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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, November 30, 2021

Many a Quaint and Curious Volume

 


Although I am not a collector, I am an accumulator. Wonderful pieces of Sherlockiana keep coming my way through the kindness of friends and family.

This happened again recently when an old friend gave me boxes of books that she can’t take with her on a move out of town. By “old friend,” I mean that Carolmarie and I graduated from grade school together in 1966. After a slight hiatus (46 years), we reconnected over Sherlock Holmes.

Some of the treasures she gifted me were reference books or pastiches that I didn’t have or were in better condition that the versions on my shelves. But many of the tomes were anthologies of Canonical tales.

Sherlockian anthologies are always interesting to me because of the bindings and paper, the choice of stories, the illustrations, and the added material such as introductions or annotations.

Some of the more interesting additions to my library (out of many more) via my departing friend are:

Great Cases of Sherlock Holmes, published in 1987 by The Franklin Library, Franklin Center, PA, illustrated by Michael Hooks. This is part of the Franklin Library of Mystery Masterpieces. Its 483 pages of prose includes nine stories from the Adventures, four from Memoirs, and six from Return. The guilt pages and the sepia illustrations are nice, but the real value-added is the Sherlockian Atlas at the end. This is made of five famous maps drawn by the legendary Dr. Julian Wolff.

Sherlock Holmes and Other Detective Stories, published in 1941 by the Illustrated Editions Co., New York, with wood engravings by John Musacchia. I love those engravings! The Holmes tales are “The Red-Headed League,” “A Case of Identity,” “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and The Sign of the Four in that rather curious order. There is only one other detective story, a little-known Arthur Conan Doyle tale called “That Little Square Box.” It’s a stretch to call it a detective story, since it doesn’t have a detective or a crime!

The Hound of the Baskervilles, The Green Flag, and The Adventures of Gerard are part of a matched set of Conan Doyle works published in the early years of the 20th century by P.F. Collier & Son, New York, one of ACD’s early U.S. publishers. The nicest part is the cover, which has an elaborate “CD” for the author’s name surrounded by garlands and an open book.

The Sign of the Four., published in F.M. Lupton Co. in an unknown year. The copyright page is missing. Or was this a pirated copy? And why the period after the title, which also appears after every chapter title? These are deep waters, Watson!

Books are precious, although not as precious as the friends who share them with you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Gobble This: I'm Thankful for Sherlockians

Even with a blog format that can go as long as I want, I don’t have room for everything I’m thankful for this Thanksgiving, and every Thanksgiving. High on that list, however, is the ability to again gather in person with the lovable lunatics of the Sherlockian community.   

It’s common to speak of “my home scion.” But I’ve felt at home at every Sherlockian scion meeting I’ve ever attended, from Chicago to Washington, D.C. The most recent case in point was the 33rd anniversary meeting of the Ribston-Pippins in Warren, MI, ably presided over by founder Regina Stinson.

Steve Doyle argued that Professor Moriarty really is a master criminal, Roy Pilot talked about the serendipity that led to him acquiring some remarkable Sherlockian artifacts for his collection, Chris Music facilitated a discussion of “The Man with the Twisted Lip,” and Scott Monty was Scott Monty.

Throw in a Sherlockian Show-and-Tell and some toasts, and it had all the elements of most scion society dinner meetings, plus an anniversary cake. But every scion is slightly different in its traditions, and very different in the most important element of all – the people. If you are a Sherlockian, you should be involved in the scion closest to you, or most congenial to you, and visit others when you can.  

John Bennet Shaw famously said that the only thing necessary for a Sherlockian meeting is two Sherlockians and a bottle – and in an emergency, you can do without one of the Sherlockians. I think he was wrong about that. You need the people. And I’m grateful for them this Thanksgiving week.

The Ribston-Pippins 33rd Anniversary Dinner


Tuesday, November 16, 2021

A Colorful Feast for Eye and Mind


I'll say it again: The Sherlock Holmes Review is a thing of beauty. 

By that I mean the lavishly illustrated publication, reborn as an annual, is delightful to look at. The cover gives you a clue that the images are sharp and the color pops out. Even the typeface and the two-column format reminiscent of the original Holmes stories in The Strand are pleasing to the eye.

Full disclosure: My first published fiction appeared in the original quarterly Sherlock Holmes Review in 1990 and I have a couple of reviews in this one. But I don't think that has influenced the way I feel about this book. My work has appeared in other publications I've not been so taken with!

Importantly, the appeal of the new SHR is more than just skin deep. The articles are uniformly excellent. Nick Meyer gives an overview of his author tour promoting The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols. Jimmy Akin makes the subject of Holmes's Persian slipper interesting. Regina Stinson looks at the illustrators of Sherlock Holmes. Steve Doyle remembers Michael Cox. Ray Betzner convincingly takes us into the mind of Professor Moriarty. Fabienne Courouge analyzes the screen Watsons from the viewpoint of their various functions in the films.

Les Klinger interviews the creator of Elementary, Rachel Gosch makes a surprising connection between Sherlock Holmes and Catwoman (with a scintillating drawing by Frank Cho in red, white, and black), Peter Eckrich looks at the familiar faces that appeared in the Rathbone-Bruce films, Ross Davies discusses Holmes and cricket. And much more!

There's only one short story, but it's a fine pastiche. Ann Margaret Lewis tells the story of the first Mrs. Watson in "The Adventure of the Old Flame."   

Editor Steve Doyle and art director Mark Gagen have also laced the book with memories from the archives of the original SHR. There was a wonderful freshness to that publication that many of us remember fondly, but the annual is a worthy successor. You can order from Wessex Press.   

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Ten Years Today and No End in Sight!

Happy anniversary, Mac and Jeff! And happy birthday, Mac!

Ten years ago today was the official publication date for my first mystery novel, No Police Like Holmes, introducing amateur sleuth Sebastian McCabe and sidekick Jeff Cody. It’s now available perennially free on Kindle to introduce readers to the series. (Click here to order.)

The book is subtitled “Introducing Sebastian McCabe.” But it also introduces Jeff, Mac’s somewhat neurotic brother-in-law and best friend who narrates the stories with a breezy style and a disinclination to play the hero-worshipping Watson. By popular demand, Jeff has shared equal billing in the McCabe-Cody mysteries from the second book onward.

McCabe has been compared to Nero Wolfe, probably because of his girth and a formal manner of speech which makes his casual nickname of “Mac” rather anomalous. But I think he is more like Orson Welles in sense of being polymath. At his day job, he is a professor of English and head of the popular culture department at St. Benignus University (where Jeff is communications director) in a small Ohio River town. But he is also many things I tried to be, or wish I could be, or actually am. He is a mystery writer, a magician, a linguist, a father of three, a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and – of course – an amateur sleuth.

Every McCabe-Cody book is a full basket of Sherlockian Easter eggs, including quotes from the Master and plot tropes from the Canon that often bear on the mystery in surprising ways. That connection is obvious in such titles as Holmes Sweet Holmes, The 1895 Murder, The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore, and – most recently – No Ghosts Need Apply.

There are now 12 published books in the series, two of which are case books including novellas and short stories. I hope the series doesn’t end until I do.

Because my characters age as time goes on (unlike Wolfe and Archie), they all have birthdays so that I know how old they are. Mac’s birthday is today, the publication day of his first adventure and also the birthday of my sister in crime Felicia Carparelli. Only years later did I learn that Nov. 9 is also the feast day of St. Benignus, the disciple and successor of St. Patrick and the namesake of Mac and Jeff’s employer.

That’s an interesting coincidence – if you believe in coincidence.

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Story Behind The Essential Sherlock Holmes

One of Brian Belanger's stunning illustrations

Derrick Belanger, half of the amazing team at Belanger Books (along with artist brother Brian) recently asked me some questions about our upcoming biographical anthology The Essential Sherlock Holmes, Volume One. Here goes:  

1.     How did you come up with the idea for this anthology?  

It originated in a concept I had about 30 years ago for a series of 12 radio plays that would tell the life story of Sherlock Holmes chronologically, from “The ‘Gloria Scott’” to “His Last Bow.” Adapting this idea into an anthology came to me when I read an essay by Frank J. Eustace Jr. in Leaves from the Copper Beeches (1959), in which he gave an almost identical list of stories and called them “essential.” But Eustace’s dozen included The Valley of Fear because of the Moriarty element and did not have “The Blanched Soldier,” which was on my list. I decided that he was right and adjusted the contents of The Essential Sherlock Holmes anthology accordingly.            

2.     What makes these Sherlock Holmes stories more essential than others?

More essential is right! After all, every canonical Holmes story is essential. But each of these stories tells us something crucial about the Great Detective, and the essays expound on that. This inaugural volume, for example, gives us Holmes’s first case, while he was still college student; his only recorded case before he moved to Baker Street, which also reflects back a bit to his college years; and the beginning of the Holmes-Watson partnership – all undeniably essential as milestone in the Holmes biography. Although they are all splendid tales, there was no attempt to make this a “best of” anthology.  

3.     Why did you decide to use new illustrations instead of the original ones? 

Several reasons: 1. Having illustrations especially created for this anthology enhances the enjoyment of familiar stories, as do the essays. 2. A single illustrator brings a consistency to the volumes that wouldn’t be possible otherwise because none of the classic artists (Paget, Steele) illustrated all the essential stories. 3. Brian Belanger is a wonderful artist, with a signature style resembling block prints.   

4.     What did you find interesting about the essays in the book? Did any of the authors surprise you with their takes on the stories?  

They all surprised me because they all had something original to say. I’m amazed and honored at the first-rate Sherlockians who agreed to contribute. In Volume One: Origins, we have Carla Kaessinger Coupe and Rich Krisciunas reflecting on the young Holmes of “The ‘Gloria Scott’” and before; Mary Alcaro and David L. Leal looking back on “The Musgrave Ritual” and putting it into context; and Jenn Eaker, Ashley D. Polasek, and me tacking A Study in Scarlet, its adaptations, and how it set the pattern for the rest of the Canon.    

5.     When can we expect more Essential Holmes? 

Look for Volume Two in 2022! It brings together The Sign of Four, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and “The Greek Interpreter,” accompanied by another stellar collection of essays.

If you would like to back this project on Kickstarter, CLICK HERE


Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Treat Yourself to This Halloween Story

                     
It's time to read Halloween-themed stories. If your taste runs more to sleuthing than to scaring, check out my Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody tale, "The Revengers." It's part of my first collection of shorter stories, Rogues Gallery, but also free on Kindle. Click here for the e-book at no cost.  

* A costume party where all the participants are dressed as TV detectives. 

* A call-back to "The Avengers" TV series with Patrick McNee and Diana Rigg.

* A near-death experience for Jeff & wife Lynda, narrowly avoided by Lynda's brainpower and Jeff's quick action.

* A classic solution in which Mac pulls it all together from clues available to the reader.

That's "The Revengers." Although much has changed since in the personal and professional lives of the characters in this story -- and one of them is no longer among the living -- a still think it's a pretty introduction to world of McCabe and Cody. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Coulourful Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The gentleman on the left has red hair; trust me.  

Have you ever noticed how colourful the Sherlock Holmes saga is? The Canon is filled with titles that feature colours, from A Study in Scarlet all the way to “The Adventure of the Black Spaniel” 40 years later.

(If you’re not familiar with the latter, it’s the manuscript title of the story that became “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place.” It was the last Canonical Holmes story published, apparently the last written, and praised lavishly on this blog last week.)

In The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, we find “The Red-headed League,” “The Five Orange Pips,” “The Blue Carbuncle,” and “The Copper Beeches.” The colour pace slows down a bit in The Memoirs, with only “Silver Blaze” and “The Yellow Face.” The Return gives us “Black Peter” and “The Golden Pince-nez,” and His Last Bow has “The Red Circle.”

As Canon winds down with The Case-Book, I’m going out on a limb to count “The Blanched Soldier” and “The Retired Colourman” as well as the aforementioned “The Black Spaniel.”

Even without the last three, that gives us a solid 10 stories with colours in the titles out of a total of 60 tales. Surely that is unusual!

In my own 20 mystery books (including three scheduled for publication), I don’t have a single title with a colour in it. But that will be remedied in the book I am plotting now to appear in 2023, which is what had me thinking about the colourful Mr. Holmes.

As to which colour that title will include – wait and see.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

The Final Holmes is Good Holmes


In re-reading “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place” recently to prepare for a meeting of the Agra Treasurers of Dayton, I was reminded of the falsity of the old canard that the later Sherlock Holmes stories invariably aren’t up to scratch.

Some of them aren’t, of course – and neither are some of the earlier stories. But “Shoscombe,” the very last Canonical story published and apparently the last written, is an excellent mystery of the “what is being done” type seen in so many Holmes stories. The mystery isn’t whodunit, whydunit, or howdunit, but what is going on with Sir Robert Norberton.

The solution involves (spoiler alert!) an impersonation that is worlds more believable than the one in “A Case of Identity,” the second Holmes short story published. And along the way we get a nice opening, good old Watson, good detecting, good dialogue, good scenes, and a nice ending.

Opening: “Sherlock Holmes had been bending for a long time over a low-power microscope.” That puts us right there in Baker Street where we belong.

Good old Watson: He may spend half his wound pension playing the ponies, but he’s “a rich vein” of information about Shoscombe Old Place and Sir Robert in this tale.    

Good detecting: Holmes first explores the wrong theory that Sir Robert killed his sister, but that is part of the process. Borrowing Lady Beatrice’s spaniel enables him to establish that she is not the woman in the carriage. He then follows the bone to the crypt. This is not one of those regrettable stories where Holmes does essentially nothing.

Good dialogue: “This is Baker Street, not Harley Street.” “These are deep waters, Mr. Mason; deep and rather dirty.” “We are getting some cards in our hand, Watson.” “Dogs don’t make mistakes.”   

Good scenes: The confrontation at the haunted crypt is downright gothic! For an earlier blog post on that, click here.  

Ending: The final paragraph, while not memorable, is distinctly Watsonesque and closes out the Canon on a somehow pleasantly elegiac note.

In sum, the last Sherlock Holmes adventure may not be of the very first rank but is nowhere near the bottom. The author of this racing-related story did not limp to the finish line.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

A Cool Gift, but Should I Open It?


                
Although I’m not a collector, I have some cool Sherlockiana. Case in point: This recent birthday present from our oldest son – a 9-inch action figure of Star Trek TNG’s Lt. Commander Data as Sherlock Holmes!

Who could ever forget those two episodes in which our favorite android dons the deerstalker and pipe and enters the holodeck, where it is 1895, to do battle with You Know Whom?

But with this great gift comes a great conundrum: To open or not to open? Data/Holmes has never been out of his box. My inclination is to leave it that way. But his deerstalker has fallen off and lies at his feet. My challenge is:  

Do I open the box, set the hat in place, and reseal the box?

Do I open the box, set the hat in place, and remove the figure from the box for display in my library or living room?

Do I leave the box as is and impress Sherlockian visitors with my incredible self-control?

Give me your vote, dear reader. What would you do?

Back of the box