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, July 22, 2015

In Good Company


In the Company of Sherlock Holmes: Stories Inspired by the Holmes Canon, edited by Laurie R. King and Leslie S. Klinger, is the book that launched a lawsuit – and the Free Sherlock movement.
 

Most Sherlockians probably know the gist of the story:
 

When King and Klinger edited their first volume of original stories suggested by the world’s first consulting detective, A Study in Sherlock, the Conan Doyle Estate Ltd. asserted rights to the character. Their claim was based on the fact that the ten Holmes stories that Arthur Conan Doyle wrote after 1922 remain under copyright in the United States – and Estate owns the copyright.
 

Although King and Klinger didn’t believe it was necessary, their publisher paid a royalty. When the Estate came around for another bite of the apple as In the Company of Sherlock Holmes was being readied for publication, Klinger put his foot down. He sued.

 

Klinger argued that the characters of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and their milieu, are firmly set in the 50 stories not under copyright. Therefore, the character is in the public domain. The federal District Court and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. Sherlock was freed (for use in creative writing that did not encroach on remaining copyrights).
 

In the Company of Sherlock Holmes followed – and how fortunate that is!

 

The range of creativity in the fifteen contributions to this is book is amazing. It includes pastiches, cartoons, detective stories, horror tales, and the memoirs of a horse. Perhaps not all of it will be to your taste, but almost certainly some of it will be. There’s only room here to mention about half the entries. 

 

Jeffrey Deaver’s “The Adventure of the Laughing Fisherman,” about a young man thoroughly versed in the Canon who successfully investigates a serial, will stay with me a long time. I don’t think I could forget it if I tried.
 

“The Memoirs of Silver Blaze,” by Michael Sims, give us a new take on one of the most familiar stories in the Canon. Not surprisingly, the title character saw things that no one else did.

 

Several of the authors represented in the collection are well known, but perhaps none more so than Michael Connelly. In “The Crooked Man,” he gives his series character Harry Bosch a case based on the Canonical story of the same name, but with a very different ending. Bosch isn’t exactly the protagonist, though – that honor goes to an assistant coroner named Art Doyle.
 

Andrew Grant’s retelling of The Hound of the Baskervilles as a series of social media posts. For example, we get “Dr. John Watson was at A Neolithic Stone Hut” with the notation “Sherlock Holmes likes this.”  Spoiler alert: The case ends with “Sir Henry Baskerville has joined the group Hound Attack Survivors in Need of a Stiff Brandy.”  

 

Leah Moore and John Reppion contributed a very funny comic strip called “The Problem of the Empty Slipper,” illustrated by Chris Doherty and Adam Cadwell. Gahan Wilson’s three panel cartoons are very typical of his distinctive style of line drawings, somewhere between macabre and whimsical.
 

The only thoroughly traditional Sherlock Holmes story comes from Sara Paretsky, creator Chicago private eye V. I. Warshawski. In style, plot, and spirit, “The Curious Affair of the Italian Art Dealer” strongly resembles the real thing written by Dr. Watson – but with a twist. There’s another detective in this story, one from the pages of American fiction who predated even Sherlock Holmes (but not who you think).

 

Michael Dirda, in “By Any Other Name,” reveals at last the explosive truth behind the real relationship between Dr. Watson and A. Conan Doyle.
 

Don’t sit down to read just one of these stories. I don’t think you can stop there.   

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Kings River Life Likes The Egyptian Curse

"The Egyptian Curse, Dan Andriacco and Kieran McMullen’s third and final (say it ain’t so) Enoch Hale mystery, delivers a masterful plot with a thunderous twist at the end."


Mystery writer Kathleen Kaska served up a great review of The Egyptian Curse on the Kings River Life website. Please check it out.


Meanwhile, here's more:"


"True to form, Andriacco and Kieran pepper the story with colorful real-life folks– archeologist Howard Carter is another suspect, Leonard and Virginia Woolf fall under suspicion, and Hale’s confidant Tom (T. S. Elliot) lends Hale a hand. Father Ronald A Knox offers his opinion and a few righteous words of wisdom, and like in most of his movies, Alfred Hitchcock makes a cameo.



Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Back to 1895



“It’s no mystery why we still love Sherlock,” said the headline in the USA Today insert of my morning newspaper yesterday.

But that’s nonsense. The popularity of Sherlock Holmes has always been a mystery, and there’s no single satisfactory solution to it.

I’ve always felt that a big part of his attraction is the way Holmes transports us to what Vincent Starrett called “a romantic chamber of the heart . . . a nostalgic country of the mind, where it is always 1895.”

“Sherlock Holmes reminds us always of the pleasant externals of nineteenth-century London,” T.S. Eliot said in his review of The Complete Sherlock Holmes Short Stories in 1929. “I believe he may continue to do so even for those who cannot remember the nineteenth century . . .”

As usual, Eliot was right.

William Bolitho summed it up in an epigram when he said of Holmes, “He is the spirit of a town and a time.”

Even Conan Doyle seemed to agree. He wrote five out of his nine volumes of Holmes stories and novels in the twentieth century, but set all but a handful back in the late Victorian era where Sherlock Holmes belongs.

Yes, 12 of the 14 Basil Rathbone – Nigel Bruce films were mid-century modern, set in the years in which they were produced. But that never weakened my belief that Holmes was a period piece.

Then along came the cult hit Sherlock from the BBC, followed by CBS’s Elementary. Both TV shows brought Holmes into the twenty-first century, more popular than ever. I began to question my certainty that time and space had so much to do with enduring appeal of Sherlock Holmes.

But wait! Now the BBC series is apparently going back to 1895 (or thereabouts) in a Christmas special. Maybe I had it right after all.

One thing I’m sure of: Ian McKellen’s statement (if accurately quoted by a reporter) that Holmes is popular “not because of the books, but because of the spinoffs and the very fine actors who have played him.” On the contrary, it’s only because of the original books that Sherlock Holmes has survived some truly dreadful pastiches and lame actors.

What do you think?

 


Friday, July 10, 2015

A Soggy Day in London Town


A sign in Baker Street on a dry day in 2012

 It’s raining here in Cincinnati. It also rained yesterday, and it will rain tomorrow. It rained last week and will rain next week. Oddly, this reminds me of London.

Our last visit there, in 2012, was just after the rainiest English spring in decades. I even worked the soggy weather into my London-based novel set in that year, The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore. That is only natural. Watson tells us in “The Problem of Thor Bridge” that it was after “stepping back into his own house to get his umbrella” that Phillimore “was never more seen in this world.” Surely it must have been raining!

But rain isn’t the weather one usually thinks of in conjunction with Sherlock Holmes’s London. Fog is more likely to jump to mind, as in this evocative description from “The Adventure of the Copper Beaches:”

 “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 the lines of dun-coloured houses, and the opposing windows loomed like dark, shapeless blurs through the heavy yellow wreaths.”

This is the London that Vincent Starrett evokes so well in his poem “1895.”

But Holmes and Watson also knew what rain was. They got a heavy mood-setting dose of it at the beginning of “The Five Orange Pips:”

“All day the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows, so that even here in the heart of great, hand-made London we were forced to raise our minds for the instant from the routine of life and to recognize the presence of those great elemental forces which shriek at mankind through the bars of his civilization, like untamed beasts in a cage. As evening drew in, the storm grew higher and louder, and the wind cried and sobbed like a child in the chimney.”

Nobody does weather better than Watson!

I like the rain, but I hope it takes a break for the All-Star Game in our city next week.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Sherlock Holmes As a Path to Publication



The first time I met Steven Doyle, at the Gillette to Brett III conference in Bloomington, IN, in 2011, he said something like, “You may not remember that I published your short story.”

How could I forget? “The Peculiar Persecution of JohnVincent Harden” was my first published work of fiction, appearing in Steve’s late lamented Sherlock Holmes Review in 1990. Since then – in fact, just since 2011 – I’ve been fortunate enough to have nine mystery novels published. I don’t consider them pastiches, although Holmes does appear in three of them.

I thought of my start recently when I acquired a copy of The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by the late Michael Dibdin at a library book sale. I have two other copies of the book, which I reviewed for a newspaper upon its publication in 1978. The pastiche was Dibdin’s first book. He went on to write 15 more mystery novels, most of them about Italian detective Aurelio Zen.

Also in 1978, Loren D. Estleman wrote The Adventure of the Sanguinary Count, also known as Sherlock Holmes vs. Dracula. It wasn’t his first book, but for many years it was his best-selling one. He has since tapped out more than eighty mystery and western novels on a manual typewriter, with several series heroes.

More recently (2009) the amazing Lyndsey Faye’s debut novel, Dust and Shadow, was one of the best pastiches to tackle the Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper trope. She went on to write the gripping Timothy Wilde trilogy set in 1840. Whatever she does next, it will be great.

Sherlock Holmes is a wonderful for vehicle for a new writer, perhaps especially now when there is a great appetite for all manner of new adventures of the great detective. But no one should stop there. Give the world your own Great Detective.  

Friday, July 3, 2015

An Early Independence Day Reflection


Sherlock Holmes among the American in "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor"

On the 4th of July, Independence Day in the United States, we celebrate our national separation from England – but not from the English. There is and always will be what politicians like to call a “special relationship” between our two countries.

Sherlockians and mystery readers in general should be especially grateful for this.

An American, Edgar Allen Poe, invented the detective story. Without Poe, there never would have been a Sherlock Holmes. But without the quintessentially Sherlock Holmes, the detective story wouldn’t be what it is today. Arthur Conan Doyle took Poe’s brilliant formula and brought it to life with two immortal characters, the sleuth and his Bowell. He has influenced all of his successors, in one way or another.

From the beginning, A Study in Scarlet, the Canon was peopled with Americans. And Americans have been some of the greatest devotees of the Master. Such Yankees as Christopher Morley, Vincent Starrett, Edgar W. Smith, and Julian Wolff helped keep green the memory from the early days of the Sherlockian era.

No wonder that Sherlock Holmes could say in “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor:”  

 “It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being someday citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes.”

The logo of the Diogenes Club of Washington, D.C., a scion society for Americans who have served their country in government or the military, includes just such a quartering.

Happy Independence Day!