Weekly Forum #47

There’s a “new” book out titled Sherlock: The Essential Arthur Conan Doyle Adventures which collects 19 famous cases that the BBC Sherlock creators, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, view as essential reading.

If you’re like me, you’re not particularly interested in this book because you already own at least half a dozen different versions of the complete Sherlock Holmes canon (How did I end up with so many versions? How much is too much?). However, I did find their listing of 19 “essential” stories interesting. Here is the list of stories that they selected for the book:

A Study In Scarlet
The Sign of Four
A Scandal in Bohemia
The Red-Headed League
A Case of Identity
The Man with the Twisted Lip
The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle
The Adventure of the Speckled Band
Silver Blaze
The Yellow Face
The Musgrave Ritual
The Greek Interpreter
The Final Problem
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Empty House
Charles Augustus Milverton
The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans
The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot
The Adventure of the Dying Detective

(This reminds me of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s selection of 19 stories.)

So! If you were going to put together a collection of “essentials” or if you were about to offer a selection for a friend to read the Canon for the first time, would you agree with the above list?

If you don’t agree with the list, what ones would you replace and what have they overlooked?

In Memory of Tom Leahy, JHWS “Travis”

We announce with great sadness the passing Tom Leahy, JHWS “Travis” in September of this year. He was not only one of our own, but he was also an active and popular member of scion societies in the New Jersey area and was noted for his vast and wide-ranging knowledge of all sorts of subjects, including Sherlock Holmes. An excellent artist, he drew full color illustrations of stories from the Canon. As JHWS “Willow” added when he informed us of his passing, “He was also friendly, funny, and enthusiastic… Everyone liked and respected Tom.”

What follows is the obituary of Tom Leahy, as prepared by his brother Pat and sent to us. Our deepest sympathies to Pat and all of Tom’s family for their loss. We wish to stand upon the terrace one last time and reflect on the passing of a good man, a skilled artist, and a fellow Watsonian who will be greatly missed…

Thomas Francis Leahy

January 29, 1952- September 6, 2015

Born: Margaret Hague Hospital, Jersey City, NJ

Oldest son of Thomas & Nora Leahy, Brothers, Patrick, Timothy & Sister, Nora

Tom attended Epiphany School of Cliffside Park & Central Boulevard School of Palisades Park.

Graduated from Bergen Tech High School, Hackensack, NJ and after joined the Navy. Was honorably discharged due to Medical Reasons.

Worked in the United States Postal Service for 34 years and retired in 2006. Tom resided in Teaneck, NJ with his mother, who just recently passed away on March 9, 2015.

Tom had many interest and talents. He was a brilliant guitar player as well as the piano. All self-taught. A masterful artist, avid photographer and an expert on movies and film and a wiz at Jeopardy.

He was a collector of all kinds of memorabilia.

He was buried in his favorite Beatie shirt with a pin on the pillow that said the game is afoot.

Tom belonged to numerous clubs and organizations.

No one took better care of his Mom then he did. Now they are together again. He will be greatly missed.

Interview Series: Imagination Theater Part 2

Jim French Productions Presents Imagination Theater produces hundreds of contemporary radio dramas and mysteries, such as “The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.” John Patrick Lowrie plays Sherlock Holmes and Larry Albert (JHWS “Bertie”) plays Dr John Watson in the popular radio series.

This interview is a continuation of our discussion in Part 1.

Continue reading

Weekly Forum #46

I have plans to visit the London and Brighton area from January 18th to February 1st next year. I’ve never been to London before and do not know what to expect.

Have you ever been to (or lived in) London? Did you happen to meet any fellow Watsonians or have particularly Sherlockian experiences while you were there? Please share.

Interview Series: Imagination Theater Part 1

Earlier this year, while attending Sherlock Seattle 2015, I had a rare and wonderful opportunity to meet two living legends of Sherlockian radio: John Patrick Lowrie and Larry Albert (JHWS “Bertie”), the voices of Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson for Imagination Theater.

Jim French Productions Presents Imagination Theater produces hundreds of contemporary radio dramas and mysteries, such as the “Harry Nile” noir detective series, “Kerides, the Thinker”, and of course “The Classic Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.”

When I met with John Patrick Lowrie (a well-known voice actor who plays Sherlock Holmes in the radio series and is the author of “Dancing with Eternity“) and Larry Albert (who plays Dr John Watson, produces for Jim French Productions, and also stars as Harry Nile in the eponymous radio series), we spoke for an hour about the nature of Holmes and Watson on the radio, the history of radio drama, and a great deal more.

I’ve transcribed our discussion for your to enjoy. But since it is a lengthy one, I will present it in four parts: one part every Thursday for the next four weeks. I hope it entertains you as much as speaking with these two fellows entertained me.

Continue reading

Update on our dear “Chips”

I spoke with his spouse today and “Chips” seems to be recovering well, though it will likely take time. I’ve checked to confirm with her that it would be alright to share the following address with all of you if you wish to send him your warm regards and wish him well:

Ron Lies
Kindred Acute Care Hospital
1920 High St
Denver CO 80218

Chips, if you happen to visit and read this, please know that we all support you and hope you feel better soon.

Weekly Forum #45

The Baker Street Irregulars recently announced the details of their upcoming BSI Weekend to celebrate the 162nd birthday of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve never been before, but I actually plan to fly to NYC and attend a few of the surrounding events happening January 13-16, 2015, such as the ASH Dinner or the Christopher Morley Walk. Will anyone be attending? I’d love it if I could meet other Watsonians there as well.

So, have you ever attended the BSI Weekend? Please share your experiences with us.

Billiards With Thurston: The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

On behalf of our Editor-in-Chief “Pippin” and myself, a new feature we are excited to announce for The Watsonian is “Billiards with Thurston” – wherein we reach out to other Sherlockian societies to learn more about them and share in their interests. By doing so, we gain the benefit of learning more about our fellow Sherlockians, deepening ties with the wider Sherlockian world, and encountering perspectives that would otherwise be unknown to us.

On this very first occasion, our visiting friends are one of the newest Sherlockian societies in existence (yes, even younger than us): The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex

The “Billiards with Thurston” feature will include an interview and a guest submission to The Watsonian, a short story titled “The Tenderness of Patient Minds,” as you will see once the Fall 2015 volume reaches your mailbox soon.

Only a portion of the interview appears in the volume, so I am presenting here the full interview between myself and one of the co-founders of The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex: Elinor Gray, JHWS “Misty.”

Who are the Retired Beekeepers of Sussex?

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex are an all inclusive, queer-run, LGBTQIA+ Sherlock Holmes enthusiast group. Run by Basil (aka ghostbees), Elinor (JHWS “Misty”), and Michele (aka neverwhere), the group meets monthly on Sundays at a pub in Brighton, England, to discuss the Sherlock Holmes canon, favourite adaptations, various issues relevant to the stories, and current events in the Sherlockian world. Members have also started volunteering to give short talks on the monthly topic, which have been splendid so far, and can be read at our website (retiredbeekeepers.tumblr.com).

What inspired the creation of your society and how did it form?

The creation of the Beekeepers arose from a desire to have a local and queer-friendly Holmes group in Sussex: an appropriate place for a society because it is, of course, where Holmes is reported to have retired. We also wanted a group that met with more frequently than the SHSL, because we believe getting together often with fellow Sherlockians for a drink and a chat is beneficial to our collective health. We came up with the name last, which seems silly at this point, because what else could a Brighton-based group call itself? We are proud members of #teamsussex, ascribing to the notion that Holmes and Watson retired together to keep bees and bicker long into their golden years.

What sort of activities does your society engage in?

Alongside our monthly meetings, we have held a field trip to Beachy Head for a walk along the Sussex Downs, and we have also published the first issue of our hopefully-biannual journal, The Practical Handbook of Bee Culture. The topic of the first issue is “First Encounters;” the topic of the second issue, which is now accepting submissions, is “Queerness in Holmesiana.” Going forward, we are planning a Halloween Hound of the Baskervilles movie night, and a “Blue Carbuncle” themed holiday get-together.

The Retired Beekeepers of Sussex is one of the newest Sherlockian societies to form. Were there any unexpected challenges for you and your co-founders?

Finding a place to meet was our first biggest hurdle. We knew we’d have no trouble building an online presence, but with a budget of £0 we had to search for a place to meet that was both accessible from the train station (and therefore relatively easy to find) as well available for free. Societies are, of course, run by volunteer enthusiasm, so we have to be smart about where and how to spend our limited resources. Michele, one of our Head Bees, found us a lovely meeting spot in the private side of a local gay pub, and they let us have it for a few hours for the price of a few drinks.

After several gatherings and the first society publication, what you learned from the experience so far?

Running a society is a lot of work! We come up with a new poster design every month, and write several newsletter emails between meetings: one before to let everyone know the theme, and one after to recap the meeting. The latter is always more work than the former. But it’s also easier than expected, in that people actually show up and get involved, and we haven’t had to beg or wheedle anyone to give a talk, and submissions for the journal came in relatively smoothly. It’s also a lot of fun; organising topics, planning media, and getting together with Sherlockians is infinitely rewarding.

The ongoing discussion on Sherlock Holmes spans several decades and there is an immense variety of viewpoints that have taken part to discuss every conceivable element of the Canon and the many adaptations, considering how often we’ve speculated on the Great Hiatus and even the nature of Dr Watson’s bullpup. Is the queer point of view relatively new, to your knowledge? Or have there been notable Sherlockian discussions in the past from this perspective?

Discussions of a queer Holmes have certainly arisen before now, but they’re rarely taken seriously by “serious” Sherlock Holmes scholars, and “the gay question” has often been played for laughs. There are several published Holmes pastiches with queer elements, but they’re either not written by dedicated Holmesians, not written in earnest, or not taken seriously upon publication. Likewise, there have been articles in “classic” publications, such as the BSJ and the SHJ, that consider a queer interpretation, but they’ve never been written by an (openly) queer-identifying person, and they don’t often conclude that the reading is a valid one . We’re actually pretty confused that a deliberately queer Holmesian society hasn’t been formed before now (perhaps it has, but we haven’t found one, and if so we’d love to know about it), but we’re not particularly surprised.

Published pastiches:

  • The Sexual Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Larry Townsend, 1971 – this one is rubbish, don’t read it
  • My Dearest Holmes, Rohase Piercy, 1988 – cute and very repressed; we hope to interview Rohase for our “Queerness” journal issue
  • Kissing Sherlock Holmes, T. D. McKinney & Terry Wylis, 2011 – written by people who seemed to be jumping on the Holmes bandwagon without a lot of background experience in Holmes
  • A Study in Lavender: Queering Sherlock Holmes, anthology, 2011 – an interesting attempt, but seems to be centered around the shock value of queerness rather than presenting itself as a serious exploration of queer characters
  • Elementary Erotica, anthology, 2011 – mostly Holmes/Watson erotica, one Holmes/Irene piece at the very end, all done with affection for the source material
  • Compound a Felony: A Queer Affair of Sherlock Holmes, Elinor Gray, 2015 – written for an audience familiar with the Holmes stories and able to pick up on references and asides, but not at all focused on mysteries and cases

Other resources:

Does gathering as an LGBTQIA+ group open up new avenues of Sherlockian discourse, or are discussions similar to other Sherlockian gatherings that you’ve experienced?

The discussions, for the most part, follow similar patterns to those at other Sherlockian gatherings that I’ve attended. We argue about adaptations, talk about motivations, and listen to radio snippets or watch TV or movie clips. But we want to talk about queer issues, so we talk about queer issues. Because the door is already opened to queerness in the discussions, sexuality and identity do come up more often than they usually do at other formal Sherlockian dinners.

Does being a part of “Team Sussex” (i.e. maintaining that Holmes and Watson retired together) call into question Dr Watson’s credibility as a biographer?

I would say yes, but Watson himself admits to alterations, cover-ups, and name changes to protect the innocent (or not-so-). Our own “Pippin” wrote his monograph about Watson’s early publishing career, and in it discusses the way that because the stories were written during the Hiatus, Holmes would not have been actually bringing up Watson’s previous publications, but that Watson is putting words into his mouth to remind his reader that there are other stories to purchase and read. It wouldn’t be the first time he’d adjusted the truth to fit the story. He’s a professional liar and manipulator of facts, even if his intentions are good, and there’s no reason he couldn’t move to Sussex with Holmes and simply tell his audience they had drifted apart. In fact, that falsehood would have been the safest option to protect their reputation and their privacy.

As our first guest society to be featured in the Watsonian, your group selected “The Tenderness of Patient Minds.” How do you feel this chosen story will be of interest both to the Watsonians and to the Retired Beekeepers?

“The Tenderness of Patient Minds” is a story I (Elinor) wrote originally for submission to MX Publishing’s New Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories. I’d been in touch with the editor before I submitted it and he was initially excited about my participation, but then when he read what I’d produced he essentially deemed it too gay for the collection. He asked me to remove the references to Holmes and Watson living together in retirement and sharing a life, and I refused. I could understand why the story I’d written wouldn’t fit in among all the others, but there were two main reasons I didn’t want to make such deep cuts. Firstly, I believed those elements were what made the course of the story logical: Holmes and Watson’s relationship, explicitly a romantic one, contributes to Holmes’s reason in passing the case on to Watson, and Watson’s motivation to finish the job and come home. Secondly, my queer interpretation of the Holmes/Watson partnership isn’t something I care to compromise on, even to make an editor happy: to jettison it in the name of a “traditional” pastiche is inauthentic to my own queerness and my reading of the canon, and to equate “traditional” with “non-romantic” is problematic. I offered it then to The Watsonian because I knew the JHWS, being only slightly older a society than mine, was open to giving a platform to an interpretation that often goes ignored or belittled.

So, to get back on track, I feel this story represents what the Retired Beekeepers of Sussex are all about, both superficially and more deeply. On the surface, it’s a story about a South Downs beekeeper who refuses a case on the grounds that he is retired from detecting, and sends his trusted companion, conveniently his husband, in his stead. Underneath, the form of the story as a traditional pastiche with queer elements underscores the way the queer interpretation of the canon doesn’t require a great deal of squinting or hand-waving. The Holmes/Watson romance, while integral, is incidental: this is both a detective story and a story about a detective. It has a few noteworthy elements: it takes place after the Great War and deals with some of the new medical and social issues of that era; it gives Watson the stage to bring about the mystery’s solution; and it celebrates the core of the Holmes stories’ popularity, which is the unbreakable partnership of the detective and his biographer.


I hope you enjoyed the interview and that you will also enjoy their guest submission to The Watsonian: The Tenderness of Patient Minds. Due to an invitation from Don Libey “Buttons” from very early this year, “Misty” and fellow co-founder of the RBS, Basil, agreed to present a story for the Spring 2016  edition of The Fiction Series and we look forward to that as well.

For our next “Billiards with Thurston,” we have extended an invitation to Uno Studio in Holmes, the Sherlock Holmes Society of Italy,  to join us for a friendly game and a warm chat. You can look forward to learning more about them in our Spring 2016 volume of The Watsonian.

Our dear “Chips”

I am sad to report that our dear Chips is not feeling his best at the moment.

I last spoke with Ron Lies JHWS “Chips” about a month ago to help him prepare his regular “Chip’s Tid Bits” posts for the site. I anticipated hearing from him again soon to prepare for November, but when I didn’t, I did my best to contact him and I was able to speak with his very lovely wife, Mary.

His health took a poor turn recently, but she is hopeful that he is on the path to recovery. I’m very saddened to hear this news, as Chips’ enthusiasm for the Canon is inspiring and it hurts to know he is not feeling well. I relayed a message through her to Chips that we all hope for his safe recovery, that our prayers are with him, and that we shall be here when he feels better.

Until that time, the “Tid Bits” section of our site will be on hiatus so that he may rest without additional worry. I pray that our dear Chips will recover well.

Weekly Forum #44

Please note: Since those who submit to The Watsonian retain the ownership of their own works, if your work is going to appear in the Fall 2015 volume and you would like a pdf copy of your submission (for your portfolio, records, or simply to print out and give to friends), please e-mail me and I’ll send you a file of your work as how it appears in the actual printed volume.

Related to that topic… what is an essay or story in a Sherlockian publication that you’ve read that you would recommend as essential reading?