Monday, November 28, 2011

Trivia question of the dayweekmonthyear for today. . .

What is the Sherlockian connection in this movie. . .?

And someone else's thoughts on Harry's thoughts, so to speak. . .

Curious case of Holmes versus Potter

There's more than a hint of young Sherlock evident in Harry and the Hogwarts wiz kids, writes Declan Lynch

Sunday January 03 2010



Did any of you happen to see the film Young Sherlock Holmes on TV over Christmas? And were you struck by a sense of deja vu? Though I was sure that I had never seen this actual film, directed by Barry Levinson and produced by Steven Spielberg in 1985, still I kept feeling that I had been here before.

In fact, soon I was convinced that most of the world's population had been here before, because this young Sherlock Holmes was starting to remind me of another very clever young man, who has achieved considerable success in his own right as a detective of outstanding ability and a warrior against the dark arts -- a certain Harry Potter.
I think it was the scene in the dining hall that put me on the scent.
The teenage Holmes, famed for his almost supernatural powers of deduction, and his best friend, the bespectacled Watson, are eating with their fellow pupils in the dining hall of a boarding school which has all the ambiance of Hogwarts.
But didn't all old-fashioned British boarding schools stretching back to Tom Brown's Schooldays have something of a Harry Potter theme?
Perhaps, but statues and gravestones and all sorts of inanimate objects didn't start coming to life for Tom Brown. They did for Harry Potter by dint of his prowess as a wizard, but they also did for young Sherlock -- struck by mysterious darts fired by unseen foes, he and other characters have these violent hallucinations in which they think they are being attacked by the food on their plate or perhaps by a knight bursting out of a stained-glass window.
So there is an echo of actual wizardry, quite apart from the fact that young Holmes and young Potter are "wizards" in the sense of being wildly precocious.
Ah, but saving the world is not all about mere brain-power, as we discover.
Holmes gets help from the stolid but stout-hearted young Watson, and from his other friend, the unflappable Elizabeth. A genius and his best friend who is a regular guy and their female accomplice taking time out from their lessons to do battle against supernatural forces -- ring any bells?
And as we savour this first battle of wits between Holmes and Moriarty, who is masquerading as Rathe, a trusted teacher of fencing, it is almost impossible not to see a parallel between Moriarty and Voldemort, the agent of darkness in the Harry Potter series who is also a master of disguise and apparently indestructible.
Likewise it becomes increasingly clear that the character of Harry Potter could be a perfect amalgam of the characters of young Sherlock and young Watson. Potter has the genius of Holmes, and like Holmes his parents are absent from his extremely adventurous life.
And he gets his innate English decency from the Watson side, not to mention the small matter of his round spectacles and his general physical appearance.
Being one of those vulgar people who has seen the Potter movies without reading the books, I wondered if these apparent similarities had already been noted by about 40 million juveniles who know all the angles. Is it universally acknowledged that Harry Potter is Young Sherlock Holmes with a bit of Wingardium Leviosa thrown in?
So I ventured with my usual trepidation towards the internet machine, typing 'Young Sherlock Holmes -- Harry Potter' into google, and waiting for the usual internet avalanche of knowledge and insight.
In fact, I could find just one major piece on this subject, written in 2005 by a man styling himself Harry Holmes, pithily entitled "a 2,500-word article suggesting a previously overlooked connection between a film released in the Eighties and the most famous books in the world today".
It is a most scholarly piece by a man who has clearly read all the books, and a lot of other books as well, and who identifies so many connections, from the most obvious to the most esoteric, there is little doubt that the makers of the Harry Potter movies were at least influenced by Young Sherlock Holmes.
I pay tribute to this man of mystery Harry Holmes, who reminds us that "as the first person to draw attention to this issue, I would expect to see the site credited if the story appears elsewhere".
I credit him for the erudition of his piece, and also because I am afraid of almost anyone who writes anything on the internet.
But who thought of Young Sherlock Holmes in the first place, and where is he now?
Well, the writer of Young Sherlock Homes is one Chris Columbus, who was later to achieve renown as the director of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
Wingardium Leviosa, indeed.

Credit where credit is due. . .

I find the argument a little weak,. . what do you think?

Although he ties in many of his connections, it feels more like he is just trying to make easy things fit where easy things will.
Surely the direction styles would be the same between the two movies, the same person directed them.
But it is a fun read, and comments posted on his site are fun.

Credit where credit is due.. .
Elementary my dear Potter!

Was a cinematic Sherlock Holmes adventure for kids, scripted by the man behind the Harry Potter films, the original inspiration for J.K. Rowling’s books?

In the six-degree game, who connects J.K. Rowling with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? It is not her second husband, Dr. Neil Murray, though both men were medics in Edinburgh, city home to Dr. Joseph Bell, real-life model for Sherlock Holmes. The answer is Christopher Columbus. Not he of the ocean blue, but Chris Columbus, director of the first two Harry Potter films, executive producer for the whole franchise, and sometime screenwriter.

In 1985 the film Young Sherlock Holmes was released (or Young Sherlock Holmes and the Pyramid of Fear, to give its original, Potter-esque, script title). Written by Columbus, it purports to tell the story of the first meeting of the teenaged Holmes and Watson at boarding school, and their exploits there (tagline: “before a lifetime of adventure, they had the adventure of a lifetime”). Taking considerable liberties with the Holmes legend, the screenplay attempted to combine rudiments of the original stories with effects-laden, Spielbergian action-adventure of the Indiana Jones ilk – and largely succeeded.

Young Watson transfers to Brompton School in wintertime, due to straitened finances. Impressed by Holmes’ deductive reasoning, Watson befriends him and his girlfriend of sorts, Elizabeth Hardy, niece of eccentric professor Waxflatter. Waxflatter, though retired, lives on school grounds, and performs flight-tests on a recumbent bicycle-like aircraft he has designed. Watson also meets Dudley, Holmes’ snooty nemesis, and Rathe, the enigmatic fencing teacher, who regards Holmes as a favourite. Meanwhile, two local notables kill themselves after suffering hallucinations induced by poisoned darts, shot from a blowpipe by a hooded and cloaked apparition. Young Lestrade, starting his career in the police force, dismisses the possibility of foul play.

Holmes is expelled when Dudley frames him for cheating in an examination. Waxflatter stabs himself after being shot with a dart. Holmes discovers that the Rametep, an Egyptian death cult, may be responsible. Together with Watson and Elizabeth, he tracks the cult to a London warehouse, where all three suffer hallucinations while escaping the cultist horde. Lestrade is convinced to investigate. Holmes realises that the dead men were members of a group, one of whom survives – Cragwitch. The boys visit Cragwitch, who reveals that the cult is revenging itself upon the men for their youthful desecration of an Egyptian tomb. Holmes belatedly identifies the cult leader as Rathe, and the hooded assassin as a woman named Mrs Dribb.

Rathe and Dribb carry Elizabeth off to the warehouse-temple for sacrifice. Holmes and Watson give chase in Waxflatter’s machine. Elizabeth is rescued, and Dribb dispatched by fire, in a swashbuckling climax. Elizabeth receives her death wound, interposing herself between Holmes and Rathe’s bullet. Holmes and Rathe duel with swords until the latter falls through the ice on a frozen Thames. The bereaved Holmes leaves the school, and Watson, the two promising to meet again. In a neat, post-credit epilogue, it is revealed that Rathe has survived and assumed the name Moriarty.

The film attempts to foreshadow the life of Conan Doyle’s adult Holmes. The death of Elizabeth is intended to explain Holmes’ bachelor status, and the accoutrements of the detective – his pipe and deerstalker – are shown as trophies collected during the adventure. However, the highlights of the piece are undoubtedly the hallucination sequences, which involve some at-the-time cutting edge CGI. It still looks good, twenty years on. Tellingly, it also looks like Harry Potter.

But why shouldn’t it? After all, Columbus might have drawn upon his experiences as a writer on Holmes when directing Potter. Only a conspiracy nut would point out that he gave the part of Hermione to a girl called Watson. Any similarity is purely coincidental and retrospective in application, right?

The resemblance is more than superficial, and is not limited to the look of the movies. Holmes was released in Britain when Rowling was a student at the University of Exeter, and in due time it graduated to terrestrial television. Five years later, as the legend goes, the idea for Harry Potter came to her, on a train journey between Manchester and London. The first Potter book was written during the following five years, famously in Edinburgh cafés, and it is widely recognised that Rowling’s creation borrowed from various literary and mythological sources in its inspiration. It seems, however, that one important source has been overlooked – until now.

Most probably on an unconscious level, Rowling appears to have used a number of elements from the Holmes film in the Potter books – not least the three heroes, albeit with their individual characteristics mixed and matched to suit the mindset of a bookish young authoress. Hermione, Harry and Weasley (Ron) find their roots in Holmes, Hardy (Elizabeth) and Watson.

Elizabeth’s surname is never mentioned in dialogue, but features prominently on her tombstone in one hallucination sequence. The name Hermione could be a phonetic conflation of Holmes and Hardy. Certainly Hermione shares Holmes’ brilliance in academic pursuits. When Holmes is accused of cheating in an examination, Rathe comments on his excellent record, though only to point out that it counts against the hero. It is natural to assume that Rowling would want her Elizabeth-character to be more than the pretty face of the Holmes movie. On a physical level Sophie Ward (the actress who plays Elizabeth) sports a seriously bushy brown hairstyle that is frequently reminiscent of Rowling’s descriptions of Hermione. Elizabeth also provides the love interest for Holmes, and from the hints in the Potter books it seems that Hermione and Ron are destined for each other.

Rowling describes Ron thus in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone: “tall, thin and gangling, with freckles, big hands and feet and a long nose”. A more succinct description of Nicholas Rowe, playing Holmes, would be difficult to imagine. Personality-wise, Ron has more in common with the bumbling Watson of Alan Cox (son of Brian, the original Hannibal Lecter in Manhunter) but shares an important trait with Holmes – he is never the hub of the tale. The character of Watson, through whose eyes we witness the events of the film (with Michael Hordern providing occasional voiceover narration as the grown man), fills that role.

Strip away his ineptitude and a few pounds in weight, put a lightning bolt-shaped scar on his forehead, turn him into a conventional hero, and Cox’s Watson could be the spit of Harry Potter. Again, it seems fitting that Rowling would want to provide her naïve, bespectacled Watson-protagonist with more dynamism. Admittedly, all three of her champions commence their adventures at a younger age than the Holmes leads, but we know that from the very beginning she envisaged those adventures as continuing throughout their teenage years. It is also worth noting that members of her target audience usually identify with heroes of a slightly older age group.

The Holmes principals behave remarkably like the Potter trio, and in a comparable setting. They investigate an ostensibly supernatural mystery in the vicinity of a full-board public school rich in Gothic atmosphere. It is difficult to think of any other stories, in films or books, where two British boys and a girl undertake such activities. The plot thickens and twists to reveal trusted teachers turning traitor. The villains belong to a death cult evocative of Voldemort’s Death Eaters, adherents of which conceal their identities behind masks and hoods, as do many Holmes cultists. Word-games are played: Rathe is Eh Tar, the Egyptian high priest, in a reversal that reflects Rowling’s Mirror of Erised. The textures of the names Voldemort and Moriarty call to mind comparable sensations, though the Egyptian cult’s symbol is two golden serpents, rather than the single silver snake of Slytherin.

Remarked upon by Holmes, Watson arrives at Brompton clutching textbooks, including “Hunter’s Encyclopaedia of Medicine”, much as Harry is told to bring manuals of magic to Hogwarts. They share a dormitory in ancient school buildings, where historic paintings decorate the walls. Attending a chemistry class, they are bored rigid by a droning teacher who might have been Rowling’s Professor Binns (when he was alive). Elizabeth’s small white dog, Uncus (Latin for "hook"), would make a serviceable wizard’s familiar, and matches the colour of Harry’s owl, Hedwig. Amusingly, Uncus later worries a wig from Mrs Dribb’s secretly shaven head. Elizabeth's uncle Waxflatter (contrast with Rowling’s short, white-haired Professor Flitwick) is a retired schoolmaster. Holmes describes Waxflatter to Watson as being versed in philosophy, in addition to mathematics and physics. Elizabeth then informs Watson that most people think her relative a lunatic. As Percy Weasley tells Harry of Dumbledore, in The Philosopher’s Stone: “Mad? He’s a genius! Best wizard in the world. But he is a bit mad, yes.”

Waxflatter’s aerial bicycle might be related to Sirius Black’s flying motorbike, but definitely owes something to Spielberg’s E.T., which is also referenced at the beginning and end of the movie, in the Amblin Entertainment logo. However, Waxflatter’s test flight results in a crash into the branches of a large tree on school grounds: a model for Harry and Ron’s collision with the Whomping Willow in a flying Ford Anglia, in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets? Watson and Holmes pilot the machine more successfully later in the film. Waxflatter’s study, like Dumbledore’s office in Chamber of Secrets, is to be found atop a flight of stairs, full of noisy, curious instruments.

After encountering Waxflatter, the boys proceed to a fencing class reminiscent of the Chamber of Secrets duelling club chapter, in which Snape knocks down Lockhart before turning his attention to Harry. Rathe knocks down a student called Penthurst, then calls out Holmes. Rathe, subsequently victorious, warns Holmes for the first time: “never replace discipline with emotion”, in an echo of Harry’s “occlumency” lessons in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Rathe returns to this theme twice more before the movie ends. The boys then eat with their schoolfellows in a great hall, Oxbridge-style, teachers looking on from high table.

Prior to his expulsion (a sanction temporarily imposed on Harry in Order of the Phoenix) Holmes attempts, unsuccessfully, to convince Lestrade to investigate two deaths, using cuttings from The Times – shades of the Daily Prophet? The authorities in Harry’s world are similarly dismissive of evidence he uncovers regarding Voldemort’s return in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. After being expelled, Holmes duels Rathe one last time, sustaining a wound to his cheek, the scar from which remains visible throughout the film. It bleeds again in the prelude to the final act, prompting Holmes to the revelation that Rathe is the villain. The state of Harry’s scar often proves similarly prescient.

Waxflatter, in his final moments, wanders the Diagon Alley-like, Dickensian streets of London, entering a sinister antiques shop to the sound of a tinkling doorbell – the inspiration for Ollivanders Wands? Researching the Egyptian link to Waxflatter’s death, the heroes make a late, lamp-lit raid on the school library, an event common to the Potter books. In several scenes, they sit by the fire in the retired schoolmaster’s now-quiet attic, discussing the case. One of these sequences is a striking reminder of the Harry Potter series. Elizabeth and Watson play chess while Holmes considers the facts. Elizabeth, never more Hermione-like, does some deduction, announcing: “we can be certain of one thing… the murderer is still here, on school grounds”.

The other Holmes character with a counterpart in the Potter tales is Holmes’ student enemy, Dudley. Harry has two schoolboy foes, Dudley in the Muggle world, and Draco at Hogwarts. In a jumble of name and character similar to that involving the three protagonists, Dudley becomes the appellation of Harry’s hated cousin, and Rowling’s Dudley-character takes his title from the first word of the Hogwarts school motto (“Draco dormiens nunquam titillandus”).

Dudley shares Draco’s personality – arrogant, aristocratic and envious of the hero’s status. Flanked by minions (his near-constant on-screen companions), he challenges Holmes to solve a “crime” – his staged theft of a fencing prize – in the school trophy room. In The Philosopher’s Stone, Draco challenges Harry to a duel, to take place in the Hogwarts trophy chamber. Rathe wagers with another teacher that Holmes will defeat Dudley in the battle of wits, echoing Ludo Bagman’s bets on Harry to win the Triwizard Tournament in Goblet of Fire. Rathe duly collects when Holmes finds the trophy, hidden inside a vase, prompting Dudley to frame Holmes for cheating in examinations. In revenge, Holmes slips a potion into Dudley’s food, causing his naturally blond hair to turn white, making the acutely chinned Earl Rhodes (playing Dudley) into even more of a likeness for the “pale boy with a pointed face and white-blond hair” Rowling describes in Goblet of Fire.

Elements of the Holmes hallucinations have also crept into Harry Potter. The phantasm-inducing assassin remains concealed beneath a darkened cowl, à la one of Tolkien’s Ringwraiths. This being (eventually revealed to have been the school nurse) that drives its victims to suicide is clearly the model for the cloaked Dementors of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, depression-spirits who leech happiness from their victims and deliver soul-destroying kisses: “Its face was completely hidden beneath its hood.” Furthermore, as a link between Holmes and Potter, the face rears its ugly head more than once. The standout hallucination, involving the first fully CGI character in film – progenitor to the Chamber of Secrets movie’s Dobby – is of a stained-glass knight, animated for Lucasfilm by John Lasseter (now executive vice-president at Pixar). This transparent, two-dimensional warrior leaps from a church window to menace the Reverend Duncan Nesbitt. As it passes the camera it is seen to have one face in front, and one behind – a forerunner to the Janus-like Quirrell / Voldemort double act of The Philosopher’s Stone.

There is one last clincher for amateur psychologists seeking to link the Holmes film with J.K. Rowling’s works. Rowling applied to study languages at Oxford University but failed to get in, despite excellent A-levels, crediting her rejection to institutional prejudice against state school pupils. She may have recognised the many scenes in Holmes shot amongst the dreaming spires. The struggling single mother who had prided herself on youthful intellect may have felt that her reverses in adult life stemmed from failure to gain admittance to the hallowed halls. Contrastingly, Harry Potter discovers that he is destined for Hogwarts by right of birth - an accusation that could perhaps have been levelled at the person who took the place Rowling applied for, back in the bad old days of Oxford admissions. Rowling's hero goes to the special school, where he establishes his opposition to the Purebloods’ ideas about admission policy.

Rowling was not even the first to appreciate the literary potential of the Holmes scenario. Young Sherlock Holmes the book was published as a tie-in, adapted from Columbus’ script by Alan Arnold, publicist on the film (second-hand copies can be found on Amazon). Certainly Rowling deserves every penny that she has earned from Harry Potter, but the link to Holmes raises questions about the nature of her working relationship with Columbus.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

From PBS

The Lure of the Moor
We often think of the English countryside as a pleasant land of forest and pasture, curbed by neat hedgerows and orderly gardens. But at higher elevations a wilder landscape rears its head: the moor. Little thrives in any moor's windy, rainy climate, leaving a rolling expanse of infertile wetlands dominated by tenacious gorse and grasses. Its harsh, chaotic weather, so inhospitable to human life, has nonetheless proved fertile ground for the many writers who've set their stories on its gloomy plain. A native of nearby Dorchester, Thomas Hardy set The Return of the Native, Tess of the D'Urbervilles and countless other novels on the wild, haunted moor that D.H. Lawrence called "the real stuff of tragedy." In Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, the violent, passionate Catherine and Heathcliff seem to echo the brutal moors that surround them. Dame Agatha Christie booked herself into the "large, dreary" Moorland Hotel to finish work on The Mysterious Affair at Styles, while Dartmoor is the setting for The Sittaford Mystery (1931). The moor's atmospheric weather and desolate landscape lend an air of tragedy and mystery to all of these tales, as they do to The Hound of the Baskervilles. On Dartmoor's windswept plain, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle found the legendary roots and the creepy backdrop of his most famous story. He took many liberties, changing the names of geographic localities and altering distances to suit his story, but even today, Sherlock Holmes fans are known to set out across the moor in search of the real counterparts of the fictional locale where the story took place.

The Mythic Moor
Conan Doyle first heard of Dartmoor's "hounds of hell" in March 1901 while on a golfing holiday in Norfolk with his friend, the young journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson; at the time in the employ of the Daily Express, Fletcher Robinson would later become the editor of Vanity Fair. Their game cut short by a storm, the two men retired to the sitting room of the Royal Links Hotel and began to talk, the conversation eventually turning to local myths. Fletcher Robinson first told Conan Doyle of the Black Shuck, a phantom dog as big as a calf, with eyes that bled fire, that was said to haunt the Norfolk countryside.

The myths of Dartmoor captured Conan Doyle's imagination. Fletcher Robinson went on to recount the tale of Richard Cabell, a 17th-century squire who'd suspected his wife of infidelity and attacked her in a jealous rage. When she fled across the moor with her faithful hound, Cabell gave chase and eventually killed her. Still by its mistress' side, the hound then turned on him and ripped out his throat before dying itself of the squire's knife wounds. The dog was said to haunt each new generation of the family.

But this spectral hound was not alone on the moor. Other legends told of howling black hounds unleashed on the moor upon Cabell's death in 1677; the Whist Hounds, a howling pack of gigantic, red-eyed dogs said to stalk the moors with the devil; and the Black Dog of Dartmoor, an enormous hound with flaming eyes that chased unsuspecting late-night travelers.

Within days of hearing these stories, Conan Doyle joined Fletcher Robinson at Park Hill House, his family home in the village of Ipplepen in remotest Dartmoor. In fact, some scholars believe that Fletcher Robinson acted not only as Conan Doyle's tour guide but also helped him write the tale; his contributions have never been substantiated. What is certain is that the two men hiked for miles over the empty moors with Robinson's coachman, one Harry Baskerville, as their guide. This young man is believed to be one of two inspirations for the novel's eponymous character, the other being a Baskerville family living on the Welsh border whom Conan Doyle had visited in 1897. The family had intermarried with a neighboring clan, the Vaughans, who owned a legendary huge, black dog.

Decamped from Park Hill to Princetown's Rowe Duchy Hotel, Conan Doyle began work on his novel, which did not at first feature Sherlock Holmes. As the story developed, though, Conan Doyle found himself in need of a larger-than-life character to solve the mystery. "Why should I invent such a character," he asked, "when I already had one in the form of Sherlock Holmes?"

The Real Moor
For England, the turn of the 20th century was a time of great change. While London entered an age of electric light and the internal combustion engine, Dartmoor was more like the American Wild West -- bleak, inhospitable, and lawless. Dartmoor is a 20-by-30-mile tract of untamed wildness amid the Devonshire countryside. Watson's description of his inaugural drive into Dartmoor is rendered in such detail that it can easily serve as a road map for visitors today on the trail of Sherlock Holmes.

"Rolling pasture lands curved upward on either side of us, and old gabled houses peeped out from amid the thick green foliage," notes Watson in chapter six of The Hound of the Baskervilles, "but behind the peaceful and sunlit countryside there rose ever, dark against the evening sky, the long, gloomy curve of the moor, broken by the jagged and sinister hills."

Watson's train arrives at the railhead Ashburton, from which point he embarks on the last leg of his journey by carriage, following the ancient tin miners' road along the River Dart. This route brings him past an isolated tract that a group of 18th-century gentry known as the Improvers tried, without success, to turn into farmland. Amid these "improved" fields lies Postbridge, the model for the fictitious village of Grimpen. Dartmoor has few such villages, however, as most natives live on scattered farms. To the north of Postbridge, you'll find Fox Tor Mire, the treacherous bog of sphagnum moss floating atop trapped groundwater that inspired Conan Doyle's the Great Grimpen Mire. While Conan Doyle describes Baskerville Hall as a 14th-century castle, in fact it was likely modeled on one of the Improvers' large manor houses. Other Holmes historians point to Brook Manor, home to doomed squire Richard Cabell, as the true Baskerville Hall.

When Watson walks out across the moor, acting as Holmes's eyes and ears, he encounters the moor's many distinct features. Granite spires known as tors break the moor's grassy landscape. Exposed to the acidic water of bogs, the granite weakens and crumbles in spots while remaining strong in others. Over time, this process has carved Dartmoor's famous granite towers, spires, and cliffs. Watson's impressive view of the moor was likely based on that from the North Hessary Tor, just outside Princetown and close by the brooding Dartmoor Prison, from which the murderer Selden escapes. Originally built to hold prisoners from the Napoleonic wars, Dartmoor prison was closed for a long period but reopened when Australia and New Zealand refused to take more European convicts.

Upon closer examination of the tor, Watson discovers a well-preserved prehistoric hut, like the one in which he later finds Sherlock Holmes. Such relics are quite common in the real Dartmoor, which contains the largest collection of Stone Age sites in Europe. Holmes's circular hut is likely modeled on the ones found at the Bronze Age settlement of Grimspound, where a nine-foot-thick stone wall encloses four-acre site containing the stone remains of 24 circular huts. Watson also describes standing stones, known as goyals, that are found all over Dartmoor, with the largest being the Grey Wethers, overlooking the East Dart above Postbridge. These haunting ruins reinforce the moor's eerie weather and create the perfect, ghostly atmosphere for story bound up in myth and legend. Whether or not the hound of the Baskervilles or its like ever existed, you can still feel it breathing down your neck.


A bit about the author in Wayne's earlier piece. . . .

Author’s Bio

Winner of the CWA Debut Dagger Award, 2007
Alan Bradley

Alan Bradley was born in Toronto and grew up in Cobourg, Ontario. With an education in electronic engineering, Alan worked at numerous radio and television stations in Ontario, and at Ryerson Polytechnical Institute (now Ryerson University) in Toronto, before becoming Director of Television Engineering in the media centre at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, SK, where he remained for 25 years before taking early retirement to write in 1994.
He became the first President of the Saskatoon Writers, and a founding member of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild. His children’s stories were published in The Canadian Children’s Annual, and his short story, Meet Miss Mullen, was the first recipient of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild Award for Children’s Literature.
For a number of years, he regularly taught Script Writing and Television Production courses at the University of Saskatchewan (Extension Division) at both beginner and advanced levels.
His fiction has been published in literary journals and he has given many public readings in schools and galleries. His short stories have been broadcast by CBC Radio.
He was a founding member of The Casebook of Saskatoon, a society devoted to the study of Sherlock Holmes and Sherlockian writings. Here, he met the late Dr. William A.S. Sarjeant, with whom he collaborated on their classic book, Ms Holmes of Baker Street. This work put forth the startling theory that the Great Detective was a woman, and was greeted upon publication with what has been described as “a firestorm of controversy”.
The release of Ms. Holmes resulted in national media coverage, with the authors embarking upon an extensive series of interviews, radio and television appearances, and a public debate at Toronto’s Harbourfront. His lifestyle and humorous pieces have appeared in The Globe and Mail and The National Post.
His book The Shoebox Bible (McClelland and Stewart, 2006) has been compared with Tuesdays With Morrie andMr. God, This is Anna. In July of 2007 he won the Debut Dagger Award of the (British) Crimewriter’s Association for his novel The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, the first of a series featuring eleven year old Flavia de Luce.
Alan Bradley lives in Malta, with his wife Shirley and two calculating cats.

Ok, Ok, one last one because I am falling off my seat. . .

Why did the frog read Sherlock Holmes?

He liked a good croak and dagger.

While I'm on a roll. . . .

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of the fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, purportedly told of a time when he climbed into a taxi cab in Paris. Before he could utter a word, the driver turned to him and asked, "Where can I take you, Mr. Doyle?"

Doyle was flabbergasted. He asked the driver if he had ever seen him before.

"No, sir," the driver responded, "I have never seen you before." Then he explained, "This morning's paper had a story about you being on vacation in Marseilles. This is the taxi stand where people who return from Marseilles always come to. Your skin color tells me you have been on vacation. The ink-spot on your right index finger suggests to me that you are a writer. Your clothing is very English, and not French. Adding up all those pieces of information, I deduced that you are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle."

"This is truly amazing!" the writer exclaimed. "You are a real-life counter-part to my fictional creation, Sherlock Holmes!"

"There is one other thing," the driver said.

"What is that?"

"Your name is on the front of your suitcase."

The Worlds Second funniest joke. . .

According to the LAUGHLAB experiment;

The second place finisher and early leader was this joke, submitted by Geoff Anandappa of Blackpool:
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were going camping. They pitched their tent under the stars and went to sleep. Sometime in the middle of the night Holmes woke Watson up and said: "Watson, look up at the stars, and tell me what you see." Watson replied: "I see millions and millions of stars." Holmes said: "And what do you deduce from that?" Watson replied: "Well, if there are millions of stars, and if even a few of those have planets, it’s quite likely there are some planets like Earth out there. And if there are a few planets like Earth out there, there might also be life." And Holmes said: "Watson, you idiot, it means that somebody stole our tent."


Blue Carbuncle Month coming up. . .

So, lets post some thoughts and comments on that story here over the next month, shall we?

Some good comments here. . .

Scott D Parker

Monday, November 21, 2011

Home to England. . .

Home to England

England will always be one of our favorite settings for a good mystery, just ask Alan Bradley, winner of the Debut Dagger Award granted by the British Crime Writers’ Association.  Please read the article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal November 12, 2011.  Please pay special attention to paragraph five and the last full paragraph of the article.

Being a Sherlockian, I want to suggest that if you cannot make your way to England, you can arrange a “visit” through the records of Dr. Watson.  Of course, I highly recommend you start with Holmes. There is no better place to begin your journey than the Victorian London of the world's greatest consulting detective.

If you are into games. . .

If you like games. . ..

Haven't tried them, so can't speak for them.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

This is kinda fun. . . . .

Location, location, location. . . . .

Gillette to Brett III

Wow! What a great weekend. Wayne and I headed out fairly early on Friday for our drive to the Indiana University campus in Bloomington, arriving in time to attend all the festivities for Gillette to Brett III. And the weekend turned out to be a 9.9 out of a possible 10.

 Most of the convention would be held in the Union Hall on campus, which is basically a really nice hotel and convention hall with lots of wonderful rooms, but maybe lacking slightly in restaurants. Which did not turn out to be much of a problem.
 Just out side of the hotel window was this wonderful little stone church and cemetery.

Very rural English country in style and look.

We only had two events planned on Friday evening, the first taking place at Lilly Library. And for any bibliophile it was a treat.
The library is a depository for thousands of books and manuscripts of all kinds. Many dating back hundreds of years.
We were even allowed to touch a page from a Gutenberg bible. Yes, I did say touch.
On display in the first room we had a session in, were some works from Doonesbury. Garry Trudeau will be doing a presentation at the university next week.
I always enjoy seeing how cartoons and comics are put together, start to finish, so it was really a treat for me.

Our first speaker was Joel Silver from the Lilly Library who described to us the purpose and history of the library. Then showed us some of the items they have, including a first addition Chaucer's and 1490 math books, and of course, a treat for Sherlockian's, an original Beeton's with Study in Scarlet in it.
This is also where we got to touch the Gutenberg Bible page.

After his talk we went to another station to learn about old book repair and preservation.
This was followed by a viewing of old manuscripts.

Manuscripts by JM Barrie of Peter Pan fame.
And friend of Doyle's.
Original manuscript from 'The Red Circle.'
Papers on Poe, or from Poe.
And a piece of his hair.
From Doyle on 'The Final Problem'
An original sketch from the waterfall side fight.
Not what we ended up seeing in the Canon is it?

Movie script for 'Seven Percent Solution' signed by N. Meyer.

And all this so far had just been Friday evening.
After the Lilly Library we all headed back to the Union Hall for a reception where we got to. . . .
. . . try local brews. . .
. . . meet Nicholas Meyer, here with Wayne. . .
. . .here with me.
We took our pictures with the upcoming movie poster.



Sat. morning found us having breakfast in the Union Hall cafeteria.
With the talks starting soon after.

Curtis Armstrong, BSI, actor gave the first and I thought the best talk on the faces of Sherlock Holmes.
During the day we had talks about Peter Cushing, William Gillette, the actor who played Lestrade in many of Rathbones Sherlock Holmes movies.
We had a talk about an old Sherlock Holmes play and a BBC series that has covered all the stories.
Me with Curtis Armstrong.

Although our banquet would be kinda rushed, the food was excellent and the desserts were a picture to behold.
(You can use this as your wallpaper if you like.

We ended the evening with a viewing of the film, 'Seven Percent Solution', lead first by a talk from our host Steven Doyle and writer Nicholas Meyer. This is the 35th anniversary of the film.
Wayne with Hoggie
The university even installed a calabash shaped lake on campus for our benefit.

And we even got to touch a page from the Gutenberg Bible.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Official web site. . . . .


and I like this poster also. . . . .

I kinda like this one. . . .

A great series from Scientific American. . .


From the Wall Street Journal about 'House of Silk'

Anthony Horowitz photo by Adam Scourfield
More than 120 years after his first appearance, Sherlock Holmes not only lives on, the detective is thriving. Arthur Conan Doyle’s fictional sleuth is getting action star treatment in a forthcoming sequel to Guy Ritchie’s movie “Sherlock Holmes,” starring Robert Downey Jr. A new collection of Holmes-inspired stories, with contributions by bestselling crime writers such as Lee Child and Laura Lippman, was recently published by Bantam Books. And now Holmes has been resurrected in a new novel by British screenwriter and novelist Anthony Horowitz.
Horowitz, author of the bestselling Alex Rider young-adult series, says he jumped on the opportunity after he was approached through his agent by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate. It’s the first time Doyle’s estate has given a new Sherlock Holmes novel its stamp of approval.
“The House of Silk,” which is being published simultaneously in the U.S. and Britain this week, takes place in 19th century London, and closely adheres to the conventions of a classic Holmes mystery. The case unfolds as Holmes and Watson investigate a threat against a gallery owner. The investigation leads them to uncover an international criminal ring with ties to the government.
Horowitz drops in Holmesian observations (“The game’s afoot!”), familiar characters like Professor Moriarty and Holmes’s landlady, Mrs. Hudson, and references to Holmes’s fondness for cocaine and firearms.
“It’s full of references that most people will know and a lot that people won’t know,” Horowitz says.

This novel was commissioned by the Arthur Conan Doyle estate. Did they have any creative stipulations, like sticking close to the original character and setting, or were you given total freedom?
When I was offered this, the first thing I said was that I wanted nothing to do with anybody. I didn’t want notes from the Doyle estate. I didn’t want to show them the manuscript…The attraction of it was to move in to 221B Baker Street, to move in and spend time with Holmes and Watson and have no one else in the room, unless it was Mrs. Hudson.

What was the appeal of writing a Sherlock Holmes mystery?
Almost immediately I knew I had to do this. I’ve been a lifelong admirer of the Sherlock Holmes novels. My whole career was kick-started by them. I’d read them first when I was seventeen years old….. As soon as I had this commission I went back to them, and I like them as much now as I did when I was 17. In fact, I like them even more.

What struck you about the Sherlock Holmes stories – do you feel like they age well?
Conan Doyle is the father of all modern crime fiction. He’s where it all began — story structure, elegance the way clues are used. It’s a master class in crime writing. It doesn’t get better. This wasn’t the case of dusting off an antique. It’s still a perfectly tuned engine.

Did you feel pressure to hew closely to the originals, given the character’s popularity and longevity?
What I was trying to do was to break no rules, to do exactly what Doyle did.

How did you strike the balance of authenticity and allegiance to the originals on the one hand and a swift moving plot for a modern audience on the other?
By immersing myself in the world of Holmes and Watson, but with a fast placed plot with loads of twists. Nobody’s guessed the ending. Not yet.

Monday, November 7, 2011

A second evening with The Occupants of the Empty House

Sophia and I travelled to Du Quoin on Friday, November 4th, for another fine evening with the Occupants of the Empty House.  I know it seems to be a difficult concept to get your mind around, but I assure you every Sherlockian has managed this feat.

During our fine diner at Alongi’s, I had the pasta con broccoli and Sophia enjoyed the eggplant parmesan, we enjoyed Sherlockian conversation and catching up with some old friends.  Joe was kind enough to sell me a few of the books from his collection, including a couple of signed copies.  I have found a source to expand my collection of Sherlockian tales.

Bill Cochran delivered an excellent paper concerning the identity of the banker in The Beryl Coronet.  As many times as I have read this story I have never stop to consider the identity of the mysterious financier who locked a priceless treasure of the British Empire in his dresser.  I will not give you the conclusion of the author.  If you want to know the answer, you should attend the Occupants’ meetings.  I will suggest you read The House of Rothschild, by Niall Ferguson, multiple volumes, for a clue.

I am very excited to report that Sophia and I are now official members of The Occupants of the Empty House.  I have already framed our membership certificates.  I look forward to more Sherlockian camaraderie. 

As we left the meeting and were driving home, to paraphrase, a fog swirled past the windshield and the ghostly headlights failed at 50 feet.  While we were in a more modern version of the hansom cab, I took this as the end of a perfect Sherlockian evening. 

Friday, November 4, 2011

A very good write up from last May. . .

Edward Hardwicke, 1932 - 2011

Edward HardwickeThe news that Edward Hardwicke died on the 16th May is sad and rather shocking, coming less than two weeks after the death of Jeremy Paul.
Edward Hardwicke was born in London and spent much of his childhood in Hollywood, where his father Sir Cedric Hardwicke lived and worked. He made his professional début at the age of ten in A Guy Named Joe, directed by Victor Fleming.
Back in England after the war, Edward completed his school education at Stowe, did his National Service in the RAF, and then went to RADA to train as an actor. In 1964 he joined the new National Theatre company under Laurence Olivier, and over the next seven years appeared in Othello and The Master Builder, both with Olivier, as well as The Royal Hunt of the Sun, Charley's Aunt, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, The Way of the World, A Flea In Her Ear, The Crucible, and Mrs Warren's Profession.
His subsequent career on stage and screen reflected that variety of drama and comedy. In the cinema he had important rôles in Shadowlands, The Scarlet Letter, Photographing Fairies (as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle), Elizabeth and Oliver Twist. On television he is best known as Captain Pat Grant in Colditz (based on Pat Reid, author of The Colditz Story) and, of course, as Dr Watson to Jeremy Brett's often mercurial Sherlock Holmes in the Granada TV series, taking over the character from David Burke in 1986.
Other actors had broken with the unfortunate tradition that portrayed the good doctor as a bumbling idiot, but it was David Burke and Edward Hardwicke who finally established Watson in the public imagination as an intelligent gentleman, courageous, astute, honest and admirable. He said: "I think Conan Doyle is one of the few writers who has created a fictional genius. And I think anyone is going to appear stupid, or seem to be a bit slow, by comparison."
As Jeremy Brett's health deteriorated and his own performance became erratic, Edward Hardwicke sometimes seemed to be the one fixed point in the series, the anchor that saved it, usually, from its own eccentricities. When Brett commissioned Jeremy Paul to write a two-handed stage play, The Secret of Sherlock Holmes, it was Hardwicke who played Watson, for a nation-wide tour and a long West End run: any other casting would have been unthinkable.
After Brett's death, Edward Hardwicke made recordings of half a dozen or so excellent readings from the Sherlock Holmes canon. It's not widely known that one of his early television performances was as Mr Davenport in the 1968 BBC production of The Greek Interpreter, with Peter Cushing and Nigel Stock. To our great benefit he never severed his connection with Holmes and Watson.

Roger Johnson

Just in time for your Christmas mailings. . . . .

Christmas cards

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Usually suggested as the 'Alpha Inn' - the Museum Tavern

There are a few of us who frequent the Alpha Inn, near the Museum…”
- Mr. Henry Baker; ‘The Blue Carbuncle’

Had lunch there once. Nice place.
I just love it when you can find a Sherlockian connection to beer and its consumption.

Lets meet at the Alpha Inn. . . .

British Pub week.