|Dr. Katz at the Baker Street Irregular dinner last month. Photo by Will Walsh|
Robert Katz, M.D., BSI, is a great raconteur and a swell guy to share a Maryland-to-DC train ride with, followed by breakfast. He’s also one of the great speakers at the Holmes, Doyle, &Friends Six symposium in Dayton, OH, March 29-30. That provided the excuse for asking Bob a few questions:
When and how did you become a Sherlockian?
My first exposure to Sherlock Holmes came about when I was about 12 years old. I saw one of the Rathbone films on television on a rainy Saturday afternoon. As soon as the film ended, I ran out of the house and went to the local library to borrow one of the books. My interest has continued without interruption since.
Please talk about your involvement with Haverford College and its Sherlockian significance.
I received my undergraduate degree from Haverford College. I’d already read the Canon in the Doubleday edition and was familiar with the Christopher Morley introduction. It was not until I arrived on campus that I learned that Morley was a Haverford graduate. In addition, the Morley Reading Alcove had a comfortable couch and Morley’s books and papers were right at hand. In between regular studies, I had the chance to access them and became familiar with the Sherlockian literature.
Dr. Watson was a doctor. You are a doctor. Discuss!
My decision to pursue a career in medicine was more influenced by viewings of AJ Cronin’s The Citadel (and the subsequent reading of the book) and a viewing of The Last Angry Man. However, my choice of Pathology as my specialty was very much influenced by the Canon. The stories were written by a physician, narrated by a physician, and to some extent based on a physician. Many of the deductions for which Holmes is so famous are really medical diagnoses. Pathology is really the only field of medicine where one can spend one’s entire career just making diagnoses. Given my Sherlockian pursuits and interest, it’s more likely that Pathology chose me rather than my choosing Pathology!
What are your main involvements in Sherlockian societies?
Having recently retired after founding and moderating The Epilogues of Sherlock Holmes, for 28 years here in New Jersey, my main involvement has been my service as Headmastiff of The Sons of the Copper Beeches in Philadelphia. I do try to attend meetings of East Coast groups as often as possible. On a broader level, I serve a variety of roles within the Baker Street Irregulars, primarily as Co-Publisher of BSI Press and as Billy the Page within the organization itself. Fortunately, I’ve been retired from medical practice for a while, as these duties are nearly a full-time job. But all are labors of love.
When I was a younger, I knew very few Sherlockians. What has it meant to you to be part of a Sherlockian community?
I was fortunate to have become involved in Sherlockian scion societies while still in medical school. The Sherlockian community has really become my extended family. So many of the important relationships in my life have developed from my Sherlockian and BSI activities. Simply put, my personal life would be much the poorer had I not become a Sherlockian.
When did you become a member of the Baker Street Irregulars?
I attended my first BSI Dinner in 1981 and received the Irregular Shilling (as “Dr. Ainstree”) in 1983. Received the Two Shilling Award in 1995.
What did that feel like for you?
It’s still hard to describe. I suppose my emotions were akin to those of Sir Lancelot when he first sat down at the Round Table. The BSI was, since my childhood, a legendary organization, populated by real giants of Sherlockian scholarship. To this day, I remain humbled to be a part of the group.
In January, your son became a BSI as well. How was that?
Any parent is happy when a child shares an interest with the parent. When my son received his Irregular Shilling…Well, I just can’t describe how I felt. It’s just something beyond words.
What event(s) are you most looking forward to on the Sherlockian calendar this year?
Of course, I’m very excited about traveling to Dayton for the HD&F event. The BSI Trust will be sponsoring a book fair in New Jersey in late April. Copper Beeches meet in early April and late October. Other local scions meet throughout the year. And then I’ll be attending the BSI Conference at the Lilly Library in November. That should be a wonderful event.
You are speaking at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. In 25 words or less, what’s your theme (as of today)?
Good try, Dan, but I never let the rabbit out of the hat until it’s time. Needless to say, I hope the audience has as much fun listening as I will in preparing for the presentation.
What question have I not asked you that you would like to answer?
Why would someone want to travel from suburban New Jersey all the way to Dayton in order to attend a gathering of Sherlockians? I’m looking forward to seeing old friends (including you and Ann), hopefully making some new ones, hearing great talks, and also visiting the Air Force Museum. The Sherlockian experience can be summed up very easily: One comes for the stories but stays for the friends.
So register now for Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six and get an early-bird discount.