There are a lot of candidates for the title of “Most
Energetic Sherlockian,” but Jim Hawkins is certainly among them. And on March
25, he will be among the eight speakers at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference
in Dayton, OH. Let’s learn a little about him.
How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?
Honestly, not until my 40th birthday in 1984 in Norman, OK. My wife gave me the Baring-Gould Annotated Sherlock Holmes.
How and when did you become a Sherlockian?
When I read about John Bennett Shaw in the Annotated, I decided to become like him, whom I had never met but I had already come under his spell. At that moment, I was a Sherlockian, or Doylean, or, in truth, a Shawian, or however one says that.
Briefly describe your connection with John Bennett Shaw, the subject of your talk in Dayton.
As I mentioned, I read about Shaw and heard interviews with him in New York City on National Public Radio during the BSI Weekends. I was hired by the Southern Baptist Convention in 1985 to be their choral music consultant to Baptist churches all over the USA. One of my tasks was to assign teachers for youth, adult, and senior adult classes for our two-week-long summer music conferences in Glorieta, NM. Since I had to be present both weeks, I did some investigating and discovered that our conference center was only 18 miles from John and Dorothy Shaw’s home in Santa Fe. From my first visit in 1986 to their home at 1917 Fort Union Drive, our friendship grew, as did my interest in Sherlock Holmes. I became a serious, fun-loving Sherlockian, just like my mentor.
What has been the response to your Shaw website, johnbennettshaw.com?
It has been
overwhelming and amazing. I first began the Friends of John Bennett Shaw on
asking Sherlockians who had encountered John in any way to send their letters and stories to the site. Hundreds of people were willing to send programs, letters, and photos of John, especially after I began posting letters, quotes, and photos from The Sherlock Holmes Collections at Wilson Library located at the University of Minnesota. Tim Johnson, the curator, was most helpful in supporting our goal of making Shaw available to Sherlockians everywhere.
Not long after the Facebook page became popular, I got notes from Evy Herzog and Susan Rice saying, “Hawkins, we don’t do Facebook. We want to see what’s going on, so build a website we can enjoy!” I did.
Why is John Bennett Shaw still important and worthy of a presentation almost 30 years after his death?
It’s the passion for his genuineness and authenticity. He did everything he did with Sherlock Holmes out of love for the stories and the character. He was an evangelist on fire for Holmes.
Let me quote Phillip Shreffler, the editor of the Baker Street Journal
that was devoted completely to John Bennett Shaw. “It is unlikely that any man
since Arthur Conan Doyle himself has brought the authentic and Canonical
Sherlock Holmes to so many people, and so many people to Sherlock Holmes. And
no man, including Conan Doyle, ever did it with such love.” And from Mattias
Boström in his book From Holmes to Sherlock: “For a whole generation of
Sherlockians, no one was as important as Shaw . . . If it was possible that one
person could make the worldwide interest in Sherlock Holmes continue as well as
grow, that person was John Bennett Shaw.”
What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?
I was away from Holmes activities for 16 years when I was working for Southwest Airlines, and when I retired I realized how much I had missed the world of Sherlockians, so I jumped back in.
My work on the Shaw project has put me in touch with so many important Sherlockians. Suddenly I was friends with most of the actively publishing Sherlockians in the United States. You understand that Sherlockians are ranked by the knowledge they have of the stories and by the stories they can tell about those stories. (Are you following this?) At my age, I didn’t have time to waste, so I went right to the top: Peter Blau and Evelyn Herzog knew Shaw intimately and have the best stories about him. Unfortunately, many of John’s friends have passed, but there is a younger echelon of Sherlockians who knew him. Two of those are Ray Betzner and Steven Doyle. Both men met John in one of his Sherlockian Symposiums, and both are great storytellers. There isn’t room to list the new friends I’ve made through my work on John Bennett Shaw.
To what Sherlockian groups do you belong?
Baker Street Irregulars (2022), Nashville Scholars of the Three Pipe Problem (1987), The STUD Society of Chicago, and the B3M (the Brothers 3 of Moriarty).
Besides Holmes, Doyle, & Friends, what other major Sherlockian events are on your calendar this year?
The only event for sure is the May 26-27 event, “Lone Star Holmes,” put on by The Crew of the Barque Lone Star in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
What is your investiture in the BSI?
“The Hans Sloane of My Age.”
With whom do you share that nom? (Leading question!)
With John Bennett Shaw, who received that investiture in 1965. I could not have received a greater honor. But there was one that came close. Shaw’s friend and fellow Brothers 3 of Moriarty charter member, Saul Cohen, gave me the only B3M scion lapel pin in existence from John’s New Mexico scion society; it was his. John Bennett Shaw pinned it on Saul in 1971, and Saul felt it was time to pass it on to me. Saul Cohen is 96 years old.