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"About sixty;" [BOSC]

As a devotee of Sherlock Holmes, you've probably asked — or have been asked — "What's the best Sherlock Holmes story?"

And you've likely answered in the same way as most people who have read the entire set of 56 short stories and four novels. That is to say, you've mentioned "A Scandal in Bohemia," the first short story in the Canon, in which Sherlock Holmes meets Irene Adler, who captures his admiration when she beats him. Or "The Speckled Band," where a young lady seeks help after her sister dies under mysterious circumstances and she finds herself in the same situation. Or The Hound of the Baskervilles, with its spine-tingling exchange between Dr. Mortimer and Sherlock Holmes:
"A man's or a woman's?"
Dr. Mortimer looked strangely at us for an instant, and his voice sank almost to a whisper as he answered: —
"Mr. Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound!"
Or a handful of others such as "The Red-Headed League," "Silver Blaze," "The Final Problem," etc. 

In 1927, the Strand Magazine held a contest challenging readers to choose the top 12 Sherlock Holmes stories, to determine who would match a list of 12 stories selected by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:
  1. "The Speckled Band"
  2. "The Red-Headed League"
  3. "The Dancing Men"
  4. "The Final Problem"
  5. "A Scandal in Bohemia" 
  6. "The Empty House" 
  7. "The Five Orange Pips" 
  8. "The Second Stain" 
  9. "The Devil's Foot" 
  10. "The Priory School" 
  11. "The Musgrave Ritual" 
  12. "The Reigate Squires" 
Of course, this was before the final installment of short stories, The Case-book of Sherlock Holmes, was published, so the final dozen stories aren't considered in Conan Doyle's original list. Randall Stock has a summary of all of the surveys that sought to revisit this eternal question, including the results of one that he ran in the Baker Street Journal in 1999.

The wonderful thing about asking Sherlockians to create such as list is, none of them would be wrong. We all like various stories for particular reasons. The Canon leaves a personalized imprint on our hearts and minds.

But what if someone asked you to defend the indefensible? What if you were asked to champion the worst story in the Sherlock Holmes collection? Well, your worst may not be someone else's worst. There may be other readers who have vastly differing opinions on the matter.

And so with that concept in mind, Christopher Redmond decided to undertake a project called About Sixty, in which he challenged sixty Sherlockians to make a case why each one of the stories in the Sherlock Holmes Canon is the best. He mentioned this in our interview with him in Episode 99 of IHOSE. The result is About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Stories is the Best, edited by Redmond himself.

Of the collective effort, Redmond says, “What they have written is compelling evidence that any one of the Sherlock Holmes stories can be the best; it’s all a matter of what the reader is looking for.”

It's a marvelous concept and one that should bring delight to readers, as we cheer on the authors making the case for our favorites, or assume our most skeptical pose for those saddled with convincing us of the superiority of the traditionally weak stories.

In the end, we think it's appropriate to quote Professor Moriarty in "The Final Problem": 
"It has been an intellectual treat to me to see the way in which you have grappled with this affair..."

About Sixty is available in paperback from Wildside Press for $14.99.