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Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Second Most Dangerous, But Not Famous

Let’s talk about Col. Sebastian Moran.

I don’t mean that rabbit hole of how he managed to escape the gallows so that he was still alive in 1914.  

No, I’m wondering why he isn’t better known to the world at large. After all, Professor Moriarty’s chief of staff was “the second most dangerous man in London.” (He was also a member of the Tankerville Club, which is why the #2 officer of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati has the title “Second Most Dangerous.”)

Kristen Mertz gave a fine talk on the Colonel—one of many evil Colonels in the Canon, by the way—at the “Holmes in the Heartland: Arch Enemies” conference in July. She teased out a rather full portrait of the old shikari from deductions and speculations.

But Moran is “as famous to Sherlockians as he is unknown to the public,” as Watson might say with “a certain unexpected vein of pawky humour.” It’s not that he hasn’t appeared in a lot of adaptations. The character appears in Rathbone’s Terror by Night, three Arthur Wontner films, Brett’s The Empty House, and Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Alternate versions appear in anime’s Moriarty the Patriot, in The Empty Hearse episode of “BBC Sherlock,” in “Elementary,” and on and on.

So why isn’t he better known to the world at large? That’s a three-pipe problem!

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