|Vincent W. Wright, Sherlockian Chronologist Extraordinaire|
I’ve probably heard Vincent W. Wright talk more than I've heard any other Sherlockian speaker, including on this episode of I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere. And I still want more! Fortunately, I will get more of him at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. Let’s see what he has to say for himself:
When and how did you become a Sherlockian?
In high school I was loaned the two-volume copy of William S. Baring-Gould’s The Annotated Sherlock Holmes. (I say “loaned” even though I still have them 30 years later.) I was fascinated by them, and read them often. When I moved to Indianapolis from Southern Illinois in 1996, I found that there was a local Sherlock Holmes society (the Illustrious Clients). I contacted them, and I’ve been a member ever since.
You are best known in the Sherlockian world as a chronologist. How many books of chronology do you own?
In total I have 25 chronologies. Not all chronologies are full books. Some are just simple lists of dates, or are online. Of the actual books, of which I believe there 18 or so, I have all but one of them. (And it’s just the first book of what was supposed to be more, thus an incomplete timeline. I don’t reference it much in my work.)
What captivates you about trying to figure when stories took place – given that there can never be a definitive answer?
While I do understand that it’s possible to enjoy the Canon without chronology, I still think it’s important. Some of the biggest problems we have in the Canon are wholly or partially chronologically based (the Master’s birthday, Watson’s wives, the proper dating of ‘The Red-Headed League’), so it’s deeper in the hobby than most realize.
Also, in any contemporary crime drama, one of the first things that has to be nailed down is a timeline of events. Why should it be any different for the greatest crime drama of all time?
Finally, I see it as the height of canonical research. If someone is trying to pin down the dates of a story, they have to look into every single thing about it in order to make a final decision. No detail can be overlooked or ignored.
You are speaking at Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Six in Dayton on March 30. How does your talk ("Around the World in 63,540 Days") relate to Sherlockian chronology?
This will be a rare talk in that chronology doesn’t play into it at all. It’s a fun talk, though not necessarily a scholarly talk. But, every other paper I’ve ever given touches on chronology somehow. It’s just a part of who I am, and my favorite part of the hobby. (Next to the people, of course.)
You’ve talked often at this symposium in past years. What has that been like for you?
Dayton was the first conference I ever attended outside of Indiana. I fell in love with the simplicity of it – dealers, presentations, food, Sherlockian fellowship. When I was first allowed to speak the reception was awesome, and I’ve tried to do it as often as possible. It’s such a relaxing atmosphere. Everyone associated with putting it together has always been wonderful, and I look forward to it every year. (Plus, the conference just keeps getting better and better.)
Tell us a little about your Facebook page, Historical Sherlock.
Historical Sherlock is my way of placing Holmes, Watson, and the entire Canon firmly into Victorian England. I call it “playing The Game in a most unusual way.” It’s like taking The Annotated one step further. I find the things that Holmes and Watson (or anyone in the Canon) would’ve seen or experienced, and I tie it all together.
Example: I recently found information about what is called the worst disaster on the Thames ever – the colliding of the vessels Princess Alice and Bywell Castle. It happened at a spot that is mentioned in the Canon almost exactly. I noted that during the boat chase scene in The Sign of [the] Four the Aurora would’ve gone right by that spot. I tied the accident together chronologically with SIGN, and even got Liz Stride (a Jack the Ripper victim) in there, too.
Sometimes it gets chronological, sometimes it doesn’t. Regardless, it’s another way of firmly planting our heroes in their time.
What event(s) are you most looking forward to on the Sherlockian calendar this year?
Dayton is a must-do for me. Same with A Scintillation of Scions in Maryland in June. I haven’t missed one of those in almost a decade.
I’m also scheduled to speak in Toronto in September, and in Baltimore in November. Truly looking forward to both of those. If I can squeeze in a few more conferences here and there, I will.
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