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.

Monday, July 17, 2017

My Next Sherlockian Adventure

With a friend in Edinburgh
It’s been a wonderful year for me, and I’m excited to announce the latest: Wessex Press will publish my Sherlock Holmes novel The Villa of the Doomed early in 2018 under its Gasogene Books label.

A little more than a year ago, I had no interest in writing a novel-length Sherlock Holmes pastiche, which I define as a book written in the style of Dr. Watson. But my friend Steven Doyle, co-owner of Wessex along with Mark Gagan, asked me to consider it. I did so, taking a temporary break from my Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody mysteries published by MX Publishing.

What I came up with – I hope – is a book that Arthur Conan Doyle could have written. I’ll flesh out a little more what I mean by that when the book comes out. But this is what Mark and Steve wrote in offering me a contract for the book: 
We are particularly pleased that it is a traditional Sherlock Holmes adventure. It should stand out against the latest crop of “SH meets Jack the Ripper, Zombies, historical figures and literary characters” books.

And here is what the eminent Roger Johnson, BSI, ASH, editor of the Sherlock Holmes Journal for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, thought about it: 
Dan Andriacco is well established as a formidable detective story writer and (no great surprise) as a formidable Sherlockian. It was only a matter of time before he turned his hand to a full-length and full-blooded exploit of the sage of Baker Street – and what a cracker it is! Shortly after the Queen’s death brings an end to the Victorian era, Sherlock Holmes is invited to investigate an apparent vendetta against a young woman in Surrey .  . . Rumours of ghosts and occult rituals add an extra frisson to the atmosphere of mystery and suspense as the screw gradually, remorselessly tightens. And as a nice bonus we meet an old friend, the one police detective who is undeniably on the same level as Holmes himself. Capital!

I’m looking forward to seeing what you think about it! Coming in January!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Pinning Down a New Collection

Since I don’t collect books, maybe I should collect pins from Sherlockian societies. They don’t cost much, they’re easy to store and transport, they identify one with a group, and they carry happy memories.

Also, I already have a start! It’s a modest start, though. I only have the few pins pictured here, but I love to wear them.

The Tankerville Club pin, from the Cincinnati scion society I’ve belonged to since 1981, features a profile of Holmes and a hand of cards signifying the nature of the Canonical Tankerville Club as a card club. (The Tankerville is the only club mentioned twice in the Canon, in “The Five Orange Pips” and in “The Adventure of the Empty House.”)

The pin for the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, of which I’m also a member, is suitably regal. It also includes the club’s founding date – a nice touch! – and the iconic pipe and magnifying glass of the Master.

The Stormy Petrels of Maumee Bay pin features the eponymous bird of the group’s name, to which Holmes once compared Dr. Watson. (“You are the stormy of crime, Watson,” he says in “The Naval Treaty.”) This pin evokes a nice memory for me because I received it when I gave a keynote address to the group one January in honor of Holmes’s birthday.

The extraordinarily complex and beautiful Diogenes Club of Washington, D.C., pin brings back another fond memory of a talk. Michael Quigley presented me with a patch of this logo when I spoke at the inaugural luncheon meeting. Ann bought the pin earlier this year. She qualifies as a member of the group, which is made up of individual who have served their country in some official capacity.

My friend Bonnie MacBird, author of Art in the Blood and general bon vivant, gave me the Sherlock Breakfast Club last January during the Baker Street Irregulars & Friends Weekend in New York. That’s her group in Los Angeles. It’s nice to see Dr. Watson saluted through the presence of a bowler hat.

Now I need an Agra Treasurers pin from the Dayton group. Fortunately, they do exist. And so do dozens more pin designs from other groups. And now I’m on the hunt!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Stone of Destiny

“On Christmas Day 1950 four Scottish students removed the Stone of Destiny from Westminster Abbey. On 11 April 1951 it turned up 500 miles away – at the high altar of Arbroath Abbey!”

So says the official souvenir guide to Edinburgh Castle, which I picked up last year on our Scottish vacation. The oblong red sandstone block – also known as the Stone of Scone and used for centuries in the coronation ceremony of Scottish monarchs – has been on display at the castle since the English returned it to Scotland in 1996.

That is the historical fact. But there are many alternative facts, and one of the most intriguing is the idea that Sherlock Holmes (or a reasonable facsimile) was involved retrieving the stolen stone. August Derleth ploughed this ground in “The Adventure of the Stone of Scone” in The Return of Solar Pons. More recently, Mike Hogan spun a great yarn with The Scottish Questions: Sons of the Thistle.

Now comes Richard T. Ryan with another enjoyable tale, The Stone of Destiny. This time around, it’s a group of Irish rebels who decide to kidnap the ancient stone shortly after the death of Queen Victoria and hold it ransom. The price for Edward to get it back for his coronation is independence for the Emerald Isle. 

Like Ryan’s earlier The Vatican Cameos, the story is told in chapters that alternate between Dr. Watson’s narrative and another viewpoint. In this case, the other narrative is a third-person account from the point of view of the Irish who took the stone. Since we already who they are, the suspense is wondering how Holmes will figure out where the stone is being held.

Holmes does not disappoint. His method, combining brilliant deduction and a trap or sorts, is extremely clever and worthy of the Master. In a foreshadowing of his undercover work in Irish disguise in “His Last Bow,” Holmes masquerades in Ireland as a chimney sweep. And Watson goes undercover, too – even sacrificing his mustache for the cause!     

The Stone of Destiny: A Sherlock Holmes Adventure is available for from all good bookstores including The Strand MagazineAmazon USAAmazon UK, Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle.

Monday, June 26, 2017

3 Days in a Weekend, 3 Ways to be a Sherlockian

The Illustrious Clients at the Zoo
Collecting memberships in Sherlock Holmes societies can be like collecting books, except easier and cheaper. Without trying I’ve joined a half-dozen or so. But the ones I am closest to are the ones I am closest to – geographically.

This weekend my wife Ann and I attended meetings in Cincinnati, Dayton, and Indianapolis. We rather feared it was going to be a Bataan death march of a weekend, but it turned out to be delightful. And together, the three meetings show the wonderful variety of Holmes-mania.

On Friday, the Tankerville Club met at a Cincinnati-area Panera restaurant. We had a quiz and a discussion about “The Adventure of the Golden Pince-Nez.” Official Secretary Paul Herbert’s legendary prowess at creating excruciating quizzes has not waned. (Example: “Would an investigation uncover any collusion between the Russians and either Arthur Conan Doyle or John Watson? Yes No Uncertain.”)

On Saturday, the Illustrious Clients made a field trip to the Indianapolis Zoo, led by the Illustrious Client, StevenDoyle. It was scavenger hunt in which we were charged with finding Canonical animals on a check list. A few examples will suffice:

Baboon: “The Speckled Band”
Lion: “The Veiled Lodger”
Ostrich: “The Engineer’s Thumb”
Tiger: “The Empty House”
Eagle: The Second Stain”
Gild Monster [lizard]: Tie breaker – what story? (A Study in Scarlet)

Ann was able to check off 16 animals, some of which she found on a carrousel, but her dogged attempts to find the worm from “Thor Bridge” proved fruitless.

On Sunday, the Agra Treasurers met for lunch at a Dayton restaurant and a quiz on a “The Red-Headed League” by member Stanley Wyllie. The Agra Treasurers’ tradition is that the winner of the quiz has to prepare the next one. Why wasn’t I warned? That task has now fallen to me.

There are many ways for a Sherlock Holmes society to function, but friendship is the lifeblood and the fun of it all. If you don’t belong to a group, join one. If there isn’t one near you, start one.

The Tiger of San Pedro or a Sebastian Moran target? (Steven Doyle photo)

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.