Tuesday, June 12, 2018

O Baker Street! Our Holmes and Watson land!

Can I be a POW in a trade war?

With the Nigel Bruce of diplomacy raising potential conflict with our continental brethren to the North, it seems like the perfect time to remember all of the Sherlockiana that Canadians and Americans have shared over the years. Even though we feel strong, strong ties to that land where Sherlock Holmes came from, Canada and America have long been brothers in the House of Holmes. Some of our greatest Sherlockians have even had ties to both countries, like Vincent Starrett, born in Toronto but blooming as a Sherlockian in Toronto.

Canada is the land tied to The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Scarlet Claw, while America that of The Valley of Fear and Sherlock Holmes in Washington. (Yes, technically we get A Study in Scarlet, novel-wise, but that was more about our wilderness and those Mormons who were always trying to secede back then, rather than America proper.) Canada claims Matt Frewer among its Sherlocks, and America has . . . Stewart Granger? No, he's British . . . Robert Downey, Jr.? He's the only big movie Sherlock we have, and he didn't do a Hound of the Baskervilles? Guess there's a reason, North America doesn't get to have its own Sherlocks, another thing America and Canada share.

Toronto and Minneapolis have the two great Sherlockian collections not held in private hands, and if it wasn't for two ridiculously large lakes blocking a straight drive between them, well they'd still be hundreds of miles apart, but, man, would that make for a good double-conference if you could pull it off. (And odd note: the Sherlockian collection that's the furthest North? Not the Canadian one.)

Sherlockian presses and authors have been sending books both directions across the U.S./Canadian border for  decades, and neither side has the monopoly on quality of thought contained within those books. (Though in some parts of Canada, I suspect the local Sherlockians have more winter to have long, thoughtful studies of Holmes.)

Basically, Canadian Sherlockians have, to me, always been those siblings we look at fondly and maybe sometimes think they're the better part of the family. The idea that one incredible doofus outside of our happy little tribe is going to do anything to muck that relationship up is just one more ridiculous possibility in a world of ridiculous possibilities and realities of late. Nobody really knows where we go from here.

But Canadian Sherlockians and American Sherlockians both share a "dual citizenship" in our common land, that place Vincent Starrett called a "nostalgic country of the mind, where it is always 1895."  Hopefully we'll continue to meet there for a long, long time to come, no matter what silliness goes on elsewhere. 


  1. “Watson, ‘I should like to see a bit more of Canada before we sail Holmes.’ Holmes, ‘So should I Watson. Canada the linchpin of the English-speaking world. With those relations of friendly, affectionate intimacy with the United States on the one hand and with her unswerving fidelity to the British Commonwealth and the Motherland on the other, Canada the link which joins together these great branches of the human family." These lines come from the end of my all-time favorite Sherlock Holmes film, “The Scarlet
    Claw” (1944) staring Basil Rathbone & Nigel Bruce. The setting for the film was the French Canadian village of La Mort Rouge, and Holmes gets drawn into the case from nearby Quebec.

  2. From ‘The Athabasca Trail’, (1914) by Arthur Conan Doyle: “My life is gliding downwards; it speeds swifter to the day When it shoots the last dark Canyon to the Plains of Far-away, But while its stream is running through the years that are to be, The mighty voice of Canada will ever call to me.”