Sims, Michael. Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes. New York: Bloomsbury, 2017

arthur-and-sherlock-cover

I know, it’s kind of a big image, but I adore this cover.

Ages ago, when I was eight, I read a book by Penelope Lively called The Ghost of Thomas Kempe–a million times, because I was that kind of kid. Now, as an adult, I vaguely recall the ghost-y bits, and the way I thought the poltergeist’s voice should sound, but what I really remember is a line from the sub-plot, when the hero,  James, realizes that “people have layers, like onions.” *

Books have layers, too–at least the best ones do. Out of all people, Sherlockians should know this. After all, most of us probably did not become Canon devotees solely  because we love creepy hounds, murderous snakes, and wall-climbing professors, even if the mysteries, puzzles, and adventures were the initial attraction. Survey any large group of Holmes fans and you’ll find myriad reasons why they love our detective, but the top reasons will likely include “a scientific detective,” “relatable heroes,” “literary innovation,” “sheer escapism,” and, possibly the most popular, “the devoted friendship” between Holmes and Watson. See? Layers.

In fiction, those layers can be intentional or slip in via the writer’s (or the reader’s) subconscious–remember the endless discussions of “what the author meant” in literature class? In non-fiction however, layers tend to be planned; like a good presentation, you can’t wing it. Instead, you have to know what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it, and what you’re going to say it with. Then of course, you have to say it entertainingly enough that people will stay with you for the entire thing. It’s no easy job, which makes it even more remarkable that, in Arthur and Sherlock, not only has Michael Sims achieved it–he’s done it in less than 200 (fast-moving) pages.

Arthur and Sherlock is not, as it might seem at first, another biography of Conan Doyle. In fact, in the first two chapters, the reader learns more about Dr. Joseph Bell than his most famous pupil, who doesn’t take center stage until chapter four.

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Both Bell and Holmes had “high-pitched” voices. Bell’s came from a serious case of diphtheria, which makes one wonder about Holmes’s health as a young man.

Even then, Arthur and Sherlock ends  c.1892, just as the Great Detective has taken over The Strand Magazine and Conan Doyle dedicates the first collection of Holmes stories to his former professor. In between, Sims give us glimpses into both the youth and the man. We see young Arthur as a scrapping boy in the poorer part of Edinburgh, a rebellious student getting more than his fair share of beatings at school, and a young man who impetuously courted danger, whether by (inadvertently) swimming with sharks or testing a known poison (gelsemium) on himself, to see if it was possible to build up a resistance to it.

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FOR SCIENCE!

Then there’s the physician Arthur–the medical student, the exhausted assistant and the struggling young practitioner. We get a glimpse of Arthur the family man, both through his relationships with his parents and siblings and his experiences as a new husband and first-time father. As you might expect, however, Sims spends the most time examining Arthur as, well, an author. We watch him grow from his friends’ favorite story-teller, to  enthusiastic submitter of photography articles (even as a novice, he couldn’t wait to share his techniques) and often-anonymous short stories, until finally we see him in the process of creating the characters which still outlive him. In far less time that it would take longer-winded biographers to get our boy through medical school, Sims covers nearly half of his life, giving the reader a portrait with perhaps less detail, but more insight.

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Layers. Like onions.

Thinking about it, while using onion layers as a simile for human life is (I think) perfect, it doesn’t quite match what Sims is doing with Arthur and Sherlock. Instead, of requiring us to peel away layers of meaning, he very kindly provides them pretty much all at once. Like, say, a cake….

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Obligatory.

So, right along with the Arthur layer, Sims gives us a delicious history of the detective story (and detectives), specifically examining how Holmes, whether he liked it or not, was influenced by his predecessors: Zadig, Vidocq, Dupin, Bucket, LeCoq–even the Comte d’Artagnan.** As he does so, he also illuminates the connections between Conan Doyle’s literary inspirations, and those from his medical training, showing how all came together–with its instigator’s conscious planning–for that one meeting in the laboratory at Bart’s.

If this were all of Arthur and Sherlock, it would already be a great book. Michael Sims provides, arguably, the essential background every Sherlockian or mystery aficionado should know, and he does so succinctly. If Arthur and Sherlock hasn’t yet been marketed as a potential university text, it should be.

But then he adds one more layer…..

When I was growing up, my days had a soundtrack: Simon and Garfunkel, my mother’s favorite group, played on reel-to-reel tapes which arrived regularly from Columbia House.

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Up until this very moment, I thought they were wearing choir robes and were surrounded by poinsettias.

This  particular album has two songs which use counterpoint to, well, make a point. The best-known, “Scarborough Fair/Canticle,” combines the traditional English folk song with a song written by Paul Simon on the waste and futility of war. The other, “Seven o’clock News (Silent Night)” sets the Christmas carol against a “newscast” from August 3, 1966 mentioning, among other things, the Richard Speck murders; Cicero, Indiana police planning to call in the National Guard to handle a civil rights march led by Martin Luther King; and a report on the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings on Vietnam War protesters. Even for a pre-schooler, this was pretty powerful stuff.

Sims uses counterpoint for his final, most compelling, layer. Most Sherlockians are, I think, at least vaguely aware of Charles Altamonte Doyle, Arthur’s father, an architectural draftsman and artist whose struggles with alcoholism and mental illness eventually left him unable to care for his family in any meaningful way. In traditional biographies, such as Stashower’s Teller of Tales  and Lycett’s The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes, the story of his tragic life is overshadowed by those of whom, through his flaws, he unintentionally forced into roles which changed the course of their lives.

Sims takes a different path. Instead of analyzing Doyle pater, or focussing his attention on the (considerable) influence of Arthur’s mother, Mary, he interweaves Charles’ story with that of his son, so that, as we see Arthur’s star rise throughout the book, we also watch as his father’s falls, slowly, wobbling into the dark. Showing what is (to me, anyway) remarkable restraint, Sims refuses to analyze this contrast, leaving readers to ask and answer their own questions. Who might Charles Doyle have been, had he been born in the 21st century, with its more sophisticated understanding of the differences hidden in human brains? Who would Arthur have been, had he had the example of a stronger, more capable father? Would his gift for story-telling have been nurtured, and if it had, would he have then bypassed medical school–and the scientific mode of thinking which inspired the detective who outlives him? Or would his more whimsical, romantic side, in keeping with both his father’s and mother’s leanings, have prevailed, leaving him to create a shelf of medieval epics (à la The White Company), and fairy stories?

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Like his son, Charles Doyle was fascinated by fairies.

How did the effective loss of his father at a young age affect Arthur? Did it make him more daring and rebellious, more eager to prove himself, more open to mentors like Joseph Bell? Did it push him to take risks–sailing to the Arctic, opening a medical practice on virtually nothing, deciding to ditch medicine altogether for a writing career? And, lest we lay everything at the feet of nurture, what kept Arthur (and all of his siblings, actually) from ending up like his father? As much as Conan Doyle liked to play the bluff, hearty soldier-type, it’s easy to get a glimpse of someone much more sensitive and emotionally vulnerable, particularly as he aged, a deep thinker whose own “hidden fires” drove him just as surely as they did (do?) Sherlock Holmes.

That is, of course, the true and beautiful mystery of it all. By examining a writer’s life and literary influences, we can see, clearly in Conan Doyle’s case, where his stories and characters came from. The layers are all deconstructed and spread before us. But the spark that animates the body, the “breath of life” that stirs the dust, remains invisible, discernible only through its unique creation. There will only ever be one Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, and aren’t we glad we had him?

Arthur and Sherlock: Conan Doyle and the Creation of Holmes is available as a hardcover and eBook from all of your favorite online and brick-and-mortar booksellers. Michael Sims is the author of books on Thoreau, E.B. White, the sun, and a variety of other topics, as well as an essayist and an editor of Victorian anthologies. He is a sought-after speaker who has appeared at various Sherlockian events. His website is michaelsimsbooks.com.

Star Rating: 5 out of 5–“This is a wonderful book that gets it right.”

Canon Rating: n/a

Footnotes:

*The actual quote is, “‘People,’ said James, ‘People having layers, like onions,'” but I had to edit the grammar to make it fit. It’s a great book if you want to check it out:
Lively, Penelope. The Ghost of Thomas Kempe. Oxford: Heinemann, 1973, (p.134).

**If you notice, there are a lot of French names there. Holmes seems to have French ancestry no matter which angle you take. (And if you don’t think that “Bucket” is French, well, then, I have it on perfect authority (via slimline telephone) that you’re not pronouncing it correctly.)

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Thompson, A.C., ed. Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures. Mocha Memoirs Press, 2017

 

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Q: How did you “meet” Sherlock Holmes?

A: I first met Sherlock Holmes when my older sister took me to the opening weekend of the movie “Young Sherlock Holmes.” She wanted to see it and she was babysitting me, so I really had no choice. At eight years old, I was extremely impressionable and was immediately in love with Nicholas Rowe’s Sherlock. After that, I couldn’t get enough and became obsessed with the Canon and mysteries in general (let’s not even discuss all the copies of Encyclopedia Brown that still line the shelves of my childhood bedroom). I also began a lifelong love of all things Egyptian after that as well.

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Yes, our pre-teen selves can see the attraction.

 

Q: What is your favorite Canon story and why?

A: The first Canon story I remember reading was Hound of the Baskervilles. I loved the spooky, supernatural feel of it that still colors my writing and reading preferences today.

Q: What is your favorite movie or television portrayal of Holmes and Watson, and why? Were you inspired by any particular one of them?

A: For years my favorite was Nicholas Rowe and Alan Cox in “Young Sherlock Holmes,” but then, after much prodding from friends who were saying, “ You have to watch the BBC Sherlock!” I gave in and became hooked in the first 5 minutes. Cumberbatch and Freeman are just so good—it’s just fascinating to watch. They managed to bring the Canon into the 21st Century, but those glimmers of the original characters are always there shining through. Not to mention that the cinematography and clever use of camera tricks to illustrate Holmes’s thinking is just brilliant. I would definitely say that I’ve been inspired by that version in my own writing. I love the clipped, irreverent, yet human tone of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock and I can’t help incorporating that in my dialogue. When I’m writing Holmes, it’s his voice I’m hearing, so I’m sure it colors the story. He also brings this leonine sexuality to Holmes that is just so much fun to play with.

Q: Can you provide a brief synopsis of your book?

A: Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures is the follow-up anthology to An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (2015). Fifteen authors contributed stories of speculative fiction starring Holmes and Watson. Their only requirements were that they could not be in the original Victorian setting and they had to stay true to the character. So we have weird westerns involving dragons, cyborg Sherlocks, an alternate London plagued with vampires, dystopian futures—all keeping the essential characteristics of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson intact. It’s a huge variety of stories that should satisfy both dedicated Holmesians as well as newcomers.

Q: Where did you get the idea for this book?

A: My husband and I were having lunch (he’s a big Sherlockian) and we were talking about how the vast majority of Holmes stories had been released from copyright. I was excited because of the possibility of the market exploding with new Holmes stuff and how I wished it wasn’t all pastiche. We came around to talking about how cool it would be to write a bunch of Holmes stories with that same supernatural feeling of Hound of the Baskervilles except at the end there would be no “Scooby Doo moment” where the mask was pulled off and Holmes gave us the perfectly logical explanation. My husband suggested that if that was the kind of book I wanted to read, then I should just put one together myself. And the rest is history.

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Seriously. Why couldn’t have been a real ghost, just once?

 

Q: What is your favorite moment in this book?

A: It would have to be either the initial meeting of Holmes and Watson in Lucy Blue’s 1940s Noir story, “The Case of the Burning Man,” or the scene with the vampyres trading their blood in the Cattle Market in Liese Sherwood-Fabre’s story, “The Case of the Tainted Blood.”

Q: Did you find that using Conan Doyle’s characters made this story easier or more difficult to write?

A: My own story in the anthology, “The Final Solution,” (under my pen name Alexandra Christian) was challenging not because of the characters, but their circumstances. Sherlock is very limited in his physical abilities at the very beginning. He is only able to observe what he can see with a single cybernetic eye, so writing those deductions was very tricky.

Funny story: I wrote a Sherlock Holmes novella last year entitled Chasing the Dragon. Mostly as a challenge to see if I could write a romantic Holmes story. I think I pulled it off, but when I began writing it, I thought writing in 1st person from Holmes’s POV would work best. However, I had never considered how awkward it would be writing a sexy scene from his POV. Believe me when I tell you—it’s awkward. In that case, I had to go back and rewrite the whole story.

Q: How would you categorize your book? Is it mystery, thriller, horror, romance…?

A: Uhm… all of the above? As I said, it is a widely varied anthology that crosses many different genres. However, there is a mystery at the heart of each story.

Q: What sort of reader is most likely to enjoy your book?

A:  Readers that embrace all things strange and unusual. Readers that love it when their beloved characters push the envelope. I really think there’s something in both this anthology and An Improbable Truth for readers of every genre.

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Editor (and author), A.C. Thompson

Q: Where can readers get a copy of your book?

A: Curious Incidents: More Improbable Adventures is available as an eBook and in print from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other retailers. The publisher website should take you there: http://mochamemoirspress.com/curious-incidents-more-improbable-adventures/

 

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Lawler, W.P. Mystery at Saint Andrews. London: MX Publishing, 2013 Author Interview

Note: This interview was originally published on 31 January, 2017.  However, when I went to post a new entry, I found that this was unaccountably missing. I am therefore re-posting it and, well, I guess we’ll see what happens!

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Q:  How did you “meet” Sherlock Holmes?

 A: Like many people, I first came across the extraordinary Sherlock Holmes in school. We read Doyle’s “The Speckled Band.”

Q:    What is your favorite Canon story and why?

A: I would have to say “A Scandal in Bohemia.” I was truly captivated by Irene Adler and the clever storyline.  The Hound of the Baskervilles also merits consideration.  I read it on a yearly basis!

Q: What is your favorite Sherlock Holmes pastiche and why?

  A:  (Aside from my own….ha-ha)  I enjoyed reading David Marcum’s short stories.  I feel that he has done a very commendable job in his portrayals of Holmes and Watson in all of his writings.

Q: What is your favorite movie or television portrayal of Holmes and Watson, and why? Were you inspired by any particular one of them?

 A:  My favorite Holmes will always be Jeremy Brett. He is always in my mind’s eye as Sherlock.

Q: When did you decide you wanted to become a writer?

  A: I’ve always fancied myself as a bit of a storyteller.  I’m a retired elementary teacher who loves “words.”  I’ve previously written two golf books, self-published, which consist of many tournament experiences and funny encounters I’ve had playing that infernal sport! As far as my first effort at composing a novel, I suppose that having read and re-read all of the Canon, I decided to try to write a pastiche myself.

Q: Why did you decide you wanted to write about Sherlock Holmes?

  A: That was easy.  I’ve loved reading and watching Holmes and Watson stories all of my life!

Q: What inspired you to write this particular book?

   A: Loving the Canon and the game of golf, I thought it might be fun to try to combine the two just to see what might happen.

Q:  Where did you get the idea for this book?

 A:   I’m not sure, but as previously mentioned I have always loved Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes adventures and have a deep appreciation and love for the game of golf.  Perhaps, it was because golf can be most addicting, much like the chemicals Holmes chose to use from time to time…

Q: How would you categorize your book? Is it mystery, thriller, horror, romance…?

  A:  Definitely a mystery…..

Q: Can you provide a brief synopsis of your book?

 A:  The story takes place during the “Great Hiatus.” Watson is visiting the quaint old village of St Andrews in 1894 on a much-needed holiday.  Still saddened by the loss of his good friend and companion, Sherlock Holmes, he seeks to put his life back in order.  Believing that some golf on the famous “Old Course” might just be the tonic that is needed, travels to the Kingdom of Fife and the Royal Hotel to test his theory.

While there he meets a former adversary(Irene Norton) who can use his sage counsel. Willingly, he agrees to help in all ways possible….There are some twists and turns along the way that serve to challenge the reader’s ability to solve the mystery.

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St. Andrew’s, Scotland, as Watson would have seen it in 1894.

Q:   How closely does your book hew to canon? Why or why not? Was this a conscious decision, or did it just happen?

A: I believe it fits nicely into the missing years and, yes, it was a conscious effort to adhere to the Canon.

Q: Are you using Watson as a narrator?  Why or why not? If so, did you find it difficult to mimic his voice? Did you use any particular “tricks”?

  A: Due to the plotline that I chose to employ, the second half of the book is where the “familiar” Watson  begins to tell his side of the story.  The first half of the book is written from the omniscient perspective.

As far as portraying Watson’s voice is concerned, I believe I actually did a creditable job…

Q: What did you most enjoy about writing your book?

  A: Just about everything. Researching the timeline, trying to stick to Doyle’s descriptions of Holmes and Watson, making every effort possible to try to write in the wonderful manner of ACD….

Q: What was the hardest part about writing your book?

  A: Anxiety, I suppose. I was so eager to put the story in print, I kept coming up with other ideas that had to be reined in…

Q: Did your book require a lot of research? If so, did you uncover any especially interesting facts?

 A:  I spent a great deal of time perusing many of the books which described golf on the fabled course of St Andrews and the history of the town.  I did discover that originally there were only 13 Rules of Golf as established by the Honourble Company of Edinburgh Golfers, as opposed to the many, many rules that now overcomplicate the game these days.

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And here they are!

Q: What is your favorite moment in this book?

  A: My own favorite moment occurs in the last chapter, where all is revealed to Watson.

Q: Who is your favorite character in this book?

  A: My favorite character is Charles Hutchings, known in the story as “The Quiet One”.

Q: Did you find that using Conan Doyle’s characters made this story easier or more difficult to write?

  A: Interesting question….Being so familiar with Doyle’s depictions of the main characters made it easy to write.  On the other hand, I found it most challenging to properly do them justice in my portrayals.

Q: Did you include any original characters? Can you describe them for us?

  A: Well, I created a character named Andy Kirk who plays a major role in the first half of the book.  He was a kind-hearted, cooper who befriended “the Quiet One” when others were very critical of that man. There were some other characters, locals, who played important roles, as well.

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W.P. Lawler (The Author)

Q: Do you have a particular writing process? Would you like to share it with us?

 A:  Lots of brain-storming of ideas, plots, locations…. I then create a story timeline and try to follow it carefully..

Q: What is your writing philosophy?

 A:  Hmm…Everyone has stories to tell. Whether it’s a person’s life story or even some peculiar happening that they’ve enjoyed or witnessed, it will appeal to someone…

Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?

   A: I guess that my suggestion would be to write “something”every day….even if it’s only a paragraph. Make multiple copies and don’t be afraid to “edit” (make that CUT) wherever necessary!

Q: How did you feel when you first saw your book–in actual book form?

   A: Great joy….Pride…..Happiness that the work had been completed!!!!

Q: Are you involved in any Sherlockian groups?

A: Not actively, although I follow Hounds of the Internet and The Well-Read Sherlockian on-line.

Q: Can you share some of the reviews you’ve received for this book? 

  A: My book, Mystery at St Andrews, was originally self-published, but MX Publishing found it interesting enough to publish it.  I was truly touched that such a fine company chose to do so.  I have to admit that I did not make any major effort at promoting my work and so, there were not many reviews.  However, Philip K. Jones and Raven were kind enough to review and comment on my work.  You can find these reviews on Amazon.com

(WRS note: Both Philip K. Jones and Raven are prominent  and prolific Sherlockian reviewers on Amazon)

Q: What sort of reader is most likely to enjoy your book?

   A: Most people who like Doyle’s characterizations of Holmes and Watson will appreciate the book.  However, if I had to select a particular group, I would have to say people who love ACD, the game of golf and twists and turns….

Q: Where can readers get a copy of your book?

  A: It is available on Amazon as well as Audible.  The audible version of Mystery at St Andrews was extremely well done by David Collins. Really a hoot to listen to his rendition!

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Changes are Afoot with a New Review Policy!

So many books, so little time....

                 So many books, so little time….

 

When I first started this blog, I was very ambitious. I honestly thought that I could, in a few decades, read and review every Sherlock Holmes pastiche out there–at least, that was the goal. The very next year, however, thanks to the Robert Downey, Jr. movie and the arrival of BBC’s Sherlock, there was a veritable explosion of new Holmes books, and I came to realize that there was no way I could ever read them all, so I revised my goals: I would introduce my readers to new authors, celebrated classics–and the occasional oddball story. I had fun with this, but it wasn’t long before the demands of family and my own writing life started to make writing reviews as thoroughly as I like, less and less achievable. For the past few years, I’ve barely been able to put up more than two, if that. Review requests have gone unanswered as I try to cover, at least, books from larger markets, which is truly unfair to those writers. I love my blog, and I want other writers, no matter who their publishers, to have the same chances to find readers that I’ve been given.

So I’ve come up with a solution.

I may not be able to read your book, but who knows it better than you? I have included a list of interview questions at the link. If you would like your book to be featured on this blog, please read the review policy at the link. If you fit the criteria, select the interview questions you wish to answer, and send them to me, along with an image of your book (and an optional photo of yourself) at the email address provided. Please be sure you follow the guidelines. If I find that your book is not about Sherlock Holmes, or falls into the exceptional gore/explicit sex categories, I’ll delete the post. Featuring your book in this manner does not guarantee that I will review it–but I may at some point. It doesn’t constitute an endorsement of any kind, but you are free to share the link. It is my hope that in this way, you’ll be able to reach more readers, make more connections and, well, have more fun as an author. Because writing is super hard work–but it should be fun as well.

Here’s the link:

https://wellreadsherlockian.com/2012/01/19/review-policy/

 

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5th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day ?

Just kidding. I know what day it is.

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Yes, it’s the 163rd birthday of Sherlock Holmes–that is, if you accept the January birthdate, which I do, as all the best people are born in January.

Normally, I would write something at least vaguely celebratory to acknowledge this, and bake a cake for my family. But today is different.  Today,  we are in New York City for my very first BSI Weekend. It’s been fun, but very busy and a little overwhelming,  hence the lateness of this post. Both today’s and tomorrow’s drawings will be delayed because I didn’t take my computer with me and I want to make sure I don’t miss anyone.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t announce today’s question and prize, however.

I did have a quote picked out for today,  but I’ve changed my  mind. Instead of choosing the quote, I’d like to hear from you:

What is your favorite Canon quote?

Just send your answer in via blog comment, Facebook PM, or Twitter DMX, and if your name is drawn,  this lovely volume will soon be headed your way…

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Thank you all so much for making this year’s event fun and successful. Many Happy Returns of the Day!

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5th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 13

PLEASE NOTE: TODAY’S PRIZE AND TOMORROW’S PRIZE ARE BOTH, AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED, GRAND PRIZES. THEREFORE, THE DRAWINGS ARE OPEN TO EVERYONE, INCLUDING THOSE WHO HAVE ALREADY WON TWICE!

 

I have many failures as a mother. More than I thought I would before I had a child, actually. I am not very organized. I forget lots of stuff. I could be very impatient with my kids when they were toddlers and preschoolers and I didn’t really how very small they were compared to my expectations. I am not the best cook or housekeeper, and I really, really hate driving around everywhere.

Also, I don’t like manga.

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This is manga. One of a zillion.

Ok, it’s not like I actively dislike manga, I’m just not into it. I really can only handle one obsession at a time, and I am pretty sure we know which one I’ve chosen.

My daughter, on the other hand, adores manga. She adores Attack on Titan, Fairy Tale,  Ame and Yuki, and a whole host of others. It’s shaping her classwork, and her future plans. It is an important part of her universe, and she wants to share it with me, her mother.

But when she comes up to show me something, or tell me something else, I become, well, this man….

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(Jabez Wilson of “The Red-headed League.” Definitely one of the dumbest of Holmes’ clients.

It all sounds like very fast talking, and I nod stupidly and say “uh-huh” a lot. I know I am not getting it right.

I’ve done it to people myself. A few years ago, we were in our hometown, and decided to attend services at the church we grew up in. I started talking to a man who was one of my parents’ friends, and said something about Sherlock Holmes. He said, “I like Sherlock Holmes,” and I was off to the races.  I could see his eyes glaze over, his attention wander, his feet shuffle as he longed to escape, but I Could. Not. Stop. It was embarrassing. Now, when people say they like Holmes, I just nod and smile.

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Yes, I like Sherlock Holmes. Look! A cake!

Fortunately for my daughter, there’s an anime group at the library. They meet to watch films, discuss their favorite manga, and generally geek out with each other over snacks. She is always so excited when I pick her up. So very happy and enthusiastic. It’s so very important to be with your “tribe” sometimes.

I know I say this all the time, but I am a mom, and we moms repeat ourselves, but–if you love Sherlock Holmes–in any form–and you feel like you’re all alone out there,  afraid to share your mania because you’ve seen them nod and hear them say, “uh-huh” far too many times–if this is you–do yourself a huge favor and seek out a scion society in your area, or online. Every time I go to a meeting of the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, a conference like A Scintillation of Scions,  or talk on the phone with a Sherlockian friend, I come away feeling like I’ve just had a shot in the arm…NO, NOT THAT!…and life–all of it–seems that much brighter. No matter what you love about Sherlock Holmes, I promise you, someone else there shares it, and is waiting for the chance to find someone else to share it with. Here’s a link to get you started: http://www.sherlockian.net/societies/

Perhaps young Dr. Percy Trevelyan might have done better for himself if he’d found his tribe–new physicians, just starting out, and some older ones, who’d made some mistakes and learned from them. Perhaps then he would not have fallen for a situation that was, in the end, too good to be true. You can read about it here, in Harper’s Weekly, August 12, 1893:

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It starts on page 761:

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It comes from the library of the Mechanics Association in Lowell, Massachusetts, but you won’t need to return it…..

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…provided you identify this quote and win the drawing:

‘All is well that ends well,’ said Holmes. ‘But I certainly did not know that the Aurora was such a clipper.’

As always, send in your answers via blog comment, Facebook PM, or Twitter DM.  Again, everyone is eligible to participate, including previous winners!

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5th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 12

Doing the Giveaway every year has had its challenges. Finding prizes, coming up with questions, remembering what day it is….

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How in the world am I going to ship that chair?

Obviously I mess up quite a lot–you know–you’re here for it. But one thing I’ve tried to correct this year was the disturbing lack of Watson. He’s around, of course–in questions, writing the actual stories, etc., but most of our prizes have really been centered around Sherlock Holmes, or the stories. I can’t think of one that has belonged solely to John H. Watson, MD.

So I started to think of some options. If Nigel Bruce’s daughter would publish her father’s memoirs, that would be perfect (see link to some excerpts here: http://scarletstreet.yuku.com/topic/1101/Games-Gossip-and-Greasepaint-Nigel-Bruce-s-Autobiography?page=1#.WGsSC7zdTlI)…but alas, that doesn’t seem to be happening any time soon. I am fairly certain I cannot offer brandy, or a service revolver, and do you really want a portrait of Gordon or Beecher for your wall?

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Henry Ward Beecher

I thought not.

So how about this?

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This is a genuine walrus-leather medical bag. Unfortunately, as you can see, it didn’t belong to Dr. Watson, or even someone with the same initials (more’s the pity) but as Dr. Robert Katz, one of the editors of Nerve and Knowledge, suggested, it’s highly possible that, as he was just starting out, Watson didn’t have the money for a new bag, and so purchased a used one. Here, he’s getting a beautiful finish, and still has money left over for instruments. This is what you will tell your friends, family, and fellow Sherlockians. Everything else is between us.

This bag is American, not British; it was remarkably difficult to find antique physician bags on eBay UK, actually. Chances are, given the style and condition, it dates from the late 1910’s to the 1920’s, but I don’t know for sure. There is no key, but the latch works (there were interior shots on eBay which show a very clean lining in excellent shape, with instrument pockets). Unfortunately, I have not been able to open it myself, and would rather leave that to its new owner, than to try more vigorously and break it.

Here are a few more images:

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Handles tend to show the most wear in these things, and these handles are in great condition for their age and use.

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Kruse made quite a few physician bags in the early 20th century

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Back view; latch strap shows wear

Hopefully, you’ll find this a fascinating piece, just perfect for your “curious collection.” If you do, and want a chance to win, tell me which part of Holmes’ statement here is the literary allusion, and what is he quoting?

Holmes gave a whistle of surprise. ‘You can write me down an ass this time, Watson,’ said he. ‘This was not the bird I was looking for.’

 

As always, send your answers in via blog comment, Facebook PM, or Twitter DM! Two days to go!

 

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