Interviews

Friend and Biographer Series: JHWS ‘Lucy’

Speaking of my old friend and biographer, I would take this opportunity to remark….Watson has some remarkable characteristics of his own, to which in his modesty he has given small attention…

Hello Watsonians,

Today we add to our series of brief biographic interviews with some of the members of JHWS. Our members, like the good Dr. Watson, have some remarkable characteristics of their own, and we would like to give some small attention to them.

We were lucky to have Elise Elliot join our ranks this past year.  Her excellent book reviews are a welcome addition to our site.  I am delighted to share Elise’s interview; I think you will enjoy reading it.

Margie/ JHWS ‘Mopsy’

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1. Name/with bull pup moniker—

Elise Elliot, ‘Lucy’

2. Current (city,state, country) location—

Columbus, OH

3. How long have you been a devotee of Dr. Watson?

I found the stories when I was twelve, during a bout of insomnia that lasted for almost a week.  I picked the biggest book I could find from the library to keep me company during the night, and that happened to be the complete collection of canon.  I’ve been a fan ever since.

As for Watson, I will admit that it took me a little longer to come around to the Good Doctor’s virtues.  That happened in the past seven years or so, when I was twenty-one.  We thank Bert Coules’ radio adaptations for that revelation.

4. Do you have a favorite canonical story?

Is it cheating to have a few?  Probably… REGI, ILLU, and DEVI.  There are great friendship moments in all of them, and in the latter two, wonderful depictions of compassion from Holmes and Watson, as well as a focus on what justice means to them.

5. What is your favorite quote from the canon?

“Life is infinitely stranger than anything which the mind of man could invent.”

6. If you could speak directly to anyone in the canon, who would you choose and why?

Kitty Winter.  I confess an immense sympathy for her, a woman who found no justice in the justice system and so took her own revenge.  I’m endlessly fascinated by what made her finally break, and how Holmes and Watson treated and viewed her.  I think she would be an extremely interesting person to meet, and I’d like to hear her life story, from her.  The story also indicates that she received a relatively light sentence, and I want to know what she does afterwards.

7. Are you fond of any particular canon adaptations—pastiche, radio, film?

So many!  I love adaptations, and what they choose to keep, what they choose to discard, what they highlight, etc.  I love Elementary and would be thrilled if more Holmesians and Watsonians would watch it- they highlight different aspects of the characters that sometimes aren’t as obvious in other adaptations.  The radio dramas by Bert Coules, both the complete canon and the original stories; Merrison and Williams, and then Sachs, are as close to canon as it comes for me.  I also have thoroughly enjoyed both of Sheldon Reynolds’ takes on the characters, the 1954 series starring Ronald Howard as Holmes and H. Marion Crawford as Watson, and then the 1979 series starring Geoffrey Whitehead as Holmes and Donald Pickering as Watson.  Those series are a comfort watch for me; I like to watch them on stormy, gloomy days.

8. Do you have a local Watsonian/Sherlockian/Holmesian group you meet with on a regular basis?

Unfortunately, no.  I work in theatre, and much of my spare time is eaten up by that.  I want to join one someday, but that won’t happen until I slow down a little!

9. Do you have any recent Watsonian/Sherlockian/Holmesian projects/events you would like to tell us about?

I have been having a blast writing book reviews for the John H Watson Society website!  I love reading pastiches, and it’s been so great to take that passion and transform it into something potentially useful for others.

I am a freelance copy editor as well, and recently began working with some Holmesian authors, looking over their work before it goes to print.  It has been an honor to be trusted with their work, as well as a fun challenge.

10. If you had a magic wand, and could add, subtract, or change anything in your Watsonian/Sherlockian/Holmesian world, what would it be?

You know all those adaptations that have been lost to time?  And all those adaptations that only available in certain countries because of Region differences in DVDs and the like?  I want ALL of those adaptations in my eyeballs.  I want them on my shelves.  I want to be able to see them all the time, and none to have ever been lost or made unavailable.

About Sixty (and About Chris Redmond)

14900338_339975513028250_3548370630580331526_nA cold rain dashing against the side of the house… bare trees shuddering with every gust… the barometer as downcast as a bad disposition…. What better time than winter to curl up in front of the fireplace and crack open a book? On everybody’s reading list this season is the brand new volume About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story is the Best, edited by Christopher Redmond, JHWS “Buster”, and published by Wildside Press in October.

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A few of the authors at the Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes conference in Minnesota

It’s a singular achievement. Sixty writers – including a few members of the John H Watson Society – were asked to tackle one each of the sixty tales that comprise the Sherlock Holmes Canon, making a concise case why that particular story belongs at the top of the heap. The essayists are a diverse blend of experienced Sherlockian commentators and recent converts who bring a fresh perspective. Whether you’re familiar only with the better-known titles, like The Hound of the Baskervilles, or you know your way around more obscure stories such as “The Missing Three-Quarter”, the results are both erudite and entertaining. This book will have you reaching for the Canon time and again to reacquaint yourself with that world where “it is always 1895.”

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Chris Redmond, JHWS “Buster”

Sherlockian author Sonia Fetherston, JHWS “Gypsy”, was one who contributed to About Sixty, with her chapter on “A Case of Identity.” She recently asked Chris to join her for a Q&A concerning not just the book and its contributors, but a bit about the eminent editor himself:

SF: Can you give me sixty reasons why people should buy this book?

CR: Bookworm, humanizing, desire, scam, maidens, perfect, tragic, relevant, quotable, serpent, hysterical, pomposity, maxim, terror, iconic, unreliable, psyche, impetuous, hubris, joy, methods, fauna, foul, hamstrung, naked, heroic, embodiment, villain, logic, puzzles, terribly, juvenile, convoluted, loathing, smile, trifles, texture, twinkle, lying, confront, nuances, monster, mellower, confidential, barb, dialect, motive, obituary, silly, tension, prank, comedy, exotic, treasure, experiment, morality, delicious, ponder, grief, wallpaper. One word from each of the sixty essays — in order!

SF: Okay, maybe two or three reasons, fleshed out a bit?

CR: Because it presents insights into Sherlock Holmes not from one well-informed Sherlockian mind but from sixty different minds, hearts and viewpoints. Because it is anchored in the Canon itself and won’t easily go out of fashion. Because it contemplates every part of the Canon in proportion, not just a few favoured stories or topics.

SF: Who is your target audience: readers of the Holmes Canon, or prospective readers of the Holmes Canon?

CR: The book is certainly for people who have read the stories — there are spoilers in almost every essay. It would be heart-warming, though, to think of a first-timer using this book: reading each canonical story in turn, and then turning to the corresponding essay.

SF: In 1927 Arthur Conan Doyle developed his own list of the twelve Sherlockian stories he thought were the best, among them “The Speckled Band” and “The Red-Headed League.” Did his list play any role in prompting this project? How did you get the idea for your book?

CR: The Introduction to About Sixty tells a little about the origins of the idea, going all the way back to a daydream many years ago of writing sixty essays myself. Such a book would have been monotonous, I think, but involving sixty authors with sixty different voices brought it to vibrant life. A few of the authors mention ACD’s list, but I’ve never taken it very seriously. For one thing, it was done before he had written the last dozen or so of the stories, and for another, he was famously bad at judging the quality of his own work. Also, of course, this book doesn’t try to list stories that are in second, third, and subsequent places — it makes it clear that all sixty tales are in a tie for first!

SF: Many people would agree with Conan Doyle that a tale like “The Speckled Band” is highly ranked. But what are some Sherlockian stories you reckon are most difficult to defend… most difficult to think of as being “the best?”

CR: I think everybody would agree that “The Mazarin Stone” is awkward and wooden, possibly because it was first written as a play and should have stayed that way. Many people dislike “The Three Gables” because of its descent — offensive, but typical for its time — into racist cartoons, and also because its plot depends on sleazy sexual intrigue. Still, both of these stories also have their strengths, as authors in About Sixty demonstrate. My favourite example of a rehabilitated story, though, is “The Veiled Lodger”, which is often scorned because it doesn’t call on Sherlock Holmes to be much of a detective. In About Sixty, Jaime Mahoney does a brilliant job of rehabilitating it, pointing out that it’s (these are my words, not hers) a haunting human story of love, hate, joy, sorrow, patience and courage.

SF: Your essayists are an eclectic mix of veterans and newcomers to the Sherlockian fold. How did you go about choosing these people to participate?

CR: I started by asking my immediate circle of friends, then reached further to various parts of the Sherlockian world, always to people I could contact by e-mail. I tried not to call on well-known people who were already busy with other projects, but in a few cases I wavered, and was glad to have their reputations helping to bolster the project’s reputation. A few of the authors I didn’t know at all, but came recommended by people I had already enlisted. In a few cases I’m sure I was taking a risk with people who really hadn’t written much in the past, but there was nobody who didn’t meet the standard, and some of the lesser-known authors came up with particularly interesting and thought-provoking essays.

SF: Marshaling sixty busy writers, not to mention sixty creative egos, must have been a challenge.

CR: People were astonishingly willing to write, hardly anybody had trouble meeting the deadline, most of the essays took only very modest editing, and hardly anybody was anything but cooperative and grateful for any suggestions. The book was a lot of work, certainly, but it came together as if it truly was meant to be.

SF: You have a reputation for being a lifelong Holmes enthusiast. Tell me about your own introduction to Sherlock Holmes. What was the Sherlockian story that hooked you, and kept you coming back for more?

CR: I gobbled up all the stories when I was a young teenager — that’s what people did in those days. The story I chiefly remember reading was The Hound of the Baskervilles, probably because it was so creepy. In some cases I probably was too young to appreciate the stories properly, and one of the real benefits of working on About Sixty has been that I needed to return to each story with a mature eye and absorb what a perceptive Sherlockian was saying about it… insights that in some cases I should have experienced decades ago.

SF: You’re planning a dinner party for six characters from the Canon. Who will be sitting around your table, and why those particular characters?

CR: Not Sherlock Holmes, I think; I don’t want the risk of criminal relics in the butter-dish. But Watson, certainly, the doctor with the gifts of friendship and congeniality, and with an endless stock of stories to retell from his Reminiscences. Where there is Watson, there must be women, starting with his charming wife Mary Morstan. She’s a blonde, and somehow I imagine Watson arriving with a redhead and a brunette as well, perhaps Violet Hunter and Beryl Stapleton, who both have their own tales to repeat. But there needs to be a balance of men and women, so let’s add Arthur Cadogan West (solid and decent and good-hearted, but he needs to get out more) and Nathan Garrideb (he definitely needs to get out more).

SF: Quick! Tell me which books are on your bedside table right now? Aside from your well-known love of Conan Doyle’s creations, what else are you reading?

CR: I am embarrassed to say that in the past year or two I haven’t done much serious reading at all. I spend far too much time online! I have almost given up reading nonfiction, although the last book I finished was Thinking It Over by Hesketh Pearson, the autobiography of a London actor and author of the prewar era (one of his books was a biography of Arthur Conan Doyle). I gobble up Sherlockian pastiches, while rolling my eyes at how bad most of them are. It’s a pleasure just now to be reading Denis O. Smith’s Lost Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes — he really captures the style and flavour of the originals, as few other authors manage to do. I have a half-formed plan to give up reading new books for a year or two, and rediscover some classics that I loved as an undergraduate, particularly Renaissance poetry and drama. I might follow that up with the collected novels of Anthony Trollope.

SF: What other Redmond projects are on tap for 2017….and beyond?

CR: I hope to be making an announcement soon about another anthology, every bit as eclectic as About Sixty and with some of the same authors. Beyond that, there are always lots of ideas, but I don’t know which of them will catch fire. My long-term hope is to write a book, provisionally called Reading Sherlock Holmes, that elaborates my ideas about what can be found in the Canon and how to discover and enjoy it; but I don’t quite know when that’s going to happen!

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Ah! That sounds like something we’ll be reading next winter, when the wind is sobbing “like a child in the chimney,” as Dr Watson would say!

About Sixty: Why Every Sherlock Holmes Story is the Best is available directly from Wildside Press in paperback ($14.99 USD) or ePub/Kindle ($6.99 USD).

(Note from Selena Buttons: the original posting omitted Sonia Fetherston’s Society Moniker of “Gypsy”. That has been corrected. Apologies, Gypsy!)

Interview Series: Billiards with Uno Studio in Holmes

Billiards with: Uno Studio in Holmes
An Interview with Michele Lopez, President, JHWS “Reggie” and
Stefano Guerra, founder, past President, JHWS “Lucas”, BSI “Count Negretto Sylvius”

Is Uno Studio in Holmes the one society that encompasses all of the Sherlockians who live in Italy?

Uno Studio in Holmes was founded in 1987, to celebrate the first centenary of the publication of A Study in Scarlet. The first historical meeting was held in Florence, as the only city in Italy where we know for sure, from the Canon, that Sherlock Holmes visited (see EMPT).

As far as we know, we are the only nationwide Sherlockian society. There is a small society in Verona, The Assorted and Stradivarious of Verona, led by Patricia Guy, BSI, an American who has lived in Verona for many years. We worked together on some projects, recently for our spring meeting in June 2015, “Holmes and Watson: the Two Gentlemen of Verona”, during which we explored the literary connections between the Canon and the works of authors such as Shakespeare, Emilio Salgari (a native of Verona, widely popular in the late 19th century in Italy for his adventure stories), and others.

There are no other strictly Sherlockian societies, but we cooperate with other associations whose sphere of interests touches our own. We have often had as guests at our meetings members of the “Pipa Club Italia”, the national association of pipe smokers. We are in touch with “Proiezioni mentali eventi”, a group of young TV series fans based in Rome, who are interested in Sherlock Holmes (mainly in the BBC version, but they organize readings of the Canon, too) as well as Doctor Who, Star Wars, and others.

What was the Sleuths in Venice event? What other events have Italian Sherlockians held in recent years?

In 2012 we held our General Annual Meeting in Venice. The name of the event was “Sherlock and Shylock: The Sleuths of Venice”. The meeting had a double significance: it was our 25th Anniversary and it was the second “No Fog Countries Meeting”, the latter being an idea by Thierry Saint-Joannis, BSI, to join together the Sherlockian societies of France, Italy and Spain, as the Latin countries without fog to which Holmes refers to in “The Bruce-Partington Plans” (the first such meeting was held in Barcelona in 2010, hosted by our friends of “Círculo Holmes”). We were joined in the beautiful city of Venice by more than 90 Sherlockians from “many countries and four separate continents”: we had friends coming from Spain, France, Switzerland, Japan, U.S.A. and Australia. As we usually do, we had presentations on various Holmesian scholarship subjects, the presentation of our book on Conan Doyle’s travels in Italy during his honeymoon, a violin concert, a night tour of the magical canals of Venice in historical boats, a dinner, and other things.

We usually meet twice a year: a short meeting in spring, usually of one day, and a long meeting in late autumn, of three or more days. In recent years we were in Pistoia, Tuscany, in June 2013 for a “night at the library” dedicated to the visit that Holmes probably made to this historical town during the Great Hiatus; in November 2013 we had a big meeting in Empoli, Tuscany, where we showcased pieces from the immense collection of our member and past president Gabriele Mazzoni, and we saw the issue of the first Italian official postmark with a Holmesian theme. In May 2014 we organized the first society trip to England, where we dined at the Criterion Restaurant, visited Portsmouth and the Richard Lancelyn Green collection at the local library, paid homage at the grave of the Literary Agent Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the New Forest and did a small tour of Holmesian locations in London, from Baker Street to the Sherlock Holmes Pub. In November 2014 we held our meeting in Porto Venere, Liguria, about “The Sea and Seamen in the Canon”. In June 2015 we had the aforementioned meeting in Verona and the General Annual Meeting in Naples, about the theme “When you don’t eliminate the impossible”, dealing with impossible or unlikely connections in the Canon.

For 2016 we have already planned the spring meeting in Tivoli, near Rome, for next May, 14th, while the organization for the autumn meeting is underway.

We have also participated in other events, book presentations, art exhibitions and so forth. Two of our youngest members have organized a Sherlockian stand at Lucca Comics and Games (the biggest comic convention of Europe and the second in the world after the San Diego ComicCon), in 2014 and 2015 and plans are underway to renew and expand the Sherlockian presence at this important event.

We have been publishing continuously our twice-yearly magazine, The Strand Magazine (in Italian only), since 1996. The past editors are Enrico Solito (1996-2005) and Enrico Formicola (2006-2008). The current editor is Stefano Guerra (BSI “Count Negretto Sylvius”, JHWS “Lucas”). Since 2008 the magazine is published in book form and averages 130-150 pages per issue. The articles published are mostly scholarship studies and apocryphal stories.

Since 2012 we also publish a bulletin in electronic form, The Saffron Hill Gazette, where we collect reviews of books (in Italian and in English), magazines (including The Watsonian, of course!), movies, TV shows, theatrical plays, comic books, videogames, etc. We also have news of Holmesian interest and about the activities of our and other Sherlockian societies, and occasionally also short apocryphal stories. The bulletin is sent by e-mail to the members of the society and is later published on the Society’s website (www.unostudioinholmes.org).

Please tell us about the Comitato Culturale Holmesiano (C.C.H.).

We have among our members several University professors and researchers and one of our goals is to widen academic recognition for the Canon and for the characters of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. In the past our General Annual Meetings have occasionally been hosted by Italian universities (University of Rome La Sapienza in 2008 and 2010; University of L’Aquila in 2009; University of Urbino in 2011). The “Comitato Culturale Holmesiano” (the meaning in English is “Holmesian Cultural Committee”) was established in 2012 to coordinate the relationships of our society with the academic world. The name has been purposely – tongue-in-cheek – chosen so that the acronym would echo the quotation of the “C.C.H.” from the Canon [HOUN]. The committee consists of 6 members. The current director is Professor Alessandra Calanchi (JHWS “Bianca”); other members are Enrico Solito (BSI “Enrico Lucca”, JHWS “Devon”), Gabriele Mazzoni, Stella Mattioli, Professor Caterina Marrone and Professor Valerio Viviani. The committee has the goal to create an archive of all the graduation theses (or dissertations) about Holmesian subjects published in Italy and to make them available online; to encourage and assist students who want to write a thesis on a Holmesian subject; to advertise and discuss about any cultural event in Italy involving Holmes and Watson. More on the C.C.H. can be found on the page of our website http://www.unostudioinholmes.org/cch.htm (in Italian only).

What are some interesting connections that exist between Sherlock Holmes or Dr Watson and Italy?

Well, we know that Holmes visited Italy during the Great Hiatus, since in “The Empty House” he says that “one week later” after the events at the Reichenbach Falls he was in Florence [EMPT]. So a lot of work has been done in the past by some of our members to reconstruct the travels of Sherlock Holmes in Italy in 1891. This work was the main subject of our double meeting in the year 2000, “A week later”, held in Milan and in Sesto Fiorentino. A good deal of the relevant discussions and papers are available in English in the volume Italy and Sherlock Holmes edited by the Baker Street Irregulars in 2010.

Of course there are many other interesting connections. Italian characters appear and have a starring role in “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons” and in “The Adventure of the Red Circle”. Twice Holmes mentions that he’s been doing work for the Vatican, and it is just possible that he visited Rome on these occasions. The detective shows an interest for Italian literature and culture more than once: he reads Petrarch on a railway journey [BOSC], is an enthusiastic admirer of Paganini [CARD], must have a more than skin-deep knowledge of the Italian language, since he was successfully disguised as an Italian priest [FINA] and identifies Italian words in a sequence of flash-lights [REDC]. He likes Italian restaurants and dines there at least twice (Goldini’s, BRUC and Marcini’s, HOUN).

In previous years we have also explored the connections between the Canon and other literary works, such as Pinocchio, or between Holmes and other great figures, e.g. Dante Alighieri. On one of the first numbers of our magazine we also featured a piece of “apocryphal scholarship” about the involvement of Mycroft and of a young Sherlock Holmes in the search for the grave of the great Italian poet Ugo Foscolo, who died in exile in London in 1827 and whose remains were found in 1871 and sent back to Italy.

There are, apparently, fewer connections between Watson and Italy. The Doctor does not seem to have a particular inclination for our country such as his friend Holmes has. But we know that he spoke at least a little Italian [FINA] and the matter of how and where he acquired this knowledge deserves further research, which may perhaps be pursued in the future.

Are there popular Italian adaptions of Sherlock Holmes in the media, such as TV or the movies?

Unfortunately there are no Italian movies starring Sherlock Holmes. There is only a small TV series in two episodes, made and broadcasted by RAI, the State television, in 1968. It is doubtless a high quality work for the standards of those times, though today it is a bit outdated because of the differences between the taste of today’s TV viewers and those of the 1960s.

Two stories were adapted, each divided in three one-hour episodes: The Valley of Fear and The Hound of the Baskervilles (translated, respectively, “La valle della paura” and “L’ultimo dei Baskerville”). The adaptations were quite faithful to the originals and were edited by Edoardo Anton, a screenwriter, playwright and journalist. They were directed by Guglielmo Morandi, a director with a long experience of TV and radio plays.

The main actors were Nando Gazzolo and Gianni Bonagura, in the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, respectively.

The media in which Holmes was most present in Italy was the radio. Since 1951 several series were produced by RAI. Six stories were broadcasted in 1951, adapted by Beppe Costa and directed by Guglielmo Morandi (see above), with Sandro Ruffini as Holmes and Adolfo Geri as Watson. Further six stories came in 1953, under the direction of Anton Giulio Majano, with Sandro Ruffini again as Holmes and Angelo Calabrese as Watson. Finally, in 1958, we had thirteen more episodes directed by Marco Visconti, with Ubaldo Lay as Holmes and Renato Cominetti as Watson.

It is much more difficult, due to the lack of sources, to make a complete list of the innumerable theatre plays that have been produced in Italy both by big and small companies in the course of time. They range from the first Italian translation of Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes (that, we know, Doyle himself watched in Rome) in the early 1900s, to the periodical reprises of Canonical stories by the “Compagnia Stabile del Giallo” in Rome today.

Could you tell us about notable Italian actors who have taken up the roles of Holmes or Watson?

We already talked about Nando Gazzolo (1928-2015) and Gianni Bonagura (b. 1925), the only Italian actors who had the good luck to impersonate Holmes and Watson on the TV screen. Both theatre actors, they took painstaking care in their performance, with results much appreciated at the time and still valid today.

Nando Gazzolo, recently deceased, came from a family of actors and was very famous both as a theatre actor and a voice actor. He was helped in this latter role by his warm and deep voice. Some small roles in the cinema (not very fortunate) and a bigger presence on the TV screen made him widely popular among the great public.

His Sherlock Holmes was perhaps slightly affected by the stereotype image of the British Gentleman in the Italian collective imagination, but he was good in depicting the shades and the Canonical contradictions that are typical of the true nature of the famous detective. It was his idea to give Holmes a certain sense of humour, so mitigating any excessive stiffness.

Gianni Bonagura had a long career as well, in the theatre, cinema, radio and TV. His Doctor Watson is a true surprise: ironic and smart, he goes maybe a little beyond the intentions of the author, but he gives a valid contribution towards making the dialogues more brilliant and witty and to give some rhythm to an acting that, according to the style of the era, was a bit too theatrical and academic.

Some short biographical notes about the actors in the above-mentioned radio plays:

Alessandro (Sandro) Ruffini (1889-1954). A theatre actor, he had a wonderful voice and he worked as a voice dubber until the early 1950s. He was part of the first radio drama company in Italy and acted in more than thirty movies.

Adolfo Geri (1912-1988), theater and cinema actor and voice dubber, he was part of the national radio drama company.

Angelo Calabrese, screen name of Carmelo d’Angeli (1888-1959) worked in the theatre, radio and cinema and he, too, was part of the national radio drama company.

Ubaldo Lay (1917-1984) began his career on the theatrical stage in dramatic roles, playing many roles in the cinema as a character actor, usually in “hard-boiled” parts. He played many starring roles on the radio due to his unmistakable voice and he became extremely popular in the role of American police Lt. Sheridan in several TV series and TV films produced in Italy in the 1960s and 1970s; he came to be identified with the character for the rest of his life.

Renato Cominetti (1915-2005) began his career as a theatre actor and subsequently specialized in voice dubbing and radio plays. In around thirty years of a career as a radio actor, he played in several hundreds of comedies and radio dramas.

What are some notable Sherlockian publications created in Italian? (For example, I’ve seen that the book “Viaggio in Italia” details the journey that Dr Watson’s Literary Agent took through Italy, which I think is fascinating.)

We are in fact a bit proud of that work, which took a long time researching and was the product of a multi-national cooperation, with Richard Sveum, BSI, kindly making available the reproduction of the photographs and postcards from ACD’s honeymoon photo album, and our members and friends Enrico Solito, Stefano Guerra, Ivo Lombardo and Philip Weller gathering information about the various stages of ACD’s journey in our country (more info on the book can be found at http://www.unostudioinholmes.org/inglese/acdjourney.htm).

We have, in the course of time, edited several booklets in a small collection called “Studies in Scarlet”. Subjects varied from the reproduction and analysis of a letter written by ACD to William Gillette (from the collection of our member and past President, Gabriele Mazzoni), to a translation of “The Red Circle” in Neapolitan dialect, to a reportage from Khartoum by our past President Enrico Solito (an English translation of this work can be found in The Watsonian, Vol. 3 No. 1, Spring 2015).

Several critical texts on Sherlock Holmes have been edited and published in Italy, mostly by academic researchers. One of the most important is Il segno dei tre: Holmes, Dupin, Peirce, a collection of essays about Holmes’ scientific method edited by Umberto Eco and Th. A. Sebeok (published in English under the title The Sign of Three: Dupin, Holmes, Peirce (Advances in Semiotics) in 1983.)

Our past Presidents Stefano Guerra and Enrico Solito have edited a Sherlockian encyclopedia in Italian, I diciassette scalini (The Seventeen Steps). A second revised and extended version has been published under the title Il diciottesimo scalino (The Eighteenth Step). A third edition is in preparation.

Other significant works are:
Elementare, Wittgenstein! by Renato Giovannoli
Holmes House by Alessia Martalò
Karl Popper e Sherlock Holmes by Massimo Baldini
I segreti di Sherlock Holmes edited by Massimo Centini
In viaggio con Sherlock Holmes by Marco Zatterin
Sherlock Holmes: Indagine su un mito centenario by Fabio Giovannini and Marco Zatterin

There is also an ever growing number of apocryphal novels and short stories, several of which written by our members.

Interview Series: Imagination Theater Part 4

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 part of the interview is the conclusion of our discussion. Please read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 if you haven’t yet.

Interview Series: Imagination Theater Part 3

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 and Part 2.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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.

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.

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.

Interview Series: JHWS “Pippin”

It’s been a little while since my last interview, but I’ll see about increasing the rate of occurrence from now on. On this occasion, now that we can take a breath of relief that the Fall volume is going to the printers, I’ve spoken with our Editor-in-Chief of The Watsonian, as well as our other JHWS publications: James O’Leary “Pippin.”

Carla Buttons: Please tell us about yourself and how you became a Watsonian.

Pippin: As my personal biography is a bit less interesting than watching paint dry, I’ll concentrate on how I became a Watsonian. While Sherlock Holmes is, and has been, a cultural icon since first appearing in the Strand Magazine, and I do remember seeing Mr. Magoo’s Hound of the Baskervilles, Daffy Duck in Deduce, You Say on TV, and reading the Encyclopedia Brown mysteries—“America’s Sherlock Holmes in sneaker”—starting in the fourth grade, my first introduction to Holmes and Watson was reading Hound in the sixth grade—then still a part of elementary school. Some of the language was a bit over my head at the time. But in junior high the library had an old library-bound copy of The Adventures and Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.

When I got to the coffee—or whatever—stained pages at the finish “The Final Problem”, I could believe that they were the tears of past generations of readers reacting to the death of Holmes. My high school library had a copy of the Baring-Gould Annotated and I discovered the complete Canon and Higher Criticism. I became something of a Sherlockian Fundamentalist. I refused to watch the Rathbone/Bruce movies because they were set in the 1940s, refused to see The Seven Per-Cent Solution because Watson was played by an American, refused to see Young Sherlock Holmes because the movie made them school chums, eschewed Granada series on PBS in the late 80’s after my first viewing because it was “The Greek Interpreter” and while the first half to the teleplay was very close to the story, the second half went very far afield, with action-hero Mycroft clapping a gun to a villain’s head and especially making Sophie Kratides a participant instead of a victim of Latimer and Kemp’s machinations. That was, I felt, such a violation of the character, all for the sake of a semi-Canonical crack from Brett about the untrustworthiness of woman, so that I stayed away from the show for years. I’ve mellowed since then and I now can watch and enjoy the cinematic Holmes and even find worth in some not-so-great offerings.

At the same time, high school coincided with the Great Boom of the ‘70s, so after finishing the Canon for the first time and hungering for more of Holmes’ adventures, I sought out pastiche and Higher Criticism. I read a lot of pastiche for about fifteen or so years and still very much enjoy August Derleth’s Solar Pons series, Robert L. Fish’s Schlock Holes parodies, Nicholas Meyer for capturing the Watson style so seemingly effortlessly, Richard Boyer’s The Giant Rat of Sumatra, Michael Hardwick’s Holmes and Watson “autobiographies” and a few others, but after a while the bad pastiches outnumbered the good and even Doyle on a bad day is better than 85 percent of the pastiches published.

Another factor that lead to a dramatic decrease in pastiche-reading for me is the fact that, no matter how well written or plotted or how fascinatingly they explore the personas of Holmes and Watson, they are not canon. Sherlock Holmes and John Watson exist in only 56 short stories and four novels and nowhere else. One may enjoy the Holmes and Watson of, say, BBC Sherlock or the Mary Russell series or the Granada series but they are simulacra. The Sherlockian world is a wide one and I would never deny anyone from the pleasures they find in any corner of it, and in fact you may see me in some obscure frontier from time to time, but a drawing of Benedict Cumberbatch is no more a picture of Sherlock Holmes that a drawing of William Gillette is, even if it is by Fredric Dorr Steele. There must be a definition of what is Sherlock Holmes and that can only be the 60 stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle.

My first subscription to a scholarly journal was the Baker Street Miscellanea, which in its 76 or so issues is, in my opinion, one of the greatest Sherlockian journals ever to be published. I also subscribed to the Sherlock Holmes Journal and the Baker Street Journal. Over the years, my subscription to the last two have lapsed at times due to financial fluctuations, but I’ve always maintained my interest in the Canon and Higher Criticism.

When I got on the internet in 2011, I encountered an area of Greater Sherlockiana I was only dimly aware of. As I explored and gradually participated in it, I came across a post in Brad Keefauver’s Sherlock Peoria about Don Libey and 221B Cellars and in exploring found out about the John H. Watson Society and decided to join. I only knew Don for a short time through emails but the mark he left on the Sherlockian world cannot be understated.

Earlier this year, you were invited to become our Editor-in-Chief. What were your thoughts at the time?

“My God, can they really be that desperate?”

(Carla Buttons: In response, my dear Pippin, I can only say, “The answer is obvious.”)

How do you feel about the position and its responsibilities now?

While it is work, I have such a great amount of help from such talented Sherlockians that I’m having a blast. I hope that comes through the Fall issue. At the same time the responsibilities are huge and I’m very aware of them and fortunately, I’m not alone. One of those responsibilities is to see the JHWS and The Watsonian survive and thrive after the passing of Buttons. The JHWS is a part of his legacy, but it is more. It is the spirit and camaraderie of diverse individuals coming together emulating the friendship of Holmes and Watson, and their many positive attributes, which are the best of what humanity has to offer, while acknowledging those flaws that make them human and three-dimensional.

What would you like to see in future John H Watson Society publications?

Before the tenth anniversary of the JHWS, I can see us putting out a hardcover volumes of scholarly works on John H. Watson that would rival anything put out by the BSI, SHSL or such past masters of editorship as Edgar W. Smith, Vincent Starrett or Michael Harrison and be of value to many generations of Sherlockians and Watsonians—the talent pool of the society is that great. But really, the immediate goal is to keep the JHWS going and goings strong and to make the Watsonian one of the top magazines of Sherlockiana out today. If the Fall 2015 issue gets even one lapsed Watsonian to renew their membership or one new Watsonian to join us, I would consider the issue a success. Please, we welcome input. It’s your society, let us know what you’d like to see.

What have you learned so far from putting together The Watsonian?

“Education, Gregson, education. Still seeking knowledge at the old university.” Sherlock Holmes has been my hobby for over thirty years and I still feel like a newbie. Not because I don’t know much, but that there is still so much more to learn. Sherlockiana encompasses the whole breathe of human knowledge and experience, science, medicine, history, politics, economics, music, the arts, psychology, forensics—things that are universal and still relevant today—and no matter how long someone been engaged in the hobby, they have something to teach us, something of value to impart, if only they would share it. I feel privileged working with everyone who helped with the magazine, no matter how small a part they think they played; it was in fact enormous.

Interview Series: John Longenbaugh

For the interview series, I thought it might be fun not only to speak with fellow members to learn more about each other, but also to reach out to those out there who are currently engaged in Sherlockian endeavors that would interest the John H Watson Society.

John Longenbaugh is popular writer and director here in Seattle. He’s well-known amongst local Sherlockians for his presence in the Sound of the Baskervilles, his participation in Sherlock Seattle, and also for his lovely 2010 yuletide play “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol.” He is currently working with a creative team to create an audio series that is sure to be of interest to us Watsonians, so I contacted him to talk about his new project: BRASS

    To start us off, John, may you give us an idea of what BRASS is about?

    BRASS is the story of a family of science geniuses living in a Victorian England that’s significantly different from our own. Each member of the Brass family is extraordinary in a different way. Lord Brass is an inventor and master tactician, his wife a Sherlock-level detective, his daughter Gwendolyn a mistress of disguise, and his son Cyril a formidable martial artist. Due to changes in history, the 1885 that they inhabit is filled with all sorts of strange technology, including airships, Babbage engines (mechanical computers), aetherial batteries and other unlikely innovations. It’s an adventurous and extremely optimistic world, and they are the chief agents of the Crown, leading them to be known as “The First Family of the Realm.”

    In what ways do you feel this series shall strongly appeal to Watsonians?

    Every good Victorian adventure, I believe, needs a Great Detective, because no matter how much value you might place in your trusty service revolver ultimately you need more than pluck and derring-do to uncover your villain’s plots. I thought it’d be fun to have a Sherlockian character who was not only a woman, but whose natural anti-social tendencies are balanced by an entire family of Watsons, as it were. Given the absence of her children and husband, Lady Madelyn Brass might indeed have become a “high functioning sociopath,” and as it is her intellect often frightens her family. But her powers of ratiocination and deduction are channeled to complement the formidable yet different intellects around her.

    There’s also the matter of a certain other “Great Detective,” who Lady Brass never mentions by name but has been known to call a “hawk nosed poseur.” I think it’s fun to imagine the frustration of the various “rivals of Sherlock Holmes” in a London where due to the writings of John H. Watson there’s one sleuth who has a supreme reputation.

    Can you tell us a bit about the cast and crew behind BRASS?

    BRASS is being produced by Battleground Productions. My two co-producers are Katherine Grant-Suttie and Ron RIchardson, who like me wear many creative hats. Because they’re also both actors and because I’m wily, they’re also playing the parts of Gwendolyn and Lord Brass. The actors who fill out the parts of the Brass family are Kate Kraay as Lady Brass and Jeremy Adams as Cyril, both experienced Seattle actors who have already turned in great performances for the audio series. Other actors featured on the audio series include Phillip Keiman, Tadd Morgan, Nancy Frye, Margaret Bicknell and Matt Middleton. Seattle audiences who saw my play “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Christmas Carol” will be gleeful to hear that Terry Edward Moore, who played Sherlock in that play, is also featured in the cast of BRASS.

    BRASS is happening not only as an audio series, but on stage at Seattle’s Theater Schmeater and as a short film that might evolve into a web series. This is partly because I love a good challenge (why not start your own franchise, right?) but also because I’m intrigued by the different ways that different mediums can be used to tell a story. Each of the mediums will also feature different but interlocking stories of the Family Brass. The audio series, for example, picks up just after they’ve returned to London following several years off in different parts of the Empire, and their battle against a shadowy organization of London crime bosses. The plays show us a couple of different “side quests” that the parents and children get up to, mysteries involving mysterious bodies falling from the sky, gurkhas and an ill-fated production of Oscar Wilde’s first play. (These are being co-written with Seattle playwright Louis Broome.) And the film “The Lair of the Red Widow” tells of their encounter with a villainous white-slaver who may hold the key that finally uncovers their arch-nemesis.

    Is there a site where we can learn more about this series?

    Yes! Battlegroundproductions.org is your place to find links (when we’ve got them posted) to listen to the audio series, updates on the stage show and details on our crowdsourcing campaign to film “Red Widow,” among other things.

    Aside from the launch of BRASS itself, what other events for the series is planned for the near future?

    I’ll be appearing at Portland’s GearCon Steampunk Convention on July 4th and 5th to read one of my original stories and also give a “BRASS Teaser,” which will include a live reading from the scripts with Katherine Grant-Suttie and several local actors. BRASS also fits into several other works of fiction that I’ve been writing for the last few years, so you can expect to see several ancillary characters (such as Ponder Wright, the “Mechanical Detective”) show up in other mediums.

    BRASS will branch out into different mediums, but the audio series will kick off the franchise. What made the idea of performing an audio drama so appealing to your creative team? What do you feel makes it unique to other mediums?

    The audio series made sense for two reasons. The first is that thanks to the huge popularity of such non-fiction serial drama as “Serial” as well as new radio dramas like “We’re Alive” and “Leviathan,” there’s a new interest in radio drama of various genres and forms. Podcasts and audio books are changing the way people listen to radio, and we’ve already had interest from both public radio stations and commercial radio stations for broadcast. And what’s more, radio’s a wonderful medium for being able to tell big stories with a modest budget, while drawing the listener into an intimate involvement.

    The other is that I’m a lifelong radio theatre fan. Since I was kid I’ve loved radio drama, even though in America its Golden Age was back in the 1930s and 40s. I grew up listening to recordings of shows like “Suspense,” “Escape” and “The Jack Benny Show” made many years before I was born. I had a renewed burst of interest in it when i was in college in England, as the BBC continues to produce some amazing radio theatre, including pieces written by writers of the caliber of Tom Stoppard, Samuel Beckett and others. And I’ve done some work in the past in creating radio drama, both at University and at a public radio station in my hometown of Sitka, Alaska.

    In its audio form, BRASS is a specific homage to my favorite old time radio adventure serial, “I Love a Mystery.” This was a daily radio written by Carlton E. Morse, a man equally well-known for writing a hugely successful soap opera called “One Man’s Family.” In “ILAM,” a trio of detectives travel from one unlikely adventure to another, facing murderers, cultists and criminal syndicates, all while carousing, joking and generally having a great time. The shows had wonderful titles like “Temple of the Vampires” and “Bury Your Dead, Arizona,” featuring some of the most ridiculous cliff-hangers you can imagine. Morse was able to create stories that brought together outrageous adventure with charming character development, which is precisely my goal with BRASS. I want to write stories that are fun, thrilling and feature characters you actually care about.

    (Learn more about BRASS at: http://battlegroundproductions.org/brass/)

Interview Series: JHWS “Carla Buttons”

This 2nd entry for the Interview Series is a unusual because I’m not the one giving the interview, I’m the one responding. Bob Katz JHWS “Willow” contacted me after my interview with “Cocoa” and pointed out that not a lot of people know me personally, so he volunteered to interview me.

Willow: When did you first read the Canon?

Carla Buttons: Not too long ago, actually. I grew interested in the Canon a little after I returned to the US and settled down near Seattle after several years abroad. I read the entire Canon during the summer of 2012, I believe. After that, I started listening to the BBC Radio 4 dramatization of the Canon and realized that I needed to meet more Sherlockians because I couldn’t bottle up my excitement for the stories for much longer.

What was the first Sherlockian organization that you joined and how did you hear about it?

Once I became enamored with the radio dramatizations, I wanted to share my interest with others but I didn’t have anyone to talk to about the stories. My friends are good to me, but they can only put up with my Sherlockian ramblings for so much until losing interest entirely. I was hoping to find a circle of friends who would share my interest in the Canon.

I finally found an opportunity to do this at Sherlock Seattle, a local convention. I was too shy to attend the event alone, so a friend joined me. It was there that I saw a couple sitting at a table dedicated to the Sound of the Baskervilles. The friendly couple was none other than the leaders of that scion society, Terri and David. I signed up immediately.

What was it like when you attended your first meeting?

I was more than a little nervous and shy when I went to my first meeting, but the experience turned out better than I could have ever imagined. I thought it would be awkward and that I would feel out of place, but I felt that it would be worth it because I could finally discuss Holmes and Watson’s adventures with other people. By the time the first meeting was over, I didn’t want to leave. I had made new friends, participated in a lively discussion, and learned more about the stories than I ever could on my own. It quickly became an event I look forward to every month. I rarely miss a meeting. Even when I had to miss one, I’d wish I could be at two places at once.

How did you hear about the John H Watson Society?

One friend I quickly became close to when I joined the SoB was Sheila. She became a member of the John H Watson Society when she (JHWS “Daisy”), Margie (JHWS “Gwen”), and the rest of the SoB team won the first JHWS Annual Treasure Hunt. When I told her my idea for a paper I wanted to write, she recommended that I join the JHWS and submit my paper to the Watsonian for consideration.

How did you become so involved in the activities of the JHWS? What were your initial duties and how did that evolve into your present role?

I joined and submitted “A Dissection of the Cyanea Capillata” to the Watsonian in early 2014. I don’t often write papers, but I am still quite proud of this one. It came from the heart and since it was about the BBC Radio 4 series, it allowed me to contact someone I greatly admire, Bert Coules. Mr. Coules was so kind to me that he read my paper and offered helpful corrections. I bought and mailed him a copy of the Watsonian out of gratitude.

Time passed and I participated in the JHWS as many do – taking part in the weekly discussion forum and occasionally trying my best at the weekly quizzes. Eventually, I earned my very own moniker, “Carla.” I love it. You see, the male side of my family is composed of a long line of Charles, in fact my little brother is Charles IV, so Carla would suit me fine in my family if I weren’t an Ariana. When August came around, I kept my promise to “Daisy” and “Gwen” to join their SoB team in the second annual Treasure Hunt. We won the team category and Buttons sent us each a prize. I was so proud that I could help my team complete the Hunt!

In the fall, I wanted to do more to help out the JHWS. I contacted Don “Buttons” and asked if I could help Joanne “Sandy” with the layout and design, since I was learning a lot about the process and working with an experienced designer would be a great opportunity. Within a few weeks, to my surprise, I was now in charge off all of the design and pre-press work. I was so nervous but “Buttons” was very encouraging.

After March and all that followed, my participation in the John H Watson Society has changed drastically and I’m still not sure if I’ve figured out my place yet. As “Gwen” likes to say, I’m now “TheBiB” – The Boy in Buttons. Although I would think that “A Boy in Buttons” would be more accurate – there would only ever be one true “Buttons.” So now, I still design the publications, but a great deal more work is involved in organizing volunteers, fielding questions, and numerous other things I’m trying my best to handle one day at a time.

Tell us what it’s like to do the design and layout of The Watsonian.

Most of the groundwork was done by “Sandy,” who provided me with the files before she passed the position to me. I then cleared out the pages and started the new design from there, slowly shaping how it would eventually look. A lot of the hard work comes first: How big should the text be? How should the titles look? How should the Table of Contents look? And so on. Once I’ve decided how it should go, most of the work that follows is all about making sure all of the pages stay consistent with the design.

With each new book, I’m slowly growing more and more used to the style of JHWS publications. The most difficult part for me so far is the fact that I don’t actually consider myself an artist, simply someone trying her best while stumbling through the dark. I know how to use programs to shape a book for publication, but I can’t draw a perfect circle with pen and paper to save my life. I’m simply trying my best and hope it works out OK. A few people I respect greatly, such as “Buttons” and “Sandy,” have told me I’m doing well and that they like the work I’ve done, so if they were satisfied, I’ll just keep at it and grow through the experience.

One thing I’m particularly critical about is the cover. I just can’t seem to nail down how I want it to look and I’ve made embarrassing mistakes with it so far. I need to consider a new approach, so I’m always open to suggestions.

You’ve made lots of friends around the world through the JHWS. Have you met any in person, beyond internet communication?

Not many, but I would love the opportunity to meet more fellow Watsonians. I know all of the members of the Sound of the Baskervilles who also happen to be members of JHWS. I’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing Larry “Bertie” earlier this year due to his amazing work at Imagination Theatre. I’ve spoken with Andrea “Asta” over the phone. I would love to meet so many more Watsonians, so if anyone happens to be in the Seattle area, please feel free to drop me a line.

Are you participating in Sherlockian activities beyond your local group and the JHWS? Tell us about the various organizations and their activities and traditions.

The Sound of the Baskervilles has a number of activities throughout the year and I try to take part whenever I can. A few traditions I enjoy is the Master’s Dinner we have once a year, where all of the members gather and I could meet people I haven’t encountered before. There’s also the annual Wreath Toss to symbolize Richenbach Falls, followed by a lovely meal to celebrate the return of Sherlock Holmes. I’ve also volunteered for a few activities in the past, such as giving a presentation on the history of Holmes and Watson on the radio and hosting a couple of panels at Sherlock Seattle this year.

Would you like to tell us anything about your background and career?

I’m Brazilian American. My Dad is retired in the Philippines and my Mom lives in southern Brazil. I grew up mostly in the US, Japan, and Singapore. My Portuguese skill is rather poor, but I’m fluent in Japanese and I currently work as a translator for a video game company. I love travel and I try to see family whenever I can afford to, but lately I’ve really wanted to go to places I’ve never been. I’d like to see England next, so if anyone happens to have advice on affordable accommodations and public transport, please let me know.

I’m a huge fan of comic books. I learned how to do digital lettering several years ago to help friends with their comic book projects. Now I am doing a bit of freelance work lettering for web comics and also a couple of titles for Image comics. It does not seem like glamorous work, but lettering is so essential to comics that personally it feels quite rewarding. I studied book layout and design last year in an effort to help a friend put her graphic novel together and that knowledge is what led me to work on JHWS publications.

Do you have a favorite Sherlockian film or television program?

I love The Great Mouse Detective and Without a Clue. They aren’t canonical by any means, but they are what I watch when I want to relax and laugh. Although the BBC series is fun and I love the actors, I think the Granada series did its best to stay true to the Canon, so that’s my favorite Sherlockian TV program. Above any other form of media, I love audio dramas the most, so the BBC Radio 4 series is my favorite adaption. Clive Merrison and Michael Williams are my Holmes and Watson.

What Sherlockian books do you read?

I read annotations and non-fiction Sherlockian books. My favorite book is “221 BBC” by Bert Coules, which details all of the work that went into adapting Sherlock Holmes for the radio.

I do enjoy pastiche, parody, homage, and fan fiction, but if it seems that Dr Watson is being used poorly in the story or if his role gets replaced by an entirely different character, I’m not particularly interested in it. For me, the dynamic of their friendship is as important to the story as the mystery being presented. A few of my favorite Sherlockian fictions are “Dust and Shadow” by Lyndsay Faye, “The Case of Death and Honey” by Neil Gaiman, and “The Queen’s Migration” by Elinor Gray “Misty.”

Are you a collector of any type of Sherlockiana?

I don’t collect too much. I’ve moved around so much in the past, I’ve become something of a minimalist as a result. However, if there is something that has anything to do with Sherlock Holmes on the radio, I’m interested. That much is obvious. However, I have a few treasures that I keep: a signed script for HOUN signed by Bert Coules, the entire BBC Radio 4 series collected on CD, my prize from the Treasure Hunt given to me by “Buttons,” and a few commissioned drawings from artists I greatly respect. It’s not a big collection, but I don’t have a big apartment, so that works fine for me.

Interview Series: JHWS “Cocoa”

One disadvantage of being an on-line gathering is that we rarely get the opportunity to learn more about each other as we would tend to do as part of a Scion Society that often meets in real life. I feel that I may not be the only one who is curious to learn more about our fellow Watsonians…

So, I reached out to a fellow JHWS member who kindly agreed to an interview. As a result, she allowed me to learn more about her and her Sherlockian interests. This was a very fun experience for me, so I’m honored to share my interview with Judith Freeman, “Cocoa” of the John H Watson Society.

To start off, Cocoa, I’d love to know about how you first encountered Dr. Watson’s writings.

I have been reading mystery/detective fiction since early adolescence but somehow didn’t meet Holmes & Watson until about 35 years ago. A friend and I were organizing The Maltese Falcon Society here in NY and he introduced me to members of The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes. I went to my first luncheon and was so impressed with the witty, intelligent women I had met there that I went out purchased a copy of the Doubleday Canon forthwith.

What is it about the cases of Sherlock Holmes that appeals to you as a reader?

At first it was the charm of moving back in time to the foggy streets of Victorian London. But over time, as I re-read the stories, I was attracted to the relationship between the Holmes & Watson.

Aside from the John H Watson Society, what are some other Sherlockian groups and activities that you enjoy?

Where to begin? I’ve been a member of ASH since the early 1980’s. The NYC area has five active scions and I’ve been to meetings of all of them. Over the years I’ve also attended special events like Autumn in Baker Street and the Scintillation of Scions, as well as gatherings in Chicago, Toronto, etc. I even attended the last of legendary John Bennett Shaw’s workshops. In addition to the Watsonian I’ve been published in the Muse, the BSJ and other journals.

Currently I’ve cut back my level of activity to being the current discussion leader of the on-line group WelcomeHolmes and I am the Headmistress of The Priory Scholars of NYC.

How did it come about that you became Headmistress of the Priory Scholars of NYC?

You could say I inherited the position. I had been working with the late Joe Moran for several years. He was the head of scion and I took care of the administrative stuff. Due to personal issues Joe was unable to continue as Headmaster and, in 2006, the scion went on hiatus. When I retired I decided to rehabilitate Priory and in 2012 we began to meet again.

If you’re interested in the history of The Priory Scholars of NYC, please check out our web page: https://prioryscholarsnyc.wordpress.com/about/

What activities does your position of Headmistress entail?

They’re still mostly administrative; including scheduling, emailing the announcements, following up on communications, selecting subjects for the homework assignments, coordinating with the other members of the faculty in selecting the story for discussion, etc. In other words doing whatever needs doing.

I’ve recruited several of the younger local Sherlockians to participate in running the scion. We currently have a “faculty” that consists of a discussion leader (Nick Matorelli, member of JHWS), a Bursar (Chris Zordan also member of JHWS), a Web Mistress and a Quiz Master. I even created a manual, “How to Start and Run a Sherlockian Group” to help them.

At my local scion society, the Sound of the Baskervilles in Seattle, Washington, we open every meeting with a toast to Murray and finish every meeting with a recitation of “221B” by Vincent Starrett. This is our most constant tradition. So, in your case, Cocoa, have you noticed any unique traditions for the Priory Scholars and also for the other NYC scion societies?

Over the last three years we’ve evolved a successful format. We have 4 short toasts; always one to Holmes & Watson and 3 that are related to items in the story. We also have 4 homework assignments (mini papers); one is a synopsis of the story and three others that explore significant aspects of the story under discussion and are presented during the course of said discussion. Limiting the amount of time for both the toasts and homework assignments helps keeps the meeting flowing. Several of the “students” presentations have been published in the Serpentine Muse.

And also, are there any traditions among the different societies that are similar in nature to each other?

Most of the local scions have toasts; many have either discussions and/or presentation of papers. But each of the local scions has their own traditions and program format. For instance The Three Garridebs always have a toast to the wives of Dr. Watson. The Epilogues in NJ always discuss two stories concurrently. Mrs. Hudson’s Cliffdwellers, also in NJ, often have games and/or contests as part of their program.

Why do you think New York City is such a popular gathering place for enthusiastic Sherlockians?

The five (actually six) local scions are spread out over the tri-state area. There are the Epilogues and Mrs. Hudson’s Cliffdwellers in New Jersey. In New York there are the Montague Street Lodgers in Brooklyn, The Priory Scholars in Manhattan and The Three Garridebs in Westchester. The Men on the Tor are located in Conn. Many of the local Sherlockians go to as many of the meetings as their schedules permit.

Through your interaction with local scion societies and from working with younger Sherlockians in the Priory Scholars of NYC, what are your thoughts on the next generation of Sherlockian scholarship?

That’s a complicated question to answer. When reading a journal like the Watsonian or the Muse you don’t always know the writer and therefore would have no way of knowing their age. Also I tend to skip through articles on subjects that are not of interest to me. However I must say that I have been very impressed by the presentations of the younger members of Priory Scholars. I think the future will continue to provide us with entertaining scholarship from the younger Sherlockians.