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.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

October Brings Thoughts of Moriarty


Part of the Halloween decorations of Sherlockians Bill and Teresa Harris

October has me thinking about the late, lamented Professor James Moriarty.

William Baring-Gould assigned the criminal genius’s birthday (on zero evidence) to October 31. And by coincidence, The Tankerville Club of Cincinnati, which I serve as Most Scandalous Member, is holding a Professor Moriarty Film Festival on Oct. 22.

While Holmes was the first private consulting detective, we must not forget that the Napoleon of Crime—“organizer of half that is evil and almost all that is undetected in this great city”—was equally unique. Before him, there was no criminal mastermind in fiction. As such, he is as much an archetype as Holmes himself.

How could it have been otherwise? Holmes was originally expected to be vanquished at the Reichenbach, and it would require a worthy opponent to do that without diminishing the great detective’s iconic status. In the process, Moriarty also became an icon—the Master Criminal.

There are many other Master Criminals in fiction, often as the nemesis of the hero: Nayland Smith had Dr. Fu Manchu; Nero Wolfe, Arnold Zeck; Superman, Lex Luthor and dozens of others; the 87th Precinct, the Deaf Man; and James Bond, Ernst Stravro Blofeld and his S.P.E.C.T.R.E. But none of these villains rises to the stature of Moriarty, and it is likely that none of them would have existed if he had not come first.

The Tankerville Club’s Professor Moriarty Film Festival will include the following:  

  • The Final Problem (Jeremy Brett as Holmes, Eric Porter as Moriarty)
  • The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Wontner, Lyn Harding)
  • The Woman in Green (Basil Rathbone, Henry Daniell)

Each of these productions ends with Moriarty falling from a great height, either the Reichenbach or a clear echo of it. Perhaps down deep that is what we really love about Moriarty—the assurance that good defeats
evil in the end, even when that evil comes in the form of a genius.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Lucky #13 -- My New McCabe-Cody Mystery


Every year I give myself a book for my birthday—a book I wrote. By that I mean that my annual Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mystery is officially published each year on my natal day.

This year’s offering, The English Garden Mystery, was especially fun to write. All of my books owe a lot to the Golden Age of mystery fiction, that period roughly between the two worlds wars of the last century, but none more than this one, the 13th book in the McCabe-Cody series. 

The English Garden Mystery is an homage to Golden Age great Ellery Queen (cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee sharing a joint pseudonym) starting with the title. The names of the first nine Queen novels all had a nationality adjective followed by a noun, from The Roman Hat Mystery through The Spanish Cape Mystery.

Beyond that, Mac and Jeff’s latest adventure shares a number of other tropes with the early Queen:

·         The subtitle “A Problem in Deduction.” Check!

·       An eccentric family living under one roof or in a compound of nearby homes. Check!

·         A map showing where the family members live. Check!

·         A Shakespearean theme running through the storyline. Check!

·         A “Challenge to Reader” at the point in the novel when all the clues necessary to solve the murder have been present. Check!

·         A perfectly logical solution—which turns out to be false, thus creating a kind of double ending when the real solution is unveiled. Check!

·         A dying message from the victim identifying the killer. Check—or maybe not!

The cousins Queen had multiple names. Manfred Bennington Lee was born Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky and Frederic Dannay started out as Daniel Nathan. I like to that Dannay, who was the Sherlockian of the duo, wouldn’t mind that one of the suspects in The English Garden Murders is a pharmacist named Nathan Daniel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Friendship is What It's All About

Linda Crohn, Jonathan Shimberg, and Bob Sharfman -- Sherlockians all

At the heart of the Canon, more than any mystery, is the friendship of Holmes and Watson.

Christopher Morley recognized that in 1944 when he titled his ground-breaking annotated anthology Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship.

Being a Sherlockian is also largely about friendship. As with any interest, Holmes brings together individuals who otherwise may have never met, and that often leads to bonds that transcend distance, politics, religion, and even sports.

Last weekend, Ann and I were pleased to welcome to Cincinnati three of our Sherlockian friends from Chicago. Linda Crohn, Jonathan Shimberg, and Bob Sharfman made the trek from the Windy City to attend a meeting of the Tankerville Club that evening, then go west the next day for the Illustrious Clients confab.

We had a grand time, highlighted perhaps by introducing the Chicagoans (and Cindy Brown of Dallas and Columbus) to the Cincinnati taste treat known and goetta. You can’t get it anywhere else, but Cincinnatians eat a million pounds of it a year (no exaggeration).

If you don’t belong to a Sherlockian scion society, join one. If there isn’t one near you, go to one that’s not near you—then start one near you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Sherlock Holmes Among the Royals

Royalty in Baker Street -- The King of Bohemia

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the only British monarch in most of our lifetimes, has me thinking about Sherlock Holmes and royalty.

We all know that Holmes shot a patriotic V.R. in bullet holes on the wall of his flat at 221B in honor of Victoria Regina, the “certain gracious lady” who honored him at Windsor with “a remarkably fine emerald tie pin” for his efforts in the Bruce-Partington affair. (Hilton Cubitt went to London for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.) 

Holmes also had many royal clients, most memorably the King of Bohemia—whoever he was. Since there is no such monarch, the man’s true identity has always been a ripe field for speculation. Edgar W. Smith and William S. Baring-Gould, among others, believed him to be the future King Edward VII.

Certainly, Victoria’s playboy son is “The Illustrious Client” in the story of that name, where the armorial bearings upon a brougham revealed his identity to Watson. The same phrase is used by James Holder to describe the individual (clearly a royal wastrel) who gave him “one of the most precious public possessions of the empire” as security for a loan.

The “King of Bohemia” was engaged to the daughter of the King of Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden), who engaged Holmes’s services at least twice, according to “The Noble Bachelor” and “The Final Problem.”

Moving down the royal family tree, John Clay—murderer, thief, smasher, and forger—was the grandson of a royal duke. After that, the royal connections to Baker Street thin out. Six busts of Napoleon were involved in a crime spree, Watson lived on Queen Anne Street, and Charles Augustus Milverton was the king of blackmailers.

But Sherlock Holmes, called “Il re dei detective” (the king of detectives) in one Italian text,  was never much impressed by family and titles. Perhaps the monarch that meant the most to him was the queen bee and her royal jelly. After all, the magnum opus of his later years included Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Shades of Conan Doyle in Cincinnati!

Medium Laura Pruden's home, since torn down

The next meeting of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati will take place at a Mexican restaurant just two blocks from where Arthur Conan Doyle (you’ve heard of him?) apparently met with a medium in 1923.

The medium’s name was Laura A. Pruden. Conan Doyle encountered her in 1922 in Chicago and then again the following April during a visit to what he called “the great city of Cincinnati.” In his book, Our Second American Adventure, he reports:  

“I visited Mrs. Pruden, who is certainly one of the great mediums of the world. Her slate-writing performance was even more remarkable than that which she gave me last year. All the questions which I wrote down were duly answered between the closed slates, and a running fire of raps was kept up all the time. Finally we asked her to sit at the other side of the room, but the raps continued merrily in full light right under our hands as they lay upon the table. What say you to that, Mr. Sceptic?”

Read the whole chapter at:

https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php/Our_Second_American_Adventure#II._A_Lonely_Interlude

There is also an account by my friend Jeff Suess in the second issue of the graphic novel series Cincinnati’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Check that out at https://cincycuriosities.com/

Conan Doyle doesn’t specifically say he met the psychic at her home, but that is the inference. She lived at 911 Chateau, in what has become known as Cincinnati’s Incline District. The family sold the property upon Mrs. Pruden’s death in 1939, and the home was torn down in 2010. But surely her spirit remains.

(Thanks for Ann Brauer Andriacco and Jeff Suess for their help on this.) 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

A Study in Sherlock Holmes 1942

A Study in Scarlet may not be the favorite Holmes story of most Sherlockians, but the title is surely the one most played upon by authors. Consider:

  • The first “BBC Sherlock” episode, broadcast on July 25, 2010, was A Study in Pink.
  • Charlotte Holmes debuted in A Study in Charlotte.
  • Neil Gaiman’s “A Study in Emerald” short story is a classic mash up of Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, which Gaiman described as “Lovecraft/Holmes fan fiction.”
  • A Study in Terror was the first film to have Holmes solve the Jack the Ripper murders.
  • Michael Cox called his book about the Granada series with Jeremy Brett A Study in Celluloid.
  • The first Klinger/King anthology was A Study in Sherlock.
  • In the field of scholarship, Donald Redmond gave us A Study in Sources.

Now comes A Study in Crimson: Sherlock Holmes 1942 by Robert J. Harris, inspired by the Basil Rathbone movies—especially the first three, in which World War II plays such a large part.

In this re-imagining of the Baker Street saga, Holmes and Watson are in their 50s and met at Bart’s after the Great War. Watson was wounded by German guns, and Holmes was a spy. Now we’re in the middle of a second world war, and the Diogenes Club has been bombed.

The novel is a pastiche of the Universal films in ways that go beyond the timeframe. Holmes calls Watson “old fellow,” as he does in the movies but never in the stories. Mrs. Hudson is Scottish, like actress Mary Gordon, although Holmes said in “The Naval Treaty” that “she has as good an idea of breakfast as a Scotchwoman,” which implies she was not a Scotchwoman. The description of Lestrade matches actor Dennis Hoey, not the ferret-faced Inspector of the stories.   

But the author notes in the afterword that the Watson of A Study in Crimson is not the bubus Britannicus portrayed by Nigel Bruce. And he certainly isn’t.


Although described by the publisher as a thriller, the plotline is more of a whodunnit—and a good one. At Mycroft’s request, Holmes is on the trail of a modern-day Ripper who calls himself Crimson Jack and is duplicating—though not every detail—the crimes of the original madman. But this one is not mad, and the reader can follow the clues to a satisfactory conclusion.

If you are a stickler for canonical authenticity, this isn’t the book for you. Otherwise, hop on and enjoy the ride.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

A Book Where You are Sherlock Holmes

Many of us encountered Sherlock Holmes at a young age, and many of us about the same time read books written in the second person, where the reader becomes a character who has to make decisions that send the story off in one direction or another. But only recently did I come across a newly published book that combines the two.

The "Can You Survive" approach to three stories from The Adventures, adapted by Ryan Jacobson and Deb Mercier, is a clever introduction to Holmes -- faithful in some respects, but not so much in others. So I put some questions to Jacobson.   

Who is the ideal reader for this book? 

My goal as a writer is to create books that I would’ve enjoyed as a kid—and that’s no easy task because I was very much a reluctant reader. My only bookish tendencies were to page through superhero comic books. But when I was in fifth grade, my mom came home with a Choose Your Path book. I became hooked on that format too. Reading it felt like a contest, like playing a game. I always wanted to get through those stories without making a mistake, without dying. I don’t believe I ever did.

Of course, one could argue that Sherlock Holmes is a superhero; I’m certainly not the first to suggest it. As such, I believe the ideal reader for Can You Survive the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes? is a middle-grader (around 8 to 12 years old) who loves playing games—including video games—and who enjoys mysteries and/or superhero stories.

How and when did you get the idea of adapting Sherlock Holmes as a can-you-survive book?

It actually began as a joke. In late 2010, my friend Liz and I laughed at the notion of turning Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice into a Choose Your Path book. Then I was like, “Wait a minute...” We spent the next couple of hours planning our new business venture.

When it came time to consider book options, we reviewed a list of works in the public domain. I had an “in” with a book distributor that specialized in nature titles, so we intentionally chose a book with nature appeal (in order to get picked up for national distribution). That book was Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. Our second selection was The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. An iconic character, familiar stories, name recognition, it was an obvious choice from a business standpoint. As an added
bonus, Sherlock Holmes is my favorite character from classic literature, so I couldn’t wait to work on a book about him.

My two business partners and I didn’t quite know what we were doing when we published these books in 2011; we made a lot of mistakes (primarily in marketing). We still managed to sell a few thousand copies, and now we’re excited to be relaunching this series more than a decade later.

How did you pick which stories to adapt?

I chose to adapt The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, which immediately narrowed the field to 12 stories. Unfortunately, I couldn’t utilize all 12 stories because our Choose Your Path books tend to be around 160 pages in length. My co-author, Deb Mercier, and I determined that we’d be able to adapt three stories from the book. “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” was a lock. It was the first Sherlock Holmes story I ever read, and it’s still my favorite. Our second choice was more of a popularity contest. We researched lists of the most beloved stories. Not surprisingly, “The Red-Headed League” ranked highly on most lists. Our third and final story required different criteria because we intended to take some creative liberties with it. The option that fit well with what we wanted to do was “The Adventure of the Engineer’s Thumb.”

We are used to having Dr. Watson tell the tales. Why did you make Holmes the viewpoint character?

Decisions like these are largely about what appeals to our audience. I think it’s safe to assume that our middle-grade readers would prefer to become Sherlock Holmes over Dr. Watson. Of course, there’s a more technical problem with Dr. Watson: He isn’t the decision-maker in these stories. If the reader were to play the part of the good doctor, there wouldn’t be many choices to make. The story-propelling decisions all belong to Holmes, so the reader must become the consulting detective.

Some Sherlockians may be dismayed at the paths that end in Holmes being wrong and even ceasing to be a detective. How would you respond to that?

I love this question. It’s something I never considered. Hopefully, I can appease the Sherlockians by saying the main character isn’t exactly Sherlock Holmes; it’s the reader trying to be Sherlock Holmes. When Holmes is right, it’s because the reader was right. When Holmes is wrong, well, that’s also the reader. Those wrong paths do need to end with some sort of finality. I believe having Holmes cease to be a detective plays better than having some random mishap befall him. I hope readers of the book agree.

Can You Survive The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes will be released on Oct. 11 by Lake 7 Creative. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

The Five Best Sherlockian Blogs


I’m greatly honored (and surprised) that Feedspot has chosen this blog as one of the five best Sherlock Holmes blogs “curated from thousands of blogs on the web and ranked by traffic, social media followers, domain authority & freshness.”

My thanks to Anuj Agarwal, founder of Feedspot!

And I’m especially pumped to be in such great company. Leading the list is I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, the blog associated with the first podcast dedicated to Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockians. Number two is Brad Kevaufer’s inimitable Sherlock Peoria, notable for the wide range of topics and for same-day coverage of events.  

This blog lands in the middle of the pack.

Number four is master chronologist Vincent Wright’s Historical Sherlock, which is always fascinating and sometimes ground-breaking. At number five, Alistair Duncan’s Doylockian is aptly named for its focus on Arthur Conan Doyle.

Check out the list with links at https://blog.feedspot.com/sherlock_holmes_blogs/

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Baker Street Comes to Bloomington

Ann and Dan Andriacco and Glen Miranker

For almost a hundred years, the American Midwest has been a hotbed of Sherlockian activity. Vincent Starrett, Jay Finley Christ, Elmer Davis, Dr. Gray Chandler Briggs, and T.S. Eliot were all Midwesterners. So was Michael Whalen, long-time Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars.

The Midwest is also home to a number of legendary BSI scion societies and, since 2019, the BSI archives at the Lilly Library on the campus of Indiana University at Bloomington. It is only fitting, then, that the Lilly is now hosting the amazing “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects” exhibit through Dec. 16.

Even more appropriately, a special Midwest scion day was held this past Saturday at the Lilly, highlighted by a talk by Glen Miranker, who is so generously sharing with the world a small part of his Sherlockian collection through this carefully curated exhibit. Facebook exploded with posts about the event in real time last weekend, so you may have seen many photos and know a lot about it. But this is my personal take:

Ann and I saw the exhibit in New York in January. That was great, but this was better—more intimate, and more time allowed to gawk closer up.

Although I am indisputably a book person, the first editions and the many handwritten manuscripts, letters, and diaries of Arthur Conan Doyle were not what moved me most. I was more blown away to see the iconic Sidney Paget and Frederic Dorr Steele illustrations. Think of Paget’s Holmes and Watson on the train, or every illustration that Steele drew for “Wisteria Lodge”—the originals, and many more, were there in Bloomington.

But even that was overshadowed by Glen’s wonderful presentation, in which he told the stories behind several books in the exhibit—how he acquired his copy of Beeton’s Christmas Annual, the detective work involved in tracing a non-existent library from which a pirated edition came, and his attempts to communicate with the former owner of the only known first edition of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes in a dust jacket (complicated because that individual is in prison for murder.)

And what is Glen’s Holy Grail as a collector? The first manuscript page of The Hound of the Baskerville. He already owns the second and third pages.

After the Lilly closed for the day, the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis and the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati hosted a dinner for 40 Sherlockians at the nearby Irish Lion. A whopping 14 scions from six states were represented at the event, highlighted by Sherlockian Show & Tell. And Jayantika Ganguly joined us from India. (Maria Fleishhack was at the exhibit from Germany.)

The entire day scintillated!  

The Lilly Library on the Indiana University campus


Tuesday, August 2, 2022

. . . Where It Is Always 1895


Adaptations bringing Sherlock Holmes into the current era didn’t start with Benedict Cumberbatch and his three-patch problem, or even Basil Rathbone fighting the Nazis. Holmes on the screen has often kept up with the times. For many of us, though, the late Victorian setting is part of the Canon’s allure.

That world, the one which Arthur Conan Doyle wrote about, was at the heart of a well-staged conference on “Sherlock Holmes and the British Empire” last weekend at Bear Mountain, NY, sponsored by the Baker Street Irregulars and open to all. About 125 Sherlockians attended.

With 12 presentations on Saturday, July 30, and 10 on Sunday, July 31, the range of topics was amazing. Marshall S. Berdan set the stage with an overview of the British empire. From there, speakers branched off to such subjects as scion societies in the Commonwealth, publishing the Canon around the empire, food, Kipling, India (and the plundering thereof), Canada, Egypt, whist, guns, the armed forces, the Privy Council, the five most important soldiers in the Canon, Silver Blaze and horse racing in art, and “Women, Power, and the Empire in the Canon.”

Ashley D. Polasek’s talk on “Sherlock Holmes on Stage Across the British Empire” wasn’t a survey of plays. Rather, she speculated on Holmes performing as an actor during his travels of the Great Hiatus. Peggy Perdue’s talk on British Colonial Africa put us into a jeep for a safari. Alex Katz and Karen Wilson rocked the house with a musical review, putting Sherlockian lyrics to well-known tunes of the Victorian era.  

Saturday evening offered the opportunity to play whist (using a specially created Sherlockian edition of a classic deck of playing cards from Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee), buy books and other Sherlockian goodies (which I did), enjoy the musical talents of Henry Boote, and mingle with old and new friends.

The BSI presents a conference about every four years—although this one was delayed two years by COVID. Earlier conferences have all been followed by a book containing the talks in essay form. I’m looking forward to the same treatment for “Sherlock Holmes and British Empire.” It would be a great resource for those of us who attended as well as for those not so fortunate.