Sunday, November 11, 2018

November Meeting: The Gloria Scott

We rounded up 2018 with our biggest turnout of the year!  16 folks met on Saturday to talk about Sherlockian news and discuss The Gloria Scott.  We started the meeting off by scheduling the 2019 meetings:

January 12: The Musgrave Ritual
March 9: The Reigate Squire
May 11: The Crooked Man
July 13: The Resident Patient
September 14: The Greek Interpreter
November 9: The Naval Treaty

News for the month:

Joe and Heather recapped the events from The Gillette to Brett conference that was held in Indiana last month.

The Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn will be meeting this Friday to discuss The Cardboard Box.  Their annual observance of The Blue Carbuncle will be on December 21.

Holmes, Doyle & Friends will be on March 29 & 30 in Dayton, Ohio

221B Con will be on April 5-7 in Atlanta, Georgia

Dark Places, Wicked Companions and Strange Experiences will be on August 9-11 in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Last Saturday would have been Jeremy Brett's 85th birthday.

Holmes and Watson opens on December 25.

Former St. Louis Sherlockian John Crotty passed away recently.

Dear Holmes is a new mail subscription service that allows you to solve monthly mysteries with clues mailed to you by Sherlock Holmes and his associates.

New books out recently:
The Complete Paget Portfolio by Nicholas Utechin
Mycroft and Sherlock by Kareem Abdul Jabbar
Sherlock Holmes is Like edited by Christopher Redmond
Sherlock Holmes Cyclopædia Volume 1 by Howard Ostrom

The monthly giveaways were passed around, and then it was time for our discussion!

The Adventure of the Gloria Scott is the fifth story collected in The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes, and was first published in The Strand magazine in 1893.

The story starts off with Holmes telling Watson, "I have some papers here."  Quite an understatement knowing how much Watson loves to hear about Holmes' early life.

Holmes hands Watson a note about hen pheasants that makes no sense, and then tells him that this note "was the first in which I was engaged."  He's just toying with Watson now!

We talked about what would've prompted Holmes to bring this story up on that day.  Elaine proposed that Holmes had recently received a letter from Victor Trevor, which made Holmes think to tell Watson about his first foray into detective work.

Holmes tells Watson about his days in college where he was unsociable, only participated in fencing and boxing, and was bitten by Victor Trevor's bull terrier.  Rob wondered if this was why Watson's bull terrier never made an appearance at 221B Baker Street.

Srini wondered if Victor Trevor was such a "hearty and full-blooded fellow," why was he just as friendless as Holmes?

Heather fielded all of our questions about the difference between college and university in London.

Victor invites Holmes to his father's estate over the long vacation, which would have been some time between July and October.  Once he's there, Holmes quickly sizes up Old Trevor as a man of little culture, with obvious money, is physically strong, does not read books, was well-traveled, and known as a kind and lenient justice of the peace.

Victor has talked up Holmes' deductive tricks to his father, and Old Trevor asks for a demonstration on himself.  Holmes quickly rattles off that he is in fear of an attack, was a boxer in his youth, has done digging in the past, has been to New Zealand and Japan, and someone with the initials of JA was once important to him, but is no longer so.

....And the old man faints.

Maybe he wasn't so strong after all.

Srini pointed out that Holmes' deductions about New Zealand and Japan were never explained when Old Trevor came to. 

But Old Trevor does deliver a line that launches the career of the world's greatest detective: "It seems to me that all the detectives of fact and fancy would be children in your hands.  That's your line of life, sir, and you may take the word of a man who has seen something of the world."

Old Trevor is now nervous around Holmes, so Holmes decides to cut his visit short.  But not before Old Trevor is visited by an old acquaintance by the name of Hudson.

We then discussed if this Hudson was related in any way to Mrs. Hudson.  Rob pointed out that this story also contained the names Armitage and Pendegrast, that we hear again in SPEC and FIVE respectively.

We also wondered where exactly Holmes went to when he says he returned to his rooms in London.  Joe offered that it could have been is rooms at college while Elaine thought he may have settled in with brother Mycroft for a time.

Holmes soon hears from Victor that Old Trevor is dying, and Holmes' response to that was it was impossible.  It was noted that Old Trevor had recently fainted from Holmes surprising him, and Michael said that Holmes should have eliminated the impossible and simply said that this was improbable.

It turns out that Old Trevor had gone downhill since Hudson had arrived.  He was given a job as gardener, but only got drunk and harassed the maids.  He was then promoted to butler and was just as horrible at that job.  Victor put him in his place one day, and Old Trevor came to Victor to ask him to apologize to Hudson.  Victor refused to do so and asked his father for the truth about Hudson, but could not get an answer from him.

Hudson soon announced that he was leaving and going to visit Old Trevor's friend, Beddoes.  Old Trevor took a turn for the worse, and when a letter from Beddoes arrives, it was almost as if he had had a stroke.

By the time that Victor and Holmes have returned to the house, Old Trevor has dies.  Holmes immediately suspects that Hudson was blackmailing Old Trevor.

Victor gives Holmes the note that had arrived, which read, "The supply of game for London is going steadily up.  Head Keeper Hudson we believe has been now told to receive all orders for fly paper and for preservation of your hen pheasant's life."

Holmes deciphers the code, reading every third word: "The game is up.  Hudson has told all.  Fly for your life."

Srini pointed out that if this was such an urgent message, was there really a need for this to be a cipher?

Victor has a letter from his father, telling him the truth about Hudson and Old Trevor's previous life.  His real name was James Armitage and he was aboard the convict ship, The Gloria Scott, headed for Australia that was lost off of the west coast of Africa.

As we recounted Old Trevor's story, Adam pointed out that the dating of this event to thirty years prior did not line up with Holmes' age.  Kristen pointed out that Hudson was the one who said it happened thirty years ago, and since he was such a drunk, you probably couldn't trust him.

There was a prisoner mutiny on the ship, and Old Trevor and Beddoes disagreed with how the convicts would deal with the ship's crew.  They were set out on a lifeboat before the entire ship was blown up by the first mate.  Old Trevor and Beddoes rescued Hudson, who had been a crewmate on The Gloria Scott.

The three of them were rescued and delivered to Sydney, where Trevor and Beddoes changed their names to avoid their sentences and Trevor eventually became rich in mining.  Once he was rich, Trevor came back to England and became a justice of the peace.

Andrew, Kristen, Michael and Srini wondered why so many Australian convicts found their way back to England after being shipped out.

We debated how believable this story was, as it was written by Old Trevor, and he could have changed events to make himself look better in his son's eyes.  There was also discussion on just how bad of a person was Old Trevor.

After Trevor's death, Beddoes and Hudson have disappeared.  Holmes believed that Beddoes has killed Hudson and disappeared. 

Michael offered the theory that Holmes helped to orchestrate these disappearances as well as Victor's tea plantation in India for a princely sum.  Maybe Holmes was a criminal mastermind before he was a detective?

Rob wondered why Holmes would have the hen pheasant note and Victor didn't keep it for himself.  Margie argued that the note was essentially a murder weapon, and if she were Victor, she wouldn't want anything to do with it.

Kristen noted that this story had more history than detection in it.  Possibly because Holmes was a professional detective yet.  Possibly because Doyle was more interested in historical narratives at this point in his life.

Michael pointed out that the lost ship trope pops up frequently in the Canon, and this wasn't the only story that contained a false clergyman.

Elaine shared Bill Cochran's thoughts on GLOR from his essay in About Sixty.

It was tossed around that if this was Holmes' first instance of detective work and he failed at it, is this why he hates blackmailers so much in his later years?

We also theorized on where Mycroft would be in his career at this time period and that led to a general discussion about the Holmes family.

Heather noted that Holmes only attending two years of college would not be proper, and we then discussed Holmes' college career.

Michael quizzed us on what types of alcohol were mentioned in GLOR.  Answer: brown sherry and port.

We then turned our conversation into introspection and discussed why we Sherlockians love to pick apart the stories and why Americans in particular seem to have a deeper fascination and bigger reaction to intellectual properties than the British.  We didn't come up with a definite answer for it, but we can all agree that whatever reason, we're glad that it brings us together every other month.

And speaking of getting together every other month, make sure to start off 2019 by joining us on January 12 for The Musgrave Ritual.  Come at once if convenient!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

The Stockbroker's Clerk

We had another great meeting this weekend at the Schafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library!  You could tell summer was over, as our numbers in attendance moved back up to the larger size that we've been seeing lately.  It's sad that vacations are over, but great to see everyone again!

We were greeted by a great collage of the Sydney Paget illustrations for this month's story provided by Margie and Karl Kindt.  An undeniable touch!

Before we started with the usual news and giveaways, our group had a healthy discussion about Holmes in the Heartland.  We recapped the weekend's events, talked about ideas for the future, and even recruited some new folks to help planning future events.  We ended the conversation with listing off some of our favorite things from the weekend.  Specific things mentioned, in no particular order were the speaker presentations, with Tim Johnson and Tassy Hayden's getting specific accolades, camaraderie among the attendees, afternoon tea, Saturday's game night, Mark Twain's performance, meeting our out of town visitors, and the tour of the Becker Medical Library rare book room.  Quite a list, indeed!

And then it was on to the news items of the month:

First things first, we had a new member with us!  Heather knew some of the Parallel Case members from Twitter and joined us at Holmes in the Heartland.  We didn't scare her off, so she came back out for an actual meeting.  It's always great to have more Sherlockians join us!

Ed Weiss made a visit to the St. Louis Sherlockian Research Collection and gave it a glowing review!  He was able to spend a few hours poring through the collection.  Being housed in the rare books and manuscript room, Ed said that he had plenty of space and had books and journals scattered all over the tables when he was done.

You can nominate the William Gillette Sherlock Holmes film to be added to the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress here.  Nominations end on September 15.

The next Harpooners of the Sea Unicorn meeting will be at Pio's restaurant in St. Charles on September 28.

The first poster for Holmes and Watson was released on the internet last month.  Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly play Holmes and Watson, respectively.  Ralph Fiennes will play Moriarty and Hugh Laurie will be Mycroft Holmes in this rendition.

From Gillette to Brett will happen on October 5-7 in Bloomington, Indiana.  Blocks of rooms keep selling out, so if you are interested reserve yours now!

Miss Sherlock is now available to watch on HBO Go.  No more illegal streaming necessary to see the widely praised new show.

Michael Waxenberg reported that The Great Alkali Plainsmen of Greater Kansas City scion is back up and running!  Their inaugural meeting was held last month with enthusiastic attendance.  Their next meeting will be on October 21, and their guest will be author Darlene Cysper.

Jim Hawkins of Nashville, TN has created a Facebook page for fans of John Bennett Shaw.

Not new, but worth noting are some great Sherlockian podcasts out there.  Scott Monty and Burt Wolder host not one, but TWO different shows: I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, a long-form interview show with notable Sherlockians, and Trifles, a weekly show that spends 15-20 minutes discussing the finer points of the canonical tales.  Two member of The Toronto Bootmakers, Mike Ranieri and Geordie Telfer, host a monthly podcast, I Grok Sherlock, where they talk about canonical tales and their media representations.

And one last note, if you haven't already done so, like our Facebook page to get updates and Sherlockian news in your Facebook feed.  If you haven't seen anything from us in your feed lately, Facebook has probably weeded us out of your algorithm, so pop back over to the page and like one of our posts.  We will show back up in your news feed.  We promise not to flood your feed, only posting about once a week, and we might be the only place left on Facebook where you can escape posts about politics!

And now, it's story time!

Our story starts off with Watson telling readers about the medical connection he bought after his marriage to Mary Morstan.  He has been at work for three months now when Holmes comes to visit him.  Holmes quickly deduces that Watson has had a cold and that he has a better business than his partner.  Because every Sherlock Holmes story has to start off with Holmes showing off how good he is at observing things.

We had quite a talk about the opening.  Mary opined that it was done rather sloppily.  Stacey pointed out that this is one story where we get to see Watson as just "Dr. John Watson" and not "Sherlock Holmes' roommate."  Heather wondered if Watson and his neighbor's covering for each other was an early for of group practice that we see in many medical offices now. 

It was also asked what Holmes' purpose for recruiting Watson was for this case.  He wasn't really needed, and the fact that Holmes went out of his way to get him was curious.  Mary thought it was to see if Watson was still willing to join his old friend on adventures now that he was a married man.  Stacey thought that Holmes simply missed his old partner.  Kristen said that no matter the motive, she would gladly have ditched her daily responsibilities and jumped in the cab with Holmes, just like Watson!

Their client, Hall Pycroft, is waiting in the cab and shares his story with Holmes and Watson.  He's taken a job at a respected stock firm only to have a man named Arthur Pinner show up and offer him a much higher paying position at the Franco-Midland Hardware Company.  In fact, Pinner gives Pycroft 100 pounds right there to take the position.  Karl did the math online and figured that amount to equal $30,000 today.

We debated how Pinner even knew how to find Pycroft and offer him the position.  It was speculated that Pinner had someone working inside the other firm that alerted him to the new hire.  Rob asked if Pycroft quoting the day's stock prices was realistic, and Michael shared some history of stockbroker's clerks, letting us know that they had to know the day's prices to do trades.

Sure, Pycroft has a lot of money in front of him, but this new offer raises lots of red flags.  He's told not to tell the other firm that he's quit and when he arrives at his new office, it's hardly more than abandoned room.  He's also deduced that Henry Pinner, Arthur's brother that is running this office, is actually the same man that had hired him back in London. 

Stacey pointed out that Pinner's con was a cool game, reeling him in.  Even though Pycroft had his reservations, Karl pointed out that as far as Pycroft knew, his other job was gone, so he didn't have much choice but to go along with this new scheme.

We all noted the similarities between this scam and The Red-Headed League and The Three Garridebs.  The mark needed to be out of a certain spot, so a ruse was constructed to get him away with a mundane task.

Christopher noted that scams were all over the news of that day.  If Hall Pycroft was such a bright young man, why wasn't he more aware of these types of scenarios?

Mary also observed that Pycroft's story in the cab is filled with Cockney slang, but as the story went on, it had all but disappeared.  Michael accredited that to some quality code switching.

After Pycroft has finished his story, "Then Sherlock Holmes cocked his eye at me, leaning back on the cushions with a pleased and yet critical face, like a connoisseur who has just taken his first sip of a comet vintage."  Rob explained what the phrase "comet vintage" meant, a phrase he'd learned from a recent episode of Trifles.

As Holmes, Watson and Pycroft approach the Franco-Midland Hardware Company's office, they see Pinner buy a newspaper and rush inside.  When Holmes and Watson enter the office, pretending to be an accountant and clerk looking for positions, Pinner tells them that jobs could become available soon, "And now I beg that you will go.  For God's sake leave me to myself!"

Pinner excuses himself and retreats to another room.  Knocking and gurgling sounds soon come from the other side of the door, and the men break it down to find Pinner trying to hang himself.  Adam pointed out that Holmes said the matter was pretty clear, but had forgotten about the newspaper.  Once he did remember the paper, the rest of the story became clear: Pinner was working with a safecracker who had posed a Pycroft and stolen railroad bonds and mine scripts.

Michael wondered why Pinner wasn't in London to help with this robbery.  Was it necessary for him to keep Pycroft engaged on Saturday?  We also discussed the criticisms of the story that Holmes should have focused his investigation on the brokerage firm, instead of looking into the fake hardware company.  Kristen offered that maybe it wasn't a coincidence that a police officer was right outside of the brokerage firm when the robber exited.  Maybe Holmes had tipped them off...

Adam and Kristen debated the turn around time for Victorian newspapers, and if it was believable that the foiled robbery could have been in the newspaper that Pinner read.  They agreed that it would have been a big stretch for it to have been possible.

At the end, the bad guys were caught and the story ended.  We are left without knowing Hall Pycroft's fate.  Heather said this stuck out to her as she was reading.  Is Hall Pycroft's name associated with the robbery and can he get another financial job?  None of us had a very good answer for that.

Ed noted that this story was published fairly soon after the Ripper killings were dominating the headlines.  He noted that in About Sixty, Michael Duke theorized that Holmes had the police take all credit for the Pinner arrest to regain some positive image after the Ripper killings.  Christopher wondered if the purpose of this story was to warn people against the numerous frauds that were committed in London at that time.

Many of us felt that STOC wasn't a great detective story, but we all agreed that it was an entertaining story.  There's a reason we keep coming back to the Canon again and again, and that's because they are darn good tales.

Join us next time for our discussion on Sherlock Holmes' origin story, The Gloria Scott.  We will be meeting on November 10.  Come at once if convenient!

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!