Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Reigate Squee

There are many different kinds of Sherlock Holmes groups. The annual banquet group, the online community, the local scion society, and many a mix-and-match flavor in between. And when you're in the midst of a good one, it's a very fun thing.

We've had a full-fledged Sherlockian society in Peoria, with banquets, events, and guest speakers, but the little library discussion group we have now -- The Sherlock Holmes Story Society -- had been having a great run. One of the complaints I remember about the old group was that too many times it was about the social evening more than Sherlock Holmes. Many a member or guest came not caring about the story of the evening or even attempting to read it -- the food and friendship made for a fine night out. But with our library group we never fail to close in on the finer points of Watson's records themselves . . . with some great results.

Tonight, for example, we got into "The Reigate Squire/Squires/Puzzle," a tale that used to be nowhere close to my top ten. But with the help of Kathy, Ruth, Viv, Gary, Melissa, Amanda, and Mary, I think that "Reigate" just shot up to my top five.

It's an abbreviated tale, which was my biggest gripe with it. Conan Doyle/Watson seems to have blazed through the writing of it leaving many details unexplained and whole characters wasted. But when you start to plumb its depths as we did, this tale of burglary, blackmail, and murder (a veritable trifecta of crime!) has some amazing stuff in it. I think it actually altered my presentation for "Holmes in the Heartland" coming this August.

And that wasn't the best thing to come out of it -- we got into the story so much that there was some pretty serious talk of adapting it into a play, with some of the tale's hanging details getting a much clearer focus. Was there true value in some of the items stolen? What was Annie Morrison's dark secret and why was her face (seen only in an off-stage part of the story) so very familiar? And just how into oranges was Watson? ("But, Inspector, ORANGES!")

We wondered about the lineage of the note illustrations in our various printings of the tale, one of which seemed on the verge of a comic sans/zapf chancery depiction of dual hand-writing. We were transported to other cases and other stormy petrels. And trying to guess what a Sherlock Holmes fifteen-hour workday consisted of just kept eluding us.

Coming together over a single Sherlock Holmes story with our little Peoria group always rewards me with insights and inspirations that I would never have, were I just sitting at home with a book, and it helps keep those Holmes fires burning brightly. We're at the year-and-a-half mark now, and it took us a little while to really find our pace, but we were definitely there tonight.

Hope your own Sherlockings are going just as well, and if not, hold on to hope . . . Sherlock Holmes has ways of surprising you, even when you're as worn as he was at Hotel Dulong.

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