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, May 24, 2017

The Man Who Would Be Sherlock Holmes

The plot trope of someone who believes he’s Sherlock Holmes has been employed with greater or lesser success dozens of times over the decades. One of the best such forays was They Might be Giants, reportedly the great John Bennett Shaw’s favorite movie.

My new favorite exploration of this theme is “A Study in Sherlock,” episode 4 of Season 6 of “The Murdoch Mysteries” from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. It was first broadcast on Jan. 28, 2013.

Several strengths make the episode memorable, starting with the fact that the script writer actually created a good plot, not just a gimmick. The individual who thinks he’s Holmes has a psychological reason for his delusion that fits perfectly into the mystery, which involves a hidden treasure with a Holmes connection.

The story takes place around 1900, during the period when Sherlock Holmes was believed dead at the hands of Moriarty. When David Kingsley, AKA Holmes, explains that away in the presence of a visiting Arthur Conan Doyle (not very convincingly portrayed with shaggy hair and an unDoylean beard), the British author sees away to bring Holmes back from the dead. He even steals the name of a very real Col. Sebastian Moran, who is a character in the show.

Murdoch finally breaks through the madman’s delusion by playing to it. He appeals to that old Sherlockian maxim: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The improbable truth that Kingsley is forced to believe is that he’s not Sherlock Holmes!

It’s a great episode in a first-rate series. Season 7 brings “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” – but I’m not there yet!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A New Sleuth from a Favorite Mystery Writer

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
--“Silver Blaze”

In this book, the dogs do plenty in the night-time.

Kathleen Kaska is a Sherlockian and an animal lover. Her two passions are both evident in a new mystery series that gets off to an excellent start in Run DogRun.

Elephant researcher Dr. Kate Caraway, forced to leave her camp in Africa for reasons that don’t become clear until well into the novel, flees with her husband to the welcoming arms of old friends in Texas. And immediately she is immersed into a mystery involving greyhound racing, possible animal abuse, a bride-to-be with a secret, murder, and Lone Star State politics.

If all of this sounds far from Baker Street, it’s not. “She jotted tomorrow’s schedule with the precision of Sherlock Holmes,” the author tells us. Later, Kate and her husband, former Chicago Cub Jack Ryder, take a very Sherlockian approach to detection when they make a list of facts and speculations. This is what Holmes does – gathers the facts first. Data, data, data!

Kaska weaves a complex, well-constructed plot which raises serious issues without being preachy. The final confrontation with the killer is one of the most satisfying I’ve ever read, with the revelation of a motive so unexpected that it hit me like a freight train. And yet it’s a motive familiar to any Sherlockian. 

But good books, even mysteries, require more than solid plot and smooth writing. Run Dog Run also has a cast of all-too-human characters that are enjoyable to spend time with. Their foibles, their everyday humor, and their occasional heroism rings true.  

Kathleen Kaska is also the author of a Sherlock Holmestrivia book and the terrific Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. I miss Sydney, but also want to read more about Kate. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Revisiting a Scintillating Interview

Regina Stinson, Jacquelynn, and Steven Doyle at McSorley's Ale House 

I woke up this morning to the surprising (to me) news that the indefatigable Jacquelynn Bost Morris is stepping down as organizer of A Scintillation of Scions after the 10th Scintillation in June. If you don’t know about Scintillation, or Jacquelynn, it’s time to catch up with my 2014 interview with her.

I’ve written about Scintillation many times on this blog, most recently in 2016.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the Scintillationwebsite – and get registered for Scintillation of Scions X while you’re at it. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

An Anniversary Toast for 40 Years

Tankerville Club birthday cake
Two Sherlock Holmes societies (that I know of) celebrated their 40th anniversaries over the weekend - the Men on the Tor of Connecticut, and the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati. Since I have been a member of the latter since 1981, my wife Ann and I hosted a party at our home on Saturday.

Paul D. Herbert, BSI, author of Unmitigated Bleat, founded the Tankerville Club and remains its leader with the title of Official Secretary. It is only natural, then, that in addition to the traditional toasts to Holmes, Watson, and the Woman that might be offered at any Sherlockian meeting, we also lifted out glasses of generously donated real champagne to Paul himself.

Long-time Tankervillian Ed Lear write a toast that reflected Paul's notorious ability to create difficult quizzes. As befits a author named Edward Lear, it is in the form of a series of limericks:

To those who attended from the most to the least,
At those varied restaurants where we had our feasts,
The food may vary
But we were always wary
Of the test at the end, which was a beast

You could look at it till you were dead,
Try to remember what the characters said,
But try as you might
Nothing looked right –  
“Is this the test of the story I read?”

You read, study, and make lists, and here’s the rub,
Wanting to get at least one so you do not flub
Even if you beg
Or even nag
From the man who started the Tankerville Club.

Everybody, let's raise our glasses in a toast to Paul Herbert.

Paul Herbert poses an anniversary quiz 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A "Typical" Sherlock Holmes Meeting

An Illustrious Clients field trip
Recently I was asked on a radio program what are the typical activities of a Sherlock Holmes society. I'm not sure I gave a very complete answer.

Since there almost 1,000 of such groups around the world, many but not all of them scion societies of the Baker Street Irregulars, it may be going too far to say there is any such thing as "typical." But meetings I've been to have included some or all of the following:
  • A social hour;
  • Dinner;
  • An impossibly difficult quiz on the story of the evening;
  • Discussion of said story;
  • Presentation of a talk or scholarly paper by a club member or a visitor (sometimes me); 
  • Toasts to Holmes, Watson, the Woman, Mrs. Hudson, and other Conanical characters;
  • Recitation of Vincent Starrett's classic sonnet "22lB" to end the evening.
I've also been to picnics, costume parties, film festivals, and field trips. What else has your Sherlock Holmes society done, either once or regularly?

As mentioned previously in this space, we members of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati will celebrate our 40th anniversary with a party on Saturday.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Suddenly, I'm a Cover Boy!

I was thrilled over the weekend to find the latest issue of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and see my name on the cover for the first time! The issue contains my fifth article for the magazine, "I'm the Old Man." It's about connections between Sir Henry Merrivale, that irascible and indescribable Golden Age detective, and (who else?) Sherlock Holmes. I'm also happy to say that I'll return in the next number with a short story.

You can buy Issue #22, which also contains a new Nero Wolfe story by veteran mystery writer Marvin Kaye along with other fiction and features, online.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Meet Bill Mason, BSI

Bill in his library with his first edition Hound of the Baskervilles
Renewing acquaintances is one of the great pleasures of any Sherlockian confab. I had that delightful experience last month with the engaging Bill Mason of Nashville at the "Holmes, Doyle & Friends" conference in Dayton. I asked him a few questions later:   

Q: Let’s start at ground zero: When and how did you become a Sherlockian?

A:  My mother was a high school English teacher; and I was an avid reader, even as a child.  On my 13th birthday, she gave me the Whitman Classics edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  I was hooked on Sherlock Holmes from that point onward.  And that particular volume is still the most treasured item in my collection—even though you could probably get a copy for a quarter at a yard sale.

Q: What are your main involvements in Sherlockian societies?

A: Well, of course I am a member of the Baker Street Irregulars (“White Mason), and I make the trip to New York every January.  In my home town, I am a member of the Nashville Scholars of the Three Pipe Problem (“The Hydraulic Press”) as well as the Fresh Rashers of Nashville, where I am the founder and “Breakfast Ringer” (presiding officer). Currently, I am the “Head-Light” (president) of the Beacon Society, which gives grants to schools and libraries to teach about Sherlock Holmes.  I am also a member of the Bootmakers of Toronto, in which I am a “Master Bootmaker;” the John H. Watson Society, in which I am a charter member and have the name “Billy;” The Sounds of the Baskerville of Seattle; and The Red Circle of Washington, where I lived for many years.

Q: When I was a younger, I knew very few Sherlockians. What has it meant to you to be part of a Sherlockian community?

A: For years, I thought I was pretty much alone in my love of Sherlock Holmes.  I never missed any one of the Rathbone movies whenever they were on television, and I read (and re-read) all of the stories of the canon. Then, while in college, I came across the two-volume set of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes by Baring-Gould.  The annotations were great of course, but the real excitement for me was reading the dozen or so scholarly essays that opened the book and learning about the existence of scion societies, Sherlockian publications, and the Baker Street Irregulars.  I wanted so much to be a part of that.  My involvement in the Sherlockian world, all of the wonderful people I have met, the friendships I have forged, and the never-ending enjoyment of all things Sherlock Holmes have enriched my life tremendously. 

Q: When did you become a member of the Baker Street Irregulars?

A: I received my shilling at the BSI Dinner in January 2015. 

Q: What did that feel like for you? 

A: I was elated and very emotional about it.  I really had no expectation that it was going to happen that night, but I suppose that every Sherlockian hopes against hope to hear his or her name called into membership.  I knew that a major milestone in my life had been reached, secondary to getting married of course, but comparable to graduation from college, paying off my home, or my first day as a staff member at the White House.  The pleasure of it was greatly enhanced because only moments later Marino Alvarez of Nashville received his investiture.  We were the first from the Nashville area to be so honored.

Q: You are a Sherlock Holmes collector. Do you have a subspecialty of books or other materials that you acquire?

A: For years, I snatched up anything Sherlockian I could find; but since the turn of the century, the avalanche of easily produced books and other items has forced me to be more selective.  In recent years, I have specialized in the writings about the writings, first editions of early Sherlockian literature (starting with those books mentioned or excerpted in 1944’s The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes and expanding from there), and Sherlockian comics.

Q: Do you know how many books you own?

A:  Currently, I own about 2,750 books and 825 comics, all pertaining to Sherlock Holmes.  In addition, I have periodicals, journals, newsletters, DVDs, games, toys, and various collectibles certainly numbering in the many hundreds if not thousands.  Even though I have an entire room of my home (and its walk-in closet) devoted exclusively to Sherlock Holmes, space is a problem.  I carry a title list of my collection with me to prevent buying something I already own.

Q: One of the delights of your wonderful book of essays, PursuingSherlock Holmes, is the wide range of cultural references from Bram Stoker to Mel Brooks and – of course – the Three Little Pigs. What genres and particular writers do you like to read outside the Holmes universe?

A: In literature, my particular favorites are John Steinbeck and Jack London.  In mystery fiction, I have always been a fan of Agatha Christie, and I enjoy the books of a Southern author named Margaret Maron.  In action novels, I seek out the Jack Reacher novels of Lee Child and books by Jack Higgins.  In non-fiction, I still try to read books in the field of my educational training (human resource management), and I am especially interested in World War II history. But that only mentions my main interests.  I believe that reading a wide range of subjects is necessary for a well-rounded world view. 

Q: What event(s) are you most looking forward to on the Sherlockian calendar this year?

A:  I already have attended the annual conference in Dayton.  The monthly meetings of the Nashville Scholars and the weekly meetings of the Fresh Rashers are the highlights of my regular schedule.  My wife, Cindy, and I are already planning for New York in January 2018.

Q: What question have I not asked you that you would like to answer?

A:  Well, I like being asked about my favorite Sherlock Holmes activity.  For me, the conferences/symposia are the most fun and most meaningful.  They bring together those with the strongest interest from all points, and they treat the subject matter seriously yet with a lot of fun.  The conferences, even more than the Birthday Weekend or the local scion meetings, are really like family reunions, but with family members you chose for yourself.  I just love them and have never been to one that I didn’t enjoy.
Some of Bill's collectibles

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Delightful Bleat

What sort of author would call his own book Unmitigated Bleat?

Why, a great Sherlockian, of course!

Devotees of Sherlock Holmes will recognize the title of Paul D. Herbert’s new book of essays published by Gasogene Books as coming from “The Adventure of Red Circle.”

“Dear me!” says Holmes, turning over the pages of newspaper agony columns, “what a chorus of groans, cries, and bleatings! What a ragbag of singular happenings!” After reading a few examples out loud, he adds: “Bleat, Watson—unmitigated bleat!”

But this book is delight—sheer delight! A long-time member of the Baker Street Irregulars, Herbert is a serious scholar who knows how to have fun with the Canon. Some of these essays are laugh-out-loud funny.

Herbert is an expert on pastiches and parodies, having written a book on the theme in the 1980s called The Sincerest Form of Flattery. His lengthy essay on the topic in the present book is particularly insightful. Herbert himself is guilty of three hilarious parodies included in the volume. I particularly liked the two featuring Herblock Stones and his associate, Dr. Witsno.  

Other topics subjected to Herbert’s magnifying lens include various problems in the Canon, movie scripts that were never produced, a play that perhaps shouldn’t have been, bibliographical curiosities, people named Sherlock Holmes in real life, and some questions without answers.

Several of these essays were originally presented as talks at Sherlockian conferences over the past four decades. It is good to have them preserved in print.

Full disclosure: My friend Paul Herbert, BSI (“Mr. Leverton”) is the Official Secretary of the Tankerville Club, a Cincinnati-based scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars, which he founded. The first meeting was held in April 1977. I have been a member since January 1981. My wife and I will host a 40th anniversary party later this month.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Ripping Good Ripper Tale

Perhaps the most overworked of all pastiche storylines is that of Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper. But as well-worn as the trope is by now, first-time novelist Mark Sohn of Sussex takes it on with a great deal of success in Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Murders.

Good writing and first-rate atmospherics enhance a fast-moving tale with enough action to please even adventure-junkie Dr. Watson Рa prize fight, an abduction, a s̩ance, and the pursuit of a woman on roller skates. The subplot involves a plot to steal the Crown Jewels of England, masterminded by a brutal brain known as the Professor.

“I hope the ending of the book provides entertainment and a few surprises,” Sohn told me. “Some of the events are, of course, dramatic fiction, but there are – perhaps surprisingly – plenty of actual historical events blended in, some of which left me aghast at how easily they fitted with my story.”

One of my favorite elements in the book is the presence of real-life magician John Nevil Maskelyne, who creates a brilliant illusion to simulate the theft of the Crown Jewels from the Tower of London. The gimmick works just like many of Maskelyne’s real tricks.

“The idea to write a Holmes/Jack the Ripper story came to me about three years ago,” Sohn said. “Jack the Ripper is perhaps the most prominent ‘feature’ of later Victorian life and is perfect for Holmes.

“Both the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police failed to catch this person or persons. Who, then could have a chance? The man who never lived! I hope that the book will be a springboard, both for more Holmes tales and also my other stories, which range from horror to science fiction to historical thrillers. Who knows?” 

Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Murders is available from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

A Toast to Sherlock Holmes

One of the common activities of Sherlock Holmes gatherings is a series of toasts to individuals of Sherlockian fame, either from what is generally called “real life” or from the pages of the Holmes Canon. Over the weekend (March 25, 2017), I was surprised and honored to be asked to toast the Master at the banquet of the Holmes, Doyle & Friends Four conference in Dayton. Here’s what I (more or less) said:

“Holmes, Doyle & Friends” is an indisputably appropriate name to gather under tonight, for the Sherlockian community is all about friendship – the friendship of Holmes and Watson, and our friendship for each other.

Sherlock Holmes once asserted that he had no friends save Watson. Surely that is untrue, however. Inspector G. Lestrade, who had a habit of looking in at 221B of an evening, must be considered a friend. And so must Mrs. Hudson, Billy the page, and brother Mycroft, each in his or her own unique way.

But the greatest friends of the world’s first consulting detective are not to be found in Baker Street. They span the globe . . . and the decades. They are located in small villages and great metropolises, whether alone with their books or joined with other like-minded eccentrics in almost a thousand societies devoted to the master.

We, dear comrades, are the friends of Sherlock Holmes.

And so tonight we raise our glasses in a toast:

To him whom we shall ever regard as the best and wisest man whom we have ever known –

Mr. Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street!