Sherlockian Civil War?

Much to my dismay we seem to be heading into a period of Sherlockian Civil War. I daresay that there have always been tensions between individual Sherlockians and small groups of Sherlockians – that is, after all, quite normal in almost any field; but recently things seem to have gone up a notch.

First we had the recent conflict over a certain article which appeared to question the validity of some approaches to the world of Sherlockiana. This got a lot more attention than it would otherwise have done purely because of the level of rage against it.

Now we have what appears to be a declaration of war by respected Sherlockian Leslie Klinger against the Conan Doyle Estate (see I make no comment on the rights and wrongs of this or the positions of the parties involved. That is clearly now a legal issue.

My concern is that people who I always assumed got on rather well appear to be lining up against each other. I find myself asking who are the Roundheads and who are the Cavaliers? How many bodies and long-term dislikes are going to exist when the dust finally settles?

I am also growing increasingly concerned at the kind of "let's get 'em" attitude being displayed by those who agree with Klinger. There appears to be an almost Star Wars element to this. The plucky rebels going against the evil empire which I feel confident is far from the truth.

I hope the game turns out to be worth the candle.

For more information on Arthur Conan Doyle and his time at Undershaw please refer to my book, An Entirely New Country which is available through all good bookstores including Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Classic Specialities, and in all electronic formats including iTunes, Kobo, Nook and Kindle .

The Norwood Author is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Waterstones UK, Amazon UK,  Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon Kindle, iBooks for the iPad/iPhone, Kobo Books, Nook.

Close to Holmes is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide including Amazon USABarnes and NobleAmazon UKWaterstones UKAmazon KindleKoboNook  and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Eliminate the Impossible is available from all good bookstores, in many formats worldwide includingAmazon USA
, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.


  1. I deeply appreciate the spirit in which this post is intended. I fear, however, one or two items may have been slightly mischaracterized--if only to my own eyes--and thought that I should make mention of them since the post was written in such tremendously good faith. Forgive me in advance, please, for making mention of anything you already know, and don't imagine I write in any manner other than cordially.

    1) It would be a mistake to imagine that the Klinger lawsuit burns any bridges that existed between the vast majority of American Sherlockians and the parties mentioned above (the Estate plaintiff and the author of the article). As a friend of Klinger's and a 3-time attendee of the Estate rep's Special Meeting, I can say with confidence that the latter party has publicly disavowed all association with the current BSI administration and its policies, and refused to attend its dinners, for years now. The notion that the lawsuit, a matter dealing with America's abstruse copyright law, is declaring a "war" with previously amicable parties is simply factually untrue.

    2) As you aptly say, the legal merits are for the courts to decide as regards intellectual property. The fact remains that 9 canonical cases remain in copyright, as was already decided previously in the 2004 Plunket vs. Case of Evil decision, of which you are perhaps unaware. In any event, to characterize it as a David and Goliath situation in Star Wars terms might be romantic prose but rings quite false to the insider (I duly paid the ACD Estate for DUST AND SHADOW and know both parties quite well). The ACD Estate is a very small number of people working on behalf of ACD's delightful great-nephew (I like the man very much), who owns copyright on 9 ACD stories here. The overwhelming majority of American Sherlockians think this gives them no right to demand money from parties who are simply adapting the character of Sherlock Holmes. Regardless, entities who would benefit from this decision if it goes in Klinger's direction (and again, the 2004 court case set that precedent unquestionably) include Warner Brothers, Elementary, etc, who I would hardly describe as plucky underdogs.

    3) Finally, in case the "war," as you describe it, seems frivolous or emotionally driven, may I add that under American copyright law, "fair use" cannot be determined until legal action has already been taken against you. Thus the instant capitulation on the part of all parties prior to this instance, and the *bigger* the company, the more likely they are to pay out to avoid future litigation. This legal action was taken because the Estate indicated to Klinger & King their project would be blocked via major retailers if they chose to proceed. It has not, thus far--in my wide experience of American Sherlockians, though of course I don't claim to know everyone's opinion--created a wave of hard feelings where hard feelings did not already exist.

    Thank you for addressing this, and may I add my voice to yours in saying that Sherlockian inclusion and friendship is a far, far better thing than division, and that your sentiments on the subject are admirable.

    Lyndsay Faye

  2. I don't normally respond to comments but I thought I'd just say hi. Thanks for the support and thanks for the corrections where required.

  3. Also I felt I had to respond where the comment was longer than the actual post ;-)

  4. My pleasure, and many hi-fives to your good nature. :)