Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Noble Bachelors of St. Louis

Last Saturday, The Noble Bachelors of St. Louis hosted their annual meeting.  Unlike previous years, this meeting was an afternoon one, and not held at the Lemp Mansion.  That's because this year's annual meeting was the unveiling of the St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection at the St. Louis Public Library's Rare Books and Special Collections Room.

The meeting started at 2 p.m., but many of us were able to come to the library early for a guided tour of some of the great things the St. Louis Public Library has to offer.  We were told all about the history of the original library and updated on the renovation completed on the branch just a few years ago.  The docents showed us the different rooms and collections throughout the building as well as informing us about small details all throughout the building that most patrons walk by without ever noticing!

The Noble Bachelor meeting commenced with Randy Getz calling us to order with a toast to her majesty, Queen Victoria, followed by a toast to Sherlock Holmes by Michael Bragg.  Randy then took a moment to remember Barry Hapner, BSI, a very early member of the Noble Bachelors who passed beyond the Reichenbach in the past year.

We were then treated to two great presentations relating to the Sherlockian Research Collection by Mary Schroeder and Bill Cochran, the two most influential people behind St. Louis's new collection.  Mary told us how the collection had started and was originally housed at McKendree University's library in Lebanon, IL and how it eventually made it's way to St. Louis.  Bill's speech told the story of how he was able to acquire a complete run of Baker Street Journals to be added to the collection and what an invaluable resource they would be to present and future Sherlockians.

Randy then took to the podium to present Rob Nunn with The Noble Bachelor of the Year award, and Rob was asked to speak about the upcoming Holmes in the Heartland weekend.  When Rob was done, it was time for Randy's annual "Gassy-Gean" remarks, this year focusing on the importance of libraries throughout society and in the Sherlock Holmes Canon.

This year's keynote speaker was Anne Posega, the former head of Special Collections for the Washington University Library.  Her speech, "The Clues Between the Covers: What You Can Deduce from Special Collections," was an intriguing and insightful talk on how library special collections are acquired, handled and used by the public.

After Ms. Posega's speech, we adjourned to the Rare Book Room, where the special collections librarians had some highlights of the Sherlockian Research Collection on display, as well as other highlights from their varied collections, such as a first printing of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, an early Audubon Society print, and a miniature book that one would have to use a magnifying glass to read.

But not only were books and materials on display in the Rare Book Room, but we noticed a few musical instruments set up.  The assembled crowd was treated to a performance of Mendelssohn's "Song Without Words" by Anna Allen on violin and Gail Robins on piano.  After that, Randy Getz and Tom Baynham performed a spirited rendition of "My Gallant Crew" from Gilbert and Sullivan's H.M.S. Pinafore for the audience.

The official program concluded with Chritopher Robertson reciting Vincent Starrett's 221b, and the assembled members spent time after that perusing the collection and socializing with one another.  It was another successful Noble Bachelors meeting, and a pleasant Sherlockian gathering for all involved.  We all walked away from the day's events satisfied and looking forward to our next Sherlockian gaterhing in St. Louis!

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Holmes in the Heartland

After announcing Holmes in the Heartland last month, we are ready to share some of the exciting details of what The Parallel Case of St. Louis plans to make an annual event!

We will kick off our weekend with a Welcome to St. Louis night on Friday, August 10th.  Participants in the weekend can enjoy our Blues Carbuncle and 221BBQ event upon arrival to town.  We will take a group tour of The National Blues Museum and enjoy dinner at Sugarfire Smokehouse in downtown St. Louis.

Saturday will find us at the central branch of the St. Louis Public Library for a big day of Sherlockian discussion.  The St. Louis Public Library is home to the new St. Louis Sherlockian Collection, a growing collection of Sherlockian research available for use by anyone in the Rare Books and Special Collections Room.  The theme for the day's talks will be "A Curious Collection" and relate to collecting and books.  Our keynote speaker is the perfect fit for such a topic: Tim Johnson, curator of the Sherlock Holmes Collection at the University of Minnesota.

Joining Tim at the speaker's lectern that day will be a curious collection in their own right: 
Mary Schroeder, founder of the St. Louis Sherlockian collection and longtime St. Louis Sherlockian
Bill Mason, BSI, author of "Pursuing Sherlock Holmes" and former Head Light of the Beacon Society
Tassy Hayden, fan fiction writer and co-host of the wildly popular Three Patch Podcast
Brad Keefauver, BSI, blogger at Sherlock Peoria and author of "The Elementary Methods of Sherlock Holmes"
Don Hobbs, BSI, owner of the largest foreign language Sherlockian book collection

After the speaker program, we will all get together for dinner and socializing outside of the library.

For those able to stick around on Sunday, we will have high tea at St. Louis' London Tea Room and then be treated to a tour of the Becker Medical Library on the campus of Washington University.

We have more to announce, and will do so as soon as they are confirmed, so keep your eyes on the Holmes in the Heartland webpage for updates!

Sunday, January 21, 2018

January Meeting Recap and an Announcement

Our January meeting yesterday continued The Parallel Case's streak of great meetings!  Regulars Rob, Randy, Nellie, Joe, Ed, Paul, Peter and Stacey were joined by new members Adam and Cathy as well as a visit from one of St. Charles friends, Andrew.  Our meeting room was at max capacity!

Before we started our discussion of The Adventure of the Copper Beeches, we started with Sherlockian news as usual.  And this month, we had a big announcement!

The Parallel Case of St. Louis is proud to announce our new Sherlockian conference, Holmes in the Heartland!  Mark your calendars for the weekend of August 10-12 and plan on spending a weekend in St. Louis to enjoy everything from blues, BBQ, tea and history all while learning about Sherlock Holmes from local and visiting speakers!

Registration for our conference will open in May, and more news will be released soon.  But mark your calendars, and come at once if convenient!

Other news items were discussed after we had our usual giveaways that included bookmarks, books and comics this month.  Joe filled everyone in on the events of the BSI Birthday weekend in New York last weekend and all of the Sherlockian activities there.

New media interpretations of Sherlock Holmes were discussed, including Sherlock Gnomes, opening on March 23 and the Burger King toys available with the movie,

the announcement of the Enola Holmes movie series starring Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things,

HBO Asia's new take on the classic stories with Miss Sherlock,

and Elementary's return on April 30.

Randy discussed the upcoming Noble Bachelors of St. Louis event at the St. Louis Public Library next month.  If you are interested in attending, please contact him this week.

Andrew gave a quick recap of the previous night's Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn meeting, and announced that their next meeting will be on February 16.

Rob promoted his blog, Interesting Though Elementary, and encouraged everyone to join him in reading as much of the Canon as they can in 2018.

We closed out the news section announcing the next meeting date for March, and found out that half of the people in the room couldn't make it!  So, our next meeting has been moved to March 3 at 1:00. 

Please note the change and plan to join us then!

It was then time to get into the story!  COPP starts off with Holmes lamenting there's nothing to do and how bored he is, muttering the famous line, "Crime is common.  Logic is rare."  We noted it was nice that he didn't mention cocaine with this bout of boredom, though.  The story also gives us call backs to SCAN, IDEN, TWIS, NOBL, and BLUE. 

Violet Hunter shows up to ask Holmes' advice and his crabbiness has completely disappeared by the end of her introduction.  Violet's story led to an insightful discussion on the importance of long hair to women in Victorian times.  Long, luscious hair was seen as a sign of status and good health, and although hairstyles are more diverse today, women with short hair were generally considered to have something wrong with them in Holmes' day.

Violet's story also leads Holmes to muse twice that a sister of his would never accepted such a situation, a line that would launch thousands of speculations about the great detectives, family tree.  And as he frets over Violet's predicament, we get another famous line, "Data! Data! Data! I can't make bricks without clay!"

Once Holmes and Watson are summoned to visit Miss Hunter at the Copper Beeches, we are treated to Doyle's masterful scene setting as our two heroes travel by train.  Doyle paints a beautiful countryside that Watson enjoys, only to have Holmes bring him back to earth by stating that the country is worse that even the most vile alleys in London. 

This led to a good discussion about how Holmes views the world.  He has seen too many crimes and behavior to appreciate a plaintive scene.  His demeanor is one that can see many hidden aspects that the average person wouldn't pick up on.  We discussed how all of us have our own form of that.  Former firefighters look at houses as possible dangers, IRS agents view money and numbers differently than most folks, and teachers see kids as the type of students they would be in a classroom.

Doyle's use of imagery was also compared to Charlotte Bronte's and other Victorian writers.  Nature is used to set the scene that everything is great, when behind the walls of manor houses, drama and intrigue unfold.  This method is often employed in Gothic novels.

Once Holmes and Watson meet up with Miss Hunter, we noted how her characterization of the master of the house, Rucastle, and the married servants, the Tollers, were a great ploy to lull the reader into suspecting something other than the truth.  Rucastle is the classic con artist, asking for one thing, and then one more thing, and just one more thing, until he has pecked away and gotten the whole situation that he could never ask for up front. 

Although Violet spends a lot of time talking about Rucastle and the Tollers, Holmes has solved the case by paying close attention to what Violet says about their son, and announcing that someone has been imprisoned in the house.  This led us to appreciated Holmes' early use of psychology in his detection and we noted how Doyle was always on the cutting edge of detection methods, whether it was psychology, fingerprints, or microscopes.

Holmes, Watson, and Miss Hunter go to rescue the trapped person, only to find out that she, Rucastle's daughter, has already escaped with the help of the Tollers.  Discussing the ramifications of Rucastle imprisoning his own daughter led to a long discussion about inheritance crimes, the lack of legal protection for women in financial matters, brain fever, and the ability to imprison your own family members for a myriad of reasons until fairly recently.  Although Jephro Rucastle may have been a despicable person, we weren't sure if he would've been able to have been convicted of a crime.

But Rucastle does try to stop Holmes and Watson by letting loose his dog, Carlo, which we said is probably the most abused dog in the entire Canon.  Nellie pointed out that COPP has many similarities to The Hound of the Baskervilles, not just the large dog, and we talked about if Doyle had this story in the back of his mind as he created HOUN.

In the end, everyone except for Rucastle and his wife live happily ever after.  Watson hoped that Holmes would stay interested in Violet Hunter, but to Watson's disappointment, Holmes is back to his focus on crime.

Thanks again to everyone who came out.  There was a lot of great discussion from everyone there and we hope to see you at our next meeting on March 3 to discuss Silver Blaze!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

November Meeting Recap

We had a BIG meeting this month!  News of a big event later in the post.  We had seven people in attendance: Rob, Paul, Mary, Stacey, Tassy, Steve and Nellie.

Last weekend was our last meeting of 2017, so it was time to map out next year's meeting schedule.  Please mark your calendars and plan to join us for the following dates:

January 20, The Adventure of the Copper Beeches
March 10, Silver Blaze
May 12, The Adventure of the Cardboard Box
July 21, The Adventure of the Yellow Face
September 8, The Adventure of the Stockbroker's Clerk
November 10, The Adventure of the Gloria Scott

As usual, all meetings are on Saturday afternoons and will be at the Schafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library from 1:00-3:00.

Once that was figured out, Mary brought us up to date on the library collection of Sherlockian materials and asked for feedback on a dedication.  It was decided unanimously that instead of a simple evening for the dedication, we would like to make a whole weekend out of it.

So the planning began.

We spent over half of our meeting throwing around ideas and discussing logistics for a big weekend in St. Louis to celebrate Sherlock Holmes and dedicate the library collection.  Once we are ready to announce our plans, you can bet it will be right here on our blog first!  If you would like to be part of the planning process, please email Rob at to be added to the email list discussing the project.

Moving on from there, we discussed a few other items in the news: 

A trailer for the new movie Sherlock Gnomes is out and hopes to introduce kids to the great detective, even if it's not the classic character most of us are used to.

We discussed Insight Theatre Company's performance of Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery.  Everyone that saw the show during it's run really enjoyed it.

Rob's book, The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street, is now available on Amazon.

The Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn had their monthly meeting the previous night.  Their next meeting will be on December 15.

Speaking of the Harpooners, The Parallel Case and The Harpooners now have bookmarks.  One side for each society.  If you would like your own bookmark, join us at our next meeting!

The Noble Bachelors of St. Louis are in the planning stages of their annual dinner.  Details will be out soon.

After we had our book giveaways, it was finally time to talk about The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet!

Alexander Holder makes quite an entrance to 221B Baker Street.  After his lengthy story is told to Holmes and Watson, we discussed that it probably wouldn't be too hard to discern who his client is.  Everyone seemed to agree that Prince Edward's history made him a prime candidate for this role.

Speaking of the royal client, what person thinks it's okay to use public property as collateral for a private loan?

Watson once again pays close attention to the young lady in the story.  Mary is described in detail, but even Watson's description of the lady couldn't save her from the group's negative opinion of her or her conduct in this story.

And speaking of Mary, as well as her cousin, why would Holder tell these two kids about the precious collateral in his home?  Holder just makes one poor decision after another in this story.  This led to a discussion on who was the less intelligent client: Holder or Jabez Wilson in The Red-Headed League.

We also found it interesting that Holmes can bend a steel fireplace poker back into shape but couldn't twist the coronet into shape.

Once Holmes and Watson return to Baker Street, Holmes "hastened upstairs."  This led to a discussion about the layout of the Baker Street rooms.

After that, Holmes then departs and essentially solves everything outside the purview of the reader.  We found this to be a dissatisfying way of telling the story.

But, to make up for the lack of investigation the reader gets to see, we were treated with Holmes sharing his maxim, "Once you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

We wrapped up our discussion with talking about the coronet and Holder's loan on it.  The crown would have been valued at $250,000 in 1880, and 6 million dollars today.  You could see why Holder was so upset when it was lost and damaged. 

But some questions were left hanging in the air.  How did the coronet get repaired?  And what was the fallout for Holder and his business after this was all over?  Surely, both parties in the loan transaction were worse for wear after this event!

We also talked about Brad Keefauver's post about Mary Holder and her gentleman friend.  It was a conversation starter for sure!

Thanks to everyone for a great 2017!  We have had some great stories to read and some even better discussions around them!  Our next meeting will be on Saturday, January 20 at 1:00 to discuss The Adventure of the Copper Beeches.  Come at once if convenient!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

August Meeting Recap

This past weekend we had our latest meeting to discuss "The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor."  It was another great turnout, so much so that we are moving meeting rooms at the library!  Starting next month, our meetings will be held in the Meeting Room instead of the Conference Room we've been using for so long.

Once we had enough chairs for everyone in attendance (Rob, Mary, Steve, Elaine, Pris, Rick, Stacey, Ed, Srini, Paul & Randy), we started off with new topics.  Randy gave us a recap of the Silver Blaze event held at Fairmount Race Track last month, raising over $500 for the Champ assistance dogs foundation.

Mary updated us on the St. Louis Sherlockian Collection being curated in the Rare Books Room at the main library branch.  Legal paperwork is in process while the materials are continuing to be inventoried.  The library and some Sherlockians are compiling a list of materials that would be useful donations.  The current timetable allows for a dedication in January or February of 2018.

Rob gave a quick recap of the Nerve and Knowledge symposium that he and Joe attended earlier in the month, put on by the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis.

There was an extended discussion about the new Sherlockian history book out, From Holmes to Sherlock by Mattias Bostrom.

The Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn meet this Friday in St. Charles.

The Will Ferrell movie, "Holmes and Watson" will premiere on November 9.

CBS's "Elementary" will return in January of 2018.

St. Louis's Insight Theater Company will be performing "Baskerville: A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" October 12-29.  Tickets are on sale now for performances.

Rob announced that his book, "The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street" was available and gave a synopsis of the book.

The giveaways this month were some great ones!  They were "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes," "The Best Horror Stories of Arthur Conan Doyle," "The Seven Per-Cent Solution," and "The Sherlock Holmes Encyclopedia."

The history of Sherlockian society pins was discussed and the possibility of new pins for The Parallel Case or a commemorative coin featuring all four St. Louis societies was discussed.  Would anyone be interested in such items?  Please let us know.

Since this month's story was The Noble Bachelor, Mary gave us a brief history of our sister society, The Noble Bachelors of St. Louis.  Randy Getz is the current head, and Parallel Case members Joe Eckrich and Mary Schroeder have served in that role in the past.

To start off our discussion of the story, Randy had a paper prepared that covered many points.  His first point was an interesting one: this story was published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in 1892 under the title "The Adventure of a Nobleman."  Randy also touched on the church in question, the role of America in the story, Lord Backwater and Lord Balmoral's other appearances in the canon, Lord St. Simon's heritage and ties to the War of the Roses, and the dinner laid out for Holmes' guests at the end of the story.

It was noted that Doyle would place NOBL at "about the bottom of the list."  And for a story that the author ranked so low, we came up with plenty to discuss!

We talked about Watson's laziness and Holmes' social life.  The overall use of humor in this story was also a big topic.  Watson's remark about a bride disappearing being out of the ordinary, the portrayal of Lord St. Simon, Holmes' response to his manner, and Holmes laughing and toying with Lestrade all make this a rather humorous tale.

The location of Watson's wound was bandied about.  The epidemic of American women marrying into British peerage, Doyle's use of gold mining as a shorthand for riches, Holmes being able to solve the case without leaving his chair (except for the small detail of finding the missing bride), and the coincidence that the red herring and the true mystery person both had the same initials were all discussed.

We spent some time covering the food laid out for Holmes' dinner and debated if it would be enough or too much for those in attendance, as well as what exactly fois gras pie is.  Some members were also concerned that Holmes and Watson didn't have enough vegetables in their diet.

A good amount of time was spent discussing and debating Hattie Doran and her behavior throughout the story.  Not only did she abandon her new husband, but she routinely chose to make cowardly decisions whenever a challenge faced her.  A few members went back and forth discussing if Hattie had an obligation to St. Simon once Frank showed back up in her life.

It was also noted that Watson dates this story a few weeks before his marriage, and keeping that in mind, it made Holmes' statement of "how to while away these bleak autumnal evenings" more melancholy that the author may have intended.

That was it for this month!  There is a slight scheduling change for our next meeting.  We typically meet on the second Saturday of the month, but that falls over Veteran's Day weekend.  So, our next meeting will be on November 18 at 1:00 to discuss "The Adventure of the Beryl Coronet."  We will still be meeting in the Schafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, but we will be in the bigger meeting room this time.  If convenient, come at once!