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, April 18, 2018

A Discerning Critic of Holmes on Film



“No Sherlockian library is complete without at least one book on the films of Sherlock Holmes,” Steven Doyle writes in Sherlock Holmes for Dummies.

Well, I had at least one. Now I have three more. I bought them from Don Curtis at a mini-auction during the most recent meeting of the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis.

I decided to work my way through the trio starting with Sherlock Holmes on the Screen, by Alan Barnes. It’s “a real cracker,” as my British friend Roger Johnson might say.

The book covers both movies and TV shows – English-speaking and otherwise. It presents them in alphabetical order rather than chronological, with a chronology at the end. This approach has a lot of merit, but Barnes’s pedantic approach to titles does not. The first Basil Rathbone – Nigel Bruce movie shows up under the “S’s” because it’s official full title is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Therefore, all the many Hounds covered in the book aren’t considered together. Too bad, that.

In most cases, Barnes considers the plots in three sections: “The Mystery,” “The Investigation,” and “The Solution.” That’s a neat idea in theory, but rather arbitrary in practice.

The great strength of this book is the author’s strong opinions, which are sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. Here he is on Patrick Macnee as Holmes in 1993’s The Hound of London:

“Macnee was merely bad as Roger Moore’s Watson in Sherlock Holmes in New York, and only terrible as Christopher Lee’s sidekick in Sherlock Holmes and the Leading Lady and Incident at Victoria Falls – but he makes a truly dreadful Holmes, wheezing out every line while resembling nothing less than an unshelled tortoise poured into a monkey suit.”

Wow!

Many of his comments are more balanced, as when he differentiates the best episodes of the 1950’s Ronald Howard TV series from the worst.

Surprisingly, Barnes finds “a certain gauche charm” in Sherlock Holmes in New York. He also defends Nigel Bruce as the perfect Watson for Rathbone. Their Hound, he says, “would be blissful even without such a fine detective/doctor team. The fact of that team’s presence makes it quite probably the only Sherlock Holmes film that can hold its head among the true classics of the cinema.”

That sounds about right to me.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Forward with the Tankerville Club

We flew the flag for a Tankerville Club party 
Over the weekend, I accepted the responsibility of leading the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati, a scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars. I’m honored and excited!

One of issues yet to be decided is my title. Paul Herbert, BSI, founded the club 41 years ago and led it as Official Secretary until his death in February, as I have recorded previously on this blog. Nobody can fully replace Paul, so I don’t believe that any else should have the Official Secretary title. We’ll come up with another.

About 30 members of the club, many of them long-standing, met to salute Paul’s memory at a party on Saturday. Joel Senter, of Classic Specialties and the Sherlockian E-Times, rightly called Paul “a legend.”

Member John Bloomstrom proposed a toast that saluted Paul’s well-known penchant for unsolvable quizzes: 
We’re here to toast a Sherlockian whiz,Who loved nothing better than a devilish quiz.You could read the Canon multiple times,But his questions rarely referenced the crimes.You could argue for points, or act like a jerk,The best you could do was get Paul to smirk.Puns, songs, and references to all things oddWhere carefully crafted simply to get your panties in a wad.So raise you glass and taste the fizz,Let’s savor the times we cursed that damn quiz.

I can’t compete with Paul Herbert’s quizzes. I won’t even try. But I will do my best to see that we continue to have a lot of fun with Sherlock Holmes in the Tankerville Club. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

A 'Social Enterprise' Publisher

Steve Emecz with Beniah, who is featured in The Happy Life Story
I'm the luckiest mystery writer in the world. I've worked with three great publishers of my fiction - MX, Wessex, and Wildside. But it all started with London-based MX, which published Baker Street Beat in 2011 and all of my Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody books. I profiled owner Steve Emecz in 2014, but I think it's time for an update. Here's a new interview with Steve about the changing nature of MX. 


You have described MX Publishing as a “social enterprise.” What does that mean?

We are a publisher whose main goal is to support several charitable goals. We used to use the term 'not-for-profit' but that doesn't really work for us as the more we grow, the more we can afford to do. We're staffed purely by volunteers. My wife Sharon and I both have day jobs and run MX in our 'spare' time.

What charities does MX support? Say a little about them.

We have two main charities. Happy Life Children's Home rescues abandoned babies from the streets of Nairobi in Kenya. My wife Sharon and I have spent the last five Christmases with the children of Happy Life - its the most wonderful few weeks of our year. In its first fifteen years it has saved the lives of over five hundred abandoned babies. In 2014 Sharon and I wrote a book about the project called The Happy Life Story. The second is Stepping Stones School, a school for children with learning disabilities, located at Undershaw, the former home of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I'm a patron of the school. We also raise some funds for Help For Heroes and I am also a mentor for the United Nations WFP (World Food Program). MX enables all of these activities.

Are you willing to say how much you have been able to support these charities, in amounts of money?

It's tough to calculate, as so much of what we donate is our time and business skills, which all the organisations say is the most important thing. But we are probably sitting around $50,000 in pure donations across all the charities in the last decade.

When did MX transition from being a more conventional business?

It was sort of a social enterprise from the start. We began in 2006 with publishing NLP books for children with learning difficulties and very quickly (2008) got involved with Sherlock Holmes books and the campaign to save Undershaw from being demolished. In 2012, though, starting work with Happy Life took things to another level and enabled us to make a significant impact.

How does Kickstarter fit into your business plan?

Kickstarter is both a way fund projects that are financial challenging and a fantastic marketing tool. Some book projects have high up-front costs. This could be translation or, in the case of our large anthologies, getting copies of the books into the hands of all the contributors can run into thousands of dollars. The MX collection (of new Sherlock Holmes stories) is a great example. Authors kindly donate their stories to the collection so that the royalties can go to Stepping Stones. But to get a hardcover shipped to say forty contributors across the globe is costly. Kickstarter is perfect for that. Plus, the campaigns reach hundreds of new potential fans.

How many books has MX now published?

Across all genres more than 400, but for Sherlock Holmes we are at about 250.

How many authors?

About 250, and 120 for Sherlock. 

What do you see as the future of MX Publishing?

We are almost exclusively Sherlock now. We'll continue to publish Sherlock Holmes books whilst there are still authors that want to write and fans that want the books.  In around five years Sharon and I will be in our early fifties and we set that as a goal to exit from corporate life to work on 'social enterprise' projects full time. We are still on track for that and plan to dedicate more time to MX once we do that.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Sound Without Fury

Be sure to check out the interview with me this episode (number 141) of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, the world's first podcast dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and his world. We talk about bow ties, Sherlock Holmes and God, the late Paul Herbert, and much more. I've been a fan of this podcast for years and I was honored to be on it. It's the fastest hour in audio!

The Garden Gnome Sleuth



I am the one without the magnifying glass.
Whoa!

There’s a bit of snark going around cyberspace regarding the animated film Sherlock Gnomes. I never argue taste, especially when it comes to books, food, adult beverages – and movies. But I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

It wasn’t exactly the Canon, but Gnomeo and Juliet wasn’t Shakespeare either. I knew what I signed on for when I walked into the theater. After all, it is a movie about garden gnomes.

The filmmakers clearly have more than a passing knowledge of the source material. Doyle’s Doll Museum was an easy nod to a certain writer, but the Wisteria Lodge florist and the Sherrinford Moving van were delightful Easter eggs served up by somebody who knew a thing or two.

Although Moriarty comes straight from BBC Sherlock and the Holmes-Irene relationship is highly uncanonical, the character of Holmes is true to the original. The Great Detective, voiced by Johnny Depp, is brilliant, arrogant, utterly rational on the surface but with emotions beneath. He even takes Watson for granted as in the stories! (“Come at once if convenient – if inconvenient, come all the same” is not the demand of a man who realizes that his Boswell has a life.)

The storyline contains surprises, at least to me, even after I thought I had it all figured out. One of those surprises is that Sherlock Gnomes is ultimately a “message movie.” The message is heavy-handed so that kids won’t miss it, but it’s a good message.

There’s also some nice music by the executive producer, a fellow named Elton John.

I think Sherlock Gnomes is very good at being what it is – a fun take on some old friends. If that doesn’t appeal to you, you might want to skip it.  

In my Easter basket! 


Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Next Up: Murder at the Opera


You may not know this, but some Italians like opera. My father sure did. I remember with him at the Cincinnati Zoo back when the opera performed there during summers. Dad sang along, although I'm not sure he added much more than the animals.

Not being musical, I never thought much about opera until my wife and I hosted dinner a few years ago for several Russian musicians. One of them made the comment that opera has it all - the music, the drama, the costumes, the lavish sets. That made me look at opera a whole new way, and love it.

Naturally, it eventually occurred to build a mystery novel plot around an opera. The motive occurred to me at once, and therefrom sprang a tale. The great Sherloockian Vincent Starrett wrote a fine short story called "Murder at the Opera" in 1934, so I considered that title already taken. My effort is called Death Masque. Here's a preview from the back of the book:
Small town controversies can be murder.

When a newcomer to Erin, Ohio, proposes to tear down the historic Bijou Theater and erect in its place a boutique hotel, Sebastian McCabe adds “civic activist” to a long resume that already includes magician, mystery writer, professor, and amateur sleuth.

With the strategic help of brother-in-law Jeff Cody, Mac launches a far-reaching campaign to “Save the Bijou.” The issue becomes highly political when three eccentric mayoral candidates stake out their positions –  which one of them switches after a hefty campaign contribution.

“The plot machinations of grand opera seem positively guileless by comparison!” Mac cries. Can homicide be far behind?

The opera comparison is a natural one, for the new Erin Opera Company is staging an original work with a Mardi Gras theme. As murder strikes again, this time back stage, Sebastian McCabe becomes aware that many of the actors in this real-life drama are wearing metaphorical masks as well.  

Lynda Teal, Jeff’s wife, records much of Mac’s sleuthing for a podcast series, never imagining that the most dramatic audio of the concluding episode will come from the murderer. 


The terrific cover produced by Brian Belanger over the weekend made me impatient to share this early look. The book will be available in late summer. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

70 Years of Fun and Scholarship



One of the members of the Agra Treasurers of Dayton likes to recall that her father used to refer to Sherlockian meetings as “her literary society.”

And so it is. Amid the friendship and the socializing, Sherlock Holmes scion societies have always been primarily literary associations. Members read stories, they take quizzes about stories, and they often present and hear scholarly papers.

Some scion societies also publish. Perhaps the most published of all is the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis. In celebration of the club’s 70th anniversary, it recently published a book of essays called 70 Years by Gas Lamp: The Illustrious Clients’ Sixth Casebook. The first “casebook” was published in 1948, just two years after the club was founded by precocious teenager named Jerry Williamson.

Edited by Clients Mary Ann Bradley, BSI, Louise Haskett, and Melanie Hoffman, the 23 entries in 70 Years are impressive for the scope of their topics as well as their erudition. For example: Ann Margaret Lewis writes on the polyphonic motets of Lassus, Don Curtis on “Plumes, Pipes, and Lens,” Pat Ward on sex and violence in Sherlock Holmes, Pam Wampler on Holmes and Freud, Michael Whalen on “Rex Stout: Hoosier Heretic,” and Steven Doyle on the history behind what many believe is the worst story in the Canon.

Full disclosure: My own contribution is called “Sherlock Holmes Gone to the Dogs: Canine Capers, Canonical and Otherwise.”   

As in previous casebooks, not all the authors are Clients. Some of the chapters were originally talks delivered to the Clients. I particularly enjoyed Patrick Bennett Shaw’s reminiscences of his father, the great John Bennett Shaw; Leslie Klinger on “The Vampire and the Detective,” a Halloween talk; and Michael W. Homer on “Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and the Mormons.”

After all these years the game is still afoot, and as lively as ever. See for yourself in 70 Years by Gas Lamp, available from Wessex Press.    



Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Accent is on the Friends

Monica Schmidt at the podium for Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five. Photo by Marcy Mahle. 

Nothing energizes those strange people known as Sherlockians more than a good symposium. And such an event happened last weekend in Dayton.

Don’t take my word for it. As program chairman, I am somewhat biased.

Rob Nunn wrote a thorough and admittedly more objective account of Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five on his blog, “Interesting Though Elementary.” This was the first conference for Rob, author of The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street. His enthusiasm for the event shines through every paragraph of his post.

Rob concludes the post by saying “the more and more I go to events, the more I know that Sherlockiana isn’t just about the stories, it’s about the people you engage with. And these are some good people.”

So true! (Hence the title of this post.) And yet, Sherlockiana is also about our shared passion and the endless ways of approaching it. Despite all the books I’ve read and conferences I’ve attended over the past 50 years, each of the eight talks at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five offered me something new.

Veteran Sherlockian Brad Kefauver also offered a positive and insightful overview of his day in Dayton on his "Sherlock Peoria" blog. 

The conference has its roots in the nationally known Holmes/Doyle Symposium that began in 1981 under the leadership of the late Dr. Al Rodin. The Agra Treasurers, the Dayton-based scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars, has been putting on the symposium under the new name since 2014. This year’s attendance was the highest in that time, with 52 registrants. Our goal is to become a “must go” annual event for veteran Sherlockians and newcomers alike.

Planning for next year is underway. I’ll keep you posted.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Canon in Kentucky

Downtown Winchester, Ky.
"I hear of Sherlock everywhere since you became his chronicler," Mycroft Holmes told his younger and more energetic brother.

The world's first consulting detective is known, read, and loved everywhere. And so on tomorrow (March 8) I will be giving two talks on Sherlock Holmes in Winchester, Ky. - one at an assisted living center and one at a public library. That's about a hundred miles from our home in Cincinnati.

The topic of the first is "Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Sherlock Holmes: Life Lessons from the Great Detective." Seven residents of the Rose Mary C. Brooks Place have a Sherlock Holmes reading club that meets once a month. This month they have been reading my Holmes story "The Peculiar Persecution of John Vincent Harden" from my book Baker Street Beat. I'm pleased to be able to share with them life lessons from the Canon - although I'm pretty sure they could give me life lessons!

In re-reading the "John Vincent Harden" story, written long ago, I was amused to see the references to Lexington, Ky., which is only about a twenty minute drive from where I will be speaking.

The second talk, in the evening, will explain to patrons of the Clark County Library "What Every Writer Can Learn from Sherlock Holmes." And that's a lot.

It will be a fun day of talking about writing, wisdom, and Sherlock Holmes. And I suspect that Winchester, which I have never visited, will be very much like Erin, Ohio, the setting for my Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody mystery novels. I was flattered that the local paper, The Winchester Sun, took notice of my talks in this story. 

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Deck of Cards to Read, Not Play With



A visit to The Mysterious Bookshop at 58 Warren Street in Tribeca, New York City, is a gift that keeps on giving.

When we were there for Baker Street Irregulars & Friends Weekend in January, Ann saw and later bought a box of Mysterious Classics Cards created for the store. The 62 cards highlight books published between 1828 and 1950. They are cards to look at, not play games with. One of the cards describes the theme of the deck this way: 

“A collection of illustrations of the most colorful, important, or interesting original dust jackets or covers of classic mystery, crime, suspense, and espionage fiction. Each full-color card also contains a description placing it in historical context.”

Most of the significant mystery writers in that 122-year period are represented in the cards, making for a fascinating variety of subgenres.

Because the cards are in chronological order, The Hound of the Baskervilles comes in at No. 6. The first five, books published before the Hound, are:

1.      Mémoires de Vidocq.
2.      Revelations of a Lady Detective.
3.      The Mystery of Edwin Drood, by Charles Dickens.
4.      The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson.
5.      The Mystery of a Hansom Cab, by Fergus Hume.

Edgar Allen Poe, who invented the detective story, and Emile Gaboriau, whose hero Holmes called “a miserable bungler,” don’t get cards. Presumably that is for artistic reasons.

I’ve greatly enjoyed looking at the cards, which you can purchase here. For me they are a reminder that Sherlock Holmes is part of a detective story tradition that includes both predecessors and successors. I have read many of their adventures with great enjoyment over the years.

But only one name comes to my mind when someone refers to “The Great Detective.”