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, November 19, 2014

A Sherlockian in Lisbon

A Christopher Morley inscription from Nuno's collection

Nothing is more gratifying to me as a writer than to encounter someone who has enjoyed my mysteries. One of those fans for whom I have a special fondness is my Sherlockian friend Nuno Robles of Lisbon, Portugal, to whom I dedicated The Poisoned Penman. It’s a thrill for me to a have a reader in Europe who communicates with me quite regularly. He also turned out to be a very interesting interview:

Is Sherlock Holmes popular in Portugal?

Yes, of course, Sherlock Holmes is very popular in Portugal. All the stories have been translated and have been in print since the early days, I believe. In the last decade, with the Sherlock Holmes movies and with the “Sherlock” and “Elementary” TV  series, the popularity of Holmes has increased even more. And, in the last two summers, the Canon was distributed as a book series with two very popular daily newspapers. According to my local newspaper agent, these books always sold out and, if he had more copies, he would have sold them. The great thing about both series is that the covers were much nicer than the ones we can find in the book shops. Most of non-Holmes Conan Doyle books have been translated as well, but only a few remain in stock.

 How did you become a Sherlockian?

I first read the Sherlock Holmes series when I was 13-14 years old. My mother had (and still has) a complete collection of Agatha Christie novels, Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories, and also several Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler books. I read all those books really early on, but I always went back to Holmes. Those books are still in my mother’s collection, but in a very fragile condition. And, of course, I bought my own books as soon as I could.

One day (I can’t quite remember when, but it was many years ago) I read a Holmes book that I bought in London. That book was not written by Conan Doyle, but I found it fascinating and it was then that I was introduced to the fascinating (but also dangerous…) world of Holmes pastiches. The book was a paperback edition of The Seven Per-Cent Solution and I bought it in a bookstore in Charing Cross Road. After that, I bought some Portuguese-translated Holmes pastiches. I was lucky because those were very good and I enjoyed them immensely. I liked this so much that I wrote to Randall Stock. These days Randall runs the great website http://www.bestofsherlock.com/. His end-of-the-year Sherlock Holmes lists are a must-read for me. Randall wrote back immediately, with very detailed and fascinating information. From there, I subscribed to The Baker Street Journal and The Sherlock Holmes Society of London and I’ve been hooked ever since. So, although I don’t know if he actually still remembers me, I guess that me becoming a Sherlockian was all Randall’s fault. God bless him.

I’m a wine producer and, although I live in Lisbon with my wife and kids, I work in a farm about 100 kms from Lisbon. I often have to stay there at night and those Sherlock Holmes stories are a great company to those cold and rainy nights.

Do you read the original stories in English, Portuguese, or both?

When I first read the stories, I read them in Portuguese. Later, I read them in English. The annotated volumes edited by William Baring Gould and, later, Leslie Klinger, have been a great company of mine and invaluable source of information. When I finished reading the three Leslie Klinger books I felt that my knowledge of the Canon much better than before. I also felt much stronger. Those books are heavy!

Do you also collect Sherlockiana?

Yes, I do. Over the years I bought so many Holmes and Holmes-related books that I must say that I do collect Sherlockiana. However, my collection is very small, although very important to me. I hope that my kids will love Holmes as much as I do and that they’ll treasure it and enjoy it.

I should mention here that there was a very important person that helped me find most of my books of my Sherlockiana collection, Vincent “Vinnie” Brosnan in Los Angeles. Vincent run a mail-order book business (with a strong focus on Sherlockiana books, but also some other subjects) called “Sherlock in LA.” He had some great catalogues and, in later years, he also sold his books through ebay. Vinnie was a BSI and the most amazing person. Although we never met personally, we changed many letters and, later, e.mails. We spoke not only about books but also about our lives, our families, and our friendship. Through him, I found the most amazing books of my collection. He seemed to have everything! And, from Sherlock Holmes to Solar Pons, I bought many fascinating and first editions books from him. He died two years ago, and I still miss our letters and his Christmas postcards. I considered him a friend and I’m glad that I met him just because I was interested in some books and he was there.

As I live here in Portugal, and it’s expensive to go to the great events that the SHSL and many other societies organize, I don’t know many Shelockians. However, the ones I’ve met or changed correspondence with (you, Randall Stock, Vinnie, Nick Utechin, among some others) have always been great to meet and, for that alone, I’m very grateful to Conan Doyle.

What is the most prized item in your collection?

Compared to other collections, my own is very modest. But I have some nice items that I treasure and I’m really proud of. I have a first edition copy of Memoirs, a complete set of Strand magazines, and some very important reference books. I should mention a fine edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes published by Garden City Publishing in 1938 with a great preface by Christopher Morley. My edition has the bookplate of Edgar W. Smith and is signed by him, which is lovely. I have a signed first edition of one of the most important and influential reference books (in my opinion), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Another very important book to me is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, edited by Christopher Morley (Harcourt, Brace and Company 1944), of which I have a Morley-signed copy with his beautiful bookplate. I’m also very proud of my collection of first editions Solar Pons books, most of them signed by Derleth.

Do you belong to any Sherlockian groups?

Well, unfortunately there is no SH Society here in Lisbon or Portugal (at least that I’m aware of). But that’s an idea – who knows? I’m a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and I subscribe to The Baker Street Journal. I strongly hope that, in the near future, I’ll be able to go to one of the SHSL events and the BSI Dinner in New York in January….now that would be a great experience, I’m sure! I’m also a member of the John H. Watson Society, which has a great journal that I recommend to anyone reading this.

What Sherlockian websites do you usually check?

Well, Dan, I visit your blog on a weekly basis (and congratulations, it’s is very informative and an inspiration). I usually visit the SHSL website and the Baker Street Journal websites regularly to have some news and buy their publications. I also visit regularly the Randall Stock website, although it is not updated as much as I’d like  (http://www.bestofsherlock.com/), the great “Always 1895” website (http://always1895.net/), the Sherlockian website is great for reference (http://www.sherlockian.net/), the John Bennett Shaw 100 book list website is also a great reference that I often used (http://webspace.webring.com/people/sp/porlock/shaw_yop.html), the Barefoot On Baker Street is a great site that I strongly recommend (https://barefootonbakerstreet.wordpress.com/), as is the John H. Watson Society website (http://www.johnhwatsonsociety.com/), of which I’m a proud founding member. By the way, the John H Watson MD website is also a great and very informative read (http://www.johnhwatsonmd.com/). There are many others, I guess, but these are the ones I visit frequently. Oh, one more Internet source that I feel is most important, the Roger Johnson’s District Messenger monthly bulletins. Those bulletins are essential and I’m happy to be in Roger’s mailing list!

How about physical places of Sherlockian interest?

I hope that one day I’ll go to one of those Reichemback Falls events that the SHSL periodically organizes. That should be memorable. But I love London and I’ve visited the most obvious Sherlockian sites. I’ve been to Baker Street, of course – always in search of the real 221B. I like the museum, actually. It’s a cozy place and a nice site to visit. As is the Sherlock Holmes pub, by the way. I’ve been to the Strand, of course. I had a nice meal there. I went to see the Lyceum Theatre and the Royal Opera House. And I also went to the Langham Hotel, but I didn’t stay there.

How did you become familiar with my books?

I think that I first read about your books (No Police Like Holmes – yes, I’ve been your loyal reader since the beginning) in one of the Roger Johnson bulletins. He’s always been very supportive of your books and I think that it was in a District Messenger that I first read about you.

What do you like about them?

I like everything about them! In the first place, I like the stories and your writing. Your stories are very creative and unpredictable – and beautifully written. The dialogues are a pleasure to follow and so are your descriptions of the city, of the cafes, the college, etc. You really put us there, like watching a play, right in front of the action. Of course, the Holmes references are always a joy to read. But, most of all, I like your great sense of humor and the characters you’ve created. It never ceases to amaze me. And, of course, I feel that Jeff, Sebastian and Linda are part of the family these days. And it’s great to have the same feeling with Enoch Hale now. I was very happy when I first knew that you were starting a new series with Kieran. And I absorbed and loved the first book. Due to personal circumstances, I’m only starting to read the second Enoch Hale book now.
Which is your favorite Dan Andriacco mystery so far?

That’s hard to say, Dan. As I once told you, when it comes to your books, my experience has always been similar: I always enjoy your latest book most. As I became more familiar with the characters and their environment I seemed to enjoy the books even more than before. But I think that I must say that my favorite is No Police Like Holmes. And this is no contradiction to what I first said. It’s not that I think it is better than the others, but because it is the book that introduced me to your writing, to those characters, and to the fascinating universe of Dan Andriacco’s creative literature. 

Nuno and his son

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