Growing Pains

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Back in the 1970’s, George Ainsworth-Land admonished the business world to “grow or die.” I am hardly an entrepreneurial sort, but this makes sense to me. If you don’t constantly develop your product, your customer base, or redecorate your bathrooms, eventually you’ll start to lose customers–and your own sense of joy in your work. I started this blog as a place to review pastiche (and other books), and while I still want to do this on occasion, the fact is, I’ve moved into some other areas of the Sherlockian world, and I’ve neglected this blog to pursue them. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to be the blog that shrivels down to a couple of posts a year, then dies. I like it. I like the people I meet through it. But I only have so much time and, frankly, the kind of book review I do is very labor-intensive.

So, what to do?

I decided a few months ago that the best solution would be to expand the meaning of “Well-Read Sherlockian.” I’ve tried (over a period of maturing, let’s be honest) to show you books you might find useful and enjoyable. I’ve also featured authors who are using their talents to explore the world of Sherlock Holmes (still doing that, by the way). But there are other things you might want to read about–that would enhance your understanding and enjoyment of all things Holmes. I find so many things in my work that fit that description. Sometimes I post them on Facebook. Many times I just take notes and keep moving, because I have a client, or a deadline, or the dog just messed on the rug.

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She’s a good dog, but she is getting old.

No more. Even though I keep shooing my kids out of the room while I write this, the fact is, most discoveries are more fun when you share them. So, as the cliché goes, “Watch this space!” The Tin Dispatch Box apparently has compartments, and it’s time to explore!

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“I’m not sure I like this, Holmes.” “Nor I, Watson, but let’s humor the woman.”


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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Final

Well, here we are again. The end of the 12th Night Giveaway. It dawned on me last night that yesterday, as well as being the Birthday of Sherlock Holmes, also marked the 6th anniversary of the first Well-Read Sherlockian blog. I still remember how nervous I was, hitting “publish” for that first time. How excited I was to see when someone actually read it. Blogging has taught me a great deal about reviewing, writing, and Sherlock Holmes. It has also provided me with so many opportunities–perhaps the most valuable one being making connections with other Sherlockians. There have been some changes to the blog, and there will be more this year. But one thing will remain a fixed point: my affection and gratitude for all of you. I hope that any changes you experience in 2018 will be good ones!

Well, my daughter just pulled a name out of the red polar bear tote bag that has been this season’s drawing container. The winner of the Gillette autograph is:

Resa Haile

The quote, of course, was from The Sign of Four (The Sign of the Four was ok, too!).  Now, on with the business of packing things up, trekking out to the post office, filling out customs forms…and looking for new treasures.  After all, it’s only 351 days until December 24th!


Twelfth Night





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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Happy 164th Birthday, Sherlock Holmes!


Ok, let’s just stop for a minute and think about how cool it is to have our own special holiday. All over social media this morning, I see people doing little (or not so little) things in celebration of the 164th anniversary of the birth of the World’s First and Greatest Consulting Detective. At our house, I typically bake a cake (or buy one), and bring out the little Sherlock Holmes action figure (a gift from my great friend, co-author, and fellow Holmesian blogger, Jaime N. Mahoney) so that he can supervise. Note that he is still in his packaging. I just can’t bear to open it.




Others are hanging out special flags, drawing awesome birthday cartoons, binge-watching favorite film versions, adding to their Sherlockian collections, and, of course re-reading their favorite Canon stories. Last year, I actually had the privilege of being able to celebrate THE  Birthday at my very first Baker Street Irregulars Dinner during BSI Weekend in New York City. The dinner is by invitation only, and I was utterly thrilled. My family went to NYC with me, and we had a wonderful weekend, so much so that, although I was not invited to the dinner this year, we’re still going for the Weekend itself (next week)–if you can ever do this yourself, you should, and I would love to meet you.


Before the Dinner last year with my best friends.  My hair is even grayer now!


Because we always end this Giveaway on such a special day, I try to make the final, “Grand Prize” as special as I possibly can. I try to imagine what someone might consider a high point of their Sherlockian collection, or what might deepen their knowledge or attachment to the Canon and Sherlockian life in general. So far, I think, this prize has been subscriptions to the Baker Street Journal and, at least twice, nice bound copies of The Strand Magazine. I have, for a few years, considered the possibility of putting up an autograph, but have been prevented each time by a couple of considerations. First, cost:  the market for the most universally desirable autographs is crazy! Second, and most important, is authenticity. I actually have a few Sherlockian autographs, and while I am fairly sure they are genuine, I cannot be sure. For example, I accidentally bought two Benedict Cumberbatch autographs on eBay several years back. I bid on two, thinking I’d be lucky to get one. I won the first, and then, since you can’t rescind your bids, watched the second auction, hoping someone would jump in and “save” me. Nope. I now have two. Let’s be honest here. I’ve seen a lot of Cumberbatch signatures online, and while I am fairly certain one is definitely genuine, I have some slight doubts about the other. I am also fairly certain about my “Herbert Kelcey,” simply because I don’t know why anyone would be faking his signature in 2014 (the year I bought it). But I cannot be sure. I wasn’t there for any of them. It’s one thing for me to buy a potential forgery and hang it on my wall. It’s quite another for me to send one out to people who trust me, accidentally or not. Case in point: two years ago, I saw a Basil Rathbone autograph listed on eBay for $77.00  GUYS. YOU NEVER SEE A BASIL RATHBONE AUTOGRAPH FOR LESS THAN $300-$400, AND THAT’S CHEAP.  (This is why I don’t have one). I was so excited. I nearly pulled the trigger on it for the Grand Prize that year. But I kept looking at it, and comparing it to known Basil signatures, and something was off. You can often tell when it’s the same person writing quickly, or writing at different times in life, so I thought about that, but something still didn’t look right. And the price was dodgy. Really, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to see that you can make true bank on a Basil autograph, so why would someone sell it so cheaply? On the advice of friends, I sent a link to a Rathbone aficionado, who advised me to pass. To this day, I am grateful for his help.


*loud sobs*

I’m sure you know what is coming. It’s not Basil, though. And, sorry, it’s not Jeremy Brett (also pricey). It is, however, someone almost as good…

I am so thrilled to be able to present:



I’m sending it in this frame, but you might want something more archival.


William Gillette autograph prices vary widely, and his very distinctive writing and autograph style makes its easier to be sure when it’s him, and when it’s not. He also had the habit of adding dates and places to his autographs, which makes him a bit of an autograph-hunter’s dream.

And was William Gillette in Syracuse on November 7, 1903?

Why yes, yes he was…..

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Screenshot, New York World, November 7, 1907, via


We live in an amazing time, people. And while I may never be able to offer something like this again, I’m happy to be able to do it now.

Unfortunately, the rules declare that you need to work for it, so here’s the quote:

“The only official consulting detective,” he answered. “I am the last and highest court of appeal in detection. When Gregson or Lestrade or Athelney Jones are out of their depths–which, by the way, is their normal state–the matter is laid before me. I examine the data, as an expert, and pronounce a specialist’s opinion. I claim no credit in such cases. My name figures in no newspaper. The work itself, the pleasure of finding a field for my peculiar powers, is my highest reward.”

As always, to enter the drawing, please send your answers via blog comment or message on the Well-Read Sherlockian FaceBook page.  Please note– BECAUSE TOMORROW IS SUNDAY AND MY SUNDAYS ARE CRAZY, THE DRAWING WON’T TAKE PLACE UNTIL LATE TOMORROW EVENING. THIS ALSO GIVES PEOPLE PLENTY OF TIME TO ENTER.


1 Good Luck

Day 13 Winner!!!!

Congratulations to our second 2-time winner, Shalom Bresticker!  The quote came from “A Study in Scarlet.”


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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 13

So, our garage is a mess. I actually had everything pretty much sorted out earlier this past summer, but apparently I overloaded the shelves I’d assembled, and eventually, with a loud noise, everything fell down in a heap. I didn’t leave it that way, obviously, but one of my projects this year will be to implement a better storage method for things that are obviously heavier than I thought.

And what was this stuff? Fishing tackle boxes, cases of fishing flies, containers of baby clothes, boxes of old school papers, letters, all of my old (and generally horrible) writing, some toys, trophies, record albums, and quite a few comic books. We are not really an outdoor family; all of the yard stuff and tools fit nicely in a corner. Everything else is, essentially, memorabilia.


Who could forget ABBA?

So. Did Sherlock Holmes have such souvenirs tucked away among the clutter of 221B?  Did Dr Watson? The Turkish slipper had to come from somewhere, as did the portraits of Beecher and Gordon. Do the indexes count as memory books? Are the scrapbooks used for more than just reference? We do know that both Holmes and Watson keep records of cases stored away in boxes, tin or otherwise, and Holmes has a ring, a tie pin, a snuff box, and a certain cabinet photograph.

Sometimes I look at this stuff, and realize that, one day, it will pass on to those for whom it will have little meaning. Within one or two generations (or even before), my school themes, the ticket stubs from our honeymoon, and my husband’s astronomy notebook from his summer at Harvard (where he went instead of continuing to date me in 1985) will either be in our descendants’ garages, in a flea market somewhere, or they may have ceased to exist altogether. I know this, but still I  hold on to them.

But…occasionally…some ephemera take on value apart from what they held for the people who first owned them. It dawned on me, one day, as I bought a magazine featuring Jeremy Brett for a friend’s birthday, that the only reason it was there for me to shell out five times its original value for was because someone once bought it new–and kept it.  I took this lesson to  heart, and guys, this is how I know that, one, day, my massive Benedict Cumberbatch magazine collection (not stored in the garage, thank you) will send someone to college.


Yeah, it’s gratuitous. (from Elle UK)

Today’s prize is just such a piece of ephemera. It recalls one special moment in time for, I think, the seller’s mother. She attended a play on Broadway one day in 1965. Baker Street starred Fitz Weaver as Sherlock Holmes, and Peter Sallis as Dr. Watson. Inga Swenson played Irene Adler. She saw Tommy Tune as a criminal, and Christopher Walken in one of his earliest roles as one  of his confederates. On the day she attended, Bert Michaels replaced Teddy Green as Wiggins. During the intermission, she could look at the Holmes memorabilia in the lobby, and perhaps buy a souvenir other than the Playbill she definitely took home with her. If she was (Heaven forbid!) bored, she could read the filler articles about theatre in India, and peruse ads for Sammy Davis Jr’s new album, “Golden Boy,” or decide she wanted to see Zero Mostel in Fiddler on the Roof  instead. Ads for higher-end cars, cigarettes, perfume, and liquor added to the glamour of the occasion.

Well, obviously, the Playbill is the prize. Unfortunately, it is not autographed, but it is complete and in good condition.









If you’d like to take your turn as Curator of the Playbill, then tell me where in the Canon one can find the following quote:

“It’s the Baker Street division of the police force,” said my companion, gravely; and as he spoke there rushed into the room half a dozen of the dirtiest and most ragged street Arabs that ever I clapped eyes on.

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A sketchy lot.

Just send you answer in to me via blog comment or message me on the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page!  Happy 12th Night!  You know what comes next!!


Day 12 Winner!

Congratulations to Gary Henderson, winner of the Holmes & Watson game. The answer was “The Adventure of the Retired Colourman,” one of the darker stories in the Canon. After reading it, you might want to go back and re-read REDH, just to cleanse the palate, so to speak.


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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 12

Today, January 4, marks the 2nd anniversary of our move to our new city. I am not a highway driver, and I knew the drive would take awhile, so while my husband supervised the loading of the moving van, I took the kids and the cat and started north. It wasn’t long (10 minutes) before we made a food stop.


Then a bathroom stop–but not for us. For the cat. During an hour and a half of piteous meowing, he had found time to pee in his carrier. So we had to stop at Meijer to find another other.

Then we had to put it together.

Then we had to take him out of the old one.

Then we had to catch him in the parking lot.

Then we had to stuff him into the new carrier.

Then we had to dispose of the old, extremely smelly carrier in such a way as to not make people think we were abandoning some poor animal.

Then I got stuck in traffic.

Then I thought I was lost.

Then I really was lost.

Emergency bathroom stop.

Food stop.

Another bathroom stop that ended up being a snack stop, because that’s what kids do.

Finally, 7-8 hours after we left, we were in our new home. My husband, the movers, and the dog had already been there for awhile. In fact, the movers had already left. This is what I saw when I first walked in:


Yes, the hubs had already started unpacking. Obviously, he went with the most important stuff first.

If you love games as much as he does, then this is your last chance this Giveaway to win a Sherlock Holmes game–there are a lot of them out there! This one is…



If you would like to see it on your game shelf,  just tell me where you can find the following Canon quote:


“Amberley excelled at chess–one mark, Watson, of a scheming mind.”

I wonder what Holmes makes of Magic: The Gathering?

Just send your answer to me via blog post or FB message at the Well-Read Sherlockian FB page. We are in the home stretch!


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Day 11 Winner!!!!!

Congratulations to Claudia, who correctly identified our quote as coming from “The Adventure of the Dying Detective.” Poor Watson!  That had to be difficult!



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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 11

Well, this is it. The end of our Winter Break. Tomorrow, the kids go back to school–that is, if the weather permits, which is by no means a sure thing.



And of course, after about two weeks of being occasionally confined to the house, the younger natives are restless. They want to go out and “do something,” even when the temps are negative, they just had Christmas, went to the movies, and will, God willing, be in New York City in about a week. Since they are teens, they couple this desire to “do something” with also wanting to sleep in until noon (or after). Sorry, guys. I have no desire to go out when it’s dark and snowy and cold. I like just staying in, mingling household chores, reading, and writing. Now that I have a real workspace that’s not the kitchen or the bedroom, it’s wonderful.


Still, as much as I love my little corner of the living room, it’s not a patch on the parlor of 221 B. There’s no fireplace, for one thing. The cat permits no one else on “his” settee. I’m the one who has to clean it. And my husband plays the saxophone, and not the violin. He’s not bad, but boy, is it loud.

Let’s have a look at 221B’s through history, shall we?


Sidney Paget and one version of the “basket chair.”

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Frederic Dorr Steele gives us  a bit of a “craftsman” feel.


Gillette’s 221B is as opulent as his dressing-gown


Eille Norwood’s is rather plain.


Many 221B sets seem too have far fewer books than one would expect. Not so with Arthur Wontner’s version.


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Even the Victorian Rathbone/Bruce films have a 30’s-40’s feel.


From the colorized version of “Dressed to Kill”–that green and brown scream  40’s to me (via Basil Rathbone: Master of Stage and Screen)


Ronald Howard and Marion Crawford, Victorian style. See General Gordon over there?


Peter Cushing with a microscope and a preview of some future funky wallpaper.

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Douglas Wilmer and another Victorian mantel.


We’ll just go for a larger view of this, possibly the most famous television 221B

Sherlock Holmes

RDJ’s 221B has a nice, dusty, cluttered feel, and funky wallpaper.


BBC Sherlock does Victorian in the Abominable Bride. Lovely room, love the fender, but all-plaid suits are not okay.

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BBC Sherlock’s 21st century flat. Funky wallpaper and not enough books, but lots of pretty.


The most famous recreation, however, is probably this one, at the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London:



Before this, however, came the Sherlock Holmes Exhibition, part of the Festival of Britain. Opening on May 21, 1951, and continuing through August, the Exhibition was hosted by Abbey House (which had the actual address 221 Baker Street), and funded by the Borough of Marylebone. It featured a recreation of Holmes and Watson’s sitting room (accompanied by sound effects such as an organ grinder’s tune), and displays devoted to Holmes in cinema, the Baker Street Irregulars, and Sidney Paget’s illustrations. Both Jean and Denis Conan Doyle gave speeches at the opening ceremony, and the Times declared that the presentation was: “rich enough in detail for the keenest disciple and–here one can only hope–expertly arranged for the most critical.”  Sherlockians being who we are, however, within days the Telegraph was printing letters debating whether or not the exhibit should have given Watson a monaural or binaural stethoscope.

Today’s winner will receive two magazines from that time: a Life magazine which features a double-paged spread photograph, and a New Yorker which, in New Yorker  fashion, doesn’t really have photos, but has pages and pages of erudite description and commentary. Both issues are in decent shape, with all pages intact, so you get to see some interesting ads and 1950’s-style New Yorker  cartoons. In my opinion, they are lovely examples of Sherlockian ephemera.




I kept the photo large so you could read the first page.




And yes, that is the exact same basket chair Paget used.


To enter the drawing, just tell me where in the Canon you can find the following quote:

Finally, in my aimless perambulation, I came to the mantelpiece. A little of pipes, tobacco pouches, syringes, penknives, revolver-cartridges, and other debris was scattered over it. In the midst of these was a small black and white ivory box with a sliding lid. It was a neat little thing, and I had stretched out my hand to examine it more closely when….

Just send your answer via blog comment or PM at the Well-read Sherlockian FaceBook page!

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Day 10 Winner!!!!!!!


Congratulations to T. Rick Jones, winner of his own personal (3-month) book club! Everyone knew that the Day 10 quote came from “The Adventure of the Empty House”-the one where the doctor/war hero faints, and the housekeeper braves a bullet to save her resurrected lodger.


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6th Annual 12th Night Giveaway: Day 10


Last night,  thinking of my kids’ dental appointment, I had an idea for today’s post. It would be about Holmes having a dental appointment, with a few advertisements taken from London papers from that year. After all, I knew Watson had used it in a deduction.


I realized that the deduction I was remembering wasn’t from the Canon proper, but from a little story called “How Watson Learned the Trick,” which Conan Doyle wrote for The Queen’s Doll House in 1924. You can read it here: . No matter, I told myself. It still works, and I can still find a “toothy” reference for the quote.


 I headed over to my favorite site, The British Newspaper Archive, to search for some particularly interesting dentists’ ads.  Like this

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Yes, when I look for a dentist, I am most concerned with how that individual employs capital and labour.  This has to be the world’s first example of directed advertising, as it was clearly meant for these two particular gentlemen:




It dawned on me that perhaps I could find crimes involving dentists–possibly even one involving our detective. And while I have no idea if Holmes had a hand in their capture, I did find these two dentists/fraudsters:

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I had to suppose that it was just as hard to set up in practice as a dentist as it was for a physician. This assumption was backed up by a lengthy article in the Pall Mall Gazette for the 22nd  of November, 1894.  Apparently it was considered very poor form for dentists and physicians to advertise; therefore, when you see ads for such services in Victorian British papers, you’re seeing people who are not fully qualified with an “LDS,”  a diploma for a Licentiate in Dental Surgery. According to the Pall Mall Gazette,

It cannot be too frequently reiterated that the man who advertises thereby stamps himself as unqualified. The properly qualified dental surgeon is under obligation exactly similar to those of the medical man not to advertise. (22 November 1894, p.2)


In “How Watson Learned the Trick,” Holmes gave his dentists’s name as “Barlow.” I realized that, as a scientific man, Holmes would likely insist on an LDS; I would not, therefore, be likely to find this dentist in the newspaper adverts. The Pall Mall Gazette mentioned a directory of dentists and, luckily, I was able to locate several volumes from various years online. Unluckily, while there were several dentists with the last (or middle) name “Barlow,” none of them were located in London.


I postulated that, perhaps, in order to avoid “stalkers,” and assuming that Watson would care about Holmes’ safety more than he would about steering business to his dentist, “Barlow” was not the man’s actual name.  Maybe it was “Harlow,” or “Marlow,” or even “Carlo.” No dice.


I had only been able to find directories for about 5 years, and they were clustered together. I had not done a thorough search of the census records for 1871, 1881, 1891, or even 1901. Nor had I done a search of obituaries. Using all of the name variations, of course. I could also just look at likely locations and see if any of them led to “Barlow.” After all, Watson had to have a reason for picking that name.


I was also cleaning a bathroom, doing several loads of laundry, answering kids’ questions, washing dishes, taking the dog out, making dinner, and then I realized–

tempus fugit

Tempus Fugit


But that’s what happens when you play the game. And I will figure out who Holmes’ dentist was. Eventually.


This night’s prize is a fun one–your very own 3-month book club, in which 3 recent Sherlock Holmes books are sent to you, one per month. Last year, there were three new books by prominent authors scheduled. This year, I am unaware of anything new, so I will send the winner a list of possible choices, and allow them to pick three.

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To enter the drawing, just identify the Canon source of this quote…..


“My collection of M’s is a fine one,” said he. “Moriarty himself is enough to make any letter illustrious, and here is Morgan the poisoner, and Merridew of abominable memory, and Matthews, who knocked out my left canine in the waiting-room at Charing Cross, and, finally, here is our friend of to-night.”

Send me your answer via blog comment, or message me on the Well-read Sherlockian FaceBook page!

And remember to brush and floss twice a day!


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Day 9 Winner!!!!!

Congratulations to Dr. Nishant Kumar, who knew that the Day 9 quote came the “The Adventure of the Reigate Squires (Puzzle)” and will shortly become the newest member of The John Watson Society!


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