Friday, March 17, 2023

Hot for Mrs. Hudson

 So earlier in this extremely busy work week, I was contemplating Jonathan Majors playing Sherlock Holmes, and since he had recently been in a movie with Michelle Pfeiffer, she popped to mind a fine Mrs. Hudson for his 221B Baker Street. But the wheels spinning in my head didn't stop there, and where they went wasn't filling out a Jonathan Majors 221B Baker Street cast.

No, it was more along the lines of how I, now being a fellow of a certain age, am suddenly finding more and more women with gray hair quite the attraction. Like John C. Reilly's  Watson and Queen Victoria, I'm suddenly realizing that Mrs. Hudson is much more than a grandmotherly figure. And, suddenly, the potential casting for the landlady of Baker Street just went wild.

Can Jamie Lee Curtis do a British accent?

Probably don't have to have her coached on that, as Emma Thompson's also in her sixties, but we don't have to go British automatically. Mary Steenbergen would be a charming Mrs. Hudson, if she could just dump H.G. Wells. (Long story, if you're not old enough to recall that film.) In fact, we could go a lot of ways with Mrs. Hudson.

Like that touch of gangster flavor that BBC Sherlock sprinkled on her? A Katey Sagal version of Mrs. Hudson, anyone? A flirtier Mrs. Hudson played by Jennifer Tilly? Oh, lordy, Geena Davis?

Every movie crush I had in earlier decades is now Mrs. Hudson material!

And Jennifer Coolidge is in everything now, so why not 221 Baker Street?

Catherine O'Hara, Annette Benning, Jennifer Saunders, Julianne Moore, Allison Janney, Tilda Swinton . . . Mrs. Hudson has so little build-up on Watson's printed pages that she can be tweaked all sorts of ways in her casting. And she definitely doesn't have to be matronly.

Of course, I'm not likely to get entirely over Kelly Macdonald's Mrs. Hudson anytime soon. If Watson hadn't blown her up, she could have held on the the role for decades, if the movie going public only had the vision to see the true genius of Holmes and Watson.

Ah, well, we can all dream, can't we? And apparently of Mrs. Hudson!

Wednesday, March 1, 2023

Hoping for more Sherlock?

 After yet another rumor of the third Robert Downey Jr. movie with his Sherlock Holmes surfaced the other day, which is kind of a "Yeah, yeah, talk to me when actual filming starts!" moment at this point, I started pondering big movie franchises, the Disney IP monster, and how Sherlock Holmes is now public domain. Well, that Sherlock Holmes, anyway.

There's another Sherlock Holmes who is still held by the BCC. And while Sherlock Holmes isn't an intellectual property of a Marvel/Star Wars level, the fact that Disney is working with the BBC on Doctor Who brings up the possibility of more collaborations. And since the entertainment powerhouse has been working with the two key leads from Sherlock, well, hope springs eternal.

Yes, yes, season four, blah, blah, blah. But Sherlock did end with a magical reboot of sorts, Sherlock and John racing off from a rebuild 221B on another case. And that is just the perfect tee-up for a Disney Plus level six or eight episode bit. And that thing Disney is notorious for, that processing (I really can't find the proper word for it) of their IP for the best possible audience digestion . . . well, all the season four sharp edges might get filed off. But here's the kicker . . .

Have you noticed the big thing that Fox News type folks complain about with Disney? The fact that they keep forcing "woke" content on poor souls who just want 1950s level non-diversity in their entertainments? And how Disney Plus has been slipping non-traditional couples into a lot of their stuff?

I don't even want to speak the words for fear of jinxing those slim possibilities that give one hope in life, but it's possible to envision a world in which something a lot of fans wanted comes into being, but at a Disney Plus level, of course. Deals with the devil always have a catch, and dear things tend to have a price tag attached, but it just brings up a fascinating possibility.

Streaming services are probably not looking at putting big money into shows at this point, but Sherlock is not an expensive, CGI-heavy show to make, unless the leads are salty enough about the last go-round to demand extra big money to go back to their old roles. But who knows?

Hope springs eternal, and honestly, I almost see Sherlock getting a new installment before Robert Downey Junior gets his act together with Sherlock Holmes 3. And who knows what else lies on the horizon? (Yes, that weird Watson/Moriarty thing, which does benefit two specific podcasts I know, but talking Sherlock Holmes here.)

We shall see.

Sunday, February 26, 2023

Sherlock Holmes without the Canon

 There was a debate that sprang up Saturday at the latest meeting of the John H. Watson Society that has been rolling around in my head all weekend, so I figured last thing Sunday eve is a good time to dump the thoughts out and begin the week anew. The point in question was of the importance of the original sixty stories to the hobby of Sherlock Holmes, and their importance in connecting us. 

You know me, I like to try hamburgers made from sacred cows on occasion just to see how they taste, so let's just shoot that bovine in the head and get it over with. Let's do a Thanos snap and make the original Conan Doyle works disappear from the Earth. We can't read them any more, in any form. Any adaptation that stays over fifty percent true to the original text, gone too. Gone, gone, gone.

But everything else remains. Sherlock Holmes remains. All the actors, all the movies, Laurie King books, Lyndsay Faye books, Bonnie MacBird books, Nicholas Meyer books, Elementary, Sherlock . . . even everything else written by Conan Doyle except Sherlock Holmes.

You know what? I think we're actually okay. We may have lost our favorite antique, our beautiful piece of art, our finely crafted centerpiece, but you know what? We're still filthy stinkin' rich in Sherlock Holmes!

Having 221B Con in my very bloodstream ("The con is never over.") has taught me again and again that we don't need Original Canon to share joy in Sherlock Holmes. Our inner definitions of Sherlock Holmes at this point come from a thousand different interactions with the character, who had a dozens of different faces speaking in even more different voices. We learned who Sherlock Holmes was from Basil or Jeremy or Benedict. We tasted other Sherlocks and went "YUCK!" which also defined him for us. We read comics, played games, and found friends based on that singular connection.

And our first question was never, "You read the original sixty stories, right?" The may be our most base level currency, but we'll happily trade in new Sherlocks. Sidney Paget drawing are nice, but the joy in a new piece of Sherlock Holmes art that just captures the man is a priceless moment. The same with prose, the same with film. And a new friend that squees "I LOVE ELEMENTARY!" and goes into depth on Joan Watson's pajamas is someone I'm going to enjoy talking to -- we may not be identical in our loves, but close enough.

Once Sherlock Holmes existed over a hundred years, the diversity collected in his composite being could not help but be reflected in the diversity of his fans views. And with video becoming a much more prevalent medium than the written word, we are definitely meeting true fans who never read the foundation works, yet are still lively and engaging folk. 

There will always be those resistant few who want to deny that diversity, as when certain establishment sorts tried to bunker themselves behind the definition of Sherlockiana as a "literary fandom," when film hobbyists and actor fans have been a part of our culture since William Gillette took the stage or Eille Norwood took to the screen. But that's born out of a fear of loss more than anything. And as I said earlier, we're filthy stinkin' rich in Sherlock Holmes. He's not going anywhere, even if we completely lost the original Conan Doyle Canon entirely. A thousand pastiches haven't diluted Holmes into non-existence. Will Ferrell didn't ruin Holmes for Hollywood. The number of people out there who truly love Sherlock Holmes keep him coming back, however they first met him.

That collection of words making up The Complete Sherlock Holmes is a great Bible of Sherlock Holmes. It's great we still have it, and surely always will. But it's does not contain all the great words on the detective, and hasn't for some time. And we can love those words, and the folks who learned of Holmes from those other texts, for adding to our Sherlockian world, not taking away from it.

Fear not. Sherlock Holmes lives. And lives well.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Sherlock Holmes versus Superman

 I like to ponder ultra-popular characters and consider why they hit a sweet spot with the public like they do. Harry Potter, for instance, has always made me think he came along just when technology we were using every day was starting to seem like magic, so Harry made a good icon for the age. Sherlock Holmes, of course, was something a bit the opposite, an avatar of science and reason when those things were on the rise in a period of change. And the other day I came around to thinking about Superman.

More recent films have tried to get into him being an alien and use him to speak of hating aliens, or looking at him as a god and tell tales of man's relationship with his gods. But neither of those really worked, because neither was what Superman was created to be. And what was that?

The anti-Sherlock-Holmes.

"BUT WAIT!" you might protest. "Superman is no Professor Moriarty."

No, Superman was a simple Kansas farm boy, raised on those wholesome American values that Ma and Pa Kent instilled in him. A real argument for nurture over nature. He might have had the whole "yellow sun gives me powers" bit of luck, but Superman's real core is the strength that his good wheat-field grown heart gave him to win battles over who?

The science guys. "Mad" scientists like Lex Luther or the Toyman. Silly creative imps like Mr. Mxyzptlk who could change reality. A guy literally called "Brainiac." And Superman even came from a planet full of scientist types who just couldn't seem to get it right. So, just as Sherlock Holmes came along when science was a hopeful beacon of the future, Superman seems to have arrived at a moment when we were going "Hey, wait a minute, maybe we should let our better selves keep technology in check!"

Superman doesn't have to figure out what the deal is with the demon hound on the moors, he just has to get in its way. Superman doesn't have to figure out that Hosmer Angel is really Mary Sutherland -- his x-ray vision can reveal the truth without having to think about it at all. (Kind of like Wonder Woman's magic lasso of truth -- a real cheat for skipping right to the answer without working it out.) And unlike that Sherlock Holmes, who thinks he's smarter than the legal system and lets some criminals go, Superman faithfully drops villains off at the police station to let the judge and jury do their work.

I just don't know if Superman and Sherlock Holmes would have gotten along. It would have probably taken Watson to act as an intermediary, as a probable fan of both approaches, impressed by the amazing powers of whoever he was with at the moment, and seeing the rightness of their cause. Because Watson has always been us, really, in dealing with the icon of an age. He'd have probably gotten on with Harry Potter too.

And now, a disclaimer . . .

 If you listened to the latest episode if I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, you might have heard something a bit unusual in Scott Monty's introduction of one of the guests, which included the line "Yet he's still a bitter, bitter old Sherlockian, and probably a monster in his own right." I have to tell you, I was a little shocked to hear those words from one of Sherlockiana's most trusted voices. I mean, Scott's such a nice guy, and all! 

But I probably shouldn't have been so taken aback, since Scott was merely reading from my little bio in the back of The Monstrum Opus of Sherlock Holmes, which I did actually write myself about myself. And Rob Nunn and I were on the podcast to talk about that very book. There are probably folks out there who haven't bought and read that book cover to cover, so I felt like I needed to blog a little disclaimer, just in cast anyone didn't catch the little wink in Scott's voice or my writing and were concerned that a nice podcaster was suddenly saying mean things about a poor innocent like myself. Here's the full bio:

Brad Keefauver is still bitter that he wasn’t asked to write for this collection and condemned to work in the galleys. He still manages to somehow enjoy all of the writers within this collection despite his utter jealousy of them all. Yes, he’s also host of The Watsonian Weekly podcast, the editor of Sherlockian Chronology Timelines, and blogs under the title of “Sherlock Peoria,” among other creative endeavors. Yet still, a bitter, bitter, old Sherlockian, and possibly a monster in his own right. But if you’re collecting essays for a book, please invite him to write something, and maybe he’ll be less bitter.

Yeah, no poor innocent had that written about him. I mean, come on, only a real narcissist would reprint his own bio from a book in his blog post, and just milk his own self-esteem issues for a sad attempt at getting one more person or two to pay attention to him, right?

Anyways, the point I'm getting to is one reason I find Sherlockiana to be such a marvelous hobby, and that for the most part, it's such a welcoming and accepting hobby that it embraces some real basket cases of all levels of tolerable and intolerable. If you think of the worst person you know in this hobby, I will bet you can find still a few other Sherlockians out there who think they're just the best. (Even if, occasionally, we might want to think hard about that, too.) Some of us may hold on to grudges a little longer than we should, but overall, we don't . . . for now . . . seem to have the divisive culture wars that social media algorithms and cable opinion channels love to stoke the fires to raise their own engagement along with the heat.

Which just made it sooooo weird to hear a Sherlockian publicly say something negative like that about another Sherlockian, even if it was done in good spirits with good intentions. Hence this sort-of disclaimer post. Probably not going to link it directly to the social media feeds, though, because it's just weird.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

An old theory resurfaces, along a potential revisionist history first meeting!

 I've got a pet theory that's a little wild. 

I mean, sure, like every other Sherlockian, I've got a whole menagerie of theories about Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, but there is one I can't ever shake, and that I just feel in my bones.

It started on a trip to Glenwood Springs, Colorado with a friend of mine named John Holliday. John used to have a different name, but became disenchanted with it, and as a fan of John "Doc" Holliday, my friend decided to make that name his own. And Glenwood Springs is the site of the grave of that very Doc Holliday, but the locals will tell you that they're pretty sure his body isn't in that grave.

Grave robbers wanting a celebrity outlaw corpse? Okay, but there I was, standing at the grave of John H. Holliday with a friend who had changed his name and started a new life. And that old John H. Holliday seemed to have died the same years that John H. Watson first had his presence felt in London.

I mean, what else was I to think? Conan Doyle covered the tracks of a dentist whose American notoriety became too much by writing him up as a British doctor? Oh, he still teamed up with Sherlock Holmes, of course!

Holliday was born August 14, 1851. He had a grand moustache. And Sherlock Holmes had to learn about faking deadly illness from somebody. (Yes, I'm saying Holliday's coughing fits were a ruse to gain the upper hand in fights.)

But I won't belabor old points I've been making from 2003 on, since I published my treatise on Watson/Holliday in Baker Street West 1. For tonight, I have new evidence.

I was doing a little chronology work for the Sherlockian Chronology Guild, when I started considering the timeline implications of Sherlock Holmes reading from his good old index: "Venomous lizard or gila. Remarkable case, that!"  So Sherlock Holmes had a case having to do with gila monsters. Interesting.

More interesting? Some of the first published work on gila monster venom, which saw print in 1890, was done by a Dr. George Goodfellow of . . . ready for this? Tombstone, Arizona. The largest specimen of gila monster ever captured at that time was caught on a road near Tombstone on May 14, 1881, just five months ahead of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. And Goodfellow both treated the Earp brothers after that gunfight and testified on the behalf of the Earps and Doc Holliday at the subsequent trial, getting them out of murder charges.

So Sherlock Holmes dealt with a gila monster. "Remarkable case, that!" 

Was it perhaps so remarkable because it involved his actual first meeting with his Watson, in a place far, far away from St. Bart's Hospital, which a writer like Conan Doyle would naturally gravitate to in his fictionalization of John H. "Watson" and his friend Sherlock Holmes?

Like I said, it's a pet theory of mine. I just didn't ever realize that there was a Canonical lizard connection just sitting there in plain sight like that. (And one that can eat a third of its body weight in one meal, a fact I'm now kind of jealous of.) You just never know.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

A happy ending Canon?

 Okay, so it's Valentine's Day, and after an early supper, an early screening of Marlowe, and some fresh strawberries and ice cream, it was early enough to kill some time with something fairly light from the streaming world.  So Rosaline from Disney Plus? A romantic comedy take on two characters in the background of the classic Romeo and Juliet, which one approaches going "They can't die in the end of this one, can they?"

Well, spoiler, of course not. The tidy 90 minute movie stays true to Shakespeare but still manages to pull a happy ending and living lovers at the end. Maybe not in a fashion for those who tolerate no nonsense in their movies, but why would any no-nonsense person watch this whole movie? It does bring up a very big Sherlockian question, though, the Canon being our classic, just as classic as Shakespeare's works are to theater, and that question is this:

What if we just wrote happy addendums to all of the sixty stories?

Oh, no! John Openshaw fell in the river and drowned! Because he had an envelope in his pocket that said "John Openshaw" on it, according to Constable Cook of H Division! No way is that not conclusive proof that Openshaw died, and surely someone identified the body other than just reading the envelope. I mean, Sherlock Holmes had to at least . . . spend the whole next day going through Lloyd's registers and files of old papers. Hmmm.

It might take a stronger contrivance in some of the cases, and how far we want to go in bringing happiness to the tale. I mean, if we manage to somehow work out a way that both Stoner sisters live to a ripe old age, do we want to spare Grimesby Roylott, too?

Do we want Professor Moriarty to be talked into reforming and starting a new life under a new name by Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls?

The possibilities are endless, and would make another tidy collection in this age of seemingly endless collections. It would have to be all sixt . . oh. Dammit, I just thought of another sixty part collection that I still haven't finished. Somebody take this idea away from me, please, or tell me someone has done it already. Too many other things to do in this Sherlockian life, I tells you.

But back to my original inspiration, the random romantic comedy, which the Hallmark channel has turned into an industry . . . did you ever think about how many Sherlock Holmes stories are practically romantic comedies? "Noble Bachelor" to be sure. "A Scandal in Bohemia" could be worked into one easily enough. "A Case of Identity?" Give that girl a young gasfitter from the ball who was just waiting for Hosmer Angel to be out of the picture! But the romantic comedy Canon is an entirely different collection.

Wait, genre Canons? Oh, that's . . . that's . . . time to end the blog post. Good night!

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Sherlock Holmes would play Pokemon Go

 Sherlockiana is littered with articles about Sherlock Holmes being a golfer, a foodie, or whatever interest the writer held dear, so it's only fitting we finally answer this question: Would Sherlock Holmes have played Pokemon Go?

Yes, the game on your phone where you catch imaginary creatures in magic balls. That one that was all the rage years back, but maybe isn't so hot now. But like many a fandom, it has an audience that has stuck around, and a number of them are Sherlockians. How do I know? We send each other little virtual postcards in the game.

One of the goals of Pokemon Go is motivating its players to get out and walk around the world, which is why I think Sherlock Holmes would have found it not only mildly amusing, but useful. Many a time I've been in a strange city, call up the game, and see the Pokestops lining the streets. Pokestops are little sites of an actual geographic location where you can spin a disk and get little items like said magic balls. One thing you get, specific to any location is a "gift" -- a sort of postcard showing you a picture of something notable at that location.

Back in 2017, for example, I sent an in-game Sherlockian friend or two such a postcard from a bar called "Watson's" in Champaign, Illinois. But Sherlock Holmes wouldn't just enjoy it for the reminder of his friend Watson. Since locals, or those with interest in a place, created the Pokestops on the in-game map of a place, they often reveal statues, paintings, fixtures or notable local sights worth seeing that you would not have taken the time to find had you now opened up the game. In other words, Pokemon Go is an information source, and I think one that Sherlock Holmes would have taken to in a heartbeat. He might not have been a regular daily player, but he'd surely have had it on his phone as a source of information you couldn't get anywhere else. Every town does not have a tourist brochure of their important sites, but almost all of them do have Pokemon Go maps.

Take for example, High Street in Winchester. Remember it from "Copper Beeches?" Of course you do. You might also remember the Black Swan, "an inn of repute," from that tale. My Pokemon Go "lucky friend" Paul Thomas Miller certainly does.

Were Sherlock Holmes in the neighborhood and opening up his Pokemon Go app, he would have found the place straightaway from its Pokestop, even if the inn's repute had not been as high as Watson tells us.

Even though the basic Pokemon-catching part of this little entertainment app can get a little old, getting these postcards from far off lands, like England, Japan, Canada, or Oregon is still a lot of fun. And when you go somewhere different yourself, gathering up virtual postcards to send back to those places and your Pokemon Go friends there (whom sometimes you've never met or know their name, depending upon how you collected your friends -- you can always do it in person, via email, or just picking up randos on social media when the game offers you some reward for adding a new friend. I've collected locals, Sherlockians, folks I met in Vegas on vacation, and internet folk whose virtual gifts come in languages I can't even read.

And the game does have an album feature for collecting these postcards (though mine ran out of room once, and I had to clear some out to make room for. all the ones Paul's aunt sends from Portsmouth. (Pokemon Go can connect you with all sorts of people, even if you never communicate outside of those little postcards.)  And Sherlock Holmes, who loved to gather information from unlikely sources, would have totally had plenty of them saved in his app.

Pokemon Go is all about walking around, and Sherlock Holmes did enjoy walking about London and getting as much knowledge about his city as he could. So I have no doubt he'd have picked this app up, and a few Pokemon Go lucky friends along the way -- I mean, think of the value of Porlock sending him the sites of Moriarty's coming crimes via Pokestop gifts. Anonymous, nothing Moriarty would immediately suspect were he not a Pokemon Go player himself (and of course Moriarty wouldn't be -- a college math professor would probably have been pooh-poohing his students playing it).

And Holmes could have spun the Pokestop a few times while staying at the Black Swan with Watson, I now know, thanks to Paul Thomas Miller. Because, as you know, Sherlock Holmes is everywhere, and surely has his own Pokestops in some of those places now.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

When the universe just knows a little too much

Coincidences can strike with such keen timing sometimes.

Tonight was our local library Sherlockian discussion group, and a couple of our friends there occasionally will invite us for a drink or a bite after we're done. Tonight they suggested Fox Pub, a local favorite that has trivia nights on Thursdays, which I quickly brought up.

"The last time we got there in the middle of trivia night, I kept accidentally saying answers to things. Maybe that's not the best choice," I objected.

"That night we just happened to know a lot of the answers," my friend assured me. "It will be okay."

We headed for the pub, spoke to the hostess, and were led to a table. Halfway to the table, the trivia night hostess called out:


All four of us started laughing hysterically, baffling everyone else in the pub. There was no question that could have been asked at that moment that proved my fears correct with such perfect timing. None.

Act of God? Proof we're in a simulation? Earlier psychic foreshadowing?

I explained our laughter to the trivia hostess, who appreciated knowing why we broke up for no apparent reason. Later, I would think perhaps I should inform her that there was a second possible answer to that question besides "John," but thought perhaps I'd keep my super-Sherlock-nerd comments to myself at that point and spare her the "Accctuuuallllly . . ." that she probably gets inflicted with far too often.

But it was just damned weird.

Oh, and "The Gloria Scott" is a pretty fascinating story when you really dig into the amount of detail, curious little references, and unusual timings of the thing. But perhaps more on that later.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Fair game

 So, after reading Dan Andriacco's essay on constructing stories imitating Watson's voice, found in the collection Writing Holmes!, I decided I wanted to find a Sherlock Holmes pastiche I could tear into and pick apart its flaws without hurting anyone's feelings. So I went to a tale with at least one author whom Sherlockians have never much cared for, a little tale called "The Adventure of the Seven Clocks."

First published in Life magazine in 1952, "Seven Clocks" is a cash grab by Adrian Conan Doyle, partnering up with American writer of British mysteries, John Dickson Carr. If there are any Adrian Conan Doyle fans out there, they are surely rare eccentrics who don't bother with "that internet thingie" as they swan around some vintage yacht, permanently tethered off the coast of New Jersey -- so no worries of hurt feelings there. And ACD2 takes any heat off Carr enthusiasts who can blame the scion for anything I would get into.

So I looked into "The Adventure of the Seven Clocks." And it didn't take long to start pulling loose threads.

"I find recorded in my notebook that it was on the afternoon of Wednesday, the 16th of November, 1887," the tale begins, "when the attention of my friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes was first drawn to the singular affair of the man who hated clocks."

While any chronologist will salivate over that date, it's an opening sentence as cold as if Star Trek's Mr. Data had decided to write a pastiche. No points for that. And a short gap of one whole sentence leads us to this: "Indeed, I have gone so far as to state that my first post-nuptial call on Holmes was in March of the following year." When one considers that Baring-Gould, Gavin Brend, and Ernest Bloomfield Zeisler, among others, were hitting Sherlockian chronology hard in the years when "Clocks" was published, you can see why Adrian might have been trying to quash such speculations with the firmest of Watson dates. But it just is a poor start to a tale.

For three paragraphs, the tale goes on about dates and Watson's marriage, then the fourth brings up breakfast and the weather, and the fifth adds in Holmes's mouse-coloured dressing gown and his cherry-wood pipe. He soon mentions the victim from "The Resident Patient," the Beaune from The Sign of the Four, and Watson's marriage again.  A little newspaper reading on horse-racing, Nihilists, and the odd headline, and Holmes is announcing being bored for just enough time for Watson to cry out, "Hark! Surely that was the bell!"


A young lady with a face whose beauty and sensitivity Watson has seldom seen the like of shows up and doesn't know which one is Sherlock Holmes at first. Holmes makes deductions based on all the initials and such that the young lady almost seems to have designed for such purposes, and we learn that Miss Celia Forsythe has been in the employ of Lady Mayo. (Who regularly holds a clinic on sandwich spreads? Sorry, had to go there.) She tells her story, Watson accuses Holmes of being less than sympathetic, and Holmes replies like so:

"Oh? Sets the wind in that quarter?" 

Now, does that sound like Sherlock Holmes or the author of a book called Heaven Has Claws: Big-Game Fishing Off the African Coast . . . whose name happens to be Adrian Conan Doyle. (With a cover blurb that reads, "You can't put the book down . . . all vivid hues and clashing sounds." -- John Dickson Carr. Okay, I'll say it: Carr, you kiss-ass.)

Holmes throws on his deerstalker and Invernesse cape and announces he's headed for Switzerland. (Which makes you wonder if he's realized who is writing him and is headed straight for Reichenbach to jump.) Watson smokes Ship's tobacco and plays billiards with Thurston while he waits for Holmes to come back from Switzerland, then is excited to tell his wife (mentioned by name as Mary) about the young and beautiful client Holmes had while she stares at the fire. (Adrian seems preparing to break them up as definitely as his dates, another one coming up as Holmes returns.)

Watson hears Big Ben chime and remembers he needs to go back to Baker Street, since he's pissed off his wife enough for one evening.  Back at Baker Street, he spouts an obvious clue to Holmes, the beautiful Miss Forsythe returns, along with a manservant whom Watson writes this uncharitable line about:

"I have often remarked that a stupid person is the most doggedly loyal."

Wow, Watson. Just, wow.

There's some racing around, trains, carriages, rooftoops, and an ending that reminds me more of an old TV finale of Starsky and Hutch than Holmes and Watson. Their lives are saved by a sturdy product of old British craftsmanship, so bully for that.

Why was this "The Adventure of the Seven Clocks" and not "The Man Who Hated Clocks" or the name Watson referred to it by in an actual Canonical story, as is revealed at the end? Why is the man's hatred for clocks caused by the very thing that would tend to make him not do what he did to those clocks? Who knows? And what parts did ACD2 and JDC each play in the concocting of this primeval pastichery?

I ordered John Dickson Carr's biography on the cheap (library copy) after reading this, to see if it holds any insights. But if you're ever looking for a pastiche you can rip on without hurting the feelings of any of your friends who are currently writing, might I suggest ACD2? Perhaps you'll be inspired to create an ACD2 society, which would make for some easy living as there are only four books in Adrian's bibliography. Well, except that you might be expected to read them.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

"Invested" versus "investitured"

 Okay, let's get trivial. 

On Sherlock Holmes's birthday this year, I was corrected when I said something about new members of the Baker Street Irregulars being "investitured" when given their shilling and Canonical investiture (our fancy word for nickname or title). My corrector, who shall remain nameless, stated that the correct word was "invested."

I mentioned this in a blog post, and later got an e-mail from someone whom I would deem the highest authority on Sherlockian doings, just because he's been one of the top living Sherlockians as long as I knew there were top living Sherlockians. Do I have to drop the name? Okay, it was Peter.

He cited the long history of usage of the word "investitured" from Morley to Smith to Wolff, and its appearances in letters going back to 1949 and The Baker Street Journal as far back as 1958. And even though dictionaries are thought by some to be the last word on what is a word, I've always been one of those who contends usage is the true defining factor. If you say it to someone and they understand, it has served the purpose of a word.

But once Peter brought up historical usage, I had to head to the trusty Google Ngram Viewer to dig a little deeper. And, what's this? An 1868 poem by George Lansing Raymond?

1912, 1918, 1922 . . . folks from all sorts of fields love turning "investiture" into a verb. And why not?

To say that Michael Kean "invested" Cindy Brown this year sounds like he traded her for stocks or bonds. It does have a second definition meaning to endow someone with something, but we rarely hear of that usage, at least in my circles. And while "investiture" is defined as the act of investing a person with some honor in dictionaries, and set as a noun, I think I have suffered through enough people turning other words into verbs in my lifetime to get a little payback with "investitured." And I'm plainly not alone.

The best place to find the list of honorees on the web is which makes "investitured" their main use and demotes "invested" to a parenthetical. The BSI Trust website includes both but reverses the priority. ONLY uses "investitured." But wait! Outside our humble Sherlockian confines? The Anglican Diocese of the Trinity, the Antelope County Clerk Magistrate's office, the new president of Albany State University, Curtis Armstrong's IMDB page . . . need I say more?

I think the "investitured" horse is out of the barn and not going back in at this point. So I'm running with it from now on.

Monday, January 16, 2023

The one thing. That one awful, awful thing.

 Browsing through pastiches a couple months ago after getting a gift card for a place that has a whole lot of such, I was reminded what a finely crafted thing a Sherlock Holmes fiction has to be for me at this point. Holmes is the exact opposite of vampires for me -- I can read a really bad vampire novel and have a great time while all the while aware that it's not top quality. But Sherlock Holmes?

That gets personal.

It didn't used to be -- in college I read pastiches that even the book's own authors later ceased to love, and had a great time. But over the years I found out where my limits were, and often those limits always tended to revolve around one bad moment, one little action that crossed a line and made me go, "NOPE! Not Sherlock!" And while I would like to use my vengeful zodiac sign and its supposed traits as my excuse, I tend to hold on to those little injustices to the character like the writer gunned down my dog. Down goes the book, into the pile to pass to other Sherlockians who may not have the same pastiche triggers as I.

And while those books did not meet the fate of a certain issue of The Amazing Spiderman or a particular adventure novel that both got walked straight to the garbage can for their unforgivable moments, I ashamedly have to admit, second chances are very hard to come by from this particular reader.

I began this blog post back during Holmes's "season of forgiveness," thinking that maybe I should start forgiving a few writers, perhaps giving them a second chance. The "friends discount," as it were, as I will always finish a short story written by a Sherlockian friend . . . ah, but novels. Why does it always have to be novels? We all know that Sherlock Holmes was at his least successful, even when written by Conan Doyle, in novel form. (The Hound of the Baskervilles is a horror novel with Sherlock Holmes stories at either end. C'mon!)

At this point, I really wish I could do back to my college years, happily reading every single Sherlock Holmes novel that came my way and enjoying them all. (Except, sadly, for The Adventure of the Peerless Peer by Philip José Farmer, which I always kept to myself, since he founded the local scion society and was a grand human whose company, and other books, I enjoyed. But that book . . .) These days, however, I approach those rare novel-length pastiches I do pick up like a bomb-disposal expert approaching a land mine. Waiting and watching for the one thing that will trigger an explosion.

Of course, leaning into that metaphor, I'm the actual powder keg, the brick of C-4, the bundle of dynamite sticks. Those un-Sherlock-y pastiche moments are just the spark. Perhaps one day, when I'm fully retired and mellowing out on edibles, I might be able to go back into the world of pastiche without reacting so strongly to a sour note in the familiar tune. But those days are still many years away.

For now, though, it seems like that one thing, whatever that one thing turns out to be in a given book, will always see me fleeing another faux 221B.  Perhaps I should take a course of short stories to desensitize myself over the course of this year.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Brad's 2023 Argument Against The Status Quo

 When you've been blogging about Sherlockiana for twenty-three years, after writing a monthly newsletter column for fifteen years on the same topic, you do wind up revisiting the same topics again and again. Sometimes, it's an accident. Sometimes, it's a new take on an old topic. And sometimes, especially upon one topic in particular, it's intentional and persistent.

Now that we've lived through another January BSI weekend, now that the big news from the annual Baker Street Irregulars dinner is over and we know who got made of member of that ancient order, and now that we've congratulated and said "It was long overdue!" to those handed their certificates . . . well it's time for THAT blog post. You know the one, if you haven't quit reading my stuff years ago due to exactly THAT blog post.

How long are we going to let one guy, no matter who that one guy is, decide who is worth Sherlockian validation in America?

When Elon Musk took over Twitter and was criticized immediately for putting the blue checkmarks on the open market, there was a worse play he could have made. He could have just decided that he, Elon Musk, was the person who got to decide who was a verified Twitter user popular enough to get the blue check mark. He could have had all of Twitter start sending him suggestions and pleading the case of any celebrity they felt should have the blue check mark, imposing arbitrary rules like "you have to tweet at least ten times a day on Twitter to be seen as a celebrity by Twitter." Yes, that probably would have been even less popular.

But here we are in American Sherlockiana with that basic system. We may pooh-pooh it until the day when we finally get our shilling of validation and feel like we have finally made it, but when that day comes, suddenly all is well and good and, hey, it must be a great system, because I got my name on the list, right? Even if the last guy didn't like me, but the new guy knew better, or one of them finally realized I wasn't whatever someone had told them about me, and I finally got in. Because getting into the Big Club is a great feeling. A wonderful feeling that we want others to have. And we sure as hell don't want to invalidate our own honors, now do we?

But, at the end of a day, ignore it or not, it's a shit system where we let one guy control who becomes a Baker Street Irregular because he manages one dinner a year. And really, since the one guy is the only person who could put a better system in place . . . well, it would take a very special person to look beyond honoring his predecessors by maintaining the same-old, same-old that they didn't deign to improve.

Now, you might say, "Why do you care, Brad? You never come to NYC for the dinner these days. You're not writing for the Journal, getting into the BSI collections, involved with their workshops, etc." Or "Aren't you actually impeding progress by pissing people off and just making them more intrenched in the status quo every time you write these?" Hmm. Well, being on the outs with certain folk accounts for a little of that. And, yes, there is the possibility that I should just shut up and allow the thing to cook without stirring the pot. But you know what? In 1989, I was invested as a Baker Street Irregular. I used to say "investitured" but I was corrected this year to say the proper term, "invested."

So I was invested in this organization, people attach the letters "BSI" to my name in bylines even though I don't put it there myself, and like many an American Sherlockian, I watch our annual awards show from a distance to see which of my friends finally gets the nod each year. The Baker Street Irregulars investiture is a part of our culture, a part of our hobby, that isn't going away. It's a tradition, an institution, a personal landmark. But none of that means it couldn't be done in a better, more meaningful fashion.

That's all I'm saying, and all I've ever said, once the one guy started letting women in, which was where I started this one-Sherlockian crusade. Did letting women in ruin the investitures of all the men who got in before 1991? Not in the slightest -- it actually made our shillings MORE meaningful. Would improving the BSI investiture system toward a more representative and transparent system without the capacity for one man's bias tilting the scale ruin the Sherlockian childhoods of any current Baker Street Irregular members? Of course not. Why not improve?

So this is my occasional blog post on the topic for early 2023. Probably enough to keep me in the bad graces of Sherlockian ultra-conservatives for another year or two. But, hey, it'll be at least another six months before I write about it yet again, so no worries if anyone missed it. I'll be back.

Friday, January 13, 2023

The Red Flame still warms my heart

 In his latest "Interesting though Elementary" blog, Rob Nunn recounts his Sherlock Holmes birthday weekend experiences in New York, and as you can quickly see, it's all about the people. Sure, it's a little about buying books, but since the internet came around, the piles of books and shipments arranged from the Mysterious Bookshop are definitely not as large as they were in the 1980s. Things change, as much as we would hope they don't.

One such thing triggered my old man "You kids just don't know!" reaction, as Rob described his trip to the Red Flame Dinner just off Times Square. "It's a diner," Rob writes, sounding disappointed. Someone apparently tried to organize an eleven person group into the place, whose set-up is really made for four-person groups at max. And he's not wrong. The Red Flame is a diner. A New York diner.

Now that the Algonquin Hotel is no longer the home base of Baker Street Irregulars visiting New York on the birthday weekend, it's a little harder to see what the big deal about the Red Flame is, so I understand Rob's reaction. But back in the day, when the Algonquin's little breakfast facility was overcrowded and a bit over-priced, the Red Flame was the perfect alternative, both for a good breakfast and just to watch notable Sherlockians walk by its windows on their way to Times Square, bookstores, and everywhere else.

I had my first actual New York egg cream at the Red Flame, which is my only memory of any food or drink at the place. But crowding into those booths with Gordon Speck and Bill Cochran, sitting at a table across from Sam Gringras, the man behind Magico publishing . . . those are my real memories of the Red Flame. And after consuming and digesting all of the social media posts from the past weekend, it's easy to remember that is what it's really all about.

McSorley's may be just a pub. The BSI dinner happens in just a banquet room. The venues change throughout the weekend, and while each of us might have a food favorite at a given place, the places aren't the part that make any of it memorable. It's the people who are there with us. Take away the people, and the Mysterious Bookshop and it's gathered treasures becomes the most important part of that whole weekend. But take away the people and you don't have the capital "w" Weekend.

Sometimes our memories build up the reputations of the venues in a way that might disappoint a later arrival, as seems the case with Rob and the Red Flame. Not every place can be the Jekyll and Hyde Club, a silly sort of attraction-restaurant whose details might be better remembered than who you dragged there. Or have the Morley-level historic connections of the Algonquin or McSorley's. And there are so many Sherlockian dinners in so many cities whose restaurants I could never tell you the names of. Because the sites and the food are never the real reason they warm our hearts for years after.

Just like the ol' Red Flame does for some of us, and other sites will do for those who come after.

Monday, January 2, 2023

Sherlock Holmes's Birthday Night at the Dangling Prussian

 "My dear sir, if you did anything so foolish you would probably enlarge the too limited titles of our village inns by giving us 'The Dangling Prussian' as a signpost."

-- Sherlock Holmes, "His Last Bow"

Ah, that Prussian who dangles, the symbol of potential foolishness called out by Sherlock Holmes. The very thought of a German shouting at British villagers and those crowds suddenly becoming the most hostile audience his vocalizations could possible have. And holding an event on January 6 in the year 2023, now that the date "January 6" in America evokes the memory riotous weirdos attacking an institution. Who in their right mind would create an event that combines all of that?

Well, a theme's a theme, and since it's the SECOND ANNUAL "Pub Night at the Dangling Prussian," we have to keep it, right? It's the six hour marathon of Zooming for everyone who isn't doing something else the night of the Baker Street Irregulars dinnner in New York City. It's Sherlock Holmes's birthday, and his fans have to celebrate. So let's look at what we have on tap . . . though it's virtual, so this pub doesn't actually have a tap. (Sad face.)

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

You can come in silent and off camera, but if you come in with your camera on, we're going to introduce you around and ask you a question or two. (We'll be doing this later, too, but if there's some other program going on, we might miss your arrival.)

7:00 PM Eastern/6:00 PM Central -- The Old-Timey Sherlockian Rememberin' Hour!

Remember the '70s and '80s? This will be an hour for folks to tell their tales, if you can get your fellow oldsters to quit jabberin' about their own old-timey stories long enough to get yours in! Questions from young punks encouraged! This hour will kick off with a slide show from an authentic old-timey Sherlockian, because the slide show is the traditional medium of personal nostalgia.

8:00 PM Eastern/7:00 PM Central -- The Official Annual Meeting of the Montague Street Incorrigibles!

Can't get into the Baker Street Irregulars? Willing to accept a cheap knock-off brand with a similar name? Last year the Incorrigibles invested thirty-nine new members and awarded them their own PDF membership certificate, so with that kind of wholesale membership investitures, you're sure to get into the club -- but you can only do it on this one night of the year by attending this one event! Toasts and other official meeting stuff shall also occur!

9:00 PM Eastern/8:00 PM Central -- Open Mike Spotlight Hour!

Will anyone have the courage to sing Sherlockian karaoke? Will the slam poets among us be brave enough to take the virtual stage? Will Professor Presbury return to do something vaguely resembling stand-up comedy? Or will nothing at all happen, because we're all shy bookworms or lost our voice due to long Covid? It's an open mike, it's all up to you and whatever you'd like to do for our crowd in five minutes or under! [DISCLAIMER: The word "crowd" is being used very loosely here. It's not that many people.] Just spend 2.21 minutes telling us how much you like Mrs. Hudson, it's all fair game in this hour. (AND NONE OF IT WILL BE RECORDED!!!)

10:00 PM Eastern/9:00 PM Central -- The Sherlockian Underground Reports!

We all have our spies in New York City this weekend, many risking stern rebukes for slipping us information via banned channels. We'll be finding out all the news we can as quickly as we can, and you'll hear it here first! Last year we beat Twitter, and we'll see if we can do it again!


We'll never know if Baron Von Bork did anything so foolish as inspiring a pub called the Dangling Prussian as Sherlock Holmes promised, but foolishness cannot be stopped.  Friday Night is coming on quickly!