|A pre-beard Ira gets the Morley-Montgomery Award from BSJ editor Steven Rothman|
One of the new speakers to Holmes, Doyle, & Friends this year is Ira Matetsky, a name well known in the Sherlockian world and among devotees of the great 20th century detective Nero Wolfe. Ira won the Morley-Montgomery Award for the best essay in the Baker Street Journal in 2019. Let's ask him a few questions:
You have been the Werowance (President) of the Wolfe Pack since 2007. Which came first for you, Holmes or Wolfe?
I discovered Holmes, as so many of us do, in elementary school, about two decades before I discovered Wolfe – but I became active in organized Wolfean activities, through the Wolfe Pack, before I made the transition from casual to dedicated Sherlockian.
Why do you think that so many Sherlockians are also Wolfeans?
Although the worlds of Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe are different in many ways, both embody fine writing, memorable characters, and overall excellence in detective fiction.
What keeps you coming back to Baker Street?
The joys found in the Canon and in the Writings About the Writings, the ability to contribute to Sherlockian scholarship even at this late date, and the fun of sharing time and fellowship with so many others sharing these same interests.
How and when did you become a Sherlockian, as opposed to a reader and fan of the tales?
About ten years ago, the late Peter Crupe, a Wolfe Pack member who had spoken at our Assembly about Rex Stout and the BSI, invited me to attend meetings of a local scion society he chaired, the Montague Street Lodgers of Brooklyn. I soon learned that in and near my home in New York City there were quite a number of scion societies and other groups in which I could participate, and I started attending just about all of them. Around the same time, an unsolicited copy of the first issue of The Watsonian showed up in the Wolfe Pack’s post office box, courtesy of the late Don Libby. And then Ross Davies, with whom I had worked in the past on both Wolfean and legal-history projects, invited me to contribute to the first Sherlock Holmes-themed issue of his Green Bag Almanac and Reader. Within a short time, it was as if the whole world was telling me to spend more time thinking about Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. And so I have.
You are a master researcher with a strong interest in the publication and bibliographical history of the Canon, among other Sherlockian and Doylean topics. What research discovery gave you the greatest satisfaction?
There are a few. My first published Sherlockian paper grew out of a scion meeting I attended. Two experienced Sherlockians were debating the interpretation of a line from one of the stories, and I had an idea for a new angle on the issue. So during a break in the meeting, I did some Googling on my Blackberry and come up with something. Robert Katz suggested I write it up for an article. That was around 2015 and I’ve been contributing to Sherlockian books and periodicals ever since. Probably my most important contribution was my analysis that I believe debunks the often-told tale that the editors of The Strand Magazine intended to invite Sidney Paget’s brother Walter Paget, rather than Sidney, to illustrate The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Steve Rothman was kind enough to publish that piece in The Baker Street Journal, and Steve Doyle made it the subject of the issue cover, a fact that I didn’t know until I got my copy in the mail.
To what Sherlockian groups do you belong?
As I mentioned, in and near New York we have, or have had, quite a number of groups. The closest scion to me geographically is the Priory Scholars of New York, whose live meetings are held in a nearby restaurant that I can walk to. I’ve attended various other scions; among other things, I’m a Master Copper Beech-Smith in the Sons of the Copper Beeches in Philadelphia, and a Certified SOB through the Sherlockians of Baltimore. I’m also fortunate enough to have been invested in both the Baker Street Irregulars (“The Final Problem”) and the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes (“The Lawyer Whose Name Was Given in the Paper”).
What does it mean to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?
It’s a hobby, it’s a source of intellectual activity and enjoyment and friendships, and it keeps me off the streets at night.
What question haven’t I asked that you want to answer?
One you’ve asked me before, but not in this interview, is whether I’ll
be attending and speaking at the Dayton Conference this year. The answer is yes, and I look forward to
seeing many of you who are reading this there.
To register for Holmes, Doyle, & Friends, go to http://www.agratreasurers.net/holmes--doyle----friends--2022.html