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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Drawing Humor Out of Sherlock Holmes

Sometimes – and I know this is hard to believe! – it is possible to take Sherlock Holmes too seriously. But the late Norman Schatell had a cure for that.

The Lighter Side of Sherlock Holmes is a collection of more than 300 of his hilarious cartoons and illustrations, compiled by his son, Glenn, gently poking fun at Canonical characters and conventions. A lot of them are laugh-out-loud funny, and all the more so because only Sherlockians would understand the humor.

Many of the cartoons appeared first in such illustrious publications as The Baker Street Journal, The Sherlock Holmes Journal, The Armchair Detective, Baker Street Miscellanea, and The Serpentine Muse. Others were illustrated envelopes that Schatell mailed to his friends.

The Lighter Side of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USABarnes and Noble USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon KindleNook and Kobo. 

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A New Magazine and Maybe a New Series

It’s time to let the black cat out of the bag: The first issue of Black Cat Mystery Magazine, due out in September, will include a short detective story by me!

I’m excited and honored to be in at the start of a new home for mystery fiction. Subscribe or buy a copy now.

My story, “Murder at Madame Tussaud’s,” includes well researched descriptions of the famous wax museum as it actually looked at the time of the story, 1888. The amateur sleuth, Professor Carlo Stuarti, is an Italian-born magician known as “The Count of Conjuring.” But he claims to be much more. His “Watson,” American press agent Jack Barker, promotes his boss with the willing help of a fetching female journalist.  

Sherlock Holmes is nowhere in sight, but Sherlockians will have fun recognizing numerous references to people and places from the Canon.  

I feel a new series coming on! 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Cocktail Hour on Baker Street

Yesterday a Sherlockian friend and his wife engaged in a bit of badinage on Facebook about the time of cocktail hour. This is never a problem at our house, where the antique clock outside the Sherlockian library is always set with the little hand on the 5 and the big hand on the 12.

Nevertheless, this did set me thinking. The great John Bennett Shaw famously said that the only thing necessary two start a Sherlockian society was two Sherlockians and a bottle – “and in a pinch, you can do without one of the Sherlockians.”

So what was cocktail hour like on Baker Street?

When I did an Internet search of “Sherlock Holmes themed cocktails,” I was amazed at how often the recipe above came up, under a number of different names. (This one came from the The More-I-Arty.) Since I can’t abide scotch, I’m not tempted to try it.  

Fortunately, the Baker Street duo also consumed beer, brandy, and Imperial Tokay. And wouldn’t Holmes in his disguise as Altamont, the Irish-American, have drunk either bourbon or Irish whiskey? I like to think so. 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Sherlock Holmes at the Old Bailey

A nice feature of many Wikipedia entries is “Cultural References” or “In Popular Culture,” citing movies, literature, games, music, etc. with some connection to the topic at hand. There is no such section in the entry on Sherlock Holmes, however – possibly because that would require the equivalent of a library to do the concept justice.

References to Holmes are all around us. I had an experience of that last weekend listening to an audiobook of Rumpole’s Last Case, a series of seven John Mortimer short stories about self-proclaimed Old Bailey hack Horace Rumpole. It contains two Sherlockian Easter eggs in two stories. Other than the fact that Holmes and Rumpole are both brilliant and unforgettable characters, they have little else in common, so I wasn’t expecting that. But there it was.

One of the characters in “Rumpole and the Blind Tasting” is a wine merchant whose name I thought was “Vamberry.” This immediately brought to mind “the case of Vamberry, the wine merchant,” which Holmes mentions in “The Musgrave Ritual” as being before Watson’s time. I secured a copy of the book in paper and found out that Rumpole’s wine merchant was actually called “Vanberry.” But can there be any doubt about the source of Mortimer’s inspiration?

In the opening passage of “Rumpole and the Old, Old Story,” Rumpole notes that “from time to time there is a bit of an East wind blowing around our homestead in Froxbury Court.” For any true Sherlockian, this cannot fail to recall my favorite Holmes-Watson exchange in the entire Canon, which begins: “There’s an East windblowing Watson.”

Truly, we hear of Sherlock everywhere!

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The Man Who Would Be Sherlock Holmes

The plot trope of someone who believes he’s Sherlock Holmes has been employed with greater or lesser success dozens of times over the decades. One of the best such forays was They Might be Giants, reportedly the great John Bennett Shaw’s favorite movie.

My new favorite exploration of this theme is “A Study in Sherlock,” episode 4 of Season 6 of “The Murdoch Mysteries” from the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. It was first broadcast on Jan. 28, 2013.

Several strengths make the episode memorable, starting with the fact that the script writer actually created a good plot, not just a gimmick. The individual who thinks he’s Holmes has a psychological reason for his delusion that fits perfectly into the mystery, which involves a hidden treasure with a Holmes connection.

The story takes place around 1900, during the period when Sherlock Holmes was believed dead at the hands of Moriarty. When David Kingsley, AKA Holmes, explains that away in the presence of a visiting Arthur Conan Doyle (not very convincingly portrayed with shaggy hair and an unDoylean beard), the British author sees away to bring Holmes back from the dead. He even steals the name of a very real Col. Sebastian Moran, who is a character in the show.

Murdoch finally breaks through the madman’s delusion by playing to it. He appeals to that old Sherlockian maxim: “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” The improbable truth that Kingsley is forced to believe is that he’s not Sherlock Holmes!

It’s a great episode in a first-rate series. Season 7 brings “The Return of Sherlock Holmes” – but I’m not there yet!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A New Sleuth from a Favorite Mystery Writer

“Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
“To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
“The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
“That was the curious incident,” remarked Sherlock Holmes.
--“Silver Blaze”

In this book, the dogs do plenty in the night-time.

Kathleen Kaska is a Sherlockian and an animal lover. Her two passions are both evident in a new mystery series that gets off to an excellent start in Run DogRun.

Elephant researcher Dr. Kate Caraway, forced to leave her camp in Africa for reasons that don’t become clear until well into the novel, flees with her husband to the welcoming arms of old friends in Texas. And immediately she is immersed into a mystery involving greyhound racing, possible animal abuse, a bride-to-be with a secret, murder, and Lone Star State politics.

If all of this sounds far from Baker Street, it’s not. “She jotted tomorrow’s schedule with the precision of Sherlock Holmes,” the author tells us. Later, Kate and her husband, former Chicago Cub Jack Ryder, take a very Sherlockian approach to detection when they make a list of facts and speculations. This is what Holmes does – gathers the facts first. Data, data, data!

Kaska weaves a complex, well-constructed plot which raises serious issues without being preachy. The final confrontation with the killer is one of the most satisfying I’ve ever read, with the revelation of a motive so unexpected that it hit me like a freight train. And yet it’s a motive familiar to any Sherlockian. 

But good books, even mysteries, require more than solid plot and smooth writing. Run Dog Run also has a cast of all-too-human characters that are enjoyable to spend time with. Their foibles, their everyday humor, and their occasional heroism rings true.  

Kathleen Kaska is also the author of a Sherlock Holmestrivia book and the terrific Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. I miss Sydney, but also want to read more about Kate. 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Revisiting a Scintillating Interview

Regina Stinson, Jacquelynn, and Steven Doyle at McSorley's Ale House 

I woke up this morning to the surprising (to me) news that the indefatigable Jacquelynn Bost Morris is stepping down as organizer of A Scintillation of Scions after the 10th Scintillation in June. If you don’t know about Scintillation, or Jacquelynn, it’s time to catch up with my 2014 interview with her.

I’ve written about Scintillation many times on this blog, most recently in 2016.

But don’t take my word for it. Check out the Scintillationwebsite – and get registered for Scintillation of Scions X while you’re at it. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

An Anniversary Toast for 40 Years

Tankerville Club birthday cake
Two Sherlock Holmes societies (that I know of) celebrated their 40th anniversaries over the weekend - the Men on the Tor of Connecticut, and the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati. Since I have been a member of the latter since 1981, my wife Ann and I hosted a party at our home on Saturday.

Paul D. Herbert, BSI, author of Unmitigated Bleat, founded the Tankerville Club and remains its leader with the title of Official Secretary. It is only natural, then, that in addition to the traditional toasts to Holmes, Watson, and the Woman that might be offered at any Sherlockian meeting, we also lifted out glasses of generously donated real champagne to Paul himself.

Long-time Tankervillian Ed Lear write a toast that reflected Paul's notorious ability to create difficult quizzes. As befits a author named Edward Lear, it is in the form of a series of limericks:

To those who attended from the most to the least,
At those varied restaurants where we had our feasts,
The food may vary
But we were always wary
Of the test at the end, which was a beast

You could look at it till you were dead,
Try to remember what the characters said,
But try as you might
Nothing looked right –  
“Is this the test of the story I read?”

You read, study, and make lists, and here’s the rub,
Wanting to get at least one so you do not flub
Even if you beg
Or even nag
From the man who started the Tankerville Club.

Everybody, let's raise our glasses in a toast to Paul Herbert.

Paul Herbert poses an anniversary quiz 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

A "Typical" Sherlock Holmes Meeting

An Illustrious Clients field trip
Recently I was asked on a radio program what are the typical activities of a Sherlock Holmes society. I'm not sure I gave a very complete answer.

Since there almost 1,000 of such groups around the world, many but not all of them scion societies of the Baker Street Irregulars, it may be going too far to say there is any such thing as "typical." But meetings I've been to have included some or all of the following:
  • A social hour;
  • Dinner;
  • An impossibly difficult quiz on the story of the evening;
  • Discussion of said story;
  • Presentation of a talk or scholarly paper by a club member or a visitor (sometimes me); 
  • Toasts to Holmes, Watson, the Woman, Mrs. Hudson, and other Conanical characters;
  • Recitation of Vincent Starrett's classic sonnet "22lB" to end the evening.
I've also been to picnics, costume parties, film festivals, and field trips. What else has your Sherlock Holmes society done, either once or regularly?

As mentioned previously in this space, we members of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati will celebrate our 40th anniversary with a party on Saturday.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Suddenly, I'm a Cover Boy!

I was thrilled over the weekend to find the latest issue of Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine and see my name on the cover for the first time! The issue contains my fifth article for the magazine, "I'm the Old Man." It's about connections between Sir Henry Merrivale, that irascible and indescribable Golden Age detective, and (who else?) Sherlock Holmes. I'm also happy to say that I'll return in the next number with a short story.

You can buy Issue #22, which also contains a new Nero Wolfe story by veteran mystery writer Marvin Kaye along with other fiction and features, online.