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, September 20, 2023

Second Most Dangerous, But Not Famous

Let’s talk about Col. Sebastian Moran.

I don’t mean that rabbit hole of how he managed to escape the gallows so that he was still alive in 1914.  

No, I’m wondering why he isn’t better known to the world at large. After all, Professor Moriarty’s chief of staff was “the second most dangerous man in London.” (He was also a member of the Tankerville Club, which is why the #2 officer of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati has the title “Second Most Dangerous.”)

Kristen Mertz gave a fine talk on the Colonel—one of many evil Colonels in the Canon, by the way—at the “Holmes in the Heartland: Arch Enemies” conference in July. She teased out a rather full portrait of the old shikari from deductions and speculations.

But Moran is “as famous to Sherlockians as he is unknown to the public,” as Watson might say with “a certain unexpected vein of pawky humour.” It’s not that he hasn’t appeared in a lot of adaptations. The character appears in Rathbone’s Terror by Night, three Arthur Wontner films, Brett’s The Empty House, and Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Alternate versions appear in anime’s Moriarty the Patriot, in The Empty Hearse episode of “BBC Sherlock,” in “Elementary,” and on and on.

So why isn’t he better known to the world at large? That’s a three-pipe problem!

Monday, September 11, 2023

An Interview with a Mystery Writer I Know

I like to think this is Sebastian McCabe's car 

My new book, The Woman in Red—now available for purchase but also the subject of a Kickstarter campaign—is the 12th novel and the 14th book overall in the McCabe & Cody series, with #15 now in the hands of my first reader. This seems to me a good time to interview the author. Some of the questions are ones that I’ve been asked since No Police Like Holmes appeared in 2011.

Is Sebastian McCabe a pastiche of Nero Wolfe? No. Can you imagine Wolfe smoking cigars, driving a red 1959 Chevy with tail fins, or performing magic? They mainly share corpulence and a propensity for multisyllabic vocabulary.  

Are you Jeff Cody? No. No matter what my wife said. (“Yeah you are; you’re just like that.”) Jeff has a habit of making sarcastic comments in italics and I have no idea where they come from. (Although somebody did once say I have a “wicked sense of humor.”) When I re-read the books, Jeff’s italic comments  make me laugh out loud and think “I have no idea where that came from.”

What are your biggest writing inspirations? Sherlock Holmes, all the great Golden Age writers (especially Ellery Queen, Agatha Christie, and John Dickson Carr), and the Wall Street Journal.

The Wall Street Journal? Really??? Really. I’m constantly finding characters and situations there that are ripe for redeploying in mystery fiction.

Where does Erin, Ohio, the location of most Mac and Jeff’s adventures, come from? I really feel that it exists in some alternate universe, just as my characters do. Although it’s located about where you will find Ripley, Ohio, it’s not based on Ripley or any one small town. The map of downtown Erin that appears in No Ghosts Need Apply is based on a small river town not in Ohio, with all the street names changed.    

What about the name? Erin is named for our daughter-in-law, Erin Dwyer Andriacco. The town had a different name when I first wrote No Police about 20 years before it was published. So did St. Benignus University.

About St. Benignus, which employs Mac and Jeff—where did that come from? I have no idea. But I had to create it and people it with all sorts of professors and administrators. I’ve never attended or worked at a small Catholic college, so I’m thrilled when people tell me how true-to-life it is.

What about the name of the institution? Well, that’s interesting because there’s a coincidence attached to it—if is it a coincidence. SBU, then St. Benignus College, appears from the very first book. Sometime later, I decided that Sebastian McCabe’s birthday is November 9 because that was the publication date of No Police Like Holmes (and the birthday of a fellow writer who shares my birth year). Only later did I learn, to my astonishment, that November 9 is also the feast day of St. Benignus of Armagh, for whom SBU is named!

Your newest mystery, The Woman in Red, is about a comic convention. How did you get the idea for the book? I started with the title, then I had to figure out who the woman in red was. The murder motive in this book is unique, so far as I know, and I’ve had it in mind for about a decade waiting for the right story to fit it into. I think I found it. Reading the book during the editing process, I was very satisfied with it.

Dear Readers: If you enjoy this blog and my writing, please support my Kickstarter for The Woman in Red by following this link. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

A List, Neither Exhaustive Nor Exhausting

The great collector and Sherlockian evangelist John Bennett Shaw was known, among many other things, for creating his Basic Holmes Library—commonly called the Shaw 100. But he really couldn’t keep it to just 100.

Not long ago, a budding Sherlockian asked me for a key list of a dozen or so books. How could I do that when Shaw’s “basic” list was more than 100? The answer is that my purpose is not to cover the field. My roster of seven books is designed to plunge the neophyte very quickly into the Sherlockian world, particularly the earliest players and their writings. I can almost guarantee that some of your favorites aren’t on it.

Here we go:    

From Holmes to Sherlock by Mattias Boström—an amazing history of the Sherlockian world from Conan Doyle to Cumberbatch

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett—the first and best biography of Sherlock Holmes

Studies in 221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes, edited by Vincent Starrett—the first BSI anthology of Writings About the Writings

Profile by Gaslight, edited by Edgar W. Smith—the best (I think), BSI anthology of Writings About the Writings

The Standard Doyle Company, edited by Steve Rothman—a compendium  of Christopher Morley’s writings about Sherlock Holmes

“A Remarkable Mixture,” edited by Steven Rothman—an anthology of award-winning essays in the BSJ from 1959 to 2007

The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, by Leslie Klinger—invaluable as a quick reference to major commentaries on issues raised in each story 

Thursday, August 10, 2023

Back in Time with Professor Challenger

When last we met, dear readers, I wrote about “Dear Starrett—”/“Dear Briggs—” as a sort of time machine that allowed us to look at The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in the making. There’s another kind of book that can be a time machine.

I’m thinking of those volumes that we encountered as youths and reread as adults, not just in any edition but in the very edition that introduced us to the works. I’ve acquired, for example, the editions of The Boys’ Sherlock Holmes, Profile by Gaslight, and The Private Life that I originally borrowed from the public library as a preteen.  

And last month, at the excellent Holmes in the Heartland conference in St. Louis, John Alexander of Books on the Square in Virden, Ill., kindly traded me one of my Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mysteries for the edition of The Poisoned Belt that I first read in a library copy. (In fact, this one was also an ex-lib). It’s the 1964 McMillan version, with an introduction by John Dickson Carr.

Most of my casual reading is on my tablet but reading the second Professor Challenger in this familiar form, so wonderfully illustrated by William Péne Dubois, was a delightful trip back in time. And, by the way, it's still a roaring good story! 

Wednesday, August 2, 2023

Into a Sherlockian Time Machine

Sometimes watching the sausage made can be fascinating. “Dear Starrett—”/“Dear Briggs—,” edited by John Nieminski and Jon L. Lellenberg, affords that opportunity.

This first volume in the BSI Archival History Series, published in 1989, is a series of letters between Old Irregulars Vincent Starrett of Chicago and Dr. Gray Chandler Briggs of St. Louis. The correspondence begins with Briggs writing to Starrett on March 30, 1930 about Starrett’s “proposed book on Sherlock Holmes, William Gillette, Conan Doyle, et al.” Soon they were sending each other books and artwork.

That “proposed book” was published in 1933 as The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, a Sherlockian classic dedicated to Briggs along with the actor William Gillette and the artist Frederic Door Steele. But the Briggs-Starrett correspondence shows that the concept of the book changed a lot along the way. The profuse illustrations that Starrett envisioned didn’t make it, but the map of Baker Street by Dr. Briggs (who identified 111 Baker Street as the true address) did.

Reading these letters is like stepping into a time machine as Starrett’s project unfolds. We know what will become of it —what it will be and how important—but he doesn’t.

And then there’s this: On Nov. 20, 1933, Starrett wrote to Briggs, “We must really organize an international Holmes society. We could meet at irregular intervals and call ourselves the Baker Street Irregulars.” That passage evoked this charming reflection from Jon Lellenberg:

“There we have it! Vincent Starrett’s suggestion of founding a Sherlockian society called the Baker Street Irregulars—made apparently with no inkling at all of Morleyesque stirrings in New York, which were still contained within the unreported gatherings of Morley’s Three Hours for Lunch Club and the Grillparzer Sittenpolizei—though that was about to change, after the Duane Hotel gathering which Morley called for Holmes’s birthday on January 6, 1934.”

Lellenberg then lays out a charming “critical mass” theory about the birth of the BSI: “that it had to happen somewhere about that point in time, and that if Morley had not done it, then Starrett, Briggs, Bell and others of their circle would have.”

And 90 years later, the Sherlockian world is still a very lively place to be.

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

In the Footsteps of Sir Arthur in Cincinnati

The Cincinnati Art Museum -- not quite as ACD saw it!

Sherlockian societies each have their own distinctive vibe, but they also play well together. Last month, for example, 26 members of four Midwest scions came together for an Arthur Conan Doyle Tour of Cincinnati.

Ann Brauer Andriacco, Sparking Plug of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati, led us to sites that were either visited by ACD on his 1894 lecture tour of the United States (which also included Indianapolis) or had some other connection to Conan Doyle.

Before lunch, the group visited by turns the Harriet Beecher Stowe House for a guided tour of the home now under renovation (which ACD “looked at with interest” when he was in the neighborhood) and a nearby school where Maria Longworth Storer, the founder of Rookwood Pottery, kept an apartment. (ACD wanted to visit the Rookwood factory but was unable.) Ann also led  a walking tour of one of the nicest streets in the Walnut Hills neighborhood, which ACD probably saw.

After a convivial lunch at Skyline Chili, where tables were arranged for us by management to make conversation easy, we drove through Eden Park, where many of us stopped at the overlook to enjoy the view that Conan Doyle proclaimed to be “the finest he has seen in America.” (All quotes come from a contemporary newspaper account of ACD's visit.)

Then it was on to the Cincinnati Art Museum, “the subject of much admiring comment on his (ACD’s) part.” Ann showed us, in person and via an Art Museum map, where the entrance was in 1894, before the building was added to. Her handouts and the map also called attention to some of the artwork that was part of the Art Museum collection in 1894. We also found a few more by exploring!

One of the highlights of the Art Museum for many of us was the large Rookwood gallery, which also told much of the story of Maria Longworth Storer. She was an entrepreneur who built a highly successful business on female artists.

There is also a Gallery 221 at the Art Museum—but it is just a hallway!

The field trip was organized by the Tankerville Club and co-sponsored by the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis and the Agra Treasurers of Dayton, with participation by the Ribston Pippins of Michigan. (Ann and I are members of all four scions.) It was a follow-up to a similar ACD excursion by the Clients in Indianapolis some years ago.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

The Porlock Question Revisited

My Swiss friend Vincent Delay sent me a brilliant letter in response to my May 16 blog post "Who, then, is Porlock?" in which he attempted to answer the question posed in the title. It's worth posting here in full. 

Dear Dan,

I just read your news about “Porlock” on http://bakerstreetbeat.blogspot.com/ . I also had the pleasure to get The Adventure of the Murder on the Calais Coach and I began to read it.


Using the Master’s own methods in my Watsonian way, I reached the following conclusions regarding the identity of “Porlock”. 

  • The author’s Mother Language is not  English nor French. He/she may be from the far south-east (e.g. Japan), as at least once an “r” is substituted for an “l”. 

  •  The way the book is made (fine binding, dust-jacket) and the way it is very nicely parcelled (many wraps, additional gift) tend to confirm a far south-eastern provenance, as it is a custom there to wrap things nicely and to add small gifts. 
  • The author has an extensive knowledge of the Canon, but doesn’t peruse the “Writings about the “Writings”. From this and from the general feeling of it all (the overall generosity and spontaneousness), I gather we have here somebody who is quite young and has just discovered the Canon, without subscribing (yet) to one of the major Sherlockian publications nor collecting Sherlockian scholarship. The result is something very refreshing – I’m not averse to it. 

  • Though probably still quite young, for the aforementioned reasons, the author must be old enough to self-edit and send the books. Therefore he/she must be working already and get a salary to meet the expenses (the book is quite well made, by the way – more than some other more “mature” sherlockian publications…) – or, alternatively, he/she must be from an affluent background. I would say he/she is 18 to 25 years old – not over 30 anyway. 
  • The author has no knowledge of railway history (see the typical “Far West” engine on the cover : nothing to do with the Orient Express).
  • The author has little knowledge of the English way of life at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century (e.g. that Watson should have met Princess Dragomiroff at a party…). 
  • - The author used a UK-based firm to (print and) send the copies : he/she may have contacts in the UK or even live there. In this case, it could be somebody used to speaking English, mostly with other foreigners, as a pure communication language, but not used to writing it : e.g. a student or somebody working for an international firm. But I doubt that he/she is in touch with English-speaking people, as there has clearly been no proof reading nor any editing of the text, which is purely spontaneous. The contacts mentioned in the foreword (e.g. the railway museum) can have been made through e-mail or Internet anyway.
  •  I suspect a feminine touch in the whole process (the occasional sentimentality in the writing, the delicate way everything has been made), in other words : “Porlock is a woman” - but I may err on this point.

Of course, it will come out in the end that “Porlock” is a retired physician, male, aged 90 and living in the Surrey countryside among his bloodhounds…


Best regards,



Thursday, June 22, 2023

The (Baker Street) Beat Goes On

Part of my library

Baker Street Beat
began on May 28, 2011, named for my first Sherlockian tome. That was 1037 blog posts ago. It started as three posts a week—Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. After a few years it slacked off to two posts a week, and then one.

But I’ve always considered it an irregular blog, and it will be even more so in the future. My position as editor of the Baker Street Journal, which began with the Spring issue, is enjoying and rewarding but also very time-consuming. And I expect to continue writing at least one McCabe & Cody mystery novel a year, which I have done since 2012.

So for those of you who have kindly followed my jottings since then, I thank you. We won’t be seeing each other as often, but I’ll still be around as the spirit moves. 

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

"Who, then, is Porlock?"

“Who, then, is Porlock?” Watson asks in the marvelous opening scene of The Valley of Fear.

Holmes responds: “Porlock, Watson, is a nom-de-plume, a mere identification mark; but behind it lies a shifty and evasive personality.”

Shifty, indeed! The name keeps coming back. 

According to the official list of Baker Street Journal editors, Fred Porlock fulfilled that role during 1984. In reality, someone who would know told me that several individuals hid behind that name. I am the BSJ’s tenth “editor of record.”  

Now a new Porlock has emerged, the author of a book called The Adventure of the Murder on the Calais Coach. It’s a mashup of Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot (specifically the book best known as Murder on the Orient Express), printed in a limited-edition of 1000 hardback copies by UK-based Crystal Peake Publisher, and sent free to Sherlockians far and wide. The dedication page gives few clues as to who is hiding behind the name. The author says:

I hope, but in no way guarantee, that you enjoy this work and also that I have honoured and done justice to the two national treasures who created the original works on which this pastiche is based; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Dame Agatha Christie.

My intention was only ever to build upon rather than contradict the Canons.

Written in London during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown of 2020 and dedicated to the memory of the millions of  souls lost.   


And what of the original Porlock? My friend Robert Sharfman, in a so-far-unpublished essay on “Moriarty – Saint or Sinner?”, writes:

This name first appearing in The Valley of Fear has been examined by no less than Ronald Knox, David Talbott Cox, Noah Andre Trudeau, Paul Smedegaard, Thomas Andred, Christopher F. Baum, Paul Zens, Alan Olding, and Donald Alan Webster without a solid bit of fact to support any conclusion that this Porlock was Professor Moriarty, and having guesses ranging from the Professor and his brother James to Colonel Moran (by  Smedegaard)—all summarized by Leslie Klinger in The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.

Sharfman concludes that, contra Holmes, Porlock is in fact Porlock, not a nom-de-plume. That seems dubious to me, but we can never really know.

Thursday, April 27, 2023

An Almanac Not Just for the Shelves

 When is an almanac not just an almanac? When it’s so much more.

 The 2023 Baker Street Almanac: An Annual Capsule of a Timeless Past and Future arrived at my house recently, and it is spectacular. Edited by Ross E. Davies, Jayantika Ganguly, Ira Brad Matetsky, and Monica Schmidt, it has what we have come to expect—a comprehensive account of worldwide Sherlockian activities the year before.

But beyond that, the editors give us 2022 updates on Sherlock Holmes in the comics, music and Sherlock Holmes, the Doings of Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and the law, and the return of in-person conferences—plus an ongoing inventory of Denny Dobry’s recreation of the sitting room at 221B, the Baker Street Irregulars Trust newsletter, and fun Sherlockian food recipes.

 As in past editions of the Almanac, there is a canonical story annotated by many (20!) hands—this time, “The Adventure of the Stockbroker’s Clerk.”

And then there is the “after-dinner mint” to that main course: Ross Davies’s commentary and annotation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s 500-word “How Watson Learned the Trick,” wonderfully illustrated by Madeline Quiñones in the book and in accompanying post cards. My copy of the almanac also came with a toothbrush inscribed with the name of the dentist Sherlock Holmes mentions in the mini-story.

Most almanacs sit on the shelves until needed, as Holmes picked Whitaker’s Almanac off of his desk in The Valley of Fear. This almanac is to be read and enjoyed. It's available from the publisher, The Green Bag, at www.greenbag.org. 

Breakfast on Baker Street -- by Madeline Quinones