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.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Energetic Spirit of Shaw Comes to Dayton

                      

There are a lot of candidates for the title of “Most Energetic Sherlockian,” but Jim Hawkins is certainly among them. And on March 25, he will be among the eight speakers at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH. Let’s learn a little about him.

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

Honestly, not until my 40th birthday in 1984 in Norman, OK. My wife gave me the Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes.

How and when did you become a Sherlockian?

When I read about John Bennett Shaw in  the Annotated, I decided to become like him, whom I had never met but I had already come under his spell. At that moment, I was a Sherlockian, or Doylean, or, in truth, a Shawian, or however one says that.

Briefly describe your connection with John Bennett Shaw, the subject of your talk in Dayton.

As I mentioned, I read about Shaw and heard interviews with him in New York City on National Public Radio during the BSI Weekends. I was hired by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1985 to be their choral music consultant to Baptist churches all over the USA. One of my tasks was to assign teachers for youth, adult, and senior adult classes for our two-week-long summer music conferences in Glorieta, NM. Since I had to be present both weeks, I did some investigating and discovered that our conference center was only 18 miles from John and Dorothy Shaw’s home in Santa Fe. From my first visit in 1986 to their home at 1917 Fort Union Drive, our friendship grew, as did my interest in Sherlock Holmes. I became a serious, fun-loving Sherlockian, just like my mentor.

What has been the response to your Shaw website, johnbennettshaw.com?

It has been overwhelming and amazing. I first began the Friends of John Bennett Shaw on Facebook,
asking Sherlockians who had encountered John in any way to send their letters and stories to the site. Hundreds of people were willing to send programs, letters, and photos of John, especially after I began posting letters, quotes, and photos from The Sherlock Holmes Collections at Wilson Library located at the University of Minnesota. Tim Johnson, the curator, was most helpful in supporting our goal of making Shaw available to Sherlockians everywhere. 

Not long after the Facebook page became popular, I got notes from Evy Herzog and Susan Rice saying, “Hawkins, we don’t do Facebook. We want to see what’s going on, so build a website we can enjoy!” I did.

Why is John Bennett Shaw still important and worthy of a presentation almost 30 years after his death?

It’s the passion for his genuineness and authenticity. He did everything he did with Sherlock Holmes out of love for the stories and the character. He was an evangelist on fire for Holmes.

Let me quote Phillip Shreffler, the editor of the Baker Street Journal that was devoted completely to John Bennett Shaw. “It is unlikely that any man since Arthur Conan Doyle himself has brought the authentic and Canonical Sherlock Holmes to so many people, and so many people to Sherlock Holmes. And no man, including Conan Doyle, ever did it with such love.” And from Mattias Boström in his book From Holmes to Sherlock: “For a whole generation of Sherlockians, no one was as important as Shaw . . . If it was possible that one person could make the worldwide interest in Sherlock Holmes continue as well as grow, that person was John Bennett Shaw.”

What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?

I was away from Holmes activities for 16 years when I was working for Southwest Airlines, and when I retired I realized how much I had missed the world of Sherlockians, so I jumped back in.

My work on the Shaw project has put me in touch with so many important Sherlockians. Suddenly I was friends with most of the actively publishing Sherlockians in the United States. You understand that Sherlockians are ranked by the knowledge they have of the stories and by the stories they can tell about those stories. (Are you following this?) At my age, I didn’t have time to waste, so I went right to the top: Peter Blau and Evelyn Herzog knew Shaw intimately and have the best stories about him. Unfortunately, many of John’s friends have passed, but there is a younger echelon of Sherlockians who knew him. Two of those are Ray Betzner and Steven Doyle. Both men met John in one of his Sherlockian Symposiums, and both are great storytellers. There isn’t room to list the new friends I’ve made through my work on John Bennett Shaw.

To what Sherlockian groups do you belong?

Baker Street Irregulars (2022), Nashville Scholars of the Three Pipe Problem (1987), The STUD Society of Chicago, and the B3M (the Brothers 3 of Moriarty).

Besides Holmes, Doyle, & Friends, what other major Sherlockian events are on your calendar this year?

The only event for sure is the May 26-27 event, “Lone Star Holmes,” put on by The Crew of the Barque Lone Star in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

What is your investiture in the BSI?

“The Hans Sloane of My Age.”

With whom do you share that nom? (Leading question!) 

With John Bennett Shaw, who received that investiture in 1965. I could not have received a greater honor. But there was one that came close. Shaw’s friend and fellow Brothers 3 of Moriarty charter member, Saul Cohen, gave me the only B3M scion lapel pin in existence from John’s New Mexico scion society; it was his. John Bennett Shaw pinned it on Saul in 1971, and Saul felt it was time to pass it on to me. Saul Cohen is 96 years old.

Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Dining Out with Holmes in Dayton

Lynne Stephens

Lynne Stephens will talk about “Dining Out with Sherlock Holmes” at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 25.  Let’s learn more about her.    

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

My mom diligently watched the PBS Mystery! anthology series in the 1980’s. Whenever I was home during or after college, I’d watch the Granada series with her. We both eagerly anticipated new episodes. She’d mail me clipped-out articles from The Washington Post about the series, or any news about Jeremy Brett, David Burke, and Edward Hardwicke.

How and when did you become a Sherlockian?

My answer varies depending on your choice of definition for “Sherlockian”! Watching the Granada series was the start. During the late ’80s/early ’90s, when I was a frequent contributor to the science fiction magazine Starlog, my “beat” covered all things British. By then I was the Anglophile/Shakespeare/theater fan of the Starlog team, so I “nibbled around the edges” of Holmes a lot. I wrote a short bio of Arthur Conan Doyle. I interviewed actors who had performed in Sherlock Holmes productions, including John Neville and Alex Jennings. I suppose I can place Patrick Stewart and Daniel Davis in that category, if you choose to include the two Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes featuring “Moriarty” as “Holmes productions.”

My Holmes interest then went fallow for many years, until Sherlock rekindled it. Around 2012, my pal, Cindy Coppock, told me about a local scion society, Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City, MD, in which I promptly became very active. I’ve made friends with many members through our shared Holmes and Holmes-tangential passions, including British history, theater, and travel. I also returned to writing, with articles published in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.

Your talk involves food. Tell us about your own relationship with food, cooking, and/or dining out.

Well, I eat. As so many of us do. But I can barely tell a roux from a rue. I doubt I have a greater or deeper passion for food than the average person. My husband and I rarely dine out because he has Ménière’s disease and must eat a very low-salt diet.

How did your interest in Holmes and your gastronomic interests come together?

ACD’s Holmes stories often illustrate the drastic lifestyle differences between the poor and the wealthy in late Victorian society. Focusing on London food—what, where, and by whom it was consumed—provides a fascinating and sometimes horrifying sociological snapshot of this era.

How did you research this talk?

Aside from re-reading the Holmes stories in which he or Watson mention restaurants, I cast a net onto the interwebs. I’ve visited Rules, and dined at Simpson’s in the Strand. Also, I’ve seen eel pie with my own eyes. Mind you, I didn’t actually eat it, but I looked at it. That earns me half-credit, right?

What Sherlockian events and conferences have you taken part in?

Over the past ten years I’ve attended or presented at a number of “A Scintillation of Scions,” sponsored by Watson’s Tin Box.  I also presented at the last two “A Saturday with Sherlock Holmes at the Pratt Library” in Baltimore.

What was your favorite and why?

Impossible to choose. Wherever two or more Sherlockians are gathered, a good time will be had.

Do you belong to any Sherlockian groups?

I’ve attended meetings hosted by several scion societies, but “home base” is Watson’s Tin Box. In 2019 I was honored to be Gasogene XXX. (…yes, and the jokes about my being the “x-rated” gasogene were thick on the ground….)

What has it meant to you to be part of the far-flung Sherlockian community?

My life would be inordinately mundane if I hadn’t stepped into the Sherlockian world. The life-long friendships I’ve been honored to make—curious, imaginative, luminous people—are an extension of my family.

After this summer, my husband and I will both be retired, with more time to travel. My hope is that over the next few years I might be able to attend some Holmesian events in Britain, and meet even more “far-flung” members of the world-wide Holmes community.  

What question haven’t I asked you that I should?

What are your answers to a Sherlockian version of “person, place, and thing?”

Person: Listening in awe to (my favorite actor) Ian McKellen compare the wonder and fascination of Sherlock Holmes to his beloved city of London at the opening party for the Museum of London’s exhibit, Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die, in 2014.

Place: Standing next to the plunge basin of the Reichenbach Falls, in 1992, drenched in spray.

Thing: Why is the security guard letting me hold this? An original Beeton’s Christmas Annual in my gloved and trembling hands, in the storage facility of a London auction house, early 1990s.

Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

221B Baker Street Comes to Dayton

              

One of the speakers at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 24 and 25 is Denny Dobry, BSI, well known for his meticulous recreation of the sitting room at 221B Baker Street. His talk will focus on one object in that room—the walking stick known as a Penang lawyer, carried by Dr. Mortimer in The Hound of the Baskervilles and Fitzroy Simpson in “Silver Blaze.”

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

“The Speckled Band” was required reading in the ninth grade at my junior high school.  Although I was not much of a reader at the time, something clicked and became planted deep in my brain to emerge many years later.

How and when did you become a Sherlockian?

Although little signs of interest in Sherlock Holmes revealed themselves over the years, I didn’t really do anything to advance my interest until 1987, when the centennial of A Study in Scarlet generated some articles in the local newspaper.  That would have been the start of my informative years.  With life intervening, I didn’t get the time or the courage to attend a scion meeting until 1995.  From that first meeting, I would say that I was firmly hooked as a Sherlockian.

What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?

Participating in the Sherlockian community is my major interest outside my family life.  Almost all of our friends are Sherlockians, and we socialize together in and outside Sherlockian events.  I can’t imagine what my interest would have been without Sherlock—probably something more constructive, but not anywhere near as much fun.

You’ve been a Sherlockian a long time. What are one or two of your fondest Sherlockian memories?

By far, my most-fondest Sherlockian memory was the day I walked into Paul Churchill’s home and saw his re-creation of his sitting room.  Paul was the inspiration to create my own re-creation of 221B, and he was my first and best Sherlockian friend.  Paul passed in 2008 and I think of him and miss him every day.

How did you come to recreate 221B Baker Street in your basement? 

I was blown away when I met Paul Churchill and visited his 221B re-creation.  Paul’s creation brought the Canon to life for me—Watson’s stories became real.  Paul and I became great friends and he encouraged me to pursue my recreation. He was instrumental in helping me with ideas to enhance my sitting room.

What Sherlockian groups do you belong to? 

I have belonged to the Beacon Society; Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City, MD; the Denizens of the Bar of Gold of Cambridge, MD; the Six Napoleons of Baltimore; the Copper Beeches of Philadelphia; the Clients of Sherlock Holmes of Philadelphia; the Epilogues of Sherlock Holmes of New Jersey; the John H. Watson Society, and the Hounds of the Internet.   I am no longer active in all those groups, and a few of them have faded away.

I received my investiture into the Baker Street Irregulars in 2018 as “A Single Large Airy Sitting-room.”

And after many years, I continue as Gasogene of the White Rose Irregulars of York PA.

Besides Holmes, Doyle, & Friends, what other major Sherlockian events are on your calendar this year?

I plan to attend A Scintillation of Scions in Columbia, MD, this summer and maybe Holmes in the Heartland in St. Louis, June 28-30, as well as three meetings of the White Rose Irregulars.

What question haven’t I asked you that I should?

I also operate the BSI Trust Parnassus on Wheels, collecting donated books and other Sherlockiana, and selling the same to raise funds in support of the Baker Street Irregulars Archives which are housed at the Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana.

To find out what treasures the BSI Trust has available that might interest you, email Denny at dendobry@ptd.net. Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.  

 

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

From Walking Sticks to Artificial Limbs

I own a few walking sticks, although I've never used one

My brother, who is not a Sherlockian, once asked: “How can there be anything left to write about Sherlock Holmes?” I answered, “You’d be surprised.”

Sometimes I’m even surprised at what I write! This past Saturday, Jan. 7, four books in the Merchants Room at Baker Street Irregulars Weekend included essays by me on a range of topics, from commonplace to quirky. The trifling monographs are:

  •  “Stick by Me: Walking Sticks and Canes in the Canon” in Steel Blue, Blade Straight 2022 Annual (Belanger Books). Walking sticks fascinate me, so I did a deep dive on how many times they appear in the Canon. Spoiler alert: Holmes and Watson both carried one, although that is seldom mentioned in the stories.
  • “The Craft of the Sherlockian Forgery” was written upon request from Derrick Belanger for Writing Holmes (Belanger Books), but it is a subject to which I’ve given a lot of thought and have opinions.    
  • “Sherlock Holmes and the Supernatural” in The Sherlock Holmes Review 2022 Sherlockian Annual (Gasogene Books) attempts to refute the assumption by many that Holmes rejected the possibility of supernatural. He never said that. Not once. In fact, many canonical texts indicate just the opposite.
  •  “Out of a Limb: Prostheses in the Canon” in The Haven Horror (BSI Press) is quite possibly the oddest topic I’ve ever been assigned. The book is the latest in the Manuscript Series, presenting manuscript of “The Retired Colourman”—who had an artificial leg. I’m glad editor Phillip Bergam, BSI, asked me to take on this one because it was quite interesting to research.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for my own writing in the future. Michael Kean, “Wiggins” of the Baker Street Irregulars, announced at the BSI dinner on Friday that I am the new editor of the Baker Street Journal. I’ll be assigning, selecting, and editing monographs for the premier periodical in our world. If you aren’t already a subscriber, please come aboard. Read about it here.  

Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Happy Blue Carbuncle Day!


 "I had called upon my friend Sherlock upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season." 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

No White Christmas for Holmes and Watson


Snow is heading our way here in the American Midwest. Are you dreaming of a white Christmas? You won’t find one on the Canon. “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle,” that “Christmas story without slush,” has nary a snowflake.

The white stuff helps set the stage for the American backstories of both the first and the last novels of Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet and The Valley of Fear. But it’s just weather and plays no real part. It’s also mentioned in passing in “The Final Problem,” where the Gemmi pass was “still deep in snow” and the torrent of the Reichenbach was “swollen by the melting snow.”   

The most significant canonical appearance of snow is in “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet.” In the second paragraph, we read: “It was a bright, crisp February morning, and the snow of the day before still lay deep upon the ground, shimmering brightly in the wintry sun. Down the centre of Baker Street it had been ploughed into a brown crumbly  band by the traffic, but at either side and on the heaped-up edges of the foot-paths it still lay as white as when it fell.”

Again this is scene setting, but there is much more to the snow in this story than that. Holmes later reads footmarks in that snow as clearly as if they were written words. This he summarizes as, “but when I got into the stable lane a very long and complex story was written in the snow in front of me.”

May your holidays be happy, whatever the weather in your neck of the woods!

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Blast from Past as Sherlockian Show & Tell

Without slighting story discussions, quizzes, or inventive toasts, one of the most fun parts of Sherlocking meetings for me is Show & Tell. And at Friday’s meeting of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati, I showed something from my Sherlockian past.

When we were in college, several friends and I used to do Sherlockian things—usually reading stories out loud, taking parts. Perhaps some wine may have been involved. One of those friends used her considerable artistic skills to make me a set of Sherlockian playing cards for a game—to which she wrote out the instructions—based on a Charles Dickens game.

Reader, I married her.

Recently I discovered those cards at the back of a drawer. The artist, Ann Brauer Andriacco, is now the Sparking Plug of the Tankerville Club. Steve Winter, who took part in those Sherlockian shenanigans, is our Chancellor of the Exchequer, although I prefer to call him Chequers.

And yet another Sherlockian friend from college days attended Friday’s meeting—Peg Hausman, who recently reconnected with me because she is living in Bloomington, IN, where the “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects” is on display at the Lilly Library. Peg was, and is, a good

Sherlockian and a good friend. But until she walked into that door on Friday night, we hadn’t seen her in more than 40 years.

Sherlock Holmes brings people together—sometimes in very surprising ways. Maybe we should play that card game. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

"The Logical Successor to Sherlock Holmes"


An early reviewer called amateur sleuth Ellery Queen “the logical successor to Sherlock Holmes”—a quote often displayed on the covers of Queen books.

Many Sherlockians agree and are devotees of EQ. Among them is my own amateur sleuth, Sebastian McCabe. Mac has mentioned favorably EQ, especially in Bookmarked for Murder and Queen City Corpse, and his exploits often include the Queenian tropes of the dying message and the false solution near the end of the book before the real solution.  

Mac’s latest adventure, The English Garden Mystery, is an out-and-out homage to Queen, as I’ve written here before. More consciously than ever before, I adopted the hallmarks of the early Queen books—from the subtitle (“A Problem in Deduction”) to the “Challenge to Reader” after all the clues were presided.

So I was delighted that a Belgium-based blog devoted to EQ wrote about The English Garden Mystery. Read it at the bottom of this page of the blog. But don’t stop there. Check out the rest of this great blog as well.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Registration Open for Dayton Symposium

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends 2021B (March 2022)  
Quick, Watson—the registration form!

Even though we are in the cold and dreary winter, you can register now for the Holmes, Doyle & Friends:2023 seminar which takes place in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, March 25 (with a reception the evening before). Why wait till the last minute? There’s a discount if you register by Feb. 25.

Vendors also get a discount rate, and it’s especially important for vendors to register soon—tables sold out early last year.

What is sometimes called simply “the Dayton symposium” has its roots in the “Homing in on Holmes” seminar that began in 1981 under the leadership of the late Dr. Al Rodin, sponsored jointly by Wright State and nearby Central State Universities. The conference has had other names and various sponsors in the decades since.

The Agra Treasurers, the Dayton-based scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars, has been putting on the symposium under the HD&F name since 2014, with a COVID-caused Great Hiatus in 2020 and 2021. The conference roared back with strong attendance in 2022.

This year’s program is still in the works but is expected to include speakers on Sherlock Holmes in the comics, Basil Rathbone, the great collector John Bennett Shaw, the curious walking stick known as a Penang lawyer—and a performance by a professional magician.

You can register for Holmes, Doyle, & Friends HERE.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Thankful for Our Many Sherlockian Friends


As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been as a result of being a Sherlockian. The last several weeks have been brimming with that.

Anniversaries are meant for celebrating, and Ann and I were delighted to be part of the 34th anniversary dinner celebration of the Ribston-Pippins in Warren, Michigan, last weekend. The scion society was founded and is still ably presided over by our good friend Regina Stinson.

In addition to the usual toasts, quiz, story discussion, and recitation of “221B,” I gave a talk on the vexing question of whether the Sherlock Holmes stories are really mysteries. (Spoiler alert: The great majority are, but they are not whodunits.)

Steve Doyle, who wears many different metaphorical hats in the Sherlockian world, did a fantastic job of leading the discussion of “The Adventure of the Dying Detective.” Using the Socratic method of asking questions to provoke thought, Steve led us to see that this tale is replete with insights on Holmes, Watson, and Mrs. Hudson that make it a great, though much-neglected, story.

On Friday, October 28, Ann and I attended a meeting of another venerable scion, the Sons of the Copper Beeches in Philadelphia. For COVID and other reasons, this was the first time we’d been able to attend since October 2019. It won’t be the last. This is a fun group almost 75 years old, with some time-honored rituals.

And on Saturday, November 5, we again saw many of our east coast friends as I was one of eight speakers at the “A Saturday with Sherlock Holmes” program at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. I talked about Montague Place and Monague Street in the world of Holmes. This was the 43rd annual presentation of this program sponsored by Baltimore-area Sherlockian societies.

It has become a truism that what we really love about Sherlock Holmes is the friendship. The same thing might be said about being a Sherlockian.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Dan and Regina n