Sunday, April 9, 2017

Sherlock Holmes: Before Baker Street

On January 1st, 1881, Dr. John H. Watson, a recently returned wounded veteran from Afghanistan, happened to mention to an old acquaintance that he was in need of new lodgings, having recently realized that he could no long afford to keep living in a hotel in the Strand on his wound pension of eleven shillings and sixpence per day. His acquaintance, Stamford, mentioned that he’d heard someone else mention upon that very day a desire for comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. Intrigued, Watson agreed to accompany Stamford to the lab at Barts hospital to meet this person. Of course, it turned out to be Sherlock Holmes, and the rest is history.

Thus begins one of the most famous friendships ever. When one considers Holmes, so many things spring to mind – the deerstalker, (now a solid part of the tradition, even if finding it mentioned in the original narratives is a stretch,), the pipe, the deductions, the famous profile, and that phrase, “Elementary, my dear Watson!” – again, not found in the original stories, but unforgettably suggestive, nonetheless.

And one of those things most associated with Holmes and Watson is that famous address, 221b Baker Street. It was there that Holmes and Watson agreed to share rooms in early 1881 – initially something of a convenience, as Holmes undoubtedly believed that he had no need for assistance in his work, and Watson was simply hoping for someplace quiet and affordable to recover his shattered health.

But before too many months had passed, Watson became curious about his fellow lodger, and Holmes chose to reveal that he was, in fact, a Consulting Detective. On that same morning, he invited Watson to accompany him upon a murder investigation, and their destiny was fixed into place.

Since then, the Baker Street rooms have been as much a part of the Holmes legend as the deerstalker or the pipe. But what many casual fans forget is that Holmes was living somewhere else before he was introduced to Watson, and before he was able to share the expenses of moving to those comfortable rooms at a reasonable price. Holmes himself gives us just a glimpse of those earlier digs, in Montague Street, “just round the corner from the British Museum”. It was here, he tells us in “The Musgrave Ritual”, that he first lived when he came up to London to set about learning what he would need to know to be the world’s first Consulting Detective, “filling in [his] too abundant leisure time by studying all those branches of science that might make [him] more efficient

Many people, thinking that Holmes and Watson are simple characters in stories, forget that they both had childhoods and old age. Before Holmes became the legendary person that is now known the world over, he spent an apprenticeship of his own devising, learning of crimes and methods of detection to solve them. He labored to perfect those skills that he would need to accomplish his goals – specialized knowledge of the sciences, such as chemistry; the art of disguise, by way of a period in the world of acting; and refinement of his deductive skills, allowing him to see the vast majority of the facts at a glance in a way that was beyond most men. Later, he would be respected the world over, and greatly influence the methods of Scotland Yard and other police forces around the globe – but there first had to be a period when he earned their trust, and learned for himself which ways would and would not work.

Those days Before Baker Street helped make the hero that is so widely admired today. And while there have been other tales that have explored this portion of Holmes’s life, there can certainly never be enough. Thankfully, a new set of adventures specifically examining Holmes’s life Before Baker Street is now available.

Sherlock Holmes: Before Baker Street contains eleven new Holmes stories, ranging from 1862, when Holmes is eight years old, to just hours before his January 1881 meeting with Dr. Watson in the laboratory at Barts. These pre-Baker Street stories aren’t about some completely different Holmes – readers won’t find out that he’s actually a wizard, or a Vulcan accidentally stranded on Earth in the past, or some sort of bitter and secret offspring of Professor Moriarty. This is the Holmes that is our hero - just younger.

Some of today’s best Sherlockian authors have gathered together to bring greater insight into this important part of Holmes’s life, when he was still quite unknown and somewhat inexperienced, and not yet the knowledgeable and world-famous Holmes that would later state, “There is a strong family resemblance about misdeeds, and if you have all the details of a thousand at your finger ends, it is odd if you can’t unravel the thousand-and-first.” This was the period of time when Holmes was accumulating those thousand details at his finger ends.

The book contains the following newly discovered tales:

The Adventure of the Bloody Roses by Jayantika Ganguly

The Vingt-un Confession by Derrick Belanger

The Affair of the Aluminium Crutch by S. Subramanian

The Adventure of the Dead Ringer by Robert Perret

The Painting in the Parlour by David Marcum

The Incident of the Absent Thieves by Arthur Hall

The Devil of the Deverills by S.F. Bennett

Mr. Chen’s Lesson, or A Man of Honor by Derrick Belanger

The Adventure of the Amateur Emigrant by Daniel D. Victor

A Day at the Races by Mark Mower

The Strange Case of the Necropolis Railway by Geri Schear

Additionally, there is a foreword by noted Sherlockian Steven Rothman, BSI, editor of The Baker Street Journal, and also two additional stories from Watson’s original literary agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott” and “The Adventure of the Musgrave Ritual”, the only writings in the original Canon that give details about Holmes’s life Before Baker Street.

The book, from Belanger Books, is currently available on Kickstarter, and information can be found at:

I’m very proud to have been involved with this volume, both as the editor and as a contributor, and I highly recommend it to friends of Sherlock Holmes, either on a deep or casual level. There can never be enough stories about the TRUE Sherlock Holmes, and these will happily help to support that requirement. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Actually, That Wasn’t Watson: Some Notes Eventually Circling In Upon the Major Obfuscation in "Young Sherlock Holmes"

(The following essay originally appeared in a slightly different form in The Watsonian, Fall 2016, Vol.4, No.II)

I play The Game with deadly seriousness. It started early. I first discovered Sherlock Holmes when I was ten, in the mid-1970’s, and not long after, I received a copy of Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. I began to learn of The Game, the belief that Holmes and Dr. Watson were living historical characters, and not simply fictional creations. It’s been a great way to enjoy spending time reading about Our Heroes ever since.

Over the next forty-plus years, as I’ve mentioned in a few – well a lot of, really – other places, I’ve read and collected literally thousands of pastiches in the form of novels, short stories, radio and television episodes, movies and scripts, fan-fiction, comics, and unpublished manuscripts. Since the mid-1990’s, I’ve been organizing and assembling a Chronology of the lives of Holmes and Watson, an ever-changing “whole art of detection” that is now well over 600 pages, breaking down each Canonical story and pastiche by year and by day and by hour, systematizing them by book, chapter, page, and sometimes even paragraph. It’s amazing to see the whole gestalt of how The Great Holmes Tapestry all fits together, and how people from all over the world have added threads that reveal ever more about the big picture.

Reading all of these thousands of pastiches and fitting them into the Chronology as I’ve done occasionally requires some serious and clever rationalizing. Obviously, there are contradictions in the various stories, and some things that are flat-out incorrect, such as when an “editor” of Watson’s notes places the Doctor in Kensington during a time when he should be living in Paddington, or if there is a statement that Watson is publishing a story in The Strand in the 1880’s, when in truth that magazine didn’t actually go into business until early 1891.

I always list those inconsistencies when reading a story and Chronologicizing it. Sometimes a part of a story will be so at odds with established Canon that it seems that it cannot be included at all – but I make it work if I can. For instance, the first two chapters of Michael Dibdin’s extremely controversial novel The Last Sherlock Holmes Story are perfectly fine, and are a part of Holmes’s massive battle against The Ripper. But the rest of the book is a scurrilous slander against Holmes, obviously so maliciously fictional that it must have been written at some later date, probably by a Moriarty, and awkwardly grafted onto Watson’s original notes in order to irretrievably damage Holmes’s reputation. I include the first two chapters of that book in The Chronology, but recommend that it be read no further.

Another famous tale that provides both the same problem and the same solution is Nicholas Meyer’s The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, in which the beginning and end of the book are quite opposed to established Canonical Fact. For The Chronology, I leave out Chapters 1 and 2, as well as parts of Chapters 4 and 17, so that the correct meat of the case, Holmes and Watson’s trip to Vienna and their meeting with Sigmund Freud, is represented, but those parts exonerating Professor Moriarty as a harmless and persecuted old man, as well as the segments incorrectly giving Holmes a damaged history to explain this persecution, are rightly ignored. (No doubt, these portions were also written and appended onto the manuscript by someone trying to rescue the evil Professor’s reputation.)

As one can see, certain cherry-picking must take place occasionally to include an adventure in The Chronology. For if I didn’t do this, then it would be a case of accepting these few incorrect parts as complete fact and therefore skewing all the other narratives that had stayed within the accepted lines. In these instances, I keep the correct parts of the story instead of throwing out the whole baby with the bathwater. And – we’re finally here at the reason for this essay – one of the big examples of making a rationalization of this type so that an adventure will be acceptable is the film Young Sherlock Holmes.

In 1985, when this film came out, I was twenty years old. I’d been wearing a deerstalker as my only hat for about a year – something that I’ve done to the present day, although I’m now on my fourth full-time deerstalker, having worn out the other three – and my hat and I settled into my seat for a matinee showing on opening day. I enjoyed the film very much, and I also learned a valuable lesson – don’t leave before the final credits are over. (I missed an interesting little epilogue at the end.)

I won’t go into how the movie was perceived at the time – possibly too influenced by producer Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones involvement, etc. My big problem with the story was that this purported to be the very first meeting between Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, negating the truth that we already knew. If this was their first encounter, then the events related in the opening chapter of A Study in Scarlet were incorrect at best, with fudged facts, or it was an actual lie. If one believes that Watson initially met Holmes when both of them were attending a London school in the early 1870’s, as shown in Young Sherlock Holmes, then the events in that laboratory at Barts on January 1st, 1881 are terribly misrepresented. Holmes didn’t make any brilliant deductions about a total stranger – Stamford was introducing him to someone whom he’d already met, albeit a decade earlier.

Instead of classifying the whole film (and the accompanying novel by Alan Arnold) as fiction and never watching (or reading) them again, I gave the matter some thought. There were a few minor objections that could be explained away, but the biggest problem was that the young man with glasses identified as Watson could not be Watson. Who, then, could he be?

The answer jumped out at me. Who is another person that grew up to be a doctor that Holmes might have encountered at that younger age, a meeting that did not contradict with his meeting Watson in early 1881? The answer was obvious: It was Holmes’s cousin, Dr. Verner.

The only mention in the Canon of this cousin is in “The Norwood Builder”, a post-Hiatus adventure wherein Watson states that he was able to move back to 221 Baker Street upon selling his practice to this Dr. Verner, whom he later learned to be Holmes’s relative:

A young doctor, named Verner, had purchased my small Kensington practice, and given with astonishingly little demur the highest price that I ventured to ask – an incident which only explained itself some years later, when I found that Verner was a distant relation of Holmes, and that it was my friend who had really found the money.

If one accepts that the young fellow with glasses in the film is Verner and not Watson, the difficulties go away.

This renaming of a character for a Holmes film is not a new idea. In my essay “Basil Rathbone’s Solar Pons Films” (The Baker Street Journal, Vol. 63, No. 4, Winter 2013 and also in this blog - see November 29th, 2016,) I explain how screenwriters in the early days of World War II, anxious to show some films of Holmes fighting Nazis, were dismayed in their ignorance to learn that Holmes was in his nineties at that point, and that Watson had already died. Therefore, they reached out to Holmes’s active successor, Solar Pons, then in his early sixties, and transformed three of his wartime cases into the first three Holmes films produced by Universal Studios – Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943), and Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943).

In order to avoid confusion for modern audiences, who had likely never heard of Solar Pons – and who wouldn’t go see Solar Pons and the Voice of Terror – the name was changed from Pons to Holmes, and Pons’s friend and chronicler, Dr. Lyndon Parker, was re-identified as Dr. Watson. (Unfortunately, Nigel Bruce didn’t portray Dr. Parker any better than he did Dr. Watson.) Thus, the first three Universal films, unmistakably set in World War II, and featuring bombers and bomb sites and other modern technology, were really Pons adventures. (The rest of the Universal films, however, were actually adapted from Watson’s notes, relating his and Holmes’s investigations in World War I or shortly thereafter, with only minor updates added to give the impression that they, too, were occurring in the 1940’s.)

And the same thing was done by screenwriters when preparing Young Sherlock Holmes from whatever notes from which they were working – in this case those of Holmes’s relative instead of Dr. Watson’s. If one doesn’t take as absolute gospel what is presented on the screen, but rather realizes that it has been adapted, mashed, simplified, altered, and rewritten from the true facts, with names changed to make for easier familiarity to a modern audience, then it all makes sense. Watson in this film is really Verner, because general audiences would have no idea who Verner was.

Previous objections go away. Holmes had traveled a great deal as a child, as documented by Baring-Gould. It would not be unusual for him to meet this relative, a cousin in all likelihood, for the first time when they both ended up at the same school – just as it would not be unusual for Verner’s parents to send him to a school where they knew that his slightly older cousin was already attending. (And this helps to explain why the boy in the film is so much smaller than Holmes, when Watson was actually a year-and-a-half older than Holmes. Although one can’t make assumptions based on the appearance of actors chosen to play the part, the idea that cousin Verner was younger would help to explain this.)

If one has traveled this far through this rationalization, then the next question to ask is: Was the boy’s name really Verner? In spite of Watson’s spelling it that way in NORW, I believe that it’s really spelled Vernier, exactly the same as the man who narrates the Holmes adventures “edited” by Sam Siciliano. These narratives, The Angel of the Opera, The Grimwell Curse, The Web Weaver, The White Worm, and The Moonstone’s Curse, are all related by Holmes’s cousin, Dr. Henry Vernier.

I have no doubts that this is the same fellow that we see in Young Sherlock Holmes, hallucinating in a cemetery while being attacked by pastries. Dr. Vernier doesn’t realize it as he relates his own adventures with his cousin Holmes, but he’s actually a rather unlikable character. He’s whiny and terribly emasculated. He sometimes gets his facts and dates wrong, and he tells outright fibs. And he’s extremely jealous of Watson, frequently and egregiously trying to give the impression that he, Vernier, is Holmes’s best friend. In The White Worm, Vernier even erroneously quotes Holmes as saying, “Dr. Watson and I are not quite so close as he has portrayed. In fact, Henry is my preferred companion.” Vernier deludedly believes this fact. It colors his perception so that he is convinced that he is the most involved and important figure in Holmes’s investigations, while Watson is a peripheral figure that Holmes doesn’t really like, in spite of the thousands of cases with Watson – and not Vernier – that prove otherwise.

It’s likely that Watson was aware of Vernier’s jealousy, but I don’t believe that Watson himself would be so deliberately petty as to misspell Vernier’s name in “The Norwood Builder”. Rather, I lay that error on a printer’s mistake at The Strand, or perhaps it was Doyle, the Literary Agent, who mis-copied from Watson’s notes – something which had happened before. However, this slight against him no doubt simply added to the fire of Vernier’s pique.

Verner – or Vernier – has appeared in a few other places, most notably some really excellent adventures originally published as Young Sherlock Holmes-related fan-fiction. Of course, these “editors” took their cue from the film, since they didn’t know any better, and assumed that the tales were being narrated by Watson, when it was actually Vernier. However, it was clear to me when adding these stories to The Chronology that Vernier was the true narrator, and it is now so noted.

It was announced a few years ago – in true Hollywood fashion – that a remake of Young Sherlock Holmes was in the works. I’m very curious to see what form that it might take. In the nearly thirty-two years since the original appeared, there has been quite a bit more revealed about Holmes’s life in the form of massive amounts – but never too much! – of additional stories. Andrew Lane has chronicled a number of excellent adventures in his Young Sherlock Holmes series, which has nothing whatsoever to do with the events of the film. Other “editors” of long-lost notes have also filled in many gaps. Will the new version, should it ever be made, honor the original, or go in a completely different direction?

The 1985 film has gained a certain amount of respect over the intervening years. In 2015, the actor who played young Sherlock Holmes, Nicholas Rowe, played him again, this time in a Holmes film-within-a-film being watched by the elderly sleuth, (played by Ian McKellan,) in Mr. Holmes. For those in the know, this was a neat tip-of-the-hat to honor the long thread that connects all Holmes films, stretching back for over a hundred years.

Another question I have about the possible remake is how, after all this time, they’ll be able to avoid the deep Harry Potter connections found in Young Sherlock Holmes. I’m not the first one to notice that this film, written by Chris Columbus, features two boys and a girl as the main protagonists, with Watson/Vernier looking exactly like a young Harry Potter. There is a Malfoy-like villain, a Hogwarts-like setting, and a mystery that might involve magic. Who can say if Jo Rowling was influenced by this film when she was writing the first Harry Potter book? But it’s no coincidence that the man picked to produce the first three Potter films (and direct the first two,) giving them much of their style and visual appearance, was this same Chris Columbus, making them look and feel so much like his earlier Holmes effort.

If a new version of Young Sherlock Holmes is made, my deerstalker and I will be there on opening day, just like we were back in December 1985. But however they choose to do it this time, I’m certain that the screenwriters will still be incorrectly calling Henry Vernier by the name “John H. Watson”.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Sherlock Holmes versus Jack the Ripper

I’ve been collecting Sherlock Holmes stories, both Canon and Pastiche, since 1975. One of the busiest and most important periods in Holmes's life was in the fall of 1888, during The Autumn of Terror. There have been dozens narratives about this subject over the years, each offering different and sometimes conflicting versions of the battle with Jack the Ripper. What follows is an explanation of how none of these accounts actually contradict each other, with only one version being “true”, thereby making all the others false.

Early on in my collecting and reading, it became apparent that Holmes’s investigation of The Ripper was one of the most complicated of his career. By reading all of the various accounts of Our Hero’s labors, I was forced to learn great deal about The Ripper’s crimes, almost by necessity. I’ve been able to make three extensive Holmes Pilgrimages to London and England in 2013, 2015, and 2016. During those trips, my ever-present deerstalker and I have spent quite a bit of time in Whitechapel, visiting the locations of the different murders, as well as associated buildings, such as the Ten Bells Pub. I’ve explored those streets a total of six times, two times per trip. I’ve been there three different times in daylight, and three different times at night. Two of the three nighttime explorations began with the tours conducted by Donald Rumbelow, the former City of London police officer who is the acknowledged worldwide expert on The Ripper. He and I had several discussions about Holmes’s involvement in the case, and – pointing out my deerstalker to the crowd – Mr. Rumbelow added extra Holmesian content to the tours on those nights.

I discovered the following tale during my first Holmes Pilgrimage to London in September 2013. This narrative, along with a number of other Watsonian manuscripts, were unearthed during a fortuitous encounter in St. Martin’s Street, near the Westminster Reference Library, and more documents will be released in the future, in addition to those already published. "November, 1888" was originally in The Watsonian (Fall 2015, Volume 3, Number 2), and will be included in some future volume of Watson’s works, as edited by me. I decided to put this document onto my blog for a couple of reasons: First, because since it was initially revealed, there have been a few more Holmes-versus-The Ripper narratives published, showing that the entire story has yet to be completely told; and also because I’m often writing to this-or-that person about Holmes’s involvement in the Ripper investigation, and now I can simply send them a link, instead of reinventing the wheel every time to explain just what Holmes did in those terrible days of late 1888.

November, 1888
Edited by David Marcum

From the Journals of Mycroft Holmes
26 November, 1888

I was just pouring the brandy when my brother was shown into the Stranger’s Room. It was only a few days since I had last seen him, and he looked more careworn today than he had before, in spite of the fact that the events of the last few months seem to finally be passing.

Without making it an offer that he might refuse, I filled a second glass with a healthy portion. I did not know if he had eaten this morning, although I doubted it, but I was sure that he would be sensible enough to imbibe slowly and moderately, avoiding any light-headedness. There was no room in today’s discussion for that.

I saw him glance toward the window, looking out onto Pall Mall. A smile flickered across his worn and thin face as he correctly perceived that I had spent the last quarter-of-an-hour there, looking out on the constant parade of mankind moving back and forth between St. James and Waterloo Place. How lucky they are, those passing pedestrians, whatever their fortunes or misfortunes, to be able to go about their lives in blissful ignorance.

Sherlock accepted the brandy with a silent nod and sank into the red leather chair. I settled in my usual spot across from him. He took a sip and closed his eyes. I could not recall when I had seen him appear to be so weary and downtrodden. And yet, his indefatigable spark was still there.

“How is Watson?” I asked.

He did not open his eyes. “Recovering,” he replied quietly. (A)

I was already aware of the nature and extent of Watson’s injuries, as well as of his current condition, but it seemed like a good place to begin. Sherlock, of course, realized that I knew as well, but he allowed me the courtesy of letting the conversational gambit pass unremarked.

“Does he know the truth, then?” I asked. This was something that I did not know. “About his brother’s involvement in the matter?” (B)

“No, and he shall not, if I have anything to say about it,” Sherlock remarked. He opened his eyes then. “It is bad enough that he was wounded more than once during the last few weeks. The fact that his own brother was connected with this vast conspiracy that is now known to the masses as ‘Jack the Ripper’ is a burden that he should not have to bear. He had already believed his brother to be dead. No need to learn that the man had returned to London, only to involve himself with the vile cabal that has run amuck for this entire autumn.”

My brother’s voice had risen as he spoke. It was not shrill – I had never heard my brother sound that way, although Watson had related to me recently how Sherlock had shrieked and cried out just one year ago, when he was feigning near-death from a tropical disease, as part of a trap to force an admission of guilt from one Culverton Smith. (C) I had only met Dr. John Watson a couple of months before today, during the events related to my neighbor Mr. Melas, (D) and I already knew that he was a man who did not exaggerate. At some point since our first meeting, Watson had told me some of the facts related to my brother’s earlier feigned illness. Sherlock was always willing to go to any lengths to catch a criminal, even to the point of deceiving his greatest friend in order to devise a stratagem. But I was aware that he had never had to go so far as he had the past few months, while trying to destroy that great conspiracy that had been mistakenly credited to one shadowy man, known to the press and public alike as “Jack.”

I let the silence stand for a long moment, before asking, “Do you think, then, that it is finished?”

I knew the same facts that Sherlock did, but I valued his opinion nonetheless. I have always been able to assimilate the widest variety of data and reach a true and verifiable conclusion, but I did not have his personal acquaintance with crime, and of those who think criminal thoughts. Clearly, his experience far surpassed mine. I was sure, however, that in spite of all the years of educating himself in the ways of the underworld, nothing could have prepared my brother for what he had faced since the murder of Martha Tabram on 7 August had set these events in motion. Or rather, diverted events already in motion into a completely new and bloody course.

“If the Prime Minister will let it finish,” said Sherlock.

“He gave you his word – ” I began, before Sherlock interrupted.

“His word is a sliding and slimy thing, as you well know, based on what he perceives to be important and expedient at the moment. When he learned of Prince Eddy’s Catholic marriage, and the resulting child, there were any number of actions that he might have taken. Instead, he chose the Becket solution: ‘Will no one rid me of this turbulent marriage? This turbulent wife and child?’”

“He did not commit the murders,” I reminded him. “He did not sanction them.”

“He suspected,” said Sherlock. “How could he not? As events began to unfold, could he not help but remember that he had mentioned to some of his cronies that the Crown might be in danger, thus letting nature take its course?

“You know this as well as I, Mycroft,” he continued. “The men who learned the secret from the lips of Salisbury felt as if they were charged with completing a task. They, however, did not know how to do so. They imbued the proceedings with great ceremony and importance, thinking they were saving the kingdom from the spark that could cause a socialist revolution. In order to give themselves some feeling of legitimacy, they attached to their plan a number of the Masonic rituals that they shared with one another. By the time the plot had progressed to actually contracting a killer to do their dirty work, the thing had almost become something of a Holy Quest!” (E)

He took a breath and shook his head. Before he could continue, I said, “None of this is disputable. The men that started the hunt to locate the women who knew the secret, and eliminate them – ”

“Not just the women who knew the secret,” he interrupted. “They were after the child and the mother as well. And need I remind you that the Prime Minister told me that Annie Crook has died, when I’ve already proved to my own satisfaction that she did not? A demonstrable lie!”

I nodded. “You are correct. The plans were set in motion by the Prime Minister’s fears. But he cannot be blamed for the way that the others became involved as things progressed. He did not know of the other killers who were drawn in, like ships with mad captains sailing intentionally into the whirlpool of supposedly officially-sanctioned murder.”

“Cut the poetry, brother,” said Sherlock. “That sounds suspiciously like something that was written in that effort published by Watson last Christmas.” (F)

A Study in Scarlet, indeed,” I said. “The Ripper murders make the matter of Jefferson Hope’s revenge killings seem like a nursery rhyme.”

“You know as well as I the deadly truths that were involved in the history of most of those children’s songs.” He closed his eyes again and slumped back into the red leather. “I wonder if someday they will sing songs about Jack.”

I took a moment to stand and recharge our brandy glasses. This time, I added a bit of water to them both. We needed to remain clear-headed while we decided how best to go about saving the realm.

Finally, I said, “I believe the way to proceed is to first make sure that we know who the various ‘Rippers’ were.”

Sherlock sat up. “Agreed. Do we need something with which to write?”

I smiled at his pawky humor, surely a sign that he would recover from his experiences of the last few months. He knew that I never forgot a thing. And neither did he.

“First,” he said, “we must list Sir William Gull, and coachman John Netley, and the men who aided them.” (A) (E)

“Sir William was the man who took the Prime Minister’s implied wishes and made them real,” I agreed. “Netley and the others only too willing to aid him. And then?”

“You ask ‘and then,’ as if there was someone else who took the second place ribbon for butchery. They were all complicit, and equally guilty in the eyes of God and man. For instance there was the Duke of Shires. (G) And then there was the emasculated European nobleman, whose name we may never know. (H) Next, Henry Watson, the supposedly deceased brother of our friend, the good doctor, who overheard something of the plot and wrote himself into the story.” (B)

He had been ticking off names with his fingers. “Lord Daintry was involved as well, but to what extent? (I) Certainly as much as those Finnish butchers who happened to be in London and helped to fuel the ferocity of the murders. (J) Possibly they participated simply as a lark. And then there was the young Russian priest.” (K)

“What about Druitt, the attorney?” I asked. “Surely his guilt is less than the others. His growing madness was used to manipulate him.” (L)

“He was certainly involved, though to what degree may always be uncertain. Professor Moriarty certainly believes him to be the killer. The man clearly appears to be headed toward suicide. His actions are certainly indicative of . . . something. I am still watching him.”

“If actions are indicative, then Inspector Athelney Jones’s attempt to take the blame for the crimes must be examined. Are you certain that he is innocent?” (M)

“Jones is an idiot, but with good intentions, even if misguided,” replied Sherlock. “Somehow, reaching far above his usual limited abilities, he intuited the government’s connection with the plot, dimly grasped what discovery could do to the Crown, and took it upon himself to lure me onto a false trail, trying to seem as if he were, in fact, The Ripper. His ridiculous plan, thinking that he was protecting Prince Eddy himself, was undone in a few hours.”

“Still, the fact that this ‘idiot,’ as you call him, was apparently able to perceive what was going on – ”

“The man is innocent. He has already been called before his superiors, informed that he is a fool, and returned to his duties. The fact that he was willing to tarnish Scotland Yard with the stigma of harboring a murderous inspector, especially a murderer of the Ripper’s reputation and intensity, only shows how far he was willing to go to try to save the Crown. The fool’s self-sacrifice, in some ways, is actually admirable.”

“As was Lord Carfax’s noble attempt to do the same thing,” I added. “Attempting to divert attention away from his father’s involvement, even at the cost of losing his own life, and staining the future life of his own daughter.” (G)

“Indeed,” agreed Sherlock quietly, crossing his legs.

“And speaking of tarnishing Scotland Yard,” I added, “what about Inspector Foxborough, and all of his socialist plotting? (N) He knew the truth, or at least a great deal of it, and was willing to let the killings continue to bring about the downfall of the government.”

“That situation has taken care of itself,” said Sherlock. “As you know, Foxborough was killed. Before Sir Charles Warren’s resignation took effect, he made sure that Foxborough, as well as all indications of his crimes, were stricken from the official records.”

“Surely the Force knows what went on. There will be talk.”

“Lestrade knows the whole story. I owed him that much. A few of the other senior men know as well. Gregson, Bradstreet, Abberline. They may be unimaginative, but they can understand well enough what would happen if the truth, as they know it, were to be made public. They will quash things on their side.”

“Nevertheless . . . .” I said.

“You have doubts, brother, that the truth can be contained?”

“I do,” I said. “What are we to do, then? The conspiracy was too vast, too well known.”

“Denial,” said Sherlock emphatically. “Bald-faced denial.”

I shook my head. “I repeat, it is too well known. The policemen who assisted you know bits and pieces of the truth. They will talk, no matter what their superiors suggest to them. Others will speculate as well. They all know about different pieces of the overall puzzle. There is no way to believably present the idea that a single unknown madman was responsible, even to save the government.”

“Different pieces of the puzzle . . . .” Sherlock said quietly to himself. Then he was quiet for a moment, staring at the last of his brandy as he swirled it round and round. The morning light from the window overlooking Pall Mall caught it and made it glow.

“Nature abhors a vacuum,” he finally muttered.

“As I’ve been saying,” I replied with a certain vexation creeping into my voice. “We cannot hope that the simple explanation of a lone killer will satisfy the need for answers.”

“Exactly,” said my brother, uncrossing his legs and sitting straighter. “We have all the facts, you and I, here at our fingertips. It is quite probable that we are the only two men who know all that happened. At least,” he said, overriding my objection, “enough of the facts to have an overall understanding of the conspiracy.

“If there is a vacuum waiting to be filled with tales of the Ripper,” he continued, “then let us decisively take charge of filling it. We can provide enough tales for the curious public to choke them.”

I looked at him, not quite in shock, but with something close to it. “Sherlock, what you’re saying is impossible. We simply cannot release the true story to the public. They will not ‘choke’ on it, as you predict. They will parse it out into digestible morsels like baby birds, and squawk for the next, and then the next after that. They will dissect the truth and add their own speculations and elaborations, becoming ever hungrier, until the social disaster that Salisbury feared will inevitably come true.”

“Not,” said Sherlock, “if we give them the truth in such a way so as to make it contradict itself.”

I was quiet for a moment, digesting his idea. He watched me with a smile for a moment, enjoying as I caught up with him.

“You really might have a talent for this sort of thing,” I said quietly. “You mean to give up the whole truth, but in pieces.”


“You propose to reveal the segment implicating Sir William Gull and Netley as if it is the sole true solution, and as if they were the only killers. But you also, for instance, mean to release an unimpeachable account of the matter proving that the Duke of Shires was the only possible killer – indeed, that he could be the only possible killer.”

My brother nodded. “There are other ways to finesse the matter, as well. For instance, one version that is leaked to the public might identify Sir William by name. Another might call him, oh, ‘Sir Thomas Spivey.’ The facts will be there in the second account that seem to actually point to Gull, now called Spivey, but those who enjoy pulling at the threads of this rotten tapestry of a conspiracy will find just as much to point toward someone else.

“Of course, there will always be those who will favor the idea of a single killer with mere madness as his motive, such as Druitt or Kosminski (O) or Ostrog, or even that painter, Sickert. As these theorists preach their views, it will simply muddy the waters, and in the end confusion will reign. No one will know for certain what the truth was regarding Salisbury’s original wishes, and the murderous actions of Gull and all the others, because there will be so much available information that the public is trying to swallow that they won’t be able to get any of it down.”

“It is . . . quite elegant, in its messiness,” I said. “But how will we present these different perspectives of the same structure to the masses?”

A pained look crossed my brother’s face. After a quiet reflection, he sighed and answered. “As you previously mentioned, Watson published a story last December. (F) He had threatened to do so for quite some time – almost, in fact, since the matter occurred in early ’81. He is an incurable journal-keeper, and makes copious records of our cases on a regular basis. I do fear that he intends to publish more of them in the future.

“Be that as it may, I know that he has maintained extensive journals throughout the Ripper investigation, perhaps in greater detail than ever before. Mixed in with them are the other cases that were investigated during this time, such as the matter of the Baskerville Hound in Dartmoor last month, (P) and before that, the search for the killers associated with the Agra treasure. (Q) It was during that affair, as you recall, that Watson met Miss Morstan, whom I expect will be playing a greater part in his life before long. When some of the Ripper conspirators threatened her life while she was secreted in the Tower for her protection, the good doctor’s feelings for the lady were resolutely set in stone.” (H)

“If I understand you,” I said, “you are suggesting that we ask Watson to edit his diaries and notes into several separate volumes, multiple volumes in fact, for each killer or set of killers, and the circumstances related to their own involvement in the conspiracy. Each will be a complete narrative in and of itself, and each will identify a different Ripper suspect as the one and true villain. When one says that Sir William Gull was the killer, and all the events connected to that particular unmasking lead inevitably to him, it will seem as completely true as a similar type of journal entry that reveals, with step-by-step precision, that another man – or group – is the Ripper. With both written so as to just identify one specified killer or group, with all of the truth included to provide complete veracity, they will serve to cancel each other out, and the world will never know what really happened.”

“That is how I see it,” said Sherlock. “We can further confuse matters by relating events from cases that occurred before the Ripper murders began, and having Watson write them in such a way as to make them appear as if they are also related to these crimes, when obviously they are not. (R) This will in turn serve to cast doubt on the true events that we are placing in plain sight.”

“Watson could even make references in other diary entries related to unrelated investigations that you had been involved with the efforts to stop the Ripper killings, but never found a solution,” I added. (S)

“Or he could state that I was never asked to participate at all. (T) Many individuals know that I was involved, so once again, an element of confusion would be added to the whole mixture.”

A sudden thought occurred to me. “Would Watson be willing to do this thing that you have conceived? He values his reputation as an honest man, and rightly so. We are asking him to lie.”

“Not lie,” said Sherlock. “At least, not every time. Once he understands the need for such a deception, for such a selective . . . division of the truth, I believe that he will willingly join us.”

“Surely, you don’t mean to tell him everything,” I said.

Sherlock nodded. “He can never know the truth about his brother. In truth, he was injured before the thread connecting his brother to the matter was cut. If that part is to be revealed, it must be at some later date.”

“You say, ‘if that part’ and ‘at some later date.’ I assume that you mean, then, that these assorted versions of the bigger truth will be doled out in small spoonfuls, instead of dumped on an unsuspecting public all at once.”

Sherlock nodded. “As I said, Watson is likely to publish again, now that he has been bitten by that bug. I do not believe that he was satisfied with the way his last effort was presented. His literary agent, who also wrote the middle part of the work concerning those old doings in America, only managed to place their effort in a cheap Christmas periodical. Watson hasn’t said anything out loud, but I believe that he fancies something more permanent for his future literary efforts. I myself would prefer a definitive scientific description of my cases, possibly printed in a scholarly journal.”

I smiled. “You’ll have to write those yourself, brother,” I said. “I read Watson’s book last year, and I do not believe that he will be changing his style, no matter how much you harangue him about it. And I agree with you – he will publish again. Now it seems that, according to your plan, we will eventually need to encourage him to do so.”

“I would be tempted to say that more of these dubious stories about me will only appear over my dead body,” said Sherlock, “but I do not want that to become a necessary event, especially as I am the one proposing that we use these very same stories to bring about our plan.”

“It is not simply Watson’s reputation that may be affected if we do this,” I said. “All of these contradictory versions, with some saying that you could not reach a solution at all, will reflect upon you in ways that we cannot yet imagine.”

“A very small price to pay, I assure you,” replied my brother. “It would be a shame to have carried our burden this far, and not complete the task.”

“Still, with all of these versions being set adrift upon the waters, something unforeseen may occur. For instance, your acquaintance, the Professor, may very well use something like this to his own ends, to damage the government, or even you personally.” (U)

My brother smiled. “Perhaps someone could write a tale where you are the Ripper, Mycroft!” (V)

I sniffed. “Intolerable. Better that neither of us is tarred with that brush.”

“It cannot be helped. If the Professor does seek to add his own ingredients to the stew, it can only help to further the confusion that we are trying to create.”

“This stew that we have seemingly agreed to create,” I said. “Just how many versions of this reality do you envision?”

“As many as there are individuals who were involved in the conspiracy,” replied my brother, settling back again into the red leather chair. (W)

“If Watson intends to continue writing as you say, it should be easy to ask him to slip in contradictory references to his other non-Ripper narratives. (X)

“Indeed. And possibly someone in your department could make themselves familiar with Watson’s style, and generate something completely fictional as well. Perhaps, for instance, having the Ripper turn out to be the villain in Stevenson’s book from a year or so ago, about Jekyll and Hyde.” (Y)

“I am not familiar with it,” I said.


We sat in silence for some minutes. The brandy was gone, and I was disinclined to seek more. Each of us, I think, were contemplating the terrible crimes of the past few months, and this mad and unexpected scheme that we had concocted to steer the great ship of state back into smooth waters.

“It will work,” said Sherlock finally. “It must.”

“I agree.”

“It will not simply involve Watson’s efforts,” he added. “We will need to ensure that Watson’s narratives are not only encouraged, but released in such a way, and at appropriate times, to offset damage as it may occur. Even into the next century or beyond, if necessary.”

“That can be done,” I said. “The resources available to me will make it so.”

My brother abruptly stood. “So be it, then.” As I also stood, but not nearly so abruptly, he continued. “The details can work themselves out soon enough. For now, I must be about other business.”

I nodded. I could only imagine what other business he could have. In spite of the many demands that the Ripper matter had made upon him, he had still managed to maintain his regular practice as well, investigating a number of unconnected cases during the previous months.

As I pictured him going about his work, an odd question popped into my head. “After Watson marries again, as we both suppose that he will, do you plan to continue residing in that shabby set of rooms in Baker Street? We owe you something. I can arrange for you to have a suite of the finest in whatever quarter that you wish.”

A flash appeared for an instant in his deep-set eyes. I was not sure if it were anger or amusement. Then, with a smile that seemed to take some of the care from his tired face, he said, “No thank you, brother. I believe that I have become quite accustomed to my situation, and more importantly, Mrs. Hudson has become accustomed to me. I am too old to be training someone else to my necessary ways.”

“Too old!” I scoffed. “You are but thirty-four!”

“And a weary thirty-four it is, indeed,” he replied. He moved a step toward the door, and then stopped. Pivoting on one foot, he turned toward me and stuck out his hand.

I could not remember how many years it had been since my brother and I had shared a handshake. But this was more than just a casual farewell. This was the sealing of a bargain. And this was also the acknowledgement that both of us, my brother more than me, and also our absent friend Watson, had come through the wars and had done a good job indeed.

I grasped my brother’s hand and we solemnly shook.

Then, with a nod, Sherlock turned and left the room.


During the course of their momentous conversation, in which they devised their audacious plan to save the Crown from the filth and the aftermath of the massive Ripper Conspiracy, Sherlock and Mycroft Holmes refer obliquely to a number of interrelated events that were later separated out into individually published and released strands of the investigation. For those who want to know more about the events to which they refer, a partial list is provided below, showing both titles and the individuals responsible for bringing Watson’s writings to the public.

A few of the listed notations listed below contain moderate spoilers, relating to whom the Ripper was identified to be in each particular telling.

You have been warned!

A. Watson was injured on several occasions during the Ripper investigation, including Murder by Decree (Book by Robert Weverka, and Film, 1979); Sherlock Holmes and Saucy Jack (Script, 1979); The Reign of Terror (“Lord Blackhood der Kether”, 2001, Internet Publication); and The Mycroft Memoranda (Ray Walsh, 1984); among others;

B. The Mycroft Memoranda;

C. 19 November, 1887: “The Adventure of the Dying Detective” (Dr. John H. Watson, 1913, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);

D. 12 September, 1888: “The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter” (Dr. John H. Watson, 1893, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);

E. The Masonic Conspiracy to protect the crown was related in various formats, including: Murder by Decree; Sherlock Holmes and Saucy Jack; The Reign of Terror; Sherlock Holmes: The Whitechapel Horrors (Edward B. Hanna, 1992); Holmes and the Ripper (Brian Clemens, Play Script, 1988, and Audio Drama, Big Finish Productions, 2010); The World of Sherlock Holmes (Michael Harrison, 1973); I, Sherlock Holmes (Michael Harrison, 1977); Lestrade and the Ripper (M.J. Trow, 1988); and Jack the Ripper versus Sherlock Holmes (Phillip Duke, 2012, Kindle Edition);

F. A Study in Scarlet (Dr. John H. Watson, 1887, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);

G. A Study in Terror (Film, and Book by Ellery Queen, 1965). In the book version, Ellery Queen takes Holmes’s solution and perceives a second, hidden solution;

H. The Whitechapel Horrors (Paul Boler, 2000, Internet Publication);

I. The Adventure of the Apocalypse Murders (Barry Day, 2001);

J. “A Special Brand of Courage” The One True Detective (Ronald Carpenter, 2005, Internet Publication);

K. Chapel Noir (2001) and Castle Rouge (2002) (Carole Nelson Douglas). The young Russian priest is revealed as Rasputin, who is later shown to be Professor Moriarty’s son in Rasputin’s Revenge (John Lescroart, 1987);

L. The Return of Moriarty (John Gardner, 1974); and Murder in Whitechapel: The Adventure of the Post-Mortem Knife (D.A. Joy 2009, 2013);

M. “Jack the Harlot Killer” Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street (William S. Baring-Gould, 1962) and “Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Murders” (Jeremy B. Holstein, 2014, Script Adaptation);

N. Murder by Decree (Book and film); and The Reign of Terror;

O. Fatal Enquiry (Will Thomas, 2015). This narrative reveals a parallel investigation by Cyrus Barker, Holmes’s hated rival upon the Surrey shore;

P. 25 September–20 October (various dates) and 27 November, 1888: The Hound of the Baskervilles (Dr. John H. Watson, 1902, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);

Q. 7-10 September, 1888: The Sign of the Four (Dr. John H. Watson, 1890, edited by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle);

R. This very thing was done in a curious story relating one of Holmes’s separate investigations, later reworked to include references to The Ripper. It was initially released, for whatever reason, in German, and later in Spanish and French, as Wie Jack, der Aufschlitzer Gefast Wurde (How Jack the Ripper Was Caught) (1907). It has since been newly translated several times, and released in the U.S. under different titles, including: “Jack the Ripper” (Translated by Eduardo Zinna, Ripperologist Magazine, Issues 83, 84, and 85, September, October, and November 2007, respectively); “The Secret Files of the King of Detectives: Jack the Ripper” Sherlock Holmes vs. Jack the Ripper (Translated and adapted by Frank J. Morlock, 2011); and Sherlock Holmes Versus Jack the Ripper (Translated by Joseph Lovece, 2014);

S. Narratives implying that Holmes found no solution to the Ripper crimes include: “The Secret Adventure of the Whitechapel Murders” The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (Paul E. Heusinger, 2006); and “Omen Nemo” The Papers in the Case (Douglas Moreton, 1997);

T. The following indicate that Holmes was not involved with the Ripper Investigation: Sherlock Holmes and the Fall River Tragedy (Owen Haskell, 1997); Sherlock Holmes and the Treasure Train (Frank Thomas, 1985); The Travels of Sherlock Holmes (John Hall, 1997); “The Adventure of the Other Man” Sherlock Holmes: Consulting Detective – Vol. 5 (Chuck Miller, 2013); “The Chesham Hall Mystery” More Sherlock Holmes Mysteries (“Anon.”, 2012, Kindle Edition); In The Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes: The Case of the Buchanan Curse (Allen Sharp, 1993); Sherlock Holmes in New York: The Adventure of the New York Ripper (Philip J. Carraher, 2005); Murder on the Brighton Line (Mike Hogan, 2014, Kindle Edition); and Sherlock Holmes 1888: Autumn of Blood (Unpublished Manuscript);

U. This very thing happened in The Last Sherlock Holmes Story (Michael Dibdin, 1978). Only Chapters 1-2 reflect an accurate fragment of Holmes’s involvement in the Ripper Investigation. The remainder of the book is a spurious addition that has been grafted onto Watson’s original notes at some later date, probably after the turn of the century by Professor Moriarty’s brother, Colonel Moriarty, in an attempt to destroy Holmes’s reputation. True friends of Mr. Sherlock Holmes instantly recognized that these portions of the book were a libelous outrage, and not to be countenanced or taken seriously;

V. To see how this played out, examine The Last Confession of Sherlock Holmes (Kieran Lyne, 2014).

W. Other tales relating details of lesser-known individuals that were involved in the Ripper matter include: Dust and Shadow (Lyndsay Faye, 2009); Art in the Blood (Bonnie MacBird, 2015); Sherlock Holmes: The Plagues of London (Kelvin I. Jones, 2012, Kindle Edition); Sherlock Holmes and the Hunt for Jack the Ripper, (Gerard Kelly, 2014, Kindle Edition); Death by Gaslight (Michael Kurland, 1982); I Love My Work (Fred Walker, 1996, Script); “An Excerpt From ‘Sherlock Holmes & the Season of Terror’” (Bob Byrne, 2000, Internet Publication Fragment); “The Adventure of the Whitechapel Fiend” (James C. Bernthal, 2005, Internet Publication Fragment); "The Adventure of the Ripper's Scrawl" The Adventures of the Second Mrs Watson (Michael Mallory, 2009); “Fog” (“Baskerville Beauty,” 2006, Internet Fan Fiction); “The Singular Case of Jack the Ripper” (MyelleWhite, 2010, Internet Fan Fiction); “Viva Regina, Viva Britannia” (“You Float My Boat,” 2009, Internet Fan Fiction Fragment); “Within the Life of a Single Cigarette” (“OneDarkandStormyNight,” 2010, Internet Fan Fiction Fragment); Sherlock Holmes – The Way of All Flesh (Daniel Ward, 2004); Murder Most Foul (Gordon Punter, 2015); Ch 1-24 and 25 (pp. 211-212) Sherlock Holmes and the Two Professors (George Gardner, 2011. Chapters 25 [pp. 212-217], 26-28 and the “Postscript” are fictionalized); and “The Amorous Surgeon” Sherlock Holmes: The Missing Earl and Other New Adventures (N.M. Scott, 2012);

X. Holmes’s involvement in the Ripper investigations, as well as some telling details, are mentioned in passing in these investigations: “The Case of the Shot on the Stairs” (Bob Byrne, 2000, Internet Publication); “The Repulsive Affair of the Red Leech” Resurrected Holmes (Morgan Llywelyn, 1996); "The Adventure of the Hanging Tyrant" Curious Incidents 2 (M.J. Elliott, 2003); Sherlock Holmes and the Pandora Plague (Lee A. Matthias, 1981); “The Adventure of the Black Katana” Sherlock Holmes, Consulting Detective Vol. IV (Bradley H. Sinor, 2013); “The Kidnapper” (“Mysterylover17,” 2003, Internet Fan Fiction); and Sherlock Holmes and A Quantity of Debt (David Marcum, 2013), along with many others . . . ;

Y. A few of the completely fictional chronicles related to Holmes’s battle with the Ripper include: “Sherlock Holmes and the Autumn of Terror” (Callum J. Stewart, 2009 – Internet Fan Fiction incorporating Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde); Chapters 25 (pp. 212-217), 26-28 and “Postscript” of Sherlock Holmes and the Two Professors (George Gardner, 2011); Ripper: A Sherlock Holmes Novel (Philip Drew, 2013, Kindle edition, incorporating Jekyll and Hyde); Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire (Dean Turnbloom, 2012); and Whitechapel: The Final Stand of Sherlock Holmes (Bernard J. Schaffer, 2011). There are many more of this type than can be addressed here.

There are, of course, quite a few others along the same lines, some of which have yet to come to light. The plan of the Holmes brothers to release differing and contradictory accounts of the events concerning Holmes’s investigations in the terrible autumn of 1888 continues to be enacted to the present day and beyond, as different modern day editors are made privy to Watson’s notes and writings by the current keepers of Mycroft Holmes’s old department . . . .


I’ve been reading and collecting literally thousands of Sherlock Holmes stories since I was a boy in the mid-1970’s. In the mid-1990’s, I jumped in and re-read (or read for the first time) every Holmes story that I had up to that time. I assembled a small binder that I kept with me, containing a few maps and other handy reference items to add to my enjoyment. Early on, I started making notes about each story as I read it, including references to other cases, things that were incorrect within each story, and most importantly, the dates of the tales.

By the time I finished, I had a very rough handwritten chronology of both the Canon and all of these pastiches. While I had been making my first pass through every traditional Holmes adventure that I owned, I’d accumulated a lot more along the way. Since I was still in a Holmes mood – and I’m never really out of a Holmes mood, although I concurrently read lots of other things as well – I started reading through all of these Holmes stories again, this time more in a more chronological fashion, as based upon my notes. I refined what I had assembled before, and by the end I had a real honest-to-goodness Chronology of the lives of Our Heroes. Since then, I’ve still been in re-reading mode, adding in more and more new Holmes stories as they appear, now on an almost daily basis. The Chronology is a living document, now over sox-hundred pages long, breaking down adventures day-by-day, and sometimes hour-by-hour, by chapter, page, or even paragraph.

Often a story will just have a few paragraphs that occur on a certain day, and then nothing else takes place for the rest of the day. This is when a piece of another tale occurs. I discuss this to some degree in an essay in the Baker Street Journal (“In Praise of the Pastiche” Vol. 62, No. 3, Autumn 2012), and also in my book of Holmes stories, Sherlock Holmes – Tangled Skeins(MX Publishing, 2015), where I “edit” some of Watson’s narratives. Seeing the way these stories intertwine and overlap gives one a great appreciation for the overall tapestry of the lives of Holmes and Watson. And there is no greater or more complicated period than the Autumn of Terror, 1888.

The first encounter that I ever had with Holmes was discovering the Holmes-versus-The-Ripper film A Study in Terror (1965) on television when I was ten years old, in 1975. That prompted me to start reading an abridged copy of The Adventures that I had recently obtained. Soon after that, I encountered Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street by William S. Baring-Gould, with its own account of Holmes versus The Ripper. Which version to believe? It was the very first time that I would find alternate and conflicting accounts of Holmes’s cases presented in differing ways. But it laid the groundwork in my mind for understanding and weaving together later multiple tales of Holmes's investigations, such as those many tales about Giant Rats and Boulevard Assassins.

In 1979, I saw Murder by Decree in a theater with my dad, and I still believe it’s one of the finest Holmes movies ever, in spite of the fact that Watson, who is supposed to be thirty-six at time, is presented as a lumpy old duffer. Here, then, was yet another version of Holmes’s investigation into the Ripper Murders.

Over the years, many more versions of these Ripper cases have revealed themselves. As mentioned previously, in September 2013 I was able to spend several weeks in England during my first Holmes Pilgrimage, the trip of a lifetime. While there, I and my ever-present deerstalker made several explorations, both day and night, of Whitechapel, as so many Holmes/Ripper stories involve locations there. As I’ve explained in the introduction to Sherlock Holmes – Tangled Skeins, as well as other books, I was fortunate enough while in London to acquire some of Watson’s notes. Among them was the above set of papers, “November, 1888”. I don’t know how Watson came to have it, or why, since it is clear within Mycroft’s writings that the document discusses certain matters of which Watson was supposed to remain ignorant. However, other items that I received while in London make it clear that the papers that I obtained were all assembled in 1929, so it is likely that Watson had been told the truth by then.

In any case, I was happy to see this document amongst all the others, as it confirmed what I had believed all along: Holmes’s investigation of the Ripper Murders was truly his finest hour, and he never handled a more convoluted or complex matter during his long and honored career.

* * *

My deerstalker and I explore Whitechapel by day . . .

. . . and by night . . . .

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Basil Rathbone’s Solar Pons Films

The following is an essay that I wrote which was originally published in The Baker Street Journal (Vol.63, No.4, Winter 2013). Over the past few years, whenever I've seen discussion about the modern settings of the Basil Rathbone films produced by Universal, I've referenced this essay, and then sent PDF's of it to those who showed an interest. After doing so again today, I realized that I could just as easily place it on my Irregular Blog, and then just post the link whenever the discussion resurfaces.

* * *

As two new Sherlock Holmes television shows compete on either side of the Atlantic to determine which one presents the more successful modern version of our heroes, many traditional Sherlockians watch with enthusiastic interest, hoping for nods toward the original stories. Other viewers, however, grind their teeth at the painfully shocking way in which an updated Holmes and Watson are being treated. These current television shows are not the first occasions in which our heroes have been moved from their correct time period and shown instead in present-day settings. The most famous examples are the final twelve Basil Rathbone films, produced by Universal Studios in the 1940’s. However, it’s time to reveal that three of these Rathbone films aren’t even Holmes tales at all. They are about someone else.

When I read the original Holmes stories, as well as any traditional pastiche that I can get my hands on, I play The Game, thinking about how the events in the narrative relate to both The Canon and historical events. Several years ago, while re-watching the newly-restored Rathbone films on DVD, I found myself – as I often do with many pastiches – being forced to rationalize away various incorrect or anachronistic elements as something that had been grafted onto Watson’s original notes by an editor or film maker with his or her own agenda. In the last nine Universal films, the modernizing aspects are fairly benign and can generally be ignored. The actual events of these stories could just as easily have taken place in the years before, during, or following the First World War, instead of during World War II. Occasional updated comments and modern devices were dropped into the films by script writers in order to make the films seem as if they’re actually taking place in the 1940’s.

But the first three Universal films, Sherlock Holmes and the Voice of Terror (1942), Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (1943), and Sherlock Holmes in Washington (1943), all have such modernized specifics incorporated into the narratives – airplanes, radio signals, complex equipment for dropping bombs – that there is no way that these could be any of Holmes’s World War I investigations, reworked and updated with just a few added modern details inserted here and there for 1940’s audiences. Clearly, these cases actually did take place in World War II, and were being investigated by a different sleuth entirely.

Consider another heroic detective, so much like Holmes that he must have apprenticed to him, and who would have been involved in the events of World War II, fighting Nazis, listening to radio broadcasts, traveling to Washington and searching for secret microfilms. Who else could it be but Solar Pons, with the assistance of his friend and Boswell, Dr. Lyndon Parker?

As a long-time devotee of Solar Pons, I’ve realized that the first three Rathbone Universal films are not Holmes adventures at all. Rather, they are Solar Pons narratives, with Pons and Parker’s names changed to Holmes and Watson for easier familiarity to the 1940’s movie-going public.

In the early 1940’s, with U.S. film studios’ efforts turning toward war-related topics, film producers decided – in their ignorance - to make movies showing Holmes fighting Nazis. After all, who better to pick than England’s most shining knight? The studios’ research quickly revealed that Watson had been dead for over ten years, and Holmes was in his late eighties. However, there was a successor to Holmes, named Solar Pons, who had a close family relationship to Holmes (1) and who had no doubt rejoined British Intelligence in the summer of 1939, soon after the conclusion of the chronologically-last Pons story, “The Adventure of the Golden Bracelet”, occurring just before Britain was pulled into the war. After all, Pons was just fifty-nine years old at that time, and he would have certainly helped in the British war effort.

Therefore, the first three Rathbone films from Universal, The Voice of Terror, The Secret Weapon, and Sherlock Holmes in Washington, were actually Solar Pons cases, relating Pons’s efforts against the Nazis. In fact, these are the only films ever made that show Solar Pons in action, albeit under Holmes’s name. The public probably wouldn’t have been as enthused by Solar Pons and the Voice of Terror or Solar Pons in Washington. Nigel Bruce didn’t accurately portray Dr. Parker any better than he did Dr. Watson, but there was something comforting about his avuncular presence that served a valuable purpose for war-time audiences.

After realizing how three of Pons’s wartime adventures had obviously been taken and updated by film makers, I realized that several of Pons’s other post-World War II cases had also been altered in the same way by later editors of Dr. Parker’s notes, and pulled into more modern times. For example, the book Sherlock Holmes in Dallas, edited by Edmund Aubrey, has Holmes and Watson traveling to the United States in order to investigate the Kennedy Assassination. It’s an interesting idea, but obviously Holmes and Watson weren’t around to do that. However, Pons and Parker certainly would have been. Later, when the narrative was published, the editor decided to change Pons and Parker’s names to Holmes and Watson so that modern readers, who might not buy Solar Pons in Dallas, would recognize the more familiar names. Several other pastiches and collections, such as Sherlock Holmes in Modern Times, edited by Ira Bernard Dworkin, which also benefit from this same kind of updating, and provide additional Pons stories when they don’t work either logically or chronologically as Holmes stories.

Having concluded that some of these “modernized” Holmes cases are actually those of Solar Pons, I’m still at a loss to know just who is actually being portrayed in either the BBC’s Sherlock or CBS Television’s Elementary. It certainly isn’t Holmes, Watson, Pons or Parker. However, I am glad to finally be able to completely enjoy the first three “modernized” Rathbone Universal films, knowing that they’re actually about Pons. It’s time that Solar Pons had some more recognition.

1. As I related in “The Adventure of the Other Brother”, The Papers of Sherlock Holmes – Volume II (2011, 2013)

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Happy 164th Birthday, Dr. John H. Watson!

IMPORTANT HISTORICAL EVENTS FOR August 7th, 1852 – The birth of Dr. John H. Watson

Happy 164th Birthday, Watson!

Although January 6th, 1854 has become the traditionally celebrated birthday for Sherlock Holmes, remembered ‘round the world, it sometimes happens that his Boswell’s birth anniversary tends to be forgotten. It does tend to sneak up on one, or get lost in the summer shuffle (if you’re in the Northern Hemisphere.) I know that I neglect it in far more years than I remember to celebrate it, which is unfortunate indeed. Some have argued that the Sherlock Holmes adventures are really the Dr. Watson adventures. Whether that’s true or not, and while it might be true, as Holmes said, that Watson may not himself be luminous, he is certainly a conductor of light, and he deserves to be honored today.

Some people may have celebrated Watson’s birthday already this year, on July 7th. One can see that date tossed around in various places. I believe that’s been used to mistakenly link the event to the death of the first Literary Agent, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which took place on the same date in 1930. (But maybe that’s counterweighted by the birth of Edward Hardwicke, one of the better portrayers of Watson, on August 7th, 1932.)

Some people have asked me why August 7th (or 7 August for British readers) was established as Watson’s birthday. I still haven’t tracked that one down. The first place that I ever saw that date mentioned was during my formative years, in the chronology section of William S. Baring-Gould’s biography, Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street. Having been converted to a large degree to Baring-Gouldism at an early age – approximately age ten or eleven years – I’ve always followed B-G’s choice of August 7th. However, in his The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, Baring-Gould refutes July 7th, but doesn't propose August 7th.

I’m not sure, however, of where B-G came up with this August date, or what reasoning he had to support it. I’ll have to do some more research in some of B-G’s other documents. I have a Xeroxed copy of B-G’s original 8½” x 11” document, The Chronological Holmes (1955), wherein he constructed and elaborated upon his timeline, giving his thoughts and reasoning as well. It was based on his earlier chronological exploration that had first been published in a 1948 Baker Street Journal. Over two decades ago, I stood at a copy machine in a nearby university library for a couple hours, feeding dimes into the machine to copy Baring-Gould’s 1955 book, and it has been well worth it! B-G is not the last word on things, but he's usually a great resource. I don't agree with everything that B-G proposed, such as his choice of Watson’s birthplace in Hampshire - I favor Scotland (see below). In many cases, however, B-G is a good jumping-off place.

As mentioned, the July 7th Watson birthday seems to have been chosen because it was Doyle’s date of death in 1930, but that seems a little unlikely. In revisiting my copy of the very thin Watson biography, Doctor Watson: Prolegomena to the Study of a Biographical Problem (1931) by S.C. Roberts, I can find a reference to 1852 as the birth year, but nothing about a month. (Roberts also has a mistaken location for Watson's place of birth, and has his middle name as Henry, so some of his other earlier research, conducted just a year or so after Watson's death in 1929, is suspect.) In Michael Hardwick’s longer biography The Private Life of Dr. Watson, (1983) Hardwick uses the July 7th birthday. I agree with a lot of that book, such as nailing down Watson’s birthplace as Stranraer, Scotland, but I don’t agree with Hardwick’s choice of the July 7th birthdate, or his choice of Watson’s middle name – and mother’s maiden name – as Hudson?!? (John Hudson Watson!?! Good grief! That implication that Watson is a Hudson is too close to opening a speculative can of worms along the lines of when Watson courted Lucy Ferrier in the long suppressed play Angels of Darkness. Also, if we’re talking how Holmes met Mrs. Hudson – wherein she was NOT a possible relative of Watson’s or of Morse Hudson or any of the other theories out there – then I favor the explanation from the old television show Young Sherlock: The Manor House Mystery [1982], where Mrs. Hudson – before her marriage – is the housekeeper of Holmes’s distant family, and at the end she’s off to London with her new Hudson husband, so that Holmes was already acquainted with her when he found out that she had rooms to rent in Baker Street in very-late December 1880. But I digress.)

So in the great Bell Curve of opinion, 1852 is the accepted year of Watson's birth. (There are some outliers, such as Michael Harrison, who thought that Watson was actually much older, but 1852 makes the most sense for a number of reasons.) Some may still celebrate July 7th as the actual day, but as for me and my house, we will remember the Doctor with extra fondness on this day, August 7th.

A book could probably be written while simply trying to verify Watson’s birth date, and I’m too busy writing or editing other books, as well as working at that job which funds my life. Therefore, I leave it to other people, and instead, I’ll take a moment or several over the course of today, August 7th, to remember that conductor of light, that Boswell, that husband and doctor and soldier and writer and very best of friends, that “Good old Watson!

I hope that you’ll join me.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Rereading The Ellery Queen Canon

A few weeks ago, I offered an entry on the way that I re-read the Nero Wolfe Corpus, as the collection of Wolfe novels, novellas, and related ephemera are known. It was an essay that I wrote a couple of years ago for The Gazette, the journal of the Wolfe Pack.

At the same time that I initially produced that essay, I also wrote a companion piece, parallel in many ways, regarding how I return regularly to the world of Ellery Queen, and how I go about reading those stories as well. That essay was written for a specific website and webmaster that, in the end, did not follow through on certain promises, so I withdrew it, waiting for another opportunity to release it into the world.

Having recently started re-reading the Queen Canon again, and more specifically, having seen a blog entry by the most excellent Dan Andriacco that referred to one of the lesser known works of Mr. Queen, I decided to update my own little effort a little bit and put it out there. Besides referring to the main topic, EQ, there are also connections to Sherlock Holmes and Nero Wolfe.

And so, here are my thoughts on:

Rereading The Ellery Queen Canon

I’m currently making my way through my latest rereading of the Ellery Queen canon, after realizing a month or so ago that it had been several years since I'd taken a literary trip to West 87th Street. Whenever I read about the lives of Ellery Queen and the Inspector, I like to approach the stories chronologically, as the events of their lives unfold, rather than following publication order. But I don't just read the established novels and short stories featuring Ellery and stop there, and I don’t actually start with The Roman Hat Mystery, the first published book. There are stories to read before that, are a lot of other stories to read afterwards as well.

Mr. Marcum Discovers Mr. Queen

I first encountered Ellery Queen in October 1975, when I was ten years old. However, it was several years later before I actually began to admire him. In 1975, I had recently started my lifelong frenzied fascination with the life of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and was just beginning to expand my interest from the Sleuth of Baker Street to some of the other Great Detectives. While reading the October 11, 1975 issue of TV Guide magazine, I came across an article by Rand Lee, providing details of the creation of Ellery Queen by both his father, Manfred Lee, and Manfred’s cousin, Frederic Dannay. Of course, at that time the great Queen show starring Jim Hutton was premiering on television, but I didn’t watch it then. (I’ve always been a reader first, and often while growing up I only discovered the media adaptations of my literary heroes at much later dates, after the character was already set in my imagination. For instance, I had read and re-read the James Bond books for years before I ever actually saw my first Bond movie, something for which I'm eternally grateful. But I digress . . . .)

For some reason, I tore the Rand Lee article out of the magazine and saved it. (I still have it.) At that time, the small town where I lived – and still live – was even smaller, but we did have an excellent little used bookstore, where my father would often take me on Saturday mornings. On our next trip there, I found a tattered paperback copy of The Vanishing Corpse, which stated on the cover in small print that its original title was Ellery Queen, Master Detective. I recalled that this title was the very book that had been used as an illustration on the first page of the TV Guide article, and I talked my dad into buying it for me. And then I read it. And I’m afraid . . . that I didn’t like it very much.

Of course, that might be because I was only ten years old, and wasn’t a very seasoned mystery reader at that point. Or possibly it was because that story wasn’t one of the better Queen books. After all, although it was vetted and approved by the cousins, Dannay and Lee, at the time it was written, it still was really a novelization of an old EQ movie, which itself had been lifted from the original Queen novel, The Door Between.

In any case, I abandoned Ellery at that point for a few more years. My next meeting with him was in 1978, by way of famed attorney Perry Mason. It was at that time that I encountered my first Perry Mason book, a meeting which eventually forced me to repeat algebra, since I spent most of that year reading Mason books in class instead of listening to the teacher, who didn’t care enough about teaching to make me pay attention. (I may have to take a little of the blame too.) At the time I starting reading about Perry Mason, I convinced my mother to take me to that same local used bookstore to find some additional Mason novels. While there, I came across more Ellery Queen books, and she agreed to buy me a few of those as well. (I recall being somewhat embarrassed as I asked her to pay for them, since those particular editions featured mostly-unclothed models posing on the covers. However, my mom laughed, and said that she knew that Ellery Queen books weren’t like that on the inside. Thanks, mom!)

And so I now owned some more Queen books, but even then I never quite got around to reading them. Over the years, I picked up a few more here and there, because somehow I sensed that I was going to want to read them someday, just not quite yet. It wasn’t until 1983 that I truly discovered what makes reading the Queen Canon so electrifying. At that time, I was working at my first job, in the college library where I would go on to achieve my first bachelor’s degree. It was the summer before my freshman year was due to start, and I was sitting at the main desk near the front door, trying to stay awake. Someone brought back a book, and it was my job to check it in. I picked it up and saw that it was the omnibus edition of The Wrightsville Murders. For some reason, probably because I was slightly acquainted with Ellery from earlier years, I flipped to the front of the book, and started reading. Little did I realize that I was starting with what I - and many others - still believe to be the best of all the Queen novels, Calamity Town. And to paraphrase Frederic Dannay, all the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s men couldn’t put David together again.

That, for me, began the magical year of Ellery Queen. I read the trilogy of books in that omnibus, and felt that in some ways I had never read anything better in my life. The library had one other Queen book, The Hollywood Murders omnibus, and I quickly read the three novels in that one as well. I read the few Queen novels that I had accumulated at home, and then I was out of luck. It turned out that many of the Queen titles that I had bought over the years (such as Blow Hot, Blow Cold, The Golden Goose, or The Four Johns,)didn’t actually feature Ellery at all, and in fact were those Queen books from the 1960’s that had nothing to do with the character of Ellery Queen. Rather, they were the non-Ellery titles that had been ghost-written by other authors, some about completely different characters, as Tim Corrigan or Mike McCall, and published under the house name of Ellery Queen. And I soon found out that there weren’t a lot of actual EQ books about Ellery and the Inspector to be found at the used bookstore anymore, either.

I am so grateful to my father during this time for feeding my fledgling Queen addiction. He was a law enforcement agent who had been employed since the 1960’s for the state Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI), responsible for an area covering several counties and helping assist local law enforcement officers as needed. (Sort of a Tennessee Scotland Yard Inspector.) While growing up, he had occasionally let me accompany him on investigations, and he had always let me read his files that he kept at our home, which also served as his office. As a child, I’d always had an interest in criminology, and I felt a special kinship with Ellery, the son of a police inspector. Since my dad traveled every day to many different towns, I asked if he would keep his eyes open for other used bookstores, and to carry a checklist of EQ books that I didn’t yet own with him. He agreed, and so for the rest of that school year, into the spring of 1984, every week or so he would surprise me with a few more EQ books.

Fortunately, several years earlier I had acquired Otto Penzler’s excellent book The Private Lives of Private Eyes, which contained a very informative chapter concerning Ellery Queen. From this book I had learned about the different ways that Ellery had been presented over the years, and the different phases of the Queen novels, including the early days with pince-nez and brain-busting puzzles, the Hollywood novels, the amazing middle-period books, especially concerning Wrightsville, and the later, more experimental tales. Therefore, even though my dad was bringing me the books in a very odd and out-of-order sequence, I was able to place them as I read them where they belonged in the big EQ picture.

Of all the books I read during that year, I remember saving The Finishing Stroke until I reached the end of my first extended visit to West 87th Street. I could tell that the story bracketed the whole Queen Canon as I understood it at that time, from approximately The Roman Hat Mystery to the end. And as usual, I wasn’t disappointed. Several years later, in the late 1980’s after I had graduated college and was married, I re-read the entire Queen narratives again, this time in order of publication. At that time, I believed that those stories were all that I would be able to find about Mr. Queen. Of course, I was mistaken. There were many other Ellery stories out there, in other formats, but they were going to be difficult to track down, especially in those dark days before the internet.

Playing “The Game” With Mr. Queen

Along with my admiration for Mr. Queen, I have always been a fanatical follower of the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, both the original stories and the literally thousands of pastiches that have appeared over the years in the form of short stories, novels, radio and television shows, movies, scripts and comics. For those who are not aware, there is a school of thought when reading the Holmes stories that is called playing The Game, where Holmes and Dr. Watson are treated as real historical people, and their lives are examined as if their adventures took place in the real world. I truly enjoy playing The Game, and have since done so since I was a boy. And over the years, as I’ve read about some of the other Great Detectives, I have expanded The Game to include them too, including Ellery.

There are a number of chronologies that have been written over the years attempting to define exactly when this or that original Holmes story or event in Holmes’s life took place. Since the mid-1990’s, I have maintained my own Holmes Chronology that not only defines the dates of the original Holmes canon, but all of the thousands of pastiches that I have read and collected over the last forty-plus as well. This came about because in the mid-1990’s, I realized that I had collected a lot more Holmes pastiches than I had actually gotten around to reading. I seemed to keep rereading the original Holmes stories and a few of the same favorite pastiches over and over again. I decided to catch up on all those other stories that I had acquired but had never gotten around to reading, simply putting them on the shelf. I began to read every Holmes story that I had collected, in no certain order, trying to get ahead of what I had missed. As I did so, I kept a small binder with me, containing maps of England and other relevant facts that added to the experience. I made notes about each story that I read, and I started to jot down the date in which each story took place. When I finished, I found that I had a very rough chronology of the stories - all the stories – that I had read and how they related to the events in Holmes and Watson’s lives.

I’ve revised this overall chronology of Holmes and Watson’s lives several times since then, adding in all the new Holmes pastiches that are continually appearing and that I have acquired. During the intervening years, I’ve also reread the Queen Canon several times, as well as books relating to my other “book friends” (as my son used to call them when he was young,) including Nero Wolfe, Solar Pons, Hercule Poirot, and Perry Mason.

Somewhere along the way, I realized that I enjoyed reading about the other characters’ lives in chronological order the same way that I did about Holmes’s life, so I started constructing chronologies for these other Great Detectives as well. Now, when I reread the Queen stories, I take them in a certain specific order that has nothing to do with their publication date. And along the way, I add in all the radio and television stories that I could find, as well as other pastiches that I’ve discovered over the years, at the chronologically correct location.

Rereading the Queen Canon – The Entire Queen Canon

When rereading the Ellery Queen stories, I don’t just read the novels and short story collections. I try to include all of the published and otherwise available radio scripts that I’ve been able to acquire as well. I listen to all the remaining Queen radio shows that I can find, and I also watch all the old Queen movies, and the remaining available episodes of the 1950’s television shows. Now the amazing Jim Hutton/David Wayne series from the mid-1970’s is finally available on DVD. I’ve also been able to read most of the surviving Ellery Queen comics. All of these stories, even though some are weaker than others, provide a more complete and well-rounded picture of the life of Ellery Queen.

I’m still trying to locate some of the old radio scripts that were published in obscure magazines in the 1940’s, but my time and resources limit my ability to track them down. I know that there are some old radio shows available at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., but I haven’t been able to get up there to listen to them yet. Luckily, a little research still reveals the occasional new discovery now and then. For example, a couple of years ago I found a website,, that sells television and film scripts. They offer eight scripts from the 1975 EQ television show, including the pilot episode, as well as one for “The Grand Old Lady,” an episode which was never actually produced, but instead was later reworked without Ellery and the Inspector and filmed as an episode of the television show, Murder, She Wrote.

As I reread about Ellery’s adventures, I even include – believe it or not - the short-short tales from the old syndicated radio series, Ellery Queen’s Minute Mysteries, of which I now have several hundred episodes, but not all of them. Some EQ scholars would probably choose to ignore these stories, classifying them as something not part of the actual EQ Canon. However, if one is going to be immersed in the world of Ellery and be willing to read a lot of the legitimate quick-puzzle tales, such as those included in Queen’s Experiments in Detection, or the later Puzzle Club stories, then these minute-long radio adventures cannot be considered any less legitimate or important. If the reader is thinking chronologically, the Minute Mysteries can be separated into when they occurred during different decades or periods of Ellery’s life, and dropped in accordingly between the more accepted adventures.

Of course, there are a number of newer Queen pastiches that must not be forgotten, including “Open Letter To Survivors” by Francis M. Nevins, “The Wrightsville Carnival” and “The Circle of Ink” by Ed Hoch, “The Gilbert and Sullivan Clue” by Jon L. Breen, “The Mad Hatter’s Riddle” by Dale C. Andrews, and “The Book Case” by Dale C. Andrews and Kurt Sercu. This last story is especially pleasing, since it confirms what I have long suspected, that Ellery and Nikki Porter at some point finally get married. I have even added a slight indirect pastiche to the mix as well. My own collection of Holmes pastiches, The Papers of Sherlock Holmes, Vol's I and II, was published in 2011 and again in 2013. The postscript of Volume II contains a letter written by Dr. Watson in 1929, refering to a past case in which Holmes and Watson, while traveling in New York in 1927, were assisted by several famous detectives, including “the unlikely team of one of the New York Police inspectors and his brilliant son, Ellery, who shows every sign of being Holmes’s deductive rival.” (When I finally got around to arranging some of Watson’s notes for publication in this book, I was thrilled to see that Holmes and Ellery had worked together. More about that in a moment . . . . )

One EQ pastiche that I initially ignored but later included after further reflection was “Dan and the Fair Sabrina”, included in Julian Symon’s book The Great Detectives. In this volume, Symons theorizes that the reason Ellery seems to change so much between his early incarnations and later appearances is that there were actually two sons of Richard Queen, Ellery and Dan, and that Dan was the protagonist in the early novels. I don’t exactly agree with Symons theory, although I do agree that Richard had two sons, and that Dan, the older son, was the protagonist of “Dan and the Fair Sabrina.” However, I believe that Dan Queen was the son who married and moved to Italy, as mentioned in the early books. When Ellery began writing, he initially used parts of Dan’s biography in his description of himself in order to obfuscate details about his life in New York. Clearly, Ellery did have a brother, because in the two juvenile EQ novels, The Merry Magician and The Vanished Victim, Ellery’s nephew Gulliver is staying in New York with the Queen’s while Ellery’s brother, an engineer, is out of the country for a year. Certainly Dannay and Lee knew about and approved these juvenile books, and if they signed off on the fact that Ellery had a brother and a nephew, then it must be gospel.

And there are still other EQ stories out there waiting to be read. The appearance of several new Queen collections in the last decade or so has definitely been a cause for celebration. A few years ago, I was corresponding back and forth with Doug Greene of Crippen & Landru Publishers, praising his efforts at getting both The Tragedy of Errors and The Murdered Moths published. I was also asking him when the next book of “lost” Queen scripts would be published. At that time, Doug offered to pass along a fan letter from me to Richard Dannay, the son of Frederic Dannay, in which I could ask the same question.

After agonizing for several days over what to write, I finally sent the letter. I let Mr. Dannay know what a fan I was of Ellery Queen, and how much I had enjoyed the stories over the years. I also told him that it was somewhat bittersweet when I read in the introduction to The Murdered Moths that there were hundreds of remaining EQ radio scripts that had been read and evaluated in order to pick the best for The Murdered Moths, and that these other EQ adventures were otherwise inaccessible and likely to stay that way. I asked him to imagine what it would be like if a Sherlock Holmes devotee were to learn that there were literally hundreds of other Holmes stories, written by Doyle, and stored away somewhere. It wouldn’t matter that some were alternate versions of later-published stories, or possibly of lesser quality. These would be raw materials that had not been seen or heard of since their original appearance. Holmes fans would clamor for every scrap to be released and studied and savored, and that I felt the same way about these unattainable EQ treasures. I also stated that I wished that I lived in the New York area, so that I could come and sit on Dannay’s floor and read the old scripts right out of the box, as if the ten-year-old inside me were finding Ellery again for the first time.

Mr. Dannay responded almost immediately, and very graciously. He didn’t take me up on my offer to come to New York and read scripts while sitting on his floor, but he did state that the Dannay and Lee families were as eager as I was to see some sort of revival of interest in EQ, and that he hoped that Doug Greene would consider another book of radio scripts. As do I . . . . I'm very happy that I've been able to stay in touch with Mr. Dannay since then, and he's always been as gracious as he was in that first reply.

Interaction with the Other Great Detectives

Several years ago, I came across an EQ pastiche of sorts in The Baker Street Journal (September 1982, Vol. 32, No.3), “The Adventure of the Logical Successor.” In the story, a young Ellery is visiting England during his college summer break in the mid-1920’s, and he seeks out Sherlock Holmes and Watson at Holmes’s retirement cottage in Sussex. Of course, Ellery had already encountered Holmes, although indirectly, in the novelization of A Study in Terror, but that doesn't take place chronologically until much later. However, “The Logical Successor” is an actual meeting between the two great detectives, and it first started me thinking that if one plays The Game – and I do – then Ellery and Holmes probably had other interactions as well.

In the story, Holmes tells Watson that he actually met Ellery years before, when Holmes was traveling in the United States. Holmes states that he met Richard Queen during that time, when Richard was a young policeman in New York. Holmes was there to look into a trifling matter involving a bowler hat, a hollow walking-stick, and a political scandal – I would love to read that story! Holmes states that “Richard Queen not only penetrated my disguise, but saved my life. On a later occasion, when I was traveling under the name of Altamont, I was able to render him some assistance. Young Ellery was but a child at the time, but even then somewhat precocious, with a decided bent for deductive reasoning. Someday I suppose I should tell him about the incident. He has not connected me with the bearded gentleman who visited their flat in Manhattan.”

Reading this story led me to ponder about where Ellery’s adventures might overlap with some of the other Great Detectives. One of the most likely places would be some sort of interaction with that other great American detective, Nero Wolfe, and his right-hand man Archie Goodwin. For those who haven’t read the Wolfe books, or are basing their understanding of Wolfe solely upon the poorly-made television show from 1981, Wolfe is a sedentary detective who lives in a Brownstone on W.35th Street in New York, and refuses to leave his house, solving all his mysteries from his armchair. The narrator of the stories, Archie Goodwin, goes out into the world and collects facts for Wolfe to evaluate, and people for Wolfe to question. Archie’s breezy narration is one of the greatest of mystery treats of all time. At the end of each investigation, Wolfe usually assembles all of the suspects and reveals the murderer.

In my chronology of Ellery Queen, which plays The Game with Ellery’s life, Ellery is friends with Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee in the late 1920’s. They were all born in the same year of 1905, Dannay first met Ellery during some of the events later fictionalized in Dannay's book The Golden Summer, and Dannay and Lee were the ones who initially convinced Ellery to write up the events of The Roman Hat Mystery. Later, throughout the busy 1940’s and 1950’s, Dannay and Lee handled the day-to-day operations for Ellery, such as coordinating the scripting for the radio and television shows, as well as operation of Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. Throughout that time, they served as Ellery’s literary agents, much like Conan Doyle did for Dr. Watson. And in the early 1930’s, they, along with Ellery, were also instrumental in introducing Archie Goodwin to Rex Stout, a man in his late-forties who was interested in being a literary agent himself.

I believe that Ellery and Archie Goodwin, who was just a few years younger than Ellery, were good friends. Archie, a Manhattan licensed private detective with literary hobbies must certainly have known Ellery Queen, a Manhattan writer with detective hobbies. When Dannay and Lee heard about Stout’s desire to be a literary agent, they surely arranged for him to have an introduction to Archie. I can just imagine when the five of them, the cousins, Ellery, Archie, and Stout, sat down together for the first time.

I’ve read and reread the Wolfe books as often as I’ve read about Ellery, and the more I do, the more I see places where there could be interaction between the two series. Both Wolfe and the Queens live in west-side Brownstones, although they are fifty-two blocks apart. Inspector Queen certainly has interaction with Inspector Cramer, who is the policeman who usually has dealings with Wolfe. And in the Nero Wolfe books, there are a few places where Ellery’s presence was certainly felt, even if he didn’t actually appear.

For example, in the Nero Wolfe story "Disguise For Murder," set in March 1949, a woman in strangled in Wolfe’s office. It is learned that the deceased was friends with another woman, Doris Hatten, who had been strangled the previous fall. Inspector Cramer seems especially offensive and overwrought during the investigation, to the point that he seems to unnecessarily antagonize Wolfe by sealing the door to Wolfe’s office as a crime scene. Perhaps Cramer's over-reaction becomes understandable when one considers that The Cat Murders, a series of serial-killer strangulations, had just taken place during the previous summer and fall of 1948 (as recorded in Ellery Queen's Cat of Many Tails) and Doris Hatten's strangulation the previous October had occurred during some of the worst of New York's terror related to the Cat Murders. No wonder Cramer was sensitive, thinking that some part of the Cat Murders, as investigated by his old peer Inspector Queen, was beginning again.

An additional intersection between the Wolfe Corpus (as it is referred to by Wolfe fans) and the Queen Canon occurs in the summer of 1950. This is when the Wolfe novel, In the Best Families, takes place. In this book, Wolfe battles his own personal Professor Moriarty, Arnold Zeck, and is forced to leave his beloved Brownstone on W.35th Street and go into hiding under the name of Pete Roeder. Wolfe disappears without even telling Archie where he is going, much like when Sherlock Holmes disappeared for three years after the events at Reichenbach Falls, allowing Watson to believe that he had died. At the time Wolfe is in hiding, preparing for his battle with Zeck, Ellery is also in Los Angeles, for reasons never adequately or convincingly explained, during the events of his own adventure, The Origin of Evil. It is my belief that he is there at the personal request of Wolfe, who needed Ellery’s help while establishing his identity there as Roeder. I’m not certain what Ellery's role was in Wolfe's master plan, but I am sure that when Wolfe called, Ellery answered. Ellery's subsequent involvement in the events of The Origin of Evil was simply something else that happened to him while he was already in Los Angeles - as things like that always seem to happen in the lives of the Great Detectives.

I can also point to a couple of times during Ellery's L.A. visits when he likely encountered Perry Mason, but that's for another time . . . .

Playing the Game: Determining Mr. Queen’s Address

As a young man, I read the novelization of "The Last Man Club", taken from the Queen radio script that was first broadcast on February 18, 1940. The story states that Ellery's address, as given by The Great Man himself, is 212-A W.87th Street. It was only when I was older that I realized that this might be a wink and nod to Sherlock Holmes’s famous residence at 221B Baker Street. Later, when I read the actual script of "The Last Man Club", as published in The Murdered Moths, the address was again confirmed as 212-A. This seemed definitive, and I wondered why it hadn't really been noticed before.

I mentioned this in an email to Kurt Sercu, founder of the amazing Ellery Queen, A Website on Deduction, and he replied that his opinion was that this address is generally discounted, simply because of the Holmes reference. I replied to him that I had to believe that 212-A was in fact the correct address, for several reasons. First, the original script was certainly written by Frederic Dannay and Manfred Lee, and they specifically named that exact address. Even if the scripts were ghosted by someone else – which seems unlikely, way back in the nineteen-forties - Lee and Dannay still would have had editorial control over them, the same control that they would have later had over the novelization of "The Last Man Club". Therefore, they would have known of AND approved the idea that Ellery's address was 212-A W.87th Street. Even though “The Last Man Club,” which affirms the 212-A address, is considered by some to be lesser Queen because of its provenance, it is still something that was legitimately approved by Dannay and Lee. At other places in the Queen canon, it is stated that Ellery's brownstone is between Broadway and Amsterdam, so that part fits. In addition, just because Dannay and Lee might have been cleverly playing around with Ellery's address by using Sherlockian references in our world does not negate its legitimacy in Ellery's world. After all, there really wasn't a 221B Baker Street (even though I hate to admit it) but Holmes fanatics like myself don't question its legitimacy.

Other characters have also had addresses which contain references to the 221B Holmes address, and their addresses aren't discounted simply because they are similar to 221B. For example, one of Lord Peter Wimsey's addresses in London is 110A Piccadilly, clearly a play on 221B. Also, television character Dr. Gregory House, of the show House, M.D., has a street address of 221B. This character was specifically created with a nod to Sherlock Holmes, but his address isn't ignored within the context of the show simply because it is a reference to Holmes.

So in conclusion, I must argue that Ellery's definitive address is 212-A, even if it is with a wink and a nod toward Holmes. Having decided that the real address for Ellery’s brownstone had been determined, based on something specifically written by Dannay and Lee, I felt that the time had come to mount a plaque at the real 212-A W.87th Street. This wasn’t without precedent. The site of Sherlock Holmes’s residence at 221b Baker Street in London has been established for years, initially at the bank which occupied that address and received Holmes’s mail, and more recently at the Sherlock Holmes Museum. In the United States, the Wolfe Pack, a group of Nero Wolfe aficionados much like the Baker Street Irregulars, placed a plaque several years ago on W.35th Street, at the site roughly identified as the former home of Nero Wolfe. Since I don't live in New York, and only get there about once every decade or so, I've been unable spearhead the noble cause to commemorate Ellery’s brownstone on W.87th Street.. However, I did try to interest some New Yorkers there on the ground, hoping that something might be accomplished.

Over the last year or so I’ve communicated a few times with Richard Dannay, letting him know that I think it would be a good idea to place the plaque at 212-A W.87th Street. Of course, the last time I was able to visit there and actually walk that block of W.87th Street, now over ten years ago, it was fairly difficult to find where the brownstone might actually have stood. I asked Otto Penzler, owner of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York, if he could help, but very nicely let me know that he is far too busy. Finally, I tried to interest members of The Wolfe Pack in the project, since they had been successful in placing a plaque on W.35th Street for Nero Wolfe. Sadly, they informed me that they are unaware of any New York-based Ellery Queen fans within their ranks - unbelievable! - and in any case, they were only able to place their plaque on W.35th Street because one of their members happened to own a building at the approximately correct location.

So the quest continues. I invite anyone else who, like me, feels that Ellery Queen’s residence should be commemorated, preferably at the location named specifically by Dannay and Lee, to help take up the challenge.

And Now, I'm Re-reading . . . .

And so, as I revisit the Brownstone at W.87th Street once again, I didn't start with my favorite Queen book, and I didn’t immediately pull down The Roman Hat Mystery just because it was the first one published. Instead, I reread The Golden Summer, which – to me – tells about an amalgamation of memories of both Frederic Danny and Ellery Queen, and the summer that they met as children in 1915. Then I read the essay "Who Shall Ever Forget" telling about how Ellery (and not Frederic Dannay, I’m afraid) first discovered Sherlock Holmes when he was twelve. Then I proceeded to “The Logical Successor,” followed by “The Glass Domed Clock”, set in 1926, and clearly the earliest of the recorded EQ Canonical tales. Next I read “Dan and the Fair Sabrina”. After that, I started on the novels. Chronologically, I first read The Greek Coffin Mystery, The French Powder Mystery, and The Dutch Shoe Mystery, since they all occur earlier than some of the other books. Only then did I pull down my autographed and numbered copy of The Roman Hat Mystery, because it occurred after the previously mentioned narratives, even if it was the first published. From there, I'm working my way through Ellery’s life, fitting in all the other stories as they occur - novels, short stories, radio and television episodes, movies and scripts, and comics - while also bearing in mind interacting events from the lives of other Great Detectives, such as Sherlock Holmes, Nero Wolfe, and Solar Pons. And hopefully I’ll be around in a few years to read it all again, with even more newly-discovered material to include in the journey.

So in conclusion, I would recommend that anyone deciding to reread the Queen Canon, already encompassing numerous novels and short stories, be willing to add all the other appearances in order to see the complete picture. It is well worth it, I assure you!