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.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Sincerest Form of Flattery

"The Blue Carbuncle," above, is echoed in "The Six Napoleons"

If "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," does that apply equally to self-imitation?

In reading Douglas Greene's masterful biography, John Dickson Carr: The Man Who Explained Miracles, I was struck recently by how often the great mystery writer borrowed themes, gimmicks, and characters from earlier works - mostly his own.

As a participant in the "Golden Age Detection" Facebook page noted, it's surprising that writers of that era didn't recycle more, given their rate of production. In his early days, Carr was turning out four books a year. Ellery Queen did likewise for a while.

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle also produced at a daunting rate. So it's no disrespect to point out that some of Sherlock Holmes's adventures were strongly imitative of other writers or reminiscent of his own earlier stories. A partial list of stories and their inspirations would include:


"The Sign of Four" - Collins's The Moonstone
"A Scandal in Bohemia" - Poe's "The Purloined Letter"
"The Dancing Men" - Poe's "The Gold Bug"


"The Norwood Builder" - "A Scandal in Bohemia"
The Valley of Fear - "The Norwood Builder"
"The Six Napoleons" - "The Blue Carbuncle"
"The Stockbroker's Clerk" - "The Red-Headed League" 
"The Three Garridebs" - "The Red-Headed League"
"The Second Stain" - "The Naval Treaty"

Holmes once said, "There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before." One of his major techniques as a sleuth was to find parallels to earlier criminal cases. How odd that he never he called attention to the similarities in his own.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Cabinet of Curiosity

Our younger son recently gave me a gift of a cabinet, originally holding pipes, with a dandy image of Sherlock Holmes etched in the glass door. 

We already had one almost just like it, but having two is not a problem. I will fill this one with Sherlockian nicknacks, just as I did the other one.

Here's the interesting part: The one we already owed has exactly the same image of Holmes as this one with Big Ben in the background (hard to see here) - but in reverse. In that one, Holmes is in the right corner looking left, even though the door opens the same way (on the right) in both versions.

So this leaves me wondering: Do you have one of these? If so, which way is Holmes looking? And what did you put in it? 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Two "Private Eyes" in The Valley of Fear

The September 1961 issue of The Baker Street Journal, then edited by Dr. Julian Wolff of happy memory, makes an interesting observation in "From the Editor's Commonplace Book." Accompanied by the logo above are these words (among others):

"It is probably not necessary to inform our readers that the only use of the term "private eye" in the Canon occurs in The Valley of Fear. We all recall the statement in the note that Inspector MacDonald received from White Mason: "This note is for your private eye." Of course that's why he took it to Sherlock Holmes."

Oddly enough, Dr. Wolff didn't make the second connection between The Valley of Fear and the term "private eye." It's a strong one.

As every good mystery fan should know, the first private eyes were the sleuths of the Pinkerton National Detective Agency. That nickname came from the wide open eye with Pinkerton's "We Never Sleep" motto. And Birdy Edwards, the hero of the second half of The Valley of Fear, is a Pinkerton man. So he was indisputably a private eye, even though the term is used in that book only in a wholly different sense.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Sherlockian Valentine Present

If one is going to have an intense interest in a subject - I did not say "obsession," although some might - it helps to have a mate that is equally interested or at least sympathetic.

Your very obedient servant is blessed with such a mate. For Valentine's Day, the 45th that we have shared, my dear spouse gave me this Ole Book Pillow from a company called Thinkgeek. What Sherlockian wouldn't want that? It's the stuff that dreams are dreamed on!

Dear Ann,

Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
I'm a Sherlockian -- 
And you act like one, too!


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Literary Agent? Not Likely!

For those who play "The Game," Dr. John H. Watson is the true author of the Sherlock Holmes tales, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle his honored literary agent - often referred to by the faithful as simply "The Agent."

Dissenting from this convention, however, was no less a person than that grand master of mystery John Dickson Carr.

In addition to writing dozens of his own mysteries, Carr was the official biographer of ACD and co-authored Holmes pastiches in a troubled collaboration with Adrian Conan Doyle, Arthur's son. Moreover, Douglas G. Greene's critical biography of Carr quotes the mystery writer as saying that his boyhood heroes had been "Sherlock Holmes, D'Artagnan, Admiral Dewey, and the Wizard of Oz."

It was of more than passing interest, then, that I read the following in the December 1969 issue of The Baker Street Journal:
Some interesting remarks by John Dickson Carr appear on page 104 of the November Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, and here is one of them: "Being Conan Doyle's biographer, I can't accept him as Dr. Watson's literary agent; he was too indifferent a man of business to have been anybody's agent, including his own. In gesture of friendship, if you like, he may perhaps have served as the amanuensis to whom Watson dictated. After all, the stories are in his handwriting."
That clears up a mystery: I've seen original manuscripts of some Holmes stories and always wondered about the handwriting!

But Carr's comment seems to have been a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black. Greene's biography of Carr records that "money was never high on his list of priorities." Indeed, he stick royalty checks in his pockets and forget about them. Clearly, he was nobody's literary agent, either.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Fascinating Sources and Methods

One of the most intriguing books that's come my way lately is a book about a book.

At the end of each of our Enoch Hale historical mysteries, Kieran McMullen and I have included several pages of "Notes for the Curious" to separate fact from fiction for the readers. Jon Lellenberg has done something similar on a grand scale in Sources and Methods. In a 154-page book with 32 photographs, he basically annotates his own novel, Baker Street Irregular.

Long-suffering readers of this blog (and there are a few) may recall that I was much taken by that novel. I wrote about it here in mid-2012 quite favorably. I found it an extraordinarily skillful work of fiction, accessible to anyone but of particular interest to the friends of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. It's a spy story, a love story, and a solid historical novel about the early days of the Baker Street Irregulars.  

"Baker Street Irregular is a work of fiction, but every word of it is true," Lellenberg says.

Those are the closing words of the forward to his long-promised book that explores factual underpinnings of the fiction. Lellenberg explains the title in his introduction:

“Sources and Methods” is a term in the intelligence community that also took shape in those years, whose formative stages provide part of the novel’s story line. Sources and Methods are critical to collection of raw intelligence and its analysis into useful product to inform policy; and in wartime, strategy and operations. They normally must be kept secret—but not here. I want instead to disclose the sources and methods behind Baker Street Irregular for readers who’d like to know more about the personalities, institutions, and events in it. And for the sake of the historical record, since I spent thirty-five years in the kind of work that Woody Hazelbaker, the novel’s protagonist and narrator, goes to Washington in 1940 to do, in the novel's Ch. 12.
This may wind up being one of the rarer volumes in my library, with only 250 copies in print. You can order a copy for $20, postage paid in the U.S., from Hazelbaker & Lellenberg Inc., P.O. Box 32181, Santa Fe, NM 87594. If you know the author's e-mail address, you can also send the money by PayPal.  

Friday, January 30, 2015

All-Sherlock Every Five Issues

I'm pleased to report that the latest issue of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, #15, includes my article called "A Study in Consistency." It examines how the Holmes debut novel, A Study in Scarlet, set the pattern for so much that was to follow.

SHMM is itself consistent. Every fifth issue is devoted entirely to Holmes pastiches, essays, cartoons, and verse, although the magazine generally is more diverse in scope.

Other non-fiction in the latest issue includes "Tuning in Sherlock," an overview of the long history of Sherlock Holmes on the radio, and "Dr. Watson: Action Hero?"

But the magazine is mostly fiction. Issue #15 includes eight short stories about Sherlock Holmes - as many as His Last Bow! The creative range of the stories is fascinating, with clients ranging from Nikola Tessla to Professor Moriarty. You'll also find these tales enlivened by a white python, Jack the Ripper, a birthday party, and a seance.

The history of mystery fiction is littered with the corpses of magazines named for detectives - The Saint, Mike Shayne, Shell Scott, and perhaps more that I've never heard of. I hope that Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine will be around for the long haul.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The (Real) Napoleon of Crime

Most mystery fans and all Sherlockians know that Sherlock Holmes referred to his nemesis, Professor Moriarty, as "the Napoleon of Crime." But before there was Moriarty, the term was applied to master thief Adam Worth.

Recently  I acquired a copy of Ben Macintyre's highly engaging 1997 biography of Worth. It would be well worth reading, even without the chapter called "Alias Moriarty" that draws the connections between the real-life criminal and the fictional one. 

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that Moriarty was suggested by Worth than that he was based on him. Worth was no genius mathematician, nor did he look like the famous Sidney Paget illustration of the professor. An American who made most of his ill-gotten gains in England, Worth stood only five-foot-four. I guess it would be no stretch to say that he had a Napoleonic complex!

Macintyre's boook is as much the story of a duchess and a detective as it is the story of thief and organizer of thieves who stole on a grand scale, lived a life of conspicuous consumption, and died nearly broke.

Worth's signature crime was the theft of a famous Gainsborough painting, The Duchess of Devonshire. He lived with the painting for 25 years, taking it back and forth across the ocean a number of times. In a sense, the Duchess was the love his life. He only gave her up near the end.

William Pinkerton, head of the famous American private eye agency, pursued Worth all that time. But in the end, they became close friends and exchanged a series of letters that can only be called touching. Pinkerton helped Worth broker the sale of the painting and watched out for Worth's children after he died of numerous diseases related to dissolute living.

The"Alias Moriarty" chapter of the book is rather thin, but no matter. This is still a fascinating yarn, much of it culled from the private archives of the Pinkerton agency.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Only the Quote Was Unforgettable

"How do you know that?
"I followed you."
"I saw no one."
"That is what you may expect to see when I follow you."
- "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot"
Monsignor Ronald Knox, in his landmark "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes," cited that bit of dialogue between Dr. Leon Sterndale and Holmes as an example of what he called "Sherlockismus."

Another great Sherlockian, Anthony Boucher, alluded to this passage in his first Sister Ursula novel, Nine Times Nine, originally published under his H.H. Holmes pseudonym.

Here's the dialogue among Lt. Terence Marshall, his wife Leona, and protagonist Matt Duncan. Marshall speaks first:

"There's a passage I remember in one of the Holmes stories -- "

"I thought you didn't like mysteries," said Leona.

"Hell, darling, Sherlock Holmes isn't just mysteries, anymore than Macbeth is just a play or Bist du bei mir is just a tune. The Holmes chronicles are something wonderful and superhuman and apart. I grew up on them and I worship at the shrine."

"I'll agree they aren't mysteries," said Leona, with a noticeable absence or her husband's enthusiasm.

"Anybody that'll hold out clews on you like that --"

"This passage now," Matt suggested.

"I think it's in The Lion's Mane. The explorer says, 'I saw no one,' and Holmes replies, 'That is what you may expect to see when I follow you.' Well, that's the ideal of all shadowing. We aren't all Holmeses in the police force, but nobody should let a man notice he's being followed."

All that is very nice, but here's my question: Was it Lt. Marshall who got the wrong story as the origin of that great passage of Sherockismus, or was it Anthony Boucher - famed mystery writer, critic, and member of the Baker Street Irregulars?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Some of My Favorite People

More proof that Sherlockians, some of the my favorite people, are among the most fun:

Ann and I had a wonderful time over the weekend at the annual Masters Dinner of the Stormy Petrels of Maumee Bay in Toledo. I was the keynote speaker, talking on "Sherlock Holmes, For Crown and Country: The Great Detective in Public Service."

Other hijinks of the evening included an "Unmasking," in which costumed members of the Petrels threw out clues and challenged other members to guess which Canonical characters they represented. The venerable Italian priest was fairly easy - there is only one in the Canon! (See "The Final Problem.")

Long-time member Jim O'Keefe was honored as "Stormy Petrel of the Year" - in part because he comes all the way from Detroit for the monthly meetings!

We hope to join these new friends again on March 14 when they go to The Valentine Theatre in Toledo to watch “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” The director of the play, the stage manager, and two of the actors are Stormy Petrels. And tickets are only $20 each!