Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Monthly Meeting Minutes - 2nd October 2018

The Shingle of Southsea Holmesian Society
Monthly Meeting Minutes

Date of Meeting: 2nd October 2018

Location of Meeting:
The Sherloft, My House, Portsmouth, UK

Attendees:
"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller)

Apologies:
"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) did not apologise.

The Toasts:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) made the following toast to Rathbone and Bruce:

Here dwell together still two actors of note
Whose fourteen films still survive.
How near they are brought by my remote
From that age before Hollywood went all awry.
But still the game's afoot in modern years
On Amazon Prime, DVDs or rays of blu.
Rathbone is Rathbone yet, for all our fears -
Only those things old Bruce believes are true.

Boobus Brittanicus double-takes once again,
As Basil astounds with a mental feat.
The lonely hansom's replaced by an enemy plane;
Displaced Victorians and World Wars meet.
Here, though HD prevails, these two survive
And it is always that period from 1939 to 1946 which unfortunately does not rhyme or scan.

Motions:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) proposed that in honour of John Bennet Shaw the society should create it's own list of the fifty Holmesian books it has read so far and believes every Holmesian should have. All opposed but "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) came out with this anyway:

The Shingle's Fifty
Basic Shinglian Library

The Shaw's One Hundred Basic Holmesian Library is good, isn't it. In an act of extreme arrogance, I've decided to make the Shingle's fifty list. Obviously, this is my fifty. I have odd tastes. Your fifty might be different. You should write your fifty.


The Sacred Writings
All you really need in terms of The Canon is whatever version of all sixty unabridged stories you can get your hands on. The text is all that matters, not how it is presented. Sure the Paget and Steele illustrations are wonderful to see, but it's the adventures that we really fall in love with.

Any old hardback version of the complete Sherlock Holmes stories by Arthur Conan Doyle
You're going to want your work-a-day copy of The Canon. It's going to get used a lot. You need to not be upset when it gets damaged and it needs to be sturdy enough to stand up to your abuse. Personally, I use a nice red cloth bound hardback by the Wordsworth Library Collection that I got from a charity shop for two quid. Annoyingly, though, I now DO care about it because it is the one I always have to hand. Humans, eh? Go figure.
The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (Three Volumes) edited by Leslie S Klinger
For a reference on all matters Holmesian there is no better starting point that these three books. Building on the work of Baring-Gould, the heavy annotations provide insights into just about every part of every story. With details of important further reading on each insight, whatever your Holmesian interest, these books quickly prove their immeasurable value.
The Annotated Sherlock Holmes (Two Volumes) edited by William S Baring-Gould
While much of the content of these two books can be found in Klinger's more modern versions, they still have much to offer. If I could only get one set, I'd chose Klinger's. But I'd hate to have to make that choice.


Reference
A lot of the details in the Canon went straight over my head the first time I read them. A Holmesian encylopaedia certainly improved the stories the next time I went through them.

The Encyclopaedia Sherlockiana by Jack Tracy
A dictionary of every confusing Victorian term, every Character and every story in The Canon. When you are trying to remember who the canary trainer was or are confused by what growler used to mean, this is the book you'll be reaching for.
Sherlock Holmes Esq and John H Watson MD; An Encyclopedia of Their Affairs by Orlando Park
A very similar book to Tracy's Encyclopedia. It offers a few bits of information which Tracy does not and vice versa. Again, I'd prefer not to choose, but if I had to settle for just one of the two it would be Tracy. That said, neither are ever very far from my desk.
Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson; The Chronology of their Adventures by H W Bell
There are lots of books on Holmesian chronology out there, largely because of the difficulties involved in making sense of Watson's dating of cases. I am fortunate that my city library hold the Lancelyn Green Bequest so I have had the opportunity to browse through several of these books. Bell is easily my favourite. I flick through the library copy whenever I can and it always leaves me grinning like a loon.
The Canonical Compendium by Stephen Clarkson
The Canonical Compendium  has been a kicking off point for several of my own researches. If you want to know where all the birds, books or beards are in The Canon, this is worth its weight in gold. It's the index of indexes every serious Holmesian should have.
The Elementary Sherlock Holmes by Portico Books
An odd little reference book, based upon the information available in The Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia. It is a delightful book of facts presented beautifully. You could live without it, but you shouldn't have to.


Writings on the Writings
There are lots of books of writings on the writings. And they all seem so vital. I've picked out the few that really resonated with me, because to list all the great volumes out there would take way too long and be too big to be of value. I've kept it to my top four, because there were too many contenders for fifth place.

Ladies, Ladies: The Women in the Life of Sherlock Holmes edited by Patricia Guy and Katherine Karlson
A really thought provoking book. Every one of the collected essays gives you something new to think about.
Unpopular Opinions by Dorothy L Sayers
The Holmesian section of this book is so wonderfully written that I tore through it with glee.
Essays in Satire by Ronald Knox
This book includes the wonderful essay by Knox on "Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes". While it can be argued whether the flow of Holmesian study was started by this essay, it certainly gave the tap a few heavy turns. For that reason alone, you should be familiar with it.
Sherlock Holmes by Gas Lamp edited by Philip A Shreffler
There's too much going on in this collection of essays to summarise. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed them.


On Conan Doyle
I must confess to not being as interested in Doyle as I am Holmes. My selections for this section will be slight and entirely self-serving. There are much better Doyleans out there to question for book recommendations.

A Study In Southsea by Geoffrey Stavert
My interest in this volume stems from living in the area discussed. Whether others would find it as absorbing, I cannot say. I was rather keen though.
The Doyle Diary by Charles Altamont Doyle
A facsimile print of one of the diaries kept by Charles Doyle (father to Arthur) during his time in a mental institution. I found it utterly fascinating. Some of his watercolours are exquisite and much of his writing is intriguing. It's not really about Arthur, I suppose, but what can I do?
Conan Doyle Detective by Peter Costello
This look at Doyles involvement in solving real life crimes is engaging and exciting.


Other Non-Fiction
There are some non-fiction Holmesian books which aren't quite writings on the writings but are tremendous.

"The Life and Death of Sherlock Holmes" (English title) or 
"From Holmes to Sherlock" (every other sane country) by Mattias Bostrom
A masterpiece. Everything you need to know about Holmesian culture from Doyle to today. Written in a way that leaves you unable to put it down and so full of interest you will wonder how you lived without it. For me, it set so much Holmesiana in context that it bridged a gap to a great deal of work. Easily the best Holmesian book of any category or time ever written.
The Sherlock Holmes Miscellany by Roger Johnson and Jean Upton
A delightful pocket sized overview of Holmesian culture.
About Sixty edited by Chritopher Redmond
The first of a series of books edited by Redmond is a compilation of arguments for each of the canonical stories being the best one. It is cover to cover bliss that makes you reach for your own copy of the Canon over and over again. This was followed up with About Being A Sherlockian which is just as joyful a celebration of Sherlock Holmes and the culture he begat. Furthermore, the third in the series is in the pipeline; Sherlock Holmes is Like. It's bound to be brilliant.
Mastermind; How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova
This book delves deep into the psychology of Holmes and by the time you get to the end you realise what a brilliant, deep, complex character he really is. Konnikova brings Holmes to life in a way I have not experienced from any other book.
Radical Rethinks on Horse and Hound from The Sherlock Holmes Society of London
The Sherlock Holmes Society of London produce quite a few books, usually to go along with their Expeditions. They are comprised of writings from several different members in several different tones and centre about Holmes' activities in whichever area the Society is visiting that year. My favourite so far has been this one which is for the most part about The Hound of the Baskervilles. Brilliant insightful stuff.


Pastiche
Pastiche is difficult. To write in the same style as another author successfully is best part impossible. Largely on account of being different people. Still, some come damn close. And others that may fall short still produce great books. You'll forgive me then, if some of my selections in this section treat the term "pastiche" quite poorly.

The Whole Art of Detection; Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmesby Lyndsay Faye
Hands down my favourite collection of Holmesian pastiche. Buy it, read it, nothing more to say on the matter.
The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by Richard Lancelyn Green
A pretty fine collection of pastiche by various authors, including The Adventure of the Unique Hamlet by Vincent Starrett, which you really should read.
The Final Problem by Michael Chabon
Moving, poignant and enjoyable.
The Big Book of Sherlock Holmes Stories edited by Otto Penzler
Not all pastiche but a massive compilation of great Holmesian fiction from across many eras and authors. It contains too much good stuff for you to avoid buying it.
The House at Baker Street by Michelle Birkby
Birkby takes a look at how Mary Watson and Mrs Hudson would have got on as detectives. And she does it really well. In this, and the second book; The Women of Baker Street, it is very easy to get lost in their world.
The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R King
A post-retirement Holmes takes on a young apprentice. This is the first of a long series in which King expands on the known Holmes universe with wonderful skill. It remains my favourite of the series, but they are all worth your time.
Death Cloud by Andrew Lane
The childhood of Sherlock Holmes is a much overdone area in Holmesian pastiche. Lane micturates with panache over the opposition. Death Cloud is the first in the series and I tore through each and every book as soon as I could get my hands on them. They are fantastic mystery and adventure books for any age.


Graphic Novels and Comics
Comics offer a chance to do something different with all things Holmesian. And a lot of people have tried their hand at Sherlock in graphic novels. Here's a few of my favourites.

Canon Fodder featuring in issues 861 through 867 of 2000AD
Holmes and Moriarty join forces, have a mammoth sex session and commit suicide so they can kill god. A psychopathic leather-clad gun-toting bishop has to stop them. What more can I say?
Aetheric Mechanics by Warren Ellis, Avatar Press
I can't say anything without spoiling it. It's an unusual premise explored well.
The Baker Street Four from Insight Comics
There are LOADS of comics about the Baker Street Irregulars floating about. This series does it in style.
Victorian Undead from Wildstorm
So far this series has produced Sherlock Holmes vs Zombies and Sherlock Holmes vs Dracula. Bonkers but done brilliantly.
Muppet Sherlock Holmes from Boom Kids
With Gonzo as Holmes and Fozzie as Watson, this one isn't so much good as it is enjoyable. It could be better, but I still like it.


Non-Pastiche Fiction
This whole thing is all about my personal preferences. But this section more so. My favourite non-Canonical fiction is the odd stuff. I like weird. That's going to be heavily reflected here.

The Incredible Umbrella by Martin Kaye
I think most Holmesians can guess that the umbrella in the title belongs to a certain James Phillamore. Beyond that I will say nothing of the plot for fear of ruining it. It is unusual, inventive and, so far, my favourite non-canonical Holmesian fiction. It blew my mind.
Warlock Holmes; A Study in Brimstone by C S Denning
Mental but at the same time a believable coherent world. Funny and fascinating. And really very engaging. I love this series of books. You should definitely try the first (A Study in Brimstone) and if it is your bag, you'll be pleased to know there are already another two books in the series and one more on the way.
The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes edited by Ellery Queen
Lots of great short stories that are made all the more appealing because Adrian Conan Doyle hated them.
The Last Sherlock Holmes Story by Michael Dibdin
I've read a whole bunch of Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper books. This one is special.
The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars by Anthony Boucher
Strictly speaking, this isn't a Holmes story, it is a story about Holmesians getting caught up in their own murder mystery. And a damn fine job it makes of it too.
Mrs Hudson's Diaries by Barry Cryer and Bob Cryer
Intended to be a comedy book about the indominatable Mrs Hudson, the book succeeds and then some. The Cryers make a very believable (if exagerated) Mrs Hudson and offers an almost touching glimpse into her life.
Sherlock Holmes Through Time and Space edited by Isaac Asimov
Speaks for itself, doesn't it?
Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R King and Leslie S Klinger
If I'm honest, this is on here mostly for the first story alone; Holmes on the Range by John Connolly. It is inspired. That's not to say the rest aren't great too. Like the stories in all of the King-Klinger edited anthologies, they all bring something wonderful to the table. But, by golly, Connolly's imaginative story really appealled to me.
W G Grace's Last Case by William Rushton
Silly, funny and yet, kind of exciting. I enjoyed it a whole plenty much.


Other Oddities
And here's a few volumes I found difficult to categorise.

The Silly Side of Sherlock Holmesby Philip Ardagh
This is not a clever book. It is not a long book. It is not insightful, knowledgable or rich in Holmesiana. It did make me laugh like a blocked drain though.
The Sherlock Holmes Cookbook by Mrs Hudson, compiled by Fanny Cradock
It is more the fact that this book exists that makes me love it, than any Holmesian value. Fanny Cradock presenting her ideas on Victorian cooking via the pen of Mrs Hudson is a bit odd. But, somehow, compelling.
Dining with Sherlock Holmes by Julia Carlson Rosenblatt and Frederic H Sonnenchmidt
If you actually want a Holmesian cookbook, this is the one to go for, rather that the Cradock volume. The meals are well researched, deftly tied to the Canon and you might actually want to try cooking them.
The Crimes of Dr Watson by Duane Swierczynski
This is a lovely solve-it-yourself mystery. Watson tells us his tale and provides us with facsimiles of all the necessary clues and we must work out the solution. It's great fun.

Presentation:

"The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) presented the following story he had written. While he read it out "The Entire Canon" (Paul Thomas Miller) fell asleep.

The Adventures of Sherlock Clowns

Sherlock and I had been caravan mates for a little under a year. An unusual pairing; him the premiere clown-detective of his era, and I, an ex-military doctor who had accidentally married the bearded lady. The ringmaster agreed to annul the marriage only if I served a year as the circus physician. Needless to say, I refused to share a berth with my wife when it transpired she was little more than a crudely shaven alpaca. So Clowns and I were placed together; a choice neither of us would have made, but which, eventually, we both found agreeable.
It was upon the 14th June, as I have good reason to remember, that Sherlock Clowns returned from the centre ring of the circus brimming over with fury. Once again, Pietrov of the High Wire had called in the RAC to repair Sherlock’s car, thereby ruining his second half performance. His ire was matched only by the skill with which he honked his own bulbous red nose to mask each of his many and varied invectives. 
With his bright green afro knocking the light fitting and his size 30 feet flailing around the floor, it was only a matter of time before something got broken. I tried to calm him. While his oversized trousers repeatedly fell down to reveal his spotted bloomers, I made my way to the drinks cabinet. As I offered him a glass of brandy, we were both brought to a silent standstill by a handsome young lady who stood in the doorway knocking delicately on the open door.
“Which one of you is Sherlock Clowns?” she asked.
“Which one do you *honk*ing think?” replied Clowns; his painted smile warped as far as possible into a scowl.
She threw her arms around him and began to weep.
“Please help me, Mr Clowns! You are the only man alive who can!”
The flattery began to work on his tempestuous soul and I could see him beginning to relax.
“There, there, my dear,” he said. “Take a seat and tell us all about it.”
We all took our seats, each of us producing the usual rasp from the many Whoopee Cushions Clowns had hidden about the caravan.
“My name is Angela Spratt and I come to you with a most perplexing problem. I come from the village of Hamchestertonham. My father was the local clergyman; a vicar of the old school, all tall and skinny, with buck teeth and spectacles who was shocked at the most trivial of things. When he died last October, my mother, brother and I were left well provisioned and so were not very grief stricken. Indeed, mother saw it as an opportunity to try new things and she began with trapeze acts.”
At this point, Holmes interrupted. “Ah! Surely she must be Flo Spratt, The Darling of the Air who cause such a sensation over the Christmas period with Boffalot's Circus over in Surreyshire?”
“The very same, Mr Clowns! She took to the trapeze like the born swinger she was. She was instantly signed by Jack Boffalot and within a month had become world famous for her tosses and tricks. Clearly, you have not heard the sad news; last weekend she fell to her death during one of her performances...”
“Which performance?”
“Her last one.”
“And you suspect foul play?”
“I do, sir.”
“On what grounds?”
“Call it a female whim, Mr Clowns. An intuition. A notion provoked by the merest trifle. On the day in question, while the act was taking place, I saw my brother, Methaniel at the top of the marquee, cutting through the ropes yelling “I'LL KILL YOU LIKE I DID FATHER IN ORDER TO GET ALL THE INHERITANCE. THEN I'LL KILL MY SISTER SO I DON'T HAVE TO SHARE IT.” It is probably nothing, but I would feel so much better if you could investigate and reassure me.”
“Have no fear, Miss Spratt.” said Clowns, rising, “we will come to Hamchestertonham on the next train and clear up the whole sorry business.”
He showed Miss Spratt out, spouting her gratitude all the way.
“Well, I can make nothing of it.” I confessed to Sherlock.
“I have dire concerns about the whole affair.” he said, tripping over thin air and landing face first in a custard pie I had no prior knowledge of. Then he settled with his pipe, set fire to it, his hair and the caravan, failed to put them out with a bucket of confetti and said nothing more until we were on the express to Surreyshire.

“"The entire affair hangs, like Flo Spratt, from a dangerous thread.” he explained as he opened the train compartment’s window.
“I see no affair, Clowns, just a common tragedy among those in the church and/or circus.” I replied as the door gave way and he dangled over the oncoming track from it.
“You see, but you do not observe” he grunted, while running awkwardly along the track beneath him.
“And you talk a lot of...”
“Honk!” went his nose as he fell face first back into the carriage just in time to miss the oncoming train.

Angela Spratt met us at Hamchestertonham station and drove us to Boffalot Circus in her own car. It arrived largely intact, save for the missing passenger door, the hole in the roof and the engine which had fallen out, somehow making the noise of a trombone.
It took Sherlock Clowns no time to find a trail to follow.
“Look at these peculiar footprints!” he exclaimed. While I did so, he set off to follow them. They were extraordinarily large and went off along the edge of the circus marquee. A mere ten minutes later, he deduced that they were his own and that he had been wasting a substantial amount of time following himself.
“Are you sure you know what you are doing Mr Clowns?” asked the poor, distraught Angela.
“No.” he replied and sprayed her in the face with a soda siphon.
“What are you doing, Clowns?” I asked, as he set fire to the circus tent.
“Eliminating the competition!” he screamed and we ran all the way back to our own lodgings.

The mystery remained as such. Angela Spratt was burned alive. Her brother chose not to press charges. In fact, he seemed rather pleased with the outcome. The police were satisfied that no believable characters had been either created or harmed so the whole matter was left there. Suffice it to say, I returned to my wife that night and we have been happy ever since.

Any Other Business:

There was no other business, any or otherwise.

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