Two years ago, Chris Redmond put together a little collection called About Sixty, in which sixty writers all argued for each of the sixty Sherlock Holmes stories being the best. And in this blog, I ran a little tournament as I read the book, to see which one wound up as the best in my view, post-arguments for each. Last year, however, Chris's next collection, About Being A Sherlockian, was personal stories of actual Sherlockians, so it just didn't seem right to throw them all into a Battle Royale. But this year . . . .
Sherlock Holmes Is Like collects sixty arguments for sixty different humans, real and fictional, as being like our friend Sherlock Holmes. And as we don't personally know any of those people, why not pit them against each other? Is it a fight, a playoff game, or . . . shall we call this one a "pageant," just to be a little less violent this year?
Each set of contestants must win preliminary pageants to advance to the finals, with the number of contestants a prelim being governed by how many I essays I can read for one blog. And even though Chris did such a nice job of organizing essays by theme, I'm going to randomize my reading order just to throw an element of . . . well, chaos, really . . . into the pageants.
So, let us begin. Our first preliminary pageant's contestants are to be found on pages 23, 190, and 28. Hmmm, William Thomas Stead, Inspector Edmund Reid, and Josiah Willard Gibbs? I don't know any of these guys. This should be interesting.
Peter Calamai, having been a journalist, makes his case for a fellow journalist from the history books, William Thomas Stead. When Calamai says Stead favored cigarettes over the classic Holmes pipe in the early, Titanic, segment of the essay, I worry a bit for this contestant's chances . . . Holmes liked his cigarettes as well, so bringing up the pipe is a missed opportunity. And the next segment, about Stead's influence over the world of journalism, starts reminding me more of Mycroft than Sherlock. And then, we get into . . . well, I'll leave that for you to discover, but it's not pleasant, nor a topic that ever came up in a Sherlock Holmes story, as gruesome as they could occasionally be. Let's see who that next unfamiliar contestant is.
Whoa! This pageant is definitely not a beauty contest. Vicki Delaney introduces Inspector Edmund Reid to me as the main character of the BBC TV show Ripper Street. Whitechapel, here we come.
Okay, maybe Edmund Reid is quite the beauty in Sherlock-ish terms. Victorian. Londoner. Walking the same streets. I'm buying what Vicki Delaney is selling. But we have another contestant coming up, and it looks like . . . .
A scientist from Yale? Chris Zordan has his work cut out for him in bringing Josiah William Gibbs to the pageant stage. When I read the phrase "winning prizes for mathematics," Sherlock Holmes is not the Canonical genius that first comes to mind. But we get to chemistry soon enough, and time in France, which I like as a Sherlock-ish aspect. Gibbs, the pioneering academic, seems to lack a few key Holmes features . . . like combat skills, so I'm kinda not in love with him.
I really shouldn't be pitting these fine men against each other, superficially judging them like this, and I'm feeling guilty already. But, hey, didn't male-dominated society do that to women for how long? On with the pageant!
Oh, here's a chap I recognize! Brigadier Etienne Gerard, being championed by John Baesch. Gerard's got the Conan Doyle bump, so I'm expecting good things here!
I now see why traditional beauty pageants use a panel of judges . . . while John Baesch is making a good case for Gerard, as his predecessors did, I just love Brigadier Gerard. Even though he's a soldier in the Napoleonic wars and not the great brain of the previous contestants, I now have enough good excuses to play favorites and advance Gerard as the winner of this preliminary round of the Miss "Sherlock Holmes Is Like" Pageant for 2018. (I hope he and the others hugged as I announced this.)
This is a horrible way to review a book, but I've set myself on this course and I can't wait to see who winds up wearing sash and crown down the runway at the end. More to come.