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Getting on the radar


What does this title mean you may ask? Well I am looking at what it takes to get noticed as a Sherlockian.

At some point we all became interested in/fell for/went ga ga over Sherlock Holmes. At that point we were private Sherlockians. We knew we had an interest but no one else did. If you wanted to launch yourself onto the Sherlockian "scene" what did you have to do?

Well there are different paths and the paths don’t necessarily cross. At the risk of stating the obvious, this is my opinion (who else's?) and is based on some of my experiences/observations to date.

The internet route

This route, aka the fandom route, is where you come out (as it were) by joining on-line groups - Twitter, Facebook, tumblr etc and discuss your passion with those of a like mind. As readers of this blog will know all too well there are a great number of discussion groups concerning all areas of Sherlockiana. The canon, Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett and right up to Cumberbatch/Miller. It’s all there. A lot of material is produced in this forum but it seems, in the main, to be fanfiction or art. Furthermore that art and fiction tends to be based on one or more of the screen adaptations of Mr Holmes rather than the original source material. Not always, I stress, but often.

Through this route you could easily get recognised by quite a number of people but you would probably pass largely unnoticed amongst the mainstream as members of more traditional societies do not always have an extensive Internet presence (especially if they are of a certain age).

In some respects fandom can be seen as the fringe movement of Sherlockians but it is no less valid for that and it is growing at quite a rate.


The mainstream route

Until the rise of the Internet, this was the only route to recognition. It begins, naturally, with you joining a society. However this is not enough. To become noticed you need to attend meetings (to get your face known) and then, if you want serious recognition (especially if it is to be beyond your society), you have to start contributing. This can take many forms. You could attempt to get involved in your society’s committee or perhaps contribute to its publications. Depending on the circulation of a given society’s journal your name could go far.

Outside of the society you could attempt publication of a book. However it should be noted that you are more likely, in my opinion, to get your name on the Sherlockian map through non-fiction books/articles rather than fiction. Traditional Sherlockian scholarship, pretty much by definition, is a non-fiction activity. This is one of many things that sets it apart from fandom material. It also tends to be rooted in the canon rather than any adaptation.

Many Sherlockians walk only one path. Ideally you should try and walk both if you want to really get yourself noticed and you need to discover and understand the expectations of the two routes. It is not the case that one has higher standards/expectations than the other, but it is the case that there are different expectations and different ways to approach each.



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 including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

I recognized their sentinel


The instrument most associated with the Sherlock Holmes adventures is the violin. Holmes, of course, plays the violin but he and Watson also attended a concert at which it was played (in The Red-Headed League). 

Holmes listens to a violin concert in The Red-Headed League

However, an instrument that gets a mention and which we hear sadly little about today is the Jew’s Harp.

Parker from Granada's Empty House
This was mentioned in The Empty House as the instrument of choice of one Parker. Parker was in the employ of Colonel Sebastian Moran.

"..I recognised their sentinel when I glanced out of my window. He is a harmless enough fellow, Parker by name, a garroter by trade, and a remarkable performer upon the Jew's harp. I cared nothing for him. But I cared a great deal for the much more formidable person who was behind him, the bosom friend of Moriarty, the man who dropped the rocks over the cliff, the most cunning and dangerous criminal in London. That is the man who is after me to-night, Watson, and that is the man who is quite unaware that we are after him."

The instrument is very far from dead. Would it surprise you to know that there is even a website for devotees?



A Jew's Harp
Is there some mileage in a new Sherlockian Group where the entry requirement is the ability to play this instrument?



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 including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Are you a Sherlockian?


So when do you become a Sherlockian? This is essentially the question posed by the Baker Street Babes in what they themselves describe as a rant. They quite rightly condemn the closed minds of some who fear the younger generation of fans (either on the grounds of age or gender) and see them as not being proper Sherlockians.

To the generation who feel this way I say only this – you were the younger generation once. If you were treated harshly on your way up by the (then) older generation it is no reason to do it as well. It’s like the bullied becoming the bully. If you were treated well then you should extend this same courtesy to those following you. It’s as simple as that.

I personally sit in the middle ground. I am too old to be part of modern 20-something fandom yet I am too young (in my late 30s) to be part of the old guard. Perhaps this helps with my perspective (and maybe it doesn’t depending on how much twaddle you think I’m spouting).

I see a parallel between Sherlockiana and medicine. In medicine all would-be doctors need to know a certain amount of common stuff. Then they branch off into different areas – cardiology, neurology etc. but, importantly, they are all doctors.

In Sherlockiana I think it is important that all know the basics (the key characters, where Holmes lived, a basic understanding of the canon – achievable in about 30 minutes or less) and then after that you go your own way. Some people may even consider those criteria too strict but would you take someone seriously as a Sherlockian if they couldn’t tell you where Holmes lived or the names of the key characters? I think a basic grounding is not an unreasonable expectation and I fully believe that the majority of young “fandom” have that.

After this, regardless of your area of focus, you are all Sherlockians.

Well done you've passed!

However, to some out there, this is not enough. They have the attitude that being a Sherlockian (or Holmesian) is akin to a formal qualification (perhaps making my earlier medical analogy an unfortunate choice). It is a qualification they believe that many members of the young “fandom” have not achieved. Hence they do not take them seriously.

But they are clearly wrong. A qualification does not exist, there is not a body that has laid down agreed criteria for being a Sherlockian. Until one exists (and I hope it never does) no one can say really that you either are or are not a Sherlockian. 

The decision is yours.




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 including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

New SHSL Annual Dinner post + commentary

This post features the odd new photo and commentary


The Sherlock Holmes Society of London's Annual Dinner 2013 shared one thing in common with that of 2010. That thing was snow. On both occasions it was snowing and the good old British public transport system was creaking under the weight of the disruption. The snow in some places was a good inch deep – how could civilization cope?

As in 2010 the snow failed to prevent all but a handful of people making the event and it was a success as per usual.

Drinks Reception
After the usual, but necessary, trek through House of Commons Security we made it to the drinks reception. It was here that the troops gathered for the hour or so before we could all be seated. Some faces were familiar and others were clearly there for the first time. It was a pleasure for me to finally meet Katherine Davies (the wife of David Stuart Davies) after a good deal of Twitter correspondence. Her good husband was, I fear, responsible for leaving me with a cold that troubles me as I write.

After conversations with, amongst others, Tony Lee and Georgina Doyle, we finally made our way to the main dining room and tucked into an excellent meal. Because I am a total philistine when it comes to food I am not able to identify the fish that I had for my main but it was excellent and my wife assures me that the lamb was first rate.

Your humble blog author
At the conclusion of the meal our Chairman, Bob Ellis, introduced the speaker – Kim Newman. Mr Newman gave us a speech that, he informed us, he had given to the BSI but that he had put back in some of the long words that he had felt it necessary to remove for the American audience. This drew good natured laughter from Mike “Wiggins” Whelan and caused everyone else to draw sharp breaths and laugh nervously. In fact I think everyone present looked at the nearest American to see how the joke went down.

Following Mr Newman’s excellent speech on the continued presence of Moriarty, our Treasurer Calvert Markham gave an excellent speech which culminated in the toast to Doctor Watson.

Following this and the many other items of note – including the awarding of the Tony Howlett Award to membership secretary David Jones (alas not present) – people began to drift away.

The speaker - Kim Newman
I spoke to a number of people that I’d only known through Twitter and was relieved to find that they were all normal (joking). I only hope, after a bottle of excellent Merlot, that I came across in the same way.

See you all next year (fingers crossed).



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 including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

Review - DVD Sherlock Holmes starring Douglas Wilmer (French edition)


For Sherlockians of a certain age, Douglas Wilmer is the number one Holmes. Wilmer appeared as Holmes for the BBC in a series of adaptations which began with The Speckled Band. Following this initial series he quit the role citing concerns about production standards and the role passed to Peter Cushing.

Although Cushing’s outings as Holmes have been available for some time it has been hard for UK residents to see Wilmer’s turn as the great detective. The BBC, in its wisdom, has released Wilmer’s episodes in mainland Europe and the United States but has decided that the UK does not need to see them.

Fortunately a simple order to Amazon.fr helped get me around this issue.

So, to begin with, how easy is the French DVD to navigate? Speaking as someone with only extremely basic French I can say that it is not a problem. The main episode menu lists the titles in French and English and you can use your own DVD player’s settings to turn off the French subtitles (which are naturally enabled by default).

Now let’s move on to the actual programmes themselves.

The episodes really are of their time. The sets are often quite basic (and wobbly a la Blake’s Seven) and this renders some things a little less than believable. For example, in The Copper Beeches the man who spies on Violet Hunter, believing her to be the daughter of villain Rucastle, appears to be so close to the window of the room in which Miss Hunter sits that he could not fail to see that his fiancée is being impersonated.

When clients leave Baker Street, the time between them being shown out and the front door slamming is so quick that it is unbelievable that the sitting room is on the first floor as it should be.

Finally, the truly awful incidental music that is present in some scenes is a lot to stomach.

Turning to the positives, the sets, low-maintenance as they are, are pretty close to the Paget drawings and the stories are very firmly set in the Victorian era. The one exception to this that I noted appeared in The Devil’s Foot where some modern safety barriers at the top of the Cornish cliffs were as anachronistic as an aeroplane or television aerial would have been. Perhaps this is indicative of the production standards that allegedly so concerned Wilmer.

The costumes are excellent and you can quite easily see that they have been modelled closely on the Paget illustrations. Finally, the stories are faithfully told with only relatively minor tweaks here and there – a bit of dialogue removed or added as appropriate.
Wilmer in The Illustrious Client

For me, as a child of the Brett era, Wilmer falls short physically as Holmes. He is a little too stocky for my liking – not the tall and lean man of the books. Nigel Stock as Watson does his best to be faithful to the character but leans towards the Nigel Bruce mold a little too often. Both men are a little too old for their roles but that is hardly unusual as the two characters are often played by men at least ten years older than they should be.

Quibbles aside, this is a good set of faithfully told adaptations. The quibbles, like scratches on a lens, can be focused through and you should have a good time watching these episodes. It only remains to convince the BBC that they should make the set available here and thus eliminate the need to import it.


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 including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

A nice book recommendation

Randall Stock, who maintains an excellent Sherlockian reference site has draw my attention to the fact that he recommended my most recent book as one of his best reads of 2012.



http://www.bestofsherlock.com/sherlock-gifts.htm#newbooksabout


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 including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.

The Elementary Problem


For those of you who don’t know, I live in the UK and don’t have paid cable or satellite TV. Hence I have not seen any episodes of Elementary other than the pilot - which I managed to see through (I think) a French website (and I don’t know whether that was entirely legit’).

Now you may ask why I have not made an effort to see it – by visiting a friend who has cable (or perhaps more questionable means). The answer is that I’m simply not that concerned. Some fans (particularly the more recent ones) seem to have a desire to see everything Sherlock Holmes related as soon as possible (perhaps so they don’t feel left out in subsequent social media debates) but I know that the show will come along in its own good time (to subscription-free UK channels) and I’ll see it then.

Before I am dismissed as one of the large group of Elementary ‘haters’ let me point out that, despite certain misgivings, I did largely enjoy the pilot and declared that I would willingly watch more if it (see here).

I completely understand the writers’ ire at people who have declared that they hate the show despite never having watched any of it and, before anyone points it out, yes I did take issue with elements of the show when I had seen nothing more than the trailer (and those issues remain). In my defence, I felt the points I made were ones that you could legitimately make based on the information that had been made public at the time; and I did subsequently watch the pilot and report back on the positives as well as the negatives as I saw them. I feel I have done right by the show thus far.

So, to clarify, I don’t hate the show but I do sometimes wonder, as did the noted Sherlockian David Stuart Davies, why?

Elementary is not offering anything particularly radical that would warrant prompt attention hence my lack of haste to see the remaining episodes. Much has been made of the fact that it has been relocated to America and Watson is a woman but these are neither original nor groundbreaking elements (as long-standing Sherlockians know all too well). We’ve already had a female Watson (admittedly called Winslow) and an America based Holmes in Sherlock Holmes Returns .

To me it feels more like the makers of Elementary have used these elements purely and simply to try and put some clear blue water between their programme and the BBC’s Sherlock. In the words of one of the commentators on my above blog post:
 “I finished watching the pilot with the feeling that nothing new has been achieved and nothing old has been modernized.”
Now, you may say that this comment could equally apply to the BBC’s Sherlock and, in my opinion, you’d be right. With the BBC offering even less has been changed and it is not breaking ground really either. The core elements of the show are more or less in-line with the original stories with the only changes being the chronological setting and the contemporary attitudes/language demonstrated by the characters. Sherlock’s creators were perfectly open about this and said from day one that they were only doing what had been done before with Basil Rathbone’s Universal series i.e. placing the programme in a contemporary setting.

This is, I think, one reason why Elementary suffers, perhaps unfairly. Where Sherlock made no promises (and had nothing to compete with) Elementary was seen, rightly or wrongly, as promising innovation and, in the eyes of many, whilst it entertains, it has not delivered the innovation that was suggested. For this it is being more harshly criticised than its British rival. Is that fair? Almost certainly not.













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 including Amazon USA, Barnes and Noble, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iBooks for the iPad/iPhone.