Putting a Sherlock Holmes story into the incredibly large tournament of champions that is reading About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story Is The Best takes some motivation. A lot of this fight's promoters came to the big show like public defenders assigned a wayward misdemeanor culprit. But there were those who came to champion a lifelong favorite, to pick the kid in the class they thought could win this game. Both stances have pluses and minuses, as I saw in tonight's bouts.
Alexian Gregory seems to have looked up at "The Adventure of the Golden Pince-nez" when he was seven years old like it was Hulk Hogan waving an American Flag while "I Am A Real American" plays as the Hulkster charges into the ring. And while Alexian highlights his competitor's serious and study-worthy skills, I can't lose that image of a seven-year-old boy perhaps being overly impressed with a "Golden" star who might be a little less than super.
Author Dan Andriacco favors "The Adventure of the Missing Three-Quarter" because of all the character it shows, making it a four-man tag-team of character all by its lonesome. Yet as none of those four is Sherlock Holmes, it looks like the ref is calling this one on a disqualification. Not a popular call with the crowd, to be sure, but, hey, the ref is the ref!
Meghashyam Chirravoori cheers on "The Adventure of Abbey Grange" in a way completely new to this Battle Royale: Sherlock Holmes is so cool in every other story that "Abbey Grange" gets its energy from Holmes coming off as more of a regular guy. But since Chirravoori awards "Abbey Grange" with a trophy all his own at the essay's end, I don't think this story is going to stick around for the final bell when it's already a winner.
And then Mary Loving brings a stack of references along when her client, "The Adventure of the Second Stain" comes striding in. They're good references, they're solid references, but the story is called "The Adventure of the Second Stain." Yeah, I may be just getting tired here, but do you want to hear, "Look what's left in the ring now that the tournament is over . . . the Second Staaaaaaainnnn!"
And then, the largest competitor we've seen in a while gets wrangled into the ring by Jennifer Liang: The Valley of Fear. And the more I see of The Valley of Fear, the more I realize that this one . . . this mammoth beast of a Sherlock Holmes story, with its bifurcated bulk . . . this one is perhaps the biggest stranger to me in this entire competition. Fewer discussions get based around novels of its length, and it's not the first one, nor the second, nor the Holmes-is-dead-memorial novel. It's not often the tale one picks up on a foggy autumn evening out of a Canon of tales to choose from. But it comports itself admirably under Jen's championing of it, and the strengths of its two larger-than-life villains (one of whom is Moriarty himself) make its space in the ring a dominant one.
But just as The Valley of Fear's bulk starts forcing some of the more recent competitors out of the ring, out from the back curtain comes the fellow running this tournament, Christopher Redmond himself, to talk about the prefaces. While not considered stories in their own right, the two short essays, one by Watson and one by his literary agent, have a very stealthy place in the Canon, almost behind the scenes, and it's nice of Chris to bring them out for a bow.
It's almost like the perfect intermission, a little light refreshment before we get into some of the most dirty-fighting, no-holds-barred parts of the Canon from His Last Bow and The Casebook of Sherlock Holmes. Even the official fighters of the Conan Doyle Estate, Ltd. are going to be showing up soon.
I have a feeling that this intermission may last a little while, but hold on to your seats! As the announcer at the beginning of the second part of every Batman TV two-parter used to say, "The worst is yet to come!"