Welcome

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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Registration Open for Dayton Symposium

Holmes, Doyle, & Friends 2021B (March 2022)  
Quick, Watson—the registration form!

Even though we are in the cold and dreary winter, you can register now for the Holmes, Doyle & Friends:2023 seminar which takes place in Dayton, Ohio, on Saturday, March 25 (with a reception the evening before). Why wait till the last minute? There’s a discount if you register by Feb. 25.

Vendors also get a discount rate, and it’s especially important for vendors to register soon—tables sold out early last year.

What is sometimes called simply “the Dayton symposium” has its roots in the “Homing in on Holmes” seminar that began in 1981 under the leadership of the late Dr. Al Rodin, sponsored jointly by Wright State and nearby Central State Universities. The conference has had other names and various sponsors in the decades since.

The Agra Treasurers, the Dayton-based scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars, has been putting on the symposium under the HD&F name since 2014, with a COVID-caused Great Hiatus in 2020 and 2021. The conference roared back with strong attendance in 2022.

This year’s program is still in the works but is expected to include speakers on Sherlock Holmes in the comics, Basil Rathbone, the great collector John Bennett Shaw, the curious walking stick known as a Penang lawyer—and a performance by a professional magician.

You can register for Holmes, Doyle, & Friends HERE.

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Thankful for Our Many Sherlockian Friends


As Thanksgiving approaches, I’m thankful for the people I’ve met and the places I’ve been as a result of being a Sherlockian. The last several weeks have been brimming with that.

Anniversaries are meant for celebrating, and Ann and I were delighted to be part of the 34th anniversary dinner celebration of the Ribston-Pippins in Warren, Michigan, last weekend. The scion society was founded and is still ably presided over by our good friend Regina Stinson.

In addition to the usual toasts, quiz, story discussion, and recitation of “221B,” I gave a talk on the vexing question of whether the Sherlock Holmes stories are really mysteries. (Spoiler alert: The great majority are, but they are not whodunits.)

Steve Doyle, who wears many different metaphorical hats in the Sherlockian world, did a fantastic job of leading the discussion of “The Adventure of the Dying Detective.” Using the Socratic method of asking questions to provoke thought, Steve led us to see that this tale is replete with insights on Holmes, Watson, and Mrs. Hudson that make it a great, though much-neglected, story.

On Friday, October 28, Ann and I attended a meeting of another venerable scion, the Sons of the Copper Beeches in Philadelphia. For COVID and other reasons, this was the first time we’d been able to attend since October 2019. It won’t be the last. This is a fun group almost 75 years old, with some time-honored rituals.

And on Saturday, November 5, we again saw many of our east coast friends as I was one of eight speakers at the “A Saturday with Sherlock Holmes” program at the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. I talked about Montague Place and Monague Street in the world of Holmes. This was the 43rd annual presentation of this program sponsored by Baltimore-area Sherlockian societies.

It has become a truism that what we really love about Sherlock Holmes is the friendship. The same thing might be said about being a Sherlockian.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Dan and Regina n


Tuesday, November 15, 2022

A Contest for Young Sherlockians

 

I’m not sure exactly how old I was when I first encountered Sherlock Holmes, but I was 12 when I bought my first copy of the Doubleday Complete with my own money. That’s not unusual. There’s something about our hero that grips us at an early age and doesn’t let go.

But somebody has to make the introduction. A great way to get young people to take those first steps on Baker Street is the R. Joel Senter Sr. Memorial Essay Contest, sponsored by the Beacon Society for students in grades 4-6, 7-9, and 10-12. The contest is named after a great Sherlockian and the prizes—up to $300 in the first two categories and up to $500 for high school students—are funded by his widow, Carolyn Senter.

As chair of the Beacon Society’s Awards Committee, I’ve read many entries over the past several years and I know how outstanding they can be. And many of the students probably never read the Canon until they were alerted to the contest.

Please read about the contest here: https://www.beaconsociety.com/joel-senter-essay-contest.html and spread the word to any qualifying students and their parents! The deadline is next March 1.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

A 'Delectably Dangerous" Professor Moriarty

Basil Rathbone wrote in his autobiography, In and Out of Character, that “there were other Moriartys, but none so delectably dangerous as was that of Henry Daniell.” After re-watching Daniell in The Woman in Green (1945) at the Tankerville Club’s Moriarty Film Festival on Saturday, I am inclined to agree.

Daniell’s Moriarty, although more personally active in crime than the spider at the center of a web portrayed in the Canon, somehow conveys a quiet menace that is bone-chilling. Watch the film, the 11th of the 14 Rathbone-Bruce outings, and see if you agree.

By comparison Eric Porter, who played the Napoleon of Crime to Jeremy Brett’s Sherlock Holmes in Granada’s “The Final Problem” (1985),  seemed to me too extravagant in his gestures. Nothing subtle there. Plus, he dressed like Mr. Hyde, with a top hat and cape. Nevertheless, he was the overall favorite Moriarty among the other filmgoers on Saturday.

Lyn Harding, the third Moriarty of the day, was even more like a stage villain in The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935), based on The Valley of Fear. Perhaps that’s because Harding was a long-time stage actor who played Dr. Grimesby Rylott (sic) in Conan Doyle’s 1910 production of “The Speckled Band.”

No matter who your favorite Moriarty is, this we know: Sherlock Holmes, the master detective, needed a worthy opponent. He found him in Professor James Moriarty, the world’s first true master criminal. Revisionist scenarios that portray Moriarty as an innocent mathmetician are pure fiction. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

The REAL Sherlock Holmes

One hundred and thirty years after the publication of The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on Oct. 14, 1892, I still see references occasionally to “the real Sherlock Holmes.” This assumes that Holmes is identical to some historical personage. That is ineffable twaddle.

Perhaps only a fiction writer can fully understand how characters take on a life of their own, even if they start out in some sense based on a real person. My sleuth, Sebastian McCabe, is Orson Wellesian in many respects—but also very different from that worthy. And Mac’s friend and narrator Jeff Cody is not Dan Andriacco, no matter what my wife thinks.  

It is undeniable that when young Dr. Conan Doyle picked up a pen to try his hand at writing a detective story, he drew inspiration from one of his medical school professors. As he wrote in Memories and Adventures, “I though of my old teacher Joe Bell, of his eagle face, of his curious ways, of his eerie trick of spotting details. If he were a detective he would surely reduce this fascinating but disorganized business to something nearer an exact science.”

The oversimplification that Joe Bell = Sherlock Holmes infuriated the late Adrian Conan Doyle, who led a life-long crusade to insist just as falsely that his father was “the real Sherlock Holmes.” He even claimed in an interview that Bell wrote a letter to Conan Doyle saying, “You are the real Sherlock Holmes, and well you know it.” But that letter has never surfaced.

Holmes is neither Bell nor Conan Doyle, although he certainly has parts of each.

As Rex Stout wrote in 1963 for the cover of a record album of Basil Rathbone reading Holmes stories: “Holmes, is a man, not a puppet. As a man he has many vulnerable spots, like us; he is vain, prejudiced, intolerant; he is a drug addict; he even plays the violin for diversion—one of the most deplorable outrages of self-indulgence.” But Stout went on, there is much more to him than that: “He loves truth and justice more than he loves money or comfort or safety or pleasure, or any man or woman. Such a man has never lived, so Sherlock Holmes will never die.” 

In other words, the real Sherlock Holmes is . . . Sherlock Holmes.

Tuesday, October 4, 2022

October Brings Thoughts of Moriarty


Part of the Halloween decorations of Sherlockians Bill and Teresa Harris

October has me thinking about the late, lamented Professor James Moriarty.

William Baring-Gould assigned the criminal genius’s birthday (on zero evidence) to October 31. And by coincidence, The Tankerville Club of Cincinnati, which I serve as Most Scandalous Member, is holding a Professor Moriarty Film Festival on Oct. 22.

While Holmes was the first private consulting detective, we must not forget that the Napoleon of Crime—“organizer of half that is evil and almost all that is undetected in this great city”—was equally unique. Before him, there was no criminal mastermind in fiction. As such, he is as much an archetype as Holmes himself.

How could it have been otherwise? Holmes was originally expected to be vanquished at the Reichenbach, and it would require a worthy opponent to do that without diminishing the great detective’s iconic status. In the process, Moriarty also became an icon—the Master Criminal.

There are many other Master Criminals in fiction, often as the nemesis of the hero: Nayland Smith had Dr. Fu Manchu; Nero Wolfe, Arnold Zeck; Superman, Lex Luthor and dozens of others; the 87th Precinct, the Deaf Man; and James Bond, Ernst Stravro Blofeld and his S.P.E.C.T.R.E. But none of these villains rises to the stature of Moriarty, and it is likely that none of them would have existed if he had not come first.

The Tankerville Club’s Professor Moriarty Film Festival will include the following:  

  • The Final Problem (Jeremy Brett as Holmes, Eric Porter as Moriarty)
  • The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (Arthur Wontner, Lyn Harding)
  • The Woman in Green (Basil Rathbone, Henry Daniell)

Each of these productions ends with Moriarty falling from a great height, either the Reichenbach or a clear echo of it. Perhaps down deep that is what we really love about Moriarty—the assurance that good defeats
evil in the end, even when that evil comes in the form of a genius.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Lucky #13 -- My New McCabe-Cody Mystery


Every year I give myself a book for my birthday—a book I wrote. By that I mean that my annual Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mystery is officially published each year on my natal day.

This year’s offering, The English Garden Mystery, was especially fun to write. All of my books owe a lot to the Golden Age of mystery fiction, that period roughly between the two worlds wars of the last century, but none more than this one, the 13th book in the McCabe-Cody series. 

The English Garden Mystery is an homage to Golden Age great Ellery Queen (cousins Frederic Dannay and Manfred B. Lee sharing a joint pseudonym) starting with the title. The names of the first nine Queen novels all had a nationality adjective followed by a noun, from The Roman Hat Mystery through The Spanish Cape Mystery.

Beyond that, Mac and Jeff’s latest adventure shares a number of other tropes with the early Queen:

·         The subtitle “A Problem in Deduction.” Check!

·       An eccentric family living under one roof or in a compound of nearby homes. Check!

·         A map showing where the family members live. Check!

·         A Shakespearean theme running through the storyline. Check!

·         A “Challenge to Reader” at the point in the novel when all the clues necessary to solve the murder have been present. Check!

·         A perfectly logical solution—which turns out to be false, thus creating a kind of double ending when the real solution is unveiled. Check!

·         A dying message from the victim identifying the killer. Check—or maybe not!

The cousins Queen had multiple names. Manfred Bennington Lee was born Emanuel Benjamin Lepofsky and Frederic Dannay started out as Daniel Nathan. I like to that Dannay, who was the Sherlockian of the duo, wouldn’t mind that one of the suspects in The English Garden Murders is a pharmacist named Nathan Daniel.

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Friendship is What It's All About

Linda Crohn, Jonathan Shimberg, and Bob Sharfman -- Sherlockians all

At the heart of the Canon, more than any mystery, is the friendship of Holmes and Watson.

Christopher Morley recognized that in 1944 when he titled his ground-breaking annotated anthology Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship.

Being a Sherlockian is also largely about friendship. As with any interest, Holmes brings together individuals who otherwise may have never met, and that often leads to bonds that transcend distance, politics, religion, and even sports.

Last weekend, Ann and I were pleased to welcome to Cincinnati three of our Sherlockian friends from Chicago. Linda Crohn, Jonathan Shimberg, and Bob Sharfman made the trek from the Windy City to attend a meeting of the Tankerville Club that evening, then go west the next day for the Illustrious Clients confab.

We had a grand time, highlighted perhaps by introducing the Chicagoans (and Cindy Brown of Dallas and Columbus) to the Cincinnati taste treat known and goetta. You can’t get it anywhere else, but Cincinnatians eat a million pounds of it a year (no exaggeration).

If you don’t belong to a Sherlockian scion society, join one. If there isn’t one near you, go to one that’s not near you—then start one near you!

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Sherlock Holmes Among the Royals

Royalty in Baker Street -- The King of Bohemia

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the only British monarch in most of our lifetimes, has me thinking about Sherlock Holmes and royalty.

We all know that Holmes shot a patriotic V.R. in bullet holes on the wall of his flat at 221B in honor of Victoria Regina, the “certain gracious lady” who honored him at Windsor with “a remarkably fine emerald tie pin” for his efforts in the Bruce-Partington affair. (Hilton Cubitt went to London for her Diamond Jubilee in 1897.) 

Holmes also had many royal clients, most memorably the King of Bohemia—whoever he was. Since there is no such monarch, the man’s true identity has always been a ripe field for speculation. Edgar W. Smith and William S. Baring-Gould, among others, believed him to be the future King Edward VII.

Certainly, Victoria’s playboy son is “The Illustrious Client” in the story of that name, where the armorial bearings upon a brougham revealed his identity to Watson. The same phrase is used by James Holder to describe the individual (clearly a royal wastrel) who gave him “one of the most precious public possessions of the empire” as security for a loan.

The “King of Bohemia” was engaged to the daughter of the King of Scandinavia (Norway and Sweden), who engaged Holmes’s services at least twice, according to “The Noble Bachelor” and “The Final Problem.”

Moving down the royal family tree, John Clay—murderer, thief, smasher, and forger—was the grandson of a royal duke. After that, the royal connections to Baker Street thin out. Six busts of Napoleon were involved in a crime spree, Watson lived on Queen Anne Street, and Charles Augustus Milverton was the king of blackmailers.

But Sherlock Holmes, called “Il re dei detective” (the king of detectives) in one Italian text,  was never much impressed by family and titles. Perhaps the monarch that meant the most to him was the queen bee and her royal jelly. After all, the magnum opus of his later years included Some Observations upon the Segregation of the Queen.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Shades of Conan Doyle in Cincinnati!

Medium Laura Pruden's home, since torn down

The next meeting of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati will take place at a Mexican restaurant just two blocks from where Arthur Conan Doyle (you’ve heard of him?) apparently met with a medium in 1923.

The medium’s name was Laura A. Pruden. Conan Doyle encountered her in 1922 in Chicago and then again the following April during a visit to what he called “the great city of Cincinnati.” In his book, Our Second American Adventure, he reports:  

“I visited Mrs. Pruden, who is certainly one of the great mediums of the world. Her slate-writing performance was even more remarkable than that which she gave me last year. All the questions which I wrote down were duly answered between the closed slates, and a running fire of raps was kept up all the time. Finally we asked her to sit at the other side of the room, but the raps continued merrily in full light right under our hands as they lay upon the table. What say you to that, Mr. Sceptic?”

Read the whole chapter at:

https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/index.php/Our_Second_American_Adventure#II._A_Lonely_Interlude

There is also an account by my friend Jeff Suess in the second issue of the graphic novel series Cincinnati’s Cabinet of Curiosities. Check that out at https://cincycuriosities.com/

Conan Doyle doesn’t specifically say he met the psychic at her home, but that is the inference. She lived at 911 Chateau, in what has become known as Cincinnati’s Incline District. The family sold the property upon Mrs. Pruden’s death in 1939, and the home was torn down in 2010. But surely her spirit remains.

(Thanks for Ann Brauer Andriacco and Jeff Suess for their help on this.)