Holmes short stories, “The Peculiar Persecution of John VincentHarden” and “The Adventure of the Magic Umbrella,” and co-authored the Enoch Hale trilogy in which Holmes appears. But I never expected to write Sherlock fiction again, much less a novel. 

So why am I rushing in where wise men fear to tread? For one of the best reasons I can image: A friend asked me to do it. And one chapter into the writing, I’m having a heck of a lot of fun at it.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Conan Doyle and the Hilltop Writers


Sherlock Holmes died, or so the world thought, at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. He was reborn in “England’s Switzerland.”

The latter was the nickname for the hamlet of Hindhead in Surrey. There in 1897 Arthur Conan Doyle built Undershaw, the home where he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles and other post-Reichenbach Holmes tales. The story of Conan Doyle’s productive decade at Undershaw is masterfully told in Alistair Duncan’s An Entirely NewCountry. And efforts to save the house have attracted support of Holmes and Conan Doyle enthusiasts around the globe.

But thanks to a recommendation from my friend Roger Johnson, BSI, of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, I recently read a book that tells the bigger story of Hindhead and surrounding communities around the time ACD lived there. The title tells it all – The Hilltop Writers: AVictorian Colony Among the Surrey Hills, by W.R. Trotter.

Hindhead is the highest point in that part of England, with an elevation of 800 feet. The air is famously pure, which is what attracted Conan Doyle and his tubercular first wife. And until a railway line opened at nearby Haslemere in 1859, putting the area just an hour and a half from London, the heather-covered hills were unspoiled by major developments.

Within a few decades of railroad arrival, however, a colony of writers and scientists briefly flourished on those Surrey hilltops. Trotter’s book sets the scene in the first two sections, giving an overview. In the final and biggest section, he profiles the dramatis personae of the colony in sketches of several pages each. It reads like a Who’s Who of late Victorian England, but much more interesting than that reference book.

Alfred Lord Tennyson, H.G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, George Bernard Shaw, Christina Rossetti, and George Eliot are some of the more famous. But some of the not-so-famous are equally interesting.  

Arthur Conan Doyle gets four solid pages of biography, as well other references sprinkled throughout. Notably included are photos of Undershaw and of the Beacon Hotel where ACD held a fancy dress Christmas Ball in 1898, at which he dressed as a Viking.


I bought the book to research a Sherlock Holmes novel that will be set in Surrey. But I read it with which much greater enjoyment than I expected.  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Put Your Sherlockian in Good Spirits


Still shopping for the Sherlockian who has everything? How about a unique edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – one with very cool cover design and no stories inside?

Instead of stories, it has spirits. Or it will have. Sherlock Holmes was known to carry a flask. Now here’s an Adventures of Sherlock Holmes that carries a flask. I’ve had one in my library since my most recent birthday, courtesy of an exceptionally thoughtful wife (mine).


Check it out at https://www.benderbound.com/

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Conan Doyle in Canada

When it comes to television shows, I have a high degree of sales resistance. At this writing I’ve only seen one episode of “Elementary,” the pilot. I only watch “Sherlock” so that I know what fellow Sherlockians are talking about. I’m just not a TV guy.

Last week, however, I watched two early episodes of the long-running Canadian series, “The Murdoch Mysteries.” Both of them team up Detective William Murdoch, of 1890s Ontario, with the visiting Arthur Conan Doyle. The results are, as Nero Wolfe would say, “satisfactory.”

“Elementary, My Dear Murdoch,” the fourth episode of the first season, involves a medium telling where to find a murder victim’s body. Conan Doyle, in this show as in real life, is a believer in spiritualism. The young official detective – a practicing Catholic – struggles to reconcile his faith with his desire to get a message from his fiancĂ© who died a year earlier.

Conan Doyle is well played as the author who still thinks he is well rid of Holmes (although intrigued by Inspector Brackenreid’s tale of a hound from hell). The actor looks the part, although not tall enough. The murder motive of this episode is a little weak, however.

When ACD makes a return appearance in the ninth episode, “Belly Speaker,” the plot involving a seemingly mad ventriloquist is convoluted but quite clever. The icing on the cake, however, is the real reason the British author has returned to Toronto – a reason that, once Murdoch ferrets it out, affords the detective an opportunity to give his favorite writer some good advice.

The creator of Sherlock Holmes really did visit Canada and loved it, as Canadian Sherlockian (or are they Holmesians?) are well aware. Christopher Redmond wrote about his 1894 visit to Toronto in Welcome to America, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. 

All in all, watching these two episodes made for an entertaining evening. I may watch more, and I will certainly look for the Murdoch novels by Maureen Jennings. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful for Readers and Sherlockians

One of my fun field trips this year was with the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis 
With Thanksgiving Day coming tomorrow here in the United States, I find that as usual I have more to be thankful than I could ever name. For the purposes of this blog, however, this year I am grateful for:
  • The time and money to pursue my interest in Sherlock Holmes and, importantly, other people who are interested in Sherlock Holmes.
  • The internet, which has made it possible to connect with Sherlockians and mystery fans literally all over the world.
  • Local Sherlock Holmes scion societies and conferences, through which I’ve met so many great people in person. (You know who you are!)
  • My readers, especially those who have been kind enough read my Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mystery novels and ask for me.
  • E-books, which have been a blessing to me as a reader and as a writer (given that so many of my book sales are in this format.)
  • The fun of writing or co-writing 10 books and many articles over the past five years – which wasn’t even on the horizon on Thanksgiving 2010.
  • The 2017 BSI & FriendsWeekend, which I will be attending in January for the first time.
  •  All the same things I was grateful for in 2015 and 2011.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!



Wednesday, November 16, 2016

A Genre-Bending Adventure with Conan Doyle


Silent Meridian is a page-turning novel about telepathy, telekinesis, and time travel. The sprawling tale stretches from 1898 to 1914 with bounces back to ancient China and feudal Japan, and forward to the 23rd century. Major characters include H.G. Wells, Harry Houdini, Carl Jung, Sax Rohmer, Sigmund Freud, William Butler Yeats and – especially! –  Arthur Conan Doyle.  Baker Street Beat recently had lunch with author Elizabeth Crowens and subsequently asked her a few questions.  

I think of Silent Meridian as “genre-bending” in its mixture of fantasy, historical fiction, and adventure. How would you characterize it?

Definitely cross-genre. My log line is: A 19th century X-Files meets H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine featuring Arthur Conan Doyle and his paranormal enthusiast partner, John Patrick Scott, the Time Traveler Professor. Everyone knows Arthur Conan Doyle for Sherlock Holmes, but a high percentage of readers have no idea that he had a passionate interest in Spiritualism and to scientifically prove various psychic and preternatural phenomena, and this is documented in all of his biographies. However Silent Meridian is clearly speculative fiction (science fiction/fantasy/horror), even in the Steampunk subgenre with its time travel elements. It can also fall into the categories of time slip, secret history and alternate history.

The book covers a lot of territory in time and space. How much and what kind of research did you do? How long did it take you to write the book, from idea to completion?

It took four lengthy trips overseas and an enormous amount of reading and research to put this book together. Some of the reading had been done over the course of more than thirty years, but when I finally buckled down and set my mind to this project the book took approximately five years to complete. One of the highlights was spending nearly a week in the British Library reading personal letters of Conan Doyle’s.

One of the many historical characters in the book is, of course, Arthur Conan Doyle. Why ACD?

Although highly fictionalized, I came up with the idea for the series based on diaries I found from someone who claimed he had an unusual and secret relationship with Conan Doyle and a few of the other famous people mentioned in the novel. Most of that information could not be proven, and some of it was quite farfetched. However, there was always the possibility of changing that person’s name and taking it up a few notches into the speculative fiction realm. Therefore I took that ball and ran with it.

Arthur isn’t always admirable in your book. Why did you make him like that? What has been the reaction?

I knew that treading this path would be controversial, but let’s face it, a lot of that was based on documented incidents. Later on in his career he did rub a few people the wrong way with some of his fanatic beliefs. The Cottingley Fairies was an embarrassing example. It should also be noted that in real life his personality sometimes reflected the complete opposite of Sherlock Holmes. In The Sussex Vampire, Sherlock might have said, “The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply,” but in actuality Conan Doyle’s personality was often more like Fox Mulder from the X Files, the believer vs. Agent Scully, who was the skeptic and scientist and more like Sherlock in reasoning.

In my novel, Arthur’s colleagues at the Society for Psychical Research seemed to be on the same page, but I portrayed H.G. Wells as being much more pragmatic and, at times, somewhat of an antagonist. So far no one has confronted me with any disappointing reactions. Besides, all interesting characters must have flaws to portray a human element. Even Sherlock had his seven percent solution. The rest I have to keep secret, as that will spoil some of the upcoming novels in the series.

When and how did you become acquainted with Mr. Sherlock Holmes?

Growing up I was familiar with the Basil Rathbone films. He was incredibly handsome and, to me, still has the best physical likeness to how I imagined Sherlock. I had no idea until I started working on this project that Sherlock Holmes won the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most actors portray him either in film, television or theater. The only character to surpass that was Dracula, but that character is non-human. So, as I dived headfirst into this project, I began to appreciate the interpretations by Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Robert Downey, Jr., amongst others.

What have been your interactions with the Sherlockian community over the years?

I’m an active participant in several of the Greater New York area scions, ASH Wednesday (by the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes), the Priory Scholars, and when I can make it with The Montague Street Lodgers and Epilogues in New Jersey. On my most recent trip overseas, thanks to Sherlockians Bonnie MacBird and Robert Stek, I had the pleasure of meeting Barry Young from the Sherlock Holmes Society of Scotland, Roger Johnson and his wife Jean from the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, Laurence Deloison from the Paris scion, and Luke Benjamin Kuhns, who arranged for me to have a tour of the newly restored Undershaw.

Other than ACD, what writers have influenced you the most?

Other than Arthur Conan Doyle, H.G. Wells and J.K. Rowling have been huge influences and, most recently, Tim Powers, one of the godfathers of Steampunk. I’m also a film fanatic and have been influenced quite a bit by Hollywood.

What’s next in the Time Traveling Professor series?

A Pocketful of Lodestones, the sequel to Silent Meridian, which will start out in 1914 on the Western Front. We will follow some of our familiar characters – John Patrick Scott, H.G. Wells, Harry Houdini, and of course, Arthur Conan Doyle  – with their involvement in the Great War.

Will ACD continue to be a major character in future books?

Without revealing any spoilers, the answer is yes. When you read Silent Meridian you will discover that there are lessons to be learned from the past. They affect the present and will continue to haunt characters into the future if not properly resolved. I’m also developing a spinoff series with him and H.G. Wells, as well as Houdini, that does not involve John Patrick Scott. Don’t want to reveal too much about that now.

Do you have any other non-related literary projects in the works?

Yes. I’m developing several projects, with the most pertinent one being a domestic suspense thriller with a female protagonist that takes place in 1985. The title of that novel is Memoirs of an American Butterfly. Although the sequel to Silent Meridian is about sixty percent of more completed, I’d like to finish this one first.

Silent Meridian has been nominated for a few awards. Do you care to elaborate on that?

I’m really excited to announce that my novel has made the short list of finalists for Chanticleer Review’s 2016 Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction, as well as the 2016 Goethe Award for post-1750’s Historical Fiction. I’ve also submitted it for consideration for various other awards such as the Bram Stoker Award for First Novel, the Sidewise Award for Alternate Fiction, the John W. Campbell Award for Best First Novel, and hopefully I’ll make the ballot for next year’s World Fantasy Award.

Silent Meridian – Time Traveler Professor – Book 1 is available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in KindleKoboNook and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone).