SHSL Winter 2010 Journal is now out

The new journal arrived on my doormat yesterday and I seem to be all over it. Okay that's an exaggeration but I am in it three times.

My first appearance (literally) is in the section concerning the 2010 AGM at the National Liberal Club where I was part of the victorious team in our Sherlockian version of Eggheads.

The second, and saddest, appearance is my contribution to the messages relating to the passing of the Sherlockian Titan Bernard Davies. Finally my review of Graham Moore's The Sherlockian features, unsurprisingly, in the book review section.

This will probably be my last post until the New Year so I shall take this opportunity to wish you all the best for the season. I hope you continue reading my missives in 2011.


Ian Richardson

In my book Eliminate the Impossible I talk at some length about selected actors to have played Holmes on screen. One of those actors who seems to have been almost forgotten in the role by all apart from Sherlockian societies is Ian Richardson (Wikipedia article).

Richardson played Holmes (right) in TV movies of The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four. The latter was the first filmed and was the best of the two despite some tinkering with the original plot. More detailed information on both films can be found in the excellent book Starring Sherlock Holmes.

There would have been more but the producers found themselves in direct competition with Jeremy Brett's Granada series and eventually withdrew.

I do consider Brett's portrayal to have been superior but I also wish that Richardson had done at least one or two more appearances as his Holmes had much to appreciate.

Richardson was doomed to suffer the same curtailment with his next Sherlockian outing as Holmes inspiration Dr Joseph Bell in Murder Rooms.

Again he gave an excellent performance but after the initial movie and four follow up episodes the series was discontinued. See the Wikipedia article for more details.

Richardson seems destined to be most remembered for his turn as Francis Urquhart in The House of Cards and its sequels. This is a shame as he deserves to be remembered for so much more.

Where to cut?

My book The Norwood Author (UK US), which covers Conan Doyle's life in South Norwood, was only possible to write because of the Local Studies Archive at Croydon Library where issues of local papers were available on microfilm for me to study. It is no exaggeration for me to say that the project rested almost solely on that material and the expertise of the staff.

You only have to look at the Croydon Guardian website to see how government cuts are threatening this resource (amongst others). I have mixed feelings about this as I do recognise the need for cuts but I don't want this to be one of the things that is cut. This may come across as NIMBYism but that cannot be helped.

I think it reflects badly on the local council as they are suggesting (either by accident or design) that the local people will not miss the library. Regrettably I can understand this to a point. I won't pretend I ever had to queue for access to the local studies archives. The expression 'use it or lose it' does have some weight here.

However when you see and hear how much money is wasted in local government you cannot help but feel that they should tidy up their own act before they throw people out of work (or redeploy them) and deprive the community of a resource that is needed and wanted.

If you care about these proposed cuts you should fill out the following survey:

A question re Undershaw

As many of this blog's readers know, Undershaw - the former Surrey home of Arthur Conan Doyle - is under threat. At the present time that threat is mostly from the elements but it is also under the shadow of redevelopment which would irrevocably destroy its character and historical connections.

At present the building is slowly disintegrating as it takes a battering every year from nature and vandals. This forces me to ask a question. Is grade II listing legally enforceable or is it not?

I was under the impression that a building, when listed, had to be kept in good condition by its owners and it was the local authority's job to ensure that they did so. So, assuming I am correct, why is Undershaw slowly falling to bits?

The owners should be keeping the property up to standard until such time as a final ruling is made on the building's future. This applies regardless of whether the ultimate decision goes in their favour or not. However at present the building continues to deteriorate.

The local authority concerned, Waverley Borough Council, stated on their own website that they had been forced to undertake repairs on the building and then chase the owners for reimbursement. So why is nothing being done now?

Surely if the building is listed it is a legal requirement to keep it maintained?? If this is not being enforced, what message does it send? Is it the case that in economically difficult times enforcing the law has become an expensive luxury?

This would be the thin end of the wedge. How long before other laws are not enforced due to budget cuts? Sorry we cannot investigate this murder. We're a bit strapped for cash. You may laugh at the example but it is the same principle.

Food for thought.

A3 colour prints of Undershaw

A3 colour prints of Undershaw in the snow are now available. These are absolutely fabulous. Limited amount. £10.00 each.

To contact the UPT visit

British Library Visit

On Saturday I paid a visit to the British Library to view some of Arthur Conan Doyle's diaries and accounts. I didn't get all the information that I wanted but I came across some fascinating information. Pretty much all of it will find its way into the book and I would like to offer my thanks to Rachel Foss for assisting me with access to the material.

Slow going

Thanks to the snow and the negative impact it has had on my day job I have not been able to write a word for the last week and a half. It's not good but I hope to get back to writing at some point next week.

On the plus side I am off to do some valuable research this weekend so work on the project has not stopped entirely.


"Save Undershaw" - Christmas Cards

The Save Undershaw campaign have produced a special Christmas Card. Proceeds will go towards the cause.

Order your pack now, 5 cards, one design. Price: £10.00. The cards will be folded to a finished size of A5 (210 x 148mm). Please place your order through this website. Cheque or postal order accepted - paypal currently being set up - details to follow.
These cards are printed by:

DRAGON PRINT - Established 1979. Dragon Print Centres Limited is a member of the BPIF & BAPC

3 Hillcroft
Shepherd's Hill
Telephone: (01428) 651116
Fax: (01428) 656262

More details on the website

Save Undershaw Awareness Day

The fight to save Arthur Conan Doyle's Hindhead home continues. Please visit the Undershaw Preservation Trust website for more details.

Snowed in

Apologies but thanks to the snow precious little work has taken place on the book over the last few days. Hopefully I'll get back on the case soon.