Wednesday, October 7, 2020

An unsung hero of Sherlockian publishing

 We've seen a few Sherlockian publishers come and go. Publishing has never been the best of businesses, and Sherlockian publishing? Not the best of markets. It's a tribute to Wessex Press that they've lasted as long as they have -- probably in part because they didn't start as writers trying to publish their own stuff, as some others have.

We've had the notoriousness of Jack Tracy and the quality of David Hammer, but I don't think either had the importance to Sherlockiana of Magico Magazine, run by Rabbi Samuel Gringras out of New York City. Full disclosure time: Magico published my first three books way back when, but that's not the reason I'm singing his praises this morning.

When Paul Thomas Miller and Rob Nunn got into a Twitter discussion of Moriarty as a horse, it immediately put me in mind of Robert S. Morgan's "Spotlight On A Simple Case, or Wiggins, Who was That Horse I Saw With You Last Night," a privately printed monograph from 1959. These days you can find it on AbeBooks for fifty bucks. In the 1980s, though? Good luck!

Yet I have a copy of this rarity due to Magico Magazine reprinting it during the 1980s.

While Magico did print a goodly number of new things, like my own magnum opus of my beginning years, one of the best things they did for us was making all those rare classics of Sherlockiana available in reprint form. Without their work, the field of Sherlockian chronology would be practiced by even fewer than practice it now. (Would that be a good or bad thing? I'm not sure.) 

Mysterious Press would come along and later reprint some of our hobby's classic books, but the little monographs and things like Julian Wolff's maps weren't anything a book publisher would touch. Items like that Morgan monograph would never have been seen by most Sherlockians just twenty years later without Magico's sizable catalog of works. Their main output may have been books on stage magic, a field where the enthusiasts might even by more ardent than Sherlockians (and able to attain a little more fame and fortune in their top tier), but we never got slighted in Magico's output.

The publisher had its critics -- all publishers do, working with such a sometimes persnickety breed as writers, but they provided a service to Sherlockiana that few have matched. Were I to have to choose between all of Magico's reprints and all of the BSI manuscript series, I would have to say I'd definitely take the former, as prestigious as the latter might be. They've been an important resource in my Sherlockian life since they came out, one I might not have otherwise had, putting so much into circulation that otherwise might have been reserved for the wealthy or determined few.

There were those who used to xerox old Sherlockian stuff and quietly pass those pirated copies among their friends, even going so far as to bind the xeroxes like a book if they had the resources. Sherlockians are a hungry breed. But occasionally someone sets us out a fine table to feast upon, and Magico Magazine was one of those someones. And for that, I think they deserve a great many more plaudits than they have gotten to date, but hopefully that day will come. 


  1. I loved getting the Magico catalogue in the mail - (dates me) - and am pretty sure I still have some in a pile somewhere.

  2. Every birthday and Christmas for years I marked up every Magico catalog for my family to use when buying my presents. What they didn't buy for me, I bought for myself, and I was smart enough to snap up many of the items listed within. It was a very wise thing to do.

  3. I echo the two previous comments. Funny, this morning I was thinking about Magico. Several Magico reprints (including SHERLOCK AND THE LADIES) are in my collection. I should have purchased more at the time. Thanks for writing about Magico and Rabbi Gringras.