Wondering what happened in the Sherlockian world during the second half of February 2014? Les Klinger discusses his interest in gothic horror literature, Steve Doyle talks about his life long pursuit of Sherlockian-centric publishing, the Baker Street Babes interview the minds behind UK Sherlock Con ‘Elementary’, a look at why someone wanted to exhume the body of Bertram Fletcher Robison, role playing on Baker Street, Paget illustrations recreated in Legos, what happens when you combine five different Holmes adaptations to create one seamless video, Moriarty overload, a whimsical look at the ‘rules’ for writing a Sherlock pastiche, Keefauver on the Sherlockian brave new world, a discussion of whether or not BBC Sherlock has diminished strong female characters in the Canon, is Steven Moffat an evil genius or just evil, upcoming Sherlockian gatherings of the Priory Scholars of NYC and the Three Garridebs of Westchester, a new play combining FINA, SCAN and STUD, a Sherlockian conference in the UK spends a day considering “His Last Vow”, an inside look at an event of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit, and more in the latest Weekly Sherlock Links Compendium by Matt Laffey.
This post is dedicated to east coast Sherlockian scion personality and recently departed friend Joe Moran - you will be dearly missed sir.
[Click the above photo to read Francine Kitts’ I Hear of Sherlock's remembrance of Sherlockian Joe Moran. Photo taken at the 1991 ‘Back To Switzerland’ event sponsored by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London.]
Masters of Horror recently interviewed Sherlockian annotator extraordinaire Leslie S Klinger about: how he first became interested in Sherlock Holmes, Dracula and the scholarly side of gothic horror literature; his work as the official technical advisor for the Warner Bros Guy Ritchie Sherlock Homes films; his favorite horror literature and films, what it is like being a recognized world-renowned expert and award-winning author in the Sherlockian world, and more. My favorite part of the interview is when Klinger discusses his greatest accomplishments as a writer so far: ”I was deeply honored to receive the Edgar for my New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories [Edgar Award for ‘Best Critical / Biographical Work’, 2005]. I always explain, however, that I stood on the shoulders of [William] Baring-Gould’s work. I had three great advantages over Baring-Gould: (1) The Internet and its amazing depth of Victorian works (in GoogleBooks and elsewhere); (2) the Ronald B. De Waal bibliography of all things Sherlock Holmes (over 25,000 entries), published after Baring-Gould’s death; and (3) I got to start with the work of Baring-Gould! I spent 37 years reading about Holmes, and it was an incredible opportunity to be allowed to distill that reading into 3,000 footnotes! I’m immensely proud of every one of my books. A great highlight of my writing career was the amazing opportunity to study the manuscript of Dracula, owned by Paul Allen and seen (by 2007) by only one other scholar, who wrote nothing about it.” Check out the entire interview for more insights into one of my favorite Sherlockians, Mr Leslie Klinger.
[Cover of Klinger’s New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, an essential tome for any Sherlockian library and serious fans of the mystery genre in general.]
Dan Andriacco interviewed Sherlockian publishing powerhouse Steve Doyle, BSI (“The Western Morning News”) about his life and work in the Sherlockian world which started at the tender age of 14 when he first received facsimiles of the Adventures and Memoirs to when he began publishing and editing his the legendary Sherlock Holmes Review (at 27 years old), a project that led him to Wessex Press/Gasogene Books and eventually becoming the publisher of the Baker Street Journal and author of the acclaimed Sherlock Holmes For Dummies. For a sense of just exactly how long Mr Doyle has been in the game, check out this fantastic video interview from 1987 featuring a fresh-faced, 27 year old Steven Doyle discussing the SHR, the current state (c. mid-1980s) of the Sherlockian world, the ever-growing network of Sherlockian scholars and like-minded fans from around the world and how no detective will ever rival the powers of Sherlock Holmes. My favorite part of Andriacco’s interview is the following: Andriacco: What is the best part of being a Sherlockian? Doyle: ”Being a Sherlockian gives you a key to a community of simply the best people I’ve been privileged to know. Literate, loyal, amazingly generous, absolutely delighting in the intellectual game of Sherlock Holmes. There’s absolutely nothing like it.” Here, here! Lastly, make sure to mark your calendars for Steve Doyle’s Wessex Press sponsored event From Gillette to Brett IV: Basil, Benedict and Beyond taking place in Bloomington, IN on September 12-14, 2014. The conference will feature rare Sherlockian films, vendors, and an all-star roster of distinguished speakers, presenters, and events, one major highlight being screenings of the 75th anniversary prints of Basil Rathbone’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1939) and The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (1939) at the state-of-the-art IU Cinema.
[Screenshot of Steve Doyle at 27 years old reading from an issue of his Sherlock Holmes Review during a 1987 interview.]
Baker Street Babes - Episode 53 finds Babes Kafers and Taylor making the trip to Birmingham, UK to attend a three day Sherlock Con (February 7 - 9, 2014) called ‘Elementary’ produced by Starfury Conventions (a professional UK convention organizer) whose main attraction was an appearance by the one and only Benedict Cumberbatch. Also on the bill were a number of other BBC Sherlock personalities including actor Lars Mikkelsen who played the late, lamented Charles Augustus Magnussen (“His Last Vow”), Jonathan Aris better known as Anderson (wonder if he had the beard?) and set-designer Arwel Wyn Jones - all three of which appear on Episode 53. Find out what Mikkelsen and Aris think about the tremendous popularity of the show as well as how appearing on one of the most popular UK show’s in history has changed their lives. Jones opens up about life behind the BBC Sherlock camera and names some of his favorite sets he’s created. As a bonus, the Babes talk to a sampling of Sherlockian cosplay participants capturing the mood and spirit of the conference through the eyes of dedicated fans.
[“The clues and the evidence have all pointed in one direction, that the only solution for the growing army of fans for Sherlock is an unofficial event. Indeed, it’s elementary! A three day celebration, featuring guest talks, panel, discussions, and a fantastic opportunity for fans to gather around and share their enthusiasm for one of the best shows on TV today!”]
Western Morning News reported on the latest (and perhaps final) development in the controversial debate on whether or not ACD murdered author and journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson (who died on January 21, 1907) by purposely administering a fatal overdose of laudanum (via Gladys, BFR’s wife), opposed to BFR’s official cause of death which was typhoid fever and peritonitis following a visit to Paris. For those unfamiliar with this controversy, ACD’s alleged motive for murdering BFR was two-fold: the first was an attempt to cover up an adulterous affair [ACD] had with his wife and the second was to hide the fact that [ACD] stole the plot of the Hound of the Baskervilles. “The accusations were the results of research carried out by former driving instructor Rodger Garrick-Steele who wanted to exhume the corpse…and test it for traces of poison….Having examined the evidence, Sir Andrew [McFarlane, the chancellor of the ecclesiastical court] said: “This court has been driven to the conclusion that it cannot place any reliance on as assertion made by RGS which is not backed up by an independent piece of evidence or source. On the basis of the material that he has placed before this court he appears to be a totally unreliable historian." BFR expert Paul Spiring exhaustively explains the details of the controversy in the well-written “Conan Doyle, Fletcher Robinson and the Hound" (BFRonline, 2009) - and for further background see "Did Conan Doyle poison his friend to cheat him out of The Hound of the Baskervilles?" (Telegraph, 2005). If you are unfamiliar with the work of Bertram Fletcher Robinson, I highly suggest checking out some of Paul Spiring’s books published by MX such as Aside Arthur Conan Doyle which features 20 illustrated short stories (1899-1907) by BFR. Spiring’s bibliography of BFR is available as a PDF online as are a number of BFR’s short stories which are in the public domain.
[ACD’s dedication to BFR in the published version of The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902). Spiring’s essay on BFR and HOUN describes earlier and later versions of this dedication plus a variety of references made by ACD in letters to BFR’s participation in the creation of HOUN, all of which make for fascinating reading, irregardless of the fantastic claims made by others regarding ACD and BFR.]
Baker Street: Roleplaying in the World of Sherlock Holmes is a Victorian-era RPG designed for 3 to 5 players where you become an investigator working out of 221B Baker Street solving cases as Dr. Watson during the conspicuous absence of Sherlock Holmes created by Bryce Whitacre for Fearlight Games. “Featuring over 30 careers, 25 unique criminal extras, and rules for making your own nefarious villains, Baker Street features a robust investigation mechanic, easy character generation, and rules for making your own mystery. Some of the unique features of Baker Street are The Sherlock Die, Investigation Scenes, Clue Cards, Social Status, and the Threat Meter.” To date this Kickstarter campaign has 451 backers who have pledged a whopping total of $22,860 (original goal was $3,500) - and there are still 12 days to go! If you’re interested, there’s still plenty of Kickstarter reward levels ranging from pledges of $1, $10, $15,….to major pledges of $100 (appear in the game’s artwork), $150 (receive limited edition hardcover version of rule book). Personally, I don’t know much about RPGs (think Dungeon & Dragons role playing games) but reading about Baker Street makes me want to find a few Sherlockians who are into RPGs. I’ll probably buy this game once it’s released regardless, if just to own the special Sherlockian die (multi-sided dice custom made for playing this game). For an in-depth look at Baker Street check out this dramatic video trailer.
[Rule book for Baker Street - for high level Kickstarter backers there is a special edition hardcover version bound in hunter green vellum with the official seal of the Conan Doyle estate embossed in gold foil on the front. Each book comes in a matching slipcover and will be hand-signed and numbered on the title page by the Baker Street designer, Bryce Whitacre.]
“A Scandal In Bohemia” Illustrated in Legos from MX Publishing is an attempt to capture the interest of younger readers by presenting the text of SCAN with all the traditional Sidney Paget illustrations re-created in Legos! Available soon from Amazon and other outlets, this paperback release is one of the more creative presentations of a Canonical text I have yet to see. Other MX titles geared towards the younger Sherlockians of the world include: Sherlock Holmes and the Missing Snowman (2012) where “a young girl’s snowman has gone missing. Where can it have gone? There is only one man who can help. Sherlock Holmes, the most famous detective in the world.”; two other MX titles of possible interest to a younger crowd include Is That My Holmes? (2013) and Is That My Watson? (2013) written by Andrew Murray and illustrated by Deakin Brook: “It’s so hard to choose, so spare a thought for poor Sherlock Holmes – faced with so many Watsons old and new, what will he do? Who’s too techno-garish? Who’s too teddy-bearish? Who’s maybe too pretty? Who’s in the wrong city? Who’s the right Watson in Holmes’s own view? And is Sherlock’s Watson the Watson for you?”
[A Lego-ized Irene Adler bidding goodnight to a bemused Holmes and Watson at the end of SCAN - click here for the original Paget illustration.]
The Sign of Four ‘mashup’ video, created by the talented Sherlockian from Iowa Monica Schmidt, is an extremely clever video that combines dialogue scenes from various Sherlock Holmes adaptations including Jeremy Brett/Granada Series (1984-1994), Ian Richardson’s The Sign of Four (1983), Charlton Heston’s The Crucifer of Blood (1991), Peter Cushing’s The Sign of Four (1968), Robert Downey Jr.’s Sherlock Holmes (2009), and Vasily Livanov’s “The Bloody Signature" (1979). Played in full, Ms Schmidt has managed to re-create most of the dialogue from Chapter 1 "The Science of Deduction" of The Sign of Four. Let’s hope Ms Schmidt has more video cleverness in store for us in the future.
Doyleockian makes the case for ‘less Moriarty and greater use of non-Moriarty Canonical villains’ when constructing new Holmes adaptations and pastiches. Instead of pitting Holmes against the, one again, resurrected (ad nauseum squared) Napoleon of Crime, Alistair Duncan suggests a laundry list drenched in Canonical depravity, avarice and skullduggery made up of villains such as “Baron Gruner, Culverton Smith, Isadora Klein, John Clay and/or Sir George Burnwell.” Missing from Duncan’s list - though equally capable in the scoundrel department in my opinion - are Josiah Amberley (RETI, gassed his wife and his chess opponent to death), Jack Ferguson (SUSS, assuming Master Jacky’s year at sea served only to refine his sociopathic tendencies), James Windibank/Hosmer Angel (IDEN, even Holmes predicted him destined for greater evils) and Parker the garrotter and Jew’s harp virtuoso (EMPT, because I’m pretty sure a garrotter is by definition a bad guy all around). As the above enumerations show, you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy (to paraphrase from Obi Wan Kenobi’s description of the Mos Eisley Cantina) than in the Canon of Sherlock Holmes.
[“John Clay, the murderer, thief, smasher, and forger. He’s a young man, Mr. Merryweather, but he is at the head of his profession, and I would rather have my bracelets on him than on any criminal in London. He’s a remarkable man, is young John Clay…His brain is as cunning as his fingers, and though we meet signs of him at every turn, we never know where to find the man himself.” (REDH)]
Girl Meets Sherlock's Amy Thomas posted the whimsically titled “How To Write a Pastiche That Sparkle$!” which includes a number of very ‘helpful’ hints regarding how to compose a successful Holmes pastiche. In light of Duncan’s entry above, I think the most important point is tip #1 ”Include TONS of historical people. It’s called playing The Game. Who wants to read a pastiche where Holmes interacts in-depth with one historical person or situation? Subtlety is boring. Namecheck at least ten real-life characters, or you don’t deserve to call yourself a pastiche artist." I would go even further and suggest that the greater the number of historical and fictional figures included, the greater chance one has of achieving literary fame and fortune. Whenever I get around to writing my pastiche, it will include all three Moriarty brothers plus a fourth James Moriarty (but unrelated to the Professor, Colonel and Station Master) and a James Moriarty-bot built by none-other-than Holmes ‘other’ brother from that masterpiece of all Sherlockian cinema, Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes (2010). My only complaint about Ms Thomas’ list is that she forgot item #6 which goes something like ‘Make sure to establish that your pastiche is truly authentic by mentioning that said manuscript (in which the reader is holding at this very moment!) was discovered in your great-grandmother’s attic in a box marked “Grandma’s Les Liaisons Dangereuses: or Doctor’s I’ve Known and Loved” or similar locations.’
[Thorpe Holmes, the cybernetic-ized brother of Sherlock Holmes, in Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes (2010).]
Sherlock Peoria in “Standing Where You Might Get Finger Slipped” invites Sherlockians, perhaps dubious of the current Kickstarter campaign based around the notion of turning an obscure fan fiction piece into a web series, to pause for a moment and acknowledge the impressiveness of the A Finger Slip project: “We live in an age where a young dreamer can get an idea to adapt an idea based on an idea, with both of the last two ideas based on two other ideas, then raise $13,000 to fulfill that dream, funded by folks who want to see that dream come true…” Brad Keefauver then takes his argument one step further by suggesting that those critical of the project need to remove their blinders and realize that an important aspect of the brave new Sherlockian world is the multiplicity of perspectives now available to Holmes enthusiasts. Keefauver also successfully addresses a point I raised in last week’s post regarding Sherlock Peoria's ambiguity toward this brave new world: “I'm less and less sure of where I stand in our modern Sherlockian world for one simple reason: It's a much bigger place than it used to be and there are just so many, many places to stand now.” Lastly, a point which should be unequivocally un-ambiguous is Keefauver’s descriptive virtuosity as evidenced by the following turn of phrase: “And apparently, “A Finger Slip” has touched a lot of folks’s mental private parts." Indeed it has.
[An artist’s rendering of what the Sherlockian world of tomorrow will look like. If you look closely those are flying deerstalker cars.]
Sherlock Cares ran a reaction piece to the recent Daily Dot article “Sherlock Wrote a Female Character Out of a Classic Story, and Fans Aren’t Happy” essentially agreeing with the notion that Moffat’s adaptation “has modified the ending, and a critical moment, of an original Sherlock Holmes stories in which woman take decisive action and ultimately beat Sherlock Holmes in solving the problem.” In the case of Irene Adler, instead of “beating” Holmes as occurs in the Canon, she must ultimately be saved from a beheading. With Mary Morstan, instead of shooting CAM Devil, she instead turns to Sherlock to ‘save her’ from CAM’s blackmailing ways. The crux of both articles comes down to this: “In the original canon, there are many women whom even Sherlock Holmes admires for their strength of character, bravery, beauty, charm, and, yes, even their relative intelligence. But in BBC Sherlock it seems the women are there to serve “the boys.” And if the women are very, very lucky, “the boys” might rescue them and bestow a kiss…The moral in Sherlock is that women should not be smart, or if they are smart, they should not be ambitious for anything except love and marriage.” Is this evidence of Moffat and Gatiss’ inherent sexism? Does BBC Sherlock systematically morph independent female characters into helpless victims while simultaneously re-asserting the patriarchal status quo? After teasing out the facts (ie. the specific ways in which Moffat altered the Canon and portrayed various female characters) from the interpretation (ie. are Moffat’s alterations clear cut examples of sexism and/or a systematic strategy to put women ‘back in their place’?), do the claims of either essay hold up under close scrutiny or are there alternate, gender-neutral interpretations of either adaptation? Whatever your stance on these issues, the points raised are worth thinking about and discussing.
The Consulting Detective wonders whether or not Steven Moffat is actually an Evil Genius…or just a genius…or just evil. Actually, it only takes blog author Nick Cardillo half a paragraph to decide Moffat is “the world’s most formidable evil genius”, though later Cardillo defines ‘genius’ as knowing ”how to tell a good story” and ‘evil’ as “showmanship and flair”. Hmm, I was hoping for definitive proof that Moffat’s ideas on relationships were cribbed from an ancient book bound and written on human skin or that he drinks the blood of virgin fanboys for inspiration, but no such luck this time. This post does make a good point regarding the somewhat ambiguous role of Mark Gatiss at the BBC and in relation to Moffat. Is it the case that Mycroft is to the British Government what Mark Gatiss is to Sherlock? Perhaps Gatiss is the true, bonafide super evil puppet master pulling and manipulating the millions of delicate threads controlling so-called ‘feels’, that as of yet undiscovered component to the autonomic nervous system no doubt produced in the medulla oblongata and responsible for pretty much anything on Tumblr similar to the sentiment “I just finished re-watching “The Reichenbach Fall” and I had no idea I could feel so horrifyingly dead inside…. Anyone else?" with a #feels tag - oh wait, Sherlock Season 3 has come and gone and I guess Sherlock coming back wasn’t that big of a deal after all; certainly not as big of a deal as Sherlock shooting a dude in cold blood (but come on, he deserved it) and then sent off on a suicide mission only to be immediately recalled because of an animated GIF inexplicably appearing on everyone’s screens. Now that’s evil.
[Is Mark Gatiss the real evil genius behind BBC Sherlock?]
Sherlockian Event Links:
Priory Scholars of NYC will hold their next event on Saturday April 12, 2014 from 12:30 - 4:00 PM at The Churchill Tavern (45 East 28th Street, New York, NY 10016). Please confirm your enrollment via email to Headmistress Judith Freeman (firstname.lastname@example.org) no later than March 29, 2014. The discussion, led by Matt Laffey, will focus on “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” Quizmaster Nick Martorelli will moderate a SPEC quiz, where the highest scoring attendees will receive a selection of prizes including books, Sherlockian artifacts, comics, etc. All Sherlockian enthusiasts are welcome, from the hardcore Prioryists to the curious newcomers. Make sure to follow us on Twitter and on Facebook for updated info and pre-game discussion. This event is dedicated to the memory of Joe Moran who, for a time, was the reigning headmaster of the Priory Scholars of NYC, circa 1994.
The Three Garridebs of Westchester will hold their next meeting at 1pm on March 22, 2014 at the Hastings-on-Hudson Public Library, NY. The discussion and quiz will be on “The Empty House” and attendees can expect the usual edifying lectures and always entertaining Sherlockian show-and-tell. Check out the 3Garridebs website for more information. On a related check, check out the latest edition of the Foolscap Document, the newsletter of the Three Garridebs.
Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure a theater production put together by the Chatham Players opens on March 7th and runs through March 22nd, 2014 at the Chatham Playhouse (23 North Passaic Ave, Chatham, NJ 07928). Tickets are $20 for adults and $18 for youth/senior. “Join Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson as they face off against arch-enemy, Professor Moriarty, in the Stephen Dietz story inspired by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. The case takes Holmes on a final adventure, which includes kidnapping, numerous disguises, underhand plotting twists and turns and a whole series of clues which even has the super sleuth’s sidekick scratching his head…” According to the synopsis, the play combines elements of “The Final Problem,” “A Scandal in Bohemia,” and A Study in Scarlet with further inspiration drawn from William Gillette's Sherlock Holmes (1899). Available dates and times can be found here. (Thanks to Peter McIntyre and Bea Makara for the tip.)
New Directions in Sherlock is a free one day conference sponsored by Sherlock Holmes Past & Present happening on Friday, April 11, 2014 from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM (BST) London, United Kingdom. “In this one-day symposium, we will screen “His Last Vow”, attend presentations, and discuss Sherlock Holmes, the BBC Sherlock, and aspects of neo-Victorian detective writing. The keynote speaker will be Dr Benjamin Poore of University of York.”
[Spend the day discussing all things BBC Sherlock, focusing primarily on “His Last Vow”.]
Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit convened for their annual Winter luncheon - populated by 44 brave Sherlockian souls who braved a harsh Midwestern winter - on February 1, 2014 in Birmingham, Michigan. Tantalus of the AMS, Robert Musial, reports on the various goings on including toasts by Gloria Longueil saluting The Woman, Mike Smith toasting Watson’s Second Wife, Rob Musial raising a glass to Mrs. Hudson, Regina Stinson saluting Mycroft Holmes and Jerry Alvin commemorating the mysterious Ezekiah Hopkins; a silent auction where a bottle of one of the 221B Cellars wines (limited to 200 bottles total) went for $90; announcement of the winner of the highly coveted AMS Beggar’s Cup, commemorating the best presentation given at an AMS event in the previous year, which went to both Jerry Alvin and Regina Stinson who both shared in the glory due to a tie; Chris Jeryan's “A Holmesian Menagerie” exploring the Canon's alphabetical bestiary (“adder” and “bee,” winding through “jellyfish,” “kipper,” “leech” and others and on to “petrel,” “venomous lizard” and “whale”); the outcome of the All-Canon Quiz; and finally concluding the luncheon with Anne Musial and David Mohan leading the group in the standard singing of “God Save the Queen” and Lascar Jeryan with the traditional reading of Starrett’s poem 221B.
[Sherlock Holmes, 160 years young!]