Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Those cousins-by-ink.

I went looking for something in my library tonight, turned a corner and found . . . four more Christopher Morley novels. I felt like someone who had happily cleared the house of ants, only to find a new line of them marching into the kitchen. Pesky Morleys!

Now, I don't mean to malign ol' Kit, as occasionally this blog is seen as the poo-poo-er of all things beloved by  fellow Sherlockians, but I feel like I've put in my time with that consummate man of letters. I've read his essays, poems, and a good share of his novels, and don't see a burning need to revisit them before I bite the dust. There's more Richard Kadrey I have to read, more Lyndsay Faye, and more soon-to-be authors we haven't even heard of yet. And it's not like Christopher Morley got into my library sheerly on his own merits.

When a fan runs out of new material to fill their fannish time, their energies can go in a lot of directions.  Reading-wise, this usually means moving from Doyle's Sherlock to pastiches. And as hard as it is to imagine in this day and age, a mere twenty-five years ago, it was possible to run out of pastiches to read.

So what do you do when you've read all of the Sherlock Holmes stories available, all of the Mr. Mycroft stories available, all of the Solar Pons, Schlock Holmes, Herlock Sholmes, etc., etc.? Well, you start reading Doyle that didn't have Holmes, if you haven't already. You start reading Doyle's brother-in-law, E.W. Hornung. And eventually you work your way to Doyle's cousin-by-ink and the first Sherlockian super-fan, Christopher Morley.

Once you get to Morley, you can fill a whole lot of time, once you start hunting up his stuff. He wrote constantly, and he wrote everything there was to write. I always enjoyed his short essays the best, but his novels weren't bad, and his poetry . . . well, it's poetry. Your mileage may vary.

He's a lively and interesting fellow, and you can get to know him through his works. But in my life as a Sherlockian, I've met a lot of lively and interesting fellows of both genders, so my bonds with Morley didn't stay unique enough to keep him in shelf space for his non-Sherlock Holmes material. So this past weekend, all my Morleys went to live with a fellow Sherlockian who is enjoying him anew . . . well, I thought all my Morleys had.

Pruning a library can be a bit like pruning vegetation. Past a certain point, it can take on a life of its own. So I'm back to pruning.


  1. I never collected Christopher Morley or Vincent Starrett just because they were great Sherlockians. But I can certainly see how that came to be a part of your collection.

    I still treasure the pastiches from the 50s to the 80s (and I have been searching out the classic stuff from earlier), the ones that actually ran through a real editor and came from a real publisher. But I recently banished almost all print-on-demand pastiche from my collection. Not worthy, and they cheapen the whole.

    I do have a ton of non-Sherlockian Conan Doyle, including quite a few first editions, but I consider myself a Doylean as well as a Sherlockian. He was a great writer.

    How does it feel to cull out that collection? Any late-at-night tossing and turning? Are you making sure the items get a good and appreciative homes as you would, say, giving away puppies? I have given away a lot of duplications and items I have upgraded; I want to make sure whoever gets them really wants them.

    And do you fear, once all the culling has subsided, that you will wander into the room, look at the near-empty shelf, and go "What the hell was I thinking?"

    BTW, readers of Sherlock Peoria should know that Brad was extremely generous at 221B Con in Atlanta earlier this year, bringing an entire actual bookshelf full of books to be given away to the young and enthusiastic next generation in attendance there. The very best way to cut down on a collection, if you ask me.

    1. It's been a relief, Bill. All to good homes, no late-night tossing and turning, and if I walk into my collection room, I can't even tell anything is missing -- that's how much it needed a culling. No regrets whatsoever. At some point, you have to look at your stuff and honestly go, "What have I not touched in ten years and will I ever touch it?"