Friday, May 7, 2021

A new tool to be added to your Sherlockian toolbox

 I don't get into my day job on this blog, but one of the parts of it is working with a software that is always under development. It's makers are constant adding new parts and pieces, new abilities, and then kind of going "you guys figure out the best use for this." And with their substantial user base, and the more clever among my ilk, folks do often come up with some pretty good ways to use the latest thing.

One of Sherlock Holmes's greatest strengths was doing that very thing -- looking at techniques and tools from other professions and going "How can this benefit detection?" It's a very human talent that has served us well, for the most part. I bring all this up, because this week, somebody handed Sherlockians a tool that we don't quite know the best use for yet.

The energetic and imaginative mind of Paul Thomas Miller gave us "Chapter and Verse Holmes" this week, a version of the complete (depending upon where you are, due to copyright) Canon that has Bible-like numbering of each line of the sixty stories. We've been using the Jay Finley Christ abbreviations for a very long time now (much to the whiney consternation of some anti-Christs) and this takes it to the next level.

Remember when Watson considered breaking up with Holmes? (STUD 1: 60)

Now, you're probably going "Sure, you saved time typing that reference, Brad, but I don't have 'Chapter and Verse Holmes,' despite the fact you linked in in this post twice now!" True, but you know what that also means? I now have a secret code for communicating with my fellow adoptees of "Chapter and Verse Holmes" for passing messages in Canon-speak.

The Porlock-like use of this new work for secret messages is just one of the potential applications for it. Paul didn't create it for that, but like I said, we humans like to find other uses for our tools. It's what we do.

Over the decades, Sherlockians have been handed a lot of tools for our study of Sherlock. Getting a "search" function for the Canon was a very big deal, but before that, we had concordances -- three different ones, each created with different thoughts in mind. Now, you might wonder what use a concordance has when searches are available, but can a search engine find every first name in the Canon? Can it list every insect? Nope. Concordances are still great for subject listings.

Sherlockians have traditionally like to do a massive amount of work to hand their fellow Sherlockians a treat, and some go really go that obsessive extra mile. Sherlockian chronologists fall into that category and since Paul Thomas Miller has already done that deed once, we can certainly see he has the gene for it, and he's young enough that you have to wonder what comes next. Hopefully he'll never succumb to the Ron De Waal bug and try cataloging everything ever written about Sherlock Holmes, which was once almost possible and now is beyond the grasp of any mere mortal.

But he is to be much congratulated in this moment, however, for handing us one of those tools we can play with now or tuck away for use decades from now as suits our fancy. Get out there and download whatever version of "Chapter and Verse Holmes" that your local copyright restrictions allow -- it won't be there forever (at least not on Paul's site), and you may wish you had someday, especially if some of us annoyingly tell you things like "Quit STUD1:72!"

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Moriarty among the carnivores

In the mood for a little dark Sherlockian ponderance today? Here you go.

We still aren't sure exactly what killed Professor Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls, as much as Sherlock Holmes feels certain that something did.

The fall? Drowning? Maybe a hungry bear, looking for a fish, who found a mathematics professor just lying there on the bank?

That last possibility sent me down a rabbit hole, as so many Sherlockian details do, into discovering that by the end of the Victorian era, the Swiss and their tourists had pretty much wiped out all major carnivores in Switzerland. Wolves, bear, even the lynx, pretty much gone from their country. Hailing from Illinois, I can understand how that happens. My ancestors pretty much did a bio-purge on this area as well.

So what might have taken out a crippled Moriarty, as he lay, barely breathing, having dragged himself out of the water with the last of his strength?

Well, it probably wasn't a bear. With the last bear in Switzerland to be killed on September 4, 1904, chances are that they weren't too plentiful in 1891. Wolves were long gone. Lynx had become like bigfoot, since cats are always harder to spot, being night predators. The Swiss even seem to have wiped out vultures during the 1800s.

So, once we have eliminated the impossible, what carnivorous beastie remains that might decided to take out a barely-alive math tutor on the banks of the Rychenbach?

Otters.

After a decade of comparing Benedict Cumberbatch, such a perfect visualization of Sherlock Holmes for reasons we couldn't quite understand, to otters . . . well, the truth becomes apparent. It was an otter that surely finished Moriarty and put that image into our collective consciousness. Sure, they're smaller than bears or wolves, but after that fall, it didn't take much. And there was plenty fishy about Moriarty.

We'd like to forget about Profesor Moriarty after he went over that cliff's edge. Sherlock Holmes sure seemed to -- unless the hiatus was Holmes actually taking the time to make sure. But nature was not about to forget about the criminal mastermind, at least not for a little while . . . .


Wednesday, April 28, 2021

A John Watson by any other name would . . . be quite different, really!

 Ah, John H. Watson. So many John Watsons out there, and so many Dr. Watsons, as any Google news search will let you know very quickly if you're searching for Watson news. John Watson comes in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and characters, and even Sherlockians are a lot more accepting of variations in their Watsons than their Sherlock Holmeses.

His name has a sort of "John Smith" common touch that helps make him the everyman who is easy to identify with as he narrates his surprise at the twists and turns of life with Sherlock Holmes. But have you ever stopped to wonder how different Watson would have been had Conan Doyle kept his original vision of the character and named him "Ormond Sacker."

Ormond Sacker is no John Watson.

Ormond Sacker is a weird little guy. He even sounds a bit rat-faced, and maybe more street-wise than John Watson. His Cockney girlfriend probably calls him "Ormy," and you don't grow up a "Sacker" without punching more than your share of folks.

While a name does not define us, names do influence who we become in subtle ways. If we could name one baby Ormond Sacker and on John Watson, and have them raised by identical parents, I'm betting they're going to be very different men once they grow to adulthood. The Victorian era was full of notable Watsons contributing to society, but has there ever been a famous Sacker?

Ormond Sacker might even be the most famous one, which is weird for a fictional character who doesn't appear in a single story. (Well, didn't appear . . . I'm sure Sherlock Holmes fans have fixed that at some point.) Unless "Orville Sacker" is more famous, thanks to The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes's Smarter Brother.

The word "sacker" means one who pillages, loots, and plunders, unless you're talking about American football or an HR firing specialist. "Ormond" hails back to an ancient Irish kingdom, a London children's hospital, or James Ormond an English/Irish/Scottish sea captain who worked for Spain to bring Franciscan settlers to Northern Florida. Ormond castles in both Scotland and Ireland are owned by families other than Ormonds. So "Ormond Sacker," literally sounds like one of the guys that came and took castles and kingdoms away from the original Ormond clan.

This guy isn't sitting around Baker Street, nursing a war wound. He either found a cunning way to avoid service altogether or was killed in Afghanistan for liking the fight a little too much. And if we start getting into what pairing him with a Sherrinford Holmes would look like . . . why hasn't anyone done a book of short stories about those two? What fun working out that alternate universe and how different its encounters with the familiar clients and villains would be!

Just by the names alone. And for the record, I'm not sure a Watson by any other name would smell as sweet. But I'll leave the debate on Watson's bathing habits to the experts. (Oh, you're out there, you little devils. You're not fooling anyone.)

Thursday, April 22, 2021

When Conan Doyle flip-flopped a classic tale to get a crap one

 Our local library discussion group met tonight to discuss the dreaded "Three Gables," and, as always, I came away from that discussion with a few fresh perspectives on an old familiar tale. But this time, one of those thoughts fairly shocked me as the mental tumblers clicked into place.

The thing about "The Adventure of the Three Gables" is that in 2021, you're blinded by the story's outright racism right off the bat. The minstrel show thug Steve Dixie and the other characters' reactions to him are so awful that he eclipses everything else in that story -- like the sexism. A lot of "punching down" is going on in this tale, and even Watson takes a hit. And those aren't the only problems.

Over the years, many a Sherlockian has commented on the tale's plot being similar to "Red-Headed League" or "Three-Garridebs," being basically about a ruse to get someone out of their house to steal something. (Sure, the wealthy antagonist offers to just buy the whole house first, but, hey, close enough.) With those comparisons in mind, and the story's other issues, though, I never stopped to realize the story that "Three Gables" actually resembles.

"There was never a woman to touch her," Sherlock Holmes said of Isadora Klein, which puts one in mind of Holmes's former thoughts on Irene Adler . . . and how Adler's place in his mind may have faded with time, if it was what Watson thought it was even at its peak.

Is Isadora Klein another Irene Adler? Nope!

Isadora Klein is the King of Bohemia.

She has an upcoming marriage to a person of stature. She has an ex-lover who has something she doesn't want her intended's family to see. And she hires some burglars to get that thing back.

"The Adventure of the Three Gables" is a reverse "A Scandal in Bohemia."

But Douglas Maberley, being a much weaker specimen than Irene Adler, dies of broken heart pneumonia, and leaves his mother to hire Sherlock Holmes. Imagine if Irene had come to Holmes first to help her figure out what the King of Bohemia wanted so badly that he was sending thugs after her -- suddenly you get "The Adventure of Briony Lodge" instead of "A Scandal in Bohemia."

And as much as Holmes thinks the King of Bohemia is a jerk, the detective doesn't ask him for the modern equivalent of half a million dollars just to make Irene and her husband feel better about being burgled. "Three Gables" doesn't just gender-flip "Scandal" without indulging in a bit of its discrimination along the way. And we don't come away from this one liking Sherlock Holmes as much as we do in the light-side version of this plot.

"The Adventure of the Three Gables" is soooo problematic, and casts a shadow over everyone involved. Conan Doyle's later life faculties got questioned a lot this evening. But I sure never expected that it was the evil twin of the tale that lead off the short stories we prize so much. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Trust issues with Sherlock

 Tonight, I realized that I have some real trust issues with Sherlock Holmes.

I decided that I would buy a Sherlock Holmes book of fairly recent vintage, based upon many good reviews and general good word of mouth from Sherlockian friends. Kind of a no-brainer, right?

But when I went to make the purchase, eschewing one-click speed of the online sale for the pace of picking up a book, walking to the counter, and paying for it, I felt something new.

Was I wasting my money? Was this just another book that would sit on a shelf with its Sherlockian kindred, only to be cast out when the next purge came? 

Those feelings did not abate when I got the book home and contemplated opening it up and reading the opening pages.

What if I didn't immediately didn't like it? What if I forced myself to keep reading until I could read no more, and then put it in the pile that knows it's going out with that next purge?

By the time I decided to sit down and blog out this situation, my anxiety was starting build to symptomatic levels. I know the pandemic and other worries of the past couple of years have put us all in a worn-thin state, but to work myself into this much internal drama over a simple Sherlock Holmes book? How much had I been abused by bad pastichery in years past? How many books had I dutifully slogged through once the knock-off honeymoon was over?

And there was a honeymoon in my early adult years, trust me on that. Sherlock Holmes War of the Worlds just might have been the start of my personal pastiche boom and not The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, even though I got to it soon enough after. Movie novelizations, Adrian's Exploits, Solar Pons . . . I plowed through it all. I even toughed it out through the horror of Sherlock Holmes in Dallas without just putting it out of my misery. But now?

The idea of a straight Sherlock Holmes mystery frightens me to death. Warlock Holmes, no problem. Omegaverse fic, no problem. Weird comic book about Irena Adler and Dejah Thoris? Well, that might have had some problems, but no anxiety.

Coming back to an actual Sherlock Holmes mystery that gets rave reviews is almost like heading to the bedroom for sex after a decade long-drought -- you have to wonder if everything still works like it once did, and if you haven't lost the ability to experience things like you once could. It's all enough to make one more than a little nervous.

So maybe I'll retreat to some nice, safe Sherlockian chronology for a while, then mix up a nice Watsonian caipirinha before sitting down to try my luck. 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

The unpleasant colonizer fanboy of the Canon

Watson gave us one obvious fanboy in the Canon: Dr. Barnicot of "Six Napoleons," who had much, much more than six Napoleons at his home and office, his house being especially full of "books, pictures, and relics of the French emperor." We relate to him a bit, perhaps, with our admiration of Sherlock Holmes. But there is another fanboy whom we pass over very quickly en route to treasures and exotic murder in The Sign of Four. And he's the worst sort.

I started thinking of Mr. Thaddeus Sholto after watching a YouTube video on movie director M. Night Shyamalan. Sholto probably would have claimed Shyamalan as his favorite director were Sholto alive today, because M. Night was born in Pondicherry, the very place Thaddeus's dad named his Norwood home after. Thaddeus did not live there himself, but what the younger Sholto did to his own home was the work of a total and complete fanboy.

Had Thaddeus Sholto ever actually been to India, as his father did?  Said father was apparently looting and pillaging the place in the almost stereotypically bad colonizer form. "He had prospered in India, and brought back with him a considerable sum of money, a large collection of valuable curiosities, and a staff of native servants." Old Major John Sholto was a real bastard, trying to make for his lifetime of evil by making a deathbed confession and telling his sons to give some of his stolen wealth to one young woman, speaking of his "cursed greed" like it was a demon who should take the blame for his selfishness.

Thaddeus Sholto is the worst sort of fanboy, which shouldn't be a big surprise, given his crap lineage.

Sholto's "third-rate" house is set up like an amusement park version of an Indian palace. He has a costumed servant to show people into his sitting room overstocked with tiger skins, paintings, and pottery from Asia. He is sure to smoke his hookah while he entertains his guests, and is sure to describe "the mild balsamic odor of the Eastern tobacco" before he does. 

Thirty years old, Thaddeus Sholto is very nervous and keeps repeating "Your servant, Miss Morstan," over and over. Women are apparently outside of his experience, to put it politely. Had his father not looted India so thoroughly, Thaddeus sure seems like he would be living in his dad's basement at Pondicherry Lodge. His descriptions of himself all demonstrate a self-involvement that is all about portraying above normal humans.

"You will excuse these precautions, but I am a man of somewhat retiring, and I might even say, refined, tastes, and there is nothing more unaesthetic than a policeman. I have a natural shrinking from all rough forms of materialism. I seldom come into contact with the rough crowd." If I were to assign that line to any modern character, it would have to be the comic book geek from The Simpsons, who could exactly say those words without breaking character in the least.

Thaddeus Sholto basically gets an entire chapter dedicated to him by Dr. Watson, who somehow found him a strange and fascinating character despite the fact that the doctor himself was so enamored of Mary Morstan in the moment that he was babbling insanely about ridiculous medical practices, much as he did earlier about a "double-barrelled tiger cub." 

Thaddeus Sholto might not be the murderer of The Sign of the Four, but he definitely is not the hero. In fact, I might actually like Jonathan Small as a person better than ol' Thaddeus. And Tonga? That little dancer/murderer basically moved to another planet, so he was either the bravest of the brave or just so in love with a wooden-legged man that he dared all. Either way, a better man than Thaddeus Sholto.

At the story's end we are so focused on Mary Morstan losing the treasure that we don't consider how Sholto just lost his family fortune as well, and will probably spend the rest of his days selling off his collectables to keep his servants and hold on to his "aesthetic" lifestyle as best he can. Without his smarter brother and the treasure behind him, his descent in life was probably assured.

And I don't feel too badly about that.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Stories that speak to us

 The thing that gets miss a lot in new Sherlock Holmes stories is that a story isn't just moving familiar characters around a familiar stage. It's about connecting with other people on a level that speaks to them in a way that they can relate to. A good story teller can tell you a story about something they don't even know about, simply because shared human experiences can be the same at their core, even if the paint job is different.

Case in point: I found this week's episode of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier to be about the Sherlockian experience. Yes, Marvel Comics superheroes, going through their trials and tribulations and super-battles, actually spoke to me of in a familiar sort of story of being a Sherlockian.

If you're not familiar with the Falcon or the Winter Soldier, having not watched the first two Captain America movies or what came after, here's the simple explanation: Both characters, one younger, one older, are guys who worked with a living legend who set the standard for all folk of their set that would come after. The new story being told in the series The Falcon and the Winter Soldier is about when that living legend is gone and those who come after him are left to carry on his legacy.

Oh, the powers-that-be try to conjure up their own version of that legacy, to define it and use it to their own ends, but that ultimately fails. And it's left to the show's two leads to figure out what the legacy they were handed means, and how they will move forward with it.

Sherlock Holmes fandom is definitely a fandom with a legacy. The Sherlockians of the first half of the last century were much like our hobby's Captain America. They inspired, they set traditions, they made people want to be like them. The thing about people who get looked up to as heroes, though, is that nobody can ever be the same people those were. We never got a "new Christopher Morley" or a "new Vincent Starrett," though we did see attempts. We saw the ACD estate designate a new "official" writer of Sherlock Holmes to carry on Doyle's original work, just as ACD's son had attempted with The Exploits of Sherlock Holmes. We've also see attempts to build preserve Sherlockian legacies in amber, with archives and histories.

But the legacy of a happening, an event, a movement, is a complicated thing, which is where I come back to The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. Sam Wilson, the Falcon, is a black man. A man whom a whole lot of people see as unable to carry on the legacy of Captain America due to his color. But despite being a disenfranchised American, he still knows that the basic ideals that Captain America stood for need to be carried forward as best he can. And as the story progresses, he decides to try, despite what society, history, and a whole lot of white folks, don't want to see him do.

But it is a different age. Legacies have to be carried on in different ways.

So instead of "black Captain America," let me use the words "female Christopher Morley."

Just like Sam Wilson decided to pick up Captain America's shield and do the needed job, despite what the government and those entrenched in the past would have wanted, I think there is more than one woman out there who has picked up Christopher Morley's legacy and brought Sherlockians together for light-hearted fun without any backing from our institutions, so worried about the past and not really thinking about what the original Sherlockians were actually doing.

After watching this week's The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, I really felt like I was seeing a familiar story play out, on many levels. Just one of those levels was Sherlockian, of course, but that's what a good story does -- makes us think, makes us see ourselves and our friends in a slightly different light, and maybe inspires us to do some good.

It was a good story. And as messed up as things seem right now, we need good stories to help us along, and I as glad to see a tale that echoed good things I've seen in our own hobby. And made me glad for those who have picked up the shield, so to speak.

Monday, April 12, 2021

The guy Sherlock Holmes caused to retire?

 I was finishing out an article on Dr. Watson's Paddington days tonight, when a find that's definitely worthy of another article popped up as I read through the 1937 An Encyclopaedia of London, edited by William Kent.


When you're writing on Watson, and the book that's nominally not about Sherlock Holmes mentions Sherlock Holmes, alarm bells go off. And when you find that there was a private detective who lived less than a mile from 221B Baker Street who retired to Brighton in 1884 at the tender age of 56, well, those alarm bells turn into bellowing foghorns.

"Paddington" Pollaky, known as "Ritter Von Pollaky, Kriminalsrath" on the Continent, was apparently a very popular private detective, even celebrated in song by Gilbert and Sullivan because he was just that well known. "His name was frequently in the Personal column of the first page of The Times." The guy was apparently doing quite well for himself. The 1937 article on Paddington where I first encountered him said he retired in 1884, but Wikipedia says he closed his Paddington office in 1882 and gave up private investigation forever.

Sure, he was only 56, but that is definitely an age where one feels one's self slowing down, especially if there is some bright young thing nearby operating at a much higher speed. (Am I speaking from experience here? Yes, I am.) And given the year was 1882, we all know who started doing business less than a mile away from Pollaky's office at number 13 Paddington Green just the year before: a very bright young thing named Sherlock Holmes.

Never had a man a better reason to take his life's savings and retire to the beach, I think. It would be fascinating to explore Pollaky's doings circa 1880 to see if he might have encountered, or even been approached by an aspiring student of detective. Or was Pollaky just the bar that Sherlock Holmes set to raise himself above?

But I've got too many other things cooking to follow that trail at the moment. If you decide to take it up, let me know what you find . . . or if some earlier enterprising Sherlockian has followed it already. Because it certainly seems a trail too good not to follow.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

The year 221B Con was in my basement, 2021

 There should be no doubt that 221B Con is one of my great Sherlockian event-loves, especially if you've ever read this blog in pre-pandemic springtime. From the never-before-seen throngs at the very first one to the . . . well, every little thing at our last time in Atlanta. After losing last year's incarnation to 2020, the monster year that took Godzilla sized bites out of every part of our lives, with 2021 not quite reliable in April . . . well, there was really only one route to go for this year's con.

It's been a year of Sherlockian Zoom meetings and symposiums. Nothing new there. And they were. . . . okay. Some nice side benefits of extending our reach, meeting new people, but as this weekend approached and my attention turned to a Zoom version of 221B Con? Well, I'll be honest, I started getting worried and a little depressed. I really didn't want this to be just another Zoom.

Without the reserved time of vacation days and a trip to Atlanta, my Friday workday wound up running later than the opening panel, and at the evening was mostly breakout rooms. And my past experience with breakout rooms, combined with all that comes from being a natural introvert (even after years of practicing pretending I'm not), I eventually wrote Friday night off. Taking vacation days, being present in the hotel where it's happening, well, you can't help but venture out, perhaps see the right person in the hotel bar, and get the social-brain going. Being at home, with all the normal routines? Not helpful.

Side note: Also just happened to be the week of the hundredth episode of the Watsonian Weekly podcast, which added another layer of duty and distraction. I should be editing that right now.

But Saturday came, all obstacles cleared, and I clicked on the Zoom link.

And there were Taylor and Crystal. Some other folks, too, just hanging out in the lobby, but those were the first two, quick to say "Hi!" and start talking about who had said what the night before and that my favorite movie came up, and . . . well, suddenly my weekend changed. Crystal explained navigating between the rooms of the Zoom, which somehow became easier than any other major Zoom event I had been to. And I went over to the "Imposter Syndrome" panel, one of the con staples. And things started to actually feel a little like 221B Con and not like a Zoom, just a little, but it was getting there.

I am a huge fan of 221B Con's five-track system, a veritable buffet of programming with something tasty every hour, usually so enticing that you sometimes can't take an hour off for actual food. And in a first attempt at a Zoom con, the 221Bee-keepers provided plenty of rooms but kept a single content thread, almost a sampler version of the con with less non-Sherlock-Holmes side dishes. A wise choice, I think, and hopefully we'll be back to a five-track live situation next year, but if we're not, I wouldn't mind seeing more tracks in not just this event's Zooms. If the rooms are available, why not use them?

But I do understand, not everyone is as wandering-brained as I. 

The panels, the return of past guests David Nellist and Ben Syder, the flash-fic writing, the watchalong of "Sherlock Holmes and Dinosaurs" . . . I could go on about the content, but when all was said and done, the content wasn't the most important part of 221B Con.

It was the Bees.

Folks have talked about the Sherlockian community and its wonderful welcoming nature for decades. Outside of a few assholes and bad policy choices, it's a warm and wonderful place. But something about the community-for-a-weekend that a single-hotel con builds in hard to match. And when one considers that same community-for-a-weekend has been built over and over for nearly a decade? Like living in any small town, you may not know all the names, but you know the faces, you know the personalities.  I don't know when we started calling the population of 221B Con "Bees," but the name has stuck.

The Bees were wonderful Zoomers. Yeah, somebody always slips up on muting their microphone, but for the most part, everybody was lovely. We weren't sitting in rooms at a hotel, but once someone mentioned that you could move the Zoom boxes to line up the panel people on top, well, that worked pretty much the same. And with a whole weekend, we didn't have to spend that mandatory first fifteen minutes of every gathering talking about vaccines, or whatever else the current state of Covid world was.

I really should have taken a couple days off on either side and just cleared everything out. Set aside a 221B Con room in the house and just immersed myself in it completely, and learned Discord and Gather. Because even though it wasn't the actual big wonderful live-and-in-person event? The spirit was there. I would never have believed that the magic would be quite the same. The Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend, back in January, while better than nothing, hadn't had quite the same feel as a trip to NYC. But 221B Con? It may not have been the full dose, but it sure as hell was a booster shot of the real deal.

When I say that 221B Con is one of my event true loves, a place and a people that have been an important part of my life, it's not just a pose. It's deeply heartfelt, as in, yes, something I actually feel in my chest, and has been since that first year blew my mind by going beyond any Sherlockian event that I had ever known. And next year is the tenth anniversary. 

However it winds up being held, it's going to be a helluva of a time. Because if 221B Con could work its magic over Zoom? Oh, hells yeah, getting back to Atlanta is gonna be a time.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Make-do Sherlocks: The January Man

 The year was 1989. Sherlock Holmes was history's greatest detective. History's.

In 2021, the idea of a modern day Sherlock Holmes is no surprise. Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonny Lee Miller, we know what how a Sherlock Holmes existing in the modern day world. 

Back in 1989? Very few people believed Sherlock Holmes would work in the modern day. "Soldiers don't carry handkerchieves in their sleeves any more," they would say. "You don't get mud spatters from riding in hansom cabs." Sherlock Holmes was too tied to the Victorian era. And why not? Jeremy Brett was riding high on Canonical adaptations back then.

Despite Rathbone's W.W.II modern Sherlock, then long past, was so black-and-white old movie Sherlock that he might as well have been Victorian. So what were we getting instead of a modern Sherlock Holmes?

Nick Starkey in a movie called The January Man.

Not a regular cop? Check.

Brother in the government? Check.

A Watson whose main thing is a creative skill? Check.

In 1989, Kevin Kline's detective felt as much like a modern reincarnation of Sherlock Holmes as we were going to get. Only this time, he seemed to have a certain emotional intelligence as well as logical intelligence. Alan Rickman has been proposed as a capable Sherlock Holmes many times, but in The January Man, his Watson is a very unique, yet perfect match for his Bohemian Sherlock.

"We don't need Sherlock Holmes after all," his brother states at a turning point in the movie, identifying that Nick Starkey is their Sherlock Holmes in this tale. The official force thinks they've solved it, as they always do. The villain is almost working a crime spree with a pattern that 1966 Batman would have loved. And this is far from a perfect movie.

A serial movie with a comedic climax? A modern day Sherlock who fistfights a blackface serial killer down every staircase in an apartment building. Critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the worst movies of all time." But, y'know, it has its charm. The cast is full of fabulous people. And it's best watched on Hulu or somewhere else that doesn't edit out the adult parts.

But in 1989, The January Man was as close as we got to a modern day Sherlock Holmes.

Because it was going to be nine more years until Zero Effect came out. And that's another story.



Friday, April 2, 2021

The Irregulars -- Where can it go from here?

 Has it only been a week since Netflix's The Irregulars came out?

Ah, but the time does fly of late. For those of us that made it through already, the question is now, "Where could it go from here?" I was discussing this last Sunday with a savvy Holmesian who pointed to the British television model where a series told a story and often just left it at that, where in America we are very used to our shows flogging a concept until it's an unwatchable pulp of the original.

The Irregulars had a very definite story to tell, and there's going to be spoilers in the next part, so step out of the blog post if you need to.

Tick . . . tick . . . tick . . .

Okay, so with Sherlock Holmes out of the picture now, with the rift between the living and the dead sealed, and all the monsters caused by it gone, what is left to know, what story left to tell?

Well, for starters, the Bea and Watson detective partnership has just truly begun. What do they investigate?

Remember how the Linen Man mentioned he had a son? Yeah, killing his father might not set well with that ipsissimus. And you know how much trouble an ipsissimus can be.

And, yes, it seems like Leo has given up Bea to go marry another royal, but guess what? We still don't know who Bea's father is. Maybe we're going to learn that she qualifies as "another royal" in some way that might keep Leo in the picture . . . as well as add plot elements to whatever supernatural thing that royal family is into.

That said, there's more to each of these characters to lend itself to a new story, but finding that story, well, finding the story in anything is what separates the truly talented from the rest of us. There have been successful sequels. Do the storytellers behind The Irregulars have that talent? I hope so.

And a second season of The Irregulars is, curiously, the only place I'd rather not see Sherlock Holmes. If he pokes his head back out of a rift, there had better be one excellent reason.

In any case, it was good to see The Irregulars in the "Top 10 in the U.S." Today on Netflix. It didn't hit that last week, because it probably wasn't promoted enough. Hitting that rank this weekend, however, shows that the word of mouth on the show is good enough to have an effect, however much certain folks in certain Sherlockian circles have complained. (And a few of them sure are out racists.)

Sequels are always risky, but I'd like to see a little more of Spike and Jessie, Bea and Watson, and even Leo and Billy. (Those aren't all ships, but you can make your own call.) Just not Sherlock Holmes, this time. Unless it's yet another new Netflix show. In that case, go for it!

Saturday, March 27, 2021

SPOILER POST -- The Irregulars on Netflix

" I may not be the hero of the story any more, John. But I can at least help."

-- Sherlock Holmes, Netflix's The Irregulars

"I'm here. I'm not going anywhere."

-- John Watson, Netflix's The Irregulars


Okay, let's get down to business. Don't read this unless you've already watched all of The Irregulars on Netflix, or are silly enough to decide you're just not going to. While it might seem like a tale of five teenagers, supernatural shit, and a topcoat of Sherlock Holmes brushed over it, there's a lot of deeper stuff here, and stuff that hits at the core of Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson.

So stop right here, because I'm immediately getting into it.

I loved the story that The Irregulars had to tell, and I loved it as a Sherlockian most of all.

The Irregulars is a tale of people broken by love and loss. John Watson's love and loss.

This Watson has no interest in any Mary Morstans. He loves Sherlock Holmes, completely.

So when Sherlock falls in love with a woman named Alice (which is straight out of William Gillette's play, an excellent touch) and the three of them face a crisis where John must help Sherlock save Alice, but is too focused on saving his own love to do the job, everyone loses.

Sherlock loses his love. As he disappears into his broken, drugged state, John loses Sherlock. Sherlock's daughter and step-daughter lose any chance at traditional home and family. The hill that The Irregulars climbs is dealing with every part of those losses, while dealing with the villains created by and taking advantage of that situation, a situation entirely created by John H. Watson.

Even though, as always, Watson isn't the focal point of this story, he is the spark that ignites the fire of the plot, and, in the end, literally the steady hand that says, "You aren't alone against this."

It's a John Watson story that way. The Irregulars, formed in the ashes of a failed previous team of Irregulars, are about a group of people supporting each other and holding life together in ways they could not alone. Yes, the story has monsters and magic, but that's just the set-dressing for that heart-felt core of the story this show tells. Anyone who says "This isn't a Sherlock Holmes story!" has never thought long and hard about the subtitle of Christopher Morley's 1944 Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship. Yes, Sherlock Holmes is the flashy attention-getting part of the team, but is Watson and the friendship he brings that creates the Sherlockian Canon itself.

And by putting that relationship at the core of its story, The Irregulars becomes a Sherlock Holmes story more true than many a cold pastiche of observation and deduction. Somebody thought about this for a while, and it shows.

I don't know if The Irregulars will be popular enough for a sequel, or what that story would be. It certainly won't have Sherlock Holmes in it. But John H. Watson finding a new friend, a next generation Sherlock (or Sherlocks) to commit to, seems to give his character a place to grow in a second season. Like many a current series that tells its story in one arc, there's always the question of where the characters go when the story they were originally built to exist in is done. Do they have other stories to tell?

The Irregulars just might. John Watson definitely does, as ever.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Mandatory blog post on Netflix's "The Irregulars"

 Bea, Jessie, Billy, Spike, and Leo . . . the new Irregulars.

No Wiggins, Cartwright, Simpson, no last names at all. And they were all a lot younger and cartoonier in the Dark Horse comic upon which it is based. 

Beatrice is the lead Irregular, the detective, the main character, if there is one, hired by an arsehole of a John Watson, to use Paul Thomas Miller's perfect word for him, to investigate supernatural crime. Billy and Leo are the romantic interests for Bea, the brawn and the knowledge. Jessie sees visions.

As much Stranger Things, X-Files, and Lovecraft Country as Sherlockian Canon. The closest predecessor is probably the Downey Sherlock Holmes, if it actually turned out that Lord Blackwood was supernatural. Except this isn't a Sherlock Holmes story at all. This is the story of Bea and her friends. Sherlock Holmes is just another mystery to chase, with Watson blocking their path.

As I made my way through it, and saw darker versions of all our usual Canonical friends appearing one by one, it started to see like a "Mirror, Mirror" universe to that of Sherlock Holmes, to use the classic Star Trek trope. And indeed it is. Where Sherlock Holmes's world is one of science and logic, the universe of these Irregulars is one of magic and monsters . . . a reversed image.

First names instead of last names. Magic instead of science. Watson more dominant than Holmes. 

Yes, these Irregulars are not anything close to Holmes's Baker Street urchins. But there's something worthwhile here. And some new things to explore about the old and familiar.

Oh, wait . . . there are unseen Cartwrights here, working for Mrs. Hudson. And an Alice that I think may have come with Hatty Doran from San Francisco. At least that's the way my headcanon is starting to weave it.

Of course, I'm only halfway through . . . .


Thursday, March 25, 2021

A pre-show guide to dealing with "Irregulars" haters

 As one of the world's biggest Holmes and Watson fans and a person who quietly is still on the other side of the Elementary fence, it seemed appropriate, on the eve of Netflix's The Irregulars, to ponder what's about to come from the haters in our ranks. You know they're out there. We've already heard pre-judgement from numerous opinionated sorts on the Zoom calls. So what does a Sherlockian do with such folk?

The easiest to ignore of the haters is the "I'm proud to say I've never watched a minute of it" hater. It's the sort of statement that practically has no natural response. "Good for you!" seems like a sort of bad faith pandering. "How do you . . . " -- well, that statement isn't even worth finishing. It's just a very confusing statement. 

How anyone in Sherlockiana can go "I neither see nor observe but can solve the case anyway" sort of statement is beyond me, so we just ignore those haters as irrelevant and move on.

Next we come to the hater who uses the "It's not Canon!" line. But even the [Cue heavenly choir] Granada Holmes had revisions like John Clay being a part of Moriarty's scheme's during its most faithful moment, and as sad as Jeremy Brett's later illness what, Mycroft Holmes with x-ray vision was still a part of that series. The Canon is a book. If it's not the book, it's not Canon. Let's move on to specifics.

Those who hate the supernatural tone? Hmmm. The Hound of the Baskervilles. Supernatural scares are Canon, even if their solutions might have been more mundane. Sherlock Holmes stories can be scary.

Sherlock Holmes doesn't look right. Sherlock Holmes doesn't talk right. Sherlock Holmes is Will Ferrell. Y'know, casting is something we can quibble on. But you can't hate a whole production for one actor in one role . . . unless your fandom's name has that one role specifically identified. "Sherlock"ians do have a certain leeway to be picky about Sherlocks. Although at this point, I would hope we've learned that everybody gets their own Sherlocks, and you just leave them alone about it. You don't constantly tell your pals, "YOUR SPOUSE IS UGLY. I WOULD NEVER HAVE MARRIED THAT SPOUSE!" No, we must allow for our own Sherlocks, just as we allow for any other personal choice of relationship.

Yet there will be haters, some just because they want their existence acknowledged, some of actual ill intent. But the best way to deal with haters? Don't defend. Praise.

Praise hard.

During my days as an Elementary hater, one of the things that seemed to justify my hate the most was the fact that the initial fans could not tell me what reason they had for liking the show. I had a thousand reasons for hating it, but it seemed like I would rarely get praise of the show in rebuttal. There was the simple "But I like it!" response, which wasn't something one could argue with, but didn't help the pro-Elementary cause. And then there was the "But Sherlock isn't that great!" which the drag-the-other-fellow-into-the-mud rather than just being better approach that politicians have loved of late. Neither of those will put a hater off their game, trust me on this.

If you really like something, the best game to play with haters is to ponder why you like it and double down on those facts. Because they are facts. Reverse the positions of the previous paragraph and let the haters go "But I don't like it!" while you just gush joy back at them. Offense has always been the best defense. And a joyful, laughing offense doesn't just defend, it invites.

I have been living happily as a fan of Holmes and Watson for years now, embracing its every flaw, double-loving its every perfect move. And while I haven't won over too many of the staunch haters, it does bring one's fellow fans out from their Munchkinland homes just the same as if you dropped a house on a bad witch and had the good witch call "All clear."

So I wanted to put this essay out there, just to prepare everyone, in case I watch The Irregulars on Netflix tomorrow and turn into a were-hater once more, without having properly chained myself in the basement. I don't think I will, but you just never know, do you? Never been a big fan of heavily druggie Holmes, but being more heavily Watsonian than in past debuts, I'm hoping to counter that bias with a good, action Watson.

As the song says, "It's only a day awaaaaayyyyy . . ."

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Sherlock Holmes, the mantra

 Sherlock Holmes is a gift the universe has given us, I think every Sherlockian knows that. Conan Doyle gets the lion's share of the official credit, but so many of us have come to Sherlock through the efforts of other creators over the years, though, that I have to spread the appreciation out. No matter what you think of an individual Sherlock Holmes pastiche or film, somewhere out there was a person whose Sherlockian switch got flipped by that Holmes. While I publicly credit Billy Wilder for starting my Holmes journey, there was a Manly Wade Wellman turning point that may have been critical to that trip, and, hoo boy, let's not get into that pastiche.

But there is much more to the gift that is Sherlock Holmes than just a guy in a deerstalker running around with Watson. Sherlock Holmes brings so many other things to our lives when he walks in. For some, it's discovering a love of history. For others, it's a motivation to do more art. For me, it's the writing.

At this point, it seems like I'm writing every day. It may not be as visible as if I was blog-posting every day, as it gets scattered out among podcast script, newsletter bits, the occasional article, and always . . . always . . . those books that may or may not ever reach fruition and readers. And the current running underneath all of it, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, giving me something to write about.

Writing isn't something you really see as a thing -- you see the results of the writing. The process itself is something that happens privately. I've never been the sort of writer than gathers in a coffee shop or library for a group writing event like Nanowrimo encourages, with rare exceptions, like a late night 221B Con fic workshop. Writing has become more like a meditation for me, putting the thoughts in order, a practice that has worth even without eventual readers. And I owe that practice to Sherlock Holmes.

At the meeting of the Sherlockians of Baltimore last Saturday, Monica Schmidt spoke on mindfulness and learning to focus amid the chaos and attention-pulling distractions of life, and how Sherlock Holmes was a practitioner of same. And you can find some really good quotes in the Canon about focus. One of my favorites has always been "It is a singular thing, but I find that a concentrated atmosphere helps a concentration of thought" from The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sherlock liked filling a room with smoke, and when I was writing The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes I tested out filling a room with light to see if that had a similar effect. (Hard to say if it really did, or I just went along with the thought and made it work.) But Sherlock himself helps us focus, just by being Sherlock.

Sherlock Holmes is almost like a mantra in human form. Instead of a word or sound used to aid concentration for meditation or focus, he gives us a mental target to pull our thoughts and abilities to a certain headspace. Vincent Starrett romantically referred to it as the place "where it is always 1895," but in truth, that Sherlock Holmes space isn't a point in history or an alternate universe. It's a mental state we come back to in ourselves, using our own tools and tastes, whether it is writing or watching actors do their thing or socializing with fellow Sherlockians. "Sherlock Holmes" is the password that takes us through the door into that particular mindscape.

The universe, working through Conan Doyle, Jeremy Brett, or even Manly Wade Wellman, gave us a gift in Sherlock Holmes, and sometimes I suspect it's a larger gift than I can even fully realize.

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Do we need a director's non-cut?

 There's a particular movie with a particular fan base that gets its "director's cut" remake re-release today. Left to his own devices, said director made the thing a crazy four hours long. Same story, just two hours longer, a bit similar to when an author like King or Rowling becomes so successful that no editor or publisher dares tell them to trim a golden word of what becomes a massive tome.

Which brings us to Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, released in 1970. Originally a three hour and twenty minutes film, the studio insisted Wilder trim it to two hours and five minutes. Which brings up the classic "How dare the studio interfere in an artist's vision!"

Private Life is, perhaps, my favorite Sherlock Holmes film, even though Holmes and Watson has made that question debatable in recent years. The quest to see as much of that missing hour and fifteen minutes as possible had me buying a laser disc without a laser disc player back in the day, and getting a friend to video tape the disc's output. And I really enjoy those cut scenes, they're complete little stories in themselves. But as much as I enjoy the movie and the scenes, do I think they would have made it a more viable product when released to movie theaters?

Even a fan has to be realistic at some point.

I love seeing movies in the theater, and pre-pandemic went to at least one per weekend, often more. But a three hour and twenty minute theatrical experience sets a bar for movie quality that very few ever reach. While The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes at that full length might be a treat for Sherlock Holmes fans, I'm pretty sure that burden would have been too much to bear for an average movie-goer, given the film's light tone, not-so-complex theme, and small basic cast. If I weren't a Holmes fan, I doubt I would have invested the time in it, if it came out in a theater at that length.

The landscape has changed now, with streaming services that allow us to stop a movie, take as much time as we need to do whatever in our lives (even go to work for a few days) and come back to start up where we left off. An extra long movie can become a mini-series by our choice, whatever the director's intent. Private Life has some natural break points that would have made it perfect for an extra-long streaming version. It was ahead of its time that way, and perhaps in 2020, during a pandemic, Holmes fans could have rallied an effort to get Billy Wilder to put it back together for HBO Max.

But such was not the case back in 1970. And maybe that's not the worst thing, as much as I love that film. Like a stopped clock that's right twice a day, studios do occasionally get it right.


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

The problem with Sherlockian debate

 We don't have much debate in Sherlockiana these days, and that's probably for the best.

Now, I don't mean disagreement, as Sherlockians do disagree, fight, etc. on occasion. But a spirited debate that leaves both parties uninjured and all entertained? Maybe I'm missing something, but it doesn't seem to happen much.

And I have a theory as to why we don't see much true debate in our circles these days: It's because Sherlock Holmes is a creature of both fact and fiction.

As someone whose debate skills were not acquired in a formal, rule-based debating society, but just from having siblings, my quiver contains a few arrows that a proper debater shouldn't have, and one of those is simply "just making things up" just to keep the argument going. Ah, siblings.

Yes, yes, that would make me a fine politician in today's environment, but it's not something one does in a place where one wants to keep friends if you're debating someone who passionately loves their facts. And that's what we have filling up our Sherlockian world, people who love facts and, as well, people who love making things up. It's what makes the classic grand game so grand, but it can also be a friction point that goes a little beyond the usual "I didn't like Elementary!" "Well, I thought Sherlock sucked!" exchange.

Back to my point, aside from those always-distracting TV Sherlocks, Sherlockiana is a fandom that started while the author was still alive, with some playful pop culture fun and a bit of nostalgia for an era people remembered from their youth, and eventually evolved into something with the words "literature" and "history" giving one the ability to take it very, very seriously in an academic setting. And academia likes its facts and footnoted sources.

Meanwhile, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are somewhere on the internet with alternate biologies making babies together. We're still making things up as we go, too. The best of Sherlockiana has always been that juncture of the two: Taking well-researched historical data and adding enough imagination to make it fun. That's the place where Sherlock Holmes actually lives, in the Victorian era and our imaginations.

Sherlockiana is actually about the harmonious existence of fact and fiction in the same space. Sure, we may focus on one some days more than others, but the two cannot really duke it out without spoiling the party. So is there even anything left to debate, anyway?

Well, the existence of the film Holmes and Watson has made all "best Sherlock" arguments moot. The silly old "Watson was a woman" thing is now "Yeah, so what?" And . . . well, Sherlockian chronology is still out there available for debate, but even among chronologists we've become very much "You do you, I'll do me." So I don't know if we have much left to debate.

If you find something, let me know. I'd love to get into a good spirited debate. But, I'll warn you ahead of time: I will definitely start making things up. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

It

 Late in 1893, Sherlock Holmes died and nothing happened.

There are legends, rumors, certainly. Young businessmen in black armbands. And a few facts with evidence to back them up. A writer named John Kendrick Bangs put Sherlock Holmes into the afterlife. A playwright named Charles Rodgers wrote a play.

On January 15, 2012, Sherlock Holmes died and things rolled out a little differently.

In 1893, there was only one story, one Sherlock Holmes. And he was dead.

In 2012, there were already multiple Sherlock Holmeses when the core Sherlock Holmes died. And the creators of all those other Sherlocks knew that the death of the 1893 Sherlock Holmes was a lie.

And more Sherlocks were created.

The difference between 1893 and 2012 tells us something about more than just Sherlock Holmes. Because Sherlock Holmes didn't change. Humanity did.

As much as we like to think our Sherlock is in a little box of Canon, living on, immortal and unchanged, nothing could be further from the truth. Even that Sherlock Holmes we first encountered, the one each of us loves best, does not stay the same in our own heads as we move through the years. Other Sherlocks, our own life experiences, it all shapes the edges of that Sherlock and paints his surfaces with new shades of color.

If you watch Sherlock Holmes closely enough, you can actually see humanity reflected and omens of what is to come. Remember when Johnlock didn't come about in a certain television show and the denial ran so deep? Lines up with a certain 2020 election, doesn't it? Sherlockians interacting with Sherlock practically become an indicator of trends in human behavior. 

Sherlock Holmes has become so much more than Sherlock Holmes.

We know that. Yet I don't know that we're even capable of seeing the entirety of what he is, especially from the inside of our Sherlockian bubble. We can see him better than those who stand at a distance, or are looking another direction. But we also like to think our bubble has edges to it . . . as one can see by my even calling it a "bubble." Sherlock Holmes is in the human world, running through its cultural veins, in parts of our culture where we don't even know it is.

In an age where much attention is given to pronouns, we don't often think of Sherlock Holmes as an "it," that most insulting of pronouns in its object-ness, but the larger thing that is Sherlock Holmes, not just the character from a book, not just the role on the screen, that larger thing is an it. A great big, Lovecraftian, unimaginable "it."

One doesn't like to think of our little fuzzy puppy of a Sherlock in that larger form, that "it" beyond all knowing. And maybe it's best if we don't. Glimpsing it every now and then is probably enough. We never want to look too hard in the mirror.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Your Holmesian Hug questions answered!

International "Hug A Holmesian" Day is tomorrow, Thursday, March 11th. Get ready!

 In a last minute attempt to be like blog-interviewer Rob Nunn, I ignored the six hour time difference between the US and the UK, and harassed a sleepy Paul Thomas Miller, the world's foremost expert on the holiday with some questions. He did his best to fight off sleep and answer, so here you have it, everything you ever wanted to know about International "Hug A Holmesian" Day if you only got to ask questions that I made up:

1. Has Hug A Homesian Day an official policy for masking, vaccinations, and other conditions for hugging during These Unprecedented Times?

This year the International Hug-A-Holmesian Day celebrations will mostly be taking place online. Fortunately, providing you have anti-virus installed, internet hugs are perfectly safe. Where Holmesians share a bubble, it may be possible for Real Life Hugs, but this is not to be encouraged. That's how trouble starts.

2. I note that it is "Hug a Holmesian" and not "Shag a Sherlockian." Does the old thought of "Holmesians" being British and "Sherlockians" being American affect who we should target our hugs at? And has the holiday committee identified a day for shagging Sherlockians?
There has never been an International Shag-a-Sherlockian Day. At one point March 12th was destined to become Shove-A-Sherlockian day, but had to be cancelled due to the frailness of typical Sherlockians.
The festival is very much an International affair. Americans (who, I understand, in many ways are just like real people) are encouraged to join in the fun, but to refrain from using the incorrect term "Sherlockian" for just one day.

3. What is the status of fans of Oliver Wendell Holmes or Katie Holmes on Hug A Holmesian Day? Hugs or no hugs?
To steal a motto from The Baker Street Babes "All Holmes are good Holmes." Apart, possibly, for Henry Howard Holmes.

4. Are bears allowed to participate in Hug A Holmesian Day?
I can't see a single good reason why not. I encourage all Holmesians to go hug a bear. From what I've seen of Paddington, Rupert and Winnie The Pooh, it should be fine.

5. Since the curse of the Baskervilles began with non-consensual hugs from Sir Hug-o, is there a danger that hounds from hell will visit those who practice non-consensual hugs on Hug A Holmesian Day?
As a general rule, it is perfectly fine to practice non-consensual hugging online, but it is not a very good idea in Real Life. Be sure to get Real Life consent from Holmesians and bears before Real Life hugging them.

6. Are Hall Pycroft half-night self-hugs acceptable on Hug A Holmesian Day, or does hugging end at sundown?
International Hug-A-Holmesian Day runs from midnight to midnight, local time. Any hugging of Holmesians on 12th March is rendered null and void.

7. Is there a particular food or beverage associated with Hug A Holmesian Day?
This varies by region, but I understand the French invented the ring doughnut specifically to be used to hug engineers' thumbs every March 11th.

8. What is the current record for the largest number of Holmesians hugged by a given individual on Hug A Holmesian Day?
The day is usually filled with such carnage and abandonment of reason that no official count has ever been made. However, one photograph found in London Library Archives clearly shows an orangutan in a deerstalker hugging four sailors at the same time.

9. Is there any hope of a Hug A Holmesian Day festival one day?
No. Or yes.

So there you go. "Hug A Holmesian" Day, a day of hope and dreams, and hopefully warm acceptance from 

Monday, March 8, 2021

Disputatious about his "dispute"

 When reading the Sherlock Holmes stories over and over and over again, one of the most remarkable things is the way one can see new things with each reading. Even after decades of trying to squeeze all the juice from this sixty-story fruit, it seems like I'm perpetually seeing something new. But is that due to changes in the words themselves or changes in me? I have to think it's the latter.

The latest instance of this occurred when "Cardboard Box" was the topic at the meeting of the Crew of the Barque Lone Star. The opening, with Holmes's mind-reading trick, came into focus and I looked at the words: "You are right,  Watson. It does seem a most preposterous way of settling a dispute."

And what was Sherlock Holmes referring to? The American Civil War. 

Yes, war is horrible. Yes, there are better ways to solve issues. But the American Civil War was fought over one issue at its core: The legal right to enslave human beings.

Suddenly Holmes's "a most preposterous way of settling a dispute" seemed far too flip, far too removed from the reality of what the subject he was using just to play a trick on his room-mate. I didn't really like Sherlock Holmes in that moment.

Those of us who weren't schooled in the culture of the Southern states also felt a bit gross over fellow Sherlockians who chose that moment to knee-jerk toss out the "No, it was the war of Northern aggression!" like that was a real ha-ha funny. It's getting very hard to take a joke that basically tries to deny historical abuse of a people.

As a person over sixty, I'm very aware of how hard it is to see something we've thought or done our entire lives as something that's no longer appropriate. Lord, the amount of unrealized misogyny built into my aged head at this point is amazing, as came out this weekend during a watch of "Coming 2 America" with the good Carter, who had a very different opinion of the movie than I did. It's so easy to just go "this is how it's always been, so why is there a problem?" "Why should I feel bad about this now?"

Younger Sherlockians discussing the Sherlock Holmes stories are always bringing up issues in the stories that slid by us in the 1970s and 1980s. Folks like Italians and South Americans take some pretty stereotypical insults in the stories, but at least they get to come and play. Asians, South Pacific folks, and anyone with skin beyond a certain shade barely get to be people in the stories, despite the one time a white guy warmly picks up his wife's daughter from another marriage.

The words of the Canon don't change. We change. 

Getting the results of one of those DNA ancestry tests back this weekend showed me that I am pre-disposed to love the Sherlock Holmes stories on a genetic level. England, Scotland, the Netherlands . . . so much Northern European there that the people of the Canon might as well be my relatives. I might have certain biases for letting Watson's little slights of those born elsewhere off the hook. But it's 2021 now, and just like we now find it a little incomprehensible that America's primary Sherlock fan club didn't admit women to its meetings just a little over thirty years ago, our attitudes towards some other bits and pieces of the hobby change as well.

Growth is a good thing. And we are still a growing hobby, even now.


Saturday, March 6, 2021

The spot where Sherlock Holmes stood

I have a little puzzle for my Sherlockian site experts out there.

When visiting downtown Indianapolis on a trip long past, the good Carter and I had the chance to go to Monument Circle and climb the towering Soldiers and Sailors Monument there. Inside that aged edifice's little observation deck at the top, the small space once visited by Arthur Conan Doyle makes one realize a rather significant thing: At some point, you have to be standing where Doyle himself once stood. It's too small a space to miss doing so, if you move around at all.

That experience made me wonder something more elusive. With all the Sherlockian sites that we know exist, and we know Holmes was at during a given case, Simpson's, Bart's, etc., is there any place in London or elsewhere that you can go to and know, yes, this is a spot where Sherlock Holmes himself once stood!

Cumberbatch's Holmes, yes, you can do that. Other TV and cinema Holmeses as well, I'm sure. But the Canonical original? Is there a place we can definitely say he stood?

As I write this, my mind left England and has started to wonder about that precipice at Reichenbach Falls. Is that the best option? It surely seems like his native land would hold at least one site, and you don't have to go all the way to the place Watson (and surely one or two Moriarty brothers) thought was the scene of a great tragedy. And London would seem to have to hold some such space.

Perhaps the best candidate for a spot Holmes occupied would be the door to a building or room. While be could be or not be anywhere in a decently sized room, everyone has to pass through the same doors. What a great photo collection that would be, too! Doors Sherlock Holmes passed though, with you yourself standing in each one. We really don't give doors the credit they deserve, do we, just taking them for granted.

Doorlock Holmes is a character in some Lego thing, I see, after searching for Daffy Duck's incarnation, which was spelled "Dorlock" in "Deduce You Say." But "Doorlock" would also make the nice name for the practice of taking pictures of doors Sherlock went through, or studying same. (Oooo, he had to touch the knobs, too, didn't he?)

Any other ideas on places one can specifically say that Sherlock Holmes took up space? (And if you want to be the wag and say "He didn't because he was as fake as WWE wrestling!" well, I'm sure there are some very muscular sorts that would like to talk to you, as they do when such things are said.)

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Why is Sherlockian chronology so much fun?

Getting a major project over and done is always a relief, and the start of the next thing can be a lot of fun. But the choice of next thing for me this January was one of those aspects of Sherlockiana that has long haunted me, more of a feeling of obligation to finish something than just a choice for pure fun. Having purged myself of my 1980s demons with a book on the subject, it was time to deal with Sherlockian chronology, what seems on the surface like one of the more boring topics in the entire hobby.

"I find any chronology the stupidest sort of reading among the writings about The Writings," James Montgomery wrote in 1953, and I can't say I disagree with him entirely. Maybe not the stupidest, but the one that's the least fun to read. Sherlockian chronology is not a niche for those whose joy is reading alone. Not stupid in its content, perhaps, but stupid as a choice of reading material.

So why dive into it, assemble chronology Avengers into a Sherlockian Chronologist Guild, and start putting out a monthly PDF newsletter on the subject, which many, like Montgomery, might consider "the stupidest sort of reading?"

Because the fun in Sherlockian chronology isn't in the watching the sport, so much as getting down on the field and playing. You have to have a certain sort of mind, I suspect, one that likes to put things in order and obsess over small details. The serious Sherlockian chronologist is probably not your cocktail party gadabout, as they're probably going to go quiet into their own thoughts at a given moment and leave the conversation. (I'm guessing and stereotyping here, so don't take this as a hard-set opinion.)

But what is any part of Sherlockiana other than an entertainment to take us away from our day-to-day troubles? 

This week, I had a little bit of a tooth issue for a few days, and I noticed in that time, I was having some real fun working with the chronology of a couple of cases and all the thoughts on those cases from past chronologies. The chance to deep dive into such a simple part of the Canon, ignoring everything but the line of time itself, was the perfect thing. In an era that stimulates attention deficit at every opportunity, finding a focal point to anchor one's self for a time . . . well, that's a genuine treat.

Walking through the writings of John H. Watson with the slow deliberation that serves chronology best seems. to serve as an antidote to the hyperactive consumption of media that's so easy to fall into, multi-tasking with things like binge-watching a TV show while playing a video game and having a text conversation, all at the same time. And, personally, I find pleasure in that alterative, as Watson might call it.

Sherlockian chronology isn't fun like fun things are fun, if that makes any sense. But there is something joyful to be found there at the right moment. And I seem to be having that moment right now.


Tuesday, March 2, 2021

The mystery of Cadogan West

 It struck me like a bolt of lightning tonight that we have a very curious crime in our Sherlockian Canon, and a flash of insight zoomed into my brain. So listen.

Technical papers are stolen from the Woolwich Arsenal from a secret government project that will give the British Empire elemental superiority. We are told that it was all about a submarine, something that history tells us failed and failed again for the British Navy of that time. Of course, why would Mycroft Holmes, or that government that he was imbedded in the heart of, allow a detective story writer reveal such secrets just over a decade later? Wouldn't Watson just substitute some other mildly futuristic-seeming secret for the real deal?

And what if the submarine was that substitute secret?

And what if the true secret was something much more incredible, and the crime that took place an even higher level of incredible?

Cadogan West, it seems at first, was thrown from a train. "It could only have come from a train," the old railway man at the scene says. West's head is crushed as if by a horrible impact born of speed.

Cadogan West was a man keeping a secret from his fiancee, Violet Westbury. And on the night in question, she says, very specifically, "Suddenly he darted away into the fog."

He darted away. 

Now, I'm sure by now there are a few among the readership who are picking up traces of where I'm going with this. Secret researches and experiment. A man whose last name is West who speedily dashes away from his fiancee upon seeing something she doesn't. And a family line with connections and enemies who are known for traveling through time to change history by eliminated key turning points.

Yes, I'm going to say that Violet Westbury might have been pregnant at the time her fiancee died. And in keeping that matter socially acceptable, moving somewhere else as a widow named "Violet West" would have made perfect sense. Her child grew up, had a child of their own, and so onward . . . until we get to a young man named Wallace West.

Here's the point where anyone who is not into DC comic book continuity is apt to be leaving this essay. Thanks for letting me tease you along this far, have a nice rest of your web surfing. Because I'm about to say that Cadogan West was the ancestor of Kid Flash (later the Flash proper, successor to Barry Allen), and that the government resource that Mycroft was having Watson call "submarine" was actually the speed force, and that Cadogan West was the first Victorian speedster, killed, not by a spy, but by a speedster from the future named Zoom who hoped to end Wally West's bloodline right after it first picked up a connection to the speed force.

It fits all the patterns one sees time and again in Flash comics: A speed force connection being passed on from generation to generation. Villains who like to alter the timeline. And while traditional lore might try to say that Wally West just happened to get hit by the same random chemicals and lightning bolt as his eventual uncle Barry, after finding himself drawn to the Flash for years before, it makes more sense that the speed force was always in that West line, just waiting to be triggered again after Cadogan West being a part of that long-before government experiment.

Cadogan West being killed in a super-speed battle by a more experienced speedster from the future is a crime that Sherlock Holmes could never hope to solve -- or admit the truth of, if he did solve it. Spies would serve the story, as would the submarine, when Watson wrote it up, and the British government's experiments in hyper-acceleration of the human body would remain a secret, and a secret process destroyed by that same villain from the future as well.

There are a lot of histories out there, and one never knows which ones will rub up against the Sherlockian Canon so nicely. If it turns out a "Flash-y" one does, I think I'm okay with that.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Fans versus diversity

There's a thing about the follows I've chosen on Twitter and the way the site's algorithm feeds me tweets: Time after time I see a huge social media backlash to something I don't ever see, or can even identify the source of. This week, it all swirled around something someone somewhere wrote about the casting of Royce Pierreson in the new Netflix show The Irregulars, coming this month, as well as the Baker Street Irregulars themselves.

Apparently that someone somewhere prefers their Watsons, their Irregulars, and probably all of Victorian Britain as white and predominantly male. And they defend that stance with "it's historical," not factoring in that the history books were written for the most part, by white guys, and we live in an age where a lot of folks are just figuring that out. It to HBO's The Watchmen for a large share of America to learn of the horrific Tulsa race massacre, an event that should have been in every history book, so it's not surprising that folks of varying non-white skin tones are starting to slip into our Sherlockian fictions as well.

We've got a lot of catching up to do.

And in Sherlockiana, what might be the oldest fandom outside of those that became religions, we've definitely got catching up to do. Because fandoms might be the worst at accepting change, simply because of the basic premise of fandom itself.

I enjoyed this thing. I enjoyed it so much I want to repeat the experience. And I want to enjoy it as much as I did that first time. And for many fans, fandom becomes ritual: In order to enjoy that thing as much as I did then, it must be exactly as it was then. It's a very primitive, superstitious instinct that we apply to a lot of things: Pizza. Sports. Coffee. You name it, there's someone out there that it insists the only way to do it is the way they enjoyed it most. My old friend Bob had that mindset about eating chili, of all things.

Fans can be the biggest picky eaters in the world, metaphorically wanting chicken strips and french fries at every restaurant they go to. Ironically, fans can also be inspired by that thing they love to be the chef in the kitchen and try to mix new flavors and create new recipes for cooking their chicken and potatoes, discovering ways to eat them that they end up loving better than breaded chicken white meat and deep-fried bars of potato.

But nobody can dig their heels in deeper than a fan, fighting for something they love specifically the way they love it. Sherlockiana has had those issues since its early days, when the Baker Street Irregulars supposedly threw Rex Stout into the snow outside for merely suggesting that John Watson was female. And that act being played as the grandest jest for decades to come -- and said club wouldn't allow female fans to attend their meetings until the 1990s, so the misogyny pretty much fit their rituals of the Game.

But the bigger trend we've always seen in Sherlockiana has also always been "Sherlock Holmes is like me." Golfers wrote essays about Sherlock as a golfer. Members of any given religion would try to show that he was of a similar mindset. And those takes were accepted. So why can't we just open it up and let Sherlock Holmes be like everyone? Sherlock Holmes can be the black detective hero for a black Sherlockian. Sherlock Holmes can be a trans detective hero for a trans Sherlockian. Sherlock Holmes can be a fashionista detective hero to a fashionista Sherlockian. And none of those things hurt anyone's love of Jeremy Brett in Jeremy Brett's TV show.

Sherlock Holmes is . . . and I hate to say this, due to my own Sherlockian leanings . . . a fictional character. Holmes was many things, even in Conan Doyle's original writings, and Sherlock will be many, many more by the time the rest of the writers in the world are done with the character. Every new incarnation not only gives us a new way to look at Holmes, but also the chance to bring others in and see something of what we love in this special human.

I really love the fact that I've seen more reposts and agreement with @_TheAntiChris 's original post on the topic than I've seen anyone disagreeing with it. Sherlockiana is moving in the right direction. Some of us have just got to get over a few of the classic foibles of fandom first.

We'll always have chicken strips. Let people have coq au vin.

Friday, February 26, 2021

That height thing

 It's funny the things that tweak your Sherlock Holmes triggers.

Overly handsome Holmes? Never had a problem with it. Henry Cavill followed in Roger Moore's footsteps, who followed in . . . well, let's not debate handsome, as I know there are plenty of folk who find Brett or Cumberbatch so, even thought they're more character actor than traditional leading man in the superficial beauty department. (And I probably shouldn't even say that.)

Holmes of a different race or gender? No problem there, just get that personality right. Miss Sherlock was a marvelous proof of that.

But there's just this one thing . . . well, two things, but we'll get to the second soon enough.

Something about a Sherlock Holmes who is noticeably shorter than Watson just bugs me somehow. Robert Downey Jr. really stood out in that area. Sure, he looked like Tony Stark a little too much, but it was always the fact that he was shorter than Watson that just seemed odd to me.

Is it because Holmes's biographer looked up to him, as do we, which makes you think "tall" for some deep reasoning of the human brain? Or the Canonical "rather over six feet and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller" that Watson gives us so specifically?

I don't know, but when I saw the photo from the Netflix's The Irregulars, their Sherlock looked short and I went, sadly, "Oh . . ."

Looking up the actor on IMDB, however, I found that Henry Lloyd-Hughes was listed as six foot one, so not so short . . . except his Watson, Royce Pierreson is six foot three. He just has a tall Watson.

Hmm, tall Watsons . . . perhaps as we raise Watson in our esteem after escaping the Nigel Bruce years, he gets to be taller now. Seems fair.

For now, I won't get into my second trigger of an instinctive "not my Holmes," but it's nice to see that our next one fits Canon, even if that wasn't what I first thought.


Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Watson's favorite author

 John H. Watson doesn't tell us too much of himself in his chronicles of Sherlock Holmes. Favorite foods? No. Details of his marriage or possible offspring? No. What his club was? No.

But he does tell us of one stormy evening when he's enjoying a nautical novel by William Clark Russell, indicating that he's read more than one by calling it "one of Clark Russell's fine sea stories." Watson doesn't tell us about reading any other authors, but we know he likes Clark Russell and his tales of the sea.

Clark Russell himself was less than ten years older than Watson, the son of British composer. The author was born on Broadway in America and went to private school in England where he got to be friends with the son of Charles Dickens. But here's where it gets weird.

Looking for a life of adventure, as all boys imagine, Clark Russell joined the Merchant Navy at the tender age of thirteen. Thirteen. Headed for the worst summer camp ever, where Clark Russell stayed for the next eight years, his health, as Watson would later write about himself "irretrievably ruined." And like Watson, that health-ruining experience would set off his entire career as an author. Those eight years gave Russell the raw material for the rest of his life of writing.

He got married a few years later and started having kids, but it would be a good ten years after he left his service as a seaman before he would start writing sea stories. He worked as a journalist and an editor, writing novels for women under female pseudonyms, thinking stories of life at sea could not compete with writers like Herman Melville. 

Having gotten a good bit of writing experience and building up some steam before his second sea novel, The Wreck of the Grosvenor, became his breakout hit. (Russell's seems to have liked shipwrecks as the best way to get drama in his sea story plots.) The Wreck of the Grosvenor was initially published anonymously and was most popular in America, which was big on -- ironically -- pirating books back then.

My favorite Clark Russell novel, The Frozen Pirate, came soon after in 1877, and I favor it strongly as the book Watson was reading in "Five Orange Pips," especially considering that in some universes Watson's ancestors have to deal with frozen Sherlocks, including one that Watson helped put into that state. (Possibly getting the idea from The Frozen Pirate? Very well could be!)

Russell lived until his late sixties, but pushed out nearly a hundred books in his lifetime, so Watson naturally had to admire him not just for his novels, but for his productivity as an author, as well. And I'd be very curious about when their paths might have crossed -- something that might make a nice little pastiche. 

Maybe that's for Clark Russell's next birthday, though. For this one, his spirit just has to settle for a hearty "Happy Birthday!" from fans of his fan.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

And now, a rant about "mouse"

 Tonight, I hit a real crisis of Sherlockian faith.

Dressing gowns again. Earlier, you may recall, I worried that Sherlock Holmes was some sort of trophy-collecting serial killer because he had a gray dressing gown and the man he might have killed, Grimesby Roylott, had a gray dressing gown on when he was killed. But I was wrong.

Sherlock Holmes did not own a gray dressing gown.

He owned a mouse dressing gown.

An in looking into that color called "mouse," I discovered tonight that it is truly a pale taupe, a mix of brown and gray that often gets mixed up for one or the other of those colors.

But the BSI necktie is purple, blue, and gray. Bill Mason's monograph Deeper Shades: The Dressing Gowns of Sherlock Holmes and the Psychology of Color spends much time on the meaning of that dressing gown being gray. The rubber mouse that I have for no good reason is gray.

And now I find that the color in "mouse-coloured" is actually taupe?

TAUPE? Rhymes with "soap?" And "nope?" And, also . . . "dope?"

That's very close to the sombre grayish beige dress that Mary Morstan wore when Watson first was crushing on her. Did Watson buy Holmes this taupe monstrosity of a dressing gown because he was into taupe?

Light taupe is an awful color for a dressing gown, especially Sherlock Holmes's dressing gown, sure to show stains from whatever chemical experiment he was working on. (And don't tell me he was too tidy to spill -- remember his hands when Watson first saw them? "Discoloured with strong acids." If he's doing that to his hands, his clothes aren't getting special treatment.)

I liked gray. Gray was the color of Holmes's eyes and who doesn't want a dressing gown to match their eyes? And Watson could wear the purple dressing gown and they'd color-coordinate. Gray was fine. Gray was great. I liked gray.

A light taupe dressing gown. What a fool I have been.

The Sherlockian world as I knew it is upended. I just can't believe in anything any more.

Monday, February 15, 2021

Sherlock Holmes, serial killer?

 This evening I was doing some innocent chronology work when I stumbled upon glimpses of a nightmare. The passage that spawned said vision was written by Watson with these words:

"Beside this table, on a wooden chair, sat Dr. Grimesby Roylott clad in a long, grey dressing-gown, his bare ankle protruding beneath, and his feet thrust into red heelless Turkish slippers."

That's the corpse of Dr. Grimesby Roylott we're looking at in that sentence, a man who was alive shortly before, yet is now dead due to the actions of one Sherlock Holmes. Yes, yes, Holmes was just defending himself from a deadly snake, one might argue -- but wouldn't your instinct be to knock in from the bell-pull and kill the thing with whatever you have on hand? And with what controlled force would one have to lightly whip a snake on a rope just enough to convince it to slither backwards whence it came. Was it ever even on that bell pull? Watson doesn't see anything but Holmes going through the motions of beating at the air.

Now, it might seem rather a stretch to accuse Sherlock Holmes of purposefully murdering Grimesby Roylott with his own swamp adder. One wants a motive, and he has none. Without motive, Sherlock Holmes would have to be someone who just kills for pleasure, like a serial killer. And what else do serial killers like to do to remember the joy of a kill? They like to take trophies. And Sherlock Holmes didn't take any trophies, of course.

Well, of course not . . .

Except what color was that dressing gown we see more often than the others? Mouse was it? Some shade of gray, right?

And that tobacco holder of his, what was that again? A Persian slipper?

Yeah, for the lover of iconic Holmes possessions, that corpse of Grimesby Roylott is a lot creepier than most corpses when one considers the details. Normally we read "Speckled Band" so early in the Canon that we forget those two bits of Roylott's by the time we see them again. 

The main argument for Holmes's innocence is that John Watson would surely recognize those two things he'd seen on a corpse, leaving an impression strong enough for him to write about later . . . unless that was exactly the reason he did write about them later, to send a cry for help that Scotland Yard readers of The Strand would definitely not pick up on. T'would be a same if no one noticed it for over a hundred years.

Are any other pieces of Holmes's life things we also find at the murder scenes he went to "solve?" Or are the ones we see from moments that followed a story like "Five Orange Pips" or "Greek Interpreter," moments no one but Holmes and his victims got to see.

Suddenly, I have questions. Dark, dark questions.

A Mount Everest of pastiche

 There is more going on in the Sherlockian world today than ever before, and like Ferris Bueller said, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

As someone who lost enthusiasm for reading pastiches long ago, I don't stop to take notice of too many these days, as they seem to be flowing around us in an endless river. When a friend writes one, or an author I'm already fond of goes for it, I'll dip a paw into the river and swoop up a literary salmon, being an old bear about such things. But in general I don't stop and take notice of most of it.

But last night I was fishing around for Watson podcast news and starting looking over the MX Publishing website, at which point I realized that The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories is on its twenty-first volume. And I'm not even sure if some of those have multiple books in them. In any case, that is a whole lot of books, something you could start collecting at this point and take some time gathering them all up and finding a shelf or two to put them on.

One could get into all the writers MX has had in that series, or that they help Undershaw, but it's almost like the Grand Canyon at this point -- you first have to just stop staring at the sheer massive wonder of the thing. It's almost like it's out there just challenging you to read the whole thing, like climbing Mount Everest for a reader. I mean, once I challenged myself to read all of Three Patch Podcast's fic recs for a single episode, and while that was a bit of a climb, I didn't think I'd die before making it all the way through. Looking at a twenty-one volume set starts giving you those kind of thoughts.

While the BSI Press has many more books under its belt at this point, their Manuscript series is still in its teens. And with many a page taken up by manuscript reproductions, it makes for a collecting/reading challenge as well, but The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories is still a lot more daunting. 

For me, stumbling into the current state of the series was a little like seeing that little toddler nephew of a friend who grew to be a massive adult at some point when you weren't paying attention. One can't help but be taken aback, and taken aback so much that I stopped working on my Sunday night podcast and had to blog about it.

Congratulations to David Marcum and everyone at MX for pulling that off, and here's hoping it goes for many years to come.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Mycroft's plan

 I always enjoy listening to fresh thoughts on our friend Sherlock Holmes and his cases, and this morning's listen to the Highly Improbable podcast commenting on "Noble Bachelor" was very rewarding, especially on the point of a certain Sherlock Holmes quote. The podcast hosts calling it out for its oddity to a modern ear made me ponder it, and that pondering took me somewhere I don't think I had been before.

"I am one of those who believe that the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years will not prevent our children from being some day citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."

It's far too easy to focus on the flag imagery in that statement and overlook the rest. I've made one of those flags before. It's a fun little craft.

But let's get down to the meat of it: "world-wide country."

One Earth. One country. And a UK/US union ruling it all, apparently, given that choice of flag.

United Federation of Planets, this ain't.

There are some other curious parts to this statement as well: "I am one of those . . ."

It isn't just some idea Sherlock Holmes came up with. There are others thinking about this notion, apparently, which our history books don't tell us of. Where this all gets particularly interesting is when you combine Sherlock's statement with his later words about his brother Mycroft: "You are right in thinking that he is under the British government. You would also be right in a sense if you said that occasionally he is the British government."

Sherlock Holmes wasn't someone who cared much for politics. Watson listed his original thoughts on Holmes's political knowledge as "feeble." But he did grow up next to a man who was very interested in politics and how the government should work. So where do you think this idea of UK/US global domination might have come from?

"One of those," he says. Is he just taking some boyhood fantasy of his brother's and pretending it is more widespread than it actually was? Or is he actually talking about a quiet movement to encourage such a future?

Sherlock's quote also has "the folly of a monarch and the blundering of a minister in far-gone years" as the thing that will possibly prevent such a future, and we assume "far-gone" to mean the past. But "far gone" just does not mean the past. It also means "a bad and worsening state." What if he's speaking of the folly of having a monarch in the future, or the blundering of too much power in a future prime minister? Like either of those could cause problems for this global plan?

Mycroft Holmes remains largely a mystery to us, with ties to things in the Sherlockian Canon as subtle and unknown as Professor Moriarty's works. But I can't help but think he's definitely behind this particular statement of his brother Sherlock's in "The Noble Bachelor."

How great were Mycroft Holmes's secret ambitions? Did such ideas pass with youth, or were they quietly being worked at throughout his career? That mystery, as large as the man himself, remains.