From The Surrey Shore . . .
The Newsletter of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore Vol. 3, No. 3, June 2004
****A Scion Society for All Who Enjoy Sherlock Holmes in All His Manifestations!****
. . . with the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore as we enjoy our second annual celebration of the birthday of our favorite Hated Rival, Barker (just so long as you don’t end up in the canal, of course). We’ll be meeting at noon at the Indiana Historical Society building at 450 W. Ohio Street, at the intersection of West and Ohio Streets (opposite Military Park). Parking is available in the IHS parking lot (corner of West and New York Streets) and at several other locations nearby, in case the IHS lot should fill up before we arrive. (We’re told that’s an unlikely event, however.) We will gather in the lobby of the IHS building at noon. After enough time has passed for everyone to arrive, we’ll decide as a group what activities to pursue during our time on and about the Canal. The IHS building itself is open for tours at no cost, and offers a number of historical exhibits, as well as a gift shop. Nearby attractions include the Canal itself (with its gondola and paddle boat rides at varying fees for the adventuresome), the Eitlejorg Museum, the Indiana State Museum, its IMax Theater, and many other sites of interest (although many do charge a small fee for admission). We’ll plan on eating at one of the restaurants at the Indiana State Museum, as they—and the museum’s gift shop—can be accessed for free (the only fee there being to view the exhibits), although eating on-site does, of course, entail paying for your meal. (Those who want to save a bit can bring a picnic lunch instead, as the area has plenty of sites for such a repast.) During our afternoon feast, our own Barker, Bill Barton, will present a paper about . . . well, the “real” Barker (although the exact topic is a surprise). Following, we will continue as a group to tour the Canal area—or those with other interests may break off for some sleuthing of their own. Do plan on leaving by 3:30 p.m., as the IHS building is hosting another event at 4 p.m. and needs the lot as free as possible. For directions and additional details, see the “Coming Meetings” section, later in this newsletter. (If it rains, come anyway, but bring an umbrella for the jaunts between buildings.)
Summertime, and the living is . . . well, kinda hot and sticky at times. But no matter, things get sizzling in the summer for the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore (as you can tell by our next meeting blurb above). At least you can shuck the heavy Inverness capes and deerstalkers in favor of short sleeves and ball caps (worn with the bill to the front, please!). And you can join us for a pair of sizzling summer events this July and September. (Our September meeting falls before the beginning of autumn, so technically it’s still a summer meeting.) We hope to see you there (and later in the year as well).
Okay, as this is going to be a shorter letter than usual, what can we discuss—something ephemeral or lightweight—for a few paragraphs. I know—movies! (No offense to those of you for whom movies are a serious business.) And since the Hated Rivals are solid Sherlockians, how about . . .?
Like many Sherlockians who came of age in the Baby Boom Generation, my first exposure to Sherlock Holmes was in the movies—more specifically, the Basil Rathbone Holmes movies, which so often played on TV when I was a youngster. (In fact, it would be a number of years before I discovered that Holmes didn’t really fight Nazis in the original stories or wear a fedora, as did Rathbone in those later, non-Victorian-based movies. Of course, neither did Holmes wear the traditional deerstalker in most of Doyle’s tales, at least in the city, as did Rathbone in the two Victorian-based movies of the series, but that’s a minor point at best.) For many years, Basil Rathbone’s was the face I imagined whenever I thought of Sherlock Holmes—at least until I learned better. Rathbone’s portrayal of the Great Sleuth of Baker Street was more than adequate for its day, although when I later finally read the Canon, I found that Rathbone’s Holmes was devoid of some of Holmes’ rarer qualities—his sense of humor, his compassion, his less frenzied aspects.
By the time I actually started reading the Canon as the result of an assignment in a literature class at college (not counting reading “The Dying Detective” once in grade school), it was another screen version of the Great Detective that most influenced my mind’s eye: that of Nicole Williamson (who is likely best know for his Merlin in the Arthurian movie Excalibur). I’d seen Williamson as Holmes in Nicolas Meyer’s screen adaptation of The Seven Per Cent Solution a year or so earlier and had been impressed by his multi- dimensional portrayal of Holmes as a man not quite so in control as Rathbone’s version and with a warmer side occasionally breaking through his façade of a cold, reasoning intellect. True, Williamson did not look a great deal like Holmes, at least according the descriptions in the stories or their accompanying illustrations. His blond hair was especially out of step with past portrayals and descriptions of the Master Sleuth. Even so, it was Williamson’s image that came to my mind as I read the original tales, as well as the pastiches that I could find (The Seven Per Cent Solution in particular).
Of course, as time went by, I saw many other screen portrayals of Sherlock Holmes, some not too far off but others ranging from poor to incredibly bad (say, for example, Edward Woodward in the non-Canonical Hands of a Murderer). But in the 1980s came what I considered—and still do—to be the most Canonical portray of Holmes to yet hit the screen, big or small. And if you think I’m referring to Jeremy Brett, sorry—you lose the game (but you can take our home version with you as a nice consolation prize). Yes, I realize that, for many, Brett’s Holmes was the quintessential version for our day. And I don’t deny that Brett did an acceptable job as the detective. But, for me, he still didn’t quite capture all that Sherlock Holmes is in the Canon. Brett aptly depicted those same personality traits of Holmes that Rathbone had embodied—the cold, calculating mind and the more manic aspects of the detective. But, as with Rathbone, I didn’t feel that Brett captured the other side of Holmes’ personality that at times peaked through the sleuth’s unfeeling façade in the Canon. Even when he was trying to show those feelings, as when Watson was wounded or Holmes was pulling a rare prank, Brett just didn’t quite cut it. Plus, to me, he really didn’t look all that much like the Holmes of the Padget drawings—or the Canon.
So who, for me, did truly capture the essence of Sherlock Holmes on the screen? Ian Richardson. The man who was Sherlock Holmes in only two movies—Hound of the Baskervilles and Sign of Four—is my choice for the ultimate screen Holmes. Why? First, I thought he captured the colder, manic qualities of the Great Detective as well as either Rathbone or Brett, yet without going over the top, as they so often did. And he far better captured the warmer aspects of Holmes’ personality, which more often than most realize did manifest themselves, especially (on occasion) to Watson and, of course, to THE woman. Similarly, I could envision Richardson, as Holmes, pulling off a practical joke on the police far better than I could Brett or Rathbone. And Richardson, for my money, actually looked like the Holmes of Padget’s drawings—far more than Brett, Rathbone, Williamson, and any other screen portrayal of Holmes that I’ve ever seen. Yes, the actual versions of the two stories that Richardson starred in were not as close to those in the Canon as were Brett’s versions (although Richardson’s Hound was closer than Rathbone’s). But if the producers of the Brett series had instead chosen Richardson to play Holmes—what a combination that would have been.
Sadly, after those two ’80s films, Richardson hung up his deerstalker, so to speak. He never made another Holmes film. The reason: The Brett series had already started in Britain, where Richardson’s two films were made, and the producers decided that they’d be unable to compete with Grenada and dropped their plans for additional Richardson Holmes movies. I believe that was a great loss to Sherlockiana at large –and in particular on the screen. I fully believe (although I may be wrong) that if the Richardson series had continued—providing, of course, that the filmmakers didn’t stray any farther than the Brett series did from the Canon in subsequent offerings—that it would now be Ian Richardson who would be remembered as the Sherlock Holmes of the second half of the 20th century, just as Rathbone is for the first half, and not Jeremy Brett. At least Ian Richardson did have the opportunity to visit the Holmes legend again when he portrayed Dr. Joseph Bell in the Murder Rooms series that played in the U.S. on PBS’s Mystery.
So those are my thoughts on Holmes in the movies. You may have a different take—and that’s quite all right. It would be a very dull hobby if every Sherlockian had the same opinion on everything. (I wouldn’t fancy having to walk in lockstep with everything some particular “authority” thought about our favorite detective and his many manifestations.) So if you think some other screen version of Holmes (other than Brett or Rathbone) is closer to the real-deal, feel free to let me know. (If your musings are interesting enough, I’ll be happy to publish them.) In the meantime, for me, it’s Ian Richardson—the Sherlock Holmes of the screen.
Before closing, I want to again thank our historian/recorder, Suzanne Snyder (Amelia Peabody), for putting together the final version of the April newsletter and getting it mailed out to everyone (and on time, no less, unlike this one, which is, I’m afraid, reaching you a bit late). Thanks, too, for her contribution to the “Victorian Trivia” section and to the “Letter From” section of that newsletter. And, thanks to modern medical science, I have now fully recovered from my open-heart surgery, in case you were wondering. Dr. Watson, I’m quite sure, would approve. Now, on with summer!
(And on that simmering note, I remain, till next issue, as always . . .)
—C. Barker, Esq.
The sky was dark and overcast, and the wind cold and furious, much as you’d expect to encounter on a dangerous English moor rather than in (normally sunny) Garfield Park, on Indianapolis’ near south side. But a stalwart group of Hated Rivals braved the elements once again for the most fun and fellowship one can find this side of 221B Baker Street itself. We met in the parking lot just south of the open picnic tables and chose the most promising, where we quickly devoured our picnic lunches. Following that, our own Suzanne Snyder read an excellent paper about English gardens in the Victorian era. The presentation was also a show-and-tell, as Suzanne passed around illustrations of many of the Victorian era’s typical gardens as well as a catalog from which one can purchase the types of plants most common to those bright, flowery turfs. Despite the cold, all Rivals in attendance quickly grew warm to the topic. (Our one concern during these first two portions of the meeting involved a number of very pesky squirrels who kept getting closer and closer to the food, as if they were planning to snatch away every morsel that they could, well, squirrel away. Perhaps the rumors of Moriarty training army ants to disrupt our celebration were merely red herrings to hide the identity of his actual accomplices and the real menace—hunger-ravaged squirrels!) We then proceeded to the park’s indoor gardens for a self-guided tour. The contrast was striking as we ventured from outdoors cold to indoors heat and humidity. But the gardens themselves were quite impressive, as the building harbored not only a wide variety of tropical plants, but a pond full of sizable fish and a number of colorful birds that flew through the interwoven growth. We took several photos and marveled at trees and plants that, although they would be out of place in an English garden, were quite as foreign to an Indiana spring as would be those in some of the more exotic locations mentioned in the Canon. Finishing our tour, we bade one another farewell, already anticipating the next exciting Hated Rivals meeting.
As our next meeting is on Indianapolis’ own downtown Canal, I thought a bit of trivia about England’s canals in the Victorian era would be in order.
Although the mode of transportation most associated with the Victorian era is the railway (or, if you’re thinking London, the Hansom cab), England maintained a large system of canals throughout the country even into (and beyond) the Victorian Age. True, the great era of canal building and use occurred before Victoria took the throne, but even as the canal was being eclipsed by the railway as the primary means of commerce following the 1840s, new canals were still being build, and the trains’ usurpation of the canals’ place in commerce within the British Isles wasn’t completed till much later in the era. And at the dawn of Victoria’s rule, the canals still reigned supreme, their barges hauling the stuff of life and culture from one end of Great Britain to the other. Even London had several canals connecting its docklands to the outskirts of the city and into the countryside.
By the 1880s, however, the use of the canal, while not completely over, had declined considerably. And that’s probably why, in so many of the Holmes stories, you see the Great Detective and his Boswell climbing aboard a smoke-belching train and not hopping into a barge for a leisurely float down a canal.
I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere!
Appetite for Murder, A Mystery Lover’s Cookbook, by Kathy Borich (188 pages, $14.95), contains five full chapters devoted to the crime-solving—and culinary—exploits of Sherlock Holmes. The book is available from Amazon.com and other outlets. For more information, go to www.virtualbookworm.com and search for the title (add $2 postage if you order from the company), and to read the introduction and two sample chapters from the book (based on “The Adventure of the Noble Bachelor” and “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle”), visit www.KathyBorich.com, where you can also purchase the book. (Kathy asks that you not forget to sign the guestbook while you’re there!)
Another recent book is somewhat more peripherally related to Sherlockiana—Private Eyelashes: Radio’s Lady Detectives, by Jack French (BearManor Media, P.O. Box 750, Boalsburg, PA 16827; $18.95 + $2 postage—$5 if outside the U.S.). The author is a member of the Red Circle scion in Washington, D.C., and noted Sherlockian Peter Blau helped him with the chapter that relates to Holmes (if, perhaps, in name only), one about a female detective named Jane Sherlock. For more information (a table of contents and some mini-reviews) or to order the book online, go to www.bearmanormedia.com.
Sherlock Holmes’ Lost Adventure: The True Story of the Giant Rat of Sumatra is a new pastiche by Lauren Steinhauer (iUniverse, $22.95 hc; $12.95 pb; $6 as an Adobe e-book; 180 pages). It takes place immediately after A Study in Scarlet and reveals that untold tale listed in “The Sussex Vampire.” To read the first three chapters online, go to the author’s Web site at www.LaurenSteinhauer.com. (If you click the Buy the Book link, you can access additional information from the publisher, including a summary of the book, a table of contents, and the first chapter.) Not the first pastiche about the Giant Rat and probably not the last. You can get an idea how well this one does by reading the online chapters.
The latest catalog from The Video Collection (P.O. Box 2284, South Burlington, VT 05407-2284) features a number of videos and DVDs of interest to Sherlockians. Among them are the Rathbone/Bruce Hound of the Baskervilles and Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (only recently available in DVD); three more sets of Rathbone/Bruce Holmes films; The Many Faces of Sherlock Holmes (a look at the various actors who’ve portrayed Holmes on the screen); several sets of the Jeremy Brett Holmes series; and even the Edward Woodward/John Hillerman fiasco Hands of a Murder (if you’re a completist). The catalog offers a number of other titles of interest to mystery lovers, anglophiles, and aficionados of the Victorian era, all at varying prices. For exact costs and ordering information, we suggest that you write the company and request a catalog.
Those of you who enjoy graphic adaptations of non-Sherlockian Victorian literature may want to look for three trade paperback volumes of Eureka Productions’ Graphic Classics series—Vol. 9: Robert Louis Stevenson includes illustrated version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde among other Stevenson classics; Vol. 7 features illustrated versions of Bram Stoker’s work (including excerpts from Dracula); and Vol. 6 focuses on the work of Ambrose Bierce, late-Victorian author of weird fiction (admired by H.P. Lovecraft). If you’re a Mark Twain fan, Vol. 8 covers some of his tales (although, alas, his short “Double-Barreled Detective Story,” a Holmes parody, didn’t make the book’s cut.) All are available for $9.95 each and can be ordered from any specialty comic book store, most major bookstores, and most online stores such as Amazon.com. Earlier volumes in the series have featured the illustrated works of Poe, H.G. Wells, and, of course, Conan Doyle. (The Poe volume is being reissued soon, and the others may also still be available.) Coming later this summer is Vol. 10: Horror Classics, which includes illustrated pieces by Poe, Bierce, and Lovecraft, among others.
It’s no longer playing in most first-run theaters, but keep an eye out at the second-run cinemas for Van Helsing, the Victorian-set action/adventure movie featuring some of Victorian England’s greatest horror creations (including Dracula and a cameo by Mr. Hyde)—assuming, of course, you haven’t already seen it in its initial run. The movie does play fast and loose with the details of the original stories—Van Helsing’s first name is now Gabriel instead of Abraham, he’s a monster-hunter for the Vatican now, and the story takes place in the 1880s, far too late for the creation of the Frankenstein monster, a bit early for Dracula’s involvement, and decades prior to Universal’s original setting for The Wolfman. But I’ve heard that it’s great fun if you don’t let the storyline get in the way—kind of along the lines of the Indiana Jones movies. A novelization is also available, which fills in some of the movie’s gaps (and probably reflects an earlier version of the script than the final screenplay). Sadly, as was the case for League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, it appears that the movie may not have made enough at the box office to justify a sequel (unless second-run and video and DVD receipts make up the gap).
Hated Rival Will Thomas’s novel about Victorian detective Cyrus Barker, Some Danger Involved (Touchstone Books, $22.95; 288 pages), is now out and available for purchase at most book stores and at online outlets. (I’ve seen it locally at Borders and online at Amazon.com for $16.07.) Will reports that sales are going well at this point, and the book has garnered a lot of good press, including a feature in the New York Times Book Review. For more information, Will says that the place to visit online is the book publisher’s Web site at www.Simonsays.com or go to www.bn.com (Barnes & Noble). We urge all who enjoy Victorian-set mysteries to support Will by picking up a copy (so that we see more Barker novels in the future).
Sadly, the online gaming magazine Space Gamer (at www.spacegamer.com) has ceased regular publication as a magazine, effective this past March. Unfortunately, that also means the end of our own Bill Barton’s (Barker) monthly column, “Horror from the Heartland.” The April issue’s column, as mentioned in our last newsletter, was to have focused on Bill’s fictionalized version of the Canonical Barker, as described in newsletters last year and earlier this year as well. The June column was also to have included the original Call of Cthulhu/ Cthulhu By Gaslight stats that Bill composed for the latter, for those of you who follow the role-playing side of things. The piece is currently being reworked for possible use in another online magazine, and parts of it will eventually appear on our Web site as well.
Finally, if you have a spare $80,000 burning a hole in your pocket, you can purchase the entire Sherlock Holmes collection of eminent Sherlockian Ronald De Waal, author of the World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and other scholarly works. The collection includes such treasures as a first edition of The Hound of the Baskervilles and an 1891 London edition of A Study in Scarlet featuring a mounted autograph by Doyle. It numbers about 10,000 items, plus 50+ cartons of files. Unfortunately, the collection is being sold in its entirely at the noted price, plus transportation costs, rather than as individual pieces (which I’d think would, in the long run, command a better price—but perhaps time is of the essence here). If you’re quite well-to-do and dedicated (some might say fanatic) enough a collector of Sherlockiana to jump at the price, you can contact the seller at Sam Weller’s Zion Bookstore, 254 S. Main Street, Salt Lake City, Utah 84101 (or electronically at email@example.com; www.samwellers.com). Who knows? If no one goes for the entire collection en masse, perhaps individual items will eventually become available. (If so, we’ll let you know in this space.)
Following are the details of our upcoming meeting, plus the dates and tentative information about the rest of our meetings for 2004. (Check our Web site or our Indianapolis Star Web page for updates.) So set these dates aside to join the Hated Rivals at the following soirées:
An Afternoon on the Canal
Sunday, July 11, 2004, noon to 3:30 p.m.
Starting at: The Indiana Historical Society
450 W. Ohio Street (intersection of West & Ohio Sts.)
Downtown Indianapolis, Indiana
Directions and Details: From the Northeast, South, or East sides: Take I-465 to I-70 on the East side of Indianapolis, and take I-70W to I-65N; immediately get in the far left lane on I-65N and get off at the Martin Luther King/West Street exit. Turn south and follow West Street to New York Street (about ¾ mile or so) and turn left. The parking lot of the Indiana Historical Society (IHS) building is to your right, on the corner of West and New York Streets. (You enter the parking lot from New York Street.) From the West (or Northwest): Take I-465 to I-65S on the Northwest side of Indianapolis, and take I-65S downtown to the Martin Luther King/West Street exit; turn south on West Street and follow the preceding directions to the IHS parking lot. (Do allow extra travel time, as the Black Expo is going on at the Convention Center about half a mile east of the IHS building, and downtown traffic is usually congested during the Expo.) The IHS building itself is directly east of Military Park. The entrance to the IHS building is on the east side, toward the Canal. We will meet in the lobby, just inside the entrance, at noon and decide from there what sights and activities to partake of. (If you think that you’ll be late, please let us know ahead of time so that we know to wait for you.) We’ll probably eat in one of the restaurants at the nearby Indiana State Museum, and during the meal, a short paper about Barker will be presented as part of the day’s festivities. For maps and additional information on the Canal, the IHS, and other nearby attractions, check out the information on the following Web site: www.indydt.com. For more info about the IHS, as well as additional directions, maps, and so forth, visit its Web site at www.indianahistory.org.
And don’t forget to mark your calendar for this (and next) year’s other great meetings . . .
September (exact date to be determined): A Sherlockian Surprise!
Saturday, November 13, 2004: A.C. Doyle Mini-Film Fest
Sunday, January 9, 2005: Our Annual Victorian Tea
(Note: Dates and programs are tentative and subject to change as circumstances
change—but we’ll try to stick to these as much as possible!)
For more information, contact us at P.O. Box 26290, Indianapolis, IN 46226-0290; or you can contact us electronically (via e-mail) at firstname.lastname@example.org (And don’t forget to venture online to check out our Hated Rivals Web site, located at http://surrey-shore.freeservers.com, for recent updates, or drop on by our Indy Star Web page at http://community.indystar.com/928/.)
See you again in two months, back on the ol’ Surrey Shore, where the game’s always afoot! (But you already knew that—didn’t you?)