Wednesday, June 21, 2017

What is Sherlock Holmes to us?

Sherlock Holmes is so many things to many people, but he has always occupied a couple of major spaces in our modern mythos.

To the post-Victorians of the early 1900s, he was an envoy to nostalgia of a time gone by. To the predominately left-brained, before "left" had such strong political connotations that the phrase might be misunderstood by many, he was a torch-bearer for logic and reason. Classic Sherlockian texts push those two roles hard, but these days, Sherlock Holmes definitely has one more major role in our lives, and I've been trying to put it into words for a few days now.

When Sherlock Holmes and John Watson first meet, both men are on the fringes of society, practically outcasts. Watson, through ill-health and physical injury, has been put on the government's disabled list. Holmes is described by a colleague (Stamford) as someone you probably don't want to spend a lot of time with, and fits no well-defined societal role. Neither man really has much in the way of friends, family, or lovers. And when they meet, it's important.

Christopher Morley once put his name and introduction on a book called Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship. It contains just A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, "The Final Problem," "The Empty House," and "The Bruce-Partington Plans," but doesn't really delve into the theme of its title much other than to present those stories and talk about Sherlockiana in general.

We know that Sherlockiana has sparked some wonderful friendships over the years, and we know that Sherlock and John were great friends as well, but why is that friendship more special to us than that of The Three Musketeers? Or Nero Wolfe and Archie? Or any of the thousands of other fictional friendships from classic literature up to today's New York Times best sellers?

Now that we've had a chance to see two major denominations of Sherlock Holmes fans develop, with different styles of Sherlocking, we have a great opportunity to look for commonalities in very different approaches. How are middle-aged men calculating the geometry of "The Musgrave Ritual" like young ladies producing Mystrade porn fics? How are past travelers working out the location of 221B Baker Street like modern fan tourists extrapolating from Setlock? The techniques might be very different on the surface, but the spirit behind them? Much the same.

And so much of that common spirit ties back to the relationship between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. Call it friendship or call it love, those two souls coming together has great meaning for us. Two men who don't fit into society at all, outcasts in their way, coming together in a relationship that makes that same world that doesn't know what to do with them a better place.

All the mysteries they solve, all the clients they help, none of that is as meaningful as what Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson bring to the table when they come together for that work. "The Blanched Soldier" and "The Lion's Mane" are nice stories, but with Sherlock alone, they don't tend to make anyone's top ten list. Something is missing and even though Watson's role doesn't seem as specifically important as Sherlock's, replacing him with any casual stranger just doesn't filled the bill, just as if Watson had gone on to room with Stamford in A Study in Scarlet.

Even just asking the question "What does Sherlock Holmes mean to us?" leaves out a key element of the equation. It is Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson together that bring the most meaning to their stories, in any medium, in any re-creation. Their relationship, the bond of two outsiders that works a pure magical alchemy of personality, has produced good things both in fiction and in our really real world. Solving mysteries to entertain us and bringing empowering friendships into our lives.

And that, the connection between Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson is, at this point in our world, far more important than nostalgia for the Victorian period or examples of observation and deduction.

We are very lucky to have them.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

An old story, a new story, and a pod full of stories!

Great day to be a Sherlockian today.

First, and most unremarkable to a stalwart fan of Holmes, the local Sherlock Holmes Story Society is doing "The Man with the Twisted Lip" on Thursday night at Peoria's North Branch. Even though I've read that story many a time, it's a fun one, and a tale that comes much earlier in the Canon than I expect ever time. Opium dens, Holmes and Watson doing a sleepover at a client's house while Watson is married, Holmes swiping stuff from a lady's bathroom, the boys actually going to jail to see a supposed murderer . . . all kinds of wacky atypical fun. And the discussion starts at 6:30 this Thursday with a special guest from afar.

Second, and another great time ahead, is that the Amazon pre-order I threw in on Sunday arrived already: The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter by Theodora Goss. Henry Jekyll's daughter Mary is calling upon Mr. Sherlock Holmes for help by the second chapter, and having made it that far, I can already say the book looks to be a lively, inventive read. Charles Prepolec had mentioned it online and the description seemed just too perfect. More on that one to come, I'm sure.

And third, and a great time just finished, is "Episode 65: Sherlocked USA Con Roundup," a special (and very different) episode by Three Patch Podcast.  Team Three Patch are some great podcasters, usually providing a three-hour-ish show every month featuring many different segments one can make last a while, taking in a bit here, a bit there. But this episode is one 105 minute romp entirely dedicated to Fox Estacado and Chelsea giving you EVERYTHING you want to know about Los Angeles's Sherlocked USA Con.

Like any proper adventurers returned from exploring an exotic land, Fox and Chelsea have stories to tell, and they really do it so very, very well. Stories of meeting the members of the Sherlock cast who were headlining the con are to be expected, but an unexpected treat from this episode was Fox's behind-the-scenes look are her life in the dealer's room. Having seen her at work a booth at 221B Con, it made her stories all the more vivid for me, but Chelsea held her own with descriptions of her cosplay outfit and encounters it helped make.

Unlike the way I usually ration out a month's worth of Three Patch, I found myself rolling through this one without a pause and happy to skip other new podcasts to hear more. This month was a great episode to sample the sort of enthusiasm common to Three Patch's work and get a full report on a Sherlockian event of a sort we may not see too many of . . . I was both more than a little envious and just happy for the reporting they did when it was done.

But as I said before, this week holds Sherlockian treats ahead, so I can't dwell too long on any regrets of not going to Sherlocked USA.  Some days, it's just great to be a Sherlockian.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Original Canon fanfic alternate worlds.

There has long been a trope in science fiction that every moment creates new universes. If you decide to turn right, a "turn right" universe springs up. Turn left and an entirely different "turn left" world arises. This seems like a whole lot of energy being expended just to give importance to minor choices, but it's a fun little extrapolation game to play. And, it really does happen.

Yes, it really does. Maybe not in our really real world, but in fan fiction world?

Season one of Sherlock happens. A thousand fan fiction universes spin off. Season Two of Sherlock happens. A thousand more fan fiction universes incorporating the choices made by the showrunners for that season spring up. And so on.

Can you imagine what alternate fan fiction reality generations would have come had Victorians had the internet?

A Study in Scarlet sees print. Fanfic writers spin off stories about Watson's disabilities, romantic entanglements with characters we never heard of, Sherlock advising foreign detectives . . . .

The Sign of the Four appears. Watson dumps previous romantic partners for Mary. Holmes boxing and addiction fics run wild (and boxing-related addiction fics). Sherlock's multiple siblings start appearing, and he might even be the eldest brother. Sherlock and John work with Toby the dog on a regular basis.

The Adventures and The Memoirs come out. Sherlock Holmes is suddenly dead. Dead, dead, dead. Afterlife fan fiction happens (as it actually did, with John Kendrick Bangs.) Do the fans produce stories where he didn't really die? Probably not, as they have dozens of episodes of new material to play with. Irene Adler, Moriarty, and Mycroft all come into play. Except Mycroft is just a government auditor who is too lazy to be a detective. Mycroft fan fiction takes a big hit, as who wants to write about an auditor?

The Hound of the Baskervilles doesn't affect much.

The Return of Sherlock Holmes brings Sherlock back to life and futzes up almost a decade of fanfic and headcanon. Mycroft is still an auditor. Milverton shows up and we start getting darker, criminal-act Sherlock . . . or just feeding of those who already had written him dark.

The Valley of Fear is a problem in any world. Watson knew about Moriarty?

His Last Bow. Finally, Mycroft gets to be the British Government!  Sherlock the spy fanfic begins, if it hadn't already. Watson's preface also alters any retirement fanfic, heavy on the rheumatism.

The Casebook ends the Canon. No real alternate timelines spin off this one, because it always just seemed like fanfic by the author anyway.

Each publication, like each season of Sherlock, would have brought changes for those who bravely charged ahead into the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. And they would have had plenty of time to do it in those days, with hiatuses lasting such random lengths as three, one, eight, two, ten, and four years. My meagre extrapolations above don't begin to touch on the possibilities that could have come.

But that, really, is the cool part. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson have always had so many possibilities in them. Universes upon universes, and many, many more are still out there, waiting.

Turn right. Turn left. Head off at a fifteen degree angle. It's all good.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

An American point of union.

Where is the best place in America for Sherlockian road warriors to meet?

Over in his new blog, Interesting Though Elementary, Rob Nunn was discussing the idea of a Sherlockian road-trip competition, inspired by something Chris Redmond said on Twitter. And as so many of us web-headed Sherlockians oftimes feed off one another, looking at Rob's team race idea put another in my head: How would all of us get to the starting point with our cars?

America has so many cities mentioned in the Holmes Canon that are brilliant destinations. San Francisco, New Orleans, St. Augustine . . . many on one coast or another and so many of them have Sherlockians there already. There's a reason so many Holmes fans fly to the big events in New York, Minneapolis, and Atlanta, as well. We're very spread out.

The starting point of a road rally would practically be the finish line for most of us, having to drive so far to get our cars there. And where would the fairest place for that be?

Well, the geographic center of the contiguous United States is supposedly about 2.6 miles northwest of the center of Lebanon, Kansas. It has the same name as the Pennsylvania town mentioned in "The Red-headed League," which gets it some points, and it's about three and a half hours from both Fort Dodge, Kansas and Topeka, Kansas, which both appear in that most Kansasian of stories, "The Three Garridebs." If Sherlockians were camping folk (and some surely are, but I'm betting not most), it would even be a wonderful thing to pick a campground in Kansas, gather there in tents and RVs and christen that place "Moorville."

T'were one to map out distribution of the U.S. Sherlockian population, a road rally would probably happen on the East coast, starting in New York, Philadelphia, or  Washington. And maybe that's where such a thing would start . . . but not for everyone. Have you ever been to a Sherlockian weekend where you and a couple of friends decided to do dinner, then pick up Sherlockian after Sherlockian on your way out of the hotel until you wind up with a table for ten or more? What if a Sherlockian road rally actually worked like that?

A stalwart carload or two from the Eastern seaboard starts west, headed for Palmyra, New York. From there, they go up to Toronto, down to Detroit (pausing at London, Ontario, of course). Along the way, they are joined by other cars from those places. (Alternate Caonical route, Palmyra to Buffalo to Cleveland.) From there, on to Chicago to add more Sherlockians to the convoy, and down to St. Louis (with maybe a Nauvoo swing-out). Then that fabled Kansas leg of the trip, followed by a long day's drive to Salt Lake City. Then Carson City and on to San Francisco . . . except then those poor San Franciscans don't get to drive anywhere, and everybody else has to drive back.

At some point in this consideration, the thought occurred to only travel in states mentioned in the Canon, at which point Indiana, Kentucky, and the Virginias become real problems. I have a feeling that Canonical driving tours of Great Britain are a whole lot easier to manage. Here in America, we have to use a little imagination, which is what Don Hobbs did in coming up with his Watson, Oklahoma, Holmes Peak, and Sherlock, Texas route. I'm sure we could find the one state with the most Canonically referenced sites and add some "Watson, Illinois" type places.

Not that I'm biased toward any particular state in the fifty, mind you. (Though one where you can go from Chicago to Cairo . . . oh, wait, our roads are not exactly prime right now.) There are a lot of possibilities for those with a week or a weekend, when you start digging into it.

Altamont, Illinois to Chicago? Violet, Louisiana to Hosmer, South Dakota?  Baskerville, Virginia to Stapleton, Georgia? Norwood, Illinois to P & W Builders? That last one is a three minute drive just outside of Peoria. You can have some very local fun with this stuff. (Don't think I haven't been to Baker Street in East Peoria on more than one occasion!) The trick is, as always, getting Sherlockians together for the thing. Which brings us back to . . .

Kansas, anyone?

Dad versus Morland.

There's a bad link on IMDB's page for BBC's Sherlock. If you scroll down through the cast list and click on the character played by Timothy Carlton, listed there as "Dad," it takes you to the character profile for "Morland Holmes" from CBS's Elementary.

Since CBS would surely sue the BBC for using Morland Holmes on their show, t'were that actually the name of Timothy Carlton's character, I would strongly tend toward believing "Dad" has some other, and surely more benign, first name.

I mean, "Morland." Really. "Snidely Whip-Holmes" wasn't available?

Sherlock and Elementary take two decidedly different approaches to the father of our friend Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock's Holmes pater is full of kindliness and normalcy, which leads one to believe that his sons' quirks tend toward nature over nurture. Elementary's Sherlock father figure is such a villainous mess one would push his boys' issues over into the "nurture" column. And, boy, do those two have issues, and they didn't even have a last season sister to push them to where they are. (Of course, with at least one season left to go, another Holmes sibling could still be in the offing for Elementary.)

If one were to pit Sherlock's "Dad" and Elementary's "Morland" against one another, mano a mano, one's first thought as to the outcome would be that the villainous Morland would dispatch Dad with half a thought. But it is very hard to think of Dad Holmes as an individual item. Mrs. Holmes is a part of the package. And that eldest son would probably get wind of any threat on its way, if the middle one wasn't somehow in the picture already, and daddy's little girl? Yikes. Sorry, Morland, but that last one would have taken you out at age fifteen.

Morland Holmes and Dad Holmes come off as a paternal Goofus and Gallant, when you look at the true role of a father. One distant and manipulative, hiring surrogates to interact with at least one of his kids. The other a sweet old guy who just wants a visit at the holidays and maybe to go see a show with the kids now and then.  We've seen a wild array of Holmes fathers over the years, when we've seen glimpses of them at all. (Nicholas Meyer's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution and Mona Morstein's The Childhood of Sherlock Holmes come first to mind, along with Baring-Gould's Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street.) Our current pair of television Holmes papas, however, are about as wide apart in life-choices as we could find.

So here's to Father's Day and the hope that you got a "Dad" and not a "Morland," if there was a male parent in your family photo. He seems a lot less stressful upon the detective career.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

A friend from Nepal.

When we think of Sherlock Holmes's great hiatus, between leaving Watson at Reichenbach Falls and returning to London years later, we tend to think of him as a solo act.

". . .  the trial of the Moriarty gang left two of its most dangerous members, my own vindictive enemies, at liberty. I travelled for two years in Tibet, therefore, and amused myself by visiting Lhassa and spending some days with the head Llama."

Okay, let's think about this for a moment. Sherlock Holmes finds himself thought dead and unable to go home. Where's the first place he thinks to go? Tibet? Why?

Well, he's Sherlock Holmes. We don't question why he does things, trusting that he has great reasons which will one day be explained to us. But Tibet never gets an explanation. But, hey, he's Holmes. That's fine.

Yet this morning, as I was considering the fate of his original Watson, young Victor Trevor, I took a moment to look into the Terai tea plantings, where Trevor went to recover from the loss of his father and disgrace of his family name and was doing quite well, according to Holmes.

Seeing that Terai is in southern Nepal, I made the immediate mistake of many a geographical novice and went "Isn't that a part of Tibet or something?" But even though they are two very different countries, Nepal and Tibet are neighbors, both claiming the Himalayas and even Mount Everest itself. So, yes Sherlock Holmes travelled in Tibet . . . but if that included mountain explorations, as his "Sigerson" identity seemed to hint at, why not start in Nepal?

And more to the point, why not start an exile from London and his current Watson by going to Nepal and re-connecting with the original item, Victor Trevor?

Sherlock Holmes heading to Terai for a friendly place to plot his next move make complete sense. We know he stayed in touch with Victor, enough to know he was doing well there. And who better to head for in a time of crisis than the one non-Watson person Sherlock Holmes called a close friend, and a hearty, spirited friend at that.

Did Victor Trevor travel Tibet with Sherlock Holmes? I like to think he did. The idea of Sherlock Holmes working alone is never a cheery one. He needs that other part, that matching piece who is, as he put it in Trevor's case, "the very opposite of me in some respects."

I have no doubt that the million monkeys of fan fiction have already hit upon this notion. (And no slur upon fan fiction writers intended there -- I like monkeys. Even created a male Mary Sue superhero once called "The Millionth Monkey.") Every possible idea about these boys seems to be out there somewhere anymore. But it was still a delight to me to finally make that connection.

And if nobody has written up the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Victor Trevor in Tibet yet, for heaven's sake, do it!  (I would, but I can't stop blogging! Trying to write something else right now, and everything keeps wanting to jump into a blog post!)

Anyway, Holmes and Trevor, yes, me stopping blog post now as going on too rambly long and starting to use monkey dialect. (Aw, Tibetan macaques are cute!)

Friday, June 16, 2017

Decent fellows enough.

One reason I prefer Twitter to Facebook, as a Sherlockian: Lack of gory details.

I hear that Twitter can be a horrible place, full of rude folk and personal attacks, and I'm sure it can be, if one catches the eye of the wrong folk. But with Sherlockians? I guess I've been lucky with my feed. Sure, I hear rumblings of things now and then. Just last night, a report came along of some Sherlockians somewhere being nasty to each other. No specifics. Just an echo of a disharmony, somewhere else on the social networks, a quiver of the web, if you will.

No gory details. No names that seem to need a judgment call as to who is right and who is wrong. And it's not like we're moving in with people and really need to make judgements, after all.

Before John H. Watson met Mr. Sherlock Holmes, Stamford said something about Sherlock that I always find "just right." Stamford commented, "He is a little queer in his ideas -- an enthusiast in some branches of science. As far as I know he is a decent fellow enough."

That statement from Stamford has always been my default setting for most Sherlockians. Some of them are a little odd in their ideas, yes, but they're decent enough folk. But something changed over the last couple ten or fifteen years: The data explosion. We learned too much.

There was a day when you rarely found out personal details about the writers of most things you read. What you knew about them came through in their work, or it didn't come through at all. Sherlockians wrote about Sherlock Holmes, and that was how you knew them. You didn't know who they voted for in the last election. You didn't know if they went to a church that played with rattlesnakes every Sunday. You didn't know their every reaction to every world event in real time. And al that data takes some adjustment.

If you read those opening passages of A Study in Scarlet, you see Stamford's tone on Sherlock Holmes shift as Watson becomes more serious about moving in with Holmes. He starts with "decent fellow enough," but winds up at "You mustn't blame me if you don't get on with him." The difference? Stamford starts drawing up more information from his memory as the topic of Holmes is kept alive. And more judgmental statements start being made as he realizes Watson might actually bunk with this guy. But Watson adjusts.

Not adjusting or accepting comes far too easily. Exist in a place long enough, and eventually someone is going to cross a line that makes you put up walls. And when walls are up, you are left with only your imagination as to what is on the other side of that wall. And imagination can be a wicked, wicked thing, making it harder to consider tearing down those walls.

Something about speaking face-to-face makes us less quick to raise walls -- Watson takes in all of Stamford's information through the filter of Stamford's presence, and decides Holmes might be worth a shot. Can you imagine if the exchange between the two had taken place entirely on Facebook, with all of Stamford's FB friends jumping in to offer their thoughts on Holmes as well? I don't think we'd have the Canon today.

We're all decent fellows enough, really. Most of us just don't have John Watson to move in and explain it to everybody in print.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

John Watson's Island goes past the Netflix season length.

An alternate universe where Sherlock Holmes and company were used by a TV producer to create their own version of Gilligan's Island.  A first season with thirty-six episodes paralleling those of the version that we're so familiar with. And tonight, John Watson's Island rounds the turn by finishing the first half of that first season. So, on with the show!

13. The Head Circle. When a discussion of golf clubs and the obliquity of the ecliptic gets out of hand, Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty get into a series of double-or-nothing bets on the dynamics of a golf ball as struck by Sherlock, and Sherlock Holmes winds up owning London's criminal underworld.  While all of the others, except for Mycroft, approach Sherlock about how he can help London as a whole by making specific changes to the criminal empire, Moriarty engages Mycroft in a game of cards at the pub. Sure of his skills, Mycroft doesn't spot Moriarty fixing the game, and eventually Moriarty wins the Diogenes Club, British intelligence, and a goodly chunk of Central London real estate. As a favor to his brother, Sherlock trades Moriarty the underworld for the government and the island is declared a gambling-free zone.

14. The Veiled Showerer. When John is out hunting island boar, he falls into a mire and needs to clean up at the communal shower. He has to wait for Irene to finish, however, as she was there before him. Since Irene also used the shower to wash the dress she was wearing, she hands it out to dry next to the shower and heads back to her room in a towel. Sherlock comes along, sees the dress and someone showering and mistakes that person for Irene, and he confides certain personal feelings to "her." Hijinks ensue. And something about the water supply, but who really cares about that?

15. The Newgate Squire. An Australian penal colony guard whose ship was lost on its way down under in 1868 washes up on the island, convinced he has finally made it to Australia. Thinking he has found a group of escaped cons after hearing Moriarty talk about his life back in London, the guard starts subduing the castaways one by one and locking them up in a handmade cell on the beach. Eventually John Watson is the sole remaining free agent on the island and starts using tricks from his Australian boyhood to vex the guard, and sets everyone free while the guard is distracted. They lock the guard up in his own cell for the night, only to find the next morning that the river has risen during the night and the cell is floating downriver with the guard inside.

16.  The Starboard Box. While Lestrade and Watson are digging a barbecue pit, they discover a locked iron treasure chest. Deciding they want to look at what's inside before any of the others, the duo tries to open it without enlisting either Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty's skills. After struggling through many attempts, including a drop off a cliff and a crude explosive device, Irene Adler discovers the box and opens it with a hatpin while the  two men are planning their next attempt, and they return to find it open and empty.

17. The Non-existent Patient. Gangster Jackson Biddle is dropped off on the island by his accomplices, Hayward and Moffat, with a satchel full of money. Hayward and Moffat go on downriver with their steam launch, the Norah Creina, so an anticipated police search will not turn up their ill-gotten gains. When Biddle finds the isle is inhabited, he pretends to be a doctor carrying funds to build a hospital, who just escaped river pirates. Even though Biddle has never met the Professor, Moriarty recognizes both the man and the amount from a job he planned, and tries to keep Sherlock Holmes from seeing through Biddle's story. Hijinx ensue, and Biddle barely makes it off the island with Lestrayd in chase when his friends return. The money, however, winds up in Watson's medical bag, where he will hold it to donate to a hospital when they are rescued.

18. The Seven Blazes. When over-sized flares come falling over the island one evening, Mycroft recognizes them as initial targeting flares for Project Gomorrah, the British armory's secret five-hundred-ton cannon, a gun whose projectile is an explosive large enough to destroy the entire island. The castaways contemplate their final hours, confess wacky personal secrets, and in with the dawn, a mammoth projectile falls on the center of the island . . . and does not explode. Mycroft and Moriarty work to first disable the explosive device at it's core, then attach it to a large pontoon, built to channel its force to propel the pontoon upriver to London at a high rate of speed. When Sherlock is chosen by both his brother and his arch-foe to undertake the dangerous ride, John attempts to take his place ahead of time and accidentally sets the rocket-pontoon off without having been securely seated. When the rocket-pontoon explodes dangerously close to London, the government kills Project Gomorrah and the castaways are saved.

It has long been said in Sherlockian culture, "Never have so many written so much for so few." And if you're one of the few that this little ongoing wackiness seems to be written for, bless you.

On with the show!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Being earnest upon unimportance.

I awoke today with a curious thought: Is there "important" Sherlockiana?

I mean, must-read, Sherlockian 101, "if you haven't read this non-Canon work you're missing key points," in-everybody's-library, life-changing IMPORTANT Sherlockiana. Something you could even show to a non-Sherlockian and get confirmation that, "Yes, this is a thing of importance."

And then I wondered, "Is it the unimportance of Sherlockiana that really makes it great?" And, "Or am I just feeling old and crabby this morning?" So I started randomly pulling down books and looking for something that might give me guidance. And soon, I found something that made me go, "Oh . . . that . . . ."

Not something of importance, but someone writing about things they found important. An essay called "Requiem for the Game" by David Hammer, published in the 1995 U of M volume Sherlock Holmes: The Detective and the Collector. In a volume celebrating one of our great Sherlockian enthusiasts, Hammer writes a definitely unenthusiastic article. But he even hits on enthusiasm:

"I am not suggesting that Sherlockian scholarship will, or should perish, only that it is already attenuated -- through enthusiasm still runs high. While enthusiasm is laudable, it is not scholarship and may not produce good writing. I suspect that the next waves of writing will be generated solely by enthusiasm, for we are now writing about the Writings about the Writings. Sadly, the Great Game is over."

Hammer obviously found some older Sherlockian works important. Unmatchably important. Like many a Sherlockian of his generation, he felt like he missed the bus for a "good old days" of Sherlockiana that he didn't get to be a part of, a time when Sherlockian giants strode the Earth. And as I remember hearing many times back in the 1990s, from more than one elder Sherlockian of that day, none of our fellow current Sherlockians would ever be as great as those who came before.

Because those guys were important. To some Sherlockians.

When the waves of BBC Sherlock love signaled the start of a rising tide of Sherlockiana, we saw a few similar speeches about how all this new enthusiasm was ephemeral fannish faddery. Nothing important would come out of it. Silly, silly people.

Do you know why we can't make another violin that sounds like a Stradivarius? Because someone somewhere decided that a Stradivarius is what a violin should sound like and all other violins got measured against that goal. A Stradivarius is not, objectively, a perfect violin. Just a chosen subjective standard. Someone claimed authority on the subject, others went along. The Strad became important.

But musical instrument development did not stop with the Stradivarius.

Sherlockiana has its violins, and it also has its guitars. And electric guitars. The music produced, as a whole, is important, but while individual songs might have importance to individual people, as a culture, I don't think we can cite works that touched every single Sherlockian life -- we have some great Sherlockians coming from entirely new directions these days.

And can anyone seriously propose that the Sherlockian works of Morley and Starrett were more "important" than the Sherlockian works of Moffat and Gatiss? We can puff up and dismiss television as being of lesser stature than the literary print as a medium, but who affected more lives? Who brought more people back to the original Doyle? And most importantly, do those questions even matter?

You can't have fun when things are important, and Sherlockiana, at its very core, is about fun. Unimportance is what keeps it fun, and whenever we see importance creeping in, someone is usually about to get very crabby. Play any game too long and you get a little bored with it. You might even make rules about how it was played back when it was fun for you and try to foist them upon the new players . . . even though you've lost the fun . . . because your past fun is important to you. To you.

Importance, really, is just a pain in the ass, and I'd probably have been happier if I had awoken with a different word on the tip of my brain this morning. But I still haven't had breakfast yet, and that's the most important meal of the day, so I'd best get to it. Or maybe I should just have fun with toast.


Sunday, June 11, 2017

How does Watson hunt?

When we think of Holmes and Watson lying in wait for villainy to strike, we think of many tales: The dark Stoke Moran bedroom of "Speckled Band." The doings on the moor in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The bank vault of "Red-Headed League." But our thoughts . . . or at least mine . . . rarely wander to "The Adventure of Black Peter," and Holmes and Watson hiding in the bushes outside of the harpooned man's cabin.

Watson tries to make it as dramatic as possible, before the somewhat anticlimactic arrival of the frail, thin, pale fellow who is . . . well, not very murderous. Here's how Watson describes their night-time vigil:

"It was a long and melancholy vigil, and yet it brought with it something of the thrill which the hunter feels when he lies beside the water-pool and waits for the coming of the thirsty beasts of prey. What savage creature was it which might steal upon us out of the darkness? Was it a fierce tiger of crime, which could only be taken fighting hard with flashing fang and claw, or would it prove to be some skulking jackal, dangerous only to the weak and unguarded?"

Once you get past the question of Watson's melancholy (It was 1895 -- still mourning "his sad bereavement?" Something not right between he and Holmes?), you come to the hunting scenario he describes . . . which makes absolutely no sense.

Maybe I'm just too used to Central Illinois hunters and their deer stands in the woods, the little treehouses that keep them above the fauna. But Watson's description just sounds like a ridiculously bad position for awaiting tigers and jackals. And the idea of "fighting hard with flashing fang and claw" brings an immediate reaction of "WHERE'S YOUR GUN, WATSON?!?"

It's almost like Watson is going from human hunter to bestial predator mid-metaphor, like he's some wild were-creature waiting to bring down a lesser beast.

When Watson writes of the voices of "belated villagers" wandering by after all that, he almost comes off as a little kid playing pretend in the bushes while the adults stroll by unawares. And Stanley Hopkins just grabbing a skinny guy by the collar is quite the letdown after all that build-up. Where's the fiesty Colonel Moran of "Empty House?" That guy would deserve such a prelude. But this?

Well, there's probably a reason this vigil doesn't come to mind when we remember Holmes and Watson doing midnight stake-outs.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Getting his hands dirty.

There come those moments in the career of Sherlock Holmes when he takes a turn for the dark.

All the logic, professional focus, patriotism, and virtue need to go away for a time in pursuit of a victory can will apparently only come from cheating. And what case comes to mind when we consider Sherlock Holmes taking that darker path?

The business of Charles Augustus Milverton.

"Surely you have gone too far," Watson says. Sherlock Holmes just courted and proposed to a girl he has no intentions of a relationship with.

"For heaven's sake, Holmes, think what you are doing!" Watson cries, not five minutes later. Sherlock Holmes is planning a break-in.

"I cannot help you, Lestrade," Sherlock says at last, and covers up a murder.

True to their form of taking the originals and ratcheting them up a bit, BBC Sherlock even took that last bit and just had Sherlock Holmes commit the murder himself, forcing his brother to cover it up.

Sherlock Holmes carries a real Superman/Batman duality in his character that is a part of what makes him appeal to both sides of human nature. In the daylight, he is a paragon, a hero at a level of ability we can aspire to, using his powers for truth, justice, and the British way. But in the night? A vigilante whose actions would land him in jail if he were ever caught by the police.

"Vigilante," of course, is our word for "criminals we like."

Most of us believe in the systems and legally laid-out moral codes that define our nations on a large scale, and our communities on a smaller scale. But we also can't help but see there are flaws in those systems, mis-steps in the code that allow those with no kindness or an over-abundance of selfishness to do harm in pursuit of wealth, power, or just to fluff up their own view of themselves.

Charles Augustus Milverton embodies all three of those motives, taking profits, yes, but with a power dynamic that plainly feeds his ego and gives him that creepy smile. Perhaps the most disgusting thing we see of him is the sheer happeniness he enjoys during his blackmail demands and verbal jousting as he plays his power cards. So we give Sherlock Holmes certain moral freedoms when it comes time to deal with Milverton.

Sherlock Holmes does wrong, yes. But to stop a larger evil.

Defining "a larger evil" in fiction is quite easy. You add that Milvertonian twinkle to the eye, maybe have his TV incarnation lick people's faces. But in the real world, of consequence and secrets harder to keep hidden? A Sherlock Holmes taking such action might have a harder time of it.

Still, Holmes's cases always give us a broad range of human situations to contemplate. And when he gets his hands dirty, as in Charles Augustus Milverton's case, that discussion can be very well worth having.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

John Watson's Island, on to . . . ?

Having now stranded this blog on a topical desert island, with readers looking for rescue ships to get them back to more diverse Sherlockian topics, I can only look to the Canon (episode guide) to John Watson's Island for ideas on how to get myself off this topic.

7. The Blown Carbuncle. As food starts to run in short supply on the island, John Watson thinks he hears a goose in the underbrush. He encounters Sherlock, who also hears the goose, and they go on a goose chase, first leading them to the crude pub Moriarty has built called "The Alpha's Omega." Irene is singing there, accompanied by a primitive handmade piano the Professor built, and they discover her singing has lured an entire flock of geese to the back lot of the pub. They pick one out for supper and as Sherlock is raising his ax to behead it, Mycroft shows up and shouts for him to stop. This is one of the British government's secret homing geese from Project Carbuncle, capable of carrying coded messages in capsules in its crop, and Mycroft is sure it can get a message back to London that they need rescue. Sherlock releases the bird, and as the castaways shout "HUZZAH!" the frightened fowl flies off, without the intended message in its crop.

8. The Six-legged Napoleon of Crime. Mary and John are having some morning pancakes when Sherlock arrives, sniffs at their syrup and asks them what manner of tree this syrup came from. John shows Sherlock, who then uses the sap from the tree in a chemical experiment that results in a new kind of glue that he announces as "Handcuffs in a Bottle," an invention that will revolutionize police-work. Sherlock then goes to tell Moriarty a rescue ship has come and that he should immediately grab his trunk, at which point Sherlock squirts the stuff on the Professor's wrists and "handcuffs" him in place. Only Sherlock finds his right hand is now glued to the Professor's wrists and when John tries to pry them apart, he winds up attached as well. Irene and Mary show up to see the contorted trio wrestling about to attempt to free themselves, make several crude remarks and suggestions, and then Mary produces some nail polish remover and frees the trio.

9. The Golden Pinterest. While surveying the island with Mycroft, John discovers a vein of gold on a rock outcropping. Mycroft convinces John to cover the vein and keep it a secret until they can mine enough to put the island on the gold standard or at least supplement their current tender of silver coins with additional gold ones. (Bimetallic question, anyone?) John tells Sherlock, of course, who then convinces Watson to tell him where the vein is, as he wishes to ask Irene to marry him and needs to make a ring. Later that day, John runs into Irene and accidentally spills the secret of Sherlock's upcoming proposal and the ring plan, only to find Irene has developed a sudden, devastating toothache and will need a filling. John tells Mary the gold vein's location and sends her off for the filling, then heads for the Professor's pub to get alcohol for to numb Irene's tooth for dental work. The Professor produces a mining pick and volunteers to help Mary, heading off to do so once John tells him where to go. Eventually, everyone is at the gold vein squabbling over both the gold and the series of lies and betrayals that got them there, when Lestrayd, the last to arrive, impounds all the mined gold, both as evidence and fine.

10. The Find of the Boar. As they explore a particularly dense part of the island's vegetation, Lestrade discovers a gray gargoyle perched on a ledge. Moriarty identifies it as "Tona" the god worshipped by the island peoples of certain north Atlantic islands. A sudden earthquake shakes the island, and when it stops, they see that Tona is gone. Moriarty immediately declares that no Englishman was ever meant to look upon Tona and Lestrayd has activated Tona's curse. (Moriarty, being Irish, is unaffected.) The gray gargoyle of Tona keeps turning up wherever Lestrayd wanders on the island, until the Scotland Yard man is verging on madness . . . the true curse of Tona, according to Moriarty. Sherlock, however, finds some child-like footprints and deduces that "Tona" is really the pygmy Tonga, who washed downriver and survived from an earlier case. Sherlock uses an island boar he trained named Toby to track Tonga, only to have Toby chase Tonga into the river, where Tonga is small and wiry enough to use the boar as a flotation device and escape the island.

11. The Phantom of the Alpha's Omega. Wandering to the beach, Sherlock and John find Irene in tears, holding a script for an opera she was signed to open in before their boat-wreck. In an attempt to cheer her up, they convince Moriarty to stage the opera at his pub, which John will direct. But as pre-production takes place a series of near-accidents threaten Irene's very life, and Sherlock sees a phantom of the pub disappearing into the shadows after the latest attempt. The show's rehearsals go on, and during the next attempt, the phantom blow-darts Irene from the rafters. As Irene falls, however, her costume veil falls aways and she is revealed to be John Watson in disguise. Mary Morstan drops from above, revealing herself as the phantom, and when she is accused of killing Watson, explains that the dart was a mild sedative with properties that cause an after-effect of laryngitis, Mary hoping to succeed Irene as the star of the show so she can spend more time with John. She has to take over as director, since John can no longer speak, and the couple happily watches Irene's premiere together when the show is put on.

12. The Naval Entreaty. A waterproof newsboy's leather bag washes ashore two days after Christmas with newspapers declaring that castaways have been seen on a secluded river island by a passing steamer and a navy rescue effort is being mounted immediately. John Watson distributes the papers among his fellow castaways, wishing them "Compliments of the Season!" They all gather at Moriarty's pub to celebrate their impending rescue, celebrating so heartily that they're eventually all sleeping off a roaring drunk. When they awake, late the next day, to find no rescue ship has come, they at first blame each other for the celebrations which caused them to miss the rescue, but eventually Sherlock points out that the date on the papers was before they even wound up on the island, so the castaways in the news story were actually the Grice-Patersons whom he later had as clients. But the rescue of those past castaways gives them hope and they happily spend another night at Moriarty's pub.

Great Caesar's ghost, this is awful!

Why would anyone try to replot Gilligan's Island episodes using the prominent characters from the Sherlockian oeuvre? And why would the sort of imbecile who would attempt such a thing hope to convince anyone he was literate by using words like "oeuvre" to make up for such an attempt.

Let's hope for better things tomorrow, people.

John Watson's Island, the first six episodes.

Gilligan's Island had ninety-eight episodes. The Sherlock Holmes Canon had sixty, but enough pastiches to easily get it to ninety-eight, if needed. So what if Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherwood Schwartz had traded places in history? What might the first season of John Watson's Island have looked like?

Here's the first part of episode guide:

1. A Study in Mormons. Sherlock and John plan to take a raft downriver to find help. The Professor finds a Book of Mormon in one of the island's caves and warns them there may be throwback Mormon polygamists on a nearby island. Sherlock and John take the raft, but at night while they're asleep, a kindly tugboat captain tows them back to the nearest island -- the one they came from. Hilarity ensues when Sherlock and John think the rest of the castaways are Mormons (and vice versa) and they all try to entrap each other.

2. The No-good Builders. Sherlock and John attempt to build 221B Island Street to protect themselves from yet another rainstorm. During the process, however, Mary and Irene come by and sweet talk John out of tools, Mycroft and Lestrade come by and convince John its his patriotic duty to give them the doors and windows he had readied for 221B so for the erection of an island government HQ. And Moriarty just steals what's left. Sherlock swats John with his deerstalker for the first time. Sherlock then points out the obvious points of failure in everyone else's attempts at shelter and convinces them to combine their efforts before the ominous oncoming storm. They build 221 Island Street, with A, B, C, and D apartments, just in time and ride out the storm merrily in 221B.

3. The Creeping John. Some of the supplies at 221 Baker Street go missing, and the castaways blame the Professor at first. Professor Moriarty claims innocence and starts telling the others that their fate is due to a voodoo curse put on Sherlock and John by the cook from an old case they were talking about. Watson thinks he sees the shadowy culprit the next night and gives chase, only to wind up falling into one of the island's bogs. When he goes to a cleaner pool to bathe after the mishap, a baboon comes out of the forest and steals his clothes. The baboon then tries to steal more supplies dressed as John, and Lestrade thinks voodoo has turned Watson into an ape. There's a lot of stuff with John running around holding leaves in front of his privates and monkey comedy before it's all sorted out.

4. The Bruce-Partington Trip. John hears Sherlock talking in his sleep, talking about specific details of the plans for the Bruce-Partington submersible. When John tells the rest the next morning, Mycroft realizes that Sherlock was the only one on the case who got a look at the key components of the plans and that they are probably stored somewhere in is brain-attic, even though Sherlock swears he can't remember them, and those plans might help them build a craft to escape the island. Each of the castaways either concocts or finds some different narcotic to slip into Sherlock's wine, which sets him off on a mind-trip into a far-off century, full of alternate versions of the castaways. When he returns, he doesn't remember the plans but remembers the fatal flaw in those plans as revealed in that other time, making them worthless as a rescue plan.

5. Black Peter Carey. Black Peter Carey lands on the island, thirsty and hungry, after escaping a murderous attack by his harpooner in a dinghy. After he's been given food and drink, he tells the castaways that he can take two of them down-river with him in the dinghy, and send help for the rest. There's much argument about who should go with him, and Black Peter tells them he's leaving in the morning, with or without them, so they'll have to decide. During the night, Moriarty, Mycroft, and Irene each try to persuade him that they should be on board with their various arguments, but in the morning, another sea captain, Captain Basil, turns up and tells everyone he has a boat with room enough for all of them on the other side of the island. While the others follow Captain Basil, John stays behind and tells Black Peter to start shoving off, he and Sherlock will be going in the boat, and Sherlock will be here shortly, shedding his "Captain Basil" disguise. But as the dinghy hits water, a harpoon goes through Black Peter's chest, and Patrick Cairns turns up on another boat. Cairns tells Watson that he can't take a witness to the murder he just committed back with him, holds Watson off with a second harpoon, and tows Black Peter's dinghy away with him, just as Sherlock runs up with the rest of the castaways in hot pursuit.

6. The Second Abstains. When Mycroft tries to order Lestrade to arrest Moriarty, Lestrade points out that the island actually has no formal government, and they decide it's time to elect a prime minister. Mycroft and Professor Moriarty both vie for the post, and a series of comic vote-bartering and appeals to various castaway's particular needs ensue. In the end, Mycroft and Lestrade vote for Mycroft, Moriarty and Irene vote for Moriarty, and in a surprise turn, Sherlock, Mary, and John all write in votes for John Watson, who becomes the prime minister of the island. Watson's tin dispatch box is burgled in the night, however, and a paper goes missing that could threaten his office if revealed to the rest of the castaways. Moriarty and Mycroft are suspected, but in the end, Sherlock discovers that Mary has taken the paper and hidden it beneath the floorboards of she and Irene's apartment, hoping to get John to resign as prime minister so he doesn't decide his social status is above hers. John says something romantic and she gives him the paper back, but he resigns from being the island's prime minister anyway.

Phew! Only ninety-two more episodes to go!

Can a TV adaptation featuring just our favorite Canonical characters in recurring roles go on for a whole ninety-eight episodes? Well, someone once did it with Gilligan, didn't they, and Holmes and Watson are much better characters . . . at least we always thought so, right? And Elementary, though not quite as popular as Gilligan's Island, has made it to one hundred and twenty. (Though, to be fair, the latter is using a procedural playbook, which is good for distance.)

We shall see.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

"John Watson's Island"

Okay, new Sherlock Holmes TV show idea . . . and it all starts with a song!

Just relax now

And you'll hear a tale

A tale that you shouldn't quote,
That started from this London port,
Aboard this tiny boat.
The mate was an army doctor man,
And Sherlock set the pace.
Five passengers set sail that day,
For a three hour case,
A three hour case.

The river started getting rough,
But the tiny boat was tossed.
If not for the courage of the fearless two
The police-boat would be lost.
The police-boat would be lost.

The boat set aground on the shore
Of this uncharted river isle
With John Watson,
His Sherlock too.
The Government and the Yard,
An opera star,
The professor and Mary Morstan,
Here on John Watson's Isle.


Still with me? That's just the opening lyrics. You get more at the close of the show.

So this is a case that has gone astray,
they're here for a long, long time.
They may not solve a case each week,
please send them a lime.

John Watson and his Sherlock too
will do their very best,
to foil Jim Moriarty troubles
in their weird Thames island nest.

No wires, no gas, no hansom cabs
not a single luxury
just like the Grice Patersons,
it's primitive as can be.

So join us now, Sherlockians,
E'en if you're full of bile,
for seven stranded characters
here on John Watson's Isle!

Get it? Got it? Good! A show that gets to the very core of pastiche, centering on Sherlock, John, Mycroft, Lestrade, Irene, Moriarty, and Mary Morstan. (Because who else do you need, right? Mrs. Hudson? Well, yes, but Gilligan's Island only had seven castaways, and Mycroft and Lestrade make a better pair of Howells.)

This, of course, is really just the opening. I cut my teeth on Gilligan's Island reruns as a kid, so you're going to get at least one more day of John Watson's Island. Crank up your cocoanut and palm frond laptop for tomorrow's next bit of summer vacation fun!

Monday, June 5, 2017

The Adventure of the Canonical Wonder-Woman.

The year is 1902. The place is London, England. Three men have gathered at the will of another, who prefers to remain in the shadows, to attempt to steer the course of a young woman whom they don't feel has the capacity to make what they consider the correct choice.

The matter is recorded for posterity as "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client." And yet, within its text is a phrase that a modern reader might see as the key to an entirely different reading of the tale . . . a reading that could turn the facts as we think we know them completely on their head. That phrase?

". . . Violet de Merville, young, rich, beautiful, accomplished, a wonder-woman in every way."

A wonder-woman. Seventeen years before a similar phrase would create the super-heroic Wonder Woman, we have a wonder-woman involved in a matter that also involves Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

But we ever truly stop to consider that Miss Violet de Merville might have truly been that "wonder-woman" her male meddlers describe her as?

In the middle of the Mediterranean Sea, Violet gains the attentions of a man whose hobby is destroying women, the Baron Adelbert Gruner. Onlookers describe her as "obsessed with him," and say she ignores their every warning as to his true, evil character. They put these facts together and conclude that she is blindly in love with him, and must be protected through a coalition of male interference.

But we're talking about a wonder-woman, here, right? "Accomplished in every way."

When Sherlock Holmes finally meets her, he describes her as "demure, pale, self-contained, as inflexible and remote as a snow image on a mountain." Her voice is "like wind from an iceberg." This is not a woman in love. This is a woman on a mission.

Our filter for the entire interview is the mind of a very emotional Sherlock Holmes. "I use my head, not my heart," he tells Watson, "But I really did plead with her with all the warmth of words that I could find in my nature." This is a part of Holmes we truly wish Watson would have witnessed . . . and recorded . . . for us.

In his passion to defend this poor "innocent," however, perhaps Sherlock Holmes missed the appropriate context or quote for a particular line Violet de Merville said at last:

"If his noble nature has ever for an instant fallen, it may be that I have been specially sent to raise it to its true and lofty level."

Could it be that Violet de Merville had her own agenda for putting Baron Gruner in his proper place, and was just playing her role with some subtle sarcasm? And could it also be that Kitty Winter wasn't the only hand of justice swinging for this villain -- just the cruder of the two?

We never hear of what finally happened with Violet de Merville, or even that she was the one who cancelled the wedding. When her father finally showed up with Gruner's diary, he might have gotten an earful of what her true plan was and how this meddling bunch of men spoiled a plan to obtain true public and legal justice for the women Gruner had ruined, setting an example for other men of his ilk. Watson is much more focused on his relief that Sherlock Holmes didn't wind up in jail. (A crime Watson himself was also technically complicit in!)

Given the limited point of view in "The Adventure of the Illustrious Client," and the fact that we never actually hear from Violet de Merville when the case seems to end, one can't help but feel there's a second tale to be told here, one of a wonder-woman who had some ideas of her own. And maybe even carried them out, eventually . . . when the men involved had gone back to their other concerns and had ceased to meddle.

I should be interested in hearing that tale one day.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Out of the city.

Writing under the heading of "Sherlock Peoria," I'm well aware of the impression Peoria can give to the unenlightened. Corn fields, rustic small town folk, and none of the urban culture of our Chicago brethren to the North. One of my ex-employers used to specifically route visitors so that they would enter town from the East, coming down the interstate to a lovely view of a riverfront crowded with big buildings and the aspect of an actual city of size, rather than state highway approaches from the North, which are all fields and little river towns.

I mention this to illustrate that even for a Peorian, there's much deeper in the country one can go, which I did this weekend, heading to a destination wedding that took us on a long drive down smaller and smaller roads eventually spending many miles on  a one-lane gravel road leading to a hunting lodge, then out to a wedding by a pond and a reception in an actual barn built in 1887 . . . the year Sherlock Holmes was created/investigated many a case.

Getting away from the city is a great break in your routine, but it doesn't come without a touch of discomfort, being disconnected from the web we urban Moriartys sit in the center of. But it wasn't Moriarty I was thinking of at such a remove -- it was John H. Watson, in "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman." Now there was a guy who had some discomfort.

We often talk about the abuses Watson occasionally suffers at the hand of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, but that subject doesn't usually bring up Little Purlington. Even with our lack of mentioning it, it seems such an abuse that one can imagine that in the final years of their partnership, it wasn't "Norbury" that John whispered in Sherlock's ear when he wanted to chide him, but "Little Purlington."

Their client in the case, the crabby old miser Josiah Amberly receives a telegram beckoning him to see the vicar of the village of Little Purlington -- a telegram that even sounds like Sherlock Holmes wrote it: "Come at once without fail. Can give you information as to your recent loss." And, oddly, Sherlock Holmes shows no interest in following this apparent clue in a murder investigation. But he's glad to send Watson with Amberly to follow up on it.

"Little Purlington is not an easy place to reach," Watson wrote, long after the trip was done. "My remembrance of the journey is not a pleasant one, for the weather was hot, the train slow, and my companion sullen and silent, hardly talking at all, save to make an occasional sardonic remark as to the futility of our proceedings."

Of course Amberly thinks it's futile, because  . . . SPOILERS! . . . he's the murderer.

When they get to little Purlington, "what seemed to me to be the most primitive village in England," Watson eventually finds a phone and calls Holmes to tell him it was all a wild goose chase. Holmes's response?

"I much fear, my dear Watson, that there is no return train tonight. I have unwittingly condemned you to the horrors of a country inn. However, there is always Nature, Watson -- Nature and Josiah Amberly -- you can be in close commune with both."

And then Holmes laughs.

He just sent Watson off to Timbuktu with no sense of the facilities or lodgings available there and knowingly has set John up to spend the night with an old murderer, apparently out of doors if he doesn't like the local lodgings. (And Amberly is a miser after all.) We hear nothing of how that night passed, or where, but you can be sure it wasn't one of Watson's better overnights.

Later, when Amberly is locked up, Holmes explains it all to a Scotland Yard inspector who calls Holmes's work "masterly." And what was that masterly plan? "I sent an agent to the most impossible village I could think of, and summoned my man to it at such an hour that he could not possibly get back. To prevent any miscarriage, Dr. Watson accompanied him."

Sherlock Holmes has burgled other people's houses without sending Watson to an "impossible village" to spend the night with a killer. Or warning him ahead of time about it.

"You can file it in our archives, Watson," Holmes says after tossing Watson a newspaper whose story gives neither he nor Watson credit. "Some day the true story may be told."

But Watson, generous soul that he was, never tells us the full true story of his awful night dragged out of London and dropped in Little Purlington ("The Most Primitive Village in England!" probably being added to its welcome sign after it got mentioned in The Strand Magazine thanks to Watson). But you know from his "primitive" line alone, it wasn't a good one.

 My own weekend in parts unknown was much more pleasant, especially being surrounded by generous family and friends and not a murderous miser like Watson was. (I had full cable access, plenty of pizza, and Mexicokes.) But I could well imagine how he might have felt, given the remote location.

Poor John Watson.


Friday, June 2, 2017

15 years in the ether.

Forgive me for a little self-indulgence today (I know, in blog-land that's really every day), but as it's Sherlock Peoria's fifteenth birthday, it seems a day to pause and reflect.

Fifteen years. Yikes.

Here's a link to the original post. It seems barely worth the read, but if you've started reading these in more recent years, a sort of timid start, back when just putting the HTML for the site together was taking up a lot of my focus. The next two blogs were on antique malls and assembling a Sherlockian journal, subjects that were definitely more prominent in the early 2000s -- before the internet took a lot of the steam out of both those endeavors, even though the strongest specimens of each still exist.

In the months that followed, I was putting out a bi-monthly journal and weekly website updates, filling sherlockpeoria.net with all the content I had at my disposal, along with some great contributions from that Sherlockian fireball we call Don Hobbs. Looking back from the present day, when The Holmes & Watson Report ended in 2005, and the weekly website updates ended in 2011, each step seems to have just been stripping off more of the ancillary activities involved with putting words into the ether and just doing the words.

"I am the most incurably lazy devil that ever stood in shoe leather," a great man once said, and when it comes to putting out the words, I will claim that title as well. Write a novel? Been there, done that, three full times. First drafts are fun. Re-write, edit, seek a publisher? Too much effort. (These, of course, were non-Sherlockian, or else I might have made that final push. Sherlock always gives me a bit more energy.) Blogging is pretty much all first drafts, hence, fun. Just doing the words.

And words give us so much. Even temporary ones.

After fifteen years online and over 1700 blog posts, I am very much aware of the ephemeral nature of this ether I'm pouring words into. If I stop paying my website fees on SherlockPeoria.net, those first nine years of writings go away. If Google decides to kill Blogger and all its contents, the last six years of writings vanish as well. But that's okay. It all will have served its purpose. It doesn't need to be eternal.

"Never has so much been written by so many for so few," Christopher Morley once quipped about the 1940s The Baker Street Journal. Sherlockiana has always been a world of small audiences for most of us, and yet we write anyway. We write for the love of Sherlock Holmes and that chance to have our thoughts connect with another's about that emotion. It doesn't matter if you're blogging, writing fanfic, working up a talk for a club meeting, or something for one of those solid print media. The words just want to come out, like fireworks in celebration of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

And yet, it isn't all just party balloons and confetti. As we order our thoughts to consider matters detective and literary, entering into the specialties of both Holmes and Watson, we can't help but gain something just from the mental exercise. Like body-building of the verbal muscles. And a relief from the tensions of the day, as the mind roams from the daily chores to pathways of a Sherlockian nature.

After fifteen years of this, I seem to have much more energy for writing and not less. The blogs come more often. The words have better moments. And I hear from people.

As so many folks out there know, Mr. Sherlock Holmes can contribute some very worthwhile things to your life. Conan Doyle did his part, and I thank him for that. But Sherlock Holmes is so much more than one man's entity at this point -- so many contributors to the discussion and the legend. And all of that is what makes Sherlock so easy to write about.

For fifteen frickin' years. (And to quote a favorite not-quite-raccoon, "And he didn't say 'frickin'!")

And I'm happy for that. Thanks, all.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A pip of a summer project.

Okay, this one is going to be hard for me to write.

Remember "The Five Orange Pips?" The whole story where John Openshaw comes to Sherlock Holmes about a sort of family curse that killed his uncle and father and is coming for him? And does come for him?

You know, the one where that same John Openshaw is actually then killed before Sherlock Holmes even starts investigating his case, other than looking up something for Watson in the encyclopaedia? I was just writing about our library group discussing it, a couple of weeks ago.

Well, since that last reading of the case, something's been bothering me, and that something is this: Sherlock Holmes didn't actually solve the case.

Sure, he comes home to 221B Baker Street after a busy day and explains his theory of the whole thing to Watson. He puts some seeds in an envelope and addresses it to a ship. (A ship. Let that one roll around in your head for a minute or two.) But Sherlock Holmes does nothing to confirm his theory. We have no criminal apprehended and then confessing his full story. No Inspector Lestrade appears to follow up on things.

All we have is a theoretical deduction by Mr. Sherlock Holmes that seems to satisfy him enough that he can put the tragic failure out of his mind. Apparently Watson must have eventually asked him about the matter later, at which time Holmes fed him that shipwreck story, but this was a period when Watson had left Holmes for a wife. And Holmes is moody even when Watson has come to stay for a bit. I always hate to suggest drug use, but this is not our best period for trusting everything Holmes says.

Like I said, this one is hard to write.

So if Sherlock Holmes didn't solve "The Five Orange Pips," it seems incumbent upon those of us that follow him to make up for that deficiency. Summer is pretty much here and we all need a summer project or two, so why not solve "The Five Orange Pips?'

Stay tuned.