Lynne Stephens will talk about “Dining Out with Sherlock Holmes” at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 25. Let’s learn more about her.
How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?
My mom diligently watched the PBS Mystery! anthology series in the 1980’s. Whenever I was home during or after college, I’d watch the Granada series with her. We both eagerly anticipated new episodes. She’d mail me clipped-out articles from The Washington Post about the series, or any news about Jeremy Brett, David Burke, and Edward Hardwicke.
How and when did you become a Sherlockian?
My answer varies depending on your choice of definition for “Sherlockian”! Watching the Granada series was the start. During the late ’80s/early ’90s, when I was a frequent contributor to the science fiction magazine Starlog, my “beat” covered all things British. By then I was the Anglophile/Shakespeare/theater fan of the Starlog team, so I “nibbled around the edges” of Holmes a lot. I wrote a short bio of Arthur Conan Doyle. I interviewed actors who had performed in Sherlock Holmes productions, including John Neville and Alex Jennings. I suppose I can place Patrick Stewart and Daniel Davis in that category, if you choose to include the two Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes featuring “Moriarty” as “Holmes productions.”
My Holmes interest then went fallow for many years, until Sherlock rekindled it. Around 2012, my pal, Cindy Coppock, told me about a local scion society, Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City, MD, in which I promptly became very active. I’ve made friends with many members through our shared Holmes and Holmes-tangential passions, including British history, theater, and travel. I also returned to writing, with articles published in the Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine.
Your talk involves food. Tell us about your own relationship with food, cooking, and/or dining out.
Well, I eat. As so many of us do. But I can barely tell a roux from a rue. I doubt I have a greater or deeper passion for food than the average person. My husband and I rarely dine out because he has Ménière’s disease and must eat a very low-salt diet.
How did your interest in Holmes and your gastronomic interests come together?
ACD’s Holmes stories often illustrate the drastic lifestyle differences between the poor and the wealthy in late Victorian society. Focusing on London food—what, where, and by whom it was consumed—provides a fascinating and sometimes horrifying sociological snapshot of this era.
How did you research this talk?
Aside from re-reading the Holmes stories in which he or Watson mention restaurants, I cast a net onto the interwebs. I’ve visited Rules, and dined at Simpson’s in the Strand. Also, I’ve seen eel pie with my own eyes. Mind you, I didn’t actually eat it, but I looked at it. That earns me half-credit, right?
What Sherlockian events and conferences have you taken part in?
Over the past ten years I’ve attended or presented at a number of “A Scintillation of Scions,” sponsored by Watson’s Tin Box. I also presented at the last two “A Saturday with Sherlock Holmes at the Pratt Library” in Baltimore.
What was your favorite and why?
Impossible to choose. Wherever two or more Sherlockians are gathered, a good time will be had.
Do you belong to any Sherlockian groups?
I’ve attended meetings hosted by several scion societies, but “home base” is Watson’s Tin Box. In 2019 I was honored to be Gasogene XXX. (…yes, and the jokes about my being the “x-rated” gasogene were thick on the ground….)
What has it meant to you to be part of the far-flung Sherlockian community?
My life would be inordinately mundane if I hadn’t stepped into the Sherlockian world. The life-long friendships I’ve been honored to make—curious, imaginative, luminous people—are an extension of my family.
After this summer, my husband and I will both be retired, with more time to travel. My hope is that over the next few years I might be able to attend some Holmesian events in Britain, and meet even more “far-flung” members of the world-wide Holmes community.
What question haven’t I asked you that I should?
What are your answers to a Sherlockian version of “person, place, and thing?”
Person: Listening in awe to (my favorite actor) Ian McKellen compare the wonder and fascination of Sherlock Holmes to his beloved city of London at the opening party for the Museum of London’s exhibit, Sherlock Holmes: The Man Who Never Lived And Will Never Die, in 2014.
Place: Standing next to the plunge basin of the Reichenbach Falls, in 1992, drenched in spray.
Thing: Why is the security guard letting me hold this? An original Beeton’s Christmas Annual in my gloved and trembling hands, in the storage facility of a London auction house, early 1990s.