Saturday, August 30, 2014

Summer of Sherlock: The Grand Finale.

Reading the summer cases of Sherlock Holmes on the dates they began has had some interesting turns along the way, but here, at summer's end, we encounter something we  haven't seen since June 1 -- a double event.

According to my reckoning of the case dates, "The Crooked Man" and "The Cardboard Box" both begin on August 30, two years apart. The former takes place in 1887, the latter 1889. Unlike when this date-sharing occurred on June 1, however, this time I thought I'd take on both cases together. And that's where we practically get into fan fiction territory.

"The Crooked Man" begins with a social situation unlike any other in the Canon. John H. Watson has married. He's working exhaustingly hard as a doctor, struggling to afford multiple servants and a house big enough that those servants can lock up the hall to their quarters at night. And yet, as exhausted as John Watson is, he can't seem to go to bed at the same time as his wife for some reason. As midnight approaches, he sits by the fireplace trying to stay awake and read a novel.

And the doorbell rings. Another patient, Watson thinks, and grimly drags himself to the door.

And there stands Sherlock Holmes.

Watson is astonished, and relieved.

"You told me that you had bachelor quarters for one, and I see that you have no gentleman visitor at present," Holmes says . . . a statement that sounds extremely odd to the modern ear. Sherlock Holmes has just showed up at nearly midnight, and asked Watson to spend the night. It's a reunion of sorts, as Watson seems to have been playing husband and doctor to the exclusion of his old room-mate and lifestyle. And does Sherlock Holmes come in and go, "Quick, Watson, I have a case!"?

Nope. Sherlock Holmes comes into John Watson's home in the middle of the night, Watson is relieved to see him, and the two men sit down and smoke in silence for a time. Silence, after a time apart -- not talking about Holmes's case or Watson's job -- almost like they're both struggling to find words for something. Sherlock Holmes finally breaks the ice with some observations and deductions, and a little emotional outburst occurs between the two men.

"Excellent!" cries Watson.

"Elementary!" says Holmes.

And then something even more interesting occurs. Sherlock Holmes says this about Watson's first attempts at writing up their cases: "The same may be said, my dear fellow, for the effect of these little sketches of yours, which is entirely meretricious, depending as it does upon your retaining in your own hands some factors in the problem which are never imparted to the reader." Holmes's eyes grow bright and his cheeks grow red as those words are spoken.

Never imparted to the reader. Never. Not "clues you hold to the end of the case," no. "Never."

There is something about Holmes's cases Watson is never going to tell us. And Sherlock Holmes is sure that the case of "The Crooked Man" is missing the same element that Watson with-holds from his readers. What is that element?

Get ready for a spoiler, because I'm skipping straight to the end of the case on this one.

The missing element is the former love of a now-married individual. The case ends with a discussion of whether or not that scandalous truth needs to be brought forward. It apparently doesn't, and a little Bible discussion ends the case on the straight and narrow path.

With that, we skip ahead two years to the events of "The Cardboard Box."

Sherlock Holmes has John Watson back in a blazingly hot Baker Street, and Watson writes of his "companion" many times in the opening. That companion who knows him well enough to read his very thoughts. And what does the case they are about to become involved in center around? Get ready for more spoilers, as I'm skipping to the end once more:

Marital infidelity.

Something about this case's topic of marital infidelity would later hit Watson's literary agent so hard that he would retract the story's publication and keep it out of the public prints for years, so it would end up in a different collection of cases than the one it started it. But was it the infidelity of that story's sister and the sailor that affected Watson's agent so strongly? Or another infidelity it represented to him . . .  one never imparted to the reader.

In August of 1887, John H. Watson is a hard-working medico with a wife and household that he may have been struggling to hold together. The house, like many a house, needed a lot of work, and a lot of work needs a lot of money. And needing a lot of money can make things rough in a relationship.

In August of 1889, the wife, the household, and the problems all seem to be gone. Did that state somehow tie to a midnight visit by someone Watson cared about in 1887?

Well, I've never been a great proponent of the relationship that many fans are wanting Moffat and Gatiiss to eventually get to on Sherlock, but on some occasions in reading the Canon, one can easily get the impression that it was there already. Or was it?

Part of the joy of Dr. Watson's writings, from dates of the cases on up, have always been those things never imparted to the reader and left to our own perogatives and imaginations. And this will always be one of them. Enjoy deciding for yourself.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Upon genetically casting obscure Canonical characters.

Let's talk about Jeremy Brett's cousin for a second.

Until today, I didn't know I had seen a lot of Jeremy Brett's cousin in the last few years. Or that he even had a notable cousin. Ardent Brett fans are probably well aware that Martin Clunes of Doc Martin and many other roles was Jeremy's cousin, but it was news to me.

But once that fact was learned, a follow-up though came, quick as lightning: Martin Clunes needs to play Dr. Verner. Don't know where or how, but he just has to play Dr. Verner.

You remember Doc Verner, don't you? The distant relation of Sherlock Holmes who purchased Watson's practice so John could move back to Baker Street in "Norwood Builder?" (If I loved nothing else about Sherlock fans, the fact that they made us comfortable calling Watson by his first name would do the trick.)

Jeremy Brett's cousin playing Sherlock Holmes's cousin. Too perfect.

Now that we've had Benedict Cumberbatch's parents playing Sherlock Holmes's parents and Mrs. Martin Freeman playing Mrs. John Watson, it's a trend we might as well keep going. Someone could cast Mira Sorvino to play Alice Rucastle opposite Paul Sorvino playing Jephro Rucastle. Someone could even cast Jonny Lee Miller to play Sherlock Holmes for the first time opposite Jude Law's Waston. (They were room-mates once.)

Of course, Dr. Verner certainly hasn't gotten enough screen time yet, so he'd make a fine start.

Monday, August 25, 2014

BBC Sherlock gets one more female fan.

A usually long meeting ending curiously early tonight. My friends, in dropping me off at home,  saw our wandering cat up on the porch. We went up to say "hello" to the cat, and I began the opening motions of unlocking and opening the door.

"QUICK! GET IN HERE!" the good Carter exploded from the other side of the door.

Hurrying into the house, I rounded the corner into the living room to see Stephen Moffat on TV with an award in his hand.

So that glued my butt to the chair for the next hour.

And the name Freeman came up. And the name Cumberbatch came up.

And as much as  a part of me really wanted to jump up and go, "F@*K YEAH!" and then do an endzone display of unsportsmanlike conduct that would get an NFL player heavily fined, the larger part of me just gave a slight nod, the way one acknowledges the sun coming up in the morning, or that gravity pulls something to the ground.

I mean, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. And the great Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of our time, at that. And the Arthur Conan Doyle of our time. 

Too much? Too lavish praise? Tell it to a little lady named Emmy.

And Emmy is even late to the party. I can think of hundreds of pretty ladies who got there years before her, first witnessed back when that first 221B Con in Atlanta took my breath away. It's been an amazing ride for Sherlockians since Sherlock first aired, and my only regret is that they couldn't squeeze a special Emmy for Mark Gatiss in there somewhere. Well, and one for Sue Vertue, Rupert Graves, Una Stubbs, Conan Doyle, Katherine Parkinson, Louise Coles, Kevin Horsewood . . . just go to and track down everybody who had anything to do with that show. It's a good, good thing they've done. 

So happy they get a night to celebrate!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Do these storied giants make us better people?

There seems to be a strong connection between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Who these days, both in a certain common creator and a lot of certain fans, so it should probably come as no surprise that the premiere of a brand new Doctor might inspire thoughts of a Sherlockian nature. (Especially when Madame Vastra is involved. More on her later.)

The last season of BBC Sherlock brought commentary from several directions that the writers were servicing the fans overmuch, and I was reminded of that strongly in Stephen Moffat's opening salvo of Doctor Who for this year. A new actor and a changed persona are a staple of the Who-niverse, and in this particular opener it felt that not only was he cognizant of the fans, he was actually preaching to them a bit through his characters . . . which then made one wonder what we have to expect in upcoming Sherlocks.

But aside from such quibbles, a rebooted story, as Dr. Who does a bit with its regenerations, definitely gives one a moment to step back and reconsider just what it is that attracts us to these characters, be they Sherlock Holmes or that doctor of unknown name.

Are they mere entertainments? Pretty young men or women with clever lines popping out of their mouths? Well, since Sherlock Holmes has not always be a pretty young person, we can be very certain that's not it. And his fan base has been strong in heterosexual males for eons, so he hasn't built the House of Sherlock on sex appeal, whatever his age.

No, good Sherlock Holmes, like good Doctor Who, like good . . . anybody, to me is a not just something you go brain dead and relax through. And it's not something that merely titillates with sex, violence, jokes, or other fleeting "shock and awe" tactics. No, there's something stimulating about a good hero with whom we can share an adventure or two. And not just something to get the blood pumping a little faster. No, our greatest, most legendary heroes actually make us feel like better people after spending time with them.

That's what I've always looked for in a Sherlock Holmes, and that's what I find I'm using to judge a new Doctor as well. Do they inspire, do they make you proud to be a person? Do you come away a little more energized from your time with them? Perhaps it's a high bar, but as long as certain creators can dish that delicacy out in ample portions, I think I'll keep that as my base criteria.

Now, back to Madame Vastra . . . her character on Dr. Who always makes me a little sad. Love her little Victorian team, with Jenny Flint and Strax, yes. But Madame Vastra has always been played as the inspiration for Sherlock Holmes. Her cases seem to have been his cases. She's smart, but always eclipsed by the Doctor. And she's a lizard, and you know how us mammals instinctively feel about those scaly bastards.

Madame Vastra, sad to say, doesn't have that certain something the real Sherlock Holmes brings. She's also a major impediment to any Dr. Who/Sherlock Holmes crossovers . . . which would be a rough go in any case, as it would suddenly allow that crazy aliens exist in the world of Sherlock. (As he once said, "The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply." Nor aliens. They have their own big worlds.)

With Peter Capaldi, the newest actor to take on the Doctor, however, I think we find something we haven't seen since Tom Baker took the big leap (to mixed results) . . . a Doctor Who who could also do a pretty fair Sherlock Holmes. It'll be fun to see how it goes.

Friday, August 22, 2014

The rise of Sherlock Holmes, elementary, and the Garrideb.

Today I stumbled across the Google Ngram Viewer, a lovely device for charting the use of phrases in "lots of books" over time. And what great fun it is to play with!

It seems to come all ready to chart "Albert Einstein,Sherlock Holmes,Frankenstein," and if you limit it to "Sherlock Holmes," the following chart pops up:

Sherlock Holmes obviously couldn't become popular until he actually existed as a working adult in the 1880s. There were plainly many Sherlocks before him, however, as this chart of his first name reveals:

So let's try something different -- the one word most associated with Mr. Sherlock Holmes, even before that dreadful TV show: "elementary."

This is where it gets interesting. "Elementary" actually peaks in the year 1929 and again in 1938, with a nice vogue in between. And since Basil Rathbone doesn't even start his reign as Holmes until 1939, we can't give him credit -- he might have even caused the word to become less popular, as crazy as that sounds. No, 1929 is definitely Clive Brook's Sherlock era. But since the Canon had its final story in 1926 and complete editions were just starting to come out then . . . or maybe it's complete coincidence and has nothing to do with Holmes, being instead, all about elementary schools. What can we be certain had to do with Sherlock Holmes?

Garridebs. Those uniquely-named, freakin' Garridebs.

If you look at the graphs for "Sherlock Holmes," "elementary," and "Garrideb," you'll find the greatest surge of popularity among published works in the Google Ngram search occurs right around 1930, when The Complete Sherlock Holmes was published. No stage actor, no movie series, no fan club ever had the impact upon Sherlock Holmes in print as that moment in time. Of course, I am reading the data with a certain bias. Take your own wanderings through the Google Ngram Viewer and see what you stumble upon -- fun will most certainly be a part of it, if you're anything close to the data-geek this blogger is.

Sherlock Holmes and the Gecko brothers.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Once upon a time, this study, this hobby, we called Sherlockiana was a rare and special thing. Now, we're definitely not alone.

Taking the works of Dr. John H. Watson and thinking beyond what what his Literary Agent had gotten into print, imagining the lives of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson beyond their little mysteries . . . it was something that wasn't going on in an organized fashion anywhere else before the middle of the last century. Eventually Star Trek would come along and raise a fan army whose minds would work like that of Sherlockians, but they were facing the future and not the past, and working out how warp drive might work always seemed a mite more fanciful than researching where exactly 221B Baker Street was located.

These days, however, it's not just the multitude of fandoms that are fleshing out our fictional realities . . . the professionals are doing it, too. Which is why I'm about to relate Sherlock Holmes, detective, to the Gecko brothers, bank robbers.

In 1996, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez came out with a quirky little film called From Dusk Till Dawn. Half crime thriller, half vampire movie, Dusk Till Dawn snaked its way into the hearts of many a ". . . boy who's half a man. Or man who's half a boy . . ." as ACD would say. George Clooney was first making his mark as an actor, Danny Trejo was just beginning his cult following, and fun was to be had.

Now, in 2014, Netflix has just come out with a TV series version of the movie (Originally on the El Rey network.). Nothing new there; TV shows have been adapted from movies since TV first began. But it's the style of adaptation that has changed. Dusk Till Dawn: The Series has that same quality one gets from Sherlock -- it's a show lovingly made by fan-minded sorts who both capture the feel of the original and expand its universe to explore areas that were barely touched on in the original. Basically, such shows are doing what we used to call Sherlockian scholarship, just with video: Expanding and exploring the world we were given, with respect and admiration for the original.

Interestingly, in this expansion/exploration, the criminal Gecko brothers seem curiously like someone split Sherlock Holmes into two people. There's the ultra-cool, charming side as epitomized in Seth Gecko, and the nerdy, smart, seeing-things-others-can't-see, "is he crazy?" side of Sherlock that is embodied in Richie Gecko. There's no stretch of imagination that would believe the bank robbing brothers could have possibly be inspired by Sherlock, but looking at their dynamic can be an enlightening look at Sherlock Holmes.

In the case of the Gecko brothers, their "Watson" is a whole family, the Fullers, whom they take hostage and eventually must ally with. The Fullers, despite their little family dramas, are the regular folk, while the Geckos are definitely anything but. They're at the height of their profession, if one counts the most wanted lists. One likes to play with a hair-trigger revolver and can seem to read people's thoughts. The other is a commanding presence who naturally takes control of a situation.

As we're used to seeing a Holmes-Watson duality, getting two characters who make one think of the dualities within Holmes himself, such as the eccentric recluse versus the fellow who walks into a situation and deals with those on scene accordingly.

Are there parallels, or does the Sherlockian mind just see Sherlock Holmes in everything? Maybe we're still kind of rare and special after all.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Summer of Sherlock: The Retired Colourman

When one reads the original Sherlock Holmes cases on the dates they started, late summer takes a definite turn.

Earlier, in June and July, we say Holmes and Watson relaxing, hanging out with friends, even while solving cases. In August, however, the caseload slows a bit, and they encounter Josiah Amberly. And while Charles Augustus Magnu . . . er, Milverton might be the most memorably repulsive villain of the Canon, Josiah Amberly is memorably repulsive as a client from the start. It's almost like Holmes and Watson are in a bad mood because summer is almost over.

"What did you think of him?"

"A pathetic, futile, broken creature." (This is Watson talking. Watson! Sweet, kindly Watson!)

"Exactly, Watson. Pathetic and futile. But is not all life pathetic and futile?"

Okay, Mr. Sunshine Holmes . . . hope somebody locked up the cocaine. Holmes doesn't like his client, doesn't seem to think Scotland Yard respects him in sending him this loser, and is actually winding up the case of "the two Coptic Patriarchs," which certainly doesn't seem to be bringing him any joy. (Or at least not enough that he feels like sharing it with Watson or involving him.) So what's up at Baker Street?

Well, according to my dating of this case, it took place on August 20, 1898. And if you look back at "The Dancing Men," which took place in late July of that year, you'll find that the tragedy of Riding Thorpe Manor occurred less than ten days before . . . one of those rare, but important cases where Sherlock Holmes did not decipher a hidden message until it was too late. ("The Five Orange Pips" being another of note.) And of that event, Watson would write:

"Would that I had some brighter ending to communicate to my readers, but these are the chronicles of fact, and I must follow to their dark crisis the strange chain of events which for some days made Ridling Thorpe Manor a household word through the length and breadth of England."

And Josiah Amberley comes Holmes's way right in the middle of those "some days" of which Watson wrote. Now we get to the really weird part.

Josiah Amberley seems to be a fan of Sherlock Holmes. "So famous a man as Sherlock Holmes," Amberly says, and later, "of course, it is all art for art's sake with him."

And Sherlock Holmes did say "It is Art for Art's sake, Watson!" in "The Adventure of the Red Circle" . . . which was published in March and April of 1911, over twelve years after Josiah Amberly and Dr. Watson have that conversation. To be fair, Holmes also mentions "art's sake" in Black Peter, which saw print in 1904, but the same problem applies: How did Amberley know, "it is all art for art's sake with him," when the stories mentioning that aspect had yet to be published?

Consider this fact: At the story's start, Holmes is seriously depressed over that "Dancing Men" business going so horribly south. But in the last line of the tale, we find Holmes with a tolerant smile. He's satisfied with his work on this case. Pleased. Possibly even feeling redeemed.

All because of his fan, Josiah Amberley, who seems to have read parts of the Canon that weren't even published yet.

Now, suppose the Sherlockian Canon originally ended with "The Final Problem." And while Sherlock Holmes survived that case and returned to Baker Street in 1894, he encountered a case so dis-spiriting in 1898 that not only did he give up detection, Dr. Watson didn't bother to write or publish the rest of the Canon. And suppose a fanatical Sherlockian in the future realized that the summer of 1898 was such a key turning point, and really, really, REALLY thought he could change history, go back in time, and give Holmes and Watson a success that would inspire them both to go on, detecting and writing.

And once that time-traveller had done his deed, he could take a little, white nanotech time travel pill and return to his own time. But even his fans will often underestimate Mr. Sherlock Holmes, so that last part didn't exactly work out.

Well, since we live in the timeline where the Canon goes on past "The Final Problem," perhaps thanks to a Sherlockian superfan named Josiah Amberley, it's hard to say if that didn't happen. Time travel is such a messy business. Who knows, we might have not had Adolph Hitler had Amberley not messed with the time stream!

Did Sherlock Holmes eventually puzzle out the time-traveller's true nature? Did Watson save the full write-up of those facts for the last story to be published, only to have the British Government redact all the parts with time travel in them, as they worked to master that science themselves?

Well, if any of you are about to go back in time and set up in a place called "the Haven" to test Sherlock Holmes (and get a little time with a beautiful wife along the way), send me a note before you go . . . except I guess you already did, changed the timeline, and now don't know you did.

Okay, ignore the time travel, and the British Government probably wants us to anyway, and just enjoy the simple tale of Sherlock Holmes succeeding when he could really use a win.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The House test.

I was walking past a television this morning when Hugh Laurie caught my attention, as he used to do on a weekly basis. He was playing Gregory House, M.D. on a rerun of the likewise titled House. Laurie won six Primetime Emmy Awards for the role, an achievement we're still hoping to see an actor playing Sherlock Holmes accomplish once.

But here's the thing: Hugh Laurie was playing Sherlock Holmes . . . sort of. He had his consulting practice and his Wilson and his apartment 221B, but over time he developed into a fully-fleshed character in his own right, taking Sherlockian seed and growing a more successful hybrid than, I dare say, any character in the previous hundred years.

Yet even though Gregory House is not Sherlock Holmes, you can still see Sherlock in him . . . in fact, from my vantage point, there's more of Sherlock Holmes in him than two out of our three big-media Sherlocks at present.

In fact, House is so close to Sherlock, that you have to wonder if, in some parallel universe, House's creator David Shore had decided to just make a modern-day Sherlock Holmes show in 2004 starring Hugh Laurie and call it Elementary, would Benedict Cumberbatch even have found a BBC show about Sherlock Holmes in his future?

Even ten years later, House continues to be an amazing work using a Sherlock Holmes character, and it's a shame that the creators of a certain modern knock-off didn't spend more time studying that show and less time dancing around its British inspiration.

Watching any Sherlock Holmes on whatever size screen these days, House still provides us with a viable test, high bar that it is, of a Sherlock. Does that Sherlock Holmes feel more like the true Sherlock than Gregory House?

Something to consider.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Emmy-award-winning Sherlock . . . already.

Today was a little confusing.

"The Emmys are tonight???" came a text message in the mid-afternoon.

It's Saturday, I thought. Awards shows are never on Saturday nights! No one would ever watch them. So I do a quick check . . . yes, the Primetime Emmys aren't until August 25th. On a Monday.

A little more time goes by.

A tweet pops up from the Baker Street Babes: "Good luck to #TeamSherlock at the Emmys tonight!"

What? This requires a little research. Which, these days, is a few keystrokes . . . .

Oh, there's a "Creative Arts Emmy Awards!" That one they have for the tech geeks where some starlet hands out trophies, that they show brief clips of on the regular show . . . or is that the Oscars? Ah, well, so there's this other Emmy thing on tonight. And BBC's Sherlock is up for seven awards.

Yeah, we're supposed to call it "PBS's Sherlock" here in the states, but it's not like Ben and Marty were here in the states filming the thing, was it. ("Ben and Marty" -- where did that come from? A little punchy tonight.)

Anyway, I'm not sure where one would watch the "Creative Arts Emmy Awards," so, like everyone else, I wait to see if news bits pop up once it's done. And eventually, there they are:

Casting . . . DENIED!
Cinematography . . . WIN!
Costumes . . . DENIED!
Single Camera Picture Editing . . . WIN!
Music Composition . . . WIN!
Sound Editing . . . WIN!
Sound Mixing . . . DENIED!

Suddenly we have "the Emmy-award winning Sherlock!" Even before Emmy night on the old tee-vee.

And now it's . . . "Emmy-century, my dear Watson!"?

"Emmys a-plenty, my dear Watson!"??

"Emmys-but-not-for-thee, my dear (Joan) Watson!"??

In any case, there's now Sherlock "Emmy gentry, my dear Watson!"

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The curtain goes up on Elementary Theater.

And now, as a public service to all the little Elementary fans sitting cross-legged in front of their tee-vees waiting for the late-starting season premiere of their favorite show, Sherlock Peoria is proud to present our latest aid for passing that long wait . . .  Elementary Theater, starring Mr. Elementary!

Mr. Elementary: Lucy, I'm ho-ome!

Lucy: Oh, El! Did you have a good day at work?

Mr. Elementary: Richard Castle came down to NYPD today to research his next book.

Lucy: Richard Castle! Could you introduce me to him?

Mr. Elementary: Now, Lucy, I invited him to dinner, but don't go getting one of your crazy ideas about becoming his apprentice or anything.

Lucy: Oh, no! Clyde and Angus were coming over to play bridge tonight!

Clyde (entering from the kitchen with Angus): Teen-age mu-tant de-tective turtle! Teen-age mu-tant de-tective turtle! Consulting on the half-shell! Turtle Power!

Angus: Hi, Lucy! Hi, El . . . Hitler! Man, that guy sucked. Do you know what he did to guys with full head tattoos like mine? Ms. Hudson gave me a book on it today.

Mr. Elementary: Clyde, Angus, you'll have to excuse us, we . . . .

Lucy: . . . have a case, that we have to go out for! Captain Gregson just called! Yeah, that's it!

Clyde: That's too bad, we just saw Richard Castle get out of a cab out front! You're not trying to get us out of here so you can have dinner with another of your famous crossover friends are you?

Angus: I've got some novel ideas that I want to pitch Castle! Nikki Heat starts working with NYPD's house phrenologist and they track a skull-fu . . . .

Lucy: You guys have to get out of here now!

Angus: But it's a skull made of fudge! Like that crystal one Indiana Jones had, but made of fudge!

(Doorbell rings.)

Mr. Elementary: Ay-yi-yi! This is worse than the time I brought Temprance Brennan home and found you sleeping with my brother on the Shroud of Etrigan that was supposed to be on display at the Jeffersonian Museum!



(Yeah, slow Sherlockian news day.)

The missing medium.

When I look over my collected bits of Sherlock Holmes culture, there are books, of course. There are records. There are tapes. There are DVDs. There are CDs, both computer and musical. There is original art, reproduction art, sculpted art, and programs from theatrical art. There are toys, dolls, stuffed critters, cards, and board games.

But there is yet to be a video game.

With "Crimes & Punishments: Sherlock Holmes," as Amazon calls it, finally nearing a release date next month on September 30, after a year or so of bally-hoo on internet news sources, I am reminded why.

The game itself is $49.99. Not cheap, but not out of the realm of possibility.

But then there's the thing you play it on, running $250 and up, the medium of generations which aren't mine.

Yeah, there's a real "Hey, old man!" kick in the butt for you. A common household device, common in households that probably don't still subscribe to newspapers or cling to landline phones . . . the gaming system. They're really just specialized computers, of course, and "Crimes & Punishments: Sherlock Holmes" is coming out for the PC as well, but there again, a Mac household with no gaming systems as Sherlock Peoria emanates from is just not within the game's target demographic.

Video game releases have become as big as movie releases with the generations (plural, which just gets me at this point) that grew up with them, and in a way, saying video game to this aging blogger is like saying, "Hey, Sherlock Holmes is coming out on telepathic holograms for your cyber-implants!" -- something from a time not my own. On those occasions when I've tried using a gaming controller the end result always ends up looking like Neanderthal man trying to use a keyboard -- lots of random thumping with various body parts.

Someday, I'm sure, a new and superior video game's release will be celebrated at the Baker Street Irregulars' annual Holmes birthday dinner in New York, as the denizens of that future time consider it a valid medium just as print. There may be 221B Cons held in its honor as well, with fans revering the game as much as the well-crafted television production. But for now?

It remains the missing medium in many an older Holmes fan's collection, I'll wager.

Monday, August 11, 2014

That wonderful, wonderful minutiae.

"You have an extraordinary genius for minutiae," Dr. Watson observed about his friend Sherlock, early on in their relationship. And, indeed, the greater share of Sherlock Holmes's genius at his work is due to his love of the finer details that tell larger stories. So is it any wonder that his fans are likewise happily afflicted?

I was reminded of this today upon reading Ray Betzner's latest "Studies in Starrett" entry, "The Sherlockian World's Most Famous Bookplate, Part 1." What I love most about that title is the "Part 1." He's writing about a bookplate. And he has so much info that he had to split it into two parts.

A bookplate.

And as Ray dubs it, the world's most famous Sherlockian bookplate, at that. I think when I first became aware that bookplates did exist, that was one of the first ones I ever saw. I'm not even sure where, at this point, whether in the library of a proud collector or reprinted in a book. It's one of those images that pops up a lot when dealing in Starrett's era of Sherlockiana.

But you can almost feel the delight coming off every detail in Ray's write-up about Starrett's bookplate and its connections to other people and things. I won't mention a one here, so as not to spoil the experience at reading the blog for yourself, but it's the kind of minutiae he writes about that are, perhaps, the great saving grace of the collector, as I've known them in the Sherlockian world.

Because true collecting isn't really about the rarity or the value of an object -- it's about the little piece of history that it represents. The best collectible items will always be the ones with some new secret to share with us, some bit of data we didn't have before that object came along. Good collections can have an invisible network of lore linking the individual  objects within them, and a great collector is good at passing along the stories of what he's acquired over time.

And a simple, little thing like a bookplate can lead one to a lot of fascinating places.

I'm really looking forward to the second part of Ray Betzner's bookplate blog, for more of that marvelous minutiae that the Sherlockian world has such a great facility for. In a way, it feels as comfortable as sitting in one of the chairs by the hearth at 221B itself.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The 30-Second Sherlock Holmes?

During a morning trip to the local Barnes & Noble for some last-minute reading material, a display for "30-Second" books was one of the first things I came across. 30-Second Philosophies, 30-Second Religion, 30-Second Architecture, 30-Second Ancient Rome . . . the list went on and on. Thirty seconds to learn about a subject? That's like instant knowledge! Who wouldn't find that attractive?

My mind immediately went to a 30-Second Sherlock Holmes . . . and then I went, "No, wait . . ."

A 30-Second Sherlock Holmes? Are you kidding me?

Long before Steve Doyle gave us Sherlock Holmes for Dummies, many a Sherlockian took one look at that popular "for Dummies" series and its competitor "Idiot's Guides" and went, "We need a Sherlock Holmes one of those." Just like you'd always hear, "We need a new annotated," at Holmes conferences before Les Klinger took on that one. But Steve did the work, got a broadly-encompassing guide to Sherlock Holmes out under that Dummies banner, and we're all the better for it.

But a 30-Second Sherlock Holmes?

The concept of those books is like holding your nose and gulping down bad-tasting medicine. "Get it over with, as quick and painless as possible," that sort of thing. And is that the sort of attitude any fan, or potential fan, of Sherlock Holmes would come at the Canon with?

There have been companions and guides to Sherlock Holmes before that give you synopses of the stories, but they always seemed like a reminder reference for those who had already read the sixty tales. The thought of a work designed to get somebody up to speed who really didn't want to read the original stories . . . well it's kind of like that weird old sci-fi notion of taking your whole meal in pill form. Is that any way to live?

So I kind of hope that no peppy Sherlockians out there are eager to sign up to write a Holmes book under this latest banner. The resulting "30-Second Sherlockians" might not be anyone we'd want to have dinner with.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The S-list celebrity.

We haven't completely settled on standard measurements for our celebrities just yet.

We have the "A-list," of course, and Kathy Griffin's cementing of her position with the TV show My Life on the D-List. If you look up Z-list, you'll find it used as a term for someone who thinks they're a celebrity when they're not. But all those letters of the alphabet between D and Z seem to be just lying there, waiting for definitions.

So while we're in this alphabetic-celebrity-ranking state of flux, I want to propose we grab the "S-list" spot and make it "S" for Sherlockian. An "S-list" celebrity, then, would be anyone who has attained any celebrity whatsoever for their association with Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

Consider any Sherlockian you've heard of, whom isn't local to you, you've never met, and is still a recognizable name to you due to your interest in Sherlock Holmes.

I'm not talking Jonny Lee Miller or Nicholas Meyer  here. Those guys are on the actual upper-tier celebrity lists, and if you first encountered them via Sherlock Holmes, well, that was just your personal route. Other people have discovered them through other non-Holmes career highlights. No, the true S-list celebrity would be someone we've heard of via Sherlock Holmes, and nobody else has heard of them in any way except regarding their connection to Sherlock Holmes.

Many a novelist has started as an S-list celebrity with a pastiche as their first published work, but then rises above into whatever lists that popular writers inhabit, which is the hope of most Sherlockian novelists, I'd wager. Those whose Sherlock Holmes novels lead to more Sherlock Holmes novels can manage to stay on the S-list, but most career writers eventually find celebrity in other than Sherlockian circles just due to their other output and travels, even if it's just the "M for Mystery" list.

A solid route for being an S-list celebrity and not aspiring to more is the article in the Sherlockian journal, and it has long been the standard payment for Sherlockian journal writers. An article in The Baker Street Journal has always been a first step for getting noticed by the Baker Street Irregulars membership selection person, and if ever there was an "I'm on the S-list!" moment for a Sherlockian, Irregular membership is one.

Of course, there are many others. Going to your first Sherlock Holmes conference or event in a faraway city and having people come up to you knowing something you did is probably the most common way to suddenly feel you're on the S-list. As is having a co-worker or someone else in your everyday life be surprised to discover something you did in the Sherlock world via the internet or some other source you had nothing to do with.

Any action that moves your name outside of the local Sherlock Holmes club, really, is what can put you on the celebrity S-list of the Sherlockian world. And now that there's a pseudonymous world of fanfic existing alongside the old world of Sherlock Holmes fans with aliases that get around like renowned criminals or skilled spies, you don't even have to get your actual name out to be on the S-list. (Though I guess that sort of thing has been happening in show biz forever.)

One of these days, given the inventive, creative, "Who knew you could do that? nature of the internet, somebody may even start an online TMZ of S-list celebrities. Because, lord knows, Sherlockians can do some pretty wacky, wacky stuff, and the rumors do fly about major S-listers. And that's an even better sign that the S-list exists . . . because there are people we do like to gossip about in Sherlockian circles, which however awful the story, does mean they're an interesting celebrity to somebody.

And if you Google "S-list" right now, the field seems pretty open for Sherlockians to lay claim to the term. Why not stake our claim?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Sherlock Holmes rocket.

Okay, so here's a weird, bored Sherlockian thing to do. Take the names of the characters from some movie you just fell totally in love with and start plugging them into the Moonfind search of the Holmes Canon. You might think, if the movie in question was of the science-fictional genre, that weird alien names are not going to pop up in the Canon. And they probably aren't.

If you're lucky, the one Earthman character might have a first and a last name that both appear in the cases of Sherlock Holmes. And then you get to a word/name that doesn't seem all that Victorian, but is there all the same: Rocket.

The word "rocket" just does not belong in the Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes, because usually when we think of a rocket, we think of the kind that has people riding on it. And even if your first thought is "bottle rocket" or "model rocket," well, they're just not Victorian somehow. They aren't even steam-punky, with their paper and gunpowder simplicity.

Never mind that the first battle fought with rockets is said to have occurred in 1232, and we know for sure they were around by the 1400s. Or that the first fellow to propose rocket-powered space flight did so in 1903. Sherlock Holmes and rockets? Maybe in the 22nd century, in a cartoon!

But as that darned Moonfind search will tell you, against all gut feelings about rockets, Sherlock Holmes had a rocket in his pocket, "an ordinary plumber's smoke rocket, fitted with a cap at either end to make it self-lighting." Not sure how original that device was with Holmes, but here's the thing: Sherlock Holmes was a.) a chemist, and b.) a guy who liked to screw around with hair trigger revolvers, and c.) somebody who was always trying out new things.

Now, I'm not going to say Sherlock Holmes had any reason to try to build a rocket to fly to the moon -- we all know his feelings about local astronomy. But would it have been at all unlike him to try to create a few small rocket-powered devices for his own use?

Well, we might want to leave rocket-boots to the Robert Downey, Jr. incarnation of the character, but something like a rocket-powered grappling hook? Could be. Sherlock did have that smoke grenade awfully handy when the Adler business came up. Perhaps he had a few Bond-like rocket tricks up his Victorian sleeve, as well.

Still, throwing a rocket-powered bicycle into "Solitary Cyclist" does seem more Downey that Brett, so that might just be outside the needs of the cause that drove all of Sherlock Holmes's early work, the cause of detection. And yet . . . Sherlock Holmes, Rocket Detective, does not sound all that . . . nawwww!

Rockets and Sherlock Holmes. I think it'll take a skilled creator to get me into that adaptation. (And if that Asylum films Sherlock Holmes already did try it, well, no wonder I don't remember!)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Arthur's choice.

Would Conan Doyle have decided not to be Watson's literary agent, had he been able to see everything the future held?

As a response to losing one of its earlier court battles, the Doyle Estate, Ltd. had said the court's decision "reduces the incentive for authors to create great literature by cutting short the value of copyrights protecting two of the world's great characters." And while I doubt most writers are really thinking or caring about what will take place eighty-four years after their deaths when they decide to create, Conan Doyle's long, and not always happy, relationship with Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson bears considering.

I mean, how would he have taken the latest news that an entity bearing his name was having to pay Les Klinger over $30,000 in legal fees for what a judge now calls "disreputable business practice -- a form of extortion"?

Probably not well. And we know well that Doyle would have much preferred fame for his historical works over his casework of Sherlock Holmes. But if you were to show all of what came after to a young Arthur Conan Doyle and go "Would you rather have your place in literary history ensured with Mr. Sherlock Holmes or take your chances without him and possibly be remembered only as an obscure sci-fi writer?" Would Doyle be willing to roll those dice?

He might, having been given the knowledge that he could be successful in one field, which could bolster his confidence in taking a different route. But presented with the dollar figures that would enable him to do so many other things in life: the travel, the spiritualism endeavors, and all the other perks that come with certain fame and fortune, it might be a tough gamble to take. Conan Doyle was a mere man, after all, and knew how hard that hard times could be.

And as much as he was irritated by Sherlock Holmes on occasion, when showed the pure joy that his friends Holmes and Watson have brought to humanity over the last century, how hard-hearted would he have had to be to take all that away?

More hard-hearted than the Conan Doyle we know of. And he'd probably be at least a little amused at the thought of all those lively young ladies getting their pictures taken next to his cut-out at some of the cons these days. For his legacy is a lot more than courtroom battles.

In the end, the question might not be the choice Doyle would make when shown the future of Holmes and Watson, but whether or not he'd believe a word of it.

It's been one crazy ride, and it just keeps going.

Monday, August 4, 2014

And the line is crossed.

Two years and one month ago, my Sherlock Peoria blog moved to Google's Blogger site. Prior to that, it held out on an old vanilla HTML site at where the blog was updated once every week on Sunday nights . . . for ten years.

Ten years, fifty-two weeks a year, that was five hundred and twenty blog posts. And some weeks, it was llke pulling over-stuffed teeth to come up with a topic. Sure, there's a whole encyclopedia full of material on Sherlock Holmes, but I come from a line of hunters who like to sit up in the tree and wait for the prey to come to us. And the game doesn't wander down the Peoria trails like it once did.

And there was something about that Sunday night routine that had gotten a little stale after a decade. Weekly publications were a thing of an earlier day, not in this new millennium. So in July of 1012, when Sherlock Peoria came to Blogger and a more irregular schedule, I wasn't sure what would happen. Would I write less, without the weekly deadline, or just keep up?

Well, here we are two years and one month later and I've already surpassed the 520 posts of the ten years previous to July 2012 through August 2014. Why?

I'm sure there are those Elementary fans who would credit their favorite TV show for my raised output. My very second blog post on this Blogger site was entitled "'Elementary' Perversion" and began my ongoing love affair with a certain lady of the prime-time evening, so to speak. If it was up to those same Elementary fans, I might have even written another hundred or two hundred posts on the show, as the desire to discuss the matter with me seemed to be quite energetic. But one must show some restraint and stay on the topic of Sherlock Holmes, after all.

The thing that I noticed, though, was that the ability to just whip on to the internet and drop in a blog post at any given moment, for better or worse, had a tendency to capture those fleeting Sherlockian thoughts that might not have lasted until the weekend, t'were I still waiting until then to write up a little something. While it's probably impossible (and definitely inadvisable) to completely dump one's unedited train of thought out to the internet, it does a better job of actually living up to that thing we call a "blog," short for "web log," and log the day-to-day Sherlockian business of one particular Sherlockian.

I occasionally get accused of egotism a lot for putting my personal opinions out in public, but I really wish everyone kept such logs. Dropping in to see what John Foster or Alistair Duncan are thinking can be enlightening, but you know there are active Sherlock Holmes fans out there that make all of us regular bloggers look like pikers in terms of their personal Sherlock-related activity. I can think of any number of folks I'd loved to have seen 520 posts from in the last couple years . . . and not because I agree with every thought in their heads.

I know, I know, practicing restraint and publishing in well-edited places when one is sure of a well-researched, unassailable Sherlockian thesis is a grand and noble thing, but it's like saving your kisses for Valentine's Day. You might have a grand romantic moment for that occasion, but you're going to miss a lot of good moments you might have found along the way, had you just let it go every day.

And you'd certainly be a lot better kisser when Valentine's Day rolled around. (And maybe just an absolutely slutty lad or lass as well . . . but hey, this is 2014! Slut-shaming is on the decline.)

Over 520 blog posts in just over a couple of years . . . if you think you can't write anything of value about Sherlock Holmes, look at that number and consider if you yourself produced that many . . . some of them would have to be good, right? And one of them might even be absolutely fantastic, and make the whole thing worthwhile. Or at least better than what you're reading here for somebody, and probably a lot of somebodies. You just never know.

Once you do get going (or if you already are), let me know where you are on the web. I can always use another little cottage on the digital Sussex Downs to look in on now and then.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Is Sherlock Holmes a Guardian of the Galaxy?

Okay, what follows is not me trying to get my fellow Sherlockians to go see the new Guardians of the Galaxy movie. That film is incredibly AWESOME in its own right, and I shall leave that choice to your own individual tastes. As a kind of melding between Star Wars and a Marvel Comics movie, it's right in my particular sweet spot, and having see in twice already in the first two and a half days it's been out there, I've already decided that the movie has everything I could possibly want in a movie . . . including Sherlock Holmes.

Well, sort of.

Without giving any spoilers, etc.,  I can say this: There is a particular moment in Guardians of the Galaxy where a particular rogue's plans are foiled by the appearance of an Invernesse-cape-wearing figure at a key moment. Sure sounds like Sherlock Holmes, doesn't it?

And it is Sherlock Holmes.

Well, sort of.

Like a lot of the elements in Guardians of the Galaxy, this particular Sherlock Holmes dates back to a time when I was a lot younger and doing things like picking up the first appearance of a fellow named "Star-lord" at the same time I was picking up as many Sherlock Holmes pastiches as I could find at the campus book-store. And it's always good to see a bright and shiney new thing that touches on key points in our personal nostalgia banks.

So count me as a happy camper this weekend. Guardians of the Galaxy has a Sherlock Holmes tie-in.


Friday, August 1, 2014

The terrace.

Since I seem to have an extra day to spend with "His Last Bow," I think it will be worth spending on the terrace.

You know, the terrace?


"Stand with me here upon the terrace, for it may be the last quiet talk that we shall ever have," Sherlock Holmes says to Dr. Watson in the final paragraphs of their final case together. Sherlockians have traditionally used the phrase "standing on the terrace" to pay tribute to the memory of departed friends, so much so that to many long-time Sherlockians, Holmes's line immediately makes one think of those gone away. But Watson hasn't gone away yet when Holmes originally says the words.

True, both men are about to head off for their individual duties in the greatest war Britain has ever faced. One, or both, may not make it through with their lives, and wind up being part of the sacrifices that England must endure to survive as a country.

But here, on this terrace, in this moment, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are alive, and together.

And you know that while they "chatted in intimate converse for a few minutes," it probably wasn't the dialogue that many a fanfic writer would choose. It also probably wasn't the perfect expression of decades of love and friendship, summed up in a perfect moment. We learn it was "recalling once again the days of the past," and that was about it. Which means it was more like an awkward, sort of . . . .

"Remember that time, when Lestrade fell in that hole, just as the blind clergyman was . . ."

"Ah, yes. We laughed all the way back to Yorkshire."

"Or that time . . . did you really get Irene Adler to . . . ?"

"There's a photo, back in my garrett at the cottage."

And eventually, the squirming German in the back seat of the Ford would require some attention and the two men would just kind of go, "Good times, eh?" and head for the car. Sherlock Holmes gets all dire and "East wind coming," but Watson? He just enjoying being with Holmes as always, like it will never end. I think he even cheers Holmes up a bit, just by being John H. Watson.

"Standing on the terrace," as traditionalized in Sherlockiana is a good tradition, a nice way of honoring those who have gone before us, but we also remember that unlike that tradition, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson weren't standing alone on the terrace, one or the other mourning the loss of his counterpart. They were there together. And Sherlock Holmes was taking a moment to fully appreciate the man who stood beside him.

Today I've had good reason to think of a friend who left us too soon last year, but as I stood on the terrace, so to speak, I wasn't standing alone. And like Sherlock Holmes, I took those moments to greatly appreciate those who stood with me . . . those, who in a way, were gifts to me from that absent friend. Because we don't have to save terrace moments for our last bows.

Summer of Sherlock: His Last Bow

Summer. A time for driving cars, smoking cigars if you're band and pouring your friend another glass if you're good.

Summer. A time for pleasant old ladies to stroke their cats while thinking secret thoughts of divine mischief ahead.

Summer. A time for something a little good (like helping your country), a little bad (like cashing checks one may have gotten under false pretenses), and a little bit of both (spending two years as an Irish-American trouble-maker).

(Okay, that last line is because I'm totally enamored with Guardians of the Galaxy, having just seen the local premiere, so you will excuse the paraphrase.)

But all this is the goodness we get in the August tale that is "His Last Bow."

It is Sherlock Holmes needing a haircut and going out with one last victory, still proud about defying the wills of enemies like Moriarty and Moran along the way. He's even proud of his bees, though he really hasn't been taking care of them for two years. (Which begs the question: who did?)

And "The Dangling Prussian" will always be my favorite English inn, for the name as well as some other reasons you might find by clicking the link.

I'm a bit too happy this evening to be overly analytical about "His Last Bow" right now, and even still a bit under the spell of that revision of the East wind speech that BBC Sherlock gave us at the end of last season, reversing the foreboding of the original and making it a promise of making the wrong things right. But that show has always been talented at turning the Canon on its head and making one love the result.

So I'll leave you to your own August musings on Sherlock Holmes's last adventure. It's the perfect day to read it, at that point in the year it took place -- or close enough if you don't get to it until the weekend.

Have fun there on that great chalk cliff.

(And then he realized he had somehow gotten a day ahead in his "Summer of Sherlock" read . . . who knew July had 31 days? Yeah, anyone with a calendar.)