If one claims to have a library, not a collection, one needs a lot of reference books – even in this search-engine age. So I was delighted recently when a friend gifted me with a copy of Good Old Index: The Sherlock Holmes Handbook by Thomas W. Ross, published in 1997.
I already own the similarly named Good Old Index and its revision, The New Good Old Index, by William D. Goodrich. It's been an invaluable resource to me for many years. Comparisons between the Ross and Goodrich books are inevitable – and perhaps helpful. At this point I can only offer first impressions, having used my new acquisition very little so far for actual research.
The Ross book is slight compared to The New Good Old Index – only 171 pages compared to the older and better-known book’s 602 pages. One reason is that Ross offers some prose under each entry, albeit in telegraphic style. Goodrich just has the entry, and the page number in the Doubleday Complete where it can be found. Those page numbers are very helpful! But each gets its own line, which takes up a lot of space.
Under “Newspapers,” for example, Goodrich lists every newspaper mentioned in the Canon, with the corresponding page number. Ross only mentions a few journals by name, he but describes how Holmes uses newspapers in various specific stories and how they play into the plot in others.
To find out something about Holmes’s thoughts on religion in Goodrich, one must to go to the massive (128-page) entry on “Sherlock Holmes” to find just one sub-entry leading to the famous passage in “The Naval Treaty.” Ross does much better with references to five stories, although he misses some opportunities.