Sunday, April 8, 2018

The "oria" connection.

The doomed ship Gloria Scott. Professor of crime Moriarty. A blog entitled "Sherlock Peoria."

What do these three things have tying them together other than the sequence of letters O-R-I-A?

Well, the writer of said blog is on the "Moriarty's Web" panel for 221B Con, and has been tasked with scanning several of Sherlock Holmes's cases for Moriartian influence. And the first one on the list is "The Gloria Scott."

"But the bad ship Gloria Scott went down in 1855," you protest, after checking the date. "Moriarty wasn't active until the 1880s!"

Or so he would like you to believe!

Perhaps the most famous convict imprisoned on the prison transport was the ingenious con artist Jack Prendergast, whose crimes got much worse when he let himself go. Prendergast was one of the first truly magnificent criminals that Sherlock Holmes ever heard of, even before he decided to become a detective, even before he took up his study of the entire history of crime. The career of Jack Prendergast was surely one of the first subjects Holmes took up for his study.

Is it any coincidence then, that an early case in Holmes's career found him clearing the name of a Major Prendergast, who was accused of cheating at the Tankerville Card Club? It would make sense that Holmes wanted to speak to any living relatives of a man like Jack Prendergast, and once that connection was made, help with a little injustice. And while we know that Major Prendergast wasn't a card cheat who belonged to the Tankerville, we also know one member of that same club who was a card cheat: a fellow named Sebastian Moran. "The second most dangerous man in London."

We know Holmes cleared the major of cheating, but we don't know if Holmes was able to expose the true cheat at that time . . . who very well could have been Moran himself, Professor Moriarty's chief of staff. We know Moran retired from the military before 1881, when he published his first book -- writing books takes the sort of time military duties preclude. Holmes says Moran "retired, came to London, and again acquired an evil name." Holmes even connected Moran to an 1887 murder, and may have been aware of the colonel well before he knew of Moriarty, thanks to that "evil name" notoriety Moran had so soon after coming back to London.

It may be a slight generalization to say that belonging to clubs can be a family affair, as fathers pass on their hobbies to sons, and an important member eases the entry of his offspring, especially in the Victorian era. But when one sees a club like the Tankerville tied to names like Prendergast and Moran, one starts to wonder if it doesn't have certain tendencies among the membership. And possibly the sort of tendencies that would have been of interest for a man like Sherlock Holmes to keep an eye on.

A direct connection between Jack Prendergast and James Moriarty might be too much to hope for, but it is very suspicious that a crewman from the Gloria Scott, who were all Prendergast's "specially picked" ruffians, had the resources to track down two of that ship's name-changed escapees . . . Moriarty-level resources, one might say. There are threads there that are just too brightly colored not to follow.

Am I giving away too much of what's to come at 221B Con's "Moriarty's Web" panel?

No, this is just the first story on my list and the connection far too tenuous to spend a quarter of the panel's allotted time going into its details. But the strands of Moriarty's web are there all the same. Who knows where else they might show up? You'll have to drop by the panel and find out.

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