|An 18th century cipher device on display at the National Cryptologic Museum|
It's called the National Cryptologic Museum, and my wife and I greatly enjoyed visiting it last month in Ft. Meade, MD. It tells the story of the machines and the people involved in creating and breaking codes from ancient times to the present day. The human stories fascinated me even more than the history of, for example, the famous Enigma Machine from World War II.
But for all its wonders, this great museum has a serious gap. There is not even a mention of the man who broke the code of the Dancing Men, Sherlock Holmes! Fortunately, Dancing to Death, edited by Ray Betzner and David F. Morrill, fills the gap.
Part of the Baker Street Irregulars Manuscript Series, this volume covers every conceivable aspect of "The Adventure of the Dancing Men," including the cipher itself. Dana Richards's "Codes, Ciphers and the Canon" expands the topic to include secret writings throughout the Sacred Writings.
The heart of the book, however, is a facsimile of the original manuscript of the story, with annotations and commentary. As a writer, I also find it fascinating to see the author's process at work, adding and deleting to produce the final story as we know it.
In a talk about "The Dancing Men" to the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis earlier this year, co-editor Ray Betzner confessed that he has always felt uneasy about this story because he blames Holmes for the death of the detective's client, Hilton Cubitt. Read the book to find out why.
Ray Betzner will be one of the speakers at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Five in Dayton next March. Another speaker, retired NSA employee Brent Morris, will talk about codes and ciphers in the Canon. Register here.
|A code machine at the Cryptologic Museum|