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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Shades of Vincent!

This evening will find me, in company with my wife Ann and our friend Felicia Carparelli, holding forth at a dinner meeting of the Torists International in Chicago. I will be discussing the dog the didn't bark, the hound from hell, and other canine capers, canonical and otherwise. In other words, my topic is man's best friend.

The Windy City has many claims to fame, its politics not least among them. But Chicago always makes me think of one of its late residents, the great Sherlockian Vincent Starrett. Among other distinctions, he wrote The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, which was formative for me in my early reading. Later editions of that book include his short story, "The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet," my favorite Sherlocker pastiche.

And, of course, he is the author of the iconic poem "1895" and the prose version of same, which stands at the beginning of my forthcoming mystery novel, The 1895 Murder. 

Starrett also wrote mysteries, so I checked the shelves of my home library to see I have any. Ah, yes. In The Third Mystery Companion, published around 1945, lurks his novella, "Murder at the Opera." On another shelf I found The World's Greatest Spy stories, also published near the end of World War II and including Starrett's "Dilemma at Shanghai." There's a nice introduction to the story.  Here's an excerpt:

"I have known Mr. Vincent Starrett for some 57 years and have alternately loathed and loved him; I mean, of course, his work. The present example of it seems to me to be in his second manner, which isn't quite as good as his first or as lame as his third. The story gets into the book because it is Mr. Starrett's only spy story and he would like to see it preserved among so many better specimens of the genre . . . The involutions of the mystery are fairly ingenious, I think; but of course I'm prejudiced."

The author this introduction? Vincent Starrett! He edited the book.

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