IHOSE header

"like a fire in a snowstorm." [GLOR]

While much of the East Coast and Midwest in the U.S.A. prepares to be buried under mounds of snow, I must confess that this latest post might bury even the bravest of Sherlockians under piles of links and information. Below you will find an exploration of early Canonical illustrations, a celebration of the life and work of Vincent Starrett, a look at three Japanese translations of Starrett's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, an interview with Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue on the future of Sherlock, why we live in the most interesting of Sherlockian times, a review of the original 1979 Russian Sherlock, an interview with Cumberbatch discussing his upcoming role as Alan Turing, elements of the BBC Sherlock fandom, a list of Sherlock-related films available for streaming online, connections to Sherlock Holmes and Cumberbatch from Shanghai to Long Island, and much more in this fully winterized Weekly Sherlock Links Compendium by Matt Laffey.

Baker Street Essays #5 (February 2014) the irregularly published PDF newsletter of Sherlockian Writings by Bob Byrne focuses on various aspects of illustrations from the Canon. The feature essay "The Illustrated Holmes," inspired by the classic Walter Klinefelter book Sherlock Holmes in Portrait and Profile, traces the illustrations of Holmes (from the original STUD illustrations by D.H. Friston to those of Sydney Paget) that accompanied each story as it was first published. Also to be found in issue #5 is the short essay "Thoughts on The Evolution of a Profile: Vincent Starrett’s Classic Essay" exploring the final chapter of Starrett's seminal The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1933) entitled "The Evolution of a Profile".

In another essay "Sidney Paget’s Enduring Influence," Byrne traces the importance of Paget's illustrations to historical and contemporary conceptions of the Great Detective by comparing original Paget illustrations with later adaptations - for example comparing Paget's classic "Silver Blaze" train car depictions of Holmes and Watson with screenshots from Granada and BBC adaptations which both pay homage to Paget's original (cf. image below). Finally, "A Classic Scene" takes a close look at Paget's famous depiction of Holmes and Professor Moriarty in the final moments of their struggle on the precipice of the Reichenbach, noting a small but significant feature of the drawing which I had never noticed: Paget "had every reason to believe that ["The Final Problem"] would the last Holmes story, I think that Paget understood the weight of the moment and spelled out his name, instead of using the usual “SP”." And indeed, if we look at the illustration we see that it is signed "Sydney Paget, 1893" opposed to the usual "SP". I highly recommend downloading BSE #5 (it's free!) and then exploring earlier PDF issues which can be found at Baker Street Essays.

[The Paget illustration from SILV (top) re-created by Granada (bottom) is just one example of Holmes adaptors (film, TV, etc) paying tribute to the immense importance of Paget's imaginings of Canonical persons, places, scenes and outfits.]

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere - Episode 61 was released a few days ago and I couldn't be more pleased! The announcement of a new IHOSE episode is always a cause for joy but in this particular case, the subject matter of this podcast is one nearest and dearest to my Sherlockian heart. I'm sure many of you have already surmised that episode 61 is all about that enigmatic but celebrated Chicago bookman, author of the finest book on matters Sherlockian aka The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1933) who was instrumental in the founding of the BSI yet only attended a single BSI Dinner (in 1934). "The Private Life of Vincent Starrett" is an hour and half conversation between venerable Starrettians Susan Rice and Ray Betzner about Starrett's life, work, trials and tribulations, kept expertly on track by the gentle nudge of IHOSE hosts Scott Monty and Burt Wolder's keen sense of when expertise is being used to make a biographical or historical point versus expertise leading the expert (and listener) astray. I consider myself to be fairly well-versed in the life, times and work of Starrett but it felt like every two minutes or so I was hearing some hitherto unknown Starrettian fact coming straight out of Rice or Betzner's brains. Personally, I learned a great deal but I was particularly impressed with the masterful way in which Rice and Betzner narrated their story, making the life of a cerebral book hound with quasi shut-in tendencies a thing of excitement and accessible to all levels of listener. I know I always recommend finding a 90 minute chunk of time to treat yourself to the latest IHOSE podcast, but there's no doubt in my mind that old and new Sherlockians alike will want to focus completely on this show - so do yourself a huge favor, find a quiet corner where no person (red-headed or otherwise) can vex you and lose yourself in contemplation of "only those things the heart believes are true."

[Starrettian soldiers Susan Rice and Ray Betzner, along with a copy of Rice's opus on VS entitled The Somnambulist and the Detective (2000, Musgrave Monograph Number 10 ), recording their IHOSE segment during BSI Weekend 2014 at the Player's Club in Gramercy Park, NYC.] 

Studies in Starrett (as if a 90 minute podcast dedicated to the man wasn't enough), the blog of longtime Sherlockian and Starrettian Ray Betzner, details his quest to obtain Japanese translations of Starrett's seminal The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Even though I don't read Japanese, this is the sort of quest that gets a red-blooded American blogger like myself all hot and bothered. But I'll take a quick cold shower and let Betzner explain where his quest started...

"The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in Japan Part 1": "I was able to determine that there had also been two Japanese editions. Both were translations by Tsukasa Kobayashi and Akane Higashiyama, who have translated a number of Sherlockian classics for Japanese readers. A hardback edition of Private Life was published in 1987, while a paperback version came out in 1992." Not surprisingly, given enough time and patience - and the Internet and some collector friends - both editions were tracked down and dutifully added to Betzner's impressive Starrett library. Not long after Betzner secured his hardback and paperback editions, he accidentally came across a folded-up, one sheet advertisement for the 1992 paperback which revealed that "before the first Japanese edition was published, chapters of Private Life translated by Kobayashi and Higashiyama were serialized in the Japanese edition of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine....so the hunt goes on!"

"The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in Japan Part 2": Betzner shows off the fruits of his labor and explains the differences between both Japanese editions plus some further information about the earlier EQMM Japan translation, stressing one important caveat: "I am tempted to say this is the complete history of Private Life in Japanese, but I’ve been burned too many times in the past to be confident of such a claim. Just when I think I know something definitive about Vincent Starrett, some new tidbit comes to light and I realize I’m still several puzzle pieces short of the full picture." 

[Above you'll see the cover of the 1992 paperback edition of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes in Japanese, which is a translation of the original 1933 edition opposed to the hardback Japanese translation which is based on the 1975 Pinnacle Books paperback edition (similar to the 1960 updated version originally published by University of Chicago Press).]

Collider sat down with Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue for an in depth discussion of what's next for BBC Sherlock, when fans can (maybe) expect Seasons 4 and 5 and the advantages of not being bound to a standard TV season/series model. Even if you are not a fan of BBC Sherlock, Moffat's comments on challenging the television season format status quo is a tremendous breath of fresh air:
"If we made Sherlock the ordinary way, and did a run of 6 or 12, it would have been over by now...Who says that the only way to make television is to make loads and loads of episodes for five years, until everybody is absolutely sick of it, particularly the people who are making it. Who says that’s the only way you can do it? There are other ways to make television. I’ve heard so many American showrunners talk about the shorter run – which for them is 12 or 13, but that’s quite a long run for us – and that all you’re losing are the filler episodes, and I think that’s true. I do think that sharpening the appetite and having shorter runs of more shows is a better way." 
Hallelujah! Next time you find yourself or a friend complaining about the perceived dearth of BBC Sherlock episodes, consider the 'less is more' philosophy advocated by Moffat.
[Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue, ostensibly pleasant and good-natured people, are secretly (and delightfully) plotting the emotional destruction of their legions of fans - or so listening to the perennial lamenting of a portion of the Sherlock fandom might lead you to believe. The truth? Let's just assume it's somewhere in the middle.]

Sherlock Peoria's "Our Little Town" muses on the current state of the Sherlockian world, comparing the effect which recent Sherlock-mania has had on the traditional Holmes world to that of a small, quiet village suddenly finding itself in the midst a giant modern housing development replete with big box chain stores and all the traffic and congestion which inevitably follows. An odd metaphor to choose, yet the point is clear: the Sherlockian world of 2014 is radically different than the Sherlockian world of just a decade before (and there's no going back). Regardless of your personal stance on said changes most observers would agree with Brad Keefauver when he adds that "watching the Sherlock boom's effect on the old school Sherlockian world has been interesting." For long time readers of Mr. Keefauver's blog, it's sometimes unclear where exactly he stands regarding the brave new Holmesian world we find growing around us every day. Note: I don't claim to be an expert in Keefauverian Studies, but just an attentive Sherlock Peoria reader - P.S. Please bring back Action Sherlock Brain Theater!

I sense that Keefauver's personal view is a nuanced, pragmatic conception which goes beyond a simple reactionary, binary world view (ie. not 'totally good' and not 'totally bad'), though perhaps he's leaning a bit more toward the positive than the negative, which would explain Keefauver's explanation: "But man, is this a cool time to be a Sherlockian," a sentiment shared by many a Sherlockian. After finishing the essay, a single deafening quote frantically ran circles around my brain: I of course refer to that famous Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times..." In order to get said quote out of my head, I looked up the actual origin of the phrase (surprise, it's not really an ancient Chinese proverb at all) and the only actual ancient Chinese proverb it even remotely resembles goes something like this: "It's better to be a dog in a peaceful time than be a man in a chaotic period." Strangely comforted, I held myself back from mentioning the dog that did nothing in peaceful times and instead found the following image to accompany this entry:

[For a fascinating perspective on Sherlockian 'boom' times, check out back issues of Baker Street Miscellanea from the late 1970s (or order the entire run on disc from Battered Silicon Dispatch Box) when the Sherlockian world was then dealing with an enormous upsurge in Holmesian interest generated by the recent book and film versions of The Seven-Per-Cent Solution as well as a smattering of other new Sherlock pastiches. As you can probably guess some welcomed the newcomers and praised the new conduits that sparked the interest of new recruits - and others were up-in-arms over the dawning apocalypse being visited upon their Sherlockian world. ]

The Consulting Detective describes the author's recent first encounter with the original Russian Sherlock Holmes (1979 - 1986) - featuring Vasily Livanov as Sherlock Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Dr. Watson:
"overall it's an excellent representation of the Arthur Conan Doyle canon. Despite the fact that Vasily Livanov's Holmes is played somewhat against type, he lends an excellent performance as a humane Holmes. The friendship between Holmes and Watson is excellently characterized, defined with good humor and rapport." 
Every time I read a new review of the original Russian Sherlock Holmes series I immediately want to drop whatever it is I'm working on (i.e., usually another round of Weekly Links), turn on the series somewhere near the early-middle (perhaps the scene where you're never really sure whether you're watching Moriarty and Moran or the Wolfman and his monster associates) and thoroughly enjoy what I often times feel is the second best Holmes adaptation of all time (Granada/Brett taking first place). I'm shocked when Sherlockian friends - often times with decades more experience behind them - casually mention they have never seen Livanov & Solomin as the Dynamic Duo of Victorian crime fighting. Seriously, if you haven't seen this series yet, make the time! 

[Hey, remember when Sherlock Holmes was not just a chemist but a profound chemist? Unlike pretty much every Holmes adaptation ever (excluding Granada), the classic Russian Holmes series never lets you forget that Holmes is a chemist of no small talent, just like it should be.]

"Benedict Cumberbatch's Very Big Year", in a recent USA Today, is mostly a puffy puff interview piece with Benedict Cumberbatch discussing the possibility of being cast in JJ Abrams' potentially bizzaro-world take in upcoming editions to Star Wars and whether or not Cumberbatch has a paramour or is completely single and enjoying being the most popular man on the planet. Wading through the fluff, BC does speak-up about his upcoming roll as Alan Turing, mathematician, WWII code breaker hero and, at the end of his life, shamefully and completely disgraced by the UK Justice system (which still prosecuted accusations of sodomy):
"[Cumberbatch] expresses displeasure only when an interviewer mentions that the late Turing received a royal pardon recently for 1950s criminal charges of gross indecency related to homosexuality. "The only person that should be pardoning anybody is him. Hopefully, the film will bring to the fore what an extraordinary human being he was and how appalling (his treatment by the government was). It's a really shameful, disgraceful part of our history," [Cumberbatch] says of his The Imitation Game character." 
Without the genius of Alan Turing, computers might not exist or not exist at the level in which they do today as well as a variety of other artificial intelligence and information theory concepts. I can only hope that BC's fame will help bring greater awareness to Turing's heart wrenching story.

[Sherlock Holmes, Smaug, Julian Assange, Khan from Star Trek, Stephen Hawking (seriously, in a made for TV movie called Hawking) and now Alan Turing - is there anyone famous who doesn't happen to look like Benedict Cumberbatch? ]

Doyleockian's "Some Elements of Fandom Need to Get a Grip" gently suggests that certain extreme wings of the so-called fandom "need to get a grip" further explaining "I don’t pretend to know an awful lot about the activities of fandom – and by this I am referring to the social media savvy fans whose Sherlockian interest largely revolves around BBC Sherlock – but as a body it can be awfully touchy and has a tendency to the very intolerance it seems to identify and abhor in others." Strong words of course, but well thought-out and sincere words all the same - for those familiar with Alistair Duncan and/or his Sherlock-centric writings it should come as no surprise to see Duncan not only develop his own, independent views on the topic at hand (in this case, the collective behavior of at least part of the Sherlock fandom) but also prepare in advance a defense should the need arise.

Frankly, I'm rather surprised his post, originally published 30 January, 2014 under a clearly provocative title only generated ten or so direct comments. Secretly I thought that Duncan's short post might possess the perfect mix of l'attitude provacative and measured objectivity triggering a larger dialogue between various fandom culture supporters and detractors leading to....leading to where and to what I don't know. Regardless, there are points to Duncan's original post that many 'observers' (all those Sherlockians unconcerned with battling out the finer semantic points of "fandom" regularly in the social media trenches) as well as self-identified fandom denizens would be interested in seeing addressed and discussed - though not confronted savagely or uncivilly leading to predictably unproductive 'flame wars' and the like. I'll continue to look out for the next big 'argument' brewing, not for voyeuristic or sadistic purposes but because these sorts of continually simmering, though never quite boiling over, disputes tend to have a way of staying below the radar until the moment that they don't - exploding with all the passion and madness inherent in the creative minds of the types of people who choose to socialize within the framework of a literary or quasi-literary social group opposed to something more traditional.

[No doubt Boromir has a firm grip on whatever the current controversy might be. ]

In Baker Street Babes - Episode 52 top Babe Kristina spoke to the team behind ‘A Finger Slip: The Webseries’ a project meant to take a specific popular fan fiction and turn it into a video series, funded in part by a current Kickstarter campaign....Already I hear a few Sherlockian heads exploding out there - and giving vent to some fine and violent oaths - but let's step back for a moment and tease out a few points (re: 'fanfic' etc.) just so that we're all on the same page. The fanfic is called "A Finger Slip" (AFS) and was originally authored by Pawtal and is based on the premise that "John and Sherlock accidentally meet through texts as teenagers". Got it so far? From what I've seen the entire Finger Slip adventures are told in the form of text messages between our two protagonists along with other BBC characters like Greg (Lestrade) and Molly (Hooper). It's all online and free and you can start here with "Chapter 1", where you'll find young, college-aged John and Sherlock meeting and getting to know each other via text messages. Remember, this is fanfic and not burlesque or pastiche so as much as the two main characters are 'John Watson' and 'Sherlock Holmes', don't be surprised if the narrative particulars and personalities stray quite far from what you would expect from a fan created (for example) 'BBC Sherlock-inspired pastiche' story. Anyway, if you had no idea what anything in the first few sentences of this entry meant, now you at least have a vague idea of what's happening. Give Episode #52 a listen then if you're curious come back and check out the Kickstarter page (for more info about the page-to-screen transformation) and the series website afingerslipofficial.tumblr.com and Twitter @AFSwebseries.

[If fanfic stuff isn't your cup of tea, I'm right there with you, generally speaking, but the AFS project appears to be popular enough that a basic working knowledge of how Sherlock fanfic culture works could be useful to a better understanding of the fanfic corner of the greater Sherlockian world.]

In "50 Essential Mystery Novels That Everyone Should Read" Flavorwire compiled an eclectically comprehensive list of fifty novels which all fall under the rubric of 'Mystery Novels' to one degree or another (crime, spy, detective, etc.). For starters, three cheers to Flavorwire author Emily Temple for actually putting thought into a "Top 50 Best X's" list - it contains plenty of titles/authors you would exactly expect to find on a 'best of' list like Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. But hardboiled detectives are not sui generis aberrations of Nature lacking parents and lineage: hence a healthy sampling of 'classic mystery' including the likes of Poe, Sayers, Wilkie Collins and Watson's Literary Agent. Then the choices get a bit more interesting, diverse and dare I say literary: Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose (OK, this is an obvious and overly popular choice but just once I would love to see Foucault's Pendulum appear instead), Paul Auster's The New York Trilogy and one of my favorite novels from the last decade The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon. Perhaps the most interesting and impressive selections is by a scrappy, young, living, female author whose Dust and Shadow transcends the sub-sub-genre of Sherlock Holmes pastiche: I refer to one of Always1895.net's favorite contemporary Sherlockians and authors, Lyndsay Faye! (Thanks to Les Klinger for the tip!) Irish America posted a recent interview with Ms Faye about her latest novel Seven For a Secret as well as future projects.

[Don't get me wrong, I think Poe can sometimes be a genius and there's no question his Dupin stories inspired a genre that lives on after 150+ years but seriously, check out this cover: do they really need to scream "The First Detective Auguste Dupin!!" in giant letters to convince readers to buy a set of Dupin stories, two of which are probably the most famous mystery/detective stories ever: “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and "The Purloined Letter"?]

Vulture compiled a list of Sherlock Holmes film and TV adaptations currently available from various online streaming services such as YouTube, Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, etc. The Woman in Green, Murder By Decree, my personal favorite Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, Buster Keaton's silent classic (though not an adaptation per se) Sherlock, Jr., all 39 episodes of the 1954 Ronald Howard TV series, Arthur Wontner as Holmes in what is possibly the most confusingly titled adaptation of all time Murder at the Baskervilles (set in the environs of the Baskerville estate, the plot is roughly based on "Silver Blaze" with Moriarty thrown in to properly ruin Holmes' vacation plans) and many more. Not mentioned in the article is the great repository of free, classic films Archive.org which has most of the public domain Sherlock adaptations available for streaming/downloading.

[Movie poster for Wontner in The Triumph of Sherlock Holmes (1935), which can be downloaded directly at Archive.org.]
Explore Long Island's "Spy Like Sherlock Holmes on LI" made a myriad of excellent suggestions for the aspiring Sherlockian: Warren Randall's 'The Long Island Cave Dwellers' scion meetings, Long Island's Murder Mystery Players club, the Spy Shop of Long Island in Northport, the comic shop Collector's Kingdom with a selection of Holmesian titles, and more. Extra props for a reference to founder of the BSI and longtime Roslyn resident Christopher Morley as well as his writing studio, the Knothole, which lives at Christopher Morley County Park in Roslyn-North Hills. (The article says the Knothole is currently closed to visits by the public, but I can't find any more news on that; possibly it's just closed in the Winter?)" It's no mystery why Sherlock Holmes is alive and well on Long Island!

UPDATE: Former Supervisor of Historic Sites for the Nassau County Dept. of Parks, Recreation and Museums, Terry Hunt, BSI ("The Something Hunt") after reading this entry wrote me the following regarding the state of Morley's Knothole: "The Knothole has been closed to the public since the BSI's Morley Pilgrimage in Jan. 2009. We used to open it seasonally; in the spring we'd furnish it as shown in your picture, and in the fall remove most of the furnishings from the unheated building and put them in storage...The big problem is that the County is broke and the museum division essentially no longer exists. I have hopes that we can get The Knothole re-opened for some time next year for Morley's 125th birthday year, if the Christopher Morley Knothole Assn. and other Morley supporters can show enough interest and volunteer support." Thanks for the info and congratulations on your recent investiture Terry Hunt! Let's hope with enough support Morley's Knothole will one day be open to the public again.

[The interior of The Knothole, the writing studio used by Christopher Morley - which was moved to the Christopher Morley Park after Morley's death.]

Buzzfeed ran a story "There Is a 'Sherlock' Themed Cafe in Shanghai" about a Sherlock-themed coffee shop called 221B Baker Street. It's worth perusing the pictures but I tend to agree with the author that the cafe is less about Sherlock Holmes and more about being a literal shrine to Benedict Cumberbatch in the guise of Sherlock. I've been making a point of not getting swept up in the recent torrent of Western News articles - ie. "Wow! Check out how 'totally wacky' China is over BBC Sherlock (cf. Curly Fu and Peanut), etc.." - but since this cafe is so over-the-top I'll make a one time exception.

[The daily menu board for China's shrine...I mean cafe dedicated to Benedict Cumberbatch and to a less extent other actors who've donned the deerstalker of the Great Detective.]

A random eBay auction is where I found this rather odd and harrowing image of the Great Detective smoking a suspiciously non-Canonical looking pipe on what appears to be the mean streets of the Marylebone district of the City of Westminster in London where one can only hope Holmes is lecturing the 'street arabs' of drug-ravaged Baker Street that "Crack is Wack" (or words to that effect). According to the description, this is an anti-drug comic from 1979 put out by a company called Stash Comix titled "Who Took the Drugs" and features Holmes in at least one story about the perils and pitfalls of drug use. For posterity's' sake, I grabbed the cover image off the eBay auction so that one can still marvel at the infinite variety of situations artists have placed the likeness of Sherlock Holmes. It is of course understandable if you assumed this image was an outtake from BBC's "His Last Vow", particularly in light of the recently revealed lifestyle choices of one 'Bill Wiggins' within the BBCverse.

[My money is on Mrs Hudson in answer to "Who Took the Drugs?" Click this rather disturbing but also highly entertaining image for the full-sized version. Extra blog points if anyone has ever read this comic and can email me a recap the Holmes story contained within.]

To offset the bleak 1970s version of Holmes seen above, here's The Washington Post covering Benedict Cumberbatch's recent appearance alongside Murray the Monster and Count von Count as they attempt to teach kids the concept of 'greater than' in relation to numbers. Warning: will melt even the most ice-hardened hearts of anti-Cumberbunny Sherlockians. Watch the entire two and a half minute video segment here: Benedict Cumberbatch and the Sign of Four (or is it Three?).

[The boys from Sesame Street call in the man from Baker Street to help solve the seemingly intractable mystery of whether or not there are more apples or more oranges.]