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, 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).


Wednesday, November 9, 2016

A Post-Election Lift from a Friend in India


It’s the day after Election Day in the United States. Chances are you may be feeling some strong emotions. Fortunately, Meghashyam Chirravoori of SherlockHolmes-Fan.com has created a cool Sherlock Holmes emoji app on Android and iOS called “Sherlockoji.” 

Meghashyam, of New Delhi, India, sent me this description:  

“This app lets you share cute Sherlock Holmes themed emoji stickers when you're sad, happy, angry, bored, etc. You can also share interesting objects from the stories like Sherlock Holmes’s lens, the five orange pips, footprints, the symbol ‘RACHE’ and more fun stuff.

“The app with 65+ emojis is available for free on the App Store and on Google Play. The premium version with 200+ emojis is available as an in-app purchase.”

You can check it out here:



And while you’re at it, check out SherlockHolmes-Fan.com. It’s a great site.


Monday, November 7, 2016

Sherlock Holmes Among the Politicians

The Prime Minster at Baker Street in "The Adventure of the Second Stain"
Election day tomorrow in the United States has me thinking about Sherlock Holmes’s not-always-happy interaction with politicians of his day.

Watson’s description of Lord Holdhurst, the foreign secretary and “future premier of England” in “The Adventure of the Naval Treaty,” is quite telling: “Standing on the rug between us, with his slight, tall figure, his sharp features, thoughtful face, and curling hair prematurely tinged with gray, he seemed to represent that not too common type, a nobleman who is in truth noble.” As Watson hints here, not all cabinet ministers are portrayed so positively in the pages of the Canon.

Among the good guys is the Prime Minister to whom Watson signs the pseudonym Lord Bellinger in “The Adventure of the Second Stain." Watson calls this “the most important international case which he (Holmes) has ever been called upon to handle.” So the PM himself calls on Holmes at Baker Street, along with the Right Honorable Trelawney Hope, Secretary for European Affairs. There is a marvelous closing scene: 
The Premier looked at Homes with twinkling eyes.“Come, sir,” said he. “There is more in this than meets the eye. How came the letter back in the box?”Holmes turned away smiling from the keen scrutiny of those wonderful eyes.“We also have our diplomatic secrets,” said he and, picking up his hat, he turned to the door.
             
In the lamentable “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone,” an even bigger phalanx of politicians descends on Baker Street – the Prime Minister, the Foreign Secretary, and a reluctant Lord Cantlemere – to plea with Holmes to recover the eponymous gem by any means necessary.

Billy the page can get along with the Prime Minister and has nothing against the Foreign Secretary, but he can’t stand Lord Cantlemere. “Neither can Mr. Holmes, sir,” Billy tells Watson. “You see, he don’t believe in Mr. Holmes and was against employing him.”

Holmes gets his revenge in the end by slipping the recovered Mazarin stone into the politician’s own overcoat and pretending to find it there. Like a certain monarch, Cantlemere is not amused. In fact, he lives up to Billy’s description of him as “a stiff ’un.” But ultimately he is forced to acknowledge the nation’s debt to Holmes and to withdraw his skepticism about the sleuth’s professional powers. Holmes, not entirely mollified, twists the knife a bit as he dismissively refuses to explain how he got the diamond back:

“This case is but half-finished; the details can wait. No doubt, Lord Cantlemere, your pleasure in telling of this successful result in the exalted circle to which you return will be some small atonement for my practical joke. Billy, you will show his Lordship out, and tell Mrs. Hudson that I should be glad if she would send up dinner for two as soon as possible.”
           
Why did Holmes even take the case in the face of Cantlemere’s skepticism and their clear mutual dislike? Possibly his ego was a factor, the drive to prove the skeptic wrong. But, surely, so was patriotism. For Sherlock Holmes was not a man to let “the folly of a monarch or the blundering of a minister” (NOBL) keep him from answering the call of duty.
 
Years later, in “His Last Bow,” Watson asks Holmes how he got lured away from his bees to serve the nation once more. “Ah, I have often marveled at it myself. The Foreign Minister alone I could have withstood, but when the Premier also deigned to visit my humble roof –”

But that was at least the third Prime Minister who visited Holmes at home; he should have been used to the honor by then.


Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Spooky Words to Set the Mood


Two days after Halloween, I’m still in a spooky mood.

That’s because I’m in the afterglow of the Oct. 29 meeting of the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis. Many of us wore costumes, the story of the evening was “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire,” Vincent Wright talked about mass murderer H.H. Holmes, and Leslie Klinger brilliantly held forth on the undead.

All of this was appropriate for a Sherlockian group. Arthur Conan Doyle masterfully evoked a Gothic mood with his word portraits in more than a dozen Holmes stories. For example, here’s how he has Dr. Watson describe Stoke Moran in “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”:  
“The building was of gray, lichen-blotched stone, with a high central portion and two curving wings, like the claws of a crab, thrown out on each side. In one of these wings the windows were broken and blocked with wooden boards, while the roof was partly caved in, a picture of ruin.”  

This picturesque description employs both nouns and adjectives to paint a haunting word portrait of a house the Addams Family could love. Nouns used to similar effect in other stories include decay, ghost, curse, soul, fate, secret, fiend, supernatural, hell-hound, monster, devil, lunacy, lunatic, menace, shadow, despair, demon, Satan, terror, horror, fear, shock, delirium, freight, danger, gloom, darkness, and night.  

Spooky adjectives adding to the chills in the Canon include menacing, malignant, ill-omened, spectral, weird, wicked, furtive, crazy, horror-struck, unnatural, distorted, grim, haunted, deadly, bleak, hysterical, delirious, demented, hellish, horrible, mysterious, devilish, diabolical, lonely, terrified, singular, strange, creeping, extraordinary, somber, depressing, dangerous, maniacal, melancholy, inexplicable, devil-ridden, deformed, dark, sinister, fantastic, medieval, monstrous, bizarre, and (perhaps my favorite) grotesque.

Coming from the Ernest Hemingway school of writing, I try not to use adjectives and adverbs as much as strong nouns and verbs in my own writing. But in Conan Doyle’s hands they are very, very effective. 

Friday, October 28, 2016

Thumbs Up From My Reader in Portugal



My Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody mysteries are very popular in Portugal -- at least with one reader, Nuno Robles of Lisbon. Nuno always grabs each new entry in the series as soon as it comes out. Here's his review of Erin Go Bloody, exactly as he posted it on Amazon UK:


This is another great book from the fascinating series of McCabe and Cody mysteries. These series are modern classics. I first approached Dan Andriacco books for the Sherlock Holmes connection. He's a true Sherlockian, with a deep knowledge of the Holmes canon. And, from the very first book of the series, there are some (subtle and not-so-subtle) Sherlockian references. That is a very nice touch for a Holmes fan like me. But that's not why I love these series...in fact, that's not why I'm addicted to my regular McCabe and Cody fix. Me, and I suspect, many others. The sherlockian references are only partly responsible for these books' appeal.

The characters created by Andriacco are really fascinating. And, as our knowledge of their personalities grow from book to book, we feel like we really know them and, somehow, relate to them. Jeff Cody is someone we feel we should be like. Great sense of humour, intelligent, with a (very fashionable) eating and exercise discipline, beautiful wife (and now daughter...this is not a spoil alert, as it is told in the very beginning of the book) and a great job. McCabe is not that disciplined, far from that, although he's an even more fascinating character (and, by the way, easier to relate to...well, for me anyway) and the source of most of the Sherlockian references.

The plot of this crime novel is, like all the books before "Erin Go Bloody", very well written and imagined. The title says it all. The humour and intelligence are a very important part of Andriacco's writing skills. The end is unpredictable and surprising. Erin is a town we'd all like to live in, with its restaurants, cafes, university and bookshops and its friendly people (not always...). I think that, with each book, Andriacco gets better, introducing new characters, creating a real crime feeling and writing fascinating stories that don't let us put the book down. He makes you feel at home in Erin, but always alert. Somehow, the feeling we get from this book is, I don't really know how to express it, familiar and cosy. And also, at the same time, frightening, as we see the end approaching but it's hard to imagine what will happen next. The way the author creates the crime ambient in this book is sublime.

In the end, I couldn't help thinking...."what would have Holmes done?".

We should be grateful for the McCabe and Cody series. The times we spend in Erin are always the best times of the year. I hope Dan Andriacco keeps inviting us to his beautiful creation.

If you knew the other books, you'll need "Erin Go Bloody". If not, it's not too late to start, and you can start here and go back to #1....it's a great trip and it's great to be contemporary of such a fascinating author.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Brilliantly Conceived, Beautifully Executed


Based on the inherent conflict of interests, I shouldn’t review About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story is the Best. But I’m going to do it anyway because the book is too good to ignore.

Christopher Redmond, the editor of the project, came up with the concept of a book of essays in which each author makes the case that a certain Sherlock Holmes story is the best. The book would have 60 essays – one for each Canonical tale, including the novels.

The idea was brilliant, and the execution beautiful. Redmond pulled together a great team of both veteran Sherlockian scholars and newcomers who are being published for the first time. Although I’ve been reading the Canon for more than 50 years, I found new insights and new appreciation for many of the stories as I read through this literary feast.

And by the way, the cover is also terrific!

My own contribution is about “The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter.” Mounting an argument that this story is the best of the bunch was beyond my creative imagination, so I focused on the wonderful gallery of minor characters in the story.

Many of the other essayists, however, do argue that their subject is the best Holmes story. The reasons they give are impressive for their variety. For example, Susan Smith-Josephy calls A Study in Scarlet the “absolute epitome of a Holmes-Watson tale.” Sonia Fetherston catalogs in impressive detail the ways in which “A Case of Identity” predicts what was to follow in the Canon. Jaime N. Mahoney lauds “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger” as “a study in understanding,” with Holmes compassionate and humane in a story in which he has nothing else to do.

Jack Arthur Winn is apparently dead serious when he hails “The Adventure of the Mazarin Stone” as “the brightest and most valuable jewel in our Sherlockian Canon.” That’s impressive!  

Also impressive are the insights that will color my future readings of the stories – Al Shaw’s speculation that “The Red-Headed League” was the first use of “the long con” in a detective story, Julie McKuras’s observation that “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans” is about two sets of brothers (Holmes and Valentine), etc.    
 
This is a great book to read straight through, but also to keep handy for perusing again whenever you re-read one of the Sixty.

All royalties from the book will go the Beacon Society, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to introducing young people to Sherlock Holmes through schools and libraries.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Sherlock Holmes of Partington


Simon Archard isn’t Sherlock Holmes. But if there were no Holmes, I doubt there would have been an Archard.

The latter is also an eccentric Victorian-era sleuth, and such a cold fish that he makes Holmes look like an emotional basket case. Archard plies his trade in an out-of-print comic book called Ruse, ably assisted by “beautiful but deadly Emma Bishop.” The relationship between Simon and Emma is more Steed and Peel than Holmes and Watson. Perhaps her first name is no accident. As the top of the comic proclaims, “He’s the World’s Greatest Detective. She’s even better.”

I recently picked up all four issues of The Victorian Guide to Murder in a thrift shop and was enchanted by this story of a master detective and the plot against him by a master villain.

The storyline of The Victorian Guide to Murder was exciting and puzzling, the dialogue by Mark Waid quite witty, and the illustrations first-class. I’d like to read more.  

Ruse was originally published between 2001 and 2004 by CrossGen. Marvel Comics revived the title in 2010 with The Victorian Guide to Murder miniseries, which is available as a paperback or e-book if you aren’t lucky enough to stumble on it in a thrift shop. 

One mind-bender: The setting is a city called Partington, a leftover from the original series set on another planet. But this is definitely Victorian England, for the great lady herself makes a late appearance in an unexpected role. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Conan Doyle in Cincinnati

Arthur Conan Doyle - long after his Cincinnati adventures

Christopher Redmond is a gentleman as well as a scholar.

I’ve written previously about his Welcome to America,Mr. Sherlock Holmes, recounting Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1894 visit to the United States. When I mentioned to him online some weeks ago that I would be interested in knowing more about ACD’s visit to Cincinnati on that occasion and in the 1920s, he simply sent me his decades-old file marked “Cincinnati.”

The file is crammed with Redmond’s own hand-written notes, photocopies of contemporary newspaper accounts of Conan Doyle’s talk, pages from nineteenth century guidebooks to Cincinnati, and correspondence with librarians and other research sources.

Right on top as I opened the file was a letter ACD wrote from Cincinnati on Burnet House stationary to the great Hoosier poet James Whitcomb Riley, whom he had met in Indianapolis just before going to Cincinnati. It displays a charming humility, even though Sherlock Holmes did rank humility among the virtues:

“My dear Riley,

Many thanks for the kindly things which my brother says you have said of me in the paper. You’ll send me home all head like a tadpole. It was a delight to me to meet you.

Yours always,

A.    Conan Doyle”

The newspaper accounts were interesting, but mostly familiar to me from having read Redmond’s book. But reading the (Cincinnati) Enquirer story of Oct. 17, 1894, reminded me of ACD’s fondness for the writing of one-time Cincinnatian Lafcadio Hearn.

“Another (writer) who is almost unknown, Lafcadio Hearn, and who, I understand was formerly a reporter on The Enquirer, has done some of the strongest writing in many years,” the British author told an interviewer.   

Almost unknown then, Hearn is even less known today. That’s too bad. A man who lived a lifestyle so eccentric as to make Sherlock Holmes seem a model of conventionalism, Hearn wrote sensational accounts of lurid crimes in the pages of the Cincinnati paper. By the time ACD visited Cincinnati, he had moved to Japan and more literary work. He died there 10 years later.

Hearn’s middle name (used as a first came in his byline) from the Greek island of Lefkada, where he was born to an Irish father and a Greek mother. Not coincidentally, Lafcadio is also the first name of a continuing character in my Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody series.

Retired high school drama teacher Lafcadio Figg made his debut in my radio play, “The Wrong Cab,” about a modern-day private eye who mysteriously finds himself transported to the world of Sherlock Holmes. It was reprinted in my book Baker Street Beat. Figg re-appears in The 1895 Murder as a rival of sorts to Sebastian McCabe, and again in my work in progress Queen City Corpse.

When Figg first came to life, I had no idea of the ACD-Hearn connection. I’m grateful to Chris Redmond for making me aware of it. There are no coincidences.