Sunday, August 12, 2018

Holmes in the Heartland Day 3

Our last day of Holmes in the Heartland started off with a nice group tour of the Rare Book Room at the Becker Medical Library.  Our guide had personalized the displays for us with many items relating to Victorian London and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

We were presented with the history of Doyle's medical college in Edinburgh, how dissection had previously relied on grave robbers, a book written by Dr. Joseph Bell, "The Manual of Operations," "The Doctors of Hoyland" story written by Doyle, as well as many other important pieces of medical history, including the brief rhinoceros fad that swept England.  It was a nice and informative tour of a hidden, but important, part of our city!

After the Becker tour, we moved on to The London Tea Room, where we took up the large back room for a delightful afternoon tea.  Finger sandwiches, scones, desserts, and of course, a wide selections of teas were enjoyed by everyone before we all had to go our separate ways and bring the weekend to an end.

Homes in the Heartland was a huge success, and such a fun weekend!  After months of planning, it was beyond rewarding to see all of our local Sherlockians and out of town guests enjoying and intermixing.  We have received lots of positive feedback from people and thank everyone who joined us this weekend.

And if you are in the St. Louis area, don't forget to join us for our next Parallel Case of St. Louis meeting on September 8th to discuss "The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk."  Come at once if convenient!

Holmes in the Heartland Day 2

Today was a big day!  Almost 50 Sherlockians converged on the Carnegie Room at the St. Louis Public Library today for the "Curious Collection" of the Holmes in the Heartland speakers. 

Rob Nunn started the program off by thanking the weekend's planning committee, and they should also be mentioned here as well.  Stacey Bregenzer, Nellie Brown, Joe Eckrich, Randy Getz, Tassy Hayden, Mary Schroeder, and Paul Schroeder have done a huge amount of work to make this weekend happen, and today's events really showed their hard work!

Mary Schroeder gave the first talk of the program, discussing the history of the St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection and how it became part of the Rare Book and Manuscript Room in the Central Library building.  She then shared the lineage of the Sherlock Holmes portrait on display in the Rare Book and Manuscript room that sits next to the collection.

Bill Cochran followed Mary's speech with a passionate talk about the importance of just the right book that can set the course of your life.  For Bill, it was the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes that he read as a kid and led to a lifetime of friendships and discoveries.  He talked about his decision to donate a complete collection of the Baker Street Journal to the library and why it should be accessible to anyone who wants to read them.

Tim Johnson's keynote speech started off by calling Mary back up to the front of the room so he could present the St. Louis collection with three titles, and then pledged the University of Minnesota's help in building up the St. Louis library.

His talk about curating a library collection was told in three small vignettes, each one touching our heartstrings and showing us just how powerful books can be in a person's life.  By the end of his keynote presentation, there was more than a few of us that needed a minute to collect ourselves.  Tim has posted his speech on his blog, and whenever you have a few minutes to read the entirety of his talk you should definitely check it out.

Bill Mason took the program in a new direction with his talk titled "A Pun for All Seasons: The History of 'No Police Like Holmes.'"  We were treated to the history of puns and the most famous Sherlockian pun of all.  While the pun was based off of the famous song, so we were treated to hearing Bill sing it himself.

After lunch, our surprise guest took the stage, Mark Twain!

Mr. Twain, or Samuel Clemens, talked about his life growing up in the heartland and how he tried his hand at detective fiction with "Tom Sawyer, Detective" and a Sherlockian story titled "A Double Barreled Detective Story."  After that, we had a lively Q&A session with him followed by some time for pictures before his steamboat took Mr. Twain back up the river.

Our very own Tassy Hayden was up next with her talk titled "Singlestick and the Science of Fingerprints: Holmes and Saint Louis in 1904" in which she informed us of the evolution of fingerprinting in detective work, and the Scotland Yard detective who popularized the practice at the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904.

Brad Keefauver followed that up with "Conan Doyle's Curious Collection of Continuities" where he proposed that all of Watson's dates are correct, even if they don't match up with a calendar that we would use.  Brad proposed the theory of deep continuity and that many of the stories existed in parallel universes.  It was quite a ride!

Don Hobbs then gave his talk, "Collecting Sherlock Holmes," which was a great collection of stories of the life of a maniac collector.  His talk was filled with laughs from the audience and a well-deserved appreciation of what his wife deals with in Don's worldwide collecting shenanigans.

The Black Knights fighting group was scheduled to join us today, but they only let us know last week that they had disbanded, so Brad whipped up a quick presentation about other forms of self defense that Sherlock Holmes used in the Canon.  Narrated by Rob, Andrew Schroeder played Sherlock Holmes, and five other audience members showed us how to save yourself from being choked to death by yelling for help, how hiding behind curtains is a worthwhile strategy, why jumping on someone's back is a good opening move, and how grabbing a man by his collar seems to incapacitate him.


After the presentations were over, we adjourned to Favazza's Italian restaurant for some amazing food, drinks and games.  People mingled at the bar, conversation buzzed throughout the meal, and groups dove into their games of choice.  Sherlock Holmes Tarot cards, 221B Master Detective, Cluedo, and Werewolf were all big hits at the gaming tables tonight.

When our time at the restaurant was over, we all headed our separate ways.  Some folks' time at Holmes in the Heartland ended tonight, and we are very thankful that they were able to join us.  But we still have one more day, and we are looking forward to some medical history and an afternoon tea tomorrow!

Friday, August 10, 2018

Holmes in the Heartland: Day 1

We had a great turnout for our first day of Holmes in the Heartland!  Our group met in the lobby of the National Blues Museum and had time to mingle and meet some new folks.  Plenty of local Sherlockians were on hand, as well as our speakers and visitors from plenty of other states! 

We had the museum to ourselves and spent 45 minutes walking through and checking out lots of displays, videos, and interactive exhibits.  If you've never been to The National Blues Museum, it's a great spot in downtown St. Louis!  Even if you're not a fan of blues music, there are plenty of hands-on activities and ties to other forms of music to make it a must see when you're in town.

After we'd exhausted the museum, our crowd filtered into Sugarfire Smokehouse right next door.  We commandeered a big table in the middle of the restaurant, and still had some folks on a spillover table!  It was great to see everyone intermixing with other attendees.  The St. Louis Sherlockians were mixed all throughout the group and having some great conversations with our out of town visitors.  A lot of new friendships were formed over BBQ tonight. 

Registration starts at 10:00 sharp tomorrow morning.  See you for a curious collection of speakers followed by a great dinner and social time!

Sunday, July 22, 2018

July Meeting: The Yellow Face

Summer meetings tend to have low turnouts.  People are on vacation, family time is at a premium, and the weather was beautiful on Saturday, so when we had 13 folks show up for our meeting on The Yellow Face, it was a nice turnout!  Rob, Pris, Elaine, Ed, Adam, Paul, Ann and Bob were there, as well as Margie and Karl coming back after an absence.  They also brought their son Matt and granddaughter Ella with them, and we were also joined new member Kristen.  And man, did we have a lot to talk about!

We started off with a roundup of Sherlockian news.

Ed made it out to Baltimore for Scintillation of Scions and gave us a recap of the event.  It sounded like a great time!

From Gillette to Brett V is coming up in October. 

Elementary has started filming its seventh season.

The Baker Street Irregulars now have a website where people can find information about their events and publications.

A new book, Conan Doyle for the Defense, looks at how ACD used his intelligence to help out wrongfully convicted people in his day.

Kristen brought up From Holmes to Sherlock, a great book for anyone who is interested in the history of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle.

Adam told us about an old episode of The Incredible Hulk where Jeremy Brett played the villain.  It was jarring to see Sherlock Holmes be the bad guy!

Karl shared a picture that Matt had made years ago depicting a familiar Victorian street.  Can you find the crime being committed in it?

And, last but definitely not least, Holmes in the Heartland is next month!  We already have over forty people signed up for the weekend August 10-12, and if you haven't signed up yet, you only have a few more days.  Registration ends on July 31.

Our story starts off with Watson telling readers that "It is only natural that I should dwell rather upon his successes than upon his failures."  We then noticed a discrepancy that some editions cite The Musgrave Ritual as a failure, while others cited The Second Stain.  This was a difference between the English and American versions of the story.  There are plenty of other changes in this story other than this, depending on which side of the pond your version came from.

If "Sherlock Holmes was a man who seldom took exercise for exercise’s sake" how did he stay in such good shape?

We discussed Holmes' deductions about Grant Munro.  When Munro fails to acknowledge Holmes' powers on the first try, Holmes shocks him by announcing the man's name to him.  You WILL notice how smart Sherlock Holmes is!

We get a very long exposition of the case from Grant Munro, and we all found it curious that Effie called her husband Jack when his name was Grant.

After Munro has finished his story (which took up to nine pages in some books!), Holmes is very interested in Effie's time in America and her reticence to talk about it.

Munro is then sent off to let Holmes know if anyone is in the mysterious cottage, Holmes tells Watson that he has a provisional theory and expects the case to be one of blackmail.  This flies in the face of Holmes' own axiom: "It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data" from another story.

A telegram arrives calling Holmes and Watson to Norbury, as there are still people in the cottage.  Our heroes take off and are met by Munro.  He plans to force his way into the cottage and see what's going on for himself, to which Holmes agrees to follow.

Here we had quite a conversation about the lack of Sherlock-iness of this story.  Has Holmes really done anything yet?  He's listened to Munro tell his story and then agreed to the man's plan of action.  Hardly the typical course of action for one of these stories.

When the three arrive at the cottage, Munro's wife tries to stop them, but Munro announces that "My friends and I are going to settle this matter once and forever."  We found this interesting, because just a few hours before, Munro had said "One does not like to speak of one's domestic affairs to strangers," and "It seems dreadful to discuss the conduct of one's wife with two men whom I have never seen before."  And now they're all "friends."

When the girl in the room is discovered, Watson cries out in surprise.  This from a man who has served in a war?

We then bantered about Effie's decision to leave America.  We discussed her choice as a parent, a widow, a woman with money, someone who's marriage was frowned up, and other factors.  We didn't come to a consensus on her choices, but some very well thought out points were made.

The story has a nice ending, even if Holmes didn't do much in it.  But the ending definitely led to a thoughtful discussion about the racial issues in this story.  Elaine pointed out that Doyle was progressive in his racial attitudes in this story, but not so much in WIST, SIGN and 3GAB.  And it can be difficult to read this story and not see it through today's culture.

We also talked about Doyle's lack of research in his tales.  There were no successful black lawyers in Atlanta during this time and interracial marriage was illegal in Georgia.  Could Hebron and Effie have lived in a town in the northern states named Atlanta?

A handful of group members had their copies of About Sixty, so we talked about the essay on The Yellow Face from there.  That essay argues that YELL is a southern Gothic story that turns the themes on their head.  It's also posited that Holmes failed in this case because it is ultimately a love story about Grant and Effie Munro.

We agreed that YELL isn't the best Sherlock Holmes story, but we all did think that it led to some great discussion! 

It was a fun meeting and great to see old friends and new members.  Our next meeting will be on September 8, when we meet to discuss The Stockbroker's ClerkAnd don't forget to join us for Holmes in the Heartland

Come at once if convenient!