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 11, 2019

The Saga Continues, But Changes

I don't often say this: Too Many Clues may be one of the best of my 10 Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody books.

Fans of Rex Stout will likely recognize the title as an homage to the Nero Wolfe corpus, which included Too Many Women, Too Many Cooks, Too Many Clients, and the novella "Too Many Detectives."

Certainly my mystery writing has been influenced by decades of re-reading Nero Wolfe as well as Sherlock Holmes, but there are more differences than similarities in our work. One of the big ones is that -- unlike Wolfe and Archie -- my characters age in real time. They are all eight years older than when we first met them in 2011.

Another is that I paint on a broader canvas. By that I mean that many more continuing characters walk through my ages, and their pasts will influence future stories. David Marcum understood what I'm doing when he wrote, "By this time, Dan Andriacco is creating a world."

That world also changes. Some minor characters have come and gone over the years, while others have changed jobs or shifted relationships. In Too Many Clues, for the first time, two major characters who have been in the series ever since No Police Like Holmes will take their leave for good. It will be interesting so see how you readers react. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

The Mystery of the Missing Holmes

William Gillette as Holmes, in the long-lost film that is lost no longer 

It’s a mystery worthy of the Great Detective himself: More than 100 films about Sherlock Holmes are lost or in need of restoration or preservation.

The great William Gillette’s silent film of his classic stage play Sherlock Holmes was like that – lost for decades – until a print was found in Paris in 2014. Now the UCLA Film & Television Archive have teamed up with the Baker Street Irregulars to search world-wide for similar treasures.

Among the missing are a British production of A Study in Scarlet, produced in 1914; a Danish series, produced by Nordisk films, beginning in 1908; and The Missing Rembrandt, produced in 1932, starring Arthur Wontner.

The Archive and the BSI plan to contact film archives, Sherlock Holmes societies, film historians, collectors, and other potential sources around the world to find, restore, and eventually screen these and other currently lost films.
Barbara Roisman Cooper, an Archive Board and BSI member, is heading the project, which is called “Searching for Sherlock: The Game’s Afoot.” For further information about the effort or suggestions regarding the search, she asks that you contact her at peninc1@aol.com.

A week ago, on this blog, I reveled in the joys of putting on a Sherlockian film festival. How I would love to be able to show The Missing Rembrandt – which is now missing itself!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

At the Movies with Sherlock Holmes

From almost the beginning of the movies, Sherlock Holmes was there. And he still is.

Our friend Regina Stinson, BSI, reviewed the 115-year “Screen Life of Sherlock Holmes” in a presentation at the beginning of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati’s first annual Sherlock Holmes Film Festival on Aug. 24.

In a reprise of her delightful talk at the “Holmes, Doyle, & Friends” conference in March, she surveyed more than 50 films and television programs from Sherlock Holmes Baffled in 1903 to Holmes & Watson in 2018. You may have seen the minute-long Baffled, which astonishingly features trick photography. Regina showed all of it, along with many film and TV clips.

Fortunately, none of those clips was from the cringe-worthy Holmes & Watson.  

Regina covered good movies and bad, humorous and serious, movies that were actually about Holmes and some there were about men who thought they were Holmes or prevented to be Holmes. There's a lot of variety out there -- enough for every taste.  

A film festival is a lot of fun. We watched the hilarious Daffy Duck cartoon parody “Deduce, You Say,” Rathbone-Bruce in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Brett-Hardwicke in “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” and Cushing-Morrell in The Hound of the Baskervilles.

We all have our favorite screen Holmes, but Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, and Peter Cushing would certainly be high on most lists.

So, how do we top that lineup next year? I don’t know yet, but we 115 years of material from which to choose!

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Classic Introductions to Sherlock Holmes

Some years ago, I had a terrific idea: An anthology of great introductions to Sherlock Holmes. The reason I know it was a terrific idea is that (I later learned) Edgar Smith edited just such a volume published by the Baker Street Irregulars in 1959.

Within the last few weeks I acquired a copy of Introducing Mr. Sherlock Holmes and read it with great enjoyment. There’s a note in the front that says this is a new, limited edition of 350 copies and mine is number 301. One of the neat aspects of the book is that each essay appears just as it did first – in the original type face, etc.  

Without critiquing each of these essays at length, here are the award-winners, in my opinion:

Most enjoyable: A tie between Vincent Starrett and S.C. Roberts, two of the Sherlockian/Holmesian giants of their generation. These essays are full of love and command of the material, plus erudition.

Most disappointing: Dr. Joseph Bell’s 1893 introduction to A Study in Scarlet. ACD’s influential professor seems to have forgotten what he was writing about.

Most inaccurate: The great Howard Haycraft’s introduction to The Boys’ Sherlock Holmes, which I encountered as a boy, has errors of fact on almost every page.

Most surprising: Rex Stout! He attacks Holmes (and, to a lesser degree, Watson) for six pages before offering one positive paragraph at the end. This shocked me more than “Watson Was a Woman”!

Most critically flawed: Fletcher Pratt dismisses The Valley of Fear as he lauds The Hound of the Baskervilles as the only successful Holmes novel. He was wrong.

Most insightful: Anthony Boucher, on the other hand, correctly appreciates the magnificent achievement of The Valley of Fear, correctly noting that the second part is the world’s first hard-boiled detective story.

Most Canonical: Arthur Conan Doyle’s wonderfully nostalgic introduction to The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes.  

Most iconic: “In Memorium,” Christopher Morley’s introduction to the Doubleday Complete Sherlock Holmes. How many of us have read it repeatedly? Morley was paid so much for those five pages to visit London on the proceeds. And well worth it!

This was another book that I purchased through Denny Dobry of the BSI Trust. Contact him at dendobry@ptd.net to fill your Sherlockian book needs at good prices.    

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The World is NOT Big Enough

“The world is big enough for us,” Sherlock Holmes said in “The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire.” Fortunately, pastiche writers don’t always agree.

I just acquired and read The Science-Fictional Holmes, edited by Robert C. Peterson, although I’d read some of the stories in it previously. It’s a great collection – although a short one – published in 1960 by The Council of Four, a scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars. The seven stories give us alien Holmes wannabes, out-of-this world solutions to crimes, and a post-apocalyptic world in which the Canon has become Sacred Writ.  

The authors are Anthony Boucher, Poul Anderson (with and without Gordon R. Dickson), Mack Reynolds and August Derleth, and H. Beam Pipe and John J. McGuire. Most of these tall tales originally appeared in science fiction magazines, and rightly so.

Anderson’s “The Marian Crown Jewels” may be the most well-known story in the book. Boucher wrote the introduction and two of the stories.  The Reynolds-Derleth contributions include two of their four Solar Pons science fiction stories.

This is by no means the only collection of Holmes pastiches that venture into science fiction, fantasy, and/or horror, but it is the first. For good reason, this volume is included in John Bennet Shaw’s legendary “Basic Holmesian Library.”

I bought my copy from the BSI Trust, via Denny Dobry. Denny has a vast storehouse of donated goodies for sale at great prices to benefit the Trust – editions of the Canon, scholarship, pastiches, Sherlockian journals, posters, comics, and reference materials. Send a want list and e-mail address to dendobry@ptd.net and Denny will periodically send you an updated inventory.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

A Film I Shouldn't Have Waited For

It’s hard to believe that Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which ignited the Sherlock Holmes boom of the 1970s, is 45 years old. And for me, it’s even more astonishing that I waited until this past weekend to see the film version that followed just two years later.

What a great movie! The script is tightly-plotted, action-packed, suspenseful, occasionally funny, and always fun. The acting is superb.    

I’ve always had a problem enjoying Holmes pastiches that stray too far from Canonical orthodoxy. The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is the apex of that. It tells us that Moriarty wasn’t the Napoleon of Crime except in Holmes’s drug addled mind – and for reasons that it very appropriately took Sigmund Freud to unearth from the depths of the sleuth’s unconscious.

So maybe that’s why I didn’t see the film in 1976. Or maybe Ann and I were just too busy with our first-born child, who arrived that year. But on Saturday, Seven-Per-Cent was the centerpiece of the annual film festival put on by the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis. It was a great day.

Nicol Williamson is brilliant as the suffering Holmes, despite not looking the part. Alan is a convincing Sigmund Freud. Robert Duvall, fresh off his role in the first two Godfather movies, is surprisingly adequate as the controversial choice to play Watson. Baker Street Miscellanea originally reported that Orson Welles was cast as Myrcroft, but Charles Gray plays the role so well in this film that he later reprised it opposite Jeremy Brett in the Granada series.

But my favorite performance in Seven-Per-Cent is the legendary Laurence Olivier as Professor Moriarty. He looks the part as if he has just stepped off the pages of a Paget illustration. Of course, his Moriarty isn’t the crime lord but the (relatively) innocent former tutor of the Holmes brothers, which he portrays to perfection.

There is much more to be said about this landmark book and movie, and Steven T. Doyle says it all in his wonderful monograph “Together Again for the First Time: Forty Years of The Seven Percent Solution.” It was the Baker Street Journal Christmas Annual of 2015. If you don’t have a copy, try to get one.

Nicholas Meyer, a long-distance member of the Clients, will be visiting the club in October as part of the tour for his new Holmes novel.

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

A Fascinating Book About Books

The Quest for Sir Arthur Conan Doyle may be one of the more unusual books in my library, and one that is well worth reading.

This 1987 volume, edited by Jon L. Lellenberg, consists entirely of a Baker Street dozen essays examining at length biographies of ACD – hence the subtitle, Thirteen Biographers in Search of a Life.

In a brilliant move, three of the 13 essays examine autobiographical works by Sir Arthur himself, including those that were thinly disguised as fiction.

All the major biographies published up to 1987 are covered, though time has moved on. It’s regrettable that Daniel Stashower’s wonderful Teller of Tales and Andrew Lycett’s Conan Doyle couldn’t be included, but other major authors (Pearson, Nordon, Higham, Edwards) and some lesser lights get their due.

This book about books is not only fascinating, but also helpful. Reading these essays made me want to read Nordon and convinced me that I can skip Higham – both of which sit happily on my shelves.

The authors of the essays in some cases may be more familiar to Sherlockians than the biographers they review. Of particular note, I think, are the contributions of Richard Lancelyn Green, Howard Lachtman, and Donald and Christopher Redmond. But all contain much of value.

This volume was included in the final edition (in his lifetime) of John Bennet Shaw’s Basic Holmesian Library – often called simply the “Shaw 100.” I’m glad it made the cut. I’m also glad a copy made its way to me a few weeks ago in one of three large boxes of Holmesiana gifted to me by my good friend and faithful reader Deacon Ken Ramsey, Sr. Thanks again, Deacon! 

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Miss Holmes is a Great Holmes!

The image on the wall welcomed us to "Miss Holmes"
Christopher M. Walsh’s play “Miss Holmes” features:
  • A female Sherlock Holmes
  • An ironically named “knitting circle” of women who can go everywhere and see everything, much like the Baker Street Irregular
  • A Mycroft who keeps sending his sister to Bedlam
  • A Dr. Dorothy Watson
  • A young Stamford who would like to marry Dr. Watson
  • The traditional Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, and a hint of Moriarty

None of this adds up to a great play. But it is a great play, a sweet treat for Sherlockians that anyone can enjoy. Ann and I were part of a Bagel Street dozen of Tankerville Club members who saw the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production on Saturday.

This is not a one-trick pony that relies on the gender-bending to carry the play. It has some great humor, suspense, wry allusions to the Canon, great characters, and a stunning, unexpected (at least by me) twist at the end. The backstories of our heroes are much different, and they work.  

Like many of the Canonical Holmes stories, this one begins with a female client – a woman who has been warned that her husband, a Scotland Yard inspector, is out to kill her. But in this alternative universe Holmes and Watson, who have just met, are also female. The place of women in Victorian society is a plot engine, but not heavy-handed.

The few modern clich├ęs in the dialogue (notably “no worries” and “nothing to see here”) are not enough to detract from enjoyment of the play.

The ending of “Miss Holmes” points to a sequel, and the author’s website lists “Miss Holmes Returns” as a work in progress. I look forward to seeing it.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Return of Nicholas Meyer

Nicholas Meyer, whose The Seven-Per-Cent Solution touched off the Sherlock Holmes tsunami of the 1970s, is back with his fourth Holmes pastiche. The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols is an adventure indeed, with Holmes and Watson tapped to debunk the infamous Protocols of the Elders of Zion, an antisemitic hoax that persist to this day.  

It’s a wonderful ride, with the Orient Express taking our heroes to Tsarist Russia and from there into the darkness of the human soul. It’s a well-written and expertly plotted novel. I read it quickly, and with great enjoyment. It belongs on your bookshelf, although with Meyers’s other three novel-length pastiches. (My favorite remains The West End Horror.)

And yet, in reading it, I never felt that I was experiencing The Real Thing, i.e., the Sacred Writings of Dr. Watson via Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The reasons are numerous, but the easiest to convey without spoilers (the book won’t be published until October) is the storyline. All four Canonical novels begin with a mystery to be solved. By contrast, although there is murder in Protocols, there is no real mystery.  

As a matter of personal preference, I enjoy (and have tried to write) pastiches that would fit comfortably into the Canon. Such stories are rare, partly because authors understandably like to make their own unique contribution to the Baker Street saga. Thus, we often have stories that not only add to what we know about Holmes and Watson, but even change it.

One of the greatest temptations is to introduce historical personages or other fictional characters into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Conan Doyle never did that. References to real people are frequent in the Canon, but they do not appear as characters. To me, this divergence in a pastiche – an attempt to write in the style of the original author – is always jarring. But it can still be fun!

Not all Sherlock Holmes stories are pastiches, however. Some are parodies, in which character traits are exaggerated for laughs. Some are Sherlock Holmes stories written at least partially in the third person or a voice other than that of Watson. Some are stories co-starring Sherlock Holmes, with another figure the main interest. And some – a growing number – present us with and alternative Holmes and/or Watson who is female, African American, a robot, or whatever.

And which is best? Whatever you like best!

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The Persistence of Sherlockian Scholarship

The new (Summer 2019) issue of Canadian Holmes, the journal of the Bootmakers of Toronto, includes my article on “Everything I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Sherlock Holmes: Life Lessons from the Great Detective.”

It was a thrill to get my copy in hand and find out that I’m in such excellent company, as usual when traveling with Sherlockians. Other articles in the issue are by Barbara Rusch, Jayantika Ganguly, Cliff Goldfarb, Paul Thomas Miller, Suzanne Durkacz MacNeil, and Charles Prepolec.

With some surprise, I realized that this is the 10th periodical in which my Sherlockian articles or fiction have appeared. Number 11 is on the horizon later this year when The Bean Home Newsletter, the publication of Friends of Freddy, reprints my Baker Street Journal article on “Freddy the Porcine Holmes.” (Freddy the talking pig is a barnyard detective who idolizes Holmes. But you probably know that.)

Many of the publications for which I have written are no longer with us, sadly. The includes The Sherlock Holmes Review, edited by Steven Doyle, in which my first fiction was published. “The Peculiar Persecution of John Vincent Harden,” a Holmes pastiche, appeared in two installments in 1990. I’ve had 16 books of mystery fiction and Sherlockiana published, and two more ready to go, but that was my first success in fiction-writing.

So I was excited and pleased at the word that the SHR, like Holmes himself, will soon make a return from the dead. But is there really room for another Sherlockian journal? Or is Sherlockian scholarship a mine that is close to being played out?

Yes to the first question, and no to the second! As a look at the high quality of material in the Baker Street Journal, The Sherlock Holmes Journal, and Canadian Holmes will attest, “the game” is not nearly over. Like Holmes himself, it will never die.