Tuesday, December 27, 2022

Blue Carbuncle Day: What are the reasons for this season?

 Here we are, Blue Carbuncle Day 2022.

December 27 is not only one of those rare days that Sherlockian chronologists all agree on (though not the year, of course), but also the day we know that John H. Watson chose to celebrate the holiday season with his friend Sherlock Holmes. We don't dig deep into that fact, choosing to celebrate the events that follow, the commissionaire, the pub, the goose dealer, and 221B Baker Street. Should we dig deeper?

John H. Watson has no kith or kin in England. Mary Morstan Watson has no relatives in England. Both of these facts are plainly stated in Watson's writings. Sherlock Holmes is an important figure in the lives of both members of the couple, and there seems like there is no obvious reason for the trio not to celebrate the holiday together . . . well, no obvious reason. But let's consider some less obvious reasons.

Possibility One: Sherlock Holmes hated Christmas and made it plain in the years Watson was living with him.

Possibility Two: Sherlock Holmes was out of town and back home with his country squire relations and Mycroft on Christmas itself.

Possibility Three: Mary's health was suffering in some way that Watson could not leave her side.

Possibility Four: Watson was ill on Christmas, but nothing so bad he didn't feel better two days later.

Possibility Five: Holmes and Watson were having a bit of a riff in their relationship.

Possibility Six: Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson were never really that close in the 1880s.

Possibility Seven: Dr. Watson was very occupied with patients due to something going around that winter.

Possibility Eight: The Watsons had a new baby at the time and were very occupied

Possibility Nine: There were an entirely unrelated series of events that was, actually, a very funny story that Watson has in a tin dispatch box somewhere.

Are there more possibilities? Of course there are. But we will surely never know what they are. All we have is "I had called upon my friend Sherlock Holmes upon the second morning after Christmas, with the intention of wishing him the compliments of the season." But that's enough for us to celebrate Blue Carbuncle Day with our Sherlockian friends, or just by ourselves.

So happy Blue Carbuncle Day! And compliments of the season! 

Thursday, December 22, 2022

Keeping as warm as a carbuncle in a goose!

 It was negative four degrees outside in Peoria as the Sherlock Holmes Story Society gathered tonight. Due to some decent forethought on the good Carter's part, we got set up for a last minute Zoom gathering before the storm hit. Nine of our members, plus a special guest from our sister scion the Bovestrians of the Ragged Shaw -- Buncle the goose, avoided the snow and chill outside and settled in for some talk of that most classic of Christmas tales, "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle."

The conversation began with cubic capacity of skulls, wandering to cooking a goose and all the fat that has to cook off. (Carbuncle the goose was very offended by this.) The topic of geese having no crops came up, but I pointed out that it might have been a typo for "crap" as the stone made its way to the intestine of the goose.

The carbuncle being "smaller than a bean" came up -- what size of bean?  Given the popularity of baked beans, we decided that the blue carbuncle was much smaller than we usually imagine. (And a whole lot smaller than the carbuncles that Steve the goose was coughing up at 221B Con last April.) It's forty grain weight puts it at over twelve carats, which is definitely bigger than a bean.

The mystery of when the barred-tail goose actually died started to perplex us -- one expects Breckenridge delivered the Alpha Inn its goose club geese in a formerly alive condition. How did the goose meet its fate? A wringing of the neck? Did it put up a fight? Was there a Covent Garden goose massacre that night? There are matters here that do not make for pleasant close inspection.

Luckily we were distracted by a story of the blue carbuncle decorations on Baker Street this time of year.

The good Carter decided she wanted to sing the opening number from the Blue Carbuncle All-Caroling Musical that was performed at the last meeting of the John H. Watson Society. She did a good job, and we left it at that, song-wise, and continued with our discussion.

Commissionaires were discussed, and how Peterson returned the stone to Holmes even though the theft of the gem was big news in the papers. We did consider that if Peterson had taken it to the police instead of Holmes, the police might have been going, "So how did you get this stolen gem?" and a reply of "My wife found it in a goose's crop!" would lead to "Geese don't have crops!" and Peterson's arrest.

What was it about the cut of Breckenridge's whiskers that showed he was a betting man? We tend to focus on the Pink 'Un, but those whiskers seem to be key to Holmes's deduction as well. None of the annotateds have anything on those whiskers. It's a bit of a puzzler.

We wandered through the story, but eventually it came time to listen to Starrett's "221B" and be on our way. The arctic winds are literally howling outside, and I hope that all the furnaces in all the homes can keep up with the wind chill. But for a goodly hour or so, we got to wander London on a night that had to be warmer than this, to be sure.

Monday, December 19, 2022

Sympathy for the Ryder

 After tormenting the John H. Watson Society with my vocals on Saturday, I found there was a song I just couldn't get out of my head. Not your normal pop song, but a version of "Winter Wonderland" where James Ryder from "Blue Carbuncle" is singing for his life to Sherlock Holmes, which had lyrics adapted from his Canonical pleas, "He cries, 'Oh, my mother! Oh, my father! I will leave the country, please don't tell!"

The actual dialogue goes, "Think of my father! Of my mother! It would break their hears. I never went wrong before! I never will again. I'll swear it on a Bible. . . . I will fly, Mr. Holmes. I will leave the country, sir."

Nobody pleads for Holmes's mercy like James Ryder, who's family called him "Jem." 

It's easy to get James Ryder's exit from Baker Street mixed up with James Windibank, who also ran out the door. Holmes opened the door to the sitting room in both cases, but with Windibank, he also reached for his hunting crop after stating that Windibank needed a whipping. With Ryder, all it took was a simple "Get out!" repeated one time. Both were running away down Baker Street, but in Windibank's case, Holmes was certain more crime was in the man's future. With Ryder, the detective had the opposite reaction: "This fellow will no go wrong again."

So why did poor Jem Ryder go wrong this time?

He's working as an upper-attendant at the Hotel Cosmopolitan, a place whose clientele is probably regular moneyed folks. Temptations were probably there often enough. But Ryder is a younger man, his parents still holding a great influence in his life. Small, rat-faced, nervous -- this is not a fellow with great confidence or charm. And his voice cracks when he says one name: Catherine Cusack.

Jem never blames her. Never points a finger. But Holmes calls her out as "your confederate." He knows the real story.

We don't get the full Watson description of the Countess's maid, but to get that sort of position she had to have some bit of charm. I mean "Catherine Cusack?" We know very little of her, but I'm pretty sure if I was an underpaid upper-attendant at the Hotel Cosmopolitan and actress Joan Cusack smiled and suggested to me that swiping some countess's gem might not only make me rich and get me in her good graces . . . well, I'm not saying my moral fiber is surely up to that tensile strength.

Us non-alpha males are pretty suggestible when a pretty face turns out way, to be sure.

And poor Jem Ryder -- even if his plan had worked, his "friend" Maudsley, who was surely connected up to the Moriarty web at that time if he was up on fencing stolen goods, was probably not to be trusted. Had he simply taken the stone from Jem, Ryder wasn't the sort of man who could have gotten it back. And he probably would have been beaten or killed for trying.

Sherlock Holmes saw enough innocence in Jem Ryder to let him go free, one of the earliest instances we've seen of Sherlock Holmes risking his own reputation, freedom, or relations with the police to play judge and jury. And you know Sherlock Holmes -- he was a pretty keen observer of the human condition. None of us can say what Holmes's full reasoning for letting Ryder get away with his life-destroying mistake, but it might not have just been his observation of the man they have caught at Covent Garden.

We don't know just how (or if) Holmes returned the blue carbuncle to the Countess. Did he also tip her off that maybe her maid wasn't to be trusted? This was not all that long after his infamous line "Women are never to be entirely trusted -- not the best of them," but then that might have meant he also didn't think the Countess could be trusted with that little morsel of truth. And in his non-trust-of-women phase, Holmes might have seen Jem Ryder as a victim of a woman's scheme to get another woman's prize. 

"The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle" would be a fascinating case to hear from the point of view of the women in the tale. The Countess of Morcar, Catherine Cusack, Mrs. Baker, Mrs. Peterson, Mrs. Hudson, and Maggie Ryder-Oakshott. Three of them were primarily involved in preparing birds for dinner for three very different men under three very different sets of circumstances, but, still, the side-stories on this one would be a wonderful thing. 

For this year, though, I'm just going to have a little sympathy for that poor hotel attendant whose sister saved him a goose for Christmas that his mother probably cooked for him. Unlike Henry Baker, whose wife had apparently ceased to love him, Jem Ryder seems to have been still hoping to get a wife that would start to love him. Maybe his next Christmas? 

Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Twenty-three days until Sherlock Holmes's birthday party!

 It's not often we get to gather on Sherlock Holmes's birthday to wish the old fellow well, but in twenty three short days, his friends will be gathering in one major city and also on one major online meeting app to celebrate however the heck old he is. (Every time he met a young woman on the Sussex Downs, he seemed to knock some years off his age.)

If you aren't leaving the house, or are otherwise settle enough on Friday, January 6th, in a time zone compatible with North America, we've got our second annual Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian to light the candles on Sherlock's cake. (There has to be cake!)

So, what's in store? How do you register?

6:00 PM Eastern/5:00 PM Central -- Happy Hour, Welcomes, and Ice Breakers

7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central-- The Old-Timey Sherlockian Rememberin' Hour! Remember the '70s and '80s? This is the hour to tell your tales, if you can get your fellow oldsters to quit jabberin' about their own old-timey stories long enough to get yours in!

8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central -- The Official Annual Meeting of the Montague Street Incorrigibles! Sherlock Holmes's Birthday will be celebrated! New members will be inducted! (All you have to do is show up!) Toasts! Party games! Nonsense!

9:00 PM Eastern/8:00 PM Central -- Open Mike Spotlight Hour! Recitations, poetry, song, declamations, stand-up, commemorations, salutations, abbreviations, and anything else you care to hold forth on in three to five minutes.

10:00 PM Eastern/9:00 PM Central  -- The Sherlockian Underground Reports! Our spies risk it all to report things they might not be supposed to, and we're totally there for it!

Here's the registration link:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

All of the above is subject to change, but basically, there will be a five hour Zoom hangout for any Sherlockians without fancier things to do that night, and feel like dropping in for any given part of the thing. (Though if the program is going strong, you might be in the waiting room for a few minutes.) 

It's coming up quickly, but the only deadline for reserving a spot at this party is the actual time it happens! 

Sunday, December 11, 2022

Watson gets high on Radix Pedis Diaboli again!

 Yesterday's lively discussion of "The Adventure of the Devil's Foot" at the Parallel Case of St. Louis's irregular Zoom reminded me of a silly little novelette I did a few years back about Watson's full drug trip during his ingestion of certain vapors in that tale. In 2019, I had been playing with old paperback covers in Photoshop to make silly parody covers, and one hippy-dippy thing from the sixties wound up with the title Radix Pedis Diaboliday. My friend Paul Thomas Miller actually had a moment of belief that it was a real book, so when National Novel Writing Month came around, I decided to make his belief be a true thing. I had twenty-five copies of that book printed using 24 Hour Books, and sent him one as a surprise.

Some other friends got "Compliments of the Season" gifts of the book that year, and I only published it as a Kindle e-book to let the friends with print copies keep the rarity of their gift. Since it wasn't much promoted (and who really needs one more silly pastiche these days), not too many people knew of it anyway.

Well, the Parallel Case meeting not only reminded me, but made me think, "Well, it's been three years, I probably could put that out there for those who missed the first round." And, since Amazon makes publishing things fairly easy, I did. Here's the link:


But here's the thing. I was in such a rush, I based the new cover off of the original 25 print run cover art and not the Kindle cover art, which I like better. So I want to change it. And I'm going to. But not until January first at the earliest.

So for those of you that read these silly blogs, I'm giving you a head start. Not going to promote the thing (like I ever promote anything) until the cover change. But with the new year, the version being sold on Amazon will change at some point, making for a third print version of the same book. Will the second become a rare collectable, like the first? Well, probably not, unless I take to serial killing or find unlikely Hollywood stardom, but I just like fiddling with things and messing with obsessive collectors.

In any case, if you're really curious as to Watson's full drug trip during his spring 1897 vacation with Sherlock Holmes, the novelette is as cheap as a lot of comic books at $4.99. (Yeah, comic books are not cheap these days.)

Saturday, December 10, 2022

Notable Contemporary Sherlockians

Working in the fields of Sherlockian chronology, the good Bruce Harris brought up the subject of calendars this week, and it took me back to the 1980s again and Frank Hoffman's annual Sherlockian calendar, which he produced for a number of years.

The 1985 edition featured the birthdays of "Notable Contemporary Sherlockians" in addition to dates of the sixty Sherlock Holmes cases, picked from a few different chronologies with a few interesting un-sourceable choices. And the most obvious sign it was a different time when this was made?

Many a Sherlockian of that time's full birthdate appears. A goodly number of ladies (and a gentleman or three) held back on giving Frank Hoffman their birth year (probably still passing for 29 at the time), but most of the birthdays in the calendar are full disclosure. The youngest person that can be found in the calendar was born in 1959, making them only twenty-six hears old at the time. Most of the "Notables" were a decade or three older.

What the calendar really called out to me was that in 1985, Frank Hoffman had about ten or twelve "Notable Contemporary Sherlockians" in each month of the calendar, so the grand total has to be well under two hundred names. That seems like a lot, now that I actually do the math, but I can't help but think that a modern version of such a calendar would have a whole lot more people in it. Heck, I bet if you did a calendar of "people who have published a pastiche in the last five years" you would pass that number.

And in 1985, the US, England, and Canada were the whole Sherlockian world for someone like Hoffman compiling his calendar. In 2022, the whole world is the Sherlockian world if we were going to start listing notable living Sherlockians. We're all aware of so many more Sherlockians now than we would have been in the 1980s -- well, at least those of us who venture past our local doings.

In 1985, being thought of as a "Notable" was pretty amazing. These days? I can think of so many notable contemporary Sherlockians that it seems like just being a Sherlockian is notable. And it probably is.

Do we need a calendar to celebrate that? It's a more private world now, so maybe not. But we can surely imagine who would be in it, if there was such a thing, and I bet you can count yourself among them.

(Truly. You have to be a Sherlockian of a certain level of dedication, obsession, energy, etc. to be reading these trivial posts of mine! You keep being such a great Sherlockian!)

Friday, December 2, 2022

"Watson -- the matches!"

 Looking into something else last week I got intrigued by a little interaction between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, where Holmes was asking his friend for a match. Like those instances where the detective had the doctor read things for him, it immediately makes the curious Sherlockian go, "Did Sherlock Holmes not carry matches? Was Watson his match-boy?"

The most energetic version of this happens in "The Red Circle," when Holmes gets permission from Mrs. Warren to smoke and Holmes immediately exclaims, "Watson -- the matches!" with all the energy of "The game is afoot!"

One would expect that the need for a smoke, be it cigarette, pipe, or cigar to mean match supplies were a fluid situation in Baker Street, but in "Norwood Builder," when Holmes wants to set a bale of straw on fire, he says, "I believe you have some matches in your pocket, Watson." It sounds a little like Watson is his walking utility belt there, but in "Speckled Band," Sherlock produces a box of matches and a candle in Helen Stoner's bedroom without asking Watson.

Sherlock Holmes does suddenly strike a match for dramatic effect on occasion without prefacing it by asking Watson. And as "Altamont" his years working alone in America seem to have gotten Holmes practiced at carrying his own matches.

Yet "Might I trouble you for a match?" he politely asks Watson in "Final Problem," when he's evading Moriarty's minions and stops at Watson's house. And he asks Watson to "just hold a match" in "Golden Pince-nez." And Watson is quick to light Gregson's lantern in the darkened room in the aforementioned "Red Circle."

After studying upon the issue for a bit, it seems that the Holmes/Watson relationship was the same with matches as it was for so many things: Watson, the steady and reliable man who thought to keep matches on his person, and Holmes the unpredictable, ever-changing spirit whose inner fires, like his match supplies, rose and fell.

Even the little things are interesting with these guys.

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Am I having Wisteria hysteria? Or a glimpse of the truth!

Those of us who prefer analog to digital clocks know that even a broken clock is right twice a day, at least if it isn't the hands that have broken off.  And likewise, even the most crackpot of theories can have a grain or two of truth. But then again, we can give a theory a bit more than its due for our own reasons, as well.

In John Allen's Shadow Woman: The Real Creator of Sherlock Holmes, Allen puts forth the very wild theory that Conan Doyle's two wives wrote practically the entire Sherlockian Canon. Louise got her licks in up until "Final Problem," then Jean took over sometime later.  The idea that Conan Doyle would put his name on works someone else wrote is as ludicrous as the idea that he was Watson's litera . . . oh, wait, we like that one, don't we? It's our Santa Claus, a cherished tradition, if not, perhaps what proper historians will accept from us.

But all those Sherlock Holmes stories being written by Louise or Jean? That's just a bridge too far . . . well, with one exception for me.

"The Adventure of Wisteria Lodge."

There may be other stories held up as the worst of the Canon, but for me that one deserves special recognition. First, it has that ridiculous 1892 date to it, being the only story to fall between "Final Problem" and "Empty House." It's a level of error that I can't believe Conan Doyle capable of, despite all the other slips of season or month we've seen him do. And when was "Wisteria Lodge" published?

August of 1908. About a month shy of a year since Conan Doyle married Jean Leckie. It had been four years since he had published anything about Sherlock Holmes. He had spent all of 1908 up until that time honeymooning and playing a lot of cricket, plainly feeling full of manly vigor.

And along comes "Wisteria Lodge." Watson thinks it's 1892. Sherlock is talking about "Colonel Carruthers" when you know he has to mean Moran and the true end of the Moriarty empire. Holmes's big deduction is "But no one can glance at your toilet and attire without seeing that your distubance dates from the moment of your waking." Wow, he can tell when someone just got up and ran out that morning! Genius!

The writer of "Wisteria Lodge" suffers from that weakness of so many pastiche writers: They want to use Sherlock Holmes, but don't know exactly what to do with him. And while I find the idea that Conan Doyle would let his wives write most of Sherlock Holmes, the thought that he would let his second wife -- the one whose spirit-possessed scribblings he would later find worth publishing -- try her hand does not seem that out of the question. Conan Doyle was plainly all kinds of smitten over Jean Leckie, and, like I said, he did do crazier things with her involved.

Is it telling that he put "Wisteria Lodge" as the lead in the collection of His Last Bow, to be followed by a tale he was a bit ashamed of, one about marital infidelity from the decade before? Or that "Bruce-Partington Plans," which followed "Wisteria Lodge" by a few months in original publication, was a return to the original Conan Doyle "snap" of a writing style, which seemed lost a few months before?

I may disagree with John Allen on fifty-nine other stories, but when it comes to "Wisteria Lodge," I am a little more suspicious of Conan Doyle letting his heart over-ride his authorial integrity "just one time" during his honeymoon year.

And it wasn't like Watson was writing for him in 1908, anyway, as Sherlock Holmes had to write up his own 1907 adventure with the "Lion's Mane." I mean, come on!

Monday, November 28, 2022

Yon grate beastie ye call "Sherlockiana"

 Do you ever just try to figure out what's going on with Sherlockiana? There's Sherlock Holmes at the center, of course, looking different from every angle. But surrounding him is the greater mass of cultural protoplasm, and always staying nearest to that attractive detective center are his faithful, those who stick around after the credits have rolled. And as fascinating as the man himself can be, that big shifting Lovecraftian formless life form around him is just as intriguing a study.

This week's "Interesting Though Elementary" interview from Rob Nunn set me pondering the current form of Sherlockiana yet again. Heather Hinson had expressed the thought that "Sherlockian fandom has two distinct groups, the devout media fandom, and the devout academic fandom." She qualified that, of course, saying, "There is some meshing between both, but a portion of the fandom is either one or the other."

Now, we're all going to squeal a bit and go, "But I'm more than that!" Personally, before reading Heather's interview I was thinking about how so much of Sherlockiana is now pastiche writers versus historical scholars. (Not that they fight or anything.) There are areas like MX Publishing that are just pastiche wild, while older resources like The Baker Street Journal have settled into more researched and footnoted works on actual people and events. There's room for it all out there, though, so while you might hear a Sherlockian go, "I really prefer this or that," I don't think I've ever heard "All these pastiches are going to wipe out serious study!"

Sometimes I fear that all the imagination people are going toward pastiches while all of the research people are going toward historical fact pieces, and we might lose that charming mix of the two we call the Game, grand or great. But that certainly isn't happening. The number of people with an interest in something as arcane as Sherlockian chronology that I've encountered certainly disproves that. And one can always find folks willing to debate Watson's relationship with Australia or what was going on with that marriage situation. And shippers have been with us forever, even if they didn't know that's what they were called when middle-aged men were sure Sherlock and Irene were bound to get in on.

Crafters. Collectors. Cosplayers. Curmudgeons. And that's in just the "C" categories of Sherlockians. Sherlockiana is as big as the world, because it is a world now, and hard to hold in one human brain, as hard as one of those Lovecraftian thingies that would drive a man mad just to look upon it. But the great part is -- and here's where the metaphor gets weird -- the great beastie has udders. A near infinite number of milk-able teats that produce fortifying sustenance for the thirsty mind.

Sometimes, ya just gotta give up trying to parse it all out and grab an udder and squeeze. Maybe aim and try to hit a nearby barn cat, like my great uncle used to do. Because that barn cat is probably a Sherlockian too.

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Wednesday Holmes?

 Having just begun the new series Wednesday on Netflix, I'm thinking that this incarnation of Wednesday Addams has a lot of Sherlock Holmes in her.

No, not that she has mysterious to solve. More in her personality. The dark detachment, her private school practice of fencing, playing something moody on a cello, which isn't all that far from a violin . . . and a decided interest in crime, if possibly from the wrong side of it.

Not a social animal at all, she finds herself saddled with a room-mate with some Watson potential. The brother is younger, yes, and less skilled at things, but Wednesday's parents seem to serve as her Mycroft. She has a housemother that fills her Mrs. Hudson spot. Her new psychic visions fill a bit of the detective powers requirement. And here's the odd thing . . .

So far, Wednesday actually seems more like a proper "young Sherlock Holmes" to me than the actual movie Young Sherlock Holmes.  (That movie always had its problems, character-wise, in any case.)

'Tis a pity Netflix does not have the time, money, or creative freedom just to make an Enola Holmes/Wednesday Addams team-up special. The contrast between the characters is actually an interesting study in what makes Sherlock Holmes his full self.

But there's a whole series left to watch -- I was very surprised that it wasn't just a one-off movie with some of the names involved. Let us see how the rest goes.

The gratitudes of Sherlock Holmes

 Sometimes I get tired of the Maxie Sunshines preaching "gratitude" at us.

Human resources departments push seminars on gratitude as "lunch and learns" so you can spend your free moments learning to just be happy with whatever bad job situation they might be dealing to you. Self-help industrialists add it to their bag of tools for selling yet another book. And, like all else, it has its time and its place.

What was its place in the lore of Sherlock Holmes?

Well, let's start with "the old crone" who showed up at Baker Street to reclaim her daughter's wedding ring in A Study in Scarlet, so full of gratitude for getting the ring back before Holmes went, "Old woman be damned!" and started chasing her cab. Her gratitude was as much a pose as her age and gender.

There was the theoretical "love and gratitude" of a niece, adopted by her uncle, that was overcome with her feelings for the villain she fell in love with in "Beryl Coronet."

There were the repeated, needful words of the servant to the master, spoken by Barrymore in The Hound of the Baskervilles, that speak more of the power dynamic than fair appreciation.

Scotland Yard's Stanley Hopkins appreciating Sherlock Holmes for his usual excellent work in "Black Peter" is a pretty solid piece of gratitude.

And Sherlock Holmes has perhaps the most heartfelt moment of gratitude in the whole of the Sherlockian Canon, when he breathes "a prayer of gratitude" that Sir Henry Baskerville is still alive after the supposed hellhound attack.

On the other side of the coin, the person with the worst complaint of someone's lack of gratitude is one of the most unpleasant people Sherlock Holmes had to deal with: Josiah Amberley of "Retired Colourman."

It's easy to see that the sixty stories of Sherlock Holmes represent gratitude as a very personal choice, something one comes to as situations arise. It can be inauthentic. It can be expected. It can be delight. And it can be the recovery moment once a tragic force misses its target. Gratitude can be many things, but one thing it is not is a steady mantra of decided satisfaction with one's lot. And not another holiday-required emotional state . . . well, quite yet, as we haven't gotten a Thanksgiving Charles Dickens to arm the fans of the American holiday with a slur for those folks who choose not to get into "the spirit" of the thing.

So my gratitude on this Thursday of November is most definitely placed on all the parts of a feast day that are not yet expected nor required. May your day be phony crone free. May you not need to breathe in relief after your Canadian friends barely survive something horrid. And may you never have to travel in the company of Josiah Amberley, perhaps the worst experience Sherlock Holmes ever put upon his friend Watson.

Happy Thursday!

Friday, November 18, 2022

The Sherlockian social network

 As we watch another billionaire with a questionable agenda alter the status quo -- have a feeling this is the new norm -- those of us that had fun with Twitter are, quite naturally, looking for the next thing while monitoring the melting ice beneath us on the old thing.

The early adopters jumped on Mastodon soon enough, but Sherlockiana has not always been known for early adopters with a notable exception or two. Those who never even made it to Twitter are probably in all their Facebook glory these days, if the algorithm is letting them. But who knows? (That is the best motto for a lot of things these days: "Who knows?")

In any case, having lived in the pre-internet Sherlockian world, I have a certain faith in our connections. We all have enough e-mail and physical addresses of enough other Sherlockians who have e-mail and physical addresses that should all social media fall, we will find each other again. It might take a little more active participation in the process, but the connections are there.

Because Sherlockiana has always been a social network.

If Twitter does completely fall apart, we probably won't know who we've lost until they're gone, so hopefully everyone has made a few other connections since we've been playing on that site. And things never die quite as quickly as we expect them to . . . there could be a long, painful decline. And maybe a glorious alternative will come together, once all the ex-Twitter folks and investors come together. We shall see.

But we've still got Sherlockiana or Holmesiana or Watsoniana and all the connections we've made with whatever channel is available. And that's not going anywhere.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

So Sherlock Holmes isn't Sherlock Holmes in the Marvel Universe?

Sherlock Holmes has been in comics a long time. In his later years, he even trained Batman in detection, according to one DC Comics tale years ago. But in DC's counterpart comic company, Marvel, Sherlock Holmes has not been such a memorable figure. Spiderman quoted him once, a Master of Kung Fu character might have been related to him, but as far as actual appearances go? Not so much.

Until this month, and Immortal X-men #8.

Sherlock Holmes appears in the comic, living at 221B Baker Street in Victorian London, clients raving about his genius, pretty much being himself . . . except he's not himself.

He's Mystique.

The long-lived shape-changing mutant who has been presidents, was, in the 1800s, apparently Sherlock Holmes. Using Irene Adler, a mutant also known as Destiny, to help solve crime with her psychic powers, just to cheat at being Sherlock a bit, Mystique is running around being Sherlock Holmes.

So did the real deal die at Reichenbach after all, and she's just filling in?

Was there never a Sherlock who wasn't Mystique in Marvel's Victorian era?

Will we even get answers in a future issue?

Hard to say, but you might want to add this one to your Sherlock Holmes comic collection, it's going fast.

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Getting Your Name on the Books

The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes named some new members this week at their autumn meeting, with a lot of familiar names on the list. Congratulations all 'round on that, because  . . . well, in American Sherlockiana, getting your name on the lists, be it BSI or ASH, is something most of us aspire to. Is it because we don't have knighthoods and such over here?

I don't know. But getting your name on those lists, announced and preserved more than those of any other Sherlockian club, has long been a mile marker, as well as a "blue check mark" that some editors of collections like to use to show that they've got contributors of note.

Are the letters "BSI" or "ASH" our own blue check mark? Could the head of one of those organizations pull a Elon Musk and just start selling those titles like some Scottish lord title you can buy with a square foot of land? It could happen, if the wrong billionaire ever gets their hands on the reigns, I guess. The "benevolent dictator" thing does have its dangers.

The digital age has certainly showed us how things can change, very dramatically. Getting your name on the books . . . the actual books, as in seeing your name on the spine of a book . . . used to be a very hard thing to do. Vanity publishers did exist, if you wanted to invest hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. But you couldn't just upload something to Amazon with the only investment being owning a computer with the right software and taking the time to put something book-ish together.

Yet all of these things still have the same core they've had from day one: Loving Sherlock Holmes (and hopefully John Watson) and wanting to express that love in the greatest way possible. One way to look at the bestowing of investitures in the Baker Street Irregulars or Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes is as the finish line in Sherlockian achievement, but I think I might prefer to look at them as "taking your vows" in some religious order, a statement of future committment. For what are the BSI and ASH if not brothers, sisters, and gender-non-specific siblings in the Order of Sherlock Holmes?

Perhaps I puzzle over the common customs of Sherlockiana too much on occasion, but, hey, it's what we socially awkward sorts tend to do out of habit. And, like those customs themselves, it's one more way of celebrating the deerstalkered figurehead at the center of it all.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

That time Sherlock Holmes invaded America as Uncle Sam

 This fall's passing of the crown over in Britain was another reminder of the differences between "the mother country" and the United States of America. We've gone our two hundred plus years without a monarch, an ongoing apolitical figurehead, or even a national mascot. Our first candidate for such a thing was Columbia or Lady Liberty, who then had to compete with a second contender, Uncle Sam, after the War of 1812 saw his rise to cultural prominence. 

And while Uncle Sam's origins and timeline are somewhat hazy, we Sherlockians know one thing: When Sherlock Holmes had to enmesh himself in American culture, he took on the look of Uncle Sam for his invasion of America in 1912, about a hundred years after Uncle Sam was born. "His Last Bow," the story of Holmes's Uncle Sam look, was published in October of 1917, which makes a study of the rise of Uncle Sam's image an interesting thing for Sherlockians.

Uncle Sam's look, according to Wikipedia of the moment, didn't really get standardized until after the Civil War, and had one of its big moments on the cover of a magazine called Leslie's Weekly in July of 1916. Where Uncle Sam was appearing in Britain, where Watson or Conan Doyle might have seen him to compare Sherlock Holmes to, is an interesting question. What is more interesting is what might have inspired Sherlock Holmes to take on that look in 1912.

Did Sherlock Holmes see Uncle Sam's rise in American culture early enough to take on that look as comforting and welcome to American's? And would his tale of wandering America in the early part of his spy days have brought him into contact with the artists who would shape Uncle Sam's image for the rest of that century?

And with a brother like Mycroft who "was" the British government, wouldn't Mycroft have loved to see his baby brother as personifying America to feel a bit bonded with the offspring nation?

Uncle Sam definitely has an interesting place in the life of Sherlock Holmes, and one I hope we see explored further one day. (If I haven't missed somewhere it was already, which I probably have.)

Saturday, November 5, 2022

What I have never understood about Facebook.

As we all question the future of Twitter, with its quirky new egomaniac in charge, one can't help but look to Facebook as an alternative social platform, that old place full of old folks and those who just never got Twitter. But, to tell you the truth, I've never gotten Facebook.

For example, Facebook tells everyone its your birthday. A hundred people are motivated to type the words "Happy Birthday!" almost like it was a button they were voting with. It could just as well be a button they are voting with. Similarly, someone posts a selfie of one of their better looks and it gets a hundred "How cute!" or something similar repeated, making you think it could have been a button. And a part of me, sounding very "Scrooge McFacebook," goes "Why bother to express exactly the same thought someone already expressed? That's not very interesting." 

I don't type those reactions, of course, because that would be mean.

But, it's a stormy Saturday morning, and I'm feeling a little argumentative today, because I actually saw a Sherlockian question answered in that same way on Facebook, and I didn't believe everyone who repeated the most common answer was telling the truth. In fact, I wondered if they were influenced by the preceding answers to join the crowd, expressing enthusiasm for that particular answer, rather than actually thinking about the question.

Here's the other thing I hate about Facebook, though: It's organization is so messy, its algorithms so wacky, that I often cannot find something again once I leave the site and go back. I've learned to screenshot anything of importance that I really want to revisit the details of, which is hella crude and pretty stupid, but at least I can be sure of being able to see the thing again.

So I can't really quote the thread I'm mentioning above because I have lost it already, and I don't want to be imprecise in making a point that's apt to irritate a few folks. And, really, why irritate them anyway? Being a troll isn't any fun, and my opinions aren't that precious that they have to all be expressed.

But as we await the culture changes of Twitter, we're probably all going to be reconsidering our likes and dislikes of our online spaces. Sherlockiana is its own headspace, and the fans of Sherlock Holmes have built communities on places not all of us visit in the last decade or two, even as the core leadership of traditional old-school American Sherlockiana was purposefully avoiding all online spaces. "Victorian values" or something like that, even though e-mail replaced actual letters in the post. 

Where do we go from here? On a blustery Saturday morning, I sure don't know.

Friday, November 4, 2022

A Canon of Her Own

 Okay, first off . . . no spoilers for Enola Holmes 2 in the following.

The newest Millie Bobby Brown romp through Sherlock Holmes's London was enormous fun, and really made me realize how much I like it was adaptations and additions to the Sherlockian Canon vary from the classic script. Inserting a younger sister into Sherlock Holmes's life couldn't help but change a few details from the Holmes we knew of old, and this latest "What if?" of Sherlock plays its cards with marvelous finesse.

It doesn't follow Nancy Springer's work so closely, so one cannot expect Doyle to be followed as well. (Interestingly the credits thank both the Doyle Estate and Leslie Klinger.) And at this point, I think that is what I like best. For those of us that know the stories far too well, what is the better choice, anyway? An adaptation of something like "The Red-Headed League," so perfect on paper, but not created for a medium that did not exist then? (Or even theater, which its author could never get right?) Or a new tale created specifically to use the full powers of the medium in which it's being told?

Over the years we've seen far too many TV movies with original Holmes stories told by hack scriptwriters and lame TV directors. We've also seen movies like Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes, which did a fine box office, and gave us a few new Holmes tropes in the bargain. Robert Downey Junior's Sherlock has his own Canon, and now Millie Bobby Brown's Enola has hers, complete with her loving brother as almost her Watson, paralleling her investigations with his own. (So he's her Lucy Liu sort of Watson, I guess!)

Me, I'm happy with letting the original sixty stories stay stories, and take all the original movie "What if?" versions of Holmes I can get. What if Holmes faced the Ripper? What if Holmes debunked the Loch Ness Monster? What if Sherlock had a sister, as well as a mother, running about with their own agendas?

There are bits of Enola Holmes 2 that we come to expect in films, but even there this one does the commonplace with a certain finesse, as I said once already. It plays the audience quite wonderfully in that respect, and what's a Sherlock Holmes story without at least one real surprise?

Something this viewer enjoys, to be sure! Here's hoping for a third installment one day!

The Death Row "Sherlock" of "The Inside Man"

 Let me start this review of Netflix's The Inside Man by saying this: I didn't have quite the grudge against Steven Moffat that some Sherlockians do after BBC Sherlock. However . . .

His new four-episode series The Inside Man on Netflix is a rather . . . unpleasant . . . thing with a Sherlock-ish character I'd have loved to see in a better show.

The series starts out with a commuter train bully so just plain yuck that he set off all my old bully alarms from high school as its hook. It was like a warning -- "This show is going to try to push your buttons, back slowly away!"

But it starred David Tennant. And we like David Tennant, right? Even as the villainous Purple Man in Jessica Jones, he was still watchable, right? And then there's Stanley Tucci, whom the good Carter and I used to think was the albatross warning of a video-store "dramedy" posing as a comedy when selecting movies at Blockbuster back in the day. Never been a fan.

But in The Inside Man, Tucci plays a death row prison inmate with Sherlock Holmes like abilities to solve mysteries. Stuck in one place like a Mycroft or Nero Wolfe, with a Watson who combines the comedic nature of a Nigel Bruce with the useful skill of a perfect memory and a clever mind, Tucci's character became the thing that kept me watching the show . . . or should I say part of the show.

The wife-murdering death row detective says early on that all it takes for anyone to commit murder is meeting "the right person," and you quickly know that is the path for David Tennant's well-off vicar in the show, who then spends the rest of the series making bad choice after bad choice as a priest covering for a pedophile. Did I say I favored Tennant over Tucci going into this show?

Watching the show I soon found I was fast-forwarding through the painful Tennant bits to get to the Tucci bits to see what he and his Watson were up to next. I can't think of a show where I ever did that before. The Tennant story would come on and skip-skip-skip, "Oh, here's the happy prison! Stop and watch this part!" 

I haven't finished it yet, and I hope Stanley Tucci somehow saves David Tennant's apparent victim before he finally kills her, But it'll probably go quickly.

Be forewarned about this one, Sherlock-ish character or no.

Thursday, November 3, 2022

A Zoomin' BSI Dinner Eve for the Rest of Us

 So, January 6th isn't that far off, and we're all starting to decide whether or not we can make New York City for the Sherlock Holmes birthday weekend. If you're one of the lucky ones, we're glad you get to do the thing. It's a good thing! But if you're stuck at home, or elsewhere with a Zoom link, we've got another thing you can do . . . the second annual Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian!

It's basically a six hour Zoom with some of the best Sherlockians you're going to meet on a Friday night Zoom the same night as the Baker Street Irregulars dinner. You can come at any time, leave at any time, but we do have a schedule of "sort of" events for your entertainment if you want to go for the whole six hour marathon with us. Here's what's currently on the agenda:

6:00 PM Eastern/5:00 PM Central -- Happy Hour, Welcomes, and Ice Breakers

7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central-- The Old-Timey Sherlockian Rememberin' Hour! Remember the '70s and '80s? This is the hour to tell your tales, if you can get your fellow oldsters to quit jabberin' about their own old-timey stories long enough to get yours in!

8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central -- The Official Annual Meeting of the Montague Street Incorrigibles. New members will be inducted. (All you have to do is show up!) Random programming shall occur.

9:00 PM Eastern/8:00 PM Central -- Open Mike Spotlight Hour! Recitations, poetry, song, declamations, stand-up, commemorations, salutations, abbreviations, and anything else you care to hold forth on in three to five minutes.

10:00 PM Eastern/9:00 PM Central  -- The Sherlockian Underground Reports! Our spies risk it all to report things they might not be supposed to, and we're totally there for it!

Here's the registration link:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

So Many Sherlockian Cornerstones

 There have been a couple of moments lately when I was forced to stop and think about generational change in Sherlockiana. We always like to cheer "Sherlock Holmes is an immortal figure!" and think about our fandom going on into the future. And I have no doubt it will. Sherlockiana has survived a lot, and it's a pretty scalable hobby. There have been times when, world-wide, we might have only numbered in the hundreds.

But Sherlock Holmes is a part of our culture, one might argue. Those who love Sherlock Holmes are everywhere! This is true, but a fandom's population isn't usually counted in those who go, "Oh, that movie has Sherlock Holmes in it, I'll see it if I have time." No, it's that extra step, that purposeful seeking out of Sherlock material, collecting or creating, going beyond just one more thing you like.

Rob Nunn asks folks "How do you define the word 'Sherlockian'?" in his Interesting Though Elementary blog interviews, and a lot of the answers are a bit of a reaction to gate-keeping we've seen in the past, very inclusive, very open. Anyone can be a Sherlockian. All you have to do is like Sherlock Holmes . . . and self-identify as a Sherlockian. And I think that last part is key. You have. to be aware that Sherlockians (or Holmesians) exist to be able to put yourself in the category, to even think of yourself as one.

One of those gatekeeper-y lines that you used to see a lot was "You can't call yourself a true fan (though the snobs in our crowd hated "fan" and used other words) unless you have read X, Y, Z!" The "cornerstone" works, the one Sherlock Holmes thing that turned you, like drinking a vampire's blood after they bit you, the thing that made you go, "Sherlockians are real and I am one of them now."

Movies don't turn Sherlockians. Novels don't turn Sherlockians. It has to be something that shows you there are others like you out there, not just that Sherlock Holmes is cool. It's your introduction to the community, the cornerstone block that you build your internal fandom upon. A book, a journal, an event, another Sherlockian. It's a process, surely, but we all have milestones along the way, something or someone that made a difference. And those cornerstones are so era-dependent.

One of my great personal cornerstones was a book I found on a field trip to Chicago with my college French class. I had been reading pastiches like crazy, studying the Canon, even writing fic for my own enjoyment, but it was Beyond Baker Street: A Sherlockian Anthology edited and annotated by Michael Harrison that made me realize there were others out there like me. It's practically unknown today, but for me it was a revelation. Do I insist every new Sherlockian I meet has to read it to be a Sherlockian? Of course not. It was a thing of its time.

But it defined Sherlockiana for me in a way that set my course, even before I actually met another Sherlockian in person, at a club that did story quizzes and watched Rathbone films for their meetings. That statement alone seem so like ancient times now, all pre-internet when you found out about things like that from a flyer on a college lamppost. Both the invitations and and the cornerstone moments come entirely differently now. AO3 and 221B Con introduced me to so many Sherlockians who found the hobby and community without ever needing a subscription to a journal or a scion society. Their cornerstones were things I could never have even imagined just a decade before. And even though the BBC Sherlock tide has risen and fallen, those who came to our old structures from those different on-ramps are going to carry different angles and versions of this hobby into its future.

We may come to visit the same stories from Conan Doyle together, but our stories in getting here are all different, and there are a lot more of them than sixty. So many cornerstones that Sherlockians have been and are currently being built on . . . you know that actually might make a readable collection if somebody was to put it together. Hmmm.

Monday, October 31, 2022

Mrs. Conan Doyle's Spooky Hand

 This All Hallow's Eve, that time when the mystic membrane between the living and the dead is said to be at its most permeable, I just can't stop thinking about Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's second wife and her spooky, spooky hand.

I don't know if you've ever read Pheneas Speaks: A Striking Message from the Hereafter, Reported by Arthur Conan Doyle, M.D., LL.D. (which is a very real book) but it's chock-full of messages written by the hand of his wife when if was under the control of a ghost, a kind of possession as it were.

One of the earliest ghosts to take over Mrs. Conan Doyle's spooky hand was E. W. Hornung, four months after he died of a bout of flu that turned into pneumonia in France. Hornung was Arthur Conan Doyle's brother-in-law, author of the Raffles series, and a had a real rift with Doyle over some W.W.1 business. But all was forgiven, at least by Hornung's ghost, who was suddenly all agreeable about spiritualism, which he hadn't been in life.

Personally, if I was a ghost, I don't think I'd be getting into the hand of my brother-in-law's wife just to tell the guy he was right about everything. In fact, on the other side of the equation, I don't think I'd trust some random ghost possessing some body part of my wife, even if he did get a ghostly character reference from a family member as the supposed Hornung did. And if a ghost can use someone's hand to write clear text, what other things could that hand be doing, say at night, in the same bed you are in?

Conan Doyle was a very trusting soul, that's all I'm saying.

You would kind of expect his first wife to slip into his second wife's hand and write him a note or two. It seems like she would be extremely motivated to do so, and also be readily hanging out with her son, who was the first to take control of the possessable hand. And even if she didn't, I'm sure there would be a lot of "Mom says . . ." coming through in the notes.

Getting back to E.W. Hornung -- that guy was even a writer! He gets the chance to pen some words from beyond the grave and he just writes stuff like, "It is so nice to be free from my asthma?" The supposed Hornung possessing the hand even communicated that he was doing literary work in the afterlife and that what he's writing there is "so much more vital. It really counts." But could he bother to put any of that great prose on the paper in front of Doyle's wife? Nope. Seems to me you'd want a little of your afterlife better works to make it back to the living.

"Pheneas" the ghost that eventually hogged all the hand possession time, has a name with Hebrew roots meaning "serpent's mouth or oracle," according to some sources. And if that doesn't sound like the start of a Blumhouse movie, I don't know what does. One of these days, perhaps Warner Brothers will work their way back from Ed and Lorraine Warren's exploits to those of Arthur and Jean Conan Doyle. (Side note: I got to spend an evening at a local college event where Ed and Lorraine were giving their slideshow presentation once. It was as creepy as you'd expect it to be.)

So my toast to you on this Halloween eve: Here's to your spouse's hand continuing to only work for the brain that's attached to it. And may your own stay yours as well, at least until you get the glass raised and a good drink past your lips!

Thursday, October 27, 2022

The blundering Prime Minister

 Lately there's been a bit of Prime Minister news over in Paul Thomas Miller Land, as some of us call the UK. There was the one goofball that vaguely mirrored our own goofball, and the one that was in and out in a dash, but in tonight's discussion of "The Noble Bachelor" at our local Peoria library group, I was reminded of one other, the one whom Sherlock Holmes called "blundering."

The guy gets overlooked a lot, because he shows up in a fun quote about Anglo-American relations that always makes we Americans happy. Sherlock Holmes likes us!

"It is always a joy to meet an American, Mr. Moulton, for 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 citizens of the same world-wide country under a flag which shall be a quartering of the Union Jack with the Stars and Stripes."

Okay, let's also ignore how a guy whose brother "was" the British government thinks that America and Britain are going to team up and take over the whole world, and get to that blundering part. Yes, there's a lot to ignore there, including that flag, but back to "blundering."

The monarch of folly, we have seen in the Hamilton musical, of course, King George the Third.

But the blundering monarch, Lord North (his courtesy title -- let's not get into how you have to use first names on second sons like Lord Robert St. Simon for the moment) a.k.a. Frederick North, the Second Earl of Guilford, as his friends surely called him, was often seen as "the incompetent who lost the American colonies." (Hey, Wikipedia says!)

So, fresh off of his appointment in 1770, Lord Freddy North (as we disrespectful American bloggers are now going to call him) stopped Spain from taking over the Falkland Islands and was all full of himself, as one would be. Some longtime political activists in American did that big tea dump in Boston, and Freddy decided to punish the city of Boston, closing their port, taking over their state government, and declaring that any officials of the Crown accused of a crime got to have their case decided in England and that all witnesses for the prosecution had to pay their own travel fees to cross the Atlantic for the trial. (So basically, Brits with a government appointment could get away with anything.)  George Washington called that last part "the Murder Act," as it basically allowed it. 

So, having ticked America off, Lord Freddy told some Sackville guy and the Earl of Sandwich. (Yep, that Earl of Sandwich!) to deal with figuring out how to deal with the rebels. (Does this make the Earl of Sandwich Lord Freddy's Darth Vader?) That didn't work, he then went "Hey, America, we'll take back all the BS if you quit fighting us!" and America went "Nope!" Lord Freddy was forced out of office in 1782 with a motion of no confidence, having basically blundered his way into losing the middle of North America. (Let's pretend all of the above was a "Drunk History" report and not a sober Sherlockian's recitation, shall we?

On the good side, Fred didn't screw up Canada for England during his term. He saved that for some PM in this century. (Now's your chance, Canada! They're distracted!)

So there you have it, the Prime Minister whom Sherlock Holmes insulted the worst. Was he also giving the current Prime Minister, Lord Salisbury (not the salisbury steak Salisbury!), the compliment of being the potential PM to ally with American and take over the world with that crazy flag?

Could be. The guy did have Mycroft working for him. And not so blundering, I guess.

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Tips For A Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend In New York City

With plans being made for January by many a Sherlockian in the months ahead, it seemed like a good time to post some practical tips for going to the Sherlock Holmes Birthday Weekend in New York City from someone who knows very little about anything involved. (Hey, it's the internet! Go read a book if you want expertise.) 

The "Christopher Morley Walk" is a tour and not an affected gait. There is no need to practice it before going to New York, especially if you saw how to do it on TikTok. (Also, be prepared to explain TikTok to older Irregulars if you forget and they ask why you are walking funny.)

If you hear the familiar voice of Rich Krisciunas seeming to come from thin air, look upward. He is probably towering over you and the owner of that belt buckle you thought was a subtle advertisement for something.

The Mysterious Bookshop has an actual street address. We don't live in Harry Potter's world and you don't have to find "Conundrum Alley" or some other area unseen by muggles.

The annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars does not allow the playing of "Pokemon Go" during their dinner meeting, even if there is a nearby gym with a deerstalkered Pikachu as the raid boss or you have a "lucky friend" at the next table.

The S.P.O.D.E. (Society for the Prevention of Oysters Destroying Earth) society of Sherlockians has become so prolific that even Sherlock Holmes cannot think why the whole of New York is not one solid mass of S.P.O.D.E. members, so prolific the creatures seem. They are even rumored to have their own brand of plates. Take care to stand near the exit of any room that begins to fill with S.P.O.D.E. members.

If the Doily Ann awards coincide with the week of the Sherlock Holmes festivities, be sure to ask anyone you hear talking about them to spell what they're talking about, lest you wind up at a crocheted doll display, rather than the ACD Society event.

The William Gillette Luncheon is seventy-four years old, and in all that time, William Gillette has never attended. It is said his ghost still wanders the streets of New York in January, hoping someone will buy him lunch. However, if you see a raggedy version of William Gillette in Time Square that is solid to the touch, do not take them to lunch without having them perform a monologue from their play Sherlock Holmes first to prove their identity.

And, lastly and most importantly, if you can't go to New York, come to the Friday night Zoom hangout for the rest of us, Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian. It's a Zoom, and you know how those work.

Saturday, October 15, 2022

A Second Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian

 Once a year, upon a certain January evening, a certain group of Sherlockians comes together and inducts new members. A ritual for the bestowing of membership occurs and certificates are given to those involved. And then a year passes until they meet again . . .

No, I'm not talking about THAT society. This is the one that just met for the first time last year.

Yes, it's time for another six hour Zoom meeting for those who can't make it to New York City for the Sherlockian festivities on January 6, which we call "Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian," where we swear in new members of the Montague Street Incorrigibles and figure out ways to occupy ourselves for the longest non-symposium Zoom of the year.

Last year, we had some music, some trivia, some puppets, a very hairy stand-up comedian, a whole lot of conversation, and clandestine messages from our spies in New York. This year, what will be on the agenda?

No idea. It's only October.

But we do know that it's a good night for a Zoom, and we do know that not everyone can fit a trip to New York into their schedule on a given year, pandemic or no. Even if we just sit around and chat with whoever wanders in, it's still a good night for connecting with our fellow Sherlockians, talking of old times, future plans, and all the ephemera surrounding our friends Holmes and Watson.

Will any Canonical characters show up? Will there be entertainments, presentations, or surprise appearances from that one Sherlockian you haven't heard from in a while? Maybe, maybe not. But we will be inducting new members into the Montague Street Incorrigibles, which only happens on this one night of the year (with one rare exception) during the swearing of the MSI oath.

Here's the advance registration link for this marathon of Zooming:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting, of course.

And if you know you're going to have the evening open, and always wanted to do a presentation for a bunch of Sherlockians in a venue where silliness is allowed and most Sherlockians of Importance will be occupied elsewhere and unable to see you (We don't record!!!), get in touch, because this is the place to do something like put on a gorilla suit and tell bad jokes. 

Pub night at the Dangling Prussian is back, past and future Incorrigibles -- Friday, January 6, 2023.

"As to Mary Jane, she is incorrigible, and my wife has given her notice, but there, again, I fail to see how you work it out." -- John H. Watson, "A Scandal in Bohemia"

Be like our mascot Mary Jane and get noticed, because we never know how it's going to work out!

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Your Halloween treat . . . or trick!

 So you like Sherlock Holmes, you like monsters, and you don't want candy in your adult trick-or-treat book bag . . . what's a Sherlockian to do?

Welllll, some months ago, this fellow named Rob Nunn who is hot into putting collections together approached me with this idea. He had heard Ray Betzner give a talk on a hidden werewolf in the Holmes Canon and loved it so much that he thought someone should put together a book of articles along that line. Me? I'm not really a publisher or editor sort these days, but I do have a few connections among the rare birds of the Sherlockian world, from Holmes conspiracy podcasters like Alan King to a guy . . . well, a guy with some Canonical ancestry named Nathaniel Barker-Harris, whose mom ran a midnight creature feature on a little TV station in Moorville, Kansas.

So, I help Rob out with a few introductions, help him recruit a few folks to write for this book, and voila!

The Monstrum Opus of Sherlock Holmes.

Seventeen articles exposing the dark, monstrous side of the Canon. No ghosts need apply. And what have we to do with the lunacy of walking corpses who can only be held in their graves by stakes driven through their hearts? No smoochie-woochie romantic vampires either. Just monsters, monsters, and more monsters. By some very interesting writers.

And despite what that cover might look like, it's a paperback, at a very affordable paperback price. (Said cover is actually a revision of a work by J.G. Wood, whom you might remember helping Sherlock Holmes identify a certain monster of a sea creature off the Sussex coast.)

It's a weird little book of essays, ready to gather proper dust on your arcane shelves of obscure Sherlockian lore, with the profits going the the not-so-weird Beacon Society.  And you can still get it shipped to you, at least in the US, in time to properly prepare yourself for All Hallow's Eve.

It's now on Amazon (US) at this link: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0BHL5XBT5?ref_=pe_3052080_397514860 though others on Amazon sites across the waters are soon to come. 

We now return to your regularly scheduled blog postings. Though they aren't really regularly scheduled.

Wednesday, October 5, 2022

The One Pro Wrestling Match in the Sherlock Holmes Stories

"The back door was open, and as he came to the foot of the stairs he saw two men wrestling together outside."
-- Inspector Forrester's description of Mr. Alec Cunningham's account in "The Reigate Squires" 

It is the only true wrestling match of the entire canon of Sherlock Holmes. And, like modern professional wrestling, there are those who say it was entirely "fake," even proposing that Mr. Alec Cunningham watched no wrestling match at all. And there are those who say "performative, choreographed" wrestling, as we know pro wrestling today, did not begin until the 1920s. 

But in April of 1887, we have Cunningham describing see a backyard wrestling match, that stands as a primordial example of the sports entertainment pro wrestling we know now. Note how one can so easily describe the contenders:

In this corner, "a middle-sized man, dressed in some dark stuff," from parts unknown. In the other, William "The Coachman" Kirwan. It's no coincidence that one hundred and twelve years later, the WWE would feature a commentator, executive assistant, and eventual interim general manager named Jonathan William Coachman -- an obvious tribute to Kirwan's legacy.

The actual moves in the match aren't described, but Kirwan dies from a "shot." In modern wrestling, the term is now a "shoot," which is an unscripted, actual attack, which is very dangerous to its target. If it were really a bullet wound, wouldn't there have been some mention of blood in the account? No. This was all about the Cunningham's trying to cover up a tragic backyard wrestling accident. 

Why didn't Sherlock Holmes get that? Well, sports entertainment wrestling was still pretty much unheard of in 1887, and even though we like to think Holmes knew everything about everything, sadly, he didn't.

"Of course, we do not yet know what the relations may have been between Alec Cunningham, William Kirwan, and Annie Morrison," Holmes admits at the end of his investigation, having just found the note which read, "If you will only come tonight at quarter to twelve to the east gate you will learn what will very much surprise you and maybe be of the greatest service to you and also to Annie Morrison. But say nothing to anyone upon the matter."

Doesn't that sound like Cunningham was simply setting up a match for "the Coachman" and his number one fan (or manager?) Annie Morrison? Sherlock Holmes doesn't bother to talk to Annie after being throroughly distracted by the Cunninghams simply trying to show him some of their wrestling moves. He simply came up with an interpretation of the events that would get him back to Baker Street the quickest, after Watson forced that vacation on him.

"The Reigate Squires" has always been a troubled tale, with American publishers changing the name to "The Reigate Puzzle" as they saw the obvious difficulties in Holmes's solution. I would even suggest that the original title was "The Reigate Square," before Watson's agent took out any references to the "squared circle" of the wrestling ring found in Cunningham's backyard.

Do I go too far? Or did Sherlock Holmes not go far enough?

Monday, October 3, 2022

Is John Watson enough?

 When the news came out today of a new TV series featuring Dr. Watson as the lead character, I got pretty excited. I mean, content for a podcast like The Watsonian Weekly doesn't fall off backyard plane trees. And then the details started to emerge.

Written by Craig Sweeney, a name I immediately recognized from CBS's Elementary's writing stable. Being produced in conjunction with CBS Studios. And this full description from Deadline.com

In Watson, a year after the death of his friend and partner Sherlock Holmes at the hands of Moriarty, Dr. John Watson resumes his medical career as the head of a clinic dedicated to treating rare disorders. Watson’s old life isn’t done with him, though — Moriarty and Watson are set to write their own chapter of a story that has fascinated audiences for more than a century. Watson is a medical show with a strong investigative spine, featuring a modern version of one of history’s greatest detectives as he turns his attention from solving crimes to addressing the greatest mystery of all: illness, and the ways it disrupts our lives.

Modern. Moriarty. Medical show. All challenging bits for a pure Watson show.

We've had Elementary, with modern and Moriarty. We've had House, with modern and medical. But here's the biggest issue I'm really wondering about, and I do a podcast on the guy:

Who IS John H. Watson?

Without Sherlock Holmes, who really is he? His "everyman" qualities make him our human doorway to Sherlock Holmes, but that same flavor of character vanilla is not really the thing to carry a TV show. How do you build a stand-alone Watson who can carry his own set of stories without being a faux Sherlock stand-in? That phrase "one of history's greatest detectives" makes one wonder if he is a Watson borne of Ben Kingsley's Watson mold from Without a Clue.

And what is going to make John Watson, the guy best known to us for his brandy prescriptions, capable of "addressing the greatest mystery of all: illness, and the way it disrupts our lives?" That's where we start going . . . ummmm . . . House 2.0?

Were this a sequel to Elementary, in which Lucy Liu's Joan Watson returns to medicine, the above description makes sense. But the male pronouns throughout definitely make it seem like an entirely new item. 

At the end of the day, this announcement is like watching an old-fashioned motorcycle daredevil point at the Grand Canyon and go, "For my next ramp-jump . . ."  

It's going to be an interesting couple of years to see if this gets the air it needs to fly. But I sure hope it does. I know one weekly Watson podcast that could using the material to talk about.

Monday, September 26, 2022

The landscape we call "Sherlockiana"

Early in 2018, Rob Nunn started a regular feature in his Interesting Though Elementary blog called "Interesting Interviews." It has evolved a little bit over the years, but the question that has led off every one is this: "How do you define the word 'Sherlockian?'"

It seems like such a simple question, but in an age of both gate-keepers and boundary-challengers, it's can become complex and argued very quickly. Being a matter of identity for the Sherlock Holmes fan, it also becomes personal very quickly as well, from an early place in one's fandom. You enjoy Sherlock Holmes, in one incarnation or another. You find there are other people who do as well, who have studied and created to express their enjoyment, and those people call themselves "Sherlockians." (Or "Holmesians," if you're British.) And then there's a moment . . . perhaps one you don't even notice in passing . . . when you realize you are one of those people.

The thing is, Sherlockiana is a many-headed beast.

For every part of this hobby you look at and see folks like you enjoying Holmes as you do, you'll see a dozen more doing things you cannot do. Whether due to talent, funding, or even just plain comfort level, none of us can do it all. Oh, we may flirt with doing it all in our early years. We may become ambitious in our later years. But, trust me on this: Sherlockiana has become far too big for any single person to be a part of it all.

Of course, one can be a bit of an ego-maniac and try to redefine Sherlockiana so it's small enough for one to be the wonder-Sherlockian of one's dreams, but that never ends well.

Do we all become niche Sherlockians in the end? 

Art. Scholarship. Pastiche. Fic. Media. Even the greatest gadabout among us, who seems to be everywhere, can create a gadabout or socialite niche. But none of us are even limited by those. Identity is a very complex thing. And perhaps "niche" isn't even the right word.

One could come up with a crude scoring system and say "Rank yourself one thru five on each of these categories of Sherlockiana," but even that can't capture the totality of any one of us. This morning I watched an Italian politician passionately trying to score points by claiming that people who thought identity was more complex than three or four binaries were attempting to steal everyone's identity. It was a passionate, engaging speech but also a perfect example of someone actually preaching the very opposite of the words coming out of their mouth, a thing we see a lot these days.

Because none of us are simple. We may follow well-marked roads to ease the decision making process day-to-day. But none of us is a train, bound to a set of tracks built by the Sherlock Holmes Railway Company. We can jump a fence and run rampant through forests or fields of Holmes at any given moment.

For being a Sherlockian isn't a job, like plumber, accountant, or nurse, requiring a specific duty to be performed. Being a Sherlockian is more like being a Midwesterner, a European, or an islander of any sort -- it's a place, a whole land that we have to explore, a big country with all sorts of people in it.

And there's always some fool who wants to say what "a real Sherlockian" is, just as with "a real American." A statement that's more about their own insecurities than actually knowing the landscape, and a sign that person needs to get out a little more and see what a diverse and expansive place their own homeland really is. I suspect that Rob added the question "How do you define the word 'Sherlockian?'" way back when because some fool or the other had been acting up with their personal definition and he wanted to bring other views to the table, to show we, as a culture, are not limited by the boundaries of one insecure individual or another. Rob's a good guy that way.

I originally started this post with the title "Boutique Sherlockiana" because I was trying to ponder my own current place in this world of ours, thinking it a "niche." But at this point, it seems a lot like "the place I'm standing right now, before I mentally wander somewhere else."

 Sherlockiana is truly a country of the mind, and one we all have a lot left to explore.

Thursday, September 22, 2022

The greatest foe of Sherlock Holmes, on a personal level

 While we often think of Professor Moriarty as Sherlock Holmes's arch-nemesis and greatest victory, I was given cause tonight to consider if, to Sherlock Holmes, perhaps that wasn't the foe that was most important to him on a personal level. And oddly, that train of thought began in our local library discussion of "The Yellow Face." You remember "The Yellow Face," the story where Sherlock Holmes doesn't do much? Where the client kind of charges into a house and solves his own case?

Yeah, that one.

In our talks tonight, we came upon the part of the case that didn't occur: Sherlock Holmes's investigation. He went to Norbury to investigate a case. He even had an idea of what he was looking into, and the reason he made the trip: "There's blackmail in it, or I am much mistaken."

Sherlock Holmes was going to try to foil a blackmailer in "The Yellow Face." And what does he tell Watson before they set out? 

"I would not have missed the case for worlds."

Worlds! Not sure if Sherlock Holmes is revealing himself to be from another planet, whose knowledge of other worlds is solid, or if he was really of a sect that believed in multiple planets for whatever reason, but Sherlock Holmes would not trade this case for the sum total of multiple Earths.


Well, the blackmail of course. What was Sherlock Holmes's very first crime, the one that set him on the path of criminal detection? Hudson blackmailing Justice of the Peace Trevor in "The Gloria Scott." And who does he hate worse that any of the fifty murderers he's dealt with in his career at the point he goes up against him? A blackmailer -- "the king of all blackmailers" -- Charles Augustus Milverton. And what excuse does Holmes use in The Hound of the Baskervilles to ensure Watson believes that his friend is definitely not leaving London? A blackmail case.

The Scowrers? Blackmailers. The Red Circle? Blackmailers.

Lady Frances Carfax is feared the victim of blackmail. And even a villainess who foiled Holmes in her way, Isadora Klein, is given a warning by Holmes of her vulnerability to blackmail.

Blackmail was a crime that Holmes, along with the rest of Victorian England, hated more than anything. Sherlock goes to extraordinary measures to deal with Charles Augustus Milverton, and even though, as in "The Yellow Face," his full efforts are foiled by the sudden direct action of another person, had Holmes been allowed to deal with the threat on his own, perhaps we would have seen a criminal duel as extensive as that with Moriarty. And who's to say Moriarty's gang wasn't brought down as a part of, or resulting from, Holmes's quashing of Milverton's entire set-up?

Because even though Moriarty gets all the hooplah, when you come right down to it, Charles Augustus Milverton might have been Holmes's greatest foe, on a very personal level, as a criminal whose particular crime Holmes hated from the start.

Saturday, September 17, 2022

And the Empty House is now unoccupied.

 Today marked the end of a forty-five year era in Illinois Sherlockiana, the time of the Occupants of the Empty House.

Most Sherlockian societies don't know that their last meeting is their last meeting as it occurs. There's just a next meeting that never quite happens, and that last meeting was their actual very last meeting.

And nobody wants a good thing to end, but as Bill Cochran explained today it's sometimes better to call it quits while it is still good, and not drawing matters out until things just don't work. Societies are made up of people, and people are limited in their span, as much as we should hope for more.

Saying good-bye to the "queen" of Illinois scion societies in the same week as Queen Elizabeth II seems to match up somehow. We'll let some Chicago scion claim Kingship, and maybe it's my downstate loyalties, but I shall always think of the Occupants of the Empty House as the best of our state's Sherlockian societies.

I was first introduced to the Occupants in meeting and getting to know Newt Williams at a John Bennett Shaw workshop up in the Chicago suburbs in 1983, about five years into the group's existence. He invited the good Carter and myself to come visit their group at some point, which we did soon after. Getting to know Bill Cochran and Gordon Speck, the group's traveling goodwill ambassadors, eventually followed, along with getting to the required two-consecutive-meetings to become a member. The Occupants' meetings were a five hour drive during the era of 55 MPH speed limits, and usually required an overnight stay, but they were always worth it.

Today's final dinner meeting began at 3 PM, and with a four hour drive there (stopping to pick up Rob Nunn a couple of hours in) and a four hour drive home, it made for a day of mostly driving just to attend one dinner meeting, but for the very last meeting of a group whose contributions to my Sherlockian life were pretty darn huge -- not a problem.

There were about fifteen of us in attendance for the last meeting of the Occupants of the Empty House. Members who had been there from the club's early days, St. Louis friends of the club, and all the rest enjoyed some stories of days past, an excellent Alongi's dinner, and a chance to applaud all that came before. And then, as ever, a long drive back . . . but always worth it.

The Empty House of Southern Illinois will now go un-Occupied. But, hey, it was a really good run, and I'm glad they got to see their finish line and recognize it, rather than looking back in regret once it was long past. 

Thanks for everything, Occupants.

Friday, September 16, 2022

Out in the margins of Sherlockian things where the fungus grows

 Some weeks you're totally immersed in the hobby, and other weeks . . .

Well, Sherlock Holmes and company will find their way to pop by and wave at you, in spite of all the distractions. Characters in deerstalkers, of course, as appeared in Star Trek: Lower Decks and Batman Vs. Robin at the comic shop this week. (Well the latter was just the blood-stained deerstalker of a character who normally wears it.) And then there's the really odd bits, as Mary O'Reilly tipped me off you this week.

I'm not going to promote the actual product -- as we have too many things out there that probably, in truth, have "placebo" as their active ingredient. But this particular product was claiming it would help your memory, raise your attention level, and make everything just so perfectly clear. They didn't say "make your brain work like Sherlock Holmes" specifically, but all the qualities this product claimed it would bring to you were very much Holmes's own.

And what was this magic ingredient?

Lion's mane mushrooms. Hericium erinaceus

Mostly found on dead trees, it is said that its flavor, when prepared correctly, is like lobster. Seems like it should be more in the jellyfish taste spectrum, but not that many of us know what that taste would be. Not as easy a metaphor.

So what else is out there? "Blanched soldier. mushrooms?" "Golden Pince-nez toadstools?" "Devil's foot roots?" Oh, wait, we had that.

Perhaps there are culinary experts and fungi-philes out there to whom a "lion's mane mushroom" doesn't evoke the greatest detective, just as there are marine biologists who see the lion's mane for strictly its jellyfish qualities, but we are not those.

Just as 2:21 comes up on the digital clocks for us once per day and once per night, such other tidbits always pop up for the Sherlockian obsessive. And that is a happy thing.

Monday, September 5, 2022

The three American regions of Sherlockiana?

 This week's "Interesting Though Elementary" interview with Jonathan Tiemann had a little tidbit that I found worth pondering a bit. There was question asked that I don't remember Rob asking before, due to Jonathan Tiemann's experience living in different places: "How do you feel that West Coast Sherlockiana is different from those in the Midwest or East Coast?"

While we all dislike being pushed into categories (unless we go there voluntarily, with a personality test or a horoscope reading), the regional breakdown that Tiemann's answer laid out rang pretty true.

West Coast: "More likely to regard screen adaptations, especially of Canonical stories, as legitimate Sherlockiana."

East Coast: "A somewhat more academic approach to Holmes scholarship."

Midwest: "More likely to focus a bit more closely on the original text."

Now, we can call out individuals who defy those patterns every day, but they kind of feel correct. California is going to be more movie-biased. Boston/NewYork/Washington/etc. have traditionally had more access to source materials. Peoria? Well, we've got The Complete Sherlock Holmes sitting right there on our shelf.

But I think we're going to see all of that change, if it hasn't changed already, thanks to the internet. Where you live doesn't matter quite so much any more. Economic levels are more likely to be a deciding factor, as what you can buy and where you can travel will enter into things a bit. Which brings up England and Canada -- where do those folks fit into the picture?

Sherlockiana is, of course, a world-wide phenomenon. And of all places, England has always had the greatest advantage, as it's citizens got all the first editions first, can spend a weekend looking for Canonical sites, and, basically, they own Conan Doyle historically. You could see where screen adaptations aren't going to be their go-to with all that at hand. Canada, if I were to guess, would be seen as having the Midwest America problem with resources, but they have had some great scholarship and Doylean studies in North America owe much to Canada, as that country dominated them a few decades ago.

I'm curious as to how the Sherlockian scene would be described in countries that don't have English as their primary language, like Japan or Sweden. Our view tends to be skewed by the writers who produce English materials, so it's a little harder to see.

Like I said, though, the internet has thrown it all up in the air. You can be whatever kind of Sherlockian you want from wherever you want. And are internet Sherlockians a whole other category of Sherlockian? So many pastiche writers out there, you have to wonder if that's not the internet's special domain, whether their stuff comes out in book form or on A03. Pastiche writers seem to be the oysters of the internet, to use Sherlock Holmes's "Dying Detective" style rant: "Indeed, I cannot think why the whole shelf-space of every library and bookstore is not one solid mass of pastiche, so prolific their creators seem."

"Ah, I am wondering!" to get back to the real quotes. "Strange how the brain controls the brain! What was I saying, Watson?"

Thanks to Rob and Jonathan for that little diverting thought this morning. Check out the full interview if you haven't already.


Saturday, September 3, 2022

A Press Release from the Fumbles Fight Night Biscuit-Hitters



The Fumbles Fight Night Biscuit-Hitters, being the predominant Sherlockian film society centering upon the classic Sherlock Holmes film, Holmes & Watson, is filing a protest today against the Legion of Zoom for refusing to include the movie Holmes & Watson in their competition "HOUNDAMANIA!"

The Legion of Zoom has thus far made no public comment on their reason for this offhand dismissal of the greatest exemplar of theatrical Sherlock Holmes adaptations in recent years, and the Fumbles Fight Night Biscuit-Hitters president, also known as "the Chair" after John Watson's weapon of choice in their favorite film, has raised several points as to why Holmes & Watson should have been included in HOUNDAMANIA.

Described as "a virtual Battle Royale to determine the best version of the classic Hound of the Baskerville (sic) story by Arthur Conan Doyle (more sic, it was Watson who wrote it)," this tournament of film and video, HOUNDAMANIA, includes such supposed "adaptations" of The Hound of the Baskervilles as episodes of Elementary and Sherlock that have less to do with the novel than Holmes & Watson. Does Inspector Lestrade appear in The Hound of the Baskervilles? Does he also appear in Holmes & Watson? Of course! 

The Chair has said that there is an obvious prejudice against Holmes & Watson by dog-lovers who feel an unreasonable antipathy to the character of Millicent, who was raised by feral cats. "Ham dogs" are prominently mentioned in the film, which in some countries, is basically the equivalent of the term "hell hounds." Worst of all is the fact that HOUNDAMANIA is being promoted as guided by the lights of professional wrestling -- whilst leaving out the only Sherlock Holmes movie featuring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson fighting a professional wrestler.

Until these cinema tyrants recant their obvious omission from their tournament and admit their obvious fear of Holmes & Watson overshadowing some lesser old Sherlock Holmes movie that they're maniacally fond of for some perverse reason, the entire membership of the Fumbles Fight Night Biscuit-Hitters has no recourse other than to boycott this HOUNDAMANIA event in protest. Even if you hear rumors that their spouse is calling for a birthday celebration that conflicts with the time the tournament is running, do not let that lessen the impact of this very important boycott protest. 

The Chair, however, encourages all non-FFNBH members to attend this  HOUNDAMANIA  and make the absence of Holmes & Watson on the card for this event known to the Legion of Zoom through protest signs, chants of "HAM DOGS! HAM DOGS!" or whatever physical gyrations they are inspired to perform in the moment.

Justice for Holmes & Watson!

P.S. Does Billy Zane appear in any of those other films being celebrated? I think not.

Friday, September 2, 2022

Bad people trying to twist the facts, the late 1893 version

 Lately we've been treated to a whole horde of scumbags trying to tell us that crime isn't crime, almost like it's a trending fad. Is this new? Oh, heck, no! Criminals and their close friends and family are always trying to tell you that their crimes aren't such a big deal. It's what they do -- even in Sherlock Holmes's day.

John H. Watson's best friend died at the hands of Professor Moriarty in May of 1891. He's spent a year and a half grieving, and then, what happens in the late autumn of 1893?

Colonel James Moriarty starts some crap in the public prints claiming the greatest criminal kingpin London has ever known was just an innocent professor who was wrongly ruined by Mr. Sherlock Holmes.

We don't know the details of Colonel Moriarty's letters to the newspapers, or even if "Colonel James Moriarty" was real and not Colonel Sebastian Moran posing as a Moriarty brother. But we do know that John H. Watson was angry enough at the false portrayal of the events at Reichenbach Falls that he picked up his pen to write a story he did not want to write.

Penning "The Final Problem" was reliving a time Watson did not want to relive, a year and a half later, after he had attempted to move on, and worse yet, was probably dealing with his wife's health issues (or a pregnancy taking a turn?) that would result in a notable bereavement. And yet, this Colonel James Moriarty forced his hand by trying to change history by rewriting the events of Holmes and Moriarty's mutual demise.

Nobody wants to dwell on the damage that a criminal act causes. Victims don't want to revisit their worst times. But when the prospect of future crime is enhanced by those associated with the criminal trying to whitewash their crimes? Good men, like John Watson, do what they have to do.

We can't be sure just what Colonel James Moriarty or Colonel Sebastian Moran had up their sleeves if they were able to whitewash Professor Moriarty's crime. Did they want to revive his criminal empire, and needed to change public opinion to get specific connections open to them again? And was that goal the thing that truly brought Sherlock Holmes back to London to deal with it eventually?

Maybe so.

But the first line of defense against whatever criminality that brother Moriarty and/or brother-in-crime Moran had planned? John H. Watson, wearily putting the truth into The Strand Magazine for all of London and the rest of the world to see, doing what he could in honor of his late friend.

Criminals are always going to try to keep their criminal options open, by trying to distort the truth wherever they can. It was true in Watson's time, and it's true today. And while we all wish for a Sherlock Holmes to put a solid lid on matters, sometimes, all we can do is be like Watson and call out the truth.

Because "The Final Problem" might not be the thing that happens at the waterfall. It might just be dealing with the aftermath, and stopping the villains from rewriting history so they can do it again, or worse.