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, February 14, 2024

A Children Mystery Series Worth Revisiting

Encountering Christian Monggaard, a Danish Sherlockian, at Baker Street Irregulars Weekend in New York last month led me to renew my acquaintance with some old friends—the Three Investigators.

Christian’s essay on “Sherlock Holmes and the Three Investigators” in the Autumn 2021 issue of the Baker Street Journal explores the connection between this children’s mystery series and Sherlock Holmes. Suffice it to say that those connections were significant over the 43-year run of the original series, from 1964 to 1987.

I just happen to own the entire series, a gift of our daughter who picked them up at a flea market, and I read many of them when I was young. A couple of weeks ago, I picked up #11, The Mystery of the Talking Skull, the last book written by the series creator, Robert Arthur, Jr., and was soon back in the small town of Rocky Beach, California, with Jupiter Jones, his friends Bob and Pete, and the introducer of their early adventures—Alfred Hitchcock!

It was a delightful book, most of all for me because it involves a magician’s trunk. And the title of my next McCabe & Cody mystery novel is The Magician’s Trunk! Aside from that, the tale is full of twists and turns on its way to a surprising and satisfying solution.

Then I read series finale #43, The Mystery of Cranky Collector by M.V. Carey. I found it entertaining, but somehow lacking the spirit of the Robert Arthur book. The former was a better mystery with more interesting elements—a magician, a talking skull, the surprise ending. There were more ingredients in the soup, even though the number of words was slightly less.

 “The Robert Arthur books are the best,” Christian agreed. “He deliberately set out to make a series for kids that had a certain literary quality—at least compared with Stratemeyer’s Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys.”

If you’ve never read the early Three Investigators mysteries, they are well worth a couple of hours of your time.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

One Year in the Editor's Chair: Reflections

Publisher Steven Doyle with Winter issue; cover by Ann Brauer Andriacco 
Whew! I’ve now completed a year as editor of the Baker Street Journal—four quarterly issues and the Christmas Annual. It continues to be an amazing honor to be the tenth editor in such a distinguished line from Edgar W. Smith to Steven Rothman. But what have I learned?

  • The writers have been a dream to deal with, even the ones whose submissions I had to edit significantly or not use at all.   
  • Comments from readers indicate they’ve noticed the variety of offerings in each issue, which has been one of my goals.
  • My often-stated observation that the BSJ is published by the Baker Street Irregulars but not just for the Baker Street Irregulars is demonstrably true: Many of the writers and readers are not BSIs. The Journal has always served the entire Sherlockian community.
  • The availability of good material has not been a problem. After all these years, there are still new things to say about Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, the Canon, and the world they created.
  • Being editor of the BSJ can be very time-consuming but is rewarding in equal measure.
  •  And even after a year, I still occasionally go to the always-helpful editor emeritus Steven Rothman for advice and information.

Of course, production of a quarterly publication is a team effort. Steven Doyle is publisher; Mike McSwiggin, associate editor; Rich Krisciunas, copy editor; Mark Gagan, art director; and Ann Lewis, subscription manager. They’ve been a pleasure to work with.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends: Sherlocking in Spring


In a fairly busy Sherlockian life, one of the things I'm happy to make time for is organizing speakers for the annual Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, each spring. This year's event, the ninth such under that name -- although the "Dayton Symposium" has a history of more than four decades -- takes place March 22-23. And once again we have a great lineup! 

Speakers and their topics:  

“Setting Up Camp: How I Build a Scene”—David Harnois, BSI (on how to put together a Holmes radio production)

“We Love Sherlock, But Would Sherlock Love Us?”—Kira Settingsgaard (on Holmes and intimacy)

"Playing the Game” —Tim Kline (on collecting Sherlock Holmes games)

“I Hear Sherlockians Everywhere”—Madeline Quiñones (on the world of Sherloockian podcasts)

“Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and Liberty Magazine”—Ira Matetsky, BSI  

“No Ghosts Need Apply”—George Skornickel, BSI (on ACD and spiritualism)

 “Becoming a Sherlockian”—Max Magee (on the adventures of a newly minted devotee)

“ACD: Adventurous Life, Enduring Memories”—Burt Wolder, BSI (on the life of Arthur Conan Doyle and the lessons it holds for us in making memories)

There will also be a hilarious playlet called The Mysterious Adventure of the Syntax

Learn more and sign up at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends website.  

Sunday, January 21, 2024

17 Steps to a Solid Sherlockian Library


Last August on this blog I wrote about what I thought were seven essential books for every Sherlockian. Now Peter Eckrich and Rob Nunn have gone me ten better with Canonical Cornerstones, a book of essays about 17 books you should own -- like the 17 steps to 221B.

The authors of these essays include some of the greatest living Sherlockians (plus me). None argues that any one book is the only book, just that it's an important one. They give you enough information to know which books you want to buy and in what order. But I warn you, they may also drive you to your bookshelves to revisit a favored classic you already have. 

From the beginning of this blog in May 2011, I have insisted that I have a library and not a collection. All of the canonical cornerstones are in my library, and most of them are books that I have mentioned here and that I consult frequently for research.  

Here's the lineup of books and the authors of the essays about them:

Vincent Starrett's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes -- Ray Betzner

Michael Harrison's In the Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes -- Catherine Cooke

The Baker Street Journal -- Peggy McFarlane

Leslie S. Klinger's The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes -- Peter E. Blau

D. Martin Dakin's A Sherlock Holmes Commentary -- Mike McSwiggin

Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution -- Anastasia Klimchynskaya

Daniel Stashower's Teller of Tales -- Mark Jones

Beyond the Canon: Apochrypha et Cetera -- Ross E. Davies

Jack Tracy's Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana -- Sonia Fetherston

Ellery Queen's The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes -- Timothy J. Johnson

S.C. Roberts's Holmes and Watson: A Miscellany -- Roger Johnson

Mattias Boström's From Holmes to Sherlock -- Mark Alberstat

Steven Doyle's Sherlock Holmes for Dummies -- Regina Stinson

Ronald Burt De Waal's The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson -- Ira Brad Matetsky

The Classic Doubleday Omnibus -- Russell Merritt

Edgar W. Smith's Profile by Gaslight -- Dan Andriacco

William S. Baring-Gould's The Annotated Sherlock Holmes - Julie McKuras

Canonical Cornerstones is published by Gasogene Books. You can buy it in all the usual places, and if you happen to pick it up at a Sherlockian conference there's a good chance many of the authors will be standing around you at the time. 

Monday, January 8, 2024

Nero Wolfe Turns 90, But Still Ageless

2024 is the 90th anniversary of the first Nero Wolfe novel, Fer-de-Lance, as well as that of the Baker Street Irregulars. In celebration, I re-read that inaugural adventure of the Corpus for the umpteenth time since my teenage years. (I was 14 when I wrote Rex Stout a fan letter.)

To an amazing degree, it’s as if the whole W. 35th mise en scène sprang full-bodied from the head of Zeus (or Stout). Much of what we remember so well from the other novels and novellas is there in the beginning: Wolfe wiggling his finger, Wolfe pushing his lips in and out as he solves a case, the daily routine in the plant rooms, the ban on business talk at meals, Archie prodding Wolfe and Wolfe poking Archie, what Archie calls a “charade” at the end as the killer is outed.  

Many of the usual dramatis personae are also present from the creation at least in name, including the one who turns out to be the killer in the final outing, A Family Affair, 41 years later.

At the same time, there are a few differences. Archie drives a roadster, and there is no mention of the Herron sedan  of the later tales; his friend at the Gazette is Harry Foster rather than Lon Cohen. Nathaniel Parker, Doc Vollmer, and Lilly Rowan have not yet made their appearance.  

As every Wolfean knows, these stories always reflect the outside world even though Wolfe and Archie don’t age. It is not “always 1934.” As Fer-de-Lance begins, Wolfe is testing the newly legal 3.2 beer after the end of Prohibition and finding that, “So far, none of this is sewage.” A Family Affair is firmly set in the Watergate era.

Speaking of which, I’ll go read that now . . .

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

A Sherlockian Tinge to a Magical Tale

I'm re-reading my way through Randall Garrett's Lord Darcy books with great enjoyment. 

If you know these three books at all, you know that they take place in an alternate universe in which the Plantagenet kings rule over a globe-spanning Anglo-French empire and the laws of magic have been discovered.

Lord Darcy is the chief investigator for the His Royal Highness, the Duke of Normandy, brother to King John IV. But in Too Many Magicians - a title reminiscent of three Nero Wolfe novels and one Wolfe novella - he assists his cousin the Marquis of London, who is nothing more or less than Wolfe under another name. Garrett evokes Wolfe wonderfully in speech and mannerism. And his primary associate Lord Bontriomphe is, of course Archie Goodwin.

All this I remembered from previous readings, along with the fact that Garrett manages to set up seemingly impossible crimes despite the ability of killers to use magic.

What I didn't remember was the callbacks to Sherlock Holmes.

In Chapter 10, Lord Darcy proclaims: "Once we have eliminated the impossible, we shall  be able to concentrate on the merely improbable." 

In Chapter 18 of Too Many Magicians, we get a play on the curious incident of the dog in the night-time :

"I should like to call you attention to the peculiar condition of that knife."

Master Sean frowned. "But . . . there was nothing peculiar about the condition of that knife."

"Precisely. That was the peculiar condition."

You don't have to be as Wolfean and/or a Sherlockian to enjoy the Lord Darcy stories, but it adds to the pleasure. 

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Passing on the Mystery Novel Obsession


The amazing Kerstin Staudacher, who is like a daughter to Ann Brauer Andriacco and me, wrote a masters thesis on the Commissario De Luca crime novels of the Italian writer Carlo Lucarellis. These half-dozen books are set in Bologna in 1944. Kerstin writes in her abstract that the author “realizes a mixture of crime novel and historical novel in an outstandingly sensitive and detailed way.

Since Kerstin’s latest degree was granted by Klagenfurt University in Austria—near the small down where she  lives—the thesis is, of course, written in German. My German being rather limited (although I did understand the word “Thriller”), I will not be reading all of it. But I was touched by seeing my name at the front of the work. Kerstin wrote (according to Google Translator):

I would also like to thank Dan Andriacco for our interesting and constructive conversation before the work. That and his crime novels from the Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody Series inspired me to do this work. 

When we visited her this month in Austria, Kerstin presented me with a copy of the thesis along with one of the De Luca novels, L'inverno piu nero (The Darker Winter). Since I can read Italian a bit, I will be dipping into that.

I've been reading mysteries almost as long as I've been reading. I'm very pleased that I've passed this obsession along to our "Austrian daughter." Can Sherlock Holmes be far behind?

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Crossover: Christie and Conan Doyle


We may not think about it much, but the careers of Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle overlapped significantly. By the time the Canon closed out in 1927, Christie had published eight books, including the classic Murder of Roger Ackroyd.

Christie mentions Sherlock Holmes (“the one and only—I should never be able to emulate him”) in her autobiography when describing her creation of Hercule Poirot. And when Christie disappeared in 1926, ACD was one of those quoted in press accounts speculating on her fate.

It was no big surprise, therefore, that in recently reading Dame Agatha’s 1931 uninspiringly named novel The Sittaford Mystery it was easy to spot echoes of The Hound of the Baskervilles. The story takes place Dartmoor, with a Tor and moorland, and there is an escaped convict.

There’s also a séance (like the Rathbone Hound later, but that was a coincidence). And in Chapter 11, journalist Charles Enderly says of the table-turning event: “I’m thinking of writing that up for the paper. Get opinions from Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and a few actresses and people about it.”

 ACD died in 1930, the year before the book was published, so probably the story took place slightly earlier. Or perhaps Enderly had in mind another séance. 

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

And The Game Goes On

“Sadly, the Great Game is over,” the late David L. Hammer wrote in a 1995 essay. He thought the Sherlockian golden age and silver age were past and that “too much has been written by too many for too few for too long.”

Was ever a man so wrong?

As editor of the Baker Street Journal, it’s my joy to edit many wonderful contributions to the body of Sherlockian scholarship still being produced, as well as side forays into Arthur Conan Doyle and other related topics.

In the recently published Autumn issue, for example, you will find:

·         An exploration of how much Sherlock Holmes really knew about the law in The Adventures, written by first-class lawyer and scholar.

·        “The Great Moriarty Deception,” for which the world is finally prepared.

·         A look at what happened to two characters in “Black Peter” who seem to disappear from the story.

·         Proof—maybe—that snakes do drink milk, as in “The Speckled Band.”

·         A look at science and Sherlock Holmes, written by a scientist.

·         The  many meanings of guns in “The Gloria Scott.”   

(These examples of traditional scholarship are in addition to an essay about a once-popular silent movie about Sherlock wannabe, a survey of Holmes parodies and pastiches, and examination of when each canonical tale of written.)

 No, the Great Game is far from over, almost three decades after Mr. Hammer pronounced it so.

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Worst Pastiche You Ever Read?

                             

One of my favorite Sherlockians (I have many) recently described 1980’s Sherlock Holmes in Dallas, later rebranded as The Case of the Murdered President, as “the worst (Holmes) pastiche ever written.”

That’s a very bold statement, considering that there is so much competition for the honor.

I reviewed that book for the late lamented Cincinnati Post when it was published, back when I was a business news reporter for the paper and writing a monthly mystery review column. I’ve not been able to find that review, so I don’t remember what I thought about it.

To be fair, Sherlock Holmes in Dallas isn’t really a pastiche, or an attempt at one. By that I mean the author didn’t try to produce an imitation of the original, a book that could have been a previously unpublished canonical story taking place during the canonical period. Rather, he put Holmes and Watson in what was then president-day America with no explanation. Holmes is just really a device for the author presenting his theories about the Kennedy assassination.

But there are other stories, hundreds of them, where the authors do attempt to mimic the original and fail at the most basic level—novels that are too long, have uncanonical title formulas, or simply don’t get close to the Watson voice. Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it is also damned near impossible.

Writing is work, and I don’t want to belittle anyone’s efforts at it, so I won’t ask what you think was the worst pastiche you ever read. But it might be an interesting question to ask yourself.