"I am somewhat exhausted; I wonder how a battery feels when it pours electricity into a non-conductor?" [DYIN]
To tide you over until then, here's a wealth of Sherlockian news from the last two weeks including: a new website dedicated to Vincent Starrett, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere celebrates their 60th episode with an engrossing overview of the first sixty years of Sherlockiana, a Sherlock-themed video segment on Mo Rocca's Sunday Morning on CBS, a transportation expert criticizes Sherlock's inability to identify trains, the new Russian Sherlock adaptation has been subtitled in English, a roundup of articles on China's obsession with Curly Fu and Peanut, Sherlock Holmes as the ultimate superhero, a familiar face appears on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, join the Homeless Network on your smartphone, Charlotte Anne Walters published a new pastiche collection of short stories, an argument for why Nicol Williamson's Holmes is the best Homes ever, who is Michael Stone and why would his conviction "cause the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories to choke on his pipe" and more in this information-packed, post-BSI Weekend, Weekly Sherlock Links Compendium by Matt Laffey.
Studies in Starrett, as regular readers can well imagine, is quickly on its way to becoming my new favorite blog. Maintained by Ray Betzner, the editor of Gasogene Books' 75th Anniversary Edition of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, I have no doubt that VincentStarrett.com will soon be the go to source for all things related to Autolycus of Chicago. To date, the site features articles on: Starrett's connection to Poe's almost mythical book Tamerlane, a Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine article from 1969 celebrating VS's 82nd birthday, an analysis of Michael Kean's recent Baker Street Journal (Winter 2013) article ""And It Is Always..." Eighteen Eighty-nine", a little known VS short story “The Menace of Mars” (1922) co-authored with Otto McFeely and the Starrett connection to Betzner's inscribed copy of The Last Egyptian by Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum. When not researching the life and work of Starrett, Ray Betzner writes about campus news at Temple University in Philadelphia where he is the Assistant Vice President of University Communications. In the Sherlockian world, Betzner has been an invested member of the Baker Street Irregulars ("The Agony Column") since 1987, maintains "The Sherlockian Societies" section of the Baker Street Journal and has published numerous articles in Sherlockian journals such as the BSJ, Baker Street Miscellanea, etc. Most recently Betzner was quoted in The Guardian waxing philosophical about what it means to be a Sherlockian and why critics should lighten up regarding BBC Sherlock. You can follow Betzner on Twitter via @BooksandBipeds.
|[Ray Betzner, proprietor of Studies In Sherlock, toasting Dr John Watson by noting Watson's transformation from The War Doctor to the doctor we know and love at the Baker Street Babes' Second Annual Daintiest Thing Under a Bonnet Charity Ball during BSI Weekend 2014.]|
I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere celebrated their 60th podcast episode by surveying the first sixty years of Holmes' existence, starting in 1887 with the publication of A Study in Scarlet and pausing in 1947, one year after the founding of the Baker Street Journal. Scott and Burt do an excellent job charting and contextualizing the rise of a new kind of popular literature - serialized fiction in nascent publications like The Strand - and the unlikely success of a new kind of detective. Though the story of ACD's love/hate relationship with Sherlock Holmes is familiar to some, newcomers to the Sherlockian world will be shocked at how inconsequential Holmes was to the young Edinburgh doctor-turned-author and how frighteningly close the world came to losing the Great Detective forever in 1891 to the falls of Reichenbach. The onset of the 20th century not only saw Holmes rise from the dead but also saw the rise of Sherlockian scholarship. Three decades later ACD, never quite having made peace with Holmes, would be dead and buried (with a tombstone that read "Steel True, Blade Straight"), while his problem child (and I don't mean Denis or Adrian) achieved immortality in the form of small gatherings dedicated to the study and propagation of the sixty stories documenting the friendship and adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson. By the 1940s these informal groups had evolved into full blown societies replete with formal dinners, journals, traditions and the inevitable growing pains experienced by the maturation of an ever growing subculture. You couldn't ask for more knowledgeable or affable guides to the intertwined worlds of Sherlock Holmes in print and the people and culture that celebrate the Great Detective's adventures.
|[In the beginning there was...A Study in Scarlet published in 1887.]|
CBS Sunday Morning aired "Deducing the Timeless Popularity of Sherlock Holmes" on January 19, 2014 which also just happened to coincide with the final day of BSI Weekend 2014 in NYC. What better treat could a Sherlockian ask for - regardless of whether or not they attended the NYC Sherlock festivities - than to watch a Holmes-centric news segment that essentially 'got it right'. Watch the joy (though some might call it insanity) in the face of Don Hobbs explaining the pleasure of collecting translations of the Canon in 92 languages: ""What doesn't he have? Tajikistan? He's got it. Uzbekistan? "I do," [Hobbs] replied."" Listen to Michael Dirda, author of On Conan Doyle, describing the historical and literary significance of Holmes as the first serialized character. Enjoy the pageantry of the 221B Con 2013 costume contest where you'll find outfits that could only emerge from the brains of devoted Sherlockians. Let loose a little Elementary snark as Jonny Lee Miller talks about his tattoos and fails to comprehend why someone might collect the Canon in a billion languages, while Lucy Liu reassures viewers that she won't be undergoing sex reassignment surgery to placate those critical of the casting of a female Watson. Finally, once the segment is over, sit back and ponder the multi-faceted world of The Sherlockian in all its glory: the strange and sometimes counter-intuitive diversity, "the unrestrained enjoyment of the present" (MAZI) and the rigorous dedication to a timeless friendship between an anti-social genius and a gregarious doctor with romantic tendencies - then give thanks to the personal confluence of events which led you to Baker Street.
|[Above, Don Hobbs discusses what drives a man to collect 92 translations of the Canon. Towards the end of the piece Always1895 and a few of my other favorite Sherlockian sites are mentioned: "[Sherlock] fans met in cyberspace, on sites like the Baker Street Babes, Always1895.net, Better Holmes and Gardens." While I don't think any fans actually 'met' on my site, I certainly do appreciate CBS mentioning it and if I had a hit counter I'm sure it would be at 1,895,000 by now.]|
Stephen Rees's Blog, concerned primarily with transportation in urban environments, recently commented on a seemingly minor detail from the season three premiere of BBC Sherlock. While many fans and critics took issue with plot holes such as how exactly the villain managed to detach an entire train car and reroute it to the abandoned station or un/under-explained situations like how exactly Sherlock survived the St. Barts fall, Mr. Rees was "severely disappointed" by Holmes' inability to distinguish between two types of London trains: "Throughout ["The Empty Hearse"] the abilities of the great detective are demonstrated. He can, for instance, conduct a forensic examination of human hair inside a toque without even a magnifying glass. But he cannot apparently tell the difference between a tube train on the Jubilee Line and the subsurface stock on the District Line." (Thanks to John Baesch, BSI ("State and Merton County Railroad") for the tip!)
|[Example of the Jubilee Line tube train - which you can compare to the District Line train for yourself.]|
The Millions contrasts the current hullaballoo surrounding the recent premiere of BBC Sherlock with various historical high points in the Sherlockian world : "Holmes booms have come and gone over the decades - the last major influx of adaptations was in the seventies - and though most are set amongst the old ‘swirling-fog-and-hansom-cabs’, they manage to tap into the anxieties of the ages in which they were conceived." Below is a graph of instances of "Sherlock Holmes" mentioned per year (1887 - 2008) within a corpus of 5 million digitized books which paints a rough picture of the high and low points of Holmes' popularity over the last 120 years.
|[Ngram view of "Sherlock Holmes" mentions from 1887 to 2008 in Google's book corpus. Click the image to interact with the Viewer or here for a larger version of the above image. For those unfamiliar with Google Ngram Viewer, it's a "phrase-usage graphing [which] charts the yearly count of selected n-grams (letter combinations)[n] or words and phrases, as found in over 5.2 million books digitized by Google Inc (up to 2008)"]|
Russian Sherlock Holmes (2013), the newest Holmes incarnation to hit the small screen, can now be viewed with English subtitles! At the time of this post Russian Sherlock Holmes episode 1x01 is available on YouTube with subtitles that can be toggled on or off. For more information about the series, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere posted an overview of the first few episodes. And the Baker Street Babes reviewed a few individual episodes, having exclusive access to a Russian speaking roommate (whom I assume also helped "solve the problem as to whether it is possible to get comfortable rooms at a reasonable price").
BBC News China reports on the latest 'craze' to sweep China's TV watching public: ""I tore myself away from bed early this morning just to watch 90 minutes of my Curly Fu and Peanut," said one online comment. "The gay-citement has finally returned. PS: Thank you, Prime Minister Cameron, for visiting China." "Curly Fu" and "Peanut" are the names given by Chinese fans to Sherlock and his sidekick, Dr Watson, because they resemble the Chinese pronunciation of their names. The "gay-citement" tag? Well, that is used to describe the excitement of seeing what Chinese fans like to think of as the love between the two characters." The Internet seems fascinated with the, in truth rather endearing, Curly Fu and Peanut monikers and the 'strange' Chinese obsession with BBC Sherlock (cf. Anglophenia, Metro, Mail Online, etc.).
|[A typical headline proclaiming the Chinese fascination with Curly Fu and Peanut's (Sherlock and John respectively) bromance.]|
Scientific American in "Why You Should Envy, But Not Worship Sherlock Holmes" makes an extremely interesting case for why Holmes should be considered the ultimate superhero: "Despite the flaws, we want to think like Sherlock Holmes, we want to be a superhero of the mind. Why? Why has Holmes endured for so long in the public’s own thinking? Why can everyone, not just the nerdy, embrace the movies and TV shows that feature the detective? I think it’s because Sherlock Holmes is the most realistic superhero of them all."
|[Screenshot from BBC Sherlock - and here is the obligatory t-shirt version at Qwertee, which I kind of think looks pretty cool.]|
Entertainment Weekly, in the January 24, 2014 issue, features the very familiar face of Benedict Cumberbatch on it's cover along with the tagline: "How the British cult hit starring Benedict Cumberbatch became the whole world's cup of tea." The article begins with a surprising revelation on what could have been: "Cumberbatch thought twice when Sherlock co-creators Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss originally offered him the part....Why? "My reservation was 'Well, this is a very iconic character, there will be a lot of attention on it,'" says Cumberbatch. "This was before I had had any significant success [but] I knew there would still be a lot of focus on it. And while I had done work, it wasn’t stepping into the populist limelight like playing a character like Holmes. So I did have a pause for thought.” According to Cumberbatch, it was the passion and commitment of the behind-the-scenes Sherlock team which ultimately convinced him to sign on for the role. “I thought, If I’m going to do this, if I’m going to step into the limelight with a large leading role of iconic status, then I might as well do it with these people,” he recalls. “They know what they’re doing and I completely trust them. I felt like I was being asked to join the family and have some fun. There was nothing businessy about it. And that’s how to operate it.” Check out EW on Facebook for an exclusive interview with Moffat, Cumberbach and Freeman positing theories about how Holmes survived his dramatic plunge off of the roof of St Barts.
|[The world is truly "mad about Sherlock" as evidenced by Benedict Cumberbatch appearing on the cover of Entertainment Weekly - the first time BBC Sherlock has made the cover of EW according to BC fan site Cumberbatchweb.]|
Sherlock: The Network is the name of a new iOS app that will allow players to become a virtual member of Sherlock’s homeless network (the BBC's take on the Baker Street Irregulars from the Canon), "helping Sherlock and John with their adventures." Available for download on January 20 and priced at at reasonable £2.99, follow @SherlockNetwork on Twitter for updates and tweet #jointhenetwork to unlock exclusive content from the app. I haven't tried the game yet but I'm curious what readers and BBC fans will make of it - feel free to email me your experience of the first serious attempt at creating an immersive, multi-player networked Sherlock-themed game.
["New images from the app will be unlocked as The Network grows..."]
Barefoot On Baker Street's Charlotte Anne Walters, author of Holmes pastiche Barefoot On Baker Street (MX Publishing, 2012), announced the upcoming release of her latest book Charlie Milverton and Other Stories (MX Publishing, 2014) is
a collection of five present-day Sherlock Holmes short stories which poke gentle fun at the idiosyncrasies of modern life – not to mention the eccentric detective and his world-weary friend who are at the heart of the action. "Charlie Milverton", "The Premier Bachelor", "The Leaping Man", "A Question of Identity" and "Abbey Strange" are each based directly on an adventure taken from the original work of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, but updated with a modern-day twist."I thoroughly enjoyed Ms Walters' Barefoot novel for its unique and, at times, risque approach to the 'Holmes vs. Moriarty' dynamic, so I suspect that her latest collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories will be equally engrossing.
The Consulting Detective, inspired by the current Oscar-buzz surrounding the upcoming 2014 Academy Awards, makes an intriguing case for "the most Oscar-worthy performance in the history of Sherlockian film. If there was ever one actor who deserved an Academy Award for his portrayal of the great detective, it is Nicol Williamson who played Holmes in 1976's The Seven-Per-Cent Solution." Whether you are a fan of Williamson's addict-in-recovery Sherlock portrayal or wish that Nicholas Meyer's 1974 bestselling novel had been left to rot in the discount bins of Waldenbooks circa 1975, author Nick Cardillo's impassioned case for the film's virtues is a great read: "Williamson's manic Holmes is a triumph. He presents both sides of the character wonderfully, constantly fidgeting and twiddling his thumbs in a beautiful reflection of Holmes' unbalanced character. Williamson's own description of the character, likening him to a fractured human being is clearly seen."
|["Williamson was quoted as saying, "This Holmes is different: below the surface there is a fractured little boy chasing after a butterfly.""]|
WGN 720 Radio interviewed Bob Madia, a Chicago "screenwriter, editor and Sherlock Holmes expert," about BBC Sherlock and his take on the current Holmes craze running rampant on both sides of the Atlantic (and don't forget China). I'm not exactly sure who Bob Madia is but he's clearly a sincere fan of Holmes and can hold his own when discussing Sherlock Holmes films. Topics discussed besides BBC Sherlock include Peter Cushing, Holmes pastiches available from Titan Books, the upcoming Ian McKellen Holmes film A Slight Trick of the Mind, Myrcroft Holmes' character and various listener questions about Jeremy Brett and other Holmes film adaptations. I couldn't find Bob Madia's name in the Sherlockian Who's Who database, but it's refreshing to listen to the perspective of a Holmes fan 'outside' of the hardcore Sherlockian community. Along with being a Sherlock fan, Madia is a screenwriter with a few horror and mystery films to his credit (Bob Madia on IMDB) and is currently working on a film with the amazing title Gatorshark vs Zombie Cheerleaders about "a half-shark half-alligator creature [wreaking] havoc at a cheerleader camp full of hot & sexy brain eating zombie cheerleaders."
|[The tagline for Gatorshark vs. Zombie Cheerleaders is - I kid you not - "Half shark. Half alligator. Half naked."]|
Mail Online ran the following headline on January18, 2014: "Boss of Sherlock museum launches £10,000 bid to clear Lin and Megan Russell's hammer killer because 'his conviction would have made Holmes choke on his pipe'." I'm not even going to attempt to unpack this headline so I'll quote liberally from the article:
"The man who runs The Sherlock Holmes Museum has launched a bizarre investigation to try to clear a notorious murderer. John Aidiniantz has spent thousands of pounds – made from tourists at the museum – on preparing an appeal for the man who murdered Dr Lin Russell and her daughter Megan and left her other little girl, Josie, for dead. Drug addict Michael Stone attacked Lin, 45, and Megan, six, in a quiet Kent country lane in 1996. Stone, now 53, was convicted after a fellow prisoner said he had confessed to him. But Mr Aidiniantz believes the real killer is Levi Bellfield, 45 – the man who murdered Surrey schoolgirl Milly Dowler. He has set up a so-called ‘justice department’ in the ‘spirit’ of Sherlock Holmes, aimed at overturning miscarriages of justice, and is preparing evidence for the Criminal Cases Review Commission (CCRC), which refers cases for appeal. The armchair detective, who runs the museum at Holmes’s fictional address of 221B Baker Street in London, said: ‘The trial and conviction of Michael Stone would have caused the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories to choke on his pipe."One can only assume that Mr Aidiniantz has been possessed by the justice-seeking ghost of Conan Doyle seeking to relive the past glories of Oscar Slater and George Edalji.
|[The Sherlock Holmes Museum, owned by John Aidiniantz, has found itself stuck in the middle of a contentious and slightly bizarre legal and media battle.]|