Periodically, the Society will shine the limelight on one of our distinguished members in order to better illuminate their Watsonian/Sherlockian contributions to The Game and the Canonical Dialogue that has been expanding apace these hundred years and more.
- 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: 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: 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.
- The Limelight Illuminates a Great Sherlockian and Bookman’s Career: Vincent Brosnan, JHWS “Beeton” and the Venerable “Sherlock in L.A.”
We learn of Mr Brosnan’s passing on 28 December 2013. We have stood upon the terrace for the last time and “Beeton” is now a distinguished Honourary Emeritus Member (1933-2013).
Our Charter Member, Vincent Brosnan, is known by legions of Sherlockians around the world as “Vinnie” and as one of the legendary Bookmen of the last half century. Mr Brosnan resides, as he has for many years, in Oceanside, California, south of Los Angeles. Here, we spotlight one of the nobles, one of the Sherlockian aristocracy.
Vincent reminisces . . .
“In my high school days (the late 1940s), I was exposed to the world of Sherlock Holmes in three distinct ways: by reading the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories; by watching the Universal Studio movies that were in production starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce; and by listening to the weekly radio program sponsored by Petri Wine and also starring Rathbone and Bruce. I was totally taken by the radio programs which allowed full range to my imagination and appreciation of Rathbone’s unique voice and inflection which made the action believable. I believe it was the combination of Rathbone’s voice and the inciting of my imagination that was the mainspring of my love for Sherlock Holmes. Another influence was the romance of the Victorian Age which was inbred as my father was a true Dickensian.
Going forward to 1959: an important year of my life. I graduated in January from the Cinema Department at the University of Southern California and began the almost impossible task of finding employment in Hollywood. By June, with no prospects in sight, I was discouraged and running out of needed cash. There was a bookstore in downtown Los Angeles that had displayed on its top shelf the three volume Heritage set of Sherlock Holmes, The Later Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. The books were priced at five dollars each. I knew I couldn’t afford it, but I bought them anyway, and it was a purchase that changed my life.
At that time, my nights were sleepless. To relieve my restlessness, I took up my Sherlock Holmes adventures. I read them all two or three times and was completely captivated. What a wonder these stories were, a perfect mixture of charm and adventure. They helped alter my spirit and attitude. Soon afterwards, in June, I got my foot in the door at the NBC Studios in Burbank–the start of a thirty-three year career.
Does Sherlock deserve credit? You bet he does! With a paycheck in my wallet, I could let loose some of my collecting urges and all the fun that comes with it. Up to that time, I had never joined a Sherlock Holmes club, better known as scions. I took a different route. Over time, my collection grew, resulting in an overfilled garage, and my dear wife pointed out the need for clearing it out. This crisis has not changed in over forty years of marriage. Nevertheless, the crisis was of good fortune. I formed my book service and named it Sherlock in L.A. Since then, fourteen privately printed catalogues featuring many great Sherlockian book collections for sale have been produced and all were well-illustrated and, more import, well-received by the Sherlockian collector world. Among those memorable sales of great collections was the John H Watson Society Emeritus Founding Member, the late Col. Ted Schulz, who is featured here in the Watsonian Limelight. The extensive catalogue of his collection is now a collector’s item in its own right.
In 1988, I became an active member of the Trained Cormorants, one of the oldest scions in the U.S. (founded in 1947) and I became the custodian of their archives. Shorty thereafter, I formed a publishing arm named The Sherlock n L.A. Press and produced three major monographs, all of which are now highly collectible. The first was The Sherlock Holmes Mother Gooseby Paula Salo; the second was The Trained Cormorants 60th Anniversary Commemorative which was the scion’s history accompanied by many archival photographs; and the third was The Sage of Santa Fe: Adventures and Public Life of John Bennett Shaw written by Susan Rice and myself.
It was with the Cormorants that I attended many of the important conferences and other Sherlockian gatherings in the 1990s. One was in 1995 for the dedication of the John Bennett Shaw Library at the University of Minnesota. The prior year, my dear wife Flavia and I went to London for the Back to Baker Street Festival where I met and friended Dame Jean Conan Doyle, who was Conan Doyle’s daughter and the last of the Conan Doyle descendants. This, I would add, was one of the great highlights of my life, and there have been many. I was so glad I was wearing a hat with her father’s name on it; I could see how happy this made her.
The other event, which ranks as one of the great surprises of my life, was my introduction by Michael Whelan, the Wiggins, into the Baker Street Irregulars. My investiture is “That Gap on That Second Shelf,” which is a line spoken by Holmes while disguised as an old bookman.
How fitting were these words for a bookman like myself. In reading over this thumb nail sketch, you can appreciate how my life’s journey with Sherlock Holmes led to many rewards and new friends. But this, of course, is only part of the story. There is so much more to be said and remembered. I have always viewed my collecting endeavors as one of responsibilities; that is, to inform, educate, and advance many Sherlockians on the significant studies, scholarship, and endless variety of pastiches that have gone before. This is a wide subject which, for right now, I have to put on hold.”
* * * *
We very much thank Mr Brosnan for this intimate look at a life of Sherlockian and Watsonian devotion. Buttons, himself an antiquarian book dealer, has long known of the fine reputation and high respect accorded Mr Brosnan by the book trade professionals. Among Sherlockian book collectors, the name Vinnie Brosnan is always mentioned with awe and reverence. He has decades of history as a Bookman of integrity, fairness and scrupulous standards, and that is achievement enough for any life. The Society is honoured to have Vincent Brosnan, JHWS “Beeton” as a member and, it must be noted: his Society moniker, a reference to the priceless Beeton’s Christmas Annual, was specially chosen by the Chair, Don Yates, to signify Mr Brosnan’s rarity, his value, and his pre-eminent position in the Sherlockian world.
- Prof. Don Yates, JHWS “Pal,” BSI “The Greek Interpreter” Presented with the Dr Bryce L. Crawford Award
Our Founding Chair, Don Yates, has received the following award from the Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections:
The 2013 Dr Bryce L. Crawford, Jr. Award for an outstanding essay in the tradition of the purist form of scholarship was presented in absentia to Dr Donald A. Yates, BSI for his article “Sherlockian Memories” which appeared in the September 2012 issue of the Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections Newsletter.
Announcement of the award was made by Richard Sveum, MD, JHWS “Marco,” BSI “Doctor Hill Barton,” President of the Friends of Sherlock Holmes Collections. Dr Sveum commented:
“Congratulations, you were given the Bryce Crawford, Jr. Award at the Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Annual Membership Meeting held in conjunction with the triennial Minnesota conference, Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Place. The award is given to the best article published in the Friends Newsletter in the last year. You will be sent the certificate by mail. There were over 140 people attending the conference and we were sorry that you had to be awarded it in absentia. We did highlight your ongoing work with the John H Watson Society and that organization’s generosity to the University of Minnesota.
Bryce Crawford was a distinguished Professor of Chemistry at the University of Minnesota and a founder of the Norwegian Explorers who like to say that Sherlockian scholarship was the purist form of scholarship, no money, no academic advancement, just pure love of the subject. ”
The Society congratulates Prof Yates on his award and is pleased to reprint the article in its entirety for our members to enjoy. Reprinted courtesy of University of Minnesota Libraries. Sherlock Holmes Collections; first appearing in “Friends of the Sherlock Holmes Collections Newsletter”, Volume 16, Number 3:
I have just read Alexander Woollcott’s essay, “The Baker Street Irregulars,” which first appeared in The New Yorker over seventy-five years ago (December 29, 1934) and was later included under the heading of “Shouts and Murmurs V” in Woollcott’s Long, Long Ago (New York: Macmillan, 1943). The spirit of the B.S. I, as I have come to know it, is magically evoked by Woollcott in this essay. I recall that this same rollicking, pseudo-serious tone was somehow transferred intact to the gatherings of the Amateur Mendicant Society that I began attending in Detroit in the mid-fifties. That mood was lovingly evoked by Russell McLauchlin and Robert Harris, the group’s leaders.
In 1956 I presented a paper to the Mendicants entitled, “A Final Illumination of the Lucca Code.” Russ McLauchlin like it and suggested that I submit it for possible publication in the Baker Street Journal, then edited by Edgar Smith. Smith wrote back that he wanted it for the magazine and I received a total of six two-cent postcards from his leading up to the essay’s publication later that year. Smith was extremely friendly, outgoing and encouraging, making me feel very welcome to the Journal’s pages, urging me to subscribe and putting in a plug also for The Sherlock Holmes Journal. The following year he enthusiastically accepted a crossword puzzle that I had constructed, based on The Hound of the Baskervilles.
When I moved from suburban Farmington, outside Detroit, to East Lansing in 1957 and resurrected the Greek Interpreters of East Lansing, which Page Heldenbrand had founded in 1945, I carried the style of the Mendicant gatherings with me and passed it on effortlessly to the faithful there who joined in our celebrations of Baker Street for a period of more than two decades.
I wrote Smith about the Intrepreters’ resuscitation dinner, and he wrote again, indicating that “As representing a full-fledge Scion, you are now eligible to send a delegate to the Annual Dinner.” Of course I went.
So in January of 1960, when I attended that first Baker Street Irregulars dinner in New York City, I discovered —perhaps not to my surprise but to my wonderment—a reverent and at the same time playful mood that was identical to that I had encountered at the gatherings of the Detroit Mendicants. We met that night at Cavanaugh’s Restaurant, at 258 West Twenty-Third, where, as Edgar noted in my invitation, “the penalty is sixteen dollars, and the rewards will be out of proportion. Old Irregular Rex Stout will be the Gasogene’s chair.”
I have to say that my association with the bright and witty people who share a singular regard for Baker street and its two most famous roomers has been one of the keenest pleasures of my lifetime. That night I met and talked with—among others—Edgar, of course, Rex Stout, Basil Davenport, H. W. Starr, Thomas McDade, Ernest Zeisler, Howard Haycraft, and Earle Walbridge. It was a wonderful evening: filled with the singular delights previously enjoyed in the company of the Mendicants, but now somehow raised to a more intense level.
I also met for the first and only time Page Heldenbrand, one of the youngest of the Irregulars, whose life was sadly so brief. It was he who had preceded me—as a student at Michigan State back in the mid-forties–as the founder and moving force behind the short-lived Greek Interpreters of East Lansing. Since the group met first in 1945 it thus qualified as the fourth or fifth such group to be established in the U.S. It was, in any case the first of the many academic scions founded thereafter.
I had a long conversation that evening with Earle Walbridge, who, it turned out, was the curator of the magnificent library housed at the Harvard Club. I remember strolling with him afterwards as far as Gramercy Park, where he lived, engaged in a long chat about subjects Sherlockian. His gift that night was to make me feel as an equal among the luminaries I had rubbed elbows with at the dinner.
When in 1982 Joanne and I pulled up stakes and moved from East Lansing to St. Helena in California’s Napa Valley, we were greeted most cordially by Ted and Mary Schulz of San Rafael, and were welcomed to the gatherings of San Francisco’s scion, The Scowrers and Molly Maguires, which we have enjoyed for more than a quarter century.
In 1984, Joanne and I founded the Napa Valley Napoleons of S.H., a convivial group of Holmes admirers that thenceforth came together four times a year to greet the new seasons and to try out a new restaurant each time. (I want to point out that we followed this program out of a desire for variety and not because we were unwelcome at dining establishments where we had raised a ruckus before, restaurants whose other diners never failed to be astonished when around our dessert time some forty or fifty souls suddenly broke out with “God Save the Queen.”) One highlight that stands out in my memory was our S.H.-to-the-third-power dinner—Sherlock Holmes in Saint Helena at Sutter Home, an occasion celebrated at the winery’s Victorian mansion.
In April of 2004, our loyal members got together for dinner at St. Helena’s Pinot Blanc restaurant and that night lifted our glasses to the memory of twenty years of the Napoleons’ doings in our valley.
Now for a look back at my own beginnings. My introduction to the world of Sherlock Holmes came in 1944 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, when my mother bought for me—as a gift on the occasion of my graduation from Slauson Junior High School—the Doubleday edition of The Complete Sherlock Holmes. I read through it, assiduously underlining
significant passages, making marginal notes, keeping track of all of Holmes’s disguises, all the unrecorded cases, the official police figures participating in each adventure, and so on. Why I attacked the Holmes stories in this way, I do not know. I suspect that I had become alerted to such particular features of Holmes’s universe in the head notes (composed by editor Fred Dannay) to the stories that were appearing in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, which I had discovered in 1943. Another possible source for this fascination with the minutiae of the Baker Street scene was Ellery Queen’s (Fred Dannay’s) anthology, The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes (wonderful title!), published in 1944, along with two other books devoted to Holmes—Edgar Smith’s Profile by Gaslight (evocative title)—and Christopher Morley’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship, both also published in 1944. Somehow, at age 14 I was able to dig up the money and I bought all three of them.
These books were the cornerstones of the large collection of Sherlockiana that I assembled over the years, including Doyle first editions (English and American) of all the Holmes adventures (except, of course, for the Beeton’s appearance of A Study in Scarlet), many bound Strand magazines with Holmes tales, many works of criticism, complete runs of theSherlock Holmes Journal, The Baker Street Journal, The Baker Street Miscellanea and other periodicals, and a signed and inscribed copy of Doyle’s autobiography, Memories and Adventures.
I received my Titular Investiture in the Baker Street irregulars at the January, 1972, dinner. It was Will Oursler who proposed me for membership (which was the way things were handled in those days). When I heard him read the credentials for the recipient of the Investiture of “Mr. Melas,” I said to myself—being totally unprepared for this honor—“That sounds a lot like me.” And so it was. Later, when the Investiture of “The Greek Interpreter” became available, Julian Wolff, at my request, withdrew “Mr Melas” and bestowed the former title on me.
I have made many contributions to Sherlockian magazines—poetry, essays, articles, scion reports, obituaries and book reviews. At the B.S.I. dinners I have offered toasts and read papers and poetry composed for the occasion. And over the years I have enjoyed lasting friendships with many Sherlockians, one of the earliest of which (and most fondly remembered) was my acquaintanceship with Vincent Starrett of Chicago whom I visited on numerous occasions when my travels took me to that city. Cherished mementos of my decade-long association with him, one of the last great bookmen of the century past, are his handwritten letters, a signed photograph and a holograph transcription of his immortal sonnet, “221B,” with a dedication to me. It stands alone as the most prized and meaningful symbol of the pleasure I have taken from a life-long and unflagging admiration for Sherlock Holmes and enduring devotion to the saga of Baker Street.
Finally, I would like to describe what was for me a memorable—and possibly unique–occasion of Holmes-inspired theater that took place recently in St. Helena, the spiritual home of the Napa Valley Napoleons. For five years we have met at the Silverado Restaurant and Brewery on the second morning after Christmas to dispatch an appropriate goose dinner and commemorate the events of the Holmes adventure titled “The Blue Carbuncle”. Long in advance of the December 2010 gathering, I wrote a short story using as its setting the previous 2009 goose dinner and discussion of “The Blue Carbuncle”. I imagined a genial local chief of police and threw in speaking parts for a handful of identifiable Napoleons and put together a story that had the chief describing the details of a St. Helena murder case and, withholding the solution, challenged the group to solve the crime. I called the story “A Study in Scarlatti,” the latter being the name of the stabbing victim who was discovered murdered in the guest home of an estate winery.
Jasnet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, liked the story and agreed to run it in the next February issue (2011), which traditionally always carries some Holmes-related material. That issue was released in December in time for me to have some three-dozen copies sent for distribution at the dinner. Beforehand, I assigned the speaking parts to willing participants, so that that year’s meeting featured a dramatic reading of a story that had as its setting to the very circumstances in which it was being read. In its way, it was a very strange and dizzying experience. The non-speaking Napoleons enthusiastically joined in with appropriately timed gasps and applause and we all agreed that we had felt a very curious sense of other-worldliness. And everyone went home with a printed version of the events of the goose dinner that they had just participated in!
Donald A. Yates, PhD, is Professor Emeritus of Romance Languages from Michigan State University. He is a foremost translator and scholar of the works of Jorge Luis Borges, the great Argentine writer, and Dr Yates is currently at work on a new biography of Borges based on his personal friendship with him over many years. He and his lovely bride, Dr Joanne Yates, reside in St. Helena, California in the beautiful Napa Valley wine country.
- Col. Ted Schulz, BSI “The Amateur Mendicant Society,” JHWS, “Captain”
An Emeritus Member We All Shall Miss
The Life and Times of Ted Schulz
Now and then–but rarely–one is privileged to have passed this way and known a true gentleman and wondrous person. These are the ornaments of a life, and they come to us spontaneously and with little fanfare. They are ethereal in their goodness and perfection; one knows instinctively that one is in the company of a Higher Spirit. Such a person was Ted Schulz who returned to the The Reichanbach Falls on January, 24, 2013, and we believe did so with joy in his sight, as he would be meeting his dear Mary in the mist of the Falls they both loved so much.
Col. Ted Schulz in his own words:
“I have lived a good life, you might say a charmed life. Married to the beautiful, gracious Mary Chizuko Iwaki for 54 years. She was a pharmacist, I a soldier. We achieved modest success in life. Mary was Chief Pharmacist at a large California hospital, I got to be a Colonel in the U.S. Army.
I was born in San Francisco at Mt. Zion Hospital on June 2, 1923 of William John Schulz and Marie Hortense Grandi. I have only one sibling, a younger sister, Wilma Horwitz. She is a widow and lives in Orinda. My parents lived in a pair of flats at 2332 and 2234 Divisadero St., in The City. My father’s mother “Grandma” and my father’s sister “Louise” aka “Aunt Lou” lived in the upstairs flat. In addition to Aunt Lou, my Dad had a younger brother, Fred. Fred was married to Audry, who was a “Schultz” before she became a “Schulz”
My parents loved me and protected me and my sister. During the “Great Depression” I never missed a meal or didn’t have a bed to sleep in. I was completely unaware that those were “hard times.”
* * * *
Ted was a ray of sunshine. A realist and a deep thinker, he has collected many Sherlock Holmes collectibles. He read Sherlock Holmes and was a widely-regarded Canonical expert. He referred to himself, with his unfailing graciousness, as an “enthusiast.”
His catalog of Sherlock Holmes books, magazines, pamphlets and ephemera listing over 1,000 items offered to collectors in the 1990s is a collectible itself. He was long a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, invested by Julian Wolff in 1961 as “The Amateur Mendicant Society.” He belonged to San Francisco’s scion, The Scowerers and the Molly Maguires and the Persian Slipper Society. He was a loyal member of the scion club, The Napa Valley Napoleons of S.H. He had belonged to The Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, and ran the famous “221B Detachment” of the Soldiers of Baker Street (The S.O.B.’s), more familiarly known as “The Flying Squad” while stationed in Washington, D.C. On his twenty-fifth anniversary of the BSI, he was duly recognized and honoured with the Two-Shilling Award.
Along the way, John Ruyle, BSI “Baron Dawson” wrote a poem about Ted Schulz and Watson:
Ted Schulz and Watson
Between Ted Schulz and Watson
there is little to choose.
They’re both trusty comrades
who are always of use.
Yes, Teddy and John,
the sound is melodious.
This is a case where
comparisons are not odious.
Both are old soldiers
who stalked down their quarry,
And both found a treasure
in a wife named Mary.
Both have a humor
which is frequently pawky:
Ted’s son’s “William Sherlock,”
Fondly called “Shocky.”
Ted like Watson is loyal
and you can’t circumvent him.
If he didn’t exist,
we’d have to invent him!
* * * *
Ted was also an enthusiast of August Derlith’s Solar Pons stories. With his usual enthusiasm, he rose to become The Lord High Warden of the Pontine Marshes, the Solar Pons Scociety and did much to further the aims of this distinguished group.
Tributes by John H Watson Society Members
There have been many who have honoured Ted Schulz with their reminiscenses and memories, and several from our own John H Watson Founding and Charter Members provide us with a view of the high regard Ted Schulz engendered in everyone he met during his fascinating and interesting life: (These are from the catalogue showcasing Ted’s book collection prepared by Mr. Vincent Brosnan in the late 1990s.)
Peter Blau, BSI “Black Peter,” JHWS “Curly”
It’s been forty-one years, actually, since I first met Ted Schulz, in the same place I’ve met many other Sherlockians: in the pages of The Baker Street Journal. Ted was in the U.S. Army in Japan in the 1950s, when I was briefly in Japan in the U.S. Navy, but neither of us knew the other was there. In fact, neither of us knew of any Sherlockians, Japanese or American, in Japan at that time. I returned to the United States in July 1956, but he stayed out in Japan for another year.
And Ted was more enterprising than I had been: he went to a Japanese bookstore in search of translations of the Canon, and he found one: Mei Tantei Homuzu (with The Hound of the Baskervilles and “The Red-Headed League”), and he bought not just one copy, but rather a hundred of them, and he wrote to Edgar W. Smith about his discovery, and offered the books to his fellow Sherlockians, in the October 1957 issue of The Baker Street Journal, at cost: $1.00 each.
That was the first Japanese translation to find its way into my modest Sherlockian collection (all Sherlockian collections were modest in those long-ago days, of course, because there wasn’t all that much Sherlockiana to collect). It was a wonderful introduction to Ted, of course; we began a correspondence, and soon we were able to meet, what with both of us being members of the same late-50s-early-60s Sherlockian generation, and we have been friends ever since, and we’ve met often, most recently in New York this year when he proudly watched his wife Mary toasted as “The Woman” at the cocktail party before the annual dinner of the Baker Street Irregulars.
The room was full of Ted and Mary’s friends, because they have so many of them acquired over the decades, and treasured. It is the friendships formed over the decades that have made the Sherlockian world so much fun for us, and I’m looking forward to seeing some of the other stories told by other friends in this well-deserved tribute.
Michael Kean, BSI “General Charles Gordon,” JHWS “Toby”
A tribute that even begins to capture the generosity of Ted Schulz would take all of the pages of this catalogue; his heart is truly that big. There are few people as caring and considerate as Ted, and I’m blessed to be one of those individuals who has experienced it firsthand.
I met Ted at one of my first BSI dinners in the late 70s, and when some years later we again crossed paths, and I told him of the Kean family’s planned move to the Monterey Peninsula, he was delighted. It was through Ted that I received invitations to the Scowrers meetings and becmae part of the Persian Slipper Club. It was Ted who, over a dozen years ago, helped this enthusiastic amateur collector fully appreciate the magic of spending time together in a Sherlockian library.
The Kean family has visited the Schulz’s home on numerous occasions, and I’m happy to say, Ted and Mary have often returned the favor of visiting our home and The Diogenes Club. I recall a July 4th weekend visit to Marin when our children Megan and Adam were both quite young, and how patient and genuinely loving Ted was. I think he took special delight in knowing that someone else had also gifted his son with a Canonical name.
In this day and age it may not be fashionable to use the term “sweet” when referring to a man, but it readily applies to Ted Schulz, as does generous, caring and enthusiastic. But the term I value the most when describing Ted is “friend.”
Thank you, Ted.
Bruce Parker, BSI “A Garroter by Trade,” JHWS “Oxford”
Ted and I first met at a meeting of the Scowrers and Molly Maguires in San Francisco shortly after I moved to Californina. Although I had known Sherlockians most of my life, I had never met anyone as enthusiastic as Ted. The beauty of Ted, of course, is that he is as enthusiastic about life in general as he is about Holmes in particular. When it comes to relieving a down mood, Ted is better than Prozac.
By the early 1980s he and I, prodded by our wives, decided that we had to dispose of some books from our overly-loaded libraries. It seemed that it would be more fun to sell at book fairs or through the mail than to just dispose of them through established dealers. We registered with the State of California, had business cards and bookmarks designed by Laura Parker, and went to our first fair at Dominican College in Marin County. The turnout was modest, the sales poor, but Ted made friends with every dealer present. Our next venture was a book fair at Stanford University. The crowds were excellent, the selling brisk, and it looked like we had a going concern. Ted, however, showed his true colors as a bookman. Periodically he would leave me in charge of the booth while he went out to greet other dealers. Unfortunately for the bottom line, he invariably returned with more books than we sold! Parker and Schulz, book dealers, met an early demise after the Stanford Book Fair.
I have been privileged to meet many wonderful people in my life but none so genuinely human as Ted Schulz. As Sherlockian collector, husband, father, grandfather, teacher, and friend, he sets a standard few of us can ever hope to match. Ted’s book collection has been a source of pride to him for years. Those people wise enough to purchase one of his books will receive not just another book, but one that was always treated with love and respect by one of the most decent human beings God ever created.
Don Yates, BSI “The Greek Interpreter,” JHWS “Pal”
When Joanne and I moved to California from MIchigan in 1982, I recall that we enjoyed no welcome more immediate and cordial than the warm reception accorded to us–as relocating Sherlockians–by Ted Schulz, of nearby San Rafael. Someone in the BSI had alerted Ted to our plans and he was promptly on the phone to us in Calistoga, making us feel like visiting royalty. This was especially important at the time because we were not yet sure that our rose-colored determination to pursue our lives in California was feasible or merely foolish. Ted really did make us feel at home out here and, in the end, we were able to make our hoome in our chosen Napa Valley–within hailing distance of other eventual west-coast pals whom Ted introduced us to: Laura Parker, Ray and Grets De Groat, Bob Steele, Bruce and Nan Parker, to name but a few of these “kinspirits” as Ted is wont to call them.
Ted, who was awarded a noble investiture, “The Amateur Mendicant Society” (my very first exposure to scion activities was with the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit), has probably performed more yoeman service in the interest of the BSI and Sherlockain studies in general than anyone else in the American west. Others will surely invoke Ted as an archivist, as a collector, an information center, and as a cohesive force who has for years kept the memory of Sherlock Holmes alive and thriving in this part of the world. But I want to stress here especially the unswerving friendship and inexhaustible hospitality that he, together with Mary, have treated so many of us to for so long, in the essential and characteristic spirit of Baker Street Irregulars conviviality.
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Ted served in the armed forces for a long time; World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. during the war. He became a Regular Army officer, and retired as a Colonel. He thought himself fortunate that he never came under direct fire, and that he never fired a shot in anger.
Ted’s John H Watson Society moniker, “Captain” is not a military reference, rather the name of a loyal and faithful dog who visited his master’s grave every day until he himself passed on. Such was the pure loyalty, steadfastness and devotion of Ted Schulz.
Perhaps Ted’s summary best expresses his gentle life: “I’m a most fortunate fellow! I was born healthy, I married very well (I married “up”), I have (am blessed with) two fine children.”
When one comes to The Reichenbach Falls, turns and looks back for a moment, there can be no satisfaction greater than having lived a life as full, loving, kind and gracious as that attested to by these good friends and fellow Sherlockians. And so, we celebrate a Life in the Limelight, a good and meaningful life. Please stand and raise your glass and give a final toast to “Ted Schulz, Sherlockian, Kind and Good Human “KinSpirit.””