There's always a warm spot in my heart for the outcast, the orphan, "Heath, the outsider who fought for recogntion . . ." Yes, people younger than me, you can have your Jon Snow, but I've still got promo commercials for westerns like The Big Valley echoing through my brain. So when I returned to About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story Is The Best, after the flat-out dominance of "Silver Blaze" when I left it, the next contestant came as a happy surprise.
Christopher Redmond, who put this whole thing together, did it right, as should be no surprise to anyone who knows his work. He put "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" in next. Where it belongs.
And Resa Halle, tasked with promoting "Cardboard Box" in this tournament of the best of the best, picked up that ball and ran with it. She casts "Cardboard Box" as not only the unwanted step-child in this Battle Royale, but something of a monster. A monster who eats murder ponies? I'm not quite sure when I finish the essay, but "Silver Blaze" sure has lost its brag-and-bounce with a real, self-confessed multiple-murderer in the ring.
Amy Thomas brings "The Yellow Face" into this match with a scholarly gothic reading. The gothic angle has some great potential, but I am far too familiar with "Yellow Face," and I know that at it's heart, it's a little, lovable child, too sweet to be fighting in this wrestling ring I've set up for the weekend. I just want to get this story away from the murderer than preceded it.
I love the way Michael Duke pushes "The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk" into this tournament with a cry from Holmes of "Nothing could be better!" And then he proceeds to get the story's downside out of the way first, which is an excellent stratagem. And he follows it with some mental jabs and uppercuts that counter your first thought of "Oh, no, not boring old Stockbroker's Clerk!" Pulling Jack the Ripper, among other devils, into discussing a story about a clerk's job woes brings some spirited competition from a tale I was not expecting to have it.
My old friend Bill Cochran delivers "The Adventure of the 'Gloria Scott'" to the ring next to face all of these foes, and unlike many an About Sixty competitor doesn't lead with the story so much as the elements of a young Sherlock Holmes's character revealed in the narrative. And who here doesn't love Sherlock Holmes? I do, and I like what I see here. But still, young Holmes versus all that comes after? "Gloria Scott," in the end, needs to come back when it's more grown-up if it's going to truly vie for the title of "best Sherlock Holmes story." Sorry, Bill.
Can "The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual," the other "young Holmes" adventure fare any better? Susan Bailey certainly thinks so, teasing a personal twist as she comes down the ramp with this one. (The "ramp" being a part of my mental image of this competition as a WWE arena event.) Evoking Jeremy Brett is almost always a good move, and I don't remember seeing it used much at all at this point. Susan sets up "Musgrave Ritual" as a strong and solid ("indispensable") part of the Canon, but lets her fighter show a touch of weakness in the last paragraph . . . a point of vulnerability a lot of the entrants in this weekend's tournament have displayed.
T'would have been a different match had all of the About Sixty writers known that a reader was going to do a "combat read" of the book, but perhaps when the sequel is being written, twenty years from now, things might be different . . . especially if it's title is About Sixty 2: Desert Island Story or Death!
Next up: Ashley Polasek, who is known for bringing a sword to a Sherlock-fight. Can't wait to see what happens there!