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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

You, Too, Can Be Sherlock Holmes

"The world is full of obvious things nobody by any chance over observes," Sherlock Holmes said in the Hound of the Baskervilles.

But Holmes observed, and does Mark A. Williams, Sr. Now Williams is teaching the rest of us how in his new book, How to Instantly Size-Up Strangers Like Sherlock Holmes.

"I have used the techniques in the book,"  he assured me. "I am still learning, however, and am by no means an expert or on Holmes’s level.  My mentor and friend, Thomas Stanziale, Sr., could size up people just like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Joseph Bell.  I saw him do it many times and became interested in learning how to do it myself. After seeing him in action, I became interested in trying to do what he did.  I read books on body language, psychology, etc. and eventually found the 54 short stories and four novels about Sherlock Holmes."

He was in his forties when he discovered the Great Detective, who was not part of his cultural background. "One interesting fact about me is that I am African American and not many of my friends know anything about Holmes, although they’ve heard about Sherlock and seen his movies."

The degree to which Williams absorbed the Canon is impressive. Almost every page contains multiple examples drawn from it, although the book also contains 28 pages of footnotes and bibliographical references to other works as well. 

What all those citations illustrates is that the Holmes technique, as analyzed by Williams, boils down to four questions and eight principles. The questions are: What so I observe? What can I deduce? How can I verify it? What does it mean? The principles for principal application are: observation, deduction, knowledge, experience, listening, memory, imagination, memory, and intuition. Yes, Holmes used them all - even intuition.

Chapter 12, the one on how to practice, is worth of price of admission all by itself. I especially liked the section on movies, those which contain scenes of practical deduction you might not have noticed, and Williams's admonition to "watch/learn magic." 

"I’ve been practicing the techniques each day trying to get better," Williams said. "I wrote the book to help me improve my skills, since a person understands and learns more as they explain and teach others.  I’ve had successes and failures in sizing up people.  I am a union shop steward at work in the Postal Service and use the techniques when I deal with people on my job.  I have to size up people constantly to tell if they are speaking the truth or not, to help them resolve their problems and so forth.  One guy who just bought the book challenged me to size him up.  I did and was 75-80% correct."

That's impressive. So is this book.  

1 comment:

  1. I will buy it, if for no other reason than to support a fellow Postal Worker.