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, July 27, 2021

Behind the Time Traveler Professor


Ghosts, time travel, espionage, spirit guides, astral projection, telepathy, karma – A War in Too Many Worlds has it all! The third book in Elizabeth Crowens’ acclaimed Time Traveler Professor series is a breathless romp through time and space with Arthur Conan Doyle, Harry Houdini, H.G. Wells, Bertram Fletcher Robinson, and the eponymous professor, who doubles as a spy in Berlin during the Great War. Fasten your seat belt!

I asked the pseudonymous Ms. Crowens, once a fellow Cincinnatian, a  few questions about the series, this latest entrant, and what's ahead:  

What was the genesis of the Time Traveler Professor series?

 

Like the average person on the street, when someone mentioned Arthur Conan Doyle, I equated that solely with his creation of Sherlock Holmes. Before writing the first novel, my familiarity of Sherlock Holmes was primarily with the old Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce films with a few others here and there such as The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, Young Sherlock Holmes, Peter Cushing’s version of The Hound of the Baskervilles, and the recent Robert Downey, Jr. versions. I had no idea Doyle wrote over 125 works including novels, short stories, magazine articles, and non-fiction reference books. Least of all, I had no clue that he wrote tons of ghost stories, belonged to the Society of Psychical Research (SPR), or that he was into Spiritualism and friends with Harry Houdini.

 

On the other hand, I always loved Victorian ghost stories and for years had been fascinated by some of the metaphysical writings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, especially when British explorers and archeologists went to Egypt and opened the tombs of the Pharaohs. To this day, Raiders of the Lost Ark, is one of my top five favorite films. In addition, I used to have an antiques business and worked with estate liquidations. Personally, I love to collect old, unusual books. At one point I came across some diaries by an obscure 19th century Scottish guy who claimed he tried some metaphysical experiments and mentioned something about consulting with Doyle about them. That got me wondering, what if he did?

 

Assuming the role of Sherlock Holmes, I couldn’t find any conclusive evidence but that’s when I discovered that Doyle was interested in that type of stuff. So, that was essentially the springboard that got me going about coming up with a highly fictionalized, alternate history series, but it also made me curious to dive headfirst into actual biographies of Doyle.

 

In creating this gaslight paranormal fantasy series, I had the ability to play around with blending fact and fiction. Apparently, that’s my writing style. I do the same, but in a very different way, with two other historical mystery series that I’ve written and am shopping around to get published.

 

Who is your favorite character in the books and why?

 

It would have to be the protagonist, John Patrick Scott. He’s a bit of an anti-hero, but these books are based on his “secret diaries.” For the first two books, I told his story in First Person POV (point of view). In A War in Too Many Worlds, after much debate, I switched the POV to Close Multiple Third, because that book focuses a lot more on what’s going on with Arthur Conan Doyle and the challenges he faces. He’s clearly in a supporting role as Scott’s mentor in the first two books.

 

There is a lot of fact as well as fiction in A War in Too Many Worlds and its predecessors. How did you research?

 

Research was the most time-consuming part of writing the series, but it also was the most exciting. I had to make about six, month-long trips overseas. While over there, I’d spend an enormous amount of time in museums, libraries, and used bookstores, and I also took thousands of photographs for visual references. While researching A War in Too Many Worlds, I had to test my memory of the trip I made to Germany five years ago, and because of Covid-19 travel restrictions, I couldn’t go back. When I needed a pre-WWI street map of Berlin and realized I already owned one, I was ecstatic.

 

One of the biggest challenges was finding information about what civilian life was like in Germany, France, and Britain during the First World War. Most material was about trench warfare, which was important for Book Two, A Pocketful of Lodestones. Also, MI6 for British intelligence was in its infancy during the Great War, but I have a knack of finding obscure books and found a few gems on espionage. That’s one of the reasons why my invested name in the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (ASH) is “A Collector of Obscure Volumes,” which came from The Adventure of the Empty House, when Holmes surprises Watson and reemerges from the dead in the disguise of an old bookseller. As I mentioned earlier, I’m an antiquarian book collector and have an eclectic library.

 

This is the third book in the series, and it ends with an open door to the next book. How many more volumes do you foresee?

 

There will be one more book called The Story Beyond Time, which will bring us from the summer of 1922 when Doyle started to have his falling out with Harry Houdini to the end of both Arthur Conan Doyle’s and John Patrick Scott’s lives.

 

What do you most want people to know about this book and the series as a whole?

 

The Time Traveler Professor series is a “serialized” series as opposed to a stand-alone series, similar to both Outlander and the Harry Potter books in that it follows a timeline, and it really helps to read the books in order to understand the characters, their backstory, their motivations, and how they grow or regress over the course of time. Since I encourage everyone to read Silent Meridian (Book One) first, the eBook is discounted on Amazon. Unfortunately, discounting the trade paperback or the audiobook is out of my control. Since there were a few years in between the release of each book, I definitely urge everyone, regardless of whether they’ve read the previous books or not, to read the Authors Note at the beginning of the book which summarizes the previous books in the series. It’s easy to forget.

 

Monday, July 12, 2021

Yes, Conan Doyle Was a Great Writer

The new light being shown on Arthur Conan Doyle by the ACD Society, the Literary Agents, and the Doings of Doyle podcast is well deserved. ACD was not just a great “teller of tales,” although he was that, but a great writer as well.

This came up Sunday during a Zoom meeting of the Great Alkali Plainsman, based in Kansas.

The virtues of Conan Doyle’s writing, so evident in the Holmes tales, include a simple but effective style, great beginnings and great endings, crackling dialogue, memorable epigrams, showing rather than telling, and descriptions of weather that put you right there.

You can find examples of the above by opening the Canon at any page.

It was a cold morning of the early spring, and we sat after breakfast on either side of a cheery fire in the old room at Baker Street. A thick fog rolled down between n the lines of dun-coloured houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark, shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow wreathes.

That’s ACD six paragraphs into “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches,” setting the scene for a highly gothic tale.

And how’s this weather description from the second paragraph of “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet”:

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.

But my favorite opening in the entire Canon comes from my favorite story, “His Last Bow”:

It was nine o’clock at night upon the second of August – the most terrible August in the history of the world. One might have thought already that God’s curse hung heavy over a degenerate world, for there was an awesome hush and a feeling of vague expectancy in the sultry and stagnant air. The sun had long set, but one blood-red gash like an open wound lay low in the distant west. Above, the stars were shining brightly, and below, the lights of the shipping glimmered in the bay. The two famous Germans stood beside the stone parapet of the garden walk, with the long, low, heavily gabled house behind them, and they looked down upon the broad sweep of the beach at the foot of the great chalk cliff on which Von Bork, like some wandering eagle, had perched himself four years before. They stood with their heads close together, talking in low, confidential tones. From below the two glowing ends of their cigars might have been the smouldering eyes of some malignant fiend looking down in the darkness.

Character, plot, and setting – the writing of Arthur Conan Doyle has all that. But don’t forget the good writing.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Master Thief Meets Master Detective

The French edition: Arsène Lupin, gentleman-cambrioleur

Inspired by the first season of Netflix TV series "Lupin" (brilliant but depressing to me), I recently read Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar for the first time. This is the original 1907 book of short stories that launched the series by French author Maurice Leblanc. 

The final story in the collection is aptly called "Sherlock Holmes Arrives Too Late." At least, it is in this book and in come editions. In other places -- including Ellery Queen's famous Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes anthology, the great detective appears under the guise of "Holmlock Shears." 

The name changes again the in the novel Arsène Lupin vs. Herlock Sholmes. And appropriately so, for Sholmes is not a pastiche of Holmes but a parody of him. I blogged about that a couple of years ago, as you can read by clicking here

Sherlockians are probably most familiar with the novel, but Arsène Lupin, Gentleman Burglar (also known as The Exploits of Arsène Lupin) was more enjoyable for me because the Holmes character wasn't such a burlesque. 

There is also a little Easter egg for Sherlockians in the short story collection: The penultimate tale is entitled "The Black Pearl," which cannot help but recall the black pearl of the Borgias in "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons."  

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Let's Hear It for the Purple, Blue, and Mouse!


 I’ve always loved the official tri-color tie of the Baker Street Irregulars. And I knew that its origins went back to BSI founder Christopher Morley. But I learned the details only recently. Jon Lellenberg tells the story in Irregular Crises of the Late ’Forties, volume 5 of his BSI History Project.

In a letter to his friend Helen Hare on December 15, 1949, Morley wrote:

I want to sell the BSI boys the idea of adopting colors for the club; to be sewn in either a rosette for the lapel, or even in a necktie. The colors, of course, to be Purple, Blue, and Mouse these being the three shades through which Sherlock’s dressing gown passed in its fadings. A fine rich purple; a pleasing “electric blue” (like the dress Violet Hunter had to wear in Copper Beeches!); and then a furry, soft, comfortable mouselike gray. Have you got a mouse at 7 Jackson Street to test the gray? That’s the trouble with new houses; no mice.  

I thought maybe, if not imposing yr gallant patience, you wd stitch together a small rosette in these colors for me to wear at the Dinner -- or even a necktie! The colors must be in that order of juxtaposition: purple, blue, gray. Don’t you think it wd be handsome? And say, what an idea for merchandising: the Sherlock Holmes Dressing Gown, in those three colors. Wyn’t you design it, & bet we cd sell it to some imaginative mfr. (pp. 384-385)

(Morley wrote briskly and with frequent abbreviations in casual correspondence.)

The woman who Morley soft-soaped earlier in the letter as “the most expert & subtle seamstress known” delivered the first BSI tie in time for Morley to wear it at the January 6, 1950 BSI dinner. He presumably wore it many times thereafter, including a June 1951 trip to England (photo, p. 417, Irregular Crises).

My purple, blue, and mouse tie is, of course, the bowtie version. It formerly belonged to my friend and supporter Monica Schmidt, who gave it to me as a present. It will look great with a tuxedo!

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

It's Good to Be Back in Person

Ann Brauer Andriacco leads the discussion of "The Beryl Coronet"

The world of in-person Sherlockian events is slowly stirring back into action wherever possible in accordance with local health restrictions. On Friday, The Tankerville Club of Cincinnati had its first such meeting since “the world went all awry” last year.

I’m grateful that the club, which I coordinate as “Most Scandalous Member,” was able to meet four times via Zoom over the past 12 months, and it was wonderful to have friends join those meetings from around the country. But I’d forgotten how much fun an in-person meeting can be – the bon mots, the spontaneous interaction, the hugs.

The meeting took place in the same casual restaurant where we assembled in March 2020, about a week before the state shut down restaurants. Members and guests came from Indianapolis, Columbus, Detroit, and Dallas (by way of Columbus). We had some enthusiastic new members as well as about a third of 31 attendees whose names appear on the 1981 membership list.

Activities of The Tankerville Club are fairly typical for a Baker Street Irregulars scion society: toasts, Sherlockian Show-and-Tell, reports from members who have had Sherlockian adventures elsewhere, a quiz, discussion of a story, an auction of books for the benefit of the club treasury, and a recitation of “221B” to end the evening.

The focus of Friday’s meeting was “The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet.” One peculiarity of our group is that our toasts are not always to people. Carolyn Senter lifted her glass to what Holmes called “an old maxim of mine”:

The iconic quote which appears in tonight’s story, that is, “when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth,” and how it relates to tonight’s meeting is the focus of my toast.  Specific reference is made to the three concepts contained therein, viz., impossibilities, improbabilities, and truth.

Impossibilities with respect to this evening are easy to eliminate. Unless we have the same magic as Hermione from the Harry Potter books, we cannot be in two places at the same time! 

That takes us to improbabilities. Now, if we take a moment and ponder the myriad events, quirks of happenstance, and all the serendipitous incidents which led each one of us to being first aware of tonight’s meeting and, second, having the interest in the topic of tonight’s meeting, both are most improbable – especially considering that the focus is on an entity whose literary agent died nearly a century ago!!  And yet, the truth is, we are here!

Let’s raise our glasses and toast all those impossibilities and improbabilities that led to the truth of our being together once again to celebrate scholarship, camaraderie, and friendship! Here! Here!  

Barbara Herbert, the woman of the Tankerville Club, brought some beryls given to her by her late husband, Paul D. Herbert, founder and Official Secretary of the Tankerville Club. She toasted the titular crown in these words:

Let us join in homage to a renowned object of history. Bent and tattered, with three stones missing, this unique object weaves a wonderful mosaic for Holmes and Watson to unravel as we become acquainted with colorful and interesting characters, while immersing ourselves in another fascinating mystery from the pen of Dr. John H. Watson. Now let us raise our glasses to “one of the most precious possessions of the empire” – the beryl coronet.

Even more precious is the company of good friends.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Books Galore at Prices to Adore



Denny Dobry at his 221B

Denny Dobry is probably best known in the Sherlockian world for his incredibly detailed and accurate recreation of 221B Baker Street his home in Reading, PA. He is also in charge of selling books for the benefit of the Baker Street Irregulars Trust Historical Archives. You can tour the sitting room and get a great deal on Sherlockian materials at Denny’s Book Fair and Open House on Aug 21.

“Thousands of books will be available for purchase at rock-bottom prices,” Denny says – and neither part of his statement is an exaggeration. He has a vast inventory of donated books priced to sell quickly. Included are many editions of the Canon, rare Sherlockian scholarship titles, hundreds of pastiches and parodies, a variety of non-Sherlockian Conan Doyle works, titles from other mystery writers (Sayers, Christie, Queen, Starrett etc.), extensive selections from Christopher Morley and P. G. Wodehouse, and lots of crime and British reference works. 

This is where Ross Davies would say, “But there’s more!” Denny also has statues, glassware, mugs, games, jigsaw puzzles, and posters, as well as publications by the Baker Street Irregulars Press. In terms of both volume and variety Sherlockian items, nothing else compares.

So, mark your calendar now for Aug. 21 and build a few days of vacation around it. Carpool with a Sherlockian friend! The hours of the Open House/Book Fair will be from 10 a.m. until everyone is gone. The address is 5003 Stony Run Drive, Reading, PA.  Reading is 100 miles from Manhattan, 80 miles from Baltimore and 40 miles from Philadelphia.

Lunch will be available.  If some out of towners stay over Friday and/or Saturday night, Denny would be happy to arrange for getting together for dinner.

Any questions? Contact Denny at dendobry@ptd.net.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Sherlock and Chicago with the Izbans



"I started my pilgrimage at Chicago . . . " Sherlock Holmes, "His Last Bow"  

I've always admired the incredible effort that Sherlockians, as individuals and as scion societies, have  put into writing and publishing chapbooks, pamphlets, and the like. This has gone on for decades.

Recently, through the kindness of Don Izban, I acquired a copy of the short book Investigating Chicago, by Don and his wife, Patricia. They are Sherlockians. The late Susan Z. Diamond, who wrote the Prolegomenon; the late David Hammer, who wrote the Preface; and George Vanderburgh, whose Battered Silicon Dispatch Box published the 84-page book in 2006, are all Sherlockians of note.

And yet, the text of the book has little to do with Sherlock Holmes, a well-known former resident of Chicago whose name appears on the cover. But that hardly matters. It's a great little guide to the Windy City through the Izbans' eyes. 

Don and Patricia tell how how to best spend a single day in Chicago, the best attraction (and it's free), a very special place (the Walnut Room restaurant at Marshall Field, which is now Macy's), Chicago's 10 Commandments (#1: Eat a Chicago-style hot dog), Vincent Starrett, statuary, architecture, where to eat, and where to billet.

All of this is supplemented by dozens of photos, delightful Sherlockian-themed cartoons by Paul Churchill, and a comprehensive four-page index that covers everything from "221B, The poem" to "Wrigley Field." 

By now, some of this is information in Investigating Chicago is outdated. But it's still fun to read. And I'm taking it with me on my next Sherlockian foray to "that toddlin' town."  

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

The Unique and Memorable Mycroft Holmes


Those who know Sherlock Holmes and his world only through film, television, and general cultural awareness likely assume that Irene Adler, Professor Moriarty, and Mycroft Holmes appear in dozens of stories.

They do – but only in film, television, and pastiches; their appearances in the Canon are few. Yet so unique and powerful are these characters that they have captured the imagination of readers and writers from the beginning. It’s hard for pasticheurs, in particular, to avoid these characters, often putting them on center stage to the detriment of Sherlock Holmes.

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s current Mycroft series is the latest of at least three on my shelves in which the smarter but lazier Holmes brother is the protagonist.  

The earliest example of Mycroft Holmes pastiche appears in a chapbook called The Resources of Mycroft Holmes: Solver of Historical Mysteries, published by Aspen Press in 1973. It brings together three supposed interviews with Mycroft published in The Bookman in December 1903, a few short weeks after the return of Sherlock Holmes in “The Adventure of the Empty House.”

Note that this was six years before the second canonical story, “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans,” was published, meaning the author didn’t yet know that “at times [Mycroft] is the British government.”

The titles of Charlton Andrews’s three stories in interview form say it all: “He Repudiates Sherlock,” “He Solves the Mystery of the Shakespearean Authorship,” and “He Solves the Mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask.” Clearly, these are to not be taken seriously.

However, the illustrations by Enid Schantz for the chapbook are wonderful, as are Tom Schantz’s afterword and checklist. The afterword summarizes what we know of Mycroft from the Canon, then surveys the speculative literature from W.S. Baring-Gould to (possibly) H.G. Wells. He concludes by saying:

“Mycroft, we hardly knew you – and it’s a pity.”

And with that, I heartily concur.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

"Baker Street Beat" at Year 10

Some of our Sherlockian library

"Welcome to my library.  Just don’t call it a collection.” 

Those were the first words of this blog when it debuted on May 28, 2011. A decade later, I suspect you will know what I mean when I say it feels both longer and shorter than 10 years.

I began the blog at the request of Steve Emecz of MX Books when he published my first Holmes-related book, Baker Street Beat. Blogging about The Great Detective seemed an easy task for me, given that I’ve been collecting files on him for 40 years. So I disappeared into our garage to see what we had.

What we had included eleven unpublished, and mostly unpublishable, mystery novels that I had largely forgotten about. But two of them, written in the late 1980s, featured a Sherlockian sleuth that I thought MX might want to bring to light at long last. I updated and wrote them as No Police Like Holmes and Holmes Sweet Holmes, the first two novels in my McCabe-Cody mystery series, published in 2011 and 2012, respectively.

No Ghosts Need Apply, the tenth novel in that series and the twelfth McCabe-Cody overall, will be published this fall. I’ve also committed five novels about Sherlock Holmes. Many other wonderful Sherlockian adventures have happened to Ann and me along the way. And I still manage to put out this blog most weeks. This is my 942nd post.

At the end of that first blog post I wrote, “I know it’s going to be fun for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.” That is still my hope. Thanks for checking in. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

What Do You Make of It, Watson?


Face it, nothing quite says "it is always 1895" like a Deadpool Sherlock bobblehead!

Here at the Andriacco house we also have 3D representations of Sherlock Holmes as a mouse (Basil of Baker Street), bird, gnome, bear, cat, rubber ducky, and multiple canines (including Wishbone and multiple Snoopys). 

We have Sherlock Holmes dolls (plastic and stuffed), finger puppets, nutcrackers, wine stoppers, magnets, cream pitchers, after-shave containers, Christmas ornaments, and bookends. But, then, doesn't everybody?

And this doesn't even get into the collection of greeting cards featuring animals in deerstalkers, all of them sent our way by our friend the Unknown Constable.

What's on your shelves? Post pictures!