Thursday, December 28, 2017

To absent friends . . .

Just before I fell asleep last night, the good Carter was telling me of someone we knew a long time ago giving her a call. As a result, I had a dream of two accomplished Sherlockians showing up in my living room. One of them did a little kvetching in a Christmas card this year about my absence from his domain of late. The other, I think I might have just mixed enough offense and irrelevance to be a bit persona non grata, but one can never be sure of those things.

In any case the thought of absent friends . . . a phrase we usually use for the dead and not the living . . . came on strong this morning. As Carter and I discussed last night, the longer you live, the more friends you can pick up with just a little travel, job-changing, and being out in the world. So many that even seeing them all just once a year becomes impossible for all practical purposes. That's what Christmas cards are for, I think, to give a nod and a wink to those we haven't seen in a while, but the internet has quickly eroded such traditions for many of us.

The Sherlock Holmes birthday weekend in New York owes its success to a similar tradition. My biggest complaint about those years I ventured East for it was the fact that I had so many five-minute-or-less conversations with so many Sherlockians to squeeze in between the dinner-table talks, and I wished they all could have been longer. But at least five minutes is a chance to touch base, acknowledge all is well with that person, and show you're happy for their existence.

New York City itself, however, was never a good friend of mine, which makes that tradition a bit of a problem each year. And maybe another tradition or two, but we shan't belabor that here.

Christmas is all about those Christmas things, but New Year's Eve? The holiday next on our calendar?

Drinking. Resolutions. And that song: Auld Lang Syne. From a Robbie Burns poem meaning "old long since."  A song which famously begins, "Should Old Acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind . . ."  The whole song is a toast, and a question, "Will we forget our old friends?" . . . as well as the answer, "No, let's raise a glass to them!"

A long Sherlockian life, lived fully, is a life full of friends. More friends than you will ever be able to keep up with. And you will feel like shit about that sometimes. But once a year, you can raise a glass, even of just refreshing spring water, if you're not into the oft-problematic beverages, and remember as many of them as you can . . . and hope that somewhere, they're doing the same.

Here's to ya, you Sherlockian charmers, you.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

What do we call the non-believers?

As my household filled with Christmas cheer this Yule, I had the following Facebooked thought:

"Think of the thing you're a biggest fan of for a moment, the thing you really call your fandom, if you have one. Now imagine if there was a time of year when you got to barrage the rest of the world with that thing the way Christmas fanboys and fangirls do. And there were names you got to call people who didn't go along with it, like "Grinch" and "Scrooge." Not complaining here, just imagining . . . "

So then I had to wonder . . . what would Sherlockians call those who wouldn't go along with tradition on such a day? I ran through the names of Scotland Yard in my head first, but we know they weren't always non-believers in Sherlock Holmes. He brought them around on many occasions, one detective at a time, and there was that classic moment when every man at the Yard wanted to shake his hand.

And then it came to me.


The Sherlockian non-believer would be a Grimesby.

"Scoundrel." "Meddler." "Busybody." "Scotland Yard jack-in-office."

Oh, a Grimesby would not believe in Sherlock Holmes at all.

In fact, we could even make "Speckled Band" our Sherlock-tide story of how the Grimesby did not believe, and then during one magical night, had the speckled snake of Sherlockmas Past come and squeeze his head into believing, just before he died, not of venom, but of shame at his disbelief.

And then all the litter Stoners down in Stonerville cheered and got married. (Stoners will really love this tale.)

Sherlock's birthday is coming up soon, you know. Better get your Sherlockian spirits going, fill the sideboard for Sherlocktide feasting, and prepare to sing "Aunt Clara" or the theme to BBC Sherlock (there are words out there somewhere!).

Because we have a word for you now if you don't.

Don't be a Grimesby!

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Wars of the popular.

"Remember when we didn't get to hear everybody's thoughts on everything?" the old geezer wrote, surely not seeing the irony as he pushed his thoughts out to anyone who would read them.

The geezer in that story is me, of course. One of my good friends and I were discussing the latest Star Wars offering last night, and since observing what happens with a non-Sherlock franchise is a great way to talk about Sherlockian things without offending either side on those, it seemed like a good topic to toss out here.

Once upon a time, if something was popular, it meant simply that more people took it in, not that we had to have a war of ideas on it. My friend expressed a view that he wished Star Trek was as popular as Star Wars, and I told him I was glad that Sherlock Holmes wasn't as popular as something Star Wars or Batman. Because once something crosses a certain level any more, the wars begin.

Not that we don't have some heated disagreements in Sherlock-land. But, while I have had one person who suggested I kill myself over my dislike of a certain Sherlockian thing, I haven't had any actual death threats. (Unless you count suicide suggestions as passive-aggressive death threats, which they kind of are.) But once something enters the mainstream full-on, the crazy truly comes out. So as much as I'd like to see a Sherlock level of rationality pervade the world, I'm also kind of glad he's not doing Batman-level business just yet.

There's a reason "polarizing" suddenly became more commonly used in the last decade -- now that we've all become inter-connected by the internet, we're still having the hardest time dealing with the fact that different people can have different likes and dislikes. Even simply enjoying something without isolating yourself as a hermit means someone will inevitably have to tell you why they didn't enjoy it. And if you're not a hermit, you are usually a little curious why somebody didn't . . . yet still might not want to have your own joy spoiled.

BBC Sherlock took us down that road in a much shorter time than some of the long term franchises like Dr. Who or Star Trek. The flare-up of its final season seems to be getting digested by the Sherlockian communities as a whole, but we're eventually going to have to deal with another Sherlock that suddenly puts us all on opposing teams . . . especially if it's very popular.

Popular means more Sherlock Holmes content, though, so we always with for that. I just hope we're ready for what comes with it.

Monday, December 18, 2017

About reading about being a Sherlockian.

Christopher Redmond seems on a roll with his sixty-essay collections, a concept which could be a nice annual event at this point. About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story Is The Best has been now followed by About Being A Sherlockian: 60 essays celebrating the Sherlock Holmes community, and word on the street is that another volume is in the works.

The first followed that familiar trail of working one's way through the sixty-part Canon of Sherlock Holmes, in order of publication. The latest, About Sixty, is a different sort of read: Sixty individual accounts of personal experiences with books, movies, television, and people all centering around Holmes. Instead of championing sixty different stories, it's almost like sixty people championing the same story, which is both the book's greatest strength and greatest weakness.

The strength is summed up by the final lines of Heather Holloway's essay, "The Adventure of the Weird Cousins," which reads "Yes! I would love to tell you my story! I would love to hear yours!" The enthusiastic connection that Sherlock Holmes brings us makes for some of the best times in a Sherlockian life, at a dinner, a con, a pub, walking down a city street . . . anywhere two Sherlockians can talk. (Yeah, forget that bottle thing. You need two Sherlockians.)

What I found in reading About Being A Sherlockian was that I was most delighted by those voices I could hear clearly in my head -- the writers I knew and had enjoyed their company. If you've been in the Sherlockian commnity for a good length of time and traveled to some of the larger gatherings, you've probably picked up a few personal stars in your Sherlockian firmament, and those in mine were celebrities, whether they consider themselves that or not, that I got quite a thrill reading about.

Other times, the tales from unfamiliar names began to blur together, probably because I started reading the book just too damn fast driving toward another name I was dying to get to. So many of our stories are not that different when you take them all in in one gluttonous gulp. They are so much better savored, one at a time, as happens when you actually get to spend time one-on-one with a fellow Sherlockian.

So having inhaled the book on first pass, I am now very much determined to place it on my nightstand and read one essay a night, to get a better feel for each individual Sherlockian's perspective. There is a lot to take in here. Sixty autobiographies, the Sherlockian part of sixty different lives captured in one single volume. Down the line it would be fun to see Chris doing a collection of sixty essays of people getting to write about their favorite Sherlockian, so we could get another view of Sherlockian lives from the outside to pair up with this inside view -- although actually there's a whole lot of that in here already. Get the book and see for yourself.

No one lives a great Sherlockian life without other Sherlockians being a part of it.


Afterword, because I have to.

That last line came out with a little bit of a sting as I finished it tonight. Today we learned that Meredith Granger of The Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis had passed away suddenly, far too early. Meredith was a lively Sherlockian, and when he'd stop here for a meal on one of his many trips up to Iowa, Kathy and I always had a great time. We'll miss him greatly, and our hearts go out to all those in Indy, who we know will miss him so much more. Like I said, no one lives a great Sherlockian life without other Sherlockians being a part of it. And, boy, are some of them great people, like Meredith.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Sherlock Holmes still stands for something.

As with so many mornings of late, I woke up this morning to headlines of slimey power-plays by the greedy and self-interested. Those whose desire for winning that game whose points are scored with dollars outweighs all else: Truth, empathy, the future . . . why think of any of that when you can put points on the board?

In this world, we can't really afford to happily smile and nod when certain phrases are uttered.

Let's start with this one: "No shit, Sherlock!"

An unpleasant little thing that Watson would never say. Why? Because at it's core it's about disrespecting someone who, for whatever reason, seemed to be smarter than you. One could argue that it was about bringing down someone who was putting on airs, but in the everyday usage I've observed, it's about putting the Sherlock Holmeses of the world in their place . . . and that place would seem to be "You ain't so smart, Mr. Fancy-pants Detective!"

It's not a Watson sort of phrase. It's a Gregson sort of phrase. And not handsome TV Gregson.

Now let's move on the a phrase that might bring a little more disagreement.

"All Sherlock is good Sherlock."

All everything is never all something. And even that sentence is wrong, because throwing around universal constants in fields other than science and math is not usually productive. Even in those fields it can be a little dangerous. Because there is bad Sherlock out there.

Not just Sherlock that a particular person didn't enjoy, but Sherlock that betrays the parts of that character who have kept him alive this long. Or betray those things that make him useful to humanity.

Is "No shit, Sherlock!" -- that three word pastiche -- good Sherlock?

Well, let's think about what makes good Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes is our greatest image of a detective. A man who can find the truth about a situation despite all the charm or horror of the circumstances presented to him. A man who not only cares deeply about finding those truths to make other people's lives better, but who brings with him a best friend upon whom he can always depend. A particular tale can emphasize one part of all that, like his caring for Watson, over another part, but in the end, all of those pieces have to be a part of Sherlock Holmes.

Unless he's evil Sherlock Holmes, and that, by its very definition, is not good Sherlock Holmes.

So what am I saying here? In an age where truth is being perverted and science and learning suppressed, where egos and profits would foster any lie to advance their causes, we need good Sherlock Holmes more than ever. He stands as a torch in the darkness, a reminder that, even though he's fictional, the things he does seem possible. We can find the truth. We can make life better for other people. And we can, like Sherlock Holmes himself did many a time, admit our mistakes and be happy for those truths that do make life better for others even when things don't go the way we thought they should. ("Norwood.")

There are actually some hard lessons in the tales of Sherlock Holmes. But they are good lessons.

There is a core to Sherlock Holmes that should always be good Sherlock for us. Because it's about good things, things that make us better. Not a superficial package of a middle-aged white male with an English accent and a certain coat and hat, which is where bad Sherlock often emanates from. Sherlock Holmes can be a hermaphroditic fish alien that carries his pocket watch Watson AI in his belly-button pouch and still be good Sherlock, if he/she does what Sherlock Holmes does best.

Waking up to the sorts of headlines we wake up to these days, it's good to then reconsider Sherlock Holmes and that he's still there for us, still a reminder for us of things good and true. And that just maybe, when this story is over, the Sherlock Holmes in us will have some solutions.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Great Podast Experiment!

As of this past weekend, season one of Sherlock Holmes Is Real came to a close. I haven't written too much about it here, as it has been a test balloon into the stratosphere of podcasting from the start, and just having some fun with friends while seeing just how the whole medium worked.

Podcasting has been replacing radio, and people have slowly begun replacing "Bob and Tom" with a more specialized "Burt and Scott" -- at least those who listened to radio to start with. Under a particular age, downloaded and streaming audio has been the only way to go for quite a while now. And something that powerful, that widespread, sure seems like it should be pretty hard to do.

But it's not.

That was the message emphasized time and again at last year's 221B Con panel on podcasting, and after following that advice, I discovered that the panelists weren't wrong. What you know if you've listened to podcasts is the steeper grade . . . holding an audience. I know that my own listenership has subscribed and departed from a legion of podcasts at this point. Even ones I liked a lot at first, but eventually just got tired of. It's a rare and special 'cast that can hold an audience for years . . . or even more than one episode, sometimes, and something that only comes from people trying . . . and then some other people trying . . . and some other people trying . . . .

Knowing all that, I actually spent a year with a brand new microphone on my desk before I ever made my first real attempt at a podcast. The whole "let's just chat for an hour and be entertaining" didn't seem like something I was ready to commit to on a regular basis, and those were what I was listening to at the time. Then the non-fiction serial documentaries started trickling into my routine, and then fictional serial documentaries, and then I head the one that just sounded like the kind of fun I wouldn't mind having.

So I committed to six little episodes. Just six. And Sherlock Holmes Is Real was born.

Not saying that was a great moment in the history of the podasting medium, just saying it happened. Because, like every other bit of my Sherlockian life, I did exactly as much work as it was fun to do, and not much beyond that. While there are those great and dedicated souls out there who will drive themselves hard for the world of Sherlockiana, I will definitely admit to not being one of them. And, as a result, sometimes also not one of your higher-quality-output folks.

In the world of the written words, there was just grammar and spelling to worry about, and if you read enough and were lucky enough to have parents who spoke decent English, those sometimes come easy. But in the world of spoken words? Mouth noises. Pause lengths. Volume. Background sounds. Breathing. Things you don't even think about in daily conversation suddenly become points of maniacal fixation. Or not. Or obsessing about one thing and ignoring another thing.

But, despite all that, the basics of podcasting are not too hard to pull off. If you've ever considered it, I would definitely advise as those folks on the 221B Con panel did, that you give it a try. I committed to six episodes just to make sure I gave it a fair shake, and as time and co-conspirators allow, I intend to keep going. So many podcasts I've listened to started from very flawed and amateurish beginnings but got better over time, and hopefully, Sherlock Holmes Is Real will do that, even if it's just going to that audience of a hundred or so Sherlockians that most of my projects have wound up with.

As with all things Sherlock, though, the fun is in the doing.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

The criminal mastermind who stayed on Baker Street.

As I've written here before, I don't like to review books in my blog as I have been at this far too long. Forty years as an active Sherlockian will make you a little jaded in some areas. Personally I have long felt, similarly, that movie reviewers lose their skills at some point, because they can never appreciate a given movie like someone who doesn't see a hundred movies a year and wind up reviewing it for other reviewers. You can make good points, but there's a freshness one can't recapture completely.

So it was with much trepidation that I started reading The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street by Rob Nunn. Rob being a friend, I wanted to read the whole work, but if I read an entire book on Sherlock Holmes, it seemed like it really would need to be mentioned here. And, man, I'm old and cranky of late.

Luckily, The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street is a very comfortable read, so comfortable that I forgot what the back cover said it was: "The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street explores Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original sixty stories through the lens of Sherlock Holmes the criminal instead of Sherlock Holmes the detective."

I kept finding myself going, "Okay, he's still involved with Henry Baker's goose, when is he going to go off the rails and do more crime?" It was a little like reading that similar volume Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by William S. Baring-Gould and going "Hey, I know how Sherlock Holmes solved all these cases already! Get some new ones!" I enjoyed Baring-Gould's book as a younger Sherlockian, but now I think it would drive me crazy. Fortunately, The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street has the untold tales to lean into for Holmes's criminal exploits and they work well as such. There is much crime here. And it does do some twisty things with the stories we know.

As Rob writes in the acknowledgements at the end of the book, The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street started with the thesis for a Sherlockian article, "What if Sherlock Holmes had really been a master criminal?" and expands it from there, taking in the whole Canon. How would Holmes's interactions with all those familiar stories been different had he been a criminal? And how would they have been almost the same? What would such a thought-experiment show us?

It has always been said that Sherlock Holmes was different after the hiatus, and I think that Rob's work demonstrates that -- Sherlock Holmes seems to be a lot more criminal after he faces Moriarty. John Watson, I think, suffers a bit when Sherlock is doing bad, as he can't entirely be that great soul we see in the original Canon as he becomes a lot more active as a partner in crime than he was as a partner in detection. If Robert Mueller was going after Sherlock Holmes in the late 1890s, Watson would be going down first. (Fortunately, Lestrade was no Mueller, and Holmes was no . . . well, you get it.)

So, The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street: better for newbies than oldies, perhaps, but a book that'll definitely give you something to think about. It's available on Amazon and priced right for Christmas giving. And as with so many Sherlockian works by new writers of late, twenty years from now, you'll want to have added it to your collection when said writer's later works come out.

And that is the great part about having been a Sherlockian for forty years. You don't have to hunt for these things, because you bought them forty years ago.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The potential of a Ryan Reynolds Sherlock Holmes.

Sometimes a puzzle piece just slides right into place for you.

We've seen lots of cartoon critters don a deerstalker cap over the years, but Great Detective Pikachu -- a video game soon to be a movie -- is now offering us something I hadn't considered before.

Ryan Reynolds as Sherlock Holmes.

Sure, ol' double R being cast as the voice-actor for a deerstalker-wearing Pokemon is a couple of removes from actually playing the great detective, but . . . man!

Ryan Reynolds as Sherlock Holmes? Can he do an English accent? Who cares! Pull a reverse-Elementary and make Watson the British one while Sherlock is American! OH! Idris Elba as Watson! No way Idris Elba is playing a stupid Watson, and boy, can he do ex-military surgeon who's good in a tough spot.

I picture the Ryan Reynolds version of Sherlock Holmes being more like Robert Stephens in The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, a more human Sherlock, but still brilliant when it comes down to it.

Now that we've had Robert Downey Jr. as Sherlock, Will Farrell and Sherlock Gnomes on tap, it seems like almost anything is possible. Not probable, of course, but possible. And the mere thought of a Ryan Reynolds/Idris Elba Sherlock Holmes movie just makes me smile.

As does the fact that Sherlockians have such an open horizon of possibilities out there now. I think that was the best part of being inspired to think of Ryan Reynolds as Sherlock Holmes after that Detective Pikachu casting news . . . just the way it seemed like something that could just . . . happen.

With every dark twist we see in the world of late the idea that happy possibilities, whatever that means to you, could have potential as well . . . .

All I have to say to that is, "Pika-pika, my dear Watson!"

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

The Advent(ures) Calendar

December came a little too fast this year. We're already into day five.

But even this far in, it's not too late to start such seasonal treats as an advent calender, that one-surprise-a-day ceremony of marking the days leading up to Christmas. What does this have to do with Sherlock Holmes? Well, it's like everything else in the world -- if there's not a direct link, Sherlockians will make one. And with that in mind, I propose . . . if someone hasn't come up with this already . . . the "Advent(ures) Calendar."

When the first series of short stories appeared in The Strand Magazine, there were no "Memoirs." Just twenty-four "Adventures," the tragic episode of "The Final Problem" being the last. Their numbering in The Strand conveniently lines up with the twenty-four days of December that falls before Christmas day.

A typical advent calendar has you opening little boxes or doors for all the days leading to Christmas. And while we might consider ourselves familiar with all twenty-four of the stories in what we traditionally see as the first two volumes of Sherlock Holmes short stories (along with the held-back "Cardboard Box"), I am perpetually finding a new surprise in those tales every time I open one of them up.

Now, one might go, "So many tragedies within those stories! Who wants to go through that roller coaster on their way to Christmas?" Well, like I said, this Advent(ures) Calendar can be full of surprises. Take today for example: December 5, the appropriate day for "Five Orange Pips," if ever there was one.

John Openshaw fell in the river and drowned, right? Look at the story again.

A body is pulled from the river with an envelope with his name, "John Openshaw," on it.

Because, of course, the letters in everyone's pocket only ever their own name on them, right?

And . . . gee . . . there might not have been another man in London with an envelope with the name "John Openshaw" on it, would there? Oh, yes, Openshaw or a minion, ready to drop one last message, perhaps?  And whether or not young John Openshaw helped that fellow in the river, discovering in the paper that he is supposed dead might be a chance Openshaw could take advantage of.

So, day five of the Advent(ures) Calendar, you open the door and find . . . a living John Openshaw!

But there is still "The Final Problem" on Christmas Eve. Well, let me allay your fears! What happens after Reichenbach? 1892, 1893, 1894 . . . three years until John Watson sees his friend Sherlock Holmes again. And what comes after Christmas Eve before John sees Sherlock again? Three days. (Well, they might not be three whole days if you want to get picky, but close enough for Christmas!)

So, what do you think? Time to start opening up the Advent(ures) Calendar, even if it is a few days later than it should have started?

Monday, December 4, 2017

Blue Carbuncle Season

"And on the fifth day of Christmas, my true love gave to me . . . THE BLUE CARB-UNCLLLLLE! The Blue Carbuncle, the Blue Carbuncle, the-uh Blue Carbuncle, and the Blu-ue Car-buncle!"

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, "The Five Days of Christmas" done entirely with Blue Carbuncles!

Because that's what Sherlockian Christmas is all about, isn't it? "The Blue Carbuncle."

You can pretty much insert "The Blue Carbuncle" into the lyrics of any Christmas song. Sometimes as all the lyrics. And now, "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," BC-style . . .

"Blue Carbuncle, Blue Carbuncle, Blue Carbuncle, Blue Carb!"

Or something a little lighter, like "Jingle Bells."

"Car-buncle, Car-buncle, the Blue Car-buncle! Car-buncle, Car-Buncle, the Blue, Blue Carbuncle!"

I'm dreaming of a Blue Carbuncle? Or did this just become a Blue Carbuncle nightmare?

The point is, as a Sherlockian writer, when do you start to pour on the Carbuncle? When is too early, when is just right, and how much Blue Carbuncle focus is appropriate for the Yuletide season? We don't want it to be seen as a part of the "War on Christmas" and get Fox News coming after Sherlockiana by using it too much, but we do want to keep our little Christmas tradition going.

How many other Sherlock Holmes Christmas time things can one do? A bit from "Speckled Band," a scene from BBC Sherlock, and then back to Blue Carbuncling (Christmas caroling, using only "The Blue Carbuncle" for lyrics.)

'Tis the season. Let's see how it goes  . . . .

Thursday, November 30, 2017

John Watson makes his move.

With sexual harassment cases involving prominent figures dominating the news, I suppose it was inevitable that someone brought up the name of Sherlock Holmes . . . even if just to declare his innocence. That occurred on Twitter yesterday, and the feed has been so fast and furious of late that I can't even find the tweet to give that person credit. I have to agree with them, though.

Sherlock Holmes has a pretty clean record when it comes to his dealings with the fair sex. Even in Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, when he's confronted with a beautiful and confused naked woman in his sitting room late at night, he's a good guy. Watson, however, instantly assumes Holmes did something . . . but then, Watson is the problem when we start looking at the duo's ways with women.

I know, I know, Watson is our buddy, our pal, and probably just in love with Sherlock, according to the greater portion of today's fans. But when you get back to his primary courting episode, recorded by his own hand, problems do arise.

While we tend to think of Watson as noble, in the original novel The Sign of Four, he is needy and out-of-work and takes advantage of a terrified woman in a stressful situation to jump-start his social life. He portrays himself as a nervous innocent, but when you look at what actually happened there, questions can be raised.

One of the sure signs of predatory behavior in the workplace is that man who takes advantage of a power imbalance to satisfy his needs. In The Sign of Four, a frightened client coming to the one professional who can help her is definitely a situation with a power imbalance. If Mary Morstan had shown up at a new psychiatrist's office and that psychiatrist had asked to keep his buddy in the room for their sessions, and the buddy asked her to marry him in the next forty-eight hours, we'd definitely be going "WHAT THE . . . ?" But the consulting detective business, being new at the time with no defined professional standards, it doesn't come up.

Of course, dating wasn't easy in the 1880s. We didn't even have the word "girlfriend" in usage in a male-female sort of way until the 1920s, and if families didn't help you out early on, asking a woman to coffee probably wasn't a handy option. But the "it was a different time" line comes up a lot of late, so we might not want to trot that one out right away.

Watson's sudden courtship of Mary Morstan has room for a much larger study than this early morning blog post has room to do. One could even see its flaws as reasons that the Watson-Morstan marriage actually didn't happen as expected, and the timeline troubles we've always seen with the doctor's unnamed wife are party the fault of his sudden proposals to clients. (Even if he was just desperately trying to beard his true feelings for his room-mate.)

But at least Sherlock Holmes is clear, as far as I can see. But since we just have Watson's testimony about his own relations with the women of three continents, you do have to wonder.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

No yeti need apply.

"The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply."
-- Sherlock Holmes, "Sussex Vampire"

We live in a world that seems to be increasingly filled with deniers and believers. Or maybe they're just getting more press than they used to. They believe what they choose, twisting facts to fit theories, and deny what doesn't fit their purposes. The sort of folk Sherlock Holmes would find completely abhorrent, though he would surely deal with them in a charming and subtly snarky manner.

Because it's easy to want to think that things are different than they are. The world can seem so much more fascinating if one adds imagination to the limits of one's knowledge and surroundings when no new data is coming in. Like that area of interest called cryptozoology. The pseudoscience of creatures we have no proof of.

The Loch Ness monster. Vampires. Bigfoot. Space aliens.

Sherlock Holmes dealt with two of those in Canon and movies, proving that what was thought to be something out of myth was something made of more practical stuff. The journey he takes Watson, Baskerville, and company on in The Hound of the Baskervilles is a similar trip, and one man has been going on for as long as man has been man.

My own personal journey to Sherlock started with cryptobeasties, as I've told many a time before. My pre-adolescent fascination with UFOs, yetis, and the like where laser-focused on a movie preview where Holmes and Watson faced the Loch Ness monster in a rowboat. And eventually I got to see Sherlock expose it for the secret government submarine that it was in that movie.

I've even accidentally wound up on the wrong side of a bigfoot a few years ago, some old YouTube footage of which turned up over the holiday. A practical joke on my brother's new trail-camera, meant to spot deer, didn't fool my brother, but wound up circulating among those who track bigfoot sightings. (The bigfoot in question is my mother in a gorilla suit that I've had for years.) But even being on the knowing side of an accidental bigfoot hoax, I still remembered the stories from my youth, the evidence found, and held out some small spark of wonder that an abominable snowman could be out there somewhere.

Until today.

News stories began popping up of scientists doing DNA tests on those classic bits of yeti evidence I remembered hearing about since I was a kid. And the DNA they found was, in the end, Himalayan bear DNA. Never visiting or learning about the Himalayas, young me never considered that there might be bears there that could be mistaken for a big, furry man-beast. Bears!

Like Sherlock Holmes exposing the demon hound of Grimpen Mire as a regular dog, the like-minded folk of our world just exposed Himalayan yetis as regular old bears.

And really, if we have bears, what do we need yetis for? We have gorillas, and orangutans, and all sorts of other critters that can walk around like we do for a moment or two and look people-ish. The world, as Sherlock Holmes said, should be big enough for us. And yet, even by allowing Mr. Sherlock Holmes into it as a person of a fictitious sort, we still seem to always be wanting to expand it a bit.

So today, I happily gave up yetis for bears as a personal Sherlock Holmes story came to an end for me. But you know how it is with Sherlock Holmes stories . . . there's always another one out there waiting for us. He's good that way.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Other people's stories.

After finishing a holiday binge-watch of another larger-than-life character like our pal Sherlock today, I couldn't help but notice a very big similarity to the original stories of Sherlock Holmes. And that is this . . .

They aren't really about Sherlock Holmes.

I suspect that's why Sherlock Holmes fans often seem to have a harder time writing about Sherlock Holmes than those who can see him from a professional distance. A good Sherlock Holmes story, traditionally, hasn't been about Sherlock Holmes.

It's a good story about something that happened to his client, and he just comes in to help them get resolution. It's a good story about something that happened long before, whose after-effects are now showing up in someone's life. It's a good story about a retired army surgeon who meets a colorful character . . . but you only get to tell that one once . . . and maybe allude to it a bunch of times.

A good story tells us something either about ourselves or about other people in a way that helps us see through their eyes.

"Speckled Band" is interesting when you consider it that way, because it's Helen Stoner's tale of gothic horror, but then Sherlock Holmes actually inserts himself into Helen's place by removing her from her own bedroom and staying there himself. Sure, he doesn't put a wig and a dress on, but it's a little like he walked into a horror story and announced he was going to stunt double for the heroine. And then it becomes his story.

I suspect one of the reasons that fans like writing about Moriary so much is that Moriarty makes the story about Sherlock Holmes from the start. Moriarty is Sherlock Holmes's own mystery tale, in which Sherlock is pretty much his own client. None of those pesky additional characters to have to figure out and give life or story to . . . you say "Sherlock" and "Moriarty" and people just know they have to fight. It's actually a pretty lazy route to go, except for the fact that you have to be pretty genius to effectively write a true battle between two super-geniuses. (Which we get damned few of, sad to say.)

I think that's why I enjoyed Theodora Goss's The Strange Case of the Alchemist's Daughter more than many other new Sherlock Holmes stories I've read recently, because it had Sherlock all the way through, but wasn't about him. He didn't have to have character development, or come to some great life-changing revelation.  Other characters carried the weight of the story.

It should come as no surprise to people that the great Sherlock Holmes story of this century is always Sherlock coming to terms with his true feelings for John Watson. It's as good a story as any other we have to tell about Sherlock Holmes himself. One could tell a story about him overcoming drug addiction, or dealing with Moriarty, but it's as hard to tell an addiction story as it is to write super-genius battles. Telling a story of two people discovering their love for each other is the most relatable tale for most writers or readers to connect with other people on.

But in the end, we need more good stories about other people that we can relate to before Sherlock Holmes walks in the door to their lives. It's what he does for them that makes him a miracle of a character. And what he does for us, as he does for them.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The second labor of our modern Shercules.

The subject of bibliography came up last week, and that constant desire to somehow create a resource that points to any known work on Sherlock Holmes. And how it now seems almost incredible that once a single man made a pretty good run at such a thing. Which makes sense, because Ron DeWaal was, indeed, a runner.

When DeWaal's The World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes came out, in that age before computers, when typewriters and index cards were our tools, he managed to list 6,221 entries of things having to do with Sherlock Holmes and his associated folk. That was 1974.

Six years later, in 1980, he came out with an additional volume, The International Sherlock Holmes, which brought his grand total up to 12,356.

In 1994, The Universal Sherlock Holmes built on that and doubled it again to 24,703.

In 1994. Twenty-three years ago. Now, a single fan fiction archive seems to have over 59,187 stories featuring Sherlock Holmes. Search the major online retailer for "Sherlock Holmes" related merch and you get 45,269 results.

Sherlock Holmes is a monster.

We can't track him precisely any more. We can see patterns, collect the big events, follow certain trails that interest us . . . but the totality of Sherlock? He could probably take out Cthulhu, if all his words were given physical form.

He's kind of scary, if you start going down that road. And our Van Helsing, for those two decades from 1974 to 1994 is surely not up to tracking this immortal grown so powerful of late.

But, truth be told, none of us needs that monster. We can be happy with our own little manifestations, be it Basil of Baker Street, Johnlock of BBC seasons one and two, or just those sixty tales in the Doubleday Complete. So many of the best ideas, games, and tales come up time and again, whatever community of Sherlockians you find yourself in. One needn't read it all to be complete, or even an adequate Sherlockian.

The only scorecard any of us really needs to fill out is the measure of our own pleasure in what we do encounter about the great detective. The fact that there is so much of it out there just means we don't have to look very hard any more to find something else to delight us.

But, hey, if someone wants to battle that modern hydra that is the totality of Sherlock Holmes materials, well, we're all cheering for you. And I'll add a Sherlock-type "By Jove!" as well, because you might want to be a demigod son or daughter of Jupiter to pull it off.

And get a legendary crew besides.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Jupiter worship in Sherlockian England.

Sometimes all it takes is one quote, singled out for a hard look.

"By Jove!" John Watson cries in A Study in Scarlet, "if he really wants someone to share the rooms and the expense, I am the very man for him."

So it was that the entire Canon of Holmes began with in invocation of the god Jupiter, the sky-god, He of thunderbolts and eagles. And Jove blesses John H. Watson with Sherlock Holmes.

Inspector Gregson invokes Jupiter when Lestrade appears. Holmes calls upon Jupiter in the punishment of James Windibank, and again when Jupiter blesses Peterson with the blue carbuncle. Clerks, colonels, and clients call to the heavenly father of the ancient Greeks, but none more that Mr. Sherlock Holmes himself.

Jupiter not only blessed John Watson with a room-mate, He brought in one of his own followers to fill that job. Page through all the times Sherlock Holmes swears something by Jove, and you'll not only be surprised by the amount, but the sheer fact of how much Sherlock seems to be surprised or impressed by things enough to call in Jupiter.

Sometimes, it's as minor as a "Wow, it's nine o'clock aleady?" moment. Sometimes, it's as big as "Yikes! Here's comes the baddie!" But it's a definite part of Holmes's custom.

One of the best years of Holmes's career is the legendary 1895, which is also the year he comes home one day with a bloody harpoon, having supposedly gored a pig to help his case. But a proper sacrifice to Jupiter would have been an ox, so who's to say he wasn't fibbing a little bit on that account, just to seem a little less . . . well, sacrifice-y. Just a coincidence that 1895 was such a good year?

Jupiter's residence has always been said to be in the upper elevations, and where was it that Sherlock Holmes headed after his greatest battle? To the highest mountains, to pay his respects to Olympus?

Well, you never know.

Over the decades, Sherlock Holmes has been corralled into many a religion via a Sherlockian adherent of said faith. And sure, "By Jove!" could have just been a favorite exclamation of his, as well as the other folk in the Canon who uttered it. Not like they were all in some Jupiter cult or anything . . . .

There's just a lot of Jove-ing going on in the Canon of Holmes. By Jove.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Beyond the pale in "Beryl Coronet"

Tonight was another lively gathering of Peoria Public Library's Sherlock Holmes Story Society, and there was a particularly tenacious theory running through our discussion of "The Beryl Coronet."

It first came to me when I saw Mary Holder described by John Watson . . . a medical doctor . . . as follows:

"She was rather above the middle height, slim with dark hair and eyes, which seemed darker against the absolute paleness of her skin. I do not think I have ever seen such a deadly paleness in a woman's face. Her lips, too, were bloodless, but her eyes were flushed . . ."

She's been seeing a man of noble rank in the evenings, who has "been everywhere, seen everything," who has "a great personal beauty," and a "glamour of his presence." A "fascination of his manner" that is hard to resist. He draws her away from a household she was devoted to, and into the night.

Mary Holder's last words to her uncle, written in a note, run thus: "Do not worry about my future, for that is provided for; and, above all, do not search for me, for it will be fruitless labour, and an ill service to me. In life or in death, I am ever . . . Your loving Mary."

In life or in death?

Sherlock Holmes, known for bending fireplace pokers in "Speckled Band," confesses that he is "exceptionally strong in the fingers," and yet when he tries to bend the broken coronet, he admits "it would take me all my time to break it. An ordinary man could not do it."

And yet, Sir George Burnwell, Mary Holder's creature of the night, snapped the coronet in an instant.

Sherlock Holmes keeps John Watson at a particular distance during this case, telling his friend, "I only wish you could come with me, Watson, but I fear it won't do. . . . I may be following a will-o'-the-wisp."  A will-o'-the-wisp? A legendary creature of the night?

We wondered, as we discussed "The Beryl Coronet" tonight, why Arthur Conan Doyle would name the son in the story "Arthur." Writing a character with your own name is ridiculously awkward, and he must have had a reason for going that route. In love with his own cousin, like Arthur Holder? Or was Doyle naming the man for the actual person who figured in the story.

An Arthur who was loyal and loving to a woman who was spirited away by a creature of the night? A man written of five years later under the name "Arthur Holmwood" in the novel, Dracula?

Consider how insane Alexander Holder seems when he first shows up at 221B Baker Street: Renfield insane. And consider the end of the tale, and Sherlock Holmes's words there: "I think we may safely say that she is wherever Sir George Burnwell is. It is equally certain, too, that whatever her sins are, they will soon receive a more than sufficient punishment."

A wooden stake, perhaps?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

A personal 221B across time.

The most recent Baker Street Babes podcast is a thought-provoking thing. They're speaking to Chuck Kovacic, a California Sherlockian long known for his penchant for 221B Baker Street and the particulars of re-creating it.

I've known a few Sherlockians who went for that greatest of home improvements, including one that famously appeared in my own modest town of 15,000 about the time of first book's launch, which seemed outright sorcery. Attempting to create a 221B sitting room in your own home was probably more prevalent in the 1980s and early 1990s, when antique malls were booming, eBay wasn't cherry-picking the good stuff, and you could go Victorian on a budget.

You can surely do such a thing today, probably more easier with enough cash, the internet being so handy at finding things and all, but one can definitely look at 221B-creation as a hobby with different eras to it.  One day, doing that thing will probably depend more on new imitation Victoriana than original antiques, at which point we'll hit yet another era for the specialist in Sherlockian sitting rooms.

But listening to Chuck and the babes made me wonder about something I don't remember any of the 221B re-creators specializing in, and that was about eras as well.

Because when you think of 221B Baker Street, when do you think of it?

In the mid-1880s, before John married for the first time?

During the hiatus, when Mrs. Hudson and Mycroft were preserving it, waiting for Sherlock's return?

Or at the end of its time, just before Sherlock packed it all up and moved to Sussex?

In collecting antiquities for such a room, does a truly detail-oriented Sherlockian pick a date and then furnish their 221B with only materials available up to that year, month, and day?

The latest newspapers on Jack the Ripper could give the room a theme of Holmes during that period.

A few charred relics might show it was after Moriarty tried to burn it down in "The Final Problem."

A souvenir or two of Watson's wedding could place it exactly post-departure for John.

Scenes from exact moments in a given story could be re-created, like the famous hat scene from "Blue Carbuncle."

Having a 221B room suddenly seems like a never-ending project, as you're suddenly not just imitating a place in a single moment, but a place that evolved over the course of two decades.

Watson's title for his little list in A Study in Scarlet ("Sherlock Holmes -- his limits") becomes especially ironic when you add in the Sherlockian dimension, as it seems that Sherlock Holmes and the celebration of that great detective has very few limits indeed.

Which makes it a very grand hobby to be a part of.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Running on six to ten per year.

The fall 2017 letter to the membership of the Baker Street Irregulars came out this morning, which is always some interesting reading. The struggles of maintaining the status quo while attempting some often-ambitious goals in an 87-year-old organization come out in a detail you don't see in The Baker Street Journal, the club's public face. The topic that always fascinates me is the annual call for suggestions of names for invitations to the BSI's annual dinner and membership in the club.

"Fascinates me," because if you're at all familiar with this blog, you know I've disagreed with the club's membership rules since my run-in with their male-only policy of the 1980s. That part was fixed soon after, but the hazy gate-keeping that held it in place for so long remains to this day.

As is explained in depth in the current BSI letter, not everyone gets to be a member of the Irregulars, as much as it has been a "bucket list" item for many a Sherlockian since Baring-Gould wrote the club up in the first Annotated, if not before. The current pace for BSI membership is limited to under ten people per year, world-wide. We have more copies of Beeton's Christmas Annual in the world than that, making a newly-minted BSI the rarest of the rare.

This brings up a real quandry for the group: Membership has long been seen as an honor for Sherlockian service, which meant a bottleneck as the baby boom generation piled up the accomplishments. Membership, however, also has to bring in Irregulars who can keep the club going, as is brought out in this year's call for "doers who will make a difference in the BSI from the minute they receive their shilling." Dealing with both of those aspects at a rate of 6-10 humans per year makes for some hard casting choices, I'm sure.

Trying to predict who can play a part, who is a growing talent, who is a worthwhile established choice with some mileage left in them, who might flame out after their initial burst of Sherlockian energy . . . hard casting indeed. The "loose membership cap of three hundred," deemed necessary to hold the status quo, makes it all the harder in an increasingly global Sherlockian world. But it's a self-imposed hardship.

The idea of a "status quo" that must be maintained has created something of a Sherlockian eugenics program out of the Baker Street Irregular membership. Instead of adapting, expanding, and embracing the world as it is, policies like banning all electronic devices (which I suppose must include cameras, since it's hard to find a film one these days), come into place.

What's funny is that it's just a social gathering at the center of a weekend of social gatherings that is going to work out in any case. Sherlockians have less-restrictive events across the world all the time and have just as much fun, if not more, than at the banquet tables of the tuxedoed and ball-gowned on that one night of the year. Hardly worth a comment, right?

Yeah. But they keep sending me the letter and I've got blog-space to fill, so comment, I will, even if New York never makes my list of travel goals these days.

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Sherlock Gnomes Test.

This week, among the smorgasbord of serious issues that 2017 has been dealing out on a daily basis, we got a nice, fluffy trivial issue for Sherlockians to disagree on: The first real look at a movie called Sherlock Gnomes.

The sequel to an animated garden gnome story based on Romeo and Juliet, Sherlock Gnomes looked further up the English literature timeline for its inspiration. Not sure if it's because garden gnomes have to be British somehow or what. (I would think "German" for some reason.)

As it still contains "Gnomeo and Juliet" from the first movie, this adventure of Sherlock Gnomes definitely doesn't seem to be an adaptation of anything Canon, just more gnomish hijinx played for the kiddies. And that's where the questions arise.

Sherlock Gnomes is made for an audience who cannot yet recognize who Sherlock Holmes really is. It may be many a child's first exposure to the deerstalker and Invernesse cape as symbols of the unofficial detective expert . . . if they're even old enough to understand that concept.  It might seem a little more of an exploitative attempt at brand recognition with the parents and grandparents who'll be dragging the tykes to the theater. It also might just seem like one more happy celebration of Sherlock Holmes as a cultural icon.

Is it a good thing? Is it a bad thing? Is it even a thing worth caring about?

Were this a political point worth fighting, or even DC/Marvel movie superhero feuding, the "Oh, look, more crap Sherlock!" party and "All Sherlock is good Sherlock!" party would have pundits out there battling it out right now. In a way, we're lucky that Sherlock Holmes stays out of the mainstream most of the time, so we don't have that sort of opinion war going on constantly over minutiae.  Oh, wait . . . I'm overlooking what HAS to be out there . . .


Sherlock Gnomes reaction videos on YouTube. Just search "sherlock gnomes preview reaction" and you can literally spend an hour watching people react to the movie trailer for Sherlock Gnomes. A whole new classification of Sherlockian video for us to add to our completist Sherlockian catalogs.

Hear people laugh at the "No ship, Sherlock!" joke. See the physical impact of a fart joke. See them immediately go to Amazon and order The Complete Sherlock Holmes. Well, maybe not that last part.

This has to be the most derivative of derivative of derivative Sherlockian content in the history of Sherlock Holmes. And I kind of love it.

I mean, you didn't think a guy who sets all these thoughts on the internet for random passersby is going to pooh-pooh reaction video hobbyists, did you?  And watching people being made happy by a silly Sherlock Gnomes preview makes me glad for that movie, which didn't seem to be making me too happy before watching other people made happy by it . . . curious world we live in now, isn't it?

Not sure what kind of test this "Sherlock Gnomes Test" we're getting actually is, but it's certainly a vehicle for going down some new Sherlockian roads. And I don't know about you, but I never mind that.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

"Watsonian" a new level above "Sherlockian?"

Okay, full honesty here. Until this year, I was very reluctant to join the John H. Watson Society for one very awful reason: Sherlock Holmes is the reason I'm in this hobby, and as fond as I am of ol' John H., he's always been . . . well, the second banana who couldn't exist without the main man.

Being a "Watsonian" just seemed so . . . well . . . .

You know, as I grow older and wiser, sometimes I actually know when to stop digging myself into a deeper hole.

Anyway, bit by bit, I started to be impressed by the efforts of the John H. Watson Society, despite not being a participant. They soon proved to be more than just a well-funded rehash of a 1980s-style scion society as new members came in and brought some impressive skillsets with them.

The Watsonians have done some good stuff (though that torturous "Treasure Hunt," well, we can talk about that), but this week. Wow. This week.

Don't think I've been as impressed by a single Sherlockian publication in a very long time. Coming in at 148 pages, the latest issue of The Watsonian is a remarkable collection of work. Living in the attention-deficit-disorder mode that the world can inspire these days, I get surprised when I find myself suddenly past the halfway point of a book that's not been in the house very long, and the weighty Watsonian counts as a book. This issue is good. Very good.

And it makes me laugh, too. Remembering certain Sherlockians of a couple decades ago who were SO certain that all the great Sherlockian scholarship had been done, who also had no idea just how smart Sherlockians could get as the decades passed and new tools became available, international cooperation became more commonplace, and minds opened to a few more possibilities.  Yes, we still do some silly fandom stuff, as always. But man, the sharp Sherlockians . . . er, Watsonians . . . out there are razor keen. And hard working.

So, you want to add to your brain's contents on Sherlock's favorite violinist, Watson's war service, proper name pronunciation, a special Russian adaptation, as well as enjoy some nicely varied fiction, well, I heartily recommend the Fall 2017 issue of The Watsonian.


And, full disclosure, a bit of the fiction in it is mine, but that's not why I'm promoting it. One tends to want to cover up one's mistakes, but this issue is good enough I'm promoting it anyway. Turns out I left a word out of what I wrote for the issue, and I'm rather embarrassed about that. Not sure how it got away from me. If you'd like to make the correction for me on your copy, see below. It's on page 44. Just use your imagination if you like keeping things pristine. Thanks!

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Out like Flint.

I'm really glad there aren't vampires. Congressmen are bad enough.

I mean, there's a reason generations pass on, while new ones take the reins. An immortal, like a vampire, or someone who doesn't know when it's past time to retire, like many a congressman, can't help but carry a point of view forged in a time with different considerations into a time when that mindset will lead to some very bad choices.

Remember that movie you loved when you were thirteen? It's the best, right? So much better than that garbage thirteen-year-olds like now. Um . . . yeah . . . about that . . . .

Thirteen is thirteen, no matter the era.

I was thinking about this early this morning, as I caught the tail end of one of my favorite movies, Our Man Flint, a James-Bond-inspired action-comedy that was popular enough for a sequel, In Like Flint. I dearly love both of these James Coburn movies, but every time I see them now, I'm reminded of how deep in the past they are, containing a weird male-dominated faux feminism that only mid-nineteen-sixties Hollywood could channel. Women should not be programmed as sex objects, but it takes a man's man to deprogram them. A multi-cultural team of scientists works to save the world by starting weather catastrophes. And polyamory was cool, just so long as it was one penis per set, and still highly hetero.

What does all this have to do with Sherlock Holmes, you ask?

Well, we always like to tell our stories of "how I met Mr. Sherlock Holmes" like he was our first love. Like we weren't fans of anyone similar before him, anyone prior who might have set our tastes up to fall under his spell much more quickly. Yes, I'm sure Sherlock was many a fan's first . . . but not all of us . . . oh, no.

Some enjoyed the logic of Mr. Spock before coming to Holmes's deduction. Some found the wizardry of Harry Potter magical before Holmes worked his own detective sorcery. Sometimes the similarities are obvious to us, sometimes they go unnoticed for years, and even decades.

Which brings me back to Mr. Derek Flint. A man who transcended the regular ranks of his profession by drawing in knowledge and skills from other disciplines. A man who the official folk came to when they had exhausted all other means. And a man who had a way of dying and then somehow turning back up alive to the shock and amazement of his "Watson," a government official named Lloyd C. Cramden. (Middle initials are important to a Watson!)

Derek Flint so strongly fits the mold of Sherlock Holmes in so many ways that he had to be modeled after Holmes than the man he was supposedly parodying, James Bond. A much better investigator than 007, Derek Flint combines analysis of tobacco, poisons, and perfumes into one single scene that would have made Sherlock go "Bravo!"

And as we feel about Sherlock Holmes, when his Watson is asked how Flint pulled off some particularly amazing feat, Lloyd Cramden excitedly cries, "Because he's Flint!" The man is just so good at what he does that his name alone is enough to explain it to those who've heard the name.

Running into a Flint movie on TV this morning, I suddenly remembered whose fan camp I was in before I ever found Sherlock Holmes. And maybe was even my training-wheels preparation for enjoying Holmes later. And even though it was sexist as hell, and I've grown way past the simple male fantasy that was pure candy to a thirteen-year-old, it's locked into a place in my heart that will be there until the day I make space for some future Earthling to take their place on the planet, for better and worse.

Would I have been a Sherlockian without Flint? Probably eventually. But having a similar key loosening up that lock ahead of time probably does not hurt one's fan-nature at all.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Sherlock is real; I might not be.

Well, the fourth episode of Sherlock Holmes is Real has graced the podcast waves, and I'm still not sure exactly what's happening there.

Now, you might argue, "Brad, you're an in-touch Sherlockian internet personality with a small but discriminating readership, you have insights into all sorts of things, surely you know what's going on with that Sherlock Holmes is Real!"  I'm not really sure why you would argue that, but bless you if you did. You're a kind person. Anyway . . . .

In its first three episodes, Sherlock Holmes is Real has gone from the simple thesis that Sherlock Holmes was a historical figure to laying out potential Moriartian machinations that seem like Sherlockiana from the Upside-Down. (Yes, this line was typed during Stranger Things 2 binge weekend and yes, did that.)

Some things are planned, neatly organized, set into motion, and run along a well-thought-out course. Institutions are built on such things. And then you have programs like a podcast series about Sherlockian conspiracy: Things that just happen in the moment and fly off that moment's moment to the next moment at some random point, like Tarzan of the Octopods, swinging chaotically through an alien jungle.

I mean, how could anyone even try to guess what course such a thing might take . . . even the person who was hypothetically responsible for such a thing?

This past weekend saw the Sherlock Holmes Is Real podcast taking its cast and crew to an actual con . . . not a big con, and one which you may hear about under a name other than the name the attendees wore on their con badges . . . but a con nonetheless. I think that audio will be coming in the fifth episode.

I also have heard that Sherlock Holmes Is Real with have a six episode first season, with the possibility of a Christmas special.

When one is dealing with conspiracies, amateur podcasting, and things of the web, one can never be too sure of just what might happen, so you'll have to forgive me if I'm still kind of questionable on the subject of Sherlock Holmes Is Real.

But . . . more to come.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

An idiot's guide to shipping.

One of my secret pleasures is pretending to misunderstand things. Not just "I don't know what that is," but coming up with an entirely alternate definition of something that makes perfect sense. And this morning, I discovered a perfect target for that quirk: shipping pair names.

It started with an early morning, fuzzy-brained moment when I actually thought MorMor pairing was Morstan/Moran. But then I went, what if Mary Morstan's true love was being penetrated by a morphine needle? Still "Mormor," right?

So then, Johnlock could also be John Watson and Porlock, Moriarty's traitor.

And from there, it just started totally going downhill, especially since the OC is my beat. ("Original Canon" for you Californians who might mistake it for "Orange County.")

Sherlolly? That's Sherman the bird-stuffer and Sir Edward Holly. You don't get a rarer pair than that. I suspect it was dubcon as Sir Edward was attacked in "The Gloria Scott," and Sherman was into stuffing things.

Mystrade gets interesting, because you just can't get away from that first part of "Mycroft." But his fetish for that chipped stone bridge balustrade on "Thor Bridge" gets you a Mystrade that was probably a little rough on brother's physique.

Adcroft is, of course that secret romance between Ronald Adair and Dr. Thorneycroft Huxtable. (Yes, Virginia, there were Huxtables before The Cosby Show.) Cookies had to be involved. That second part of "Mycroft" isn't so hard to pull up ships for, until the "My" part, oddly enough.

You can even conceive of Morcroft as James Mortimer and Hall Pycroft. Don't know if Hall Pycroft had a skull worth covetting, but you know that Dartmoor doctor had to be into it.

Of course, there really is a "Morecroft" in "Three Garridebs" (alias "Killer" Evans), so there's still more fodder to put Alice Morphy and Morecroft together to come up with a Morcroft that's some counterfeit monkey business.

Purposeful misunderstanding is a lovely little creative exercise to annoy your friends with. And it gets those kind of laughs that aren't contagious at all . . . you can amuse yourself while safely not endangering the seriousness of others.

Of course, you might wind up with the mental image of Mycroft and a balustrade in your head all day, so caution, especially in pairings misunderstanding, should be observed.

Monday, October 30, 2017

My amateur standing.

In 35 years as a Sherlockian, I think I made money from my hobby four times.

Three books, for which a small publishing house paid me $500 lump sums for each, and a $50 prize from a contest. And the latest of those was in the mid-1990s. On the debit side of the column, ignoring purchases, doing things like publishing a journal and paying for web hosting, have more than offset that little bit of profit.

That's really what being a fan is, to my mind. Sure, there are those fortunate few who turn their love of Sherlock Holmes into an income stream, through their sheer talent or some really good business sense. But at some point in that transition from amateur to pro, you have to think of your audience, promote your work, try to expand the business.

As I was contemplating fandom and what makes it different last night, I realized that being a fan rather than a pro is that you'll make the grandest efforts without any expectation of profit. You would do what you are going to do despite the fact your audience may just be your best friend, a local club, or maybe a hundred subscribers. Don't get me wrong, profit isn't something any of us would turn down . . . but if you realize there's no money in something and continue to do it?

That's just sheer love of the game.

When I was younger, I really wanted to be a professional writer. But I wasn't ambitious enough to leave Peoria, take risks on opportunities that did come my way, or just push-push-push with the strength that such a leap requires. Well, all of those things and one other: I only wanted to write what I wanted to write, and not anything that might bore me. (Which killed journalism for me the first time I saw what a city council meeting looked like.) None of that gets you to "professional writer." And I've been lucky enough to get good jobs that used other skills.

Sherlockiana, and the many scion publications of the 1980s, provided a fun little outlet for just writing odd little essays, which eventually turned into a regular column, which then turned into a blog. And the thought of making any money off this hobby left the building a long time ago. I just got asked the past week if I wanted a fee for speaking on Sherlock Holmes, and, as always, I just grinned and said, "No. I do this stuff because I just like Sherlock Holmes."

Because after all this time, I'd hate to lose my amateur standing.

(Although if the Sherlockian Olympics ever come around, those books are probably going to kill it for me, aren't they? Ah, well, the kids out there are way more talented these days.)

Saturday, October 28, 2017

A flimsy attempt at marriage.

It's funny how the smallest crack can sometimes bring down the largest edifice. Something that seemed so solid once, suddenly fractures and falls apart, just due to that first small crack. Maybe the crack didn't even cause the destruction, maybe it was just the one sign of great internal pressures that were destined to break things up in any case. But the crack comes first.

This week, I saw, for the first time, a very real crack in one of Watson's statements about getting married. "It was a few weeks before my own marriage . . ." he writes in the beginning of "The Noble Bachelor," and then the good doctor goes on to write about his current state: living in Baker Street, nursing his war wound, staying indoors, and reading newspapers for a while until he's decides to just, in his own words, "lay listless."

The man is a few week's from taking responsibility for a household, taking a woman from her paying job to be a Victorian housewife, and he doesn't have a job yet? He's not making plans for moving out on his own? He's basically just being that bum from The Sign of Four who was worried a blonde with a treasure wouldn't want to date a "half-pay surgeon."

Which then takes one back to Watson's "wooing" of Mary Morstan, which the door to 221B Baker Street eventually reminds him of in "A Scandal in Bohemia," for some reason we never learn.

Watson's period of dating Mary Morstan before proposing marriage is less than two days. The Sign of Four is a mystery novel, not a love story, so we never focus on this ridiculously non-existent courtship, but strip away that mystery and look only at the dating part and . . . .

Well, Watson just gets this immediate crush on a woman he's just met, and she gets put into a position where she doesn't want to hurt the feelings of a guy who just did her a big favor. And maybe she agrees to something she really doesn't want.

Watson's best friend refuses to congratulate Watson on his hasty decision to marry. And, as we saw in "Noble Bachelor," Watson really wasn't making much of an effort to get ready for the marriage.

So did he really get married a few weeks after that day in October 1887? Or did someone leave out a word from the phrase "a few weeks before my own planned marriage?"

When one then considers that the line occurs in the telling of a tale of a woman who escaped a bad match on her wedding day, the thought that Mary Morstan didn't marry John Watson when he implies she did really gains strength. And these days I know we have a lot of partisans who will happily take up the fight that John Watson was struggling with his love of a someone else at the time he got the wild idea to marry Mary out of the blue.

Getting Watson off the couch and into a chapel may have not been the slam dunk many Sherlockians have always taken it to be. And seeing that problem just starts with one . . . little . . . crack.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Sherlock Holmes story night.

Our little library band, the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at Peoria's North Branch Library, just gets better every meeting of late. Tonight we really had the cream of our attendee crop, with one or two notable absences I'd still like to see in the mix, and the discussion of "The Noble Bachelor" made me raise that tale quite a few shelves in my mental library.

I mean, are there any Sherlock Holmes stories that are as much just plain fun as "The Noble Bachelor" when you come right down to it?

It has elements of "A Scandal in Bohemia," as came up in our chat, as Holmes so enjoys making fun of those whose claim to superiority is in title alone. But Irene Adler is enough of a challenge in that case that Sherlock has to focus and get a little serious. In "Noble Bachelor," Holmes has it figured out pretty quickly, and just starts screwing around. Whiskey and cigars, catering a nice dinner for guests, espousing wacky theories about national mergers . . . I can't think of a case where Sherlock Holmes is just enjoying himself so darn much.

Holmes speaks of "those unwelcome social summonses which call upon a man either to be bored or to lie," but in this case, he's neither bored nor lying. He's just having fun.

And he loves the Americans so much.

"It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for I am one of those who believes that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."

Okay, you might think he was talking about the United Federation of Planets here, if not for that crazy flag idea. That flag flying over a "world-wide country" means that England and America took over the whole damned planet. Where would Holmes get such a crazy idea?

Oh, right, his brother Mycroft was THE BRITISH GOVERNMENT.

Did brother Mycroft rise to power with a goal of world domination, seeing America as a key ally in that cause?  The story "The Noble Bachelor" itself might be an actual metaphor for the failure of Mycroft's hopes for empire, as a British noble, hoping to shore up his family dynasty with some American resources, finds the Americans quite content to lead their own lives without his plans.

As I first came to discover at a meeting of the Parallel Cases in St. Louis, a good library discussion group focussing on a single story can be as inspiring as anything in Sherlockiana, and we seem to have a very good group coming together here in Peoria now. This won't be the last you'll read of "Noble Bachelor" thoughts inspired from tonight's gathering, thanks to my fellow Sherlockians and the stimulating conversation they're treating me to.

I am a very lucky fan.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

I love a weird theory.

There are a lot of storytellers in our Sherlockian world.

Fanfic writers, professionals . . . those are the obvious ones. The sort of story I've always loved to tell best about Sherlock Holmes, however, isn't one that I tell in a fictional narrative. It could be told as a short story or novel, but I'd almost say I must be just too lazy for that.

Which is why it delighted me many years ago to discover the Sherlockian theoretical article. Not sure if that's what would be called "Sherlockian scholarship" by the truest players of the game, but I've referred to it as that before.

All it is, really, is coming up with some wild idea about Sherlock Holmes or his fellows and then making a case for it, leading the reader through an assortment of details drawn from the Canon or history and then presenting a conclusion with a sort of "this could possibly have been true, as unlikely as it might have been" sense.

It's a lot like being Sherlock Holmes without Dr. Watson or Scotland Yard there to verify your results, and it's totally NOT like being Sherlock Holmes because you're not as careful about eliminating the impossible en route to making a case for a theory you know is fiction.

In the last dozen hours, on either side of a little needed sleep, I was treated to some good fun telling just such a story in the guise of an article . . . and it's crazy as hell. But so much fun to get on paper. (Yes, I typed it on the computer, but printed it out the minute it was done.)

You'll hear this particular story very soon . . . not at tomorrow night's meeting of the Sherlock Holmes Story Society at Peoria's North Branch Library, if you make it to that at 6:30, but I might let some preview details slip out . . . but soon. We're talking about "Noble Bachelor" then, which has its own theories. (And none of them are bad-mouthing Hatty Doran, I'll say that right now!)

But I just love a weird Sherlockian theory and the chance to lay a case out for it. It's not a traditional way of telling a story, but it can weave a story nonetheless.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Alfred gets it done.

Three years after Basil Rathbone finished his last film adventure as Sherlock Holmes, in the year 1949, television decided to have a go at Sherlock Holmes.

In an anthology series named Your Show Time on NBC, Alan Napier, eventually to be best known as Batman's faithful butler Alfred on the 1966 TV show, took the role of Sherlock Holmes. And, as things happen these days the result is now to be found on YouTube.

When Rob Nunn first pointed the link out to me, I clicked on it just to see what it was . . . and then wound up watching the whole show, an adaptation of "The Speckled Band."

Alan Napier turned out to be a very solid Sherlock Holmes, and, as far as I'm concerned, the short film compares with the later Rathbone stuff quite favorably. The mere fact it got me to stop everything else I was doing and watch it all the way through says something about it -- that just doesn't happen much at all.

There is plenty from 1949 that one could pick apart in 2017, but taken next to other productions of its time, this "Speckled Band" does a great job, and I always enjoy a few little non-Canonical additions to just add something new to a story that I'm way too familiar with. The host of Your Show Time inserting himself back into the show just before the climax is especially funny.

Definitely worth a watch!

Who gets to set the rules?

As much as social media gets blamed for drama and conflict, it also has its moments of wisdom.

This particular tweet from last night struck me as particularly wonderful. It's talking about fanfic, yes, but when you remember that the bulk of all fiction starring Sherlock Holmes started as fiction by fans, a lot of the way Sherlockiana's past is full of patriarchal privilege shines brightly.

Because these same words apply.

"Seriously, a lot of y'all's beef in fanfic boils down to preference/taste. Please stop wording your complaints like they're hard rules."

When I think of the number of articles I read in Sherlockian journals/newsletters in the past four decades that were exactly that -- rules for writing Sherlock Holmes pastiches -- it kind of makes me laugh. Both in that people are still trying to pull that silly exercise, and that once upon a time it was legitimate article fodder.

Because basically every one of those rules articles boiled down to this: Don't do anything that wasn't done by Conan Doyle, and even then, do the stuff he did most often. Which, when you think about it, is a recipe for boredom.

Lyndsay Faye just met with enough success with her book of Holmes stories The Whole Art of Detection that a few enthusiastic critics have compared it to Doyle, but where Lyndsay really succeeds is where she diverges from the original in her structure and style, yet still captures the flavor. It makes her stuff both timely and worth reading, instead of a pale imitation.

Almost all of those who like to write rules for writing about Sherlock Holmes are not people who write well about Sherlock Holmes. Instead, they express their opinion in that rules format, which basically seems like a weird attempt to assert some sort of control over a world they're not a part of. Too many times, they're fans of the originals who are never going to be satisfied with any attempt at new Sherlock, so even attempting to obey their rules would just be attempting to satisfy someone who will never be pleased with the work.

Now that fandoms are more common and longer-lived than ever, we've seen this with Doctor Who, Star Trek, and any other fiction that survived past its original creator. Any older fan expecting exactly the same rush they got with the original material is bound to be disappointed. That first time experience is hard to recreate. You get your own preference and tastes, and that should be enough.

So screw the "here are the rules" essays, for fanfic, pastiche, or whatever you want to call new work spawned off old ideas. That "you have to learn the rules before breaking them" is for teachers trying to control classrooms full of schoolkids, not anyone encouraging original work . . . even original work that's not completely original. No one knows what combination of angles and style are going to spawn the next great thing. If they did, they'd have done it themselves.

Friday, October 20, 2017

And then things got weird . . .

I haven't written about Sherlockian podcasts in a while, and I don't really want to write about this latest one, but it appears I'm going to need to out of self-defense.

"Sherlock Holmes Is Real" is a fairly recent podcast by a Sherlockian named Toni Sutherland, which . . . to my ears . . . sounds a lot like the recent waves of crazed conspiracy theories have finally washed into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Like the title says, Sutherland's podcast posits the thesis that Sherlock Holmes was actually a real historical personage.

Now, let me say that again.

That Sherlock Holmes was really historical. Not like those articles we like to write using historical details to flesh out the dates and references of the Canon. But that he really existed, and has been the victim of a conspiracy to fictionalize him from at least the 1920s.

Crazy, right?

I know. Really, really, nuts.

But as of the second episode, Toni Sutherland seems to have picked up the notion from a certain Rob Nunn that I know something about something, and as any regular reader of this blog is well aware, that just isn't the case. And anything that is in my head tends to come out here pretty quickly.

So that's my story and I'm sticking to it. Don't know nothing about Sherlock Holmes being real, and even if I did mention a guy I used to know in a previous blog post, I really don't want to talk about that guy on a podcast.

Sherlockiana has always been a place for all sorts of odd things . . . "queer things," "strange coincidences," and "cross-purposes," as Sherlock Holmes might say.

So I'm not exactly encouraging you to go listen to "Sherlock Holmes is Real," which appears to be available on iTunes, as well as via this link,  but, hey, they're your ears.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sherlock Frankenstein and Detective Chimp.

This week's trip to the comic shop turned up a book whose title meant it was a must-buy: Sherlock Frankenstein and his Legion of Evil.

Both the title, the art, and "From the World of Black Hammer" betrayed that it probably had little to do with Sherlock Holmes, but still . . . . "Sherlock Frankenstein?" If I've got $3.99 in my pocket, I'm buying anything with that name, at least the first time I see it.

The character has origins in Victorian times and his corporate empire's name will make anyone who understands basic shipping laugh. It's "Frankenlock Worldwide." And he's a super-villain. We know that from the start.

But here's the problem: Sherlock Frankenstein doesn't appear in the first issue of his own comic. Not really. The daughter of a superhero (the aforementioned Black Hammer) is looking for him to see if he can tell her what happened to her father. And she's talking to old friends and foes to see what she can find out.

It seems like a really good story . . . or that it will be a good story, over a six-issue arc. Which is the problem with a lot of comic books these days. Many writers seem to have lost the ability to tell a story in a single issue, preferring to lay out a tale for a trade paperback comic (a.k.a. the "graphic novel). Thus, Sherlock Frankenstein and the Legion of Evil seems more like the prelude to a comic book story than the actual story itself. (Unlike this week's Batman #33, which is as complete a tale as you could want and still is chapter one of what looks like a great tale.)

Don't know if I'll be back for issue two of that, but this seems as good a place as any to mention that Bobo, the Detective Chimp, the ape who dresses like Sherlock Holmes, made a brief appearance in last week's Metal #3, as Superman passed through the Oblivion Bar, where Bobo is known to hang out. It was just enough to make me realize how much I missed him since his days in the Shadowpact comic.

So two weeks with two marginal comic book references to Sherlock Holmes. By next year, I think we'll all be more than ready for Will Farrell in the part, just for something Sherlockian in major media.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

A day at the theater.

This afternoon, the good Carter and I drove down to St. Louis, now called "Saint Louise" by the latest reincarnation of Siri, to see a play. Ken Ludwig's stage adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, simply titled Baskerville, has been playing all over the country and this was our first experience with it.

And honestly? It was glorious.

Ken Ludwig's Baskerville, written for a Sherlock Holmes, a John Watson, and three other actors who must play the rest of the parts, is a remarkable play to start with. But when performed by a cast with the talent to pull it off right?

A thing to behold.

At this point in my forty-some years as a Sherlockian, I have to tell you: Adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles bore me to death. The story is so familiar that I can't help but get snoozy.

What made this one great was a Sherlock Holmes played by John O'Hagan who immediately clicked into place as Holmes. (Post-play, he mentioned he was going for a more Rathbone style of performance, but his look was definitely his own and fit Sherlock perfectly.) His Watson, played by Kent Coffel, was a solid Watson, as Watson should be. And around the core of those two characters, the other three actors, Elliot Auch, Ed Reggi, and Gwen Wotawa whirled and cavorted through a variety of personas that both brought the story to life and added comic bits that fit into the tale perfectly, keeping the story a true Holmes story and not heading full steam into farce.

(The good Carter noted that she didn't think an adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles with comedy was possible before this . . . then remembered the Dudley Moore Hound. I reminded her that that didn't really count as a comedy, despite my late neighbor's consideration of it as such.)

Gwen Wotawa went from Mrs. Hudson to Cartwright (now an Irregular) to a gender-swapped version of cabbie John Clayton (a favorite of many a Peoria Sherlockian) to Beryl Stapleton, adding a lively spark to each character that was much enjoyed. Elliot Auch's prancing Jack Stapleton was the definite stand-out of his over a dozen characters, which also included such notable performances as his Dr. Mortimer, portrait of Hugo Baskerville, and Barrymore. Converting Henry Baskerville from Canadian to Texan made sense for the play, and Ed Reggi took that part, as well as Lestrade, Sir Hugo . . . and most notably, Daisy, the non-Canonical Baker Street housemaid . . . and made it great fun.

It had been quite a while since I'd been to a play done so well as this one, totally absorbing me with it's pace and performance, and we had a delightful afternoon with it. Director Maggie Ryan and the Insight Theater Company deserve much applause for putting Baskerville together, and I hope it does great box office during the rest of its run.

(Added note: New author Rob Nunn was in the lobby signing copies of his book The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, and I picked one up. I had hoped to hang out with Rob for a while, but he had to do some podcast interview that I'll have to track down eventually.)

The disappearance of the Baker Street Irregulars.

Things being a bit slow here at Sherlock Peoria, I've been doing a bit of walking through the fall weather and contemplating whatever impulses my brain thinks to muse upon. This morning's walk brought me back to a thought a Sherlockian named Alan King shared with me a long time ago, which has probably been written up somewhere by now, and that's the disappearance of the Baker Street Irregulars.

In Watson's first two novel-length works, the street urchins who scour the city for Holmes are featured quite prominently. They even get their own chapter title in The Sign of the Four. They "go everywhere, see everything, overhear everyone." And get their pay in shillings.

But after that? One of them, named Simpson, shows up to watch an old man in "The Crooked Man," and we never hear of the rest of their lot again.

"The Crooked Man," according to my calculations, occurs in 1887. Something else that occurred in 1887? The publication of Watson's first write-up of a Holmes case, and one of the only three mentions of the Irregulars, A Study in Scarlet.

And after 1887, Sherlock Holmes's use of the Irregulars abruptly stops. At least as far as we know.

Watson's publications and the rise of Holmes in public popularity seems to go hand-in-hand with the disappearance of the Baker Street Irregulars from Holmes's work. And that coincidence makes perfect sense when you think about it.

The younger Holmes of the 1880s probably found it easier to work with kids as he wasn't so far from being one himself. And, as he said, nobody noticed street kids hanging about.

Until, of course, some accounts of Sherlock Holmes's doings started growing in popularity, at which point, anyone who suspected Holmes of being on their trail would go, "HEY! What's that kid doing here? Is that one of Holmes's?" And then things would turn very nasty for the lads.

One hopes that Sherlock Holmes saw this possibility coming once Watson's works hit the public press and disbanded the group before one of the kids got hurt. One hopes it wasn't the tragic fate of one of the kids that made them disappear from the writings. Or that Watson himself just saw the danger and quit writing about them.

But disappear they did, and Sherlock Holmes seems to have voluntarily lost on of his best tools for searching London, fairly early on in his career.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Lestrade and Holmes, 1887.

Now that Rob Nunn seems to have given up his prosecution of Ms. Hatty Doran of "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor," and the Sherlock Holmes Story Society is about to have a meeting on that very tale next Thursday, perhaps it's a good time to look at a few other folk involved in that little matter.

This case has many a fun path to explore, with so many relationships intertwined throughout the tale -- perhaps that's even part of what makes it so enjoyable. One that definitely bears exploring is evoked in a single line from Lord St. Simon's letter to Sherlock Holmes before the case even begins.

"Mr. Lestrade, of Scotland Yard, is acting already in the matter, but he assures me that he sees no objection to your cooperation, and that he thinks that it might be of some assistance."

The year is probably 1887. Sherlock Holmes has already attained enough prominence in his profession that Lord St. Simon has not only heard of Holmes, he knows that the consulting detective's help is something to be sought after. St. Simon is plainly the one who brought Sherlock up in talking to Lestrade about the case. (And Lestrade was obliged to go along, social rank needing to be obeyed and all.)

Inspector Lestrade's comment that Holmes "might be of some assistance" is something I imagine was more than just being agreeable or pure narcissism on the Scotland Yard man's part. He knew Sherlock Holmes could be of assistance and was probably delighted at the chance to bring Holmes in without having to lost any face in the matter. ("I had no choice . . . Lord Robert said so!")

Lestrade walks into Baker Street in this case without being announced, and Holmes immediately invites him to have a glass of whisky and a cigar, then comments on the inspector's emotional state. Sherlock knows Lestrade is struggling with the very case he has announced he has solved to Lord St. Simon, and even if he's being a little cryptic, Sherlock Holmes is actually trying to help Lestrade . . . for a bit.

But the inspector has a problem, and it's one that any one of us might have had . . . a clue that is just too tempting to let go of. The missing bride's clothes contain a note with the initials of the groom's ex-girlfriend. How could anyone not go after Flora Millar with such a bizarrely coincidental clue? It's almost a little amazing that Holmes doesn't go talk to her about where Hatty Doran got off to.

But the hotel bill on the reverse side of the note gets Holmes's mental gears going, and happy cigars-and-whisky time is quickly done. Lestrade is stuck on that "F.H." and Holmes is anxious to start checking hotels . . . it's kind of sad, really.

I mean, I kinda wanted Sherlock to invite G. to the fancy dinner at Baker Street that night . . . or at least send a note out to him after Lord St. Simon stormed out and there was an extra place setting.

But after that little display of cross-purposes that didn't get to whisky or cigars, Lestrade is never seen again in "Noble Bachelor." And possibly not again until he calls Holmes in for "The Adventure of the Cardboard Box" or Holmes calls him in for The Hound of the Baskervilles.

The relations between Holmes and Lestrade were, in those early days, peculiar, to borrow a phrase from Watson's later words. But there was definitely an interesting relationship there, and that's just one of many on display in "Noble Bachelor."