Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

A Canine Sherlock and His Feline Friend

For some Sherlockians, the gateway drug to the Master wasn’t the actors Basil, Brett, or Benedict, but a mouse named Basil—either in book form or Disney’s The Great Mouse Detective. The Sherlock Bones and Dr. Catson series by Tim Collins could serve the same function for a new generation of young readers.

I caught up this delightful series with the second book, Sherlock Bones and the Curse of the Pharaoh’s Mask, published by UK-based Buster Books. The pharaoh in question is Tutancatmun, who is—like Dr. Jane Catson—a feline. (You can see where this is going.) All the other characters are animals, including (spoiler alert) Moriratty.

There’s a genuine mystery here (who stole the pharaoh’s mask?), and lots of amiable humor (some of it poo-based), but more than: The book contains 25 puzzles that will stretch the young reader’s ability to not only see but observe.

Most of these puzzles require close study of the illustrations, which are part of the charm of the book. (“Study the passengers’ passport photos for two minutes, then turn the page to see how much you can remember.”) My favorite involves process of elimination to match characters with their watches. (“Florence, Walter, and Laila all have numbers on their watches . . . Florence’s watch has a much thinner strap than Walter’s . . . Laila has a pocket watch.”)

Although middle-grade students can read this book by themselves, there is plenty of enjoyable word play and Easter eggs for parents who read it to younger readers and have them tackle the puzzles.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Rathbone Led This Mystery Writer to Holmes


Mystery writer Terence Faherty will talk about “The Top Ten Reasons to Love the Universal Sherlock Holmes Series” at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 25. Let’s interrogate him. 

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

The earliest “meeting” with Sherlock Holmes that I can date occurred when I was nine years old, that is, in late 1963 or early 1964. I was living in New Jersey at the time, and one of the New York television stations was showing a week of the Rathbone/Bruce films on its afternoon movie program. By Tuesday, I was hooked. Sometime after that, I borrowed a collection of the Conan Doyle stories from the library and got hooked on those, despite being taken aback when the author of the volume’s introduction called the Watson of the movies a “silly ass.”  Not only was I offended by what I then considered immoderate language, I was shocked that anyone would object to the casting of Nigel Bruce.

How and when did you become a Sherlockian?

I officially joined the ranks of Sherlockians when I was invited to become a charter member of the 140 Varieties of Tobacco Ash in 1998. The 140 Varieties is a small scion founded by three Baker Street Irregulars—Steven Doyle, Mark Gagen, and Donald Curtis. That trio and the other 140 members were very welcoming and tolerant of this Rathbonian, especially Michael Whalen, then head of the BSI. Michael, who liked my Owen Keane books, was a good friend to many mystery writers.

What effect has Sherlock Holmes (print and film) had on your own writing career—both your “first draft” parodies and your two mystery series?

Holmes led me to detective fiction, which became a lifelong passion of mine. Though I toyed with writing literary fiction in college, when I got serious about writing afterward, I returned to my first love, the mystery. My first protagonist, Owen Keane, is no Great Detective, but he shares my love of Holmes and manages to work a Sherlockian allusion into almost every book. Scott Elliott, my Hollywood private eye, owes more to Raymond Chandler than Conan Doyle and he’s almost as fallible as Keane. I didn’t try my hand at a Great Detective protagonist until I started my Holmes parodies for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2013. The parodies purport to be the rediscovered first drafts of Watson’s famous tales. I actually write the series for Sherlockians, credentialed and not, since a familiarity with the real stories makes a good deal of the humor work.

What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?

I’m not by nature a joiner, so becoming part of the Sherlockian community, even in a small way, has gotten me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing. And the connections I’ve made have been a good counterbalance to the writing life, which can be very solidary. Of course, being around people who know who Basil Rathbone was is a definite plus.

To what Sherlockian groups do you belong?

I belong to the 140 Varieties of Tobacco Ash, as I noted above, and the Baker Street Irregulars. And I’m occasionally able to attend a meeting of the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, an old (and illustrious) scion. I’ve been published in one of their Casebooks, I’m proud to say.

Besides Holmes, Doyle, & Friends, are any other Sherlockian events are on your calendar this year?

I attended the BSI’s annual dinner this past January. It’s always well run and entertaining, and this year’s was especially so. And I plan to attend the 140 Varieties’ 25th anniversary dinner (!) later this year. The 140 dinner is always very nice, once one gets through the clouds of cigar smoke.

What non-Holmes film of Basil Rathbone’s should Sherlockians discover (or rediscover)?

If I Were King, Paramount, 1938. It contains one of Basil’s two Academy-Award-nominated performances and the one for which he should have taken home the statuette. Perhaps coincidentally, 1938 was his last pre-Holmes year.

Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.


Thursday, March 2, 2023

Adventures in Adaptation: Holmes by Text

Ann Kimbrough, one of the speakers at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 25 (with a reception the previous evening), has produced three Sherlock Holmes books that . . . well, let’s let her explain:

You adapted three Holmes short stories for middle-schoolers in a unique way. Describe your books.

The graphic novels are a mash-up of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic short stories and a modern retelling with four teenagers helping solve the mystery. Through some kind of digital mix-up, past and present align and are able to communicate in the strangest way—by text message! Cheese, Bizzy, Kyndra, and Jett end up in a group chat with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson. They are welcomed as a new group of Irregulars to help solve the cases.

What gave you the idea to do that?

It was during lockdown and I heard Doyle’s work was in public domain. Having never read the original stories, I thought it was high time that I did. I first found The Adventure of Devil’s Foot and wanted to see if I could create something that would bring kids to the material, with the goal of teaching kids to think like Sherlock Holmes. Of course, reading isn’t always something that interests kids, so I decided to put it in a format that they liked—text messages. I experimented with that layout, and really liked the outcome.

How did you pick which stories to adapt, and why them rather better-known stories often used in middle school, such as “The Red-Headed League” or “The Speckled Band”?

I’m actually glad to hear that I haven’t picked well-known stories. I’d like to say that was a conscious choice, but it’s because I’m new to the Sherlockian world. I am trying to educate myself in that area, but I’ll continue to mix it up. I plan to get to all the ones that can be adapted for kids. Obviously, there are a few that won’t work because the topics are a bit too adult. So far,  I’ve used The Adventure of Devils Foot, which is a classic mysterious death story; The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plan, about a spy and a secret submarine; and The Adventure of Silver Blaze, about a missing race horse. Those all seemed fun for readers age 10 to 14.

What was the biggest challenge?

Frankly, adapting any writer’s work would give me pause, but someone like Doyle makes it extra challenging. He is a master and I respect his writing and his success. I want to do right by him and his fans. Thing is, short stories are a unique form of writing. Going in, I knew that would require some editing and changes to adapt it into a graphic novel. Also, I’d have to make changes for the younger audience. As you know, some of Sherlock’s habits don’t translate well. So, I set some rules to follow, the main one being to honor the original text as much as possible.

The image of Holmes is rather unusual—he has a beard! How did that happen?

Yes, the Sherlock avatar has a little bit of beard. Perhaps he’s just going through a stage? The thing with avatars is how little is used to create the image. No eyes, no mouth. It relies on hats, hair, glasses, and things like that. If the book wasn’t for kids, I’d have given him a pipe instead of a little bit of beard, to define the lower part of the face. But I didn’t want to promote smoking. The top hat, however, really said Sherlock to me, so I went with it, not realizing longtime fans would have an issue with a beard.

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

Sherlock Holmes just seems to have always been there in my realm of knowledge. I can’t pick a moment. I’m sure I knew of the character long before I saw a movie or TV show. I became a huge fan due to Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

Do you consider yourself a Sherlockian?

I consider myself a very green Sherlockian, but there’s no going back now!

Are you involved in any organized Sherlockian activities or groups?

My Sherlockian journey has just started, but there is not a local group in my city. Thanks to Zoom, I’ve been welcomed by the Shaka Sherlockians and the Nashville Scholars.

What question haven’t I asked you that you would like to answer?

Thanks to writing these books, I’ve found a whole world that I didn’t know existed. It’s a welcoming and engaging community! I’m honored to be a part of it and have started a blog/podcast to document my journey, as well as promote all things Sherlockian that I find along the way. If anyone wants to check it out, the website is https://www.travelswithsherlock.com.

Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

The Play's the Thing for This Sherlockian

Playwrite David MacGregor on the set

Playwright and screenwriter David MacGregor will talk about “So You Want to Write a Sherlock Holmes Play” at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 25.  David wanted to and he did it—several times. His “Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ghost Machine” won an ACD Society award for excellence in the “Performing and Visual Arts” category. That prompts some questions:    

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

You know, I'm not really sure. Possibly seeing one of Basil Rathbone's films on late-night TV, or perhaps picking up The Complete Sherlock Holmes at bag-day at a book sale (where a grocery bag could be purchased for $1 and then filled with as many books as you wished). My brother and I used to go to these sales, cram 50-60 books into a bag, then go home and read the first paragraph out loud to one another. Upon this highly rigorous scientific basis, we decided that H.G. Wells was definitely worth reading. John Updike? Not so much. The Sherlock Holmes stories were immediately put in the “to be read” stack.

How and when did you become a Sherlockian?

Hmm…well, it was a gradual process. After graduating from college, I thought it would be fun to try and write a short mystery or two and see if I could get them published. To my surprise, Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine published my Sherlockian pastiche, “The Adventure of the Mysterious Benefactor.” Upon seeing Jeremy Brett's version of Holmes in the Granada series, I wrote to him to express my admiration for his portrayal, and he was kind of enough to send back an autographed photo. For some reason, I then decided to get a master’s degree in English, and when the university insisted that I had to write a thesis, I chose Sherlock Holmes as my topic.

Fast forward a few years and I thought it would be interesting to write a Sherlock Holmes play, and in 2018, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Elusive Ear premiered at The Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, MI. As I was wrapped up in researching and writing the play, I decided to attend a meeting of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit. Quickly determining that they were a rather strange and troubled group of individuals, I immediately joined their ranks, then subsequently became a member of the Ribston-Pippins as well. I like people who are passionate about things they like and the Sherlockian community is home to any number of fascinating and talented people.

What’s your background of writing plays and movies?

When I was a student at Michigan State University, I took a screenwriting class with Jim Cash (of Top Gun and Turner & Hooch fame), and a filmmaking class with Mohammad Ali Issari, former official filmmaker to the Shah of Iran. Jim Cash was an absolutely lovely fellow who took the whole class to his house. Mohammad Ali Issari was just a wee bit paranoid, chain-smoking and answering any question with “Why do you want to know that?”

Once I got out of college, I had an assortment of fascinating jobs—for example, watching TV to log in when Thunderbird Wine commercials aired, jackhammering holes into the sides of catch basins, and doing various computer-related jobs for companies at three in the morning.

Somewhere in there, I sent in a short play to a one-act festival, which was accepted, and then they asked me if I would like to direct my play. After learning that there was time to run across the street to drink White Russians with the cast between plays, I was hooked.

I gradually began writing full-length plays and screenplays, and had various scripts produced, optioned, etc. I sent in a screenplay to the Nicholl Fellowship, sponsored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, and was subsequently invited out to Los Angeles to schmooze, network, and interface. On the play front, I sent a play to The Purple Rose Theatre (which was founded by the actor Jeff Daniels in 1991), and on the basis of that play, Mr. Daniels was kind enough to tell me he wanted to produce my next five plays.

I have now had plays produced everywhere from New York to Tasmania, with one of my full-length plays, Vino Veritas, being adapted into a feature film.

I am currently working on a new play, and my screenplay In the Land of Fire and Ice has been optioned, with Emmy-winner and Oscar-nominee Shohreh Aghdashloo attached as the lead.

And how and when did your interest in Holmes and the theater come together?

I love the character of Sherlock Holmes and the fact that Holmes is a hero not interested in money, power, or bloodshed, but in making the world a better place, and being willing to help anyone, regardless of their status or wealth. For reasons that elude me now, the idea of Vincent van Gogh visiting Holmes with the hope of recovering his recently severed ear struck my fancy, and I embarked on a play that included mystery, romance, action, and comedy. I also wanted a Sherlock Holmes story with stronger roles for female characters, so I included Irene Adler as Holmes’s love interest, and the daughter of Professor Moriarty as the pathologically evil (yet incredibly charming) antagonist.

And that was supposed to be that. But Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Elusive Ear proved so popular that the Purple Rose asked me to write a second play, which resulted in Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Fallen Soufflé premiering in 2019. That proved to be the second-highest grossing play in the history of the theatre, so I was asked to write a third play, which was Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ghost Machine, which premiered in 2022.

Again, I thought I was finished, but on Opening Night of the show, the set designer informed me that “we're saving the set.” Why, exactly? I'm not sure. Maybe they plan on doing a revival down the road, or maybe they’re hoping I write a fourth Sherlock play.

All three plays have been published by Theatrical Rights Worldwide (TRW), and during the Covid-19 interregnum, which shut theatres down, I adapted all the Holmes plays into novels, which were published in 2021. (Two of the novels are currently being translated into Italian for publication later this year). As it turned out, I am highly adept at social isolation (kind of a savant, really), and during Covid I also completed a two-volume nonfiction book, Sherlock Holmes: The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which was also published in 2021.

What recent Sherlockian events and conferences have you taken part in?

In 2022, I gave a talk on “Three and a Half Definitive Sherlock Holmeses: The Evolution of Popular Culture’s Greatest Hero” as part of DePaul University's Pop Culture Conference; made a day trip down to the Lilly Library at Indiana University to listen to Glen Miranker’s presentation at “Sherlock Holmes in 221 Objects;” and gave a presentation on “Sherlock Holmes: The Hero with a Thousand Faces” at Schoolcraft College (Livonia, MI). In 2023, the Arthur Conan Doyle Society very kindly invited me to accept an award for Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Ghost Machine at The Mysterious Bookshop in New York. Since this was during the week of Baker Street Irregular festivities, the very thoughtful and Red Bull-fueled Monica Schmidt suggested a number of BSI functions, which I was happy to attend.

What has it meant to you to be part of the far-flung Sherlockian community?

Extremely interesting and also extremely inspiring. Highlights?

  • Having the esteemed Roger Johnson graciously write the foreword to Sherlock Holmes: The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
  • Corresponding with the legendary Peter Blau for years, and then finally meeting him in person last month.
  • Meeting David Stuart Davies at Gillette to Brett V.
  • Autographing a copy of one of my plays for Leslie Klinger at The Mysterious Bookshop.
  • Being a guest on the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast not once, but twice.
  • Happily sending autographed play programs around the country to various Sherlockians who requested them.

I should note that as a result of all of the above, I will be the guest host on the long-running The Projection Booth podcast for the month of April, with a different Sherlock Holmes film from the 1970s being discussed each week: The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes’s Smarter Brother, The Seven-Per-Cent-Solution, and Murder by Decree. As with my appearances on the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere podcast, I will make every effort to be well-rested and well-caffeinated, in the hope of sounding reasonably coherent.

You can still register here to hear David and seven other speakers at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

A Magician Reads Sherlock Holmes

Magic Marc!

Marc Lehmann is a professional magician who has performed one of the greatest tricks of all—making a career out of his passion. He will be speaking (or is that performing?) at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton on March 25. Let’s see if we can learn some of his secrets.    

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

In 1968, my junior year in high school, we were assigned a book report and my literature teacher selected The Hound of the Baskervilles. I became totally engrossed in the book and was eager to dive into the next Sherlock Holmes story that I could find. Shortly thereafter I discovered the Basil Rathbone films and that sealed my fate with Sherlock Holmes. (By the way, I got an A on the book report!)

How and when did you become a Sherlockian?

In the early 1990s, the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis sponsored a Sherlock Holmes symposium in downtown Indy. At this time, I wasn’t even aware that a Sherlock Holmes organization existed. Michael Cox, one of the creators of the Granada series, was the featured speaker. Being an admirer of Jeremy Brett, I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to attend the symposium. However, I was just getting started with my magic career and any thoughts of joining a scion society had to be delayed. Fast forward to October 2013 and I had the good fortune of meeting Steve Doyle, Vincent Wright, and Meredith Granger. All three of these gentlemen were very welcoming and encouraged me to join the Illustrious Clients. I did, and that is when I felt that I “officially” became a Sherlockian!

What is the primary way that you engage with Sherlock Holmes (i.e., collecting, films, chronology, pastiches, scholarship, etc.)?

Reading the canon and watching vintage Holmes movies are my primary interests. Also, attending the Clients meetings and learning from true scholars is very beneficial to furthering my love and understanding of Sherlock Holmes.

Tell us about your career in magic.

As a child, I had absolutely no interest in magic—none whatsoever! However, in 1975 my wife, Susie, and I built a home in a young neighborhood with a lot of children, and I thought it would be a lot of fun doing magic for the kids in the neighborhood. The next thing I knew I was getting calls from schools, churches, business, and various organizations and they were willing to pay me to do magic shows! After a few years, I increased my corporate work and began performing close-up/strolling magic at our local Pizza Hut where I remained for 27 years! Eventually, I ended up with five Pizza Huts, Max & Erma’s restaurant (22 years), a pub/steak house named Arch Rivals (because of Purdue and IU) and a magic-themed restaurant in Carmel, IN known as Illusions. Now that it’s 2023 I am going to cut back a little—you might say semi-retired. Still enjoying my performances, mind you, just slowing down a bit.

My book of Sebastian McCabe mystery novellas, Murderers’ Row, is dedicated to seven conjurors, including you. Why are so many Sherlockians magicians—or is it that a lot of magicians are Sherlockians?

In 1976, I joined a magic club in Lafayette, IN. One of the first persons I met, and we soon became fast friends, was Mark Brandyberry. A marvelous magician and, I was soon to discover, an avid fan of Sherlock Holmes. (For my birthday in 1980 he bought me The Complete Sherlock Holmes). I found it amusing that Mark, like myself, was both a magician and a Sherlockian. Over the years, I have known several magicians who expressed an interest in the Master, and I never understood the connection. Perhaps it all started with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and his association with Houdini! I am such a fan of your McCabe/Cody mysteries. Maybe we should ask Mac why the fascination between Sherlock Holmes and magicians!

What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?

I speak not only for myself, but also for my wife, Susie, when I say that joining the Illustrious Clients has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives. Besides the immeasurable amount of knowledge that we have acquire, pertaining to the Grand Game, the friendship, generosity, and comradery is beyond description. From our very first meeting we have been made to feel welcome by every single member of the Clients.

Did your magic career drive your wife and kids crazy?

YES! (I won’t elaborate!)

Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2023

Detecting Sherlock Holmes in the Comics

Johanna Draper Carlson at a familiar address 

Johanna Draper Carlson will talk about The Sherlockian Visual Canon: Key Sherlock Holmes Comics” at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 25.  Lets learn more about her.   

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

I don’t remember, exactly, but it was quite a while ago. (What a great beginning! Maybe that’s why I’m not a chronologist for the stories.) I read a lot of mysteries as a teenager, and I recall being very happy to receive the Baring-Gould Annotated for Christmas one year after seeing it at the library. That was my first Holmes book of my very own, and I loved learning more about the setting and context of the stories.

How and when did you become a Sherlockian?

I began attending meetings of the Notorious Canary-Trainers, the local Sherlock Holmes group, a few years after I moved to Madison, WI, a decade ago. It was great fun to talk about the stories every month, but I’d say that I became a dedicated Sherlockian when I rediscovered my love of all things Holmes during the pandemic. Between a number of events happening online and needing a lot of distraction, I dove deeply into all flavors of Sherlockiana, whether print or media or meeting people virtually.

Tell us about your background with comic books and graphic novels.

I’ve read comics as long as I can remember, but I began collecting them during graduate school. I was getting an MA in Popular Culture in Bowling Green, Ohio, where my primary area of study was hackers in the media. Spending time online for research, I soon picked up an interest in fandom studies, particularly superhero fandom. A few years thereafter, I wound up working as webmaster for DC Comics when they were still in New York City.

That didn’t last long, as I wasn’t interested in settling in that area, but I’ve been reviewing and writing about comics, graphic novels, and manga ever since. My website, ComicsWorthReading.com, has been going for over two decades now and was selected for inclusion in the Library of Congress in 2019 as part of the Comics Literature and Criticism Web Archive.

How did your interest in Holmes and comics come together, and what have you done with that?

In normal times, I would attend comic book conventions with some other comic journalist friends. During lockdown, we started video chatting online to keep in touch. I was talking about my newly rediscovered interest in Sherlock Holmes, comparing how different fandoms worked, and they asked about comic book versions. I started researching (and collecting—online shopping was a great distraction), and I realized that there was an opportunity to create a website describing and categorizing the various comic stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. SherlockComics.com came into being just under a year ago, on 2/21/2022. (More about how and why can be found in my essay in the Writing Holmes! book.)

What Sherlockian events and conferences have you taken part in?

I presented on trends in Sherlock Holmes comics at the 2022 DePaul Pop Culture Conference, “A Celebration of Sherlock Holmes,” and I hosted a panel on Mycroft Holmes for last year’s 221B Con. I’ve also had the pleasure of attending the Jubilee@221B anniversary of the Toronto Bootmakers and the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection and the opening of the International Exhibition of Sherlock Holmes at the Minnesota Historical Society. Meeting people at events like those have led to me presenting online on comic-related topics for the Cesspudlians of London (Ontario) and Five Miles From Anywhere societies.

Additionally, I write regularly for Sherlock Holmes magazine and the So Far Down Queer Street journal and irregularly for the I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere blog.

What was your favorite and why?

Given my background, I absolutely loved 221B Con. I’d been going to comic book conventions for decades, so I thought I knew how cons worked, but that was my first fan-run con, and I had so much fun talking to so many different people from all backgrounds and with all kinds of interests, all with love of Sherlock Holmes in common.

Do you belong to any Sherlockian groups?

I’ve joined the Notorious Canary-Trainers (canarytrainers.com), as mentioned above, as well as the John H. Watson Society, the Legion of Zoom, and the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.

What has it meant to you to be part of the far-flung Sherlockian community?

Meeting so many different people with so many fascinating histories and stories and insights has been wonderful. And so many are so generous! When I announced my Sherlock Holmes in Comics site, I received boxes overflowing with comics from two different people, who wanted to pass along items they didn’t need in their collections any more. That was a terrific jump-start to the site. Other times, I’ve been invited to various gatherings and get-togethers just because we all like Sherlock. It’s a behavior I want to model in myself, passing along knowledge and memories and good will and friendship.

Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

The Energetic Spirit of Shaw Comes to Dayton


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 Facebook,
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.

Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Dining Out with Holmes in Dayton

Lynne Stephens

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.

Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

221B Baker Street Comes to Dayton


One of the speakers at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 24 and 25 is Denny Dobry, BSI, well known for his meticulous recreation of the sitting room at 221B Baker Street. His talk will focus on one object in that room—the walking stick known as a Penang lawyer, carried by Dr. Mortimer in The Hound of the Baskervilles and Fitzroy Simpson in “Silver Blaze.”

How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?

“The Speckled Band” was required reading in the ninth grade at my junior high school.  Although I was not much of a reader at the time, something clicked and became planted deep in my brain to emerge many years later.

How and when did you become a Sherlockian?

Although little signs of interest in Sherlock Holmes revealed themselves over the years, I didn’t really do anything to advance my interest until 1987, when the centennial of A Study in Scarlet generated some articles in the local newspaper.  That would have been the start of my informative years.  With life intervening, I didn’t get the time or the courage to attend a scion meeting until 1995.  From that first meeting, I would say that I was firmly hooked as a Sherlockian.

What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?

Participating in the Sherlockian community is my major interest outside my family life.  Almost all of our friends are Sherlockians, and we socialize together in and outside Sherlockian events.  I can’t imagine what my interest would have been without Sherlock—probably something more constructive, but not anywhere near as much fun.

You’ve been a Sherlockian a long time. What are one or two of your fondest Sherlockian memories?

By far, my most-fondest Sherlockian memory was the day I walked into Paul Churchill’s home and saw his re-creation of his sitting room.  Paul was the inspiration to create my own re-creation of 221B, and he was my first and best Sherlockian friend.  Paul passed in 2008 and I think of him and miss him every day.

How did you come to recreate 221B Baker Street in your basement? 

I was blown away when I met Paul Churchill and visited his 221B re-creation.  Paul’s creation brought the Canon to life for me—Watson’s stories became real.  Paul and I became great friends and he encouraged me to pursue my recreation. He was instrumental in helping me with ideas to enhance my sitting room.

What Sherlockian groups do you belong to? 

I have belonged to the Beacon Society; Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City, MD; the Denizens of the Bar of Gold of Cambridge, MD; the Six Napoleons of Baltimore; the Copper Beeches of Philadelphia; the Clients of Sherlock Holmes of Philadelphia; the Epilogues of Sherlock Holmes of New Jersey; the John H. Watson Society, and the Hounds of the Internet.   I am no longer active in all those groups, and a few of them have faded away.

I received my investiture into the Baker Street Irregulars in 2018 as “A Single Large Airy Sitting-room.”

And after many years, I continue as Gasogene of the White Rose Irregulars of York PA.

Besides Holmes, Doyle, & Friends, what other major Sherlockian events are on your calendar this year?

I plan to attend A Scintillation of Scions in Columbia, MD, this summer and maybe Holmes in the Heartland in St. Louis, June 28-30, as well as three meetings of the White Rose Irregulars.

What question haven’t I asked you that I should?

I also operate the BSI Trust Parnassus on Wheels, collecting donated books and other Sherlockiana, and selling the same to raise funds in support of the Baker Street Irregulars Archives which are housed at the Lilly Library in Bloomington, Indiana.

To find out what treasures the BSI Trust has available that might interest you, email Denny at dendobry@ptd.net. Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.  


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

From Walking Sticks to Artificial Limbs

I own a few walking sticks, although I've never used one

My brother, who is not a Sherlockian, once asked: “How can there be anything left to write about Sherlock Holmes?” I answered, “You’d be surprised.”

Sometimes I’m even surprised at what I write! This past Saturday, Jan. 7, four books in the Merchants Room at Baker Street Irregulars Weekend included essays by me on a range of topics, from commonplace to quirky. The trifling monographs are:

  •  “Stick by Me: Walking Sticks and Canes in the Canon” in Steel Blue, Blade Straight 2022 Annual (Belanger Books). Walking sticks fascinate me, so I did a deep dive on how many times they appear in the Canon. Spoiler alert: Holmes and Watson both carried one, although that is seldom mentioned in the stories.
  • “The Craft of the Sherlockian Forgery” was written upon request from Derrick Belanger for Writing Holmes (Belanger Books), but it is a subject to which I’ve given a lot of thought and have opinions.    
  • “Sherlock Holmes and the Supernatural” in The Sherlock Holmes Review 2022 Sherlockian Annual (Gasogene Books) attempts to refute the assumption by many that Holmes rejected the possibility of supernatural. He never said that. Not once. In fact, many canonical texts indicate just the opposite.
  •  “Out of a Limb: Prostheses in the Canon” in The Haven Horror (BSI Press) is quite possibly the oddest topic I’ve ever been assigned. The book is the latest in the Manuscript Series, presenting manuscript of “The Retired Colourman”—who had an artificial leg. I’m glad editor Phillip Bergam, BSI, asked me to take on this one because it was quite interesting to research.

I’m not sure how much time I’ll have for my own writing in the future. Michael Kean, “Wiggins” of the Baker Street Irregulars, announced at the BSI dinner on Friday that I am the new editor of the Baker Street Journal. I’ll be assigning, selecting, and editing monographs for the premier periodical in our world. If you aren’t already a subscriber, please come aboard. Read about it here.