Thursday, February 27, 2014

LESTRADE SPEAKS! And speaks, and speaks, and . . . damn!

"Do you have an aversion to cocks?" he says to Watson.

Yes, that is what Mr. Elementary's writers consider the clever conclusion of an opening scene in their "Baker Street NYC" moments for this week's Elementary. The thought of an emulator of Sherlock Holmes wasting his time breaking up a common cock fight as a use of his detective prowess was actually offending me enough that the punchline to it all was a relief. "Oh, that's what they're doing. At least it wasn't pointless."

Lestrade is back this week, and he's just talking and talking and annoying Mr. Elementary. I'm finding I kind of like the grizzled inspector, too. In a Bizarro Sherlock world, I guess that would make sense, but it also could be that all the talking Lestrade is doing might actually be quieting Mr. Elementary's amount of dialogue to that of a normal Sherlock Holmes. Go, Lestrade, go!

Gregson phones it in, and he's seeming a little sleepy next to Lestrade, who's now doing a "DOUG Talk" on Mr. Elementary's TV. (Of course, Mr. E. should be happy Lestrade is doing the off-brand and not a real TED Talk.) Of course, nothing lasts forever, and eventually Mr. Elementary has to do a long procedural discourse on his reconstruction of a bomb's blast, which is a bit dull. But just when I start to despair, here comes Lestrade once more!

Gareth, as opposed to Graham or Greg, or George, or whatever those other Lestrades' names are, is just ruling this episode. He even offers Joan Watson a job as his partner . . . which actually wouldn't make a bad show if Jonny Lee Miller ever gets tired of the CBS payroll. Joan could solve the cases while Gareth puffs up and claims credit.

Mr. Elementary apparently bakes some sort of puff pastry when he's feeling stressed. And of course this would be the ONE time he doesn't explain every detail of what he's doing, because they actually look tasty. Given that his older brother is a restauranteur, cooking in the blood must take the strangest forms in this odd exploration of how far the outer reaches of calling someone "Sherlock Holmes" will reach.

Wow, when Jonny Lee Miller and Sean Pertwee are doing a key scene together with just them, you can almost imagine this is some cool Brit crime movie and not just another CBS procedural with aspirations of Sherlock-ness. There's actually a relationship moment there, which is something I usually find missing in Elementary, despite its fans' claims otherwise.

But, alas, it's just one scene, and then we're back to business as usual. And as usual, one of the most appealing regular features of Elementary are the scenes of Joan being woken up in the morning, just to see what she's wearing to bed -- this time a cool tie-died rib cage tank top. (And she's at first wrapped in a white puffball sort of bedspread like my grandmother used to have.)

The mysteries of these little procedurals are usually pretty ignorable, and mostly this one is, too, but Sean Pertwee is actually making this one compelling when he talks about it. The thought that he's going to be playing Alfred Pennyworth (yes, Bruce Wayne's butler) in the WB Batman prequel series Gotham is kind of intriguing, even though he doesn't seem the traditional Alfred.

"The One Percent Solution," as this week's episode is titled, ranks as one of my two favorite episodes of Elementary, next to last season's "Snow Angels." Well, except for those damn cocks. They have to return at the end of the show, but like Lestrade (who is seen coming to stay with Mr. Elementary and Joan), I'm sure they'll be gone next week. Which is too, too bad . . . in Lestrade's case. Not the roosters.

And now, I just ramble about nothing at all.

Forgive me for getting off-topic tonight, but this particular blog has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes.

We seem to be in a season of awards. Olympic medals. Oscars. All that stuff. Which always makes me wonder: What if such trophies were awarded based on the judgement of one man?

You spend your whole life on figure skates or skis, you get really, really good, and no matter how your performance is at your event, that one man gets to decide whether or not you get a gold medal, a silver medal, a bronze medal, or no medal at all. Those who get medals are really going to like that system. Those who don't are probably just going to go, "Bah! I care nothing for Olympic medals!"  The Olympics would claim to have the best in the world, but there would always be a seed of doubt.

The Oscars handed out in that scenario are a little easier to visualize. Many a movie critic decides his top ten movies of the year every year. Just replace the accountants on the annual Academy Awards show with that single critic going, "Yep, this is what I decided this year," and you have it. But as we all know with movie critics, they tend to have their prejudices, their little peccadillloes, and their tastes rarely align in perfect harmony with the general movie-going public. The one-critic Oscar system, however, would have its contented believers, of course, aaaand a whole lot of folks who'd refuse to accept such a thing.

And why not. This is America. We will accept the rule of one man or woman when they're supplying a paycheck, but otherwise we usually like a little more balanced system with some accountability to it. Baseball, ballot boxes, and apple pie. Fastest times, juries of our peers, and Neilsen ratings.

It's a happy place, and generally we like things that way.

Thanks for your forbearance with this little musing. Like I said at the outset, it has nothing to do with Sherlock Holmes, the exposing of hidden truths, and that eternal hope that justice and a fair shake is just a hope and a knock on 221 Baker Street's door away.

Nothing at all.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

A quick look at the quick beer.

It seems like I can't get away from the subject of beer these days. The explosion of craft beer labels, destination brewpubs, and specialty beers has made it a hobby among some of my friends at the level that Sherlock Holmes reaches for Sherlockian. And it's not without benefits for us fans of the great detective, as even Peoria has at least one British pub where we can pick up something akin to English cuisine.

And though we tend to think of Sherlock Holmes as a wine guy, he did have at least two beer moments. The first, in "A Scandal in Bohemia," featured a beer brought by a Mrs. Turner, whom I have my own theories about. The other is a holiday beer in "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle," which Holmes plainly ordered just to start a conversation with the landlord at the Alpha Inn.

Watson doesn't describe Sherlock drinking the beer, doesn't talk about his own beverage enjoyment in that later tale. If fact all we get, other than Holmes's preliminary compliment to a beer he hasn't even tasted yet, is this toast:

"Well, here's your good health, landlord, and prosperity to your house. Good-night!"

Consider that toast carefully. A toast usually is made prior to the first drink, and since Holmes is talking non-stop before he makes it, that would see to be the case here. He also ends his toast with "Good-night!" which indicates he's on his way out the door. And after all his other friendly conversation with the landlord, he surely didn't just leave the beer untouched.

No, Sherlock Holmes plainly made his toast, shotgunned that beer, just like Gary King and the boys from the movie The World's End, and was off to his next destination.

Lucky for him, things were simpler then, and Holmes could chug that one quick beer and be on his way. Were he in the same situation today, he would have been expected to sample a flight of seasonal brews or at least discuss the comparative merits of the Alpha Inn's beer to other craft beers. Who knows if the Blue Carbuncle mystery would have ever got solved?

So sip on that, modern connoisseurs of the yeasty grainy liquid. And let's get back to that Imperial Tokay.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Waiting for Uncle Sherlock.

There are a lot of women in Sherlock Holmes's life these days.

Whether it's girlfriend Janine, partner Joan Watson, apprentice/wife Mary Russell, or whatever role Irene is taking in a given moment, it's not just a boys' club at Baker Street any more. Even Mary Morstan has stepped up her game with the great detective.

So I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to find Sherlock Holmes had a niece during a trip to the local Barnes & Noble. Chances are I had heard it before, but something about the cover of the third book in the Evelina Cooper series caught my eye, so I backtracked to find the first of the set, 2013's A Study in Silks by Emma Jane Holloway.

Evelina Cooper is Sherlock's niece on her non-circus-folk side. She lives in a steampunk/magical London of 1888. And she doesn't seem to be in any hurry to drag out Uncle Sherl.

I picked up A Study in Silks out of curiosity, a little light reading with a Holmes connection, but . . . interesting thing so far . . . Emma Jane Holloway doesn't seem to be looking for "pasticheur" as a job description. Evelina Cooper seems to be living her own life, without any hovering from Uncle Sherlock. And that seems like pretty much a good thing . . . for a time.

But as the pages flip by, and Uncle Sherlock doesn't stroll into frame, one starts going, "Hey, he was mentioned three times on the book's cover!" Evelina is only mentioned four. That's practically equal billing. So then one starts to wonder: Just how much Sherlock Holmes does a book need to have before it can list Sherlock Holmes on the label as an ingredient?

Like anything else in the arts, I suppose it depends upon the skill and talent of the artist. As I'm still working on Evelina's adventures, the jury is still out on that one. But at least, with all the other women in Sherlock Holmes's life these days (and the creators of Sherlock talking about how much they like adding them), niece Evelina is giving him some space.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Essential reading?

Last night I had a dream that I wrote an article for a Sherlockian print publication. I printed it out in the san-serif font and paragraph format requested by said publication, a smaller but esteemed journal of the sort I used to enjoy writing for in the 1980s. And then I stopped and went "Now I have to mail it?" That little moment was enough to disconnect me from the dream-reality and wake me up.

So today, I woke up thinking of Sherlockian print publications, the role they used to play in my fannish life, and the cameo appearances they seem to have now. The subject had been on my mind this week, as finally catching up on Baker Street Babes podcasts (after holding back on the Sherlock spoiler-filled episodes for a month) presented commercials for The Baker Street Journal  described as "essential reading for anyone interested in Sherlock Holmes." Which made me wonder:

Do any Sherlockian print publications really qualify as essential reading for a Holmes fan any more?

The Baker Street Journal is an interesting time capsule of the events-and-solid-objects part of the Sherlockian world, but its articles aren't currently anything you're going to feel bad for missing out on at the next Sherlockian cocktail party. When a quarter of an article's total length is devoted to footnotes, chances are that it's not going to set the world on fire with original thought, and the BSJ does attract a few of those due to its institutional standing. It does have its moments, though, but essential for the non-collector? I don't know. I let my subscription lapse for a year a while back, and haven't really felt a void from that hole in my collection or Sherlockian life. (Yes, I'm a villain of a Sherlockian, I know. It brings me no joy to report it.)

Other journals I subscribe to, like The Serpentine Muse or The Camden House Journal connect me to certain sets of people that, while distant and not oft-seen, have significance in my Sherlockian life. It's nice to see what they're up to these days, even if I don't make it out to their gatherings as I would like. I'm horrible about keeping my subscriptions up, however, and occasionally lose one in the mix. The Illustrious Clients News slipped by me last year, and by the time I did notice its absence, I had missed most of the year, and still need to rectify that situation. I blame the periodical nature of the periodical. The gap between issues is so long that in the swiftly-turning world we find ourselves in these days, one loses track of when things are due to arrive.

Once a year, The Baker Street Journal lists "Sherlockian Periodicals Received" and their latest list holds twenty-three publications, a goodly share of which I subscribed to, back when they were the only game in town. And that's definitely part of what has eroded the essential nature of the Sherlockian print publication -- not being the only game in town. Most of the publications you'll find listed in the Journal serve a local audience, where they literally are the only game in town to this day. But for the more global Sherlockian?  The right combination of internet watering-holes can keep one feeling fairly current on Sherlockian matters without having to drag one's self out to the post office to mail a check every now and again.

There's so much talk of the "twenty-four hour news cycle" and its effect on our lives anymore that the phrase is a bit worn out. But thanks to Twitter, Facebook, and the like, we Sherlockians have our own sources to check on a daily basis, our own twenty-four hour news cycle, and that has slammed the impact of newsletters and journals more than anything. Technology is a bastard that way. Most of us still like horses, want horses to exist, and love to see them when we do . . . but do we ride horses? Only on very special occasions.

The Sherlockian print publication is our horse. Once vital, now not-so-much, it has those who love it dearly and will keep it stabled and fed, while most of us drive our cars to work. Now, it becomes also like the moss rose that Holmes picked up in "The Adventure of the Navel Treaty" -- "an embellishment of life, not a condition of it." And what did Holmes say about such embellishments?

"It is only goodness which gives extras."

And as Sherlockiana is a hobby of embellishments of life and extras, I think we will find the print publication as one more proof of goodness in the world in the years ahead. Somebody went to the trouble to create them, not out of greed or grasping for power, but out of love. Even if and when the subscriber lists dwindle to a rare handful, so many of them will still probably exist. And how can that be anything but goodness?

Now I just have to get off my butt and get my subscriptions paid off for next year.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The million monkeys.

For starters, let me just say this: I love monkeys.

It's not a perjorative term to me, by any means. And the concept of the millionth monkey who types Shakepeare . . . now I really like that one. Even came up with a concept for a superhero once called the Millionth Monkey, about a guy who figured out how to fly just by random applications of physics. (Yes, physicists, that makes little sense, but let's talk about monkeys.) So it's not surprising that looking at what modern fan fiction has become, I started thinking of the million monkeys.

There's a temptation, when first coming upon the infinite variety of Sherlocks and Johns that is Sherlockian fanfic to write it off as immature nonsense, and many a Sherlockian does stop at that first impression. Winglock, Tunalock, Tutulock (or whatever Sherlock ballerina fanfic is called) . . . there's a "What the hell?" factor that naturally might scare a more conservative type off. But if you step back and look at the big picture, see what's really happening here, it's the most Sherlockian thing of all:

Logical synthesis.

Logical synthesis, mentioned in "The Adventure of the Copper Beeches," isn't as sexy as the "mind palace" concept, but it's pure, undiluted Sherlock Holmes.

"I have devised seven separate explanations," he explained in that same story, "which would cover the facts as far as we know them." Seven separate ways the world could have produced the circumstances Holmes walked into. Only one of them would be true, meaning that Holmes actually thought up six alternate universes that could have produced the same conditions at that point in time. And alternate universes are a big part of fan fiction these days, a way to respect the integrity of the original work and still explore the possibilities of the contents of that work.

Sherlockian fan fiction has been going on almost as long as Sherlock Holmes. Sherlockians have long liked to fancy things up, so "pastiches" suited us just fine, whether it was the work of professional writers or those who paid a vanity press to publish their Holmes-work. When fan fiction first began its rise with Star Trek fanzines in the sixties, Sherlock Holmes eventually got pulled in, most notably with 1978's inaugural issue of The Holmesian Federation, which celebrated Sherlock/Trek crossovers. (The poem by Edgar Smith in that issue about Moriarty and Darth Vader can be quite a head-scratcher until one notes it is Edgar B. Smith and not Edgar W. Smith.) But were we doing alternate universes back then?

Not really. It was all one big happy universe back then, and pulling Captain Kirk into Sherlock Holmes's universe just made it all the bigger. (Though I'm sure Trekkies thought they were pulling Sherlock into Kirk's universe.) Even in the middle 1990s, when the comb-bound 221 B Baker Street collected Jeremy Brett's Holmes fanfic into four large volumes, writers were still playing in the world that they saw on PBS and on video tape, not tweaking it into their own worlds.

Perhaps the earliest foreshadowing of modern AU fanfic was something like "Teddylock," when Poul Anderson's 1957 book Earthman's Burden, collected tales of a race of cute little bear-folk who mimicked Earth cultures, including Sherlock Holmes. But even that was set in our universe, where Holmes was a human in a book. And, at that, Poul Anderson was just one monkey with one typewriter, and that keyboard certainly wasn't connected to the internet.

A million monkeys typing Twihard fanfic brought us 50 Shades of Grey, which will soon be coming to the big screen in its own right. And while it's far from Shakespeare and hasn't really caused a wave of bondage and S & M to take over our country, its emergence as a popular work in its own right cannot be denied. (Kind of like Elementary . . . sorry, I have a quota to keep up.) Who knows what our lovely million Sherlockian monkeys are going to come up with?

I expect it will be something better than Anastasia Steel and Christian Grey, but, hey, we're starting with Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. Crafting from such precious metals is bound to bring us something valuable one day. Go, monkeys, go!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Standing where you might get finger slipped.

"For long time readers of Mr Keefauver’s blog, it’s sometimes unclear where exactly he stands regarding the brave new Holmesian world we find growing around us every day."
-- Matt Laffey,

Yep, Matt hit the nail on the head in his comment in last week's round-up at Always 1895. And, as Lady Coincidence would have it, I have never been more unclear on that stance than tonight.

Being a little behind on my podcasts, I was catching up on the Baker Street Babes today with their 52nd episode, "A Finger Slip Web Series." Now, a little Googling will very quickly catch you up on what "A Finger Slip" is all about. You'll learn:

a.) "A Finger Slip" is a fan fiction tale told entirely in text messages, an idea taken from another fan fiction based on the TV show Glee.

b.) "A Finger Slip: Web Series" has a Kickstarter that has already raised $13,000 toward adapting that fan fiction into video. Their goal was $10,000, so they're doing pretty well.

c.) A "finger slip" is a technique for touching a woman's private parts, according to the description you'll find in the Urban Dictionary.

And apparently, "A Finger Slip" has touched a lot of folks's mental private parts.

Now, having listened to the Babes' podcast, read a bit of the fic, and checked out the Kickstarter, here's what I have to say about it all: Listen to the Babes' podcast, read the fan fiction, and check out the Kickstarter. And see what you think.

We live in an age where a young dreamer can get an idea to adapt an idea based on an idea, with both of the last two ideas based on two other ideas, then raise $13,000 to fulfill that dream, funded by folks who want to see that dream come true. Now, there's a temptation to be a little cynical about all of that, and maybe a wee bit of that has crept into my words tonight, but here's the thing:


But here we are, in this brave new Sherlockian world, and any of us could do such things. Young or old. Some of those who are doing them could seem a little naive as to the ways of the world at times, a little wet behind the ears, etc., etc., but hey, if they're doing it and we're not, good on them.* Perhaps it's not knowing some of the possible pitfalls out there that gives them such enthusiasm to move ahead.

I'm less and less sure of where I stand in our modern Sherlockian world for one simple reason: It's a much bigger place than it used to be and there are just so many, many places to stand now. And with so many available, you have to move around a little bit just to get the view from a few different angles.


*This statement only applies to amateur endeavors and not big-budget corporate efforts that could be a lot better given the resources available to them. You know who I'm talking about.

Monday, February 17, 2014


Recently I've been pointed to a couple of opportunities to pick up some Sherlockian treasures by non-Sherlockian friends and had to say, "Thanks, but no thanks." In both cases, I stopped about thought, "Things would have been different when I was younger."

A younger me loved an opportunity to add one more object related to Sherlock Holmes to the collection. It wasn't just books, which either brought new tales or discussion of the detective, adding entertainment or knowledge. It was gee-gaws, statuary, art . . .  anything non-perishable, and occasionally something that was perishable, with some vain attempt to prolong its life.

Looking back now and trying to decipher the motivations of an earlier me, it seems to be part the magpie, part the totemic shaman. There was collecting just to be collecting, and then there was something of gathering the power of one's spirit animal through iconography.

Sherlock Holmes was definitely my spirit animal, in that way. Surely, if I possessed that Harry Potter magic that manifests a bright Patronus-creature made of light to ward away dark things during a time of trouble, that Patronus would look a lot like Sherlock Holmes.

The great Sherlockian shamans of our tribe always seemed to possess vast collections of Sherlock Holmes "power objects" back in the day. Probably still do, though I don't visit them as much to check. There was a measure of one's Sherlockian devotion in it, as silly and materialistic as that may sound.

These days, however, the game has changed. Relics of Sherlock Holmes are still gathered and valued. But there are new totems out there for the Sherlockian shaman to gather their power with . . . electronic items, all digital spirit and no form. GIFs, tweets, videos . . . some as ephemeral and hard to hold as can be. And yet there are great young Sherlockians of today with such things swirling around them in a display of mojo that seems just as powerful as the mighty collections of old.

Is there magic in collecting? Of one sort or another, or else I doubt we should do it. Something in the activity touches us in some old hunter-gatherer instinct we can barely put words to these days. But at some point, one can actually feel like one has done enough, and just like my inability to put my finger on the impulse itself, it's hard to nail down just why the impulse is gone.

Perhaps we can only hold so much magic. Then it's time to let some go.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What is Sherlock Holmes?

One thing that may get lost in our modern screen adaptations of the original Conan Doyle material on Sherlock Holmes is that strong feeling Sherlockians have always gotten from Holmes that he was a real person. Love the Cumberbatch to death, but his James Bond antics of late have raised his Sherlock Holmes to that sort of over-the-top personality I love to see on the movie screen. And while fans of the Miller tend to cite his more "down-to-earth" persona, he remains over-the-top in a different direction. You probably aren't going to run into anyone like either of those fellows on the street, which is why we watch television and movies in the first place -- to see people and stories we don't see every day.

But while we don't see a fellow like the Sherlock Holmes of the sixty stories every day, we see parts of him in ourselves and the people we know all the time. He's a complex fellow, full of contradictions, flaws, amazing bits, and just plain humanity . . . like the rest of us, just a little better at some things.

That came to mind this morning when I was re-reading Jacquelynn Morris's article "The Case of the Missing Misogynist" in the Winter 2012 issue of The Serpentine Muse. She makes a methodical survey of the Holmes Canon to gather his attitudes on women to see what the evidence truly is on Holmes being identified as a misogynist.

Jacquelynn passes over A Study in Scarlet with the statement "Holmes has no direct contact with any women in the entire story." Which is true. And not true. For in A Study in Scarlet, we have Mrs. Sawyer visiting Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes at 221B Baker Street to reclaim "her daughter's" ring. Now, in an Austin Powers-like moment, Sherlock cries "Old woman be damned!" and declares that Mrs. Sawyer must have been a young man in drag.

Now, Holmes never proves his statement about Mrs. Sawyer's gender identity, and these days we might be more accepting of Mrs. Sawyer's life-choices, even if she is a lying, ring-stealing old biddy. But when Sherlock Holmes then says, "Women are never to be entirely trusted," early on in his next book, The Sign of the Four, one might see where he's coming from. (And for Holmes, men aren't to be trusted either -- remember that young man who wished Holmes good-night in "A Scandal in Bohemia?) Mrs. Sawyer really pissed Holmes off, so much that he started insulting her femininity in the absolute worst way. (Just like Austin Powers eventually does, actually, when he tries to pull the "wig" off a real woman.)

My point here, though I've wandered a bit just for fun, is that Sherlock Holmes was a misogynist. And he wasn't a misogynist, as evidenced in his interactions with Mary Morstan and other ladies, which Jacquelynn cites in her paper.

One of the amusing things I've learned since becoming a blogger is that people really, really want to see you as a consistent, definable creature, which we actual human beings are not. You're either a Republican or a Democrat, a Christian or an Atheist, Straight or Gay in the eyes of somebody out there. As enlightened as any of us can be on some subjects, we all have our "black or white" definitions of people on other subjects. It's a built-in mental mechanic we can't ever seem to completely overcome.

And while Sherlockians have enjoyed trying to define and nail down Sherlock Holmes on a number of parts of his life for a very long time, the truth about Holmes is that he's more complicated than that. He has moments of misogyny. He has moments of racism. He has moments of intolerance for lesser intellects (which our modern adaptations love to play up). But these are moments, and not the whole man. Over the course of his life, Sherlock Holmes truly seems to enjoy people of every sort and shade. They make life interesting for him, and without their great variety, he surely never would have had the interest to hone his powers of observation as sharply as he did.

Jacquelynn was correct in her paper's conclusion: Sherlock Holmes was not a misogynist.

Sherlock Holmes was also not a sociopath. Sherlock Holmes was not asexual. Sherlock Holmes was not a bad friend. Not a braggart. Not a murderer. Not a plumber. Not a priest. Not a whole lot of things. And yet he displayed the characteristics of all of these roles on occasion. What was Sherlock Holmes?

He was very much like you or I, a real, and very complicated, person. And that, I am sure, is why we've grown so fond of him over the years. He's one of us.

Just very, very cool at being one of us.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Somebody's getting an actual heart for Valentine's Day and her name is Joan!

Well, here it is Elementary Thursday and no new episode to sharpen my knives on. But traditions must be honored, I suppose, and what do we do in fandom when there's naught of the real thing available?

We turn to fanfic.

A quick Google search on "Elementary fanfic" brings a host of things, but the first one I try is utter free-from artsy dreck, so I try a search on "best Elementary fanfic" and quickly locate a story of Clyde the turtle. As Clyde has long been one of my favorite things about Elementary,  I spend a little time enjoying that one, then move on to the "shipping" category.

Relationship tales between Sherlock and Joan abound, but since that'll be coming in the series eventually anyway . . . yeah, the creators say they aren't going to go there, but the minute CBS says, "Hook 'em up for the finale, we want ratings!" . . . mark my words. No, Sherlock and Joan isn't cool, but Joan and Moriarty?

Now that's interesting.

I start with balanced on my head like steak knives, a simple, intriguing little tale of a painting being painted. And found I actually enjoyed it better than the average episode of the show.

Next came Of the Devil's Party, a longer work. Interesting, but mostly just teasing the topic. And way too much of Joan's room-mate, who, I must admit, is much more tolerable when a.) he's left to the mind's eye, and b.) actually makes sense when the writer seems to be thinking of him as a real person.

Oddly, after all that tease of the last one, a little post-coital tale called A Dress for Watson for Joan and Jamie rolled up. Too brief to really delve too deeply into the subject, I'm sorry to say.

Moving on, it seems like Jamie Moriarty painting that giant picture of Joan Watson has inspired a lot of Moriarty/Watson relationship thoughts, which makes a lot of sense. You have to be pretty fixated on someone to paint a portrait that large, and not in a pissed-off sort of way. If Jamie were truly fixated on Joan as a foe who bested her, she'd be plotting instead of painting. And her actions upon getting within arm's reach of Joan don't exactly say "payback."

I've often considered that Elementary would have been a better show if they'd have bit the bullet and gone female Sherlock as well as Watson, and their female Moriarty is as close as they come to that. Moriarty-Watson shipping seems somehow like the world of Joan and Jamie just trying to right itself.

But that's what fanfic is all about, in the end . . . supplying something absent in what was originally supplied, whether it's a relationship, a heartfelt moment, or just more content. And whether it's about Clyde the turtle, Jamie Moriarty, Miss Hudson, Alfredo Llamosa, or even restauranteur Mycroft, Elementary is leaving plenty of wide open spaces for fans to fill with fiction.

And on a rerun Thursday night during the February doldrums, well, it's somewhere one might wander.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Writing checks.

It's going away more slowly than the telegram and the letter, but bit by bit, the check is becoming one more bygone relic of Sherlock Holmes's Victorian era. Not having the charm or personality of those other two, I doubt too many will even indulge in it as an affectation once it's gone. But this is check-writing time of year in the old Sherlockian world, renewing annual subscriptions, signing up for events, etc., and it's transition out is felt now a bit more than the rest of the year.

Since the personal check didn't come around until the 1800s, it has a definite Victorian flavor to it. Sherlock Holmes got paid with a handsome "cheque" on occasion. Professor Moriarty seems to have written plenty of checks. And Dr. Watson . . . well, there's that odd bit where Watson's checkbook was kept locked up by Sherlock Holmes.

It's been theorized that Holmes kept Watson's checkbook locked up because the good doctor had a gambling problem, but I would suspect it was for a more mundane reason -- checks in that time were probably only used to move larger sums of money, for things such as the investment option that Watson's friend Thurston had him considering. Holmes refers to the money in Watson's account as "your small capital," which probably means they were Watson's primary assets of the time -- more of a savings than a checking accounf for everyday matters.

Watson undoubtedly used cash for most of his needs, and cash will probably hang on quite a bit longer than checks -- certainly nobody got their identity stolen this holiday shopping season by paying with cash. And in Watson's time, checks were probably not as prevalent as they were in the late 1900s for the same reason they're in decline today -- they were a more costly form of transaction for those institutions processing them than other available means: cash then, debit cards and online transactions now.

Of course, the rise and fall of the check could also be due to one other factor: it's a rather tedious little thing, and while writing one's first check was, at one point in our lives, a happy symbol of becoming an adult, as the years pass, it is a chore whose absence no one will miss . . . but it will make a neat footnote the next time an annotated volume of Sherlock Holmes comes around again in forty years.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Preparing for Valentine's day.

It is strange to think that Valentine's Day was a popular holiday being celebrated in the times of Mr. Sherlock Holmes. The world of the Sherlockian Canon certainly seems to be having none of it. And most of us fully-grown folk are a bit jaded and cynical about the thing in any case, except for those ladies still using it to extort jewelry and flowers out of their vic . . . menfolk, so it's no great loss to the average Sherlockian. Our ladies are much more gracious than that, to be sure.

But sometimes, it helps to have something else to celebrate on those occasions that Hallmark would try to tell us which emotions we should be feeling. So, my fellow jaded and cynical members of the Sherlockian cult, I offer you Valentine's Day.

Colonel Valentine Walter's Day. The new February 14th.

A "very tall, handsome, light-bearded man of fifty," Valentine died after two years in prison following his encounter with Sherlock Holmes. Whether or not that was part of an easier sentence, as Mycroft Holmes implied he might get for cooperating, we cannot know. Outside of pastiche, Valentine was the only criminal ever to be caught with the help of Mycroft Holmes (and G. Lestrade for good measure -- a Canonical tie to Mycroft/Lestrade fanfic, if ever there was one!).

Valentine Walter was also one of the few criminals to foil Sherlock Holmes even as he was caught.

"You can write me down as an ass this time, Watson," Holmes said when Valentine fell into his trap. "This was not the bird that I was looking for." Perhaps it was the presence of his older, smarter brother that caused such an honest moment in Sherlock, as he could have easily feigned Valentine's capture was all part of his plan . . . were he not under the keen eye of Mycroft at that very moment.

Now, given all these facts about the subject of our new Valentine's Day, I'm sure you're wondering how you should be celebrating it, especially as only a few days remain to prepare. Well, there is one way that suggests itself, given to us by what Sherlock Holmes got out of his encounter with non-saintly Valentine.

"Some weeks afterwards," Watson writes, "I learned incidentally that my friend spent a day at Windsor, whence he returned with a fine emerald tie-pin. When I asked him if he had bought it, he answered that it was a present from a certain gracious lady . . . ."

There you go: Valentine's Day, Sherlockian-style, is a day for gentlemen to receive gifts from certain gracious ladies. And nothing says "gracious" like an emerald tie-pin.

Three shopping days left!

The brain attic versus the mind palace.

"A man should keep his little brain attic stocked with all the furniture that he is likely to use, and the rest he can put away in the lumber-room of his library, where he can get it if he wants it." 
-- Sherlock Holmes, 1891

"I need to go to my mind palace."
-- Sherlock Holmes, 2012

Being a blogger is an exercise in constantly being made aware of one's limits. Putting thoughts out on public display with a comment section will quickly bring out the facts that one failed to include, and no human mind contains all of the facts in a chosen field. Not that some don't make a very good attempt at it. Which brings us back to our friend Sherlock Holmes.

Did Sherlock Holmes have a "mind palace" in 1891?

Yes, yes, we know he said, "A man should keep his little brain attic stocked . . ." but was he talking about his own mind? "Little brain attic" seems more like it could be his estimation of us regular folk. If we have attics, Holmes has a palace, to be sure.

But is our modern Sherlock's "mind palace" more of an expression of our modern faith in our instant access to all the data on the internet? Who needs a mind palace when you've got a data-phone that will pull in human knowledge on all sorts of things? And if we can do it with a phone, well, we'd imagine that surely Sherlock Holmes could do it with his brain, couldn't he? Or is that just our imaginations taking liberties?

Anyone who still maintains a library on a particular subject, like the subject of Holmes himself, will quickly tell you that all the data isn't even close to being on the internet. A true expert still needs "the lumber-room of his library." And Holmes was a true expert.

When Holmes was originally speaking of the brain attic, he was basically talking about the brain as a space for knowledge and not an actual mental construct for memorization. I suspect that that the method of loci (the older name for the "mind palace" technique) was actually used by Hannibal Lechter before a Holmes first did. (And shouldn't be confused with Sherlock Holmes's consideration of  the genius loci, the spirit of a place, in The Valley of Fear.)

If Victorian Sherlock was a student of method of loci, I suspect he would have given Watson some tips on it when he had to do twenty-four hours of intensive study on Chinese pottery in "Illustrious Client." Watson, it appears, used old fashioned cramming to get the job done for the short term. Of course, maybe Holmes just respected Watson's intellect enough to let the doctor use his own memorization technique of choice. But, who knows, really?

For the best answer about Holmes's use of method of loci, it's easiest just to consider the media involved. While the "mind palace" technique really doesn't add anything to a prose presentation of Sherlock Holmes, it really does jazz up the visuals of a video Holmes. And in that little fact, I think we can find our true reason for our favorite detective adopting the technique in the modern era.

The mind palace just looks cooler on TV than in The Strand Magazine. And that's not a bad thing.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Our little town.

The irony of a three-day Sherlock convention called "Elementary" being held over in the UK this weekend makes me smile a bit. It also makes me smile for a lot of other reasons.

It's a strange new Sherlockian world now, thanks to Sherlock. There are now Sherlock Holmes conventions out there, a fact which last year's 221B Con suddenly brought miraculously to life. And for an entity in the convention business like Starfury Conventions to go, "Hey, there's a market for a Sherlock convention!" and then bring in Benedict Cumberbatch, Lars Mikkelsen, and company to entertain the fans . . . well, that's something we've never seen before.

Watching the Sherlock boom's effect on the old school Sherlockian world has been interesting.

It's a little like if Sherlockians lived in a sleepy little hamlet we were all comfortable in, and a huge, bigger-than-the-town-itself modern housing development, complete with big-box stores, got dropped right on its outskirts. There were those bored locals who immediately drove over to the new development to see what it had to offer. And there were also, of course, those townies so invested in our little town as it was that they went about their daily habits as if nothing had happened . . . and maybe grousing a bit about the johnny-come-latelys wandering into old town from the new part.

Most residents of our little Sherlockian town fall somewhere in the middle of those two extremes. We're all curious as to what the census signs are going to read in ten years. But man, is this a cool time to be a Sherlockian. Seeing a young face with a mop of curly hair attached to the name "Sherlock Holmes" all over the place is something none of us would have predicted ten years prior to now, but none of us could have predicted the effect the internet was going to have on us in 1990, either. Sure, you can still write a letter and put it in a mailbox if you want to ignore the societal shift, but most of us don't see the world as a letters-and-mailbox place anymore.

And I think that's the thing that really puts a mad spin on the rise of Sherlock. Benedict Cumberbatch is the first Sherlock Holmes of the internet age, and reaping all the benefits of our new technology. The influence of our last great Sherlock, Jeremy Brett, cannot even be compared to the Cumberbatch, because Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook, etc., didn't exist back then. I have no doubt that if there had been the internet of today in the 1980s, Starfury Conventions would have been doing Granada Holmes cons. Heck, if we'd have had the internet in Rathbone's day, he'd have been crazy huge on the convention circuit.

Gillette had a popular stage-play. Rathbone had radios and black and white movies. Brett had color television and VHS tapes. and now we have Cumberbatch and YouTube and Netflix streaming. Each successive Sherlock Holmes has gotten a more powerful medium and reached more people, and each has brought in new Sherlock Holmes fans to the core community. Thirty year from now, a new actor may be taking advantage of some pipe-it-directly-into-your-brain technology and be an even bigger Sherlock sensation still.

And our little Sherlockian town will never be the same. But it never has been, really.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Catching the Cumberbatch "P" pop.

Usually when one likes or dislikes a movie of TV show, it's done by consciously remembered certain lines, certain scenes . . . sort of savoring the flavor in retrospect in the case of "likes," chafing at the irritation in the "dislikes." But in all my years of movie-going, I've noticed the strongest indicator of whether or not I truly like a movie: I walk differently on my way out of the theater.

Not as an affectation, not as a conscious imitation, but just because my brain got so into the movie that it starts replicating some part of the movie's motions in my gait. Travolta's strut from Saturday Night Fever. Peter Weller's mechanical motions from Robocop. As those ancient examples tend to demonstrate, it happened a lot more when I was younger, but suddenly I've found that the tendency is still with me.

Sitting at work, pondering some random work thing this week, and suddenly I started doing Benedict Cumberbatch's Sherlock "P" pops. In the show, he usually uses it to finish a "Yep" or a "Nope" with a "Yep(pop)" or a "No(pop)." Me, I was sitting there like some dazed goldfish, just making little O-mouths and popping away. Catching myself unconsciously doing such a out-of-the-norm behavior, I had to do a quick mental backtrack to see where it came from, and found Sherlock as my answer.

It's hard to say, decades from now, what bits Benedict Cumberbatch will have added to Sherlock Holmes's accepted personality long term, but now I'm starting to wonder if we won't have more Holmes "P" pops down the line.

Yeh-puh . . .

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sex and the single Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes certainly has come a long way with women in the past two years.

As he was created, many have seen him as asexual or at least a misogynist. There's the "never to be trusted" line, the "I have never loved" line, etc., etc. He warms to them somewhat toward the end of the  original Canon, yet never has a real relationship.

In the prior season of Sherlock, he was referred to, without argument, as "the virgin." This season, he seems to have developed some small skills with the fair sex which he uses in his sham relationship with Janine. (Do we believe the headlines from the stories Janine fed the tabloids? They seem questionable at best.) We are left to theorize if he learned said skills from Irene Adler during the hiatus . . . and theorizing has alway been what we're left to on Sherlock Holmes's sex life.

Except in the case of Elementary . . .

"I view sex as an exercise, as do the women I entertain," Mr. Elementary announced this week, after Joan Watson handed his latest overnight guest her morning to-go cup of coffee.

"Yesterday was the archeologist, and last week was the school teacher and the magician," Watson reported, and from all the comments in the first two minutes of the show we learn that Mr. E has bedded five new women since last we saw him, and he adds one more by the time the show is over.

If Elementary was truly a show about addiction, this might be an issue to be dealt with. If Elementary was truly a show about bringing women forward, as their female Watson has always purported to do, Mr. Elementary wouldn't treat them like disposable, interchangeable objects (despite the constant claim that they're all happy with their one-nighters).

But what we are left with is a weird situation where Mr. Elementary (or his writers) seems to love rubbing Joan's face in his constant meaningless liasons while allowing her no ongoing relationship of her own. In a way, she's almost being treated worse than the one-night stands, forced to take the role of the virgin who waits for the moment she and Mr. E finally realize their love for each other. (Yes, she notably slept with his brother, but one could consider that a surrogate for the eventual real thing.)

I once wrote that Elementary hates Sherlock Holmes, but lately I wonder if it hates women worse. Even when Conan Doyle created Holmes as a misogynist, the detective had a very kindly streak in him toward the ladies, and his creator much more so. Sherlock has been giving us strong, fleshed-out female characters from the get-go (even if you don't like Sally Donovan, she's no patsy).

It's seems inevitable that our modern Sherlocks must be sexual Sherlocks. We live in a more open time that Conan Doyle did when he created the sleuth. But sex tends to involve partners, and I'd hope that our modern Sherlocks tend toward partners who are worth their . . . and our . . . time. Otherwise, we might as well go to Starbucks to watch people get their coffee to go.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

What if Elementary writers took the Sherlock approach?

With new episodes of Sherlock and Elementary running within days of each other last week, the comparisons were running wild through my head this week. One thing that I really like about Sherlock that Elementary doesn't do nearly so much is to pepper each episode with references to the Canon and other moments in Sherlock lore. Mixing "A Scandal in Bohemia" and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, putting big chunks of "The Empty House" in two unconnected episodes, but adding a "Mazarin Stone" twist in one of them. So I got to thinking: What if Elementary did more of that?

And what if they did it tonight?

With that thought in mind, the good Carter and myself sat down to watch this week's episode of Elementary, "Corpse de Ballet," with the eyes of a house flipper looking at a fixer-upper. How might we fill tonight's show with the sort of goodies that would make a true blue Sherlockian squeal in delight?

And here we go. Tatiana is leaving Mr. Elementary's bedroom after spending the night with a note reading "Coitus in progress." She's a "pastor of some sort," but we segue to the ballet for our pre-credits murder. Already, I'd have done a Private Life bit by tying Tatiana to the ballet, where we later learn she was only sleeping with Mr. Elementary to get pregnant with his child. Have Joan Watson get hit on by Tatiana's lesbian ballerina friend who's waiting in the kitchen, and the tribute to Private Life is complete.

Now, on to the ballet. Let's call the dancer who died "Pattie Doran" ("Hatty" is a little out of date) and now we've touched on "Noble Bachelor." Let's call our prime suspect "Flora Millar," and make sure Doran's body was found in the middle of Swan Lake.

Joan Watson leaves that mystery to go look into a homeless man who is missing his friend. Let's call this homeless guy "James Dodd," and he's missing his old military buddy "Godfrey Emsworth."

Mr. Elementary, meanwhile, is interviewing Flora's ex-boyfriend, Lord St. Simon. (Yes, "Lord" is his first name.) About this point, the good Carter wanders off out of sheer boredom with the latest episode, and by the time Mr. Elementary has had his second one-night-stand of the episode, I'm thinking of giving up this little project. But I don't want to slut-shame Mr. Elementary, so I press on.

So it turns out Flora was having a relationship with Pattie -- in Elementary's version, they're breaking up, but I'd rather take a twist on "Noble Bachelor" and have them about to run off and get married just before the murder. We get a scene at Elementary's version of Baker Street where Joan is packing up clothes for the homeless, and I really wish they'd have kept Miss Hudson around to add something to the lodgings scenes.

Okay, one more pause in the project: after a year and a half we suddenly learn that Joan Watson's biological father is a schizophrenic homeless man who lives on the streets of New York and she's helped out at shelters just to see him. But wait, if we're going to suddenly toss in massive Watson backstory, why don't we go with "I used to be a Mormon, and on the eve of my wedding to Enoch Drebber, I fled to New York." That way Watson has some reason for wondering about Pattie perhaps leaving Flora on the night before their wedding.

But you know Lord St. Simon has to be the killer in the end, and when Joan Watson discovers Godfrey Emsworth being held prisoner in a basement, we'll call the homeowners "Jeff and Alice Rucastle," who've been imprisoning him for his veteran's benefits. Only in our "a little more Sherlock" version the Rucastles had another homeless guy pretending to be Emsworth by putting albino make-up on himself. (Did I mention Emsworth was an albino in this . . .) "Blanched Soldier"/"Copper Beeches" mash-up for the win! Or not.

Okay, I think we'll call this experiment a failure. You can't make a silk purse out of a very boring sow's ear, and boy, was this week's Elementary a snoozer. Even with Mr. Elementary adding two notches to his sex championship belt, Joan Watson revealing deep personal secrets, and a bisected corpse.

But maybe it just needs Mycroft in every episode. Seems to be working elsewhere.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Sherlock Smackdown: Benedict Cumberbatch versus William Gillette

Benedict Cumberbatch rules! in fact, after season three of Sherlock, he rules so hard that it's time to stop pitting him against Robert Downey Jr. or Jonny Lee Miller, or whatever three-part-name person you want to compare to the six-syllabled name of wonder. Yes, it's time to throw our hero in a virtual time machine and start placing him toe-to-toe against giants of the past. And why not start that fight card with the guy who started big-time Sherlock Holmes acting: William Hooker Gillette.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . currently at ten episodes with his Holmes (and I count the mini).
William Hooker Gillette . . . finished with two episodes of his Holmes (and he had a mini, too).

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . born and raised in London, England.
William Hooker Gillette . . . born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut, U.S. A.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . on several "Sexiest Man Alive" lists in popular press.
William Hooker Gillette . . . had a castle. Castles, very sexy.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . started playing Sherlock Holmes at age thirty-four.
William Hooker Gillette . . . started playing Sherlock Holmes at age forty-five.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . Holmes's non-Canonical gal pal: Molly Hooper, gets a kiss on the cheek.
William Hooker Gillette . . . Holmes's non-Canonical gal pal: Alice Faulkner, gets a hug.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . Holmes finished up with Moriarty where he and Watson first met.
William Hooker Gillette . . . Holmes finished up with Moriarty in Watson's consulting room.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . actor playing Mycroft wrote many of his own lines.
William Hooker Gillette . . . actor playing Sherlock wrote many of his own lines.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . played Sherlock Holmes ten times so far.
William Hooker Gillette . . . played Sherlock Holmes about 1300 times so far.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . has had his Sherlock marry John Watson in fan fics.
William Hooker Gillette . . . actually asked Conan Doyle for Sherlock's hand in marriage. (Oh, you think "May I marry Holmes?" has a different interpretation?)

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . much sought after for a Baker Street Babes podcast, at which time he'd become an honorary B.S.B.
William Hooker Gillette . . . attended the first meeting of the Baker Street Irregulars of New York, which might make him an honorary B.S.I.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . photographed for November 2013 Vanity Fair.
William Hooker Gillette . . . drawn in 1907 Vanity Fair, even though they had photography at the time.

Benedict Cumberbatch . . . gets along with his fans. Almost of them are still alive.
William Hooker Gillette . . . berated his opening night audience after the show. No known fans from that show still alive.

Is that enough? Do we need more? To quote Epic Rap Battles of History, "Who won? Who's next? You decide!" 

Molly Hooper, sober companion.

A good episode of Sherlock evokes many a tribute, reference, or "what if" in the Sherlockian mind . . . sometimes days after the original viewing. And this time out, I finally realized the strangest thing of all in "His Last Vow." Spoilers, kids, if that matters at this point.

Sherlock worked in an Elementary tribute this season.

Faced with the question of what to do with the non-Canonical Molly Hooper, the folks at Sherlock seem to have borrowed a page from their cousins at CBS. For what do we find Molly doing?

Becoming Sherlock's female Watson. Addressing his seeming drug problem.

Suddenly, she's Joan Watson. With fire. Molly Hooper, sober companion.

Molly Hooper slapping the crap out of Sherlock Holmes when she thinks he's succumbed to drug addiction was a better moment for me than any of the real or imagined kisses of earlier in the season. Little Molly, after seasons of meek Sherlock-worship, finally has enough, lets the rage flow, and lets Sherlock have it.

Of course, she isn't hired by Sherlock's adorable father or bedded by his older brother, but, hey, let's not get silly now.

Molly's moment of reaction to drugs in Sherlock's bloodstream showed us a fire that I wish Joan Watson could come up with every episode on Elementary. But this season seems to be everybody's time to take a shot at Sherlock, so maybe the American show's "whack-a-Sherlock" season is still to come.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Call me a fan and be damned.

The word "liar" was spotted upon my first viewing of "The Empty Hearse." The way Private Life was interwoven with "A Scandal in Bohemia" for "Belgravia" was not lost on me when considering the potential that The Crucifer of Blood held for "His Last Vow." But they still led me down the garden path on this one. Or to put it more to the point, Steven Moffat owned me for eight-nine minutes tonight.

"His Last Vow." Christ.

When the arguments about Elementary come up, as they occasionally do, I get written off as a Sherlock fan by many a defender of the procedural's place in our view of Sherlocks. And in the past, I've looked around at the true Sherlock fans I have encountered, their talent, their zeal, their marvelous attention to detail, and thought . . . no, I would not put myself in their class. There are some real masters of Sherlock fandom out there; to call one's self a fan next to them seems . . . well, like bragging.

I'm just an old Sherlockian war horse, still plodding along from the eighties. And yet, Sherlock just keeps reminding me what it was like to be young and excited about Sherlock Holmes. Enough old and familiar bits are there that I recognize my old friends these stories, and yet they keep finding ways to make me feel what Conan Doyle was pressing first-time Victorian readers to feel. It's the telegram-then text-message-now translation, just done with entire stories.

Oh, yes, they're playing pastiche. An indulgence of Mycroft. Billy Wiggins, of course there's a Billy Wiggins. Moriarty doing guest mental or imaginary story guest spots, and even . . . well, we'll leave that for now. But they're playing pastiche so bloody well.

That's what gets me about this series. I'm not really looking to be a fan. I'm not expecting them to succeed when I sit down to an episode, and the longer their streak runs, the more I expect failure. But they keep applying the paddles to my aged Sherlockian heart and shouting, "CLEAR!"

And so, with the end of season three, I guess I will accept being called a fan of Sherlock. It seems silly to have to be identified as a fan of quality workmanship in any arena, like someone is just saying, "OHHHH, you like good things, thoughtfully crafted!" Well, yes, I do.

So fan I am. Thank you, Moffat, Gatiss, et al.

(And after this season, it seems that we Sherlock fans have our own version of "muggles" to throw around, should we start getting snooty about our love of the good stuff. I'd really rather not be one of those sorts of fans, so I'll be using said word as a dashboard "Check Engine" light. If you have no clue as to what I'm talking about, good for you, gentle soul. Don't worry over it.)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

High quality reading.

When I read The Hound of the Baskervilles last September, I had a choice to make. Since it was originally serialized in The Strand Magazine from August 1901 to April 1902, the book has been printed literally millions of times, in more editions world-wide than most of us would care to count. And these days, the text of the novel can be found in a dozen places online. Reading Hound is not hard to do. Picking which version of it to read? Well, that can be a little more complicated.

In September, I picked the version in The Original Illustrated 'STRAND' Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Facsimile Edition, in order to get back as closely as possible to the original experience for a low, low cost. Not sure how I came by this particular edition, published with a "Mallard Press" imprint of the BDD Promotional Book Company, Inc. and copyrighted by Wordsworth Editions, Ltd. It's a very cheap edition, with the paper a grade that's a sort of slick newsprint. But it got the job done.

Today I got a flyer for a new edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles from The Easton Press, a publisher that markets to collectors. With new art by Matthew Stewart, the new Easton edition comes fully loaded. Leather bound, gold inlays, sewn pages, fabric-covered slipcase, limited hand-numbered edition, signed by the artist, etc., etc. If you can think of a luxury option to use on a book, the Easton edition pretty much has it . . . well, they didn't use the tanned hide of an actual demon-hound to bind it, but let's not get crazy here.

Anyway, this pimped-out copy of Hound can be yours for the low, low price of three monthly payments of $89. That's $267 total cost to read a novel that you could read for free, if words are all that matter. But we do love our books. If you've got a few hundred bucks laying around, I don't think anyone would begrudge you a high quality book to sit in your wingback chair next to your marble fireplace and read. Of course, if you have a marble fireplace, you might want to be considering a $3,000 UK first edition. For the cost of Easton, you can only get an American first edition, which is, sadly, not anybody's idea of a luxury reading experience.

The funny thing is, no matter what we do on the outside of our reading The Hound of the Baskervilles, where we sit, what we hold in our hands, what surrounds us . . . a few minutes after we start reading, all of that fades away, and we are transported to Baker Street and the moor. We enjoy our time there, and when it's done, one might even feel the need for a trophy. And since the mounted head of the Hound himself isn't available, sometimes one more copy of the book is what will mark the occasion for us.

Sometimes I get a little socially conscious when a high-priced luxury item like the Easton Hound comes out. Is Easton taking advantage of obsessed hobbyists? Are book-buyers wasting money on frills when they could be feeding kids in third world countries? Yes, and yes. But we are, at heart, imperfect creatures with odd little urges like trophy-gathering. And in the space of any given moment, sometimes adding a special tome to our shelves might be an easy, fun choice.

And then, later, when it comes time to re-read The Hound of the Baskervilles . . . hey, you've got a really nice copy to sit down with.