Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sept. Reading list - VEIL - 'Like water for lions' - and early retirement.

Should VEIL be in a compilation of stories called 'Casebook of Sherlock Holmes'?

Probably not. There is no actual case really, is there?

Should it be in the Canon of Sherlock Holmes?
For sure!

Once again it is the treats we get in the first few paragraphs that make this story fun.

"When one considers that Mr. Sherlock Holmes was in active practice for twenty-three years, and that during seventeen of these I was allowed to cooperate with him and to keep notes of his doings, it will be clear that I have a mass of material at my command. The problem has always been not to find but to choose. There is the long row of year-books which fill a shelf, and there are the dispatch-cases filled with documents, a perfect quarry for the student not only of crime but of the social and official scandals of the late Victorian era. Concerning these latter, I may say that the writers of agonized letters, who beg that the honour of their families or the reputation of famous forebears may not be touched, have nothing to fear. The discretion and high sense of professional honour which have always distinguished my friend are still at work in the choice of these memoirs, and no confidence will be abused. I deprecate, however, in the strongest way the attempts which have been made lately to get at and to destroy these papers. The source of these outrages is known, and if they are repeated I have Mr. Holmes’s authority for saying that the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse, and the trained cormorant will be given to the public. There is at least one reader who will understand. "

Just the first sentence is enough to send any Sherlockian into Canonical ecstasy;
"When one considers that Mr. Sherlock Holmes was in active practice for twenty-three years, and that during seventeen of these I was allowed to cooperate with him and to keep notes of his doings, it will be clear that I have a mass of material at my command."

Just from this one sentence we learn that Holmes had done well enough at his chosen profession to be able to afford early retirement, sometime before the age of 60. (That is if we agree his birth year was around 1854.)

We learn that Watson was with him for much of this time for he states that he was allowed to cooperate with him for seventeen. (How can that be when they met in 1881 and had a case together in 1914? More like twenty-two years.)

We learn that there are many more that we will never hear about, and that some of these are still rather sensitive to certain individuals.

We often read (in pastiche form) of individuals finding a 'battered tin dispatch box' and recovering lost works of Watson's. In this introductory paragraph we learn that there were indeed "dispatch-cases", plural,  containing his writings.

We hear of the famous "trained cormorant" and the "politician" and "the lighthouse".

But for me the most interesting aspect for my imagination is wondering where Watson is at when he puts this story down on paper and how old he is? 
It was published in 1927. Watson and Holmes would have probably been in there seventies and both retired. 
Is Watson alone, or is he still married" Where is he living? How long has it been since he last met up with Holmes. 
Is he in a large estate, earned by his writings and practice? Our is he in a flat in London, or a home for retired service men? Is wife, number what-ever,  still alive?
What kind of desk is he seated at?

The story itself takes place at what would have been fifteen years into the working relationship between Holmes and Watson.

No, this cases shows us none of Holmes' talents which we live for in his tales, and really it offers more questions than it answers. And maybe that is the real case.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

If you are in the St Louis area, I just got this. . .

It sounds like it will be fun, I wish I had found out about it sooner.

If you can, check it out.

Sorry about the image, I had to take a photo of my screen. 
(If I get a better image I will repost)

Monday, September 22, 2014

FIVE - a mini HOUN? A review of The Five Orange Pips for discussion.

If I could imagine for myself an evening sitting by a fire enjoying a book it would be just about as Watson describes it in the beginning of this tale.

"Sherlock sat moodily at one side of the fireplace cross-indexing his records of crime, while I at the other was deep in one of Clark Russell’s fine sea- stories until the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the text, and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into the long swash of the sea waves. "

What bibliophile amongst us does in at some time envision being able to just sit by gas lamp somewhere and enjoy a favorite beverage, a book and a fireplace. And to have Mother Nature giving sound effects while you read, WOW!
We sit and read in so many uncomfortable and uninviting places, and if we are lucky, sometimes we get to sit and read in ideal conditions.

And also learn a little bit about Watson's reading tastes when he has some free time, Clark Russell.

A nod to Watson or Doyle's love of travel and adventure perhaps. Or was this reading material a statement on Watson's concern for the common man?

We learn of at least six unwritten cases that we will never hear about.

Watson is still married but on his own again.

We learn of how many time Holmes considers that he was beaten and by whom (I am sure the number increase by one after this case.)

There are also some similarities to the HOUN.

Both involve men who came by unexpected inheritance.
Both involve events from someones past and carry over into other generations.
Both have outcomes that are not clearly established and are left in vague conclusion.
Both have the 'client' placed in danger, one with a said outcome.
Both have men who for a period of time are in mortal fear for their lives.

Did Holmes learn from this case the importance of needing to send Watson to keep an eye on Sir Henry. It would seem Sir Henry would have been a little more capable of taking care of himself then Mr. Openshaw would have been. Holmes in some way must of felt responsible for Openshaw's death.

We also once again see the fascination with American history by the literary agent and how he was up  on current affairs.

The story is a little (very) disappointing for it's swift conclusion with no clear ending.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Continued Summer reading list, with or without Brad

Brad's summer reading list ended in Aug. Technically summer ends near the end of Sept
I am sure he picked the end of Aug. because at least here in the midwest Aug. is usually the end of summer break for school kids. So it kinda makes since.

But just for the fun of it, and I know I am a little late, let's take our list till the end of Sept.
So, from Sherlock Peoria we get at least five more.
They are;
FIVE in 1887
SIGN in 1888
VEIL in 1896
ILLU in 1902 and
CREE in 1903

So, let the Games continue!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

'Playing the Game' - What have I gotten myself into?

In my last post where I reviewed the G2B4 weekend I seemed to have put my foot in it with at least a couple of people.
And now I hope I can defend myself somewhat.

I made the comment, "I came away realizing there is a big difference between Playing the Game for Sherlock, and Playing the Game for Sherlock Holmes, and that it seems unlikely the two shall meet."

And I now seem in need of explaining myself. And, after all, that is what this blog is all about.

I had made that comment in regard to my review of Kristina Manente's talk about fandom for the wonderful 'Sherlock'.

And I still stand by my comment, and think as the most popular fan sites would suggest, it is not hard to get the impression.

First I guess I should explain what 'Playing the Game' means to me.
In it's most broad sense, for me 'Playing the Game' is two fold.
First would be examining the stories as written by Doyle and trying to find clues related to real world experiences. This, to some, would be the  most pure form of 'Playing the Game', researching Doyle's work and coming up with the why's and where-fores of Doyle's material, taken it so far as to even examine Doyle's life. 
This could even take the form of researching the history of things and objects in the Canon. This approach, history of items and things, I do a lot in my presentations. 
I recognize the study of Doyle and his other works as being a very scholarly approach, and one that I am not all that suited for.

The second part for me would probably be the most common, and that is, taking the stories as if Dr. John Watson actually wrote them and that they are true, at least for the time in which you participate in the hobby. I participate in this one a lot at the various groups I attend.

The Canonical Sherlock Holmes is also the way I 'Play the Game' whenever I view or listen to some adaptation of Sherlock Holmes.

And to me, or at least for me, a Sherlockian is someone who pursues Holmes in some manner close to this.

And then we have the problem of 'Sherlock'.
To even have 'Sherlock' in a Sherlockain conversation to some is totally ludicrous in the first place because it is not a work written by Doyle. And you have to give them that.

But we have 'Sherlock' and it is a wonderful show and since it is so popular it is hard not to get caught up with it and 'Play the Game'.

And it is here that my earlier comments are aimed.

For me, 'Playing the Game' with the show is looking for Canonical references and contemplating the characters as portrayed on the show, Canonically.
Just as an example; One point of discussion I would have, 'Playing the Game', would be; Would the Canonical Holmes show up at an appointment with the Queen is just a bed sheet.? (You can come up with your own answer for that one.)
Can you take your version of the Canonical Holmes and make him fit into the Holmes portrayed in 'Sherlock'? Is he still being Sherlock Holmes? 
For me, I think the show is spot on in some areas and way off the mark in others.
This is 'Playing the Game' as a Sherlockian, in my view, if you are willing to let yourself leave the Canon in the first place. One of those lines we draw to make it fit into our way of thinking.

It seems to me, on the most popular 'Fan' sites I have seen, 'Playing the Game' with 'Sherlock' does not require the original stories to be present. Some fans have even stated that they have not read the Canon at all or at least not all of them.
'Playing the Game' with 'Sherlock' seems more about trying to figure out where the story is going to go nest and whether or not Holmes and Watson are or should be lovers. Is Moriarty going to come back? Or will Sherlock once again have a relationship with someone.

Don't get me wrong, if that is how you enjoy the show, Great! But is it 'Playing the Game' as a Sherlockian or are you 'Playing at the Game' with 'Sherlock'. They aren't the same, and often times I think this is where the confusion lays. 

I realize that choosing to view 'Playing the Game' this way is based on personal bias and comfort zones. I am okay with that.

My real point is I still believe there is a blurred line between both camps that is often still misinterpreted and doesn't play well for some folks.

Like I have said before, I think 'Sherlock' is the best thing to happen to Holmes in a very long time and as really opened up the world of Holmes and Watson to many more folks. And you can be both, a Fan and a Sherlockian.

This is only my opinion, and I respect yours. After all, I am also someone who 'Plays the Game' with 'Elementary'.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Gillette to Brett IV - a fun weekend and a big success!

Had the pleasure of being able to attend this years Gillette to Brett in Bloomington Ind.

I was able to leave early Friday and made it to Bloomington in time to make all the events.

Friday evening, of course, always starts at the universities Lilly Library where we are invited to view a wonderful exhibition of rare treasures and rare books.

I was told by one of the attending Sherlockains that he was actually able to touch the Beeton's Christmas Annual this year.

There are rare manuscripts and movie scripts along with other very interesting items.

Here is a signed script for the Hound of the Baskerville's
 Along side of many other motion picture treats.
 Also on display, and very interesting to me, is a letter from Daniel Boone.

His last home is not all that far from my house.

Doyle's manuscript of 'The Red Circle'.

 After a short break, long enough to get dinner or hit the hotel gym, we all met once again at the UI Cinema. . . .
 . . . for a screening of 1939's Hound of the Baskervilles

It was a lot of fun watching it with a big group of Sherlockian's on a large screen.
 Saturday morning, after signing in, gave us plenty of time to visit the sales room where we found, other than things to purchase, on display many items from several Holmes films.
 Here Brett's frock coat from the series.
 On the left is Ben Kingsley's coat from Without a Clue and Bruce's waist coat on the right.
 Labels explaining the items.

 Many autographs and other items on display.

 Rathbone's hat.
 I got the chance to meet a fellow blogger and author that I follow on line, Dan Andriacco.

Some of the other items on display.

We had many fine speakers Saturday.

We started with Bonnie MacBird who is very involved in film productive and gave a good talk on the script writing for Sherlock and some wonderful insights into why some of the scenes were written the way they were.

She was followed by Kristina Manente of the Baker Street Babes who talked about the fan base for the TV show Sherlock.
I came away realizing there is a big difference between Playing the Game for Sherlock, and Playing the Game for Sherlock Holmes, and that it seems unlikely the two shall meet.

Next was David Stuart Davies who gave a great talk on the humor in Sherlock Holmes, especially in film.

Also giving another wonderful talk was Bert Coules, talking once again about radio Holmes and the BBC series that he worked with. This time we had some behind the scene footage of how the show was put together.

After viewing 1984's A Scandal in Bohemia from Granada Television we had a terrific interview session with the director of that episode, Paul Annett.

 Paul talked about how the show came together and his time working with Brett. Lots of behind the scenes insight.

He talked about what it was like to work with Jeremy and other's on the show.

If you look at the scene in this photo on the screen, you will see that it is where Irene throws the photo of the King overboard.
The scene was filmed in the middle of England without any water near by on a staged 'ship' not much bigger than 10' x 10'.
Here I am with Paul.

The evening ended with a viewing of 1939's The Adventure's of Sherlock Holmes (which I was unable to make.)

It was a very relaxing, fun Sherlockian weekend with old friends and new.

"White Fire" - a book review

While at the library the other night with my daughter I came across Preston and Child's book called "Wild Fire".
And I was pleasantly surprised.

I had not heard of this book, nor had I heard of any Sherlockian review of this book. Which probably means I don't follow enough really important Sherlockian sites, but none the less, there I was.

The book is one in a series about a Special FBI Agent named Pendergast.
And although this book doesn't go a lot into Agent Pendergast's back story, I get the impression he is a rather unique individual with many Sherlock Holmes like characteristics.
Very anti-social, intelligent and seemingly highly respected, he seems more than willing to follow his own path in solving crimes.

The Prologue opens with that famous meeting between Doyle and Wilde at the Langham Hotel, London. Also at the meeting are Mr. Stoddart and a Mr. Gill.
This of course is the meeting where Doyle would come away writing SIGN, and Wilde would write Dorian Gray. At this meeting Wilde apparently tells Doyle a story so grotesque that Doyle leaves the meeting rather abruptly.

This related story from that evening becomes the back bone of a mystery now set in modern Colorado where Pendergast's young protege goes to study some antiquated deaths for her thesis.
While in Colorado, Corrie Swanson, the protege, becomes involved in a case of attempted murder and arson.
Preston and Child also involve some BSI members in the hunt for the missing story.
The book was very fun to read and engaging. The characters interesting and somewhat sympathetic, which is required for me to become engaged in the story.
Included in the book is the pastiche, 'The Adventure of Aspern Hall', a stand alone piece which is also part of the story.

I don't know how much of the story that takes place between Doyle and Wilde is true, and I don't see Doyle as weak kneed as he appears to be after Wilde relates his tale.
But I enjoyed the book and found the Sherlockian connections worthy.

Stay tuned!!!

Had a great weekend at G2B4 and a book review coming up later today.

Talk to ya soon.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

I guess I'm a sucker for fun movies . . . and just in time for G2B4

Young Sherlock Holmes is free to watch on Amazon Prime right now.

I always thought Mr. Rowe was a good young Holmes, even if his material was very Spielberg.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

For an interesting review of the new Houdini TV movie. . .

 with connections to Doyle, Check out Buddy2blogger.

Brad's summer reading list number 21 - CROO - Victoria's Wars

"Oh, but the tattered web we weave."

It is not unusual to find in the Canon of Sherlock Holmes reference to men who have served in the military.

Matter of fact, that is how we first meet Watson. Watson introduces us to his world with an explanation of his time in service and how he comes to be in London.

In other stories Holmes is mentioned as deducing the appearance of a man by his military bearing.

And Watson's military 'bearing' is also mentioned in this story.

Most of the military adventures suggested in the Canon take place in far off exotic locations.

And if you think about it, it doesn't seem unusual.

During Victoria's reign the empire of Great Britain was at it largest and most extreme. It was the super  power that in just another fifty years would be taken over by the United States.
Britannia still ruled the waves, for better or worse.

Victoria's wars found British fighting men in conflicts all over the world; China, India and other Asian nations. Crimea, Russia, Afghanistan and many areas and countries in Africa. British service man fought in well over one hundred conflicts during Victoria's reign. (In a quick count I came up with 49 major battles. This count does not include small battles.)

Some great movies have come out of this time in British military history, "The Four Feathers", "Zulu" and "Zulu Dawn", among many others.
Most try to show the British soldier as brave and loyal and dependable. Fighting for Queen and country. We have come to expect that as the portrayal of the British soldier at this time.
Also at this time it was still common for officers to have purchased their commissions  This practice was not abolished till 1871.
The explanations behind the justification of purchased commissions is very interesting.

This does not however apply to our two protagonists in this story. Both start as humble soldiers, with one working his way up through the ranks. And with the outcome we find at the end of the case, maybe some of his methods were a little under-handed.

I would suggest that what is described in this story as the Siege at Bhurtee has some similarities to the actual Siege of Cawnpore. It is worth reading about.

Victoria's soldiers were involved in conflicts all over her realm and we should not find it unusual for some of those men to pop up in the Canon, good or bad.

One question: are there any Navy veterans mentioned in the Canon as part of any of the stories?
Not just nautical men, of which there are many, but actual British Navy veterans.

Okay, Brad, I am waiting for our next assignment.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Brad's summer reading list number 20 - CARD - I'm all ears.

It would be an interesting study in the Canon to find out how many of the villains who were sailors at one time were also alcoholics.
It seems to be a theme. But then again, what was a sailor suppose to do when in so many foreign ports.

First I would like to thank Brad for starting this summer project, it has been a fun way to re-read some of the stories and have some conversation.

And once again for me it is much of the other stuff in the story that gets my attention rather than the mystery.

The weather in London would appear to be much like the weather this year in late August here in the mid-west, very hot and in the nineties.

Within the first two paragraphs we learn a little bit about the appearance of Baker St. or at least one of it's neighbors, which may have suggested to some it's possible location. ". . . the glare of the sunlight upon the yellow brick. . ." I would imagine that most non-English Sherlockains imagining Baker St. would imagine a red brick facade.

We get the image later in the story of Lestrade being a rather dapper fellow, despite other words used to describe him, even within this story.

The images Mr. Paget gives us are of younger Holmes and Watsons, boater hats and derby's.
In the scene represented above, where the three crime stoppers are examining the ears, we learn, that awaiting Holmes arrival, the ears are inoffensively kept in an outhouse in the back of Miss. Cushing's yard.
Most of us imagine an outhouse as being something rural, at least here in America. A tiny little closet sized building with a crescent moon on the door, where one went to spend some quiet time contemplating an old sears catalog before putting it to further use.
And this image would not necessarily be inaccurate.
But in some cases the word outhouse could also suggest some other sort of building like a shed. Usually these small buildings built for other uses would more likely be called by a name suggesting there use; barn, shed, stable, well house and collectively they would be called out-buildings instead of outhouse.
What confuses the issue in this case is how it is differently referred to in this story.
Miss. Cushing first informs use that, "they are in the outhouse".
We then get Watson describing the building as a small shed.

When I first re-read this passage I was reminded of a story my mother use to share with us about her upbringing.
She grew up in a small town in Yorkshire, Selby, the the late 20's early 30's.
She had five sister and three brothers. And they all lived in a small row house of six units, each two separated by an alley.
My mom would describe how, as a young child, she would have to walk at night with just a candle back to the outhouse before bed.
Made even worse if the dirty old man next-door was out in the alley having a smoke.
The description and the way she told the story always made it should as if the small outhouse was about thirty yards away.
When I visited the home several years ago the alley-ways were yet to be boarded up so I could investigate this little outhouse.
I found the outhouse to still be standing, probably now used as a shed, built solid of brick, but no more than twenty feet from the back door. Right in the corner of the neighboring yards brick wall and the high brick wall of the church behind the house. The outhouse actually seemed to be joined to the two intersecting brick walls.
Paget's drawing shows the three crime fighters looking at the ears while up against a brick wall, suggesting that that is either the side of the outhouse/shed or a tall brick wall.
So the outhouse in this story could have either been used for relief, so to speak, or have been a shed.
Or it could have been both, with one attached to the other.

P.S. I did a little further research into my mom's outhouse experience and she said that although it was outside, it was indeed a flush toilet. Who would have thought?

Now I have used my fair share of outhouse's over the years. All in rural settings and most involved with camping. I have even built one which we use at our cabin.

But one thing we forget in our modern reading of these tales is that it was not uncommon for most houses, rural and urban to still not have indoor plumbing. It is hard for us to imagine someone like Miss. Cushing, with all her layers of clothes marching out back to an house. it wasn't until the mid to late 1800's that indoor plumbing started to become more common.
Miss Cushing probably had other methods of transport for the unpleasantness's which probably involved the under paid help.

Has anyone ever investigated the flushing systems in Baker St.?

With that in mind I would like to pass on a little outhouse wisdom . . . .