Andriacco, Dan. Rogues Gallery. London: MX Publishing, 2014

So. Got a question for you. Which do you prefer? Sir Arthur’s novels, or his short stories?

He wants you to say "the novels."

He wants you to say “the novels.”

The four Sherlock Holmes novels–namely, A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of [the] Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Valley of Fear– have some wonderful moments and great dialogue; I am particularly partial to Holmes’ and Watson’s meeting in STUD. However, I have to say that I am not overly fond of Conan Doyle’s technique of starting a story quickly, then dragging it back with a lengthy flashback in the middle of the book. In my opinion, his talents were better-suited to the short story format.* Other authors find it difficult to “think short” and do better when they have more time and space to explore their characters and slowly spin out the plot. It’s relatively rare, I think, to find a writer who can pull off both forms equally well.** Dan Andriacco achieves this feat in his latest Cody-McCabe release, Rogues Gallery.

Up until now, I have only reviewed Andriacco’s Cody-McCabe novels. Rogues Gallery  is a collection of two short stories and three novellas, all featuring the (as-yet) unpublished mystery writer, Jefferson Cody and his larger-than-life Sherlockian brother-in-law,  Professor Sebastian McCabe. Once again the whole gang is here, from police chief Oscar Hummel (now courting Cody’s PA, Annaliese Pokorny) to Cody’s new bride, former reporter (now editorial director) Lynda Teal. This is a good thing, too, as Erin, a small Ohio college town with an unusually high per capita murder rate, is about to get a lot bloodier.

First up is “Art in the Blood,” a novella which takes its title from Sherlock Holmes’ declaration to Watson that “art in the blood is liable to take the strangest forms.”***  As a college town, Erin has a small community of artists, including Cody’s sister (and Sebastian’s wife) Kate, a children’s book illustrator who has taken to working in stained glass. The Cody-McCabe clan is attending her first exhibit, part of a larger women’s art show at the Looney Ladies’ Gallery. The rest of the town also seems to be up for and evening of art, wine, and cheese platters, making for a long list of potential suspects when one attendee turns up with a corkscrew in his eye. Dr. Thurston Calder won’t be St. Benignus’ new art department head now, but was he dispatched by the competition, or someone else?

Jeff and Lynda rush from that adventure headlong into another (“The Revengers”) when, on the way to a Halloween party (for which they are dressed as The Avengers), they stop to help a mysterious figure in scrubs, waving frantically at them from the roadside.

Not these Avengers.

Not these Avengers.

These Avengers.

These Avengers.

Whoever it is apparently hasn’t heard of the Hippocratic Oath, however, because within minutes, Steed and Mrs. Peel find themselves bound on the floor of an empty house, staring at a timer set to tick away the last twenty minutes of their lives. Will they get out alive, or will the rest of their stories turn out to be past escapades, à la The Hound of  the Baskervilles?

Whichever it is, I won’t tell you. Won’t tell you who set the bomb, either.

Nyah.

Whoever the culprit was, they certainly don’t deserve a visit from Santa, but neither, it seems, does another member of Erin’s criminal class, who is just naughty enough to steal a pearl necklace from one of the town’s benefactresses. At a community Christmas Craft Show, no less. Again, both Cody and McCabe are there to take on the case, but one has to think that really, the citizens of Erin should be grateful no one dies in “Santa Crime.”

The same cannot be said of “A Cold Case,” however, and this time, it’s not an outsider who adds to the body count. No, Erin’s population drops by one when Jeff and Lynda, excited house hunters, open a chest-style freezer to find, not pre-made lasagnas, but a realtor. Apparently bludgeoned to death with a frozen salmon, Olivia Wanamaker had a bad marriage, at least one lover, and a Twitter feud with Erin’s mayor. Did one of these lead to her death? Or was her killer actually St Benignus’ unpopular provost, Ralph Pendergast?

Finally, what began with a Holmes quote, ends with a Holmes quote. “Dogs don’t make mistakes,” Holmes told Watson in “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place.”  People do, however, and in the collection’s final story, Cody finds himself coming to the defense of fellow aspiring mystery writer Ashley Crutcher, who claims she shot and killed her estranged husband by accident, having mistaken him for an intruder. It sounds like yet another episode of “Snapped”–until a jewel theft is thrown into the mix. Only Ranger knows what really happened, but unfortunately, he can’t talk.

Toby

One of the enjoyable things about following a series is seeing how both the characters–and their author–develop. When I first began reviewing Mr. Andriacco’s books, I found them creative and enjoyable, but there were occasional passages which read “rough” to me, or abrupt insertions that, while they illuminated the characters, interrupted the general flow of the story. Those have vanished, and these stories go down as smoothly as Lynda’s favorite bourbon.†  Although there are some dark and eerie moments–the gory corkscrew to the eye and a masked-and-gowned figure waving in the dark, for example–Jeff Cody’s conversational and unwittingly revealing narrative style keep the overall tone light, giving the book more of a “cozy” feeling, rather than that of an excursion into the darker sides of human nature. All of the regulars make an appearance, and it’s as nice to see some of the minor characters (such as Hummel and Pokorny) experiences some changes in their lives as it is to watch the still-besotted newlyweds. One of the drawbacks to having such a close-knit cast is that it is more difficult to play hide-the-murderer. Andriacco does his best to provide a long list of potential suspects amd motives, however, so I was only able to solve one case with certainty before the denouement. Whether long or short, each story was well-plotted and read quickly. If I found “Santa Crime” a teensy bit saccharine, it could be put down to the fact that I tend to fall on the Scroogish side of the holiday spirit spectrum. A long-time Sherlockian and member of a number of Sherlockian societies, Mr. Andriacco inserts enough canonical references throughout the book to entertain the knowledgeable reader without confusing the novice. He also provides enough background to keep Rogues Gallery a stand-alone work; one can jump right in without having read its predecessors. I would definitely recommend it to fans of the modern cozy.

Now, if only poor Jeff could get a book deal.

Rogues Gallery is available at some bricks-and-mortar stores, but is best obtained from your favorite online bookseller (Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Books-a-Million) or directly from the MX site (www.mxpublishing.com, or http://www.mxpublishing.co.uk). As of this writing, it is not available as an ebook, but that should change. You can learn more about Dan Andriacco, his writing, and other Sherlockian tidbits at his website, bakerstreetbeat.blogspot.com.

Star Rating: 5/4

For canonicity, Rogues Gallery earns a 5, with 4 stars for being “well worth your time and money.”

Footnotes:

*I say this not having read his other novels–although I have read a lot of his horror shorts, his true crime articles, his autobiographical works and his spiritualist writing. At some point, I need to venture into his historical novels, the Lost World and its related works. So–have you read any of ACD’s other novels, and if so, how do you think they compare to his Holmesian books?

**Of course, perhaps everyone else can, and I just blab too much. There is that.

***”The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter”

†Or so I have been told.  I can’t say for certain, as nothing alcoholic has ever gone down smoothly for me.

Reviewer’s Note:

In the interests of full disclosure, I will say that I read “The Revengers” in draft form. However, as I was working on A Curious Collection of Dates at the time, my brain was total mush, and I do not believe I offered comments of any real value. In fact, by the time I began reviewing the book, I had  forgotten who the actual culprit was.

3 Comments

Filed under Collection (Stories by the same author), Dan Andriacco, Four-star reviews, Holidays, Holmes-related fiction, Jeff Cody and Sebastian McCabe, MX Publishing, Original Character

Lane, Andrew. Stone Cold (Young Sherlock series). London: Macmillan, 2014

It's not London, but he may learn to like it.

It’s not London, but he may learn to like it.

As my last book review post was dedicated to Andrew Lane’s Young Sherlock Holmes series, I thought it only fitting that my first after the break would take up with his newest offering. Currently, Mr. Lane is on a schedule of one new book per year, at least in the UK; the US releases are a little slower and more irregular. If you wish to purchase the entire series, or buy the latest books for the young reader in your life, I highly recommend you use Amazon.uk (or a similar site). There is a bump in the price due to the exchange rate, and you will need to allow about 10 days for delivery (in the Midwest, anyway), but I have found the UK site a valuable resource for the impatient.

When I pre-ordered the book, some months ago, the cover art was not available. I have to admit, when I opened the box last week, I laughed. The covers for this series (both US and UK) are definitely a study in marketing. Let’s review them, shall we?

First, the earliest US covers for Death Cloud  and Rebel Fire (Red Leech in the UK):

rebel-fire cover

Death-Cloud bieber cover

I am going to assume that these covers are interesting to the pre-teen male demographic (later note: I was wrong–see below). The colors, titles, and the model’s pose and expression suggest some drama, and probably not kissing.* At the same time, however, he  greatly resembles a certain floppy-haired pop star getting a lot of young girls’ attention when these stories were published, leading me to suspect that the publisher was not above stooping to the tactic of using “Bieber Fever” as a marketing ploy.†   To further entice the young reader, notice that Macmillan has included the fencing silhouette in the lower right hand corner. A smaller version of this figure appears in the UK versions of these books, and while we can deduce from the Canon (and learn from the books themselves) that he is holding a foil, the immediate impression is, I think, Harry Potter-esque–a clever (if inaccurate) play for fans of that series.  It’s sadly revealing to note that the name “Sherlock Holmes” does not command attention; it’s tucked down at the bottom of the cover. Apparently Macmillan does not believe that American pre-teens either know about or appreciate the Great Detective.

In the UK, Macmillan seems to have figured that it need only mention Sherlock Holmes and make a subtle visual appeal to  Harry Potter fans to make sales, to wit:

rebel fire coverred leech

Of course, I covered this in the last review, but as a mother I have grown used to repeating myself, so I will do so again. Note that in the US version (the book’s second cover, replacing the Bieber edition), the story title is featured much more prominently than “Sherlock Holmes,” and has been renamed Rebel Fire, which will have more resonance with an American audience. The UK version sticks with the Canonical title Red Leech. Both editions go with Potter-y covers, the long-coated, shagy-haired silhouette resembling some illustrations of that series, the pistol suggesting a wand unless one looks closely, and the watch recalling Hermione Granger’s “time turner.” These covers seem aimed at a slightly younger, unisex audience.

Now let’s skip ahead to the current crop of covers. This is what had me so amused:

Young Sherlock cold fire andrew lane cover

I dunno….”One Direction” Sherlock, maybe? The covers have all been redone, like so:young-sherlock-holmes-black-ice-978144720511101

Young Sherlock death cloud cover
Young Sherlock Snake bite

As you can see from this sample, the colors are now both darker and more vivid (there are yellow and red-based covers for other stories, but they also have this jewel-tone). Sherlock Holmes has gone from a fairly normal, non-threatening adolescent, or a small silhouette (that figure has completely vanished) to an older, more action-oriented figure with a darker, even dangerous vibe. He bears absolutely no resemblance to a younger Cumberbatch, but one suspects that the publisher is trying to tap into the BBC show’s extreme popularity. If you doubt this, note that the “Holmes” has mysteriously gone missing.  It will be interesting to see if Macmillan’s US division follows a similar route.

Thank you for indulging me. You can all wake up now.

Thank you for indulging me. You can all wake up now.

Of course, what’s really important about a book isn’t what’s on the covers, but what’s between them. On to the review.

Despite his new look, Sherlock Holmes has not become a twenty year-old necromancer-assassin. To start with, he’s only sixteen. When Stone Cold opens, he is at a concert with his brother, Mycroft, and his violin teacher/minder/secret agent/friend, Rufus Stone.** The artist is violinist Pablo Sarasate, here at the beginning of his career. For those of you interested in writing pastiche, it’s worth noting what Lane does here in dealing with a “Real Historical Personage.” First, he gets the general details right: Sarasate was 26 in 1870 (after March anyway), he played a Stradivarius, and he had already debuted in London. The music selection is accurate as well. But then, Lane essentially makes a bet. At this point, everything that the reader could check quickly–or is likely to retain as fact–is accurate.  However, a brief online search of British papers reveals that, as far as can be determined, Sarasate did not perform in London in 1870; The Era reveals that, for at least part of the year, he was, in fact, on an American tour. Lane wants to use Sarasate; he’s mentioned as a musician Holmes admires in the Canon, and he’s a way of showing the reader how Holmes develops his own musical talents. It is, however, often difficult to know what a real person was doing on any given day in history–and, while Lane seems willing to bet that most people are probably not going to fact-check this scene, he also knows that someone might.††  And, quite rightly, he does not wish to present as historical fact something which cannot be verified. So, he plays it safe by being vague. We’re given neither a date nor a venue for the concert, and there’s likely no way to know for sure that the man did not play a single show in London that year. It’s a useful example for the would-be pasticheur: be sure of your facts, and if you must “fudge,” be plausible, and never dishonest, about it.

Mycroft doesn’t care about Sarasate at all, however, either as a character, or a musician. He prefers marches, and is quite uncomfortable in the smallish seats. His purpose for bringing Sherlock to the concert is to find some neutral ground on which they can discuss his (Mycroft’s) plans for his (Sherlock’s) future. Over the past few years, his little brother has led a remarkably adventurous life, and has even proven useful to Mycroft on occasion. However, the elder Holmes, always practical, is still determined to fit his brother out for a position in banking or the civil service.

Seriously, Mycroft. Let's rethink this one.

Seriously, Mycroft. For the sake of the British taxpayer and stockholder, let’s rethink this one.

With a view towards this less-than-exhilarating goal, then, he has arranged for Sherlock to be professionally tutored, to bring him up to speed before he enters university. Sherlock would prefer Cambridge–it’s closer to his family and he would like to be there when his father eventually returns from his post in India.‡‡ Mycroft, however, suffered an unenjoyable stint at Oxford, and so is sending his brother there, to be tutored in logic and mathematics by an old friend and professor, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.***

So. Here we have another “Real Historical Personage,” because, of course, Dodgson is better know as Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, “The Jabberwocky,”  and other works.  I have to admit I was a little concerned, because it seemed that Dodgson was set to play a major role in the story, which can be tricky. In the end, however, he plays only a very small part, teaching Sherlock some mathematics and logic skills (which, of course, figure into the plot) and introducing him to photography.***

Given that this is 1870, and photography, while not ubiquitous, had progressed to the point that it is fairly easy to find examples of formal portraits (and even, thanks to the Civil War, battlefield photos) from the era, it seemed to me that the Holmes brothers would be better acquainted with it than they were. It therefore comes across as rather artificial that Dodgson feels the need to explain it as much as he does. Still, the photography plays into the plot in two valuable ways. First, Sherlock gets to see a photo of Mycroft in his student days, with (shock!) friends–a photo which will prove significant later on. Second, Dodgson has some interesting ideas on what constitutes a good photography subject, and these earn him a round of police questioning in a body-snatching case.†††

The questioning also extends to one of Sherlock’s roommates in Mrs. Mc Crery’s boardinghouse. By this time, Sherlock is intrigued and, accompanied by his friend, Matty (who has  followed along and docked his boat in Oxford), sets out to discover who is stealing body parts from the Oxford mortuary, and why.

Lane always provides an “Author’s Note,” in which he discusses his sources, aspects of the story, and provides a glimpse of his future plans. In this book, he writes that, while he is moving Sherlock into an independent adulthood (which is, of course, natural for that age), the story is also “a return to the kind of stripped-down, pure version of the books that I managed to hit in Death Cloud– Sherlock and Matty working together to solve a crime.”****  Although the three major adult characters (besides Mycroft) in the book do offer a little in the way of mentoring, there is no one who takes on the all-encompassing role once held by Amyus Crowe, and honestly, I find the book better for it. It’s always good to see what Sherlock can do on his own–which is, by this time, a good deal.

It’s hard to get into specifics without accidentally giving away spoilers, but the plot is juuuuuuust  a tad unwieldy. Lane’s stories tend to have an element of the fantastic in them–outsized villains, international plots, that kind of thing–so the reader should expect more of the same. Still, the body snatching caper seemed overly complex and the culprit’s identity and motivations a little difficult to swallow. I found the more outlandish case, involving the Canonical Mortimer Maberley, strangely easier to accept.†††† In the end, however, Lane brings both story lines together in an absolutely electric confrontation. Whether the demands of justice are truly satisfied, however, is left to the reader to decide.

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

For all my quibbles, Stone Cold ultimately holds up, both as a story and as a part of the larger series. The dialogue, as in other stories, tends to sound a bit anachronistic, which, again, I put down to Lane’s desire to take into account the age and possible reading level of his target audience. The Canon references in this book are fairly oblique. Victor Trevor makes his first appearance, but they have little interaction. I found what could be at least one example of “the most winning woman,” there is a reference to the hidden wickedness of the countryside, and several other similar passages. As long as Mortimer Maberley lives to marry, I could find no errors. The book reads quickly, holds your interest, and Lane is still doing a fine job of showing us how the young Sherlock Holmes will eventually become the man we meet in the lab at Bart’s. And if you are looking for a way to introduce the 8-12 year olds in your life to your obsession interests, I would recommend it.

Erste_begegnung

The Young Sherlock Holmes series is available both at all online booksellers and your local brick-and-mortar shop, in both print and ebook format. I need to caution you, however: the US is running about a year behind. Snake Bite is just now coming out in hardcover in the States, while and Stone Cold aren’t even on the radar (except in 3-party UK version sales). Fortunately, you can order these books directly from amazon.co.uk, and only wait about a week to 10 days for shipping. Unfortunately, you cannot buy them from the UK site in e-book form. You can learn more about the series, and Mr Lane at: http://www.youngsherlock.com, although his website is not currently up-to-date.

Star Rating: 5/4.5

For canonicity, Stone Cold earns a 5, as there are no discernible errors. For story, I give it a 4.5, as I believe the plot is not as cohesive as it could be, and as others in the series have been. Please bear in mind that, while the book is aimed at the 8-12 market (or thereabouts) there are some scenes of intense danger which may frighten or disturb sensitive children. There may be a rare instance of mild swearing.

Footnotes:

* My sons, who are currently in this series’ target audience, are not fans of kissing in books, unless it’s funny or disgusting.

†Later editions use a more Harry Potter-y jacket. However, you can still obtain the older cover, leading me to believe that MacMillan has tapped into the obsessive nature of Holmesian collecting.

‡ In a totally unscientific study, I asked my daughter, 12 1/2, and my son, 11, what they thought of each series of covers. My daughter said that she thought the “Bieber” cover meant the books were for girls, because the model was “hot.” My son had no interest in the books at all, because he thought the boy indicated that they were meant for girls. Both kids found the “Potter” covers appealing. And, interestingly, the new cover series appealed to both as well. My daughter again found the model “hot,” and my son thought it looked “cool.”  They were both more vocal in their reactions to the most recent covers than they were to the others. So, looks like a win, Macmillan.

** Spies. So versatile.

††Like some ridiculously pedantic reviewer.

‡‡ Mrs. Holmes is still terminally ill with consumption, and appears to be nearing the end. Mycroft and Sherlock have a sister, who, judging by the little we know of her, seems to be not quite right in some way. In this book, Lane tells us that she is currently enthralled with an unsuitable beau and will not listen to reason. It is interesting to speculate on whether or not he has plans for either her or for Mr. Holmes (who from earlier books we know has a mental illness), or if they have just become inconvenient and must be dealt with quickly in every story. It’s obvious that Mrs. Holmes won’t survive past 2 more books, tops.

***Ah, the old Oxford vs. Cambridge question. The Sherlockian world is evenly divided. For a nice look at both sides of the argument, see Dorothy L. Sayers’ essay, “Holmes’ College Career,” O.F. Grazebrook’s examination of the subject, “Oxford vs. Cambridge,” and Gavin Brend’s take in “Oxford or Cambridge.”  All are conveniently located in King and Klinger’s The Grand Game: A Celebration of Sherlockian Scholarship, Vol. 1

†††Dodgson was a photographer in real life, and some of the controversy surrounding him, of which most adult readers will be aware, involves his particular interest in photographing young girls. This was another reason why I was leery of his appearing in this book, but the matter, fortunately, never comes up.

‡‡‡This bothered me a bit, because post-mortem photography was common in the 19th century, both in the US and in Britain, so I am not sure that any interest in taking photos of dead bodies would stand out that much. I cannot tell, from the resources available to me, that Dodgson had a particular interest in post mortem photography, although he did take photos of skeletons; it seems that he preferred taking pictures of the living.

**** p. 305

†††† In “The Adventure of the Three Gables,” Holmes’ client, Mrs. Maberley, tells him:”I believe that my late husband, Mortimer Maberley, was one of your early clients,” to which he replies, “I remember your husband well, madam.” As Maberley is single at this time, we must assume he marries later. Given the nature of his case, it is no wonder that Holmes remembers him well.

Comments Off

Filed under Andrew Lane, Children's Books, Cover Analysis, Four-star reviews, UK and US, Young Sherlock Holmes

And…We’re Back

Don't faint, or anything.

Don’t faint, or anything.

Well, it hasn’t been three years, although it certainly seems like it. Jaime Mahoney (of Better Holmes and Gardens fame) and I have finally finished our book! When we first came up with the idea, in February of 2012, we had no idea how large an undertaking it would be, but finally, last week, we delivered all 580 pages, plus illustrations, to our publisher, Wessex Press.*

And none too soon. The Clean Police are here.

And none too soon. The Clean Police are here.

It was, excepting the occasional day of frustration and panic, a wonderfully rewarding experience in which I learned how little sleep I actually require, and the kids learned that clothing can, in fact, be reworn. For weeks. I also discovered what a remarkably patient, supportive, and tolerant husband I have, and how thankful I am that his job provides work clothes.

One of the most excellent benefits of writing this book is that, while conducting research, I had the opportunity to read or sample dozens of wonderful Sherlockian or Sherlock Holmes-related books. Through them, I gained a much greater appreciation of how incredibly broad our niche can be, and of what it means to be a “well-read Sherlockian.” There is so much great stuff out there, guys!!!! 

And I cannot wait to share it with you.

A Note on Policy:

I first conceived of this blog as a place to review pastiche, and that’s still going to be its primary focus.  However, be prepared for a good deal more non-fiction and Doyleana in the coming year. I have several series I need to catch up on, and there were some review requests which came in during the little hiatus that I will try to fill, although I have no idea when those reviews will appear. If you have a book which you would like me to review, feel free to send a request, via comment, but at this time, I am not really sure that I can promise to meet a particular time frame. Also, please be aware that a review is not a promotional service. Every reviewer walks a tightrope between being fair to the writer and honest with the reader, and in the end, our loyalties must lie with the latter. If you request a review from me, and I feel that, for whatever reason, the book will not appeal to most Sherlock Holmes fans, either due to quality or content, I will not run a piece on it.

I have also decided to revamp the “star system.”  Most of us, I think, are not static as Sherlockians; we grow and change, both in our knowledge of, and our appreciation for, certain topics. Although I don’t review it here, I am ridiculously obsessed with fanfiction, which has given me a greater appreciation of AU; I have also become more aware of some Canonical debates. At the same time, I realize that many people who read Sherlock Holmes pastiches are looking for continuations of the Canon, Watson-Voice included. Therefore, I am going to review each book with a dual star rating, like the one I used for Margaret Park Bridge’s My Dear Watson. One star will be for general content, story elements, pacing, interest, historical accuracy, etc–the quality of the story itself. The second star will be for Canonical content and accuracy (as far as I can determine). In this way, the reader who is simply looking for a good story and does not care about chronology or who Watson’s wife is will not be dissuaded by a low star rating, while the person who will have a stroke if the jackknife is not in its proper place will be warned off. I think this approach will better serve both writer and reader, as well as saving me hours of hair-pulling angst.

I will be starting off the new review season with a look at two series we’ve been following in the blog. An October-esque anthology will follow, along with a new essay collection. After that, who knows?

It will be a surprise.

It will be a surprise.

Footnote:

*I am not going to use this blog to promote the book.  Because I love you all. However, I will say that we are anticipating that it will be released in January–or (given its size) sometime in the spring.

3 Comments

Filed under Administrative, AU (Alternative Universe), Canon Works

The Vaguely Minor Hiatus: Admin Note

Awww, now, don't worry, it's not that bad! Save those tears for Mofftiss and the Season 3 Finale!

Awww, now, don’t worry, it’s not that bad! Save those tears for Mofftiss and the Season 3 Finale!

Well, now that the Giveaway is complete, there is another pressing matter to attend to. You may remember that, in the spring of last year, I mentioned that this blog would be slowing down a bit, due to a long-term project that would be taking a great deal of my time. As it turns out, that project–a reference book co-authored with Jaime Mahoney, blogger at Better Holmes and Gardens–was accepted for publication with Wessex Press. And I have found, over the past few months, that it truly requires all  of my time.

Not far off the mark.

Not far off the mark. I am looking into disposable clothing for the children.

Just about everything not necessary to sustaining life has had to give, this blog being one of them. Books are still coming out, however, and I have had several review requests from authors. So, until circumstances permit, this will be blog policy….

For Authors:

With the exception of a review I have already promised, I will not be able to review any books until sometime in the Fall. However, I would be happy to feature you in an interview. This would consist of about ten e-mailed questions centered around your book, your experiences with Sherlock Holmes, and your writing process. Your responses will be edited for mechanics and (if necessary) profanity or adult content, but other than that, the content will be unaltered.* Publishing an interview will not constitute an endorsement of your book, nor is it a promise of a future review. As I won’t be able to give books the attention they deserve, I also won’t be able to provide a star rating. That being said, I really do hope to go back and review any book whose author does a review–I just can’t make any promises as to when. If you would like to do an interview, just contact me via the blog comments and leave your email address!

For Readers:

When I review a book, it’s typically a lengthy, in-depth process involving lots of note-taking, canon-researching and fact-checking, as well as the usual attention to story, characterization, and style. I like to try to give you enough information to know whether or not the featured book is something you would want to spend time and money on. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to do that for awhile. If I interview an author, I will not have read his or her book with my typical thoroughness. I will try, in the interview questions, to give you an idea of what type of book it is–strictly Canon or alternative universe, for example–and a basic sketch of the plot, but I won’t be able to tell you whether or not I think you will enjoy it, although I hope to do so eventually.

So–thanks for reading, commenting and following!  I hope to post interviews every once in awhile, and look forward to getting back to reviewing sometime in the fall!

It will be here sooner than we think.

It will be here sooner than we think.

Footnote:

*Yeah, I know, I can’t imagine it, either, but bases must be covered.

4 Comments

Filed under Administrative

12th Night Giveaway: Finale

Well, it’s been an eventful few days. First, there was a lot of this:

So exciting.

So exciting.

And, coincidentally, a lot of this:

Ok, the sick ones were on the couch watching endless Harry Potter, but still....

Ok, the sick ones were on the couch watching endless Harry Potter, but still….

And, not so coincidentally, a whole lot of this:

Mrs. Hudson!!!!!!!!!!!

Mrs. Hudson!!!!!!!!!!!

Add to that only intermittent internet, and, well, this final drawing is a bit later than planned….

However, I am happy to announce that the winners of the year’s subscription to the Baker Street Journal are:

Magdalena Poplonska

Paul Hayes

Kristin Franseen

Everyone who entered knew that Stamford called Holmes a “walking calendar of crime,” and then told him, “You might start a paper on those lines. Call it the ‘Police News of the Past.'”

Thanks so much to all of you–for reading, commenting, and playing. Your enthusiasm made this year’s Giveaway a great deal of fun!

new years card

Comments Off

Filed under Giveaway, Trivia contest, Twelfth Night Giveaway

12th Night Giveaway: January 6th

birthday39

I was a Sherlockian for a little over a year before I had the nerve to “go public” and connect with others. When I finally did, one of the first things I noticed was just how darned smart everyone was! And not just when it came to Sherlock Holmes. They knew lots of things about lots of things–all sorts of topics and specialties. It had nothing to do with education. Some of the most knowledgeable Sherlockians I know never went to college; there may be some who didn’t graduate from high school. Other have many, many letters after their names. What they all have in common, however, is a continuing curiosity–a desire to keep learning about something–and maybe everything. And they also like to share it, as is evidenced by the thousands of books and articles dealing with every aspect of the Great Detective and his Boswell. Some enjoy imagining new adventures for the pair, or filling in the blanks Watson so thoughtfully supplies. Others like investigating the history behind the stories, be it social, military, political, scientific, or cultural. A substantial number enjoy playing “The Game,” that is, thinking of Doyle’s world as if it were complete fact, and working out the details, either in a deadly serious, whimsical, or frankly crazy fashion.

There's a wealth of Sherlockian knowledge on these shelves. Along with some outright crazy.

There’s a wealth of Sherlockian knowledge on these shelves. Along with some outright crazy.

 

You can find an example of just about every sort of Sherlockian writing in the Baker Street Journal, published quarterly by the BSI (Baker Street Irregulars) almost consistently since 1946. Every issue is like attending a little scion gathering–in your living room, the car, at the beach…wherever you happen to be.

It's eminently portable!

It’s eminently portable!

 

So I’m very excited to celebrate the end of this year’s 12th Night Giveaway–and the 160th birthday of Sherlock Holmes–by offering a year’s subscription to the BSJ as grand prize.To enter the drawing, just answer this question:

In A Study in Scarlet, Stamford suggests that Holmes take up publishing. What would be the medium, topic, and title?

 

Day 12 Winner!!!!

When I did my student teaching, ages and ages ago, I absolutely loved it when a student had a grat idea or knew something I didn’t. It made the classroom collaborative, for one thing, and for another–it just made me happy. So as I went through today’s answers as they came in, I was really amused to see how  I have been totally schooled!  Seriously!  I had 2 women in mind: Sarah Cushing, who manipulated the man she loved into killing his wife (her sister) and a friend (supposedly her sister’s lover) in the remarkably graphic “Adventure of the Cardboard Box.” The other was Catherine Cusack, the maid who had no problem making James Ryder into a jewel thief and setting up innocent John Horner to take the blame. Yes, very nasty, both of them.  But I had completely and inexcusably forgotten the other women whose names you submitted: Isadora Klein, who would rather her ex-lover, Douglas Maberly, die than have the details of their affair published in his roman à clef; and Mary Holder, who helped Sir George Burnwell steal the Beryl Coronet and let her cousin become suspect. Other villainesses named were Mrs. Schlessinger, one half of a fraudulent missionary team who took advantage of Lady Frances Carfax, Violet deMerville, whose devotion to Baron von Gruner made her cold-hearted as well; Rachel Howells, who killed the Musgrave butler Brunton in a jealous rage; and, of course, the most “winning woman” Holmes ever knew of, who killed her own children for the insurance money.

And with that–Congratulations to Curtis Shideler, who named Isadora Klein, and Sheila Elder, who mentioned Sarah Cushing, Isadora Klein, and threw in Sophy Kratides for good measure; although she is not exactly a villainess in the Canon, Holmes definitely sees her as one in the Granada version.

5 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

12th Night Giveaway: Day 12

Well, if you live in the north eastern quarter of the U.S., you probably know that we are going to get snow. A lot of snow. Which means I have spent quite a bit of time in places that look like this:

50 minutes. No lie. Fortunately the popsicles didn't melt.

50 minutes. No lie. Fortunately the popsicles didn’t melt.

After last night’s adventure, you’d think I would stay in today and await the Flakes of Doom. But noooo, because even though I spent nearly three hours foraging with everyone else in town, I forgot stuff. Important stuff. Good thing there was plenty left.

Why were these not sold out? Don't people know what Monday is?

Why were these not sold out? Don’t people know what Monday is?

Last year, my kids really liked baking a cake and bringing out the Sherlock Holmes action figure, then snuggling on the couch and watching a Granada episode with Mom. I didn’t want to break that nascent tradition just because of a few inches of snow.*

The Sherlockian world is full of traditions. Some are big–like the BSI weekend coming up in New York City. Others revolve around popular conferences or the airing of new episodes of a favorite show. Some are local–the Illustrious Clients’ Victorian Dinner, for instance. And others belong only to the individuals who cherish them. It’s good, I think, to have a little bit of all of these. If you’ve been feeling isolated out there with your copy of the Canon, or certain that no one around you understands your love of a particular film version of Lestrade, let me assure you that you are most definitely not alone. It make take a little searching (probably not as much as you think) but trust me when I say that there is a Sherlockian community out there waiting to meet you and include you in its own traditions. Let this be the year you make some new friends.**

"Are there going to be people there?" "Well, it is a party, Holmes." "Not going, then."

“Are there going to be people there?”
“Well, it is a party, Holmes.”
“Not going, then.”

And speaking of friends…and meditations on friendship mixed in with crime and archenemies and stuff….

As we are getting to the end of the 12th Night Giveaway, there are only two prizes left–and as they are the big ones (metaphorically speaking) everyone is eligible to enter again, whether or not you have already won. Today’s prize is the Season 3 DVD (or Blu-Ray) of Sherlock, Season 3. It has not yet been released, but I will pre-order it for you, via Amazon US or Amazon UK. As such, it will be either Region 1 or Region 2, so please be sure your player can accommodate either of these.

Oh, yes. The photo. (via Sherlockology)

Oh, yes. The photo.
(via Sherlockology)

To enter the drawing, just answer this question:

Sir Arthur was a very chivalrous man, and while he seems to have respected women, he also shies away from making them truly wicked in the Holmes stories. Even if they do wrong, Holmes and Watson generally excuse them in some way. Except for (at least) two. Name one, tell us what she did, and give the name of the story!

Remember to send your answer in via Facebook PM, Twitter DM, or the blog comments! I will draw the winning name 24 hours from this posting. Good luck!

 

Day 11 Winners!!

For the first time, we actually have dual winners of the dual prizes! Normally everyone goes for one prize! Both Regina Stinson and Emma Stanovska knew that Jabez Wilson of “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League” and Hall Pycroft of “The Stockbroker’s Clerk” fell for the trap of earning decent sums of money for simply copying things (the encyclopedia and names from “The Directory of Paris). They were not the only clients Holmes encountered who were drawn into dangerous situations for the promise of a high salary, however: other names submitted included Violet Hunter, Victor Hatherly, Neville St Clair, and the unhappy John Hector McFarlane. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true….

*Ok. Projected 8-12 with high winds and drifting, blizzard conditions.

**You don’t have to even be all that social. I promise.

6 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized