Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Friday, December 19, 2014

The Sherlockian Time Machine

When I won a cache of 59 back issues of The Baker Street Journal at A Scintillation of Scions in June, I had no idea that I had acquired a time machine. But that's what it's turned out to be.

The issues represent more than a half-century of Sherlockian scholarship, from the October 1959 issue edited by Edgar W. Smith to last year's Christmas Annual and all decades in between. And each number of the BSJ has its particular delights.

The 1959 issue included a parody by Christopher Morley (published only once previously) and a short story by John Ball Jr., apparently the same writer who some years later wrote In the Heat of the Night and other mysteries about Virgil Tibbs.

Over the years, the shade of the yellow cover has changed several times, the size of the journal has gotten larger, and the Frederic Dorr Steele drawing of Holmes that for many years enhanced the cover has moved to the inside title page.

What has not changed (in addition to the distinctive type face on the cover) is the fascinating content within. It's a singular pleasure to me to read interesting articles by people I have met, and a few I know well, not just in recent numbers of the BSJ but spanning the decades. It's inspiring to me how long some people have labored in the vineyard of Sherlockian writing.  

I also like reading the parts of the BSJ that are totally dated, such as "Letters to Baker Street," "The Scion Societies" and "From the Editor's Commonplace Book." Here's an example of the latter from the September 1970 issue:
There has been so much interest in a forthcoming film that it seems worthwhile to quote a representative of United Artists Corporation: "The current plan is to release 'The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes' in October in the U.S. and around Christmas in England. I believe Canada will also see it in October . . . "
I still have quite a few of these historic issues to read, but I'm not rushing it. Some pleasures should be savored.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Some Sherlockian Christmas Reading

"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."
- "The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle "

Re-reading "The Blue Carbuncle" is a yearly habit for many Sherlockians, and "compliments of the season" their favorite greeting at this time of the year. Christopher Morley famously called it a "Christmas story without mush." Basil Rathbone on the radio and Jeremy Brett on television both gave us fine dramatic versions.

Although this great tale of crime and forgiveness is the only Christmas story in the Canon, there is no shortage of Christmas-themed reading material with a Sherlockian twist. A few examples:
  • Holmes for the Holidays and More Holmes for Holidays, edited by Martin H. Greenberg, Jon L. Lellenbeg, and Carol-Anne Waugh, are collections of Sherlock Holmes pastiches. As with most collections, the quality is variable, but some of the stories are quite good. (It's amazing how many ways Scrooge can be brought into a Holmes story.)
  • "The Adventure of the Unique Dickensians," as noted here previously, is one of my favorite adventures of Solar Pons, who both is and is not Sherlock Holmes. It appears in The Chronicles of Solar Pons.
  • Any Christmas annual issue of The Baker Street Journal.  
  • "Christmas Eve," a one-act Sherlock Holmes play with only four characters by S.C. Roberts. It's not long and it's not great, but it's interesting. You can find it in Roberts' Holmes & Watson: A Miscellany, published in 1953.
  • "Santa Crime," a Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody story with all the mush that's missing in "The Blue Carbuncle," appears in my book Rogues Gallery.
And still there must be more. What have I forgotten?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Christmas is Coming to a Bookstore Near You!

Call me biased (because I am), but I say Rogues Gallery would make a great Christmas gift even if one of the short stories in it wasn't called "Santa Crime." But it is. Sebastian McCabe, dressed as Santa for a Christmas event at a local charity, acts more like Sherlock Holmes to solve a theft. Jeff Cody, meanwhile, bribes his way out of playing an elf and winds up under the mistletoe with Linda at the end.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

How to Celebrate Small Business Saturday

Mystery Loves Company is a great independent bookstore in Oxford, MD.

Today is Small Business Saturday. A good way to celebrate would be to visit your local independent bookstore, if you are lucky enough to have one. As I've said before, I'm very grateful as an author or reader for Amazon - but it's no substitute for the loving care you get in a small book store.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A Sherlockian Gift List

Black Friday, you say?

I'm not one to hit the stores before I've even digested my Thanksgiving turkey, but it is time to at least start thinking about that Sherlockian on your gift list. Here are a few ideas:
  • Sherlock Holmes for Dummies, by Steven Doyle and David A. Crowder. This sounds like an introductory book, and it would fulfill that function admirably. But I've been reading Sherlock Holmes for more than 50 years and I found new insights in it.
  • The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, edited and annotated by Leslie S. Klinger. Attempting to supplant William S. Baring-Gould's original Annotated Sherlock Holmes was a monumental task. I don't think anyone would disagree that Klinger pulled it off magnificently. This book is a must-have for any real Sherlockian.
  • A subscription to The Baker Street Journal. Not only is it the premier journal in the field, it is the one that every Sherlockian knows about and most of them read.
  • A registration to A Scintillation of Scions VIII in Linthicum, MD, June 12-13, 2015. Hear great speakers and mingle with great people.
  • Rogues Gallery, my latest book.It's full of Sherlockian Easter eggs, just like all of my other books.
  • A Sherlock Holmes nutcracker (see above). Or a doll. Or an action figure. Or set of Holmes and Watson bookends or Christmas tree ornaments. I have all of these things, but not everybody does. Yet.     
I could go on - and on and on. Let's face it, Sherlockians aren't that particular. We'll be pleased by any book, DVD, or physical object that features, includes, references, or portrays Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street.  Happy shopping!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

So Many Things to be Thankful For

In the dealer room at Gillette to Brett IV

This year, like every, I have so many things to be thankful for that it's embarrassing. On this blog, I'm only going to list some of the things I'm thankful for as a writer:
  • Steve Emecz, of MX Publishing, my publisher and the publisher of more Sherlock Holmes titles than any other company. He made my decades-old dream of being a mystery writer come true. And I can't imagine that there's an easier to work with publisher in the world.
  • The return of Sherlock Holmes to Dayton. For many years, Dayton, Ohio, hosted one of the best Holmes//Doyle seminars in the country. This year it came back in excellent form under the name "Holmes, Doyle, & Friends." It will return in 2015.
  • Gillette to Brett IV. The previous edition of this weekend with the Master, three years ago, came shortly after my first two Holmes-related books were published. This year I knew more people and it was even more fun.
  • A Scintillation of Scions VII, an annual conference that is just not to be missed - always interesting and it moves with the precision of a Swiss watch.
  • Sisters in Crime. I've had the great enjoyment talking about Sherlock Holmes and the development of mystery fiction to three different chapters of this mystery writers group over the past couple of years.
  • Book fairs. Occasions like the Ohioana Book Festival in Columbus and Books by the Banks in Cincinnati not only give writers the opportunity to sell our books. We also get to meet and chat with our readers.
  • The Sherlock Holmes community. Being a Sherlockian is such a broadening experience. Today it's easier than ever to surround oneself with a homogenous group of friends, both real and virtual. But devotion to Sherlock Holmes brings together people of diverse backgrounds and thoughts because it spans continents, religions, and political philosophies.
So, in sum, Dr. Dan has a lot of reasons for being a grateful guy on our national day of thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Adventure of the Unique Satirists

“I have never failed to read a Solar Pons adventure with satisfaction and pleasure,” the great Vincent Starrett wrote. Clearly, the admiration was mutual. “The Adventure of the Unique Dickensians,” from the title on, is a call-back to Starrett’s classic Holmes pastiche, “The Adventure of the Unique ‘Hamlet.’”

Like the Starrett story, “Dickensians” is “a good-humored satire on book collectors,” as my edition of “‘Hamlet’” says. Each story features two bibliophiles and (spoiler) a forged book or manuscript. “You know my opinion of collectors,” Pons tells Parker. “They are all a trifle mad, some more so than others.” This echoes Holmes’s comment near the end of “‘Hamlet’”: “They are a strange people, these book collectors.” Even more telling is the opening scene, where Watson tells Holmes “surely here comes a madman” in reference to their future client.

Both stories open with a view of the street, with Pons calling Parker to the window in “Dickensians” and the reverse in the Starrett story. And both end with a measure of forgiveness on the part of the client.

“Dickensians,” as even a Watson or a Parker could deduce without reading the story, is also a tribute to another great British writer. The client is Ebeneezer Snawley, who has more in common with Scrooge than just his first name. This “Christmas Carol” sendoff is an element that is completely lacking in “‘Hamlet.’” But “‘Hamlet’” was first published privately for Christmas 1920 – exactly when “Dickensians” takes place. A coincidence? I think not!

These two great short stories have one other commonality: They represent some of the best work of their respective authors. Reading them is a pleasure that does not diminish with repetition. 

This short article appears in the last issue of The Solar Pons Gazette, an impressive and fascinating journal of Ponsiana edited by Bob Byrne. It's a heavy 54 online pages, and this piece appears on page 44. You should read the whole issue!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Sherlockian in Lisbon

A Christopher Morley inscription from Nuno's collection

Nothing is more gratifying to me as a writer than to encounter someone who has enjoyed my mysteries. One of those fans for whom I have a special fondness is my Sherlockian friend Nuno Robles of Lisbon, Portugal, to whom I dedicated The Poisoned Penman. It’s a thrill for me to a have a reader in Europe who communicates with me quite regularly. He also turned out to be a very interesting interview:

Is Sherlock Holmes popular in Portugal?

Yes, of course, Sherlock Holmes is very popular in Portugal. All the stories have been translated and have been in print since the early days, I believe. In the last decade, with the Sherlock Holmes movies and with the “Sherlock” and “Elementary” TV  series, the popularity of Holmes has increased even more. And, in the last two summers, the Canon was distributed as a book series with two very popular daily newspapers. According to my local newspaper agent, these books always sold out and, if he had more copies, he would have sold them. The great thing about both series is that the covers were much nicer than the ones we can find in the book shops. Most of non-Holmes Conan Doyle books have been translated as well, but only a few remain in stock.

 How did you become a Sherlockian?

I first read the Sherlock Holmes series when I was 13-14 years old. My mother had (and still has) a complete collection of Agatha Christie novels, Conan Doyle’s Holmes stories, and also several Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler books. I read all those books really early on, but I always went back to Holmes. Those books are still in my mother’s collection, but in a very fragile condition. And, of course, I bought my own books as soon as I could.

One day (I can’t quite remember when, but it was many years ago) I read a Holmes book that I bought in London. That book was not written by Conan Doyle, but I found it fascinating and it was then that I was introduced to the fascinating (but also dangerous…) world of Holmes pastiches. The book was a paperback edition of The Seven Per-Cent Solution and I bought it in a bookstore in Charing Cross Road. After that, I bought some Portuguese-translated Holmes pastiches. I was lucky because those were very good and I enjoyed them immensely. I liked this so much that I wrote to Randall Stock. These days Randall runs the great website http://www.bestofsherlock.com/. His end-of-the-year Sherlock Holmes lists are a must-read for me. Randall wrote back immediately, with very detailed and fascinating information. From there, I subscribed to The Baker Street Journal and The Sherlock Holmes Society of London and I’ve been hooked ever since. So, although I don’t know if he actually still remembers me, I guess that me becoming a Sherlockian was all Randall’s fault. God bless him.

I’m a wine producer and, although I live in Lisbon with my wife and kids, I work in a farm about 100 kms from Lisbon. I often have to stay there at night and those Sherlock Holmes stories are a great company to those cold and rainy nights.

Do you read the original stories in English, Portuguese, or both?

When I first read the stories, I read them in Portuguese. Later, I read them in English. The annotated volumes edited by William Baring Gould and, later, Leslie Klinger, have been a great company of mine and invaluable source of information. When I finished reading the three Leslie Klinger books I felt that my knowledge of the Canon much better than before. I also felt much stronger. Those books are heavy!

Do you also collect Sherlockiana?

Yes, I do. Over the years I bought so many Holmes and Holmes-related books that I must say that I do collect Sherlockiana. However, my collection is very small, although very important to me. I hope that my kids will love Holmes as much as I do and that they’ll treasure it and enjoy it.

I should mention here that there was a very important person that helped me find most of my books of my Sherlockiana collection, Vincent “Vinnie” Brosnan in Los Angeles. Vincent run a mail-order book business (with a strong focus on Sherlockiana books, but also some other subjects) called “Sherlock in LA.” He had some great catalogues and, in later years, he also sold his books through ebay. Vinnie was a BSI and the most amazing person. Although we never met personally, we changed many letters and, later, e.mails. We spoke not only about books but also about our lives, our families, and our friendship. Through him, I found the most amazing books of my collection. He seemed to have everything! And, from Sherlock Holmes to Solar Pons, I bought many fascinating and first editions books from him. He died two years ago, and I still miss our letters and his Christmas postcards. I considered him a friend and I’m glad that I met him just because I was interested in some books and he was there.

As I live here in Portugal, and it’s expensive to go to the great events that the SHSL and many other societies organize, I don’t know many Shelockians. However, the ones I’ve met or changed correspondence with (you, Randall Stock, Vinnie, Nick Utechin, among some others) have always been great to meet and, for that alone, I’m very grateful to Conan Doyle.

What is the most prized item in your collection?

Compared to other collections, my own is very modest. But I have some nice items that I treasure and I’m really proud of. I have a first edition copy of Memoirs, a complete set of Strand magazines, and some very important reference books. I should mention a fine edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes published by Garden City Publishing in 1938 with a great preface by Christopher Morley. My edition has the bookplate of Edgar W. Smith and is signed by him, which is lovely. I have a signed first edition of one of the most important and influential reference books (in my opinion), The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Another very important book to me is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, edited by Christopher Morley (Harcourt, Brace and Company 1944), of which I have a Morley-signed copy with his beautiful bookplate. I’m also very proud of my collection of first editions Solar Pons books, most of them signed by Derleth.

Do you belong to any Sherlockian groups?

Well, unfortunately there is no SH Society here in Lisbon or Portugal (at least that I’m aware of). But that’s an idea – who knows? I’m a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and I subscribe to The Baker Street Journal. I strongly hope that, in the near future, I’ll be able to go to one of the SHSL events and the BSI Dinner in New York in January….now that would be a great experience, I’m sure! I’m also a member of the John H. Watson Society, which has a great journal that I recommend to anyone reading this.

What Sherlockian websites do you usually check?

Well, Dan, I visit your blog on a weekly basis (and congratulations, it’s is very informative and an inspiration). I usually visit the SHSL website and the Baker Street Journal websites regularly to have some news and buy their publications. I also visit regularly the Randall Stock website, although it is not updated as much as I’d like  (http://www.bestofsherlock.com/), the great “Always 1895” website (http://always1895.net/), the Sherlockian website is great for reference (http://www.sherlockian.net/), the John Bennett Shaw 100 book list website is also a great reference that I often used (http://webspace.webring.com/people/sp/porlock/shaw_yop.html), the Barefoot On Baker Street is a great site that I strongly recommend (https://barefootonbakerstreet.wordpress.com/), as is the John H. Watson Society website (http://www.johnhwatsonsociety.com/), of which I’m a proud founding member. By the way, the John H Watson MD website is also a great and very informative read (http://www.johnhwatsonmd.com/). There are many others, I guess, but these are the ones I visit frequently. Oh, one more Internet source that I feel is most important, the Roger Johnson’s District Messenger monthly bulletins. Those bulletins are essential and I’m happy to be in Roger’s mailing list!

How about physical places of Sherlockian interest?

I hope that one day I’ll go to one of those Reichemback Falls events that the SHSL periodically organizes. That should be memorable. But I love London and I’ve visited the most obvious Sherlockian sites. I’ve been to Baker Street, of course – always in search of the real 221B. I like the museum, actually. It’s a cozy place and a nice site to visit. As is the Sherlock Holmes pub, by the way. I’ve been to the Strand, of course. I had a nice meal there. I went to see the Lyceum Theatre and the Royal Opera House. And I also went to the Langham Hotel, but I didn’t stay there.

How did you become familiar with my books?

I think that I first read about your books (No Police Like Holmes – yes, I’ve been your loyal reader since the beginning) in one of the Roger Johnson bulletins. He’s always been very supportive of your books and I think that it was in a District Messenger that I first read about you.

What do you like about them?

I like everything about them! In the first place, I like the stories and your writing. Your stories are very creative and unpredictable – and beautifully written. The dialogues are a pleasure to follow and so are your descriptions of the city, of the cafes, the college, etc. You really put us there, like watching a play, right in front of the action. Of course, the Holmes references are always a joy to read. But, most of all, I like your great sense of humor and the characters you’ve created. It never ceases to amaze me. And, of course, I feel that Jeff, Sebastian and Linda are part of the family these days. And it’s great to have the same feeling with Enoch Hale now. I was very happy when I first knew that you were starting a new series with Kieran. And I absorbed and loved the first book. Due to personal circumstances, I’m only starting to read the second Enoch Hale book now.
Which is your favorite Dan Andriacco mystery so far?

That’s hard to say, Dan. As I once told you, when it comes to your books, my experience has always been similar: I always enjoy your latest book most. As I became more familiar with the characters and their environment I seemed to enjoy the books even more than before. But I think that I must say that my favorite is No Police Like Holmes. And this is no contradiction to what I first said. It’s not that I think it is better than the others, but because it is the book that introduced me to your writing, to those characters, and to the fascinating universe of Dan Andriacco’s creative literature. 

Nuno and his son

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Amazing Philip K. Jones

Mr. Jones is himself a contributor to the literature of Sherlock Holmes

I've been guilty of writing a few pastiches. I've even written an essay on how to write pastiches, which appeared in Baker Street Beat. But nobody knows pastiches like Philip K. Jones.

Mr. Jones has compiled a database of a mind-boggling 10,205 Sherlock Holmes pastiches. And, perhaps more amazingly, he has generously made it available online to anyone with access to a computer!

The spreadsheet includes not only pastiches, but also parodies and related fiction. For example, my Sebastian McCabe-Jeff Cody mysteries are included in the database, even though are set in modern day (but each one with a Sherlock Holmes angle).

It's understandable that anyone with such a strong interest in pastiches would be equally consumed by the topic of untold tales - those cases of Holmes that Watson mentioned but never wrote up. Many of these stories have been written up as pastiches by other writers, usually many times.  (How many versions of "The Giant Rat of Sumatra" are out there?)

So, in another astounding feat of scholarship, Mr. Jones went through all the Canonical stories (and even the apocryphal ones by Arthur Conan Doyle) and itemized every untold tale by the story in which it was mentioned. He originally published his results in the Summer 2011 Baker Street Journal. But you don't need to find a copy if you don't own one. This, too is online at the same website.

Here's to Philip K. Jones for his wonderful work. I hope he's ready for the deluge that is sure to follow the U.S. court rulings that Sherlock Holmes is in the public domain! 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Golden Years that Shine

I've always been intrigued by what happened to Holmes and Watson after the stage went dark - the years after "His Last Bow."

Like many writers before, Kim H. Krisco provides some answers in Sherlock Holmes - The Golden Years. That's not a title that immediately attracted me, but the book actually is golden.

It's a series of five interrelated short stories, most of them featuring a well-drawn new villain. Some of the familiar characters of the Canon show up as well. Krisco gives one of them a very touching death scene, followed later by what may be a supernatural reappearance.

Some historical characters stroll through these pages as well, including G.K. Chesterton and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Key to most of the stories is the eugenics movement, which was supported by some famous and still highly-respected individuals of the day in both Great Britain and the United States. The treats us to some thought-provoking dialogue on the subject.

Dialogue is one of the delights of the book, as when Holmes says: "If honor appears as a choice, then you have already lost it." And then there's this, which I like very much:
"You know what you want, but that is not the same as knowing, with any certainty, that your actions today will deliver what you want. Life is not a chess game in which there is a final end. The real world does not stop with check-mate. What is more, simply because something does not end well does not mean it is good and right."
This comment by Sherlock Holmes is part of a debate with his brother Mycroft. The larger question they are contesting is whether it is right to join forces with one evil in order to defeat another. Almost a hundred years after the setting of the book, that question remains very much alive in our complicated world.

Sherlock Holmes the Golden Years- Five New Post-retirement Adventures is available for pre order from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository .