From The Surrey Shore . . .
The Newsletter of the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore Vol. 3, No. 6, December 2004
****A Scion Society for All Who Enjoy Sherlock Holmes in All His Manifestations!****
Yes, our January meeting should once more suit you to a tea, as we celebrate our third annual Victorian Tea and (Slightly Belated) Sherlock Holmes Birthday Party. (In the spirit of truth in advertising, we’re billing it as “slightly belated” because the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore—no slaves to baseless tradition, we—normally celebrate the birthday of Sherlock Holmes on January 5. Since that date falls this year on a weekday, we’re four days late in this year’s celebration. So we’ll have to really celebrate to make up for it.) Once again, we’re meeting at the Hamilton County Historical Society Jail Museum in beautiful downtown Noblesville, just a hop, skip, and a jump north of Indy. (Well, that’s a tradition we like, so we’re honoring it.) As at past Victorian Teas (although we certainly don’t mean to tease), we’ll be offering a wide range of goodies, from tea and scones to cream cheese and cucumber sandwiches (for the adventurous). As part of the program this year, our own Amelia Peabody, Suzanne Snyder, will be presenting a short paper on Mary Russell, from Laurie R. King’s Sherlockian pastiches about Ms. Russell (who eventually becomes, in the novels, Mrs. Holmes). Plus, as usual, a tour of the Victorian home and Edwardian jail facilities will be available to those who’ve never taken it (as well as to those who have but just want to do so again). And we also plan a few surprises just to keep things hopping. (No—no Giant Rabbits of Sumatra, thank you.) The meeting will get underway around 1-ish in the afternoon and continue until 4 p.m. (or until all of us are totally satiated with fresh Victorian-style victuals). And it’s all absolutely free! (Although we do ask any of you who can to bring additional tea, scones, crumpets, jams, sandwiches, and other delicacies to share.) For additional details and directions, please refer to the “Coming Meetings” section of this newsletter. We hope to see you all there!
A chill is definitely in the air as I start this tome just a few days before Christmas 2004—and, of course, plenty of visions of sugar plums (whatever the heck they are*) are floating around in the aether as well, it being the season and all. We’ve held our last meeting of 2004 (see the “Meeting Notes” section for details) and are looking forward to 2005, starting with our next Victorian Tea (see above). So before going on to more serious matters, here’s a brief look back at the past year and a preview of what’s to come in ’05!
* (Okay, I admit it—I know what sugar plums are. But, as with so many terms, we often toss them about without any actual recognition of the reality behind the words, especially when it comes to holiday platitudes or clichés. As Sherlockians, however, we need to be not only observant, but also cognizant of everything around us—especially the words we speak and how they may affect others. So consider that a Christmas bonus: just another little something for you to think about on your journey through life . . .)
Our 2004 year started off with our second annual Victorian Tea/Holmes Birthday Party—a very well-attended meeting—featuring a talk on Victorian crime (quite appropriate for the setting at the Jail Museum. The game was afoot in March, as our own Chris Engle ran a Sherlockian mystery game (his own design), where it was Watson, rather than Holmes, who solved the crime! May’s picnic brought cool winds, marauding squirrels, and a hot house of beautiful flowers and plants at Garfield Park. Our second annual Barker Birthday Bash in July took us downtown to the canal and the museums along its banks, while in September, we revisited historic Crown Hill Cemetery for a tour of its Victorian sites, followed by a hardy meal at a local restaurant. And November inaugurated our Sherlock Holmes/A.C. Doyle Mini-Film Fest. All and all, it was a successful—and most enjoyable—third year for our scion.
This year will again kick off with our annual Victorian Tea and Holmes Birthday Party, although it will be a bittersweet meeting as well in that our own Russell, Mimi DeMore, will be leaving us after this meeting. (See the following section for details.) But we plan to carry on with another great year. As noted in an earlier newsletter, we’ve picked a theme for this year’s meetings, although we’ve slightly expanded it from what I described there: Whereas, before, the theme was to be The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes, we’ve decided to extend it to The Allies and Rivals of Sherlock Holmes. Why? Well, Barker may have been the “hated rival” of Holmes, but as we see in “The Retired Colourman,” he was also a very valuable ally of the Great Detective. So in addition to Barker and other “rivals” of Holmes, we’ll also celebrate those who, in either the Canon or the world of Sherlockian pastiches, served Holmes as a friend or ally. (Which is why Mary Russell gets the nod for our first meeting—see the earlier section for details.) Our March meeting, which will also double as a St. Patrick’s Day event, focuses on the “other” Sleuth of Baker Street—Sexton Blake. (And if you’re unfamiliar with this particular rival of Sherlock Holmes, we hope you’ll come to the March meeting for enlightenment.) Our July meeting, again, will focus on Barker (and his birthday, on July 12), with new information about Holmes’ “hated” rival. We’re also planning another Sherlockian cookout for our September meeting, with some surprises yet to be announced for the May and November events. (Keep watching this newsletter for additional details.) Our “senior” year as a scion should be the best yet (despite the absence of our beloved Russell), so do plan to attend those meeting that you can.
As some of you may know—and as revealed above for those who didn’t—our own Mimi DeMore (Russell) is leaving us as of this meeting. Mimi has chosen to put herself on the line and join the Peace Corps, where, in true Sherlockian fashion, she’ll be serving her fellow man, striving to better the lives of those she encounters. (Of course, she’s been doing that right here for a long time now—but for the near future, she’s taking a brave leap of faith on a noble endeavor to foreign lands.) Following three months of training, Mimi will be heading overseas for two years of service in the former Soviet Republic, Uzbekistan, in Central Asia. (There, if you know your geography, she’ll be within a short distance from Afghanistan, where the Sherlockian saga began with the service of Dr. John H. Watson as an army surgeon.)
Needless to say (but I’m going to anyway), we’re all going to miss Mimi (although she’ll remain on our mailing list as a corresponding member, thanks to the wonders of modern technology in the form of e-mail). Mimi was instrumental in organizing and building this scion into what it is today. In fact, I dare say, if it hadn’t been for Mimi, there’d be no Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore today. Her hard work and her dedication, not only to the scion but to the hobby in general, aren’t often seen these self-indulgent days, where one can often get by on whom he or she knows rather than what one actually does. Her dedication to truth and justice also rival that of Sherlock Holmes himself—something that, sadly, isn’t the case with all who call themselves Sherlockians. Over the course of three years, Mimi has missed only a single meeting, and that only because of the rigors involved in pursuing her degree. We’ve all been lucky to have her as vice president of the group, and I personally feel extremely fortunate to have had her as a friend. (And, of course, that will continue, albeit via long-distance communication, direct through the Khyber Pass.)
I first met Mimi more than 24 years ago, when both of us were members of another local scion (although one that ultimately would evolve into a sad disappointment for both of us). I was in the food line at a Victorian pitch-in at one of the local Victorian houses—either Morris Butler or Benjamin Harrison, I forget now which one. Mimi happened to get in the line behind me. As we waited to reach the food, we struck up a conversation. I recall telling her about a 1903 Baedeker’s guidebook to London that I’d just purchased from a Sherlockian bookseller and how interested she was in that historical item. I could tell that she was a true Sherlockian from the get-go. Later, Mimi offered her services to the group and, just as she has for the Rivals the past three years, functioned as its vice president for a year. When members of that group volunteered to participate in an upcoming Indianapolis Zoo function, to act as ushers in Victorian garb, Mimi was right there at all the planning meetings, again offering her services. (Sadly, that event was ultimately canceled when the planned celebrity guest, the late Vincent Price, was unable to participate.)
I especially remember Mimi’s role in the From Dark Pages progressive mystery play at the Morris Butler home (as described briefly last newsletter). It was Mimi who pulled the event together, contacting those of us she knew from the old group as writers and actors, organizing the meetings, providing a rough outline for the play’s progression, and even co-writing one of the rooms with me. For two years, Mimi was the driving force behind that event, which has continued for 12 years now, even though she—and most of us—left after the second year. Just as we hope is the case with this scion, she built a lasting foundation, one that could even survive losing her never-ending commitment and enthusiasm.
After Mimi left the old group, following an ill-advised rule change that barred her children from attending most meetings, I saw her only infrequently, eventually losing touch with her, to my regret. I was fortunate, however, that Jon and Ronda Burroughs (who’d also left the old group) still had contact info for Mimi. Almost three and a half years ago, Mimi and I reestablished contact. My wife and I met with her and Jon and Ronda for dinner one afternoon at the Cracker Barrel—not quite Victorian, but very 19th-century in nature. As we talked, we reminisced about the old days of Sherlockiana, before the other group became so disappointing that we’d all sought more fulfilling activities. Despite the many frustrations that had finally ended our associations with the old scion, however, the lure of the Great Sleuth of Baker Street still held us in its grip. And we’d had so much fun getting together, we decided to do it again. But not just the five of us, we decided. Why not start our own, new scion—one that could be fun again, as our previous group had been when we’d all first joined?
It wouldn’t be easy, we knew, especially starting with such a small set of people. We’d need to start from scratch—build the scion up slowly over a number of years, spending whatever efforts necessary to attract new members. I still had a few addresses of some of the people from the old group, most of whom had long quit attending it by the time I’d left. And although we did pick up a few of these former members, most were apparently so burned by their experiences that we never heard from them at all, and eventually had to give up on them. (A shame, as some had been really enthusiastic about the hobby when they’d first started.) Our inaugural meeting was, admittedly, lightly attended—although thanks to Mimi’s PR efforts, a reporter from the Indianapolis Star dropped by, and we received a very positive write-up in the paper. And that write-up even won us a new member for the next meeting . . . and things snowballed from there.
Another valuable contribution that Mimi made to our scion was to suggest that we hold as many of our meetings as possible at Victorian locations in and around the city. Thanks to her own background in working at many of the history museums in town, and the contacts she maintained there, we were able to secure such facilities as the Indiana Medical History Museum, the Indiana Transportation Museum, and, of course, the Hamilton County Historical Society Jail Museum for our meetings. She was also the inspiration to stretch our interests a bit to encompass the entire Victorian period, even while maintaining a solid focus on Sherlock Holmes. (Whereas Holmes is the be-all and end-all for some scions, he and his adventures are merely the starting point for ours, thanks to Mimi.)
And soon, she’ll be gone (except in our hearts and through e-mail). That saddens me, and yet I’m encouraged, too. Mimi’s help has taken us a long way—and as she embarks on new conquests, we’re sure that the future will be just as bright for our scion as it will be for her. We look forward to her return, when her period of service ends—unless, of course, she heads off for even greater endeavors. In any event, the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore certainly would not be anything near what it is today, if not for our own Mimi DeMore, who will remain, to the Hated Rivals, not only Russell Emeritus, but THE woman.
And on that bittersweet note, I remain, till next issue, ever yours . . .
—C. Barker, Esq.
Thanksgiving was in the air, with the smell of roast turkey, cranberries, sweet potatoes, and the ubiquitous green bean casserole, as the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore met at the Lawrence Library on Saturday, November 20, for our first Sherlock Holmes/A.C. Doyle Mini-Film Fest. (Of course, all we could smell in the library was the musty odor of old books—at least until the fragrance of fresh-popped popcorn finally filled the room.) Following a brief introduction, a stalwart group of Rivals—including several new members—settled down in the library’s meeting room for a rare Sherlockian film treat, which included a number of episodes of the 1950s Holmes series starring Ronald Howard as the Great Detective. Because of a slightly late start to the meeting, however, we wound up having to choose between running the entire silent film version of Doyle’s The Lost World or more of the Howard Holmes episodes. It was a close vote, but faithful to our Sherlockian origins, the nod went to Holmes over Professor Challenger. (We plan to run The Lost Word at a future mini-film fest, however, so if you missed this one, you can still catch one of the great—if somewhat primitive to modern eyes—special-effects flicks of the silent screen.) Along with all the popcorn, we offered a number of drink choices and a few other snacks as well, so no one went home with an empty stomach. (Although a smaller group of irrepressible Rivals followed the meeting with a stop at a local Bob Evans restaurant for additional fare and fellowship.) Hollywood and Sherlock Holmes: the perfect combination—especially as presented by the Hated Rivals on the Surrey Shore!
No Victorian trivia this issue—we just plain ran out of time—but look for this feature to return next newsletter with new insights into the age of Sherlock Holmes!
I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere!
Looking for a Sherlockian gift to give someone this season? (I know. By the time you get this, Christmas will be past, but it’s the thought that counts—right?) Then you may want to check out the Strand Magazine’s Holiday Gift & Book Catalogue. The catalog contains items ranging from books (for example, Spider Dance, by Carole Nelson Douglas, the newest in her Irene Adler series, and Sherlock Holmes: The Hidden Years, by eminent Sherlockian pastiche writer Michael Kurland, to name just two) to Baker Street desk items (notepads, pens, letter opener, and magnifying glass), to a Sherlock Holmes 2005 calendar, to a Holmes sweatshirt, and even back issues and gift subscriptions to the Strand Magazine. Some of the items in the catalog are a bit pricey, but others are very reasonable and are sure to please the Sherlockian in your family who’s especially hard to buy for. To obtain a copy, write to The Strand Magazine, P.O. Box 1418, Birmingham, MA 48012-1418; call 1-800-300-6652; or visit www.strandmag.com on the Web.
If you long to someday visit London—and especially the London of Sherlock Holmes and other famous literary characters—check out Imagined London: A Tour of the World’s Greatest Fictional City, by Anna Quindlen (National Geographic, 2004; 162 pages; $20). Among all the literary sites that the book explores is, of course, the supposed location for one 221B Baker Street, abode of the Great Detective and his Boswell. (The author expresses disappointment not to find the fabled address just where it should have been, but most Sherlockians are already aware of that.) Sites related to the works of such Victorian and Edwardian authors as Anthony Trollope, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf also are explored. The book is available at most bookstores and is discounted at such online outlets as Amazon.com.
Scheduled for a February 16, 2005, publication date is The Irregulars, a 128-page graphic novel from Dark Horse. It’s described as Sherlockian mystery and Lovecraftian horror (as in H.P. Lovecraft) colliding. As the title suggests, the main characters are Holmes’ Baker Street Irregulars, who set out on a mission from Holmes to clear Dr. Watson of a murder charge. The intrepid street arabs infiltrate the alleys of Whitechapel to clear the good doctor’s name, running across “an evil unlike anything Sherlock Holmes has ever faced.” (Well, other than in a number of other pastiches where Holmes encounters Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.) The book is priced at $12.95 and should be available at most specialty comic book stores and most online outlets such as Amazon.com.
Although not actually Sherlockian, the TNT original movie Librarian: Quest for the Spear did tip the hat to Sherlock Holmes and his methods. The lead character, played by ER’s Noah Wyle, engaged in two instances of observation and deduction, where he told two other characters intimate details about their lives just by observing minutiae of their persons. (One of them, at another point in the movie, referred to Wyle’s character—undoubtedly sarcastically—as “Sherlock.”) The movie aired in early December on the network and is likely to repeat at some point in the coming year, if you missed it.
Some disappointing news about the Tom Cruise-Steven Spielberg version of War of the Worlds: In contrast to our hope that it would be set in the 1898 H.G. Wells book’s original time and location, 1890s Victorian England, the Paramount movie, starring Cruise and directed by Spielberg, is set in modern-day New Jersey. So it appears to be more an updated remake of the 1953 George Pal film version of the book, with the general location of Orson Welles’ 1930s radio update. Too bad—with modern CGI special effects and the huge budget the film is rumored to have, they could have done a fantastic job creating the Martian war machines as described in the novel and having them wreck havoc on Victorian London. (Sigh.) This movie will still probably be worth seeing by all those who enjoyed such blockbuster special-effects films as Independence Day, but from our standpoint, it could have been so much better if they’d had the vision to follow the book. The movie is currently due for a June 2005 release (as it was put on the fast-track by the studio and filming is already underway.)
On the brighter side, as we were researching the Cruise film, we happily discovered that there is a second version of War of the Worlds currently underway and set for a March 2005 release. This film does take place in 1890s England and is based closely on Wells’ original storyline. It’s coming from a company named Pendragon Pictures (based, we believe, in England), and filming was done in England and the U.S. Northwest. It was apparently underway before 9/11 but postponed for some time after that. It’s now back on track, and we couldn’t be happier. It doesn’t have the blockbuster budget of the Cruise version, but even with a smaller budget, modern special effects should still enable it to be the best version yet. We’ll keep you up on it as we hear more, but for now, you can get more information from the company’s Web site, at www.pendragonpictures.com.
One last plug for War of the Worlds: For information about both upcoming WotW movies, as well as a lot of other information—including fan fiction, WotW books, videos, and DVDs, and frequent updates and interviews, check out www.waroftheworldsonline.com, the official War of the Worlds Online Web site. If you’re a fan of H.G. Wells in general and WotW in particular, it’s highly recommended. (Oh, and if you’re wondering what WotW has to do with Sherlock Holmes, hunt out a used copy of the sadly long-out-of-print pastiche Sherlock Holmes’s War of the Worlds, by Manly Wade Wellman and Wade Wellman—for our money, one of the best Sherlockian pastiches ever written.)
In early December, an Australian man named Lloyd Scott spent seven weeks bicycling across the continent’s outback on a Victorian-era penny-farthing bicycle (one with a very large front wheel and a tiny back wheel, so named because the two resembled the relative sizes of a penny and a farthing coin). Scott, a leukemia patient, took the journey to raise money for other victims of the disease. In addition to his use of Victorian-style transportation, the man wore Sherlockian attire during the trip—deerstalker and Inverness. (No word whether he smoked a curved pipe, and we assume that he didn’t carry a magnifying glass, as he’d need to keep his hands on the handles to steer.)
Due in February is Lord Ruthvan the Vampire, a two-volume, 248-page trade paperback ($20.95) adapted by Frank J. Morlock. It includes the original 1819 story by John Polidori, among others, and a new story pitting the popular penny-dreadful character against both Sherlock Holmes and Dracula! (We’ll give you more information, if available by then, in our February 2005 newsletter.)
For those who like to travel to partake of their Holmes, the Parallel Case of St. Louis scion plans to hold a Sherlockian conference, entitled “Holmes Under the Arch II: The Site of the Four,” May 20-22, 2005. The event includes a number of speakers, a banquet and entertainment, and a participatory mystery throughout the weekend written around The Sign of the Four (hence the conference’s subtitle). Cost of the conference is $100, plus $40 for the banquet, until February 15, with the conference’s price rising to $115 thereafter. A block of rooms are available at the hotel where the conference is being held. For additional information, contact Joe Eckrich at 914 Oakmoor Dr., Fenton, MO 63026-7008; 636-861-1454. You can also reach him by e-mail at email@example.com.
Following are the details of our upcoming meeting, plus the dates and tentative information about our other meetings in 2005. (Check our Web site or our Indianapolis Star Web page for updates.) So do set these dates aside to join the Hated Rivals at the following soirées:
Annual Victorian Tea and (Slightly Belated) Sherlock Holmes Birthday Party
Sunday, January 9, 2005, 1-4 p.m.
Hamilton County Historical Society Jail Museum
810 Conner Street (on the Town Square)
Directions and Details: From Indianapolis, take I-69 N. (accessible from I-465 on the NE side) to S.R. 37 to Noblesville; turn left at State Road 32 and continue on to the Town Square (State Road 32 becomes Conner Street in Noblesville). The museum is on the SW corner of the Square. Parking is available all around the square. The program will include our sumptuous Victorian tea, a paper on Sherlock Holmes’ ally from the Laurie R. King pastiches, Mary Russell, a tour of the Victorian/Edwardian home and jail facility, and lots of great Sherlockian fellowship. We look forward to seeing you there!
And don’t forget to mark your calendar for the rest of the coming year’s great meetings . . .
Sunday, March 13, 2005: Baker Street’s Other Great Sleuth
May[Date TBD]: Program TBA
Sunday, July 10: Our Annual Barker Birthday Bash!
September [Date TBD]: Our Second Sherlockian Cookout
November [Date TBD]: Program TBA
(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 send us an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org (And don’t forget to venture online to check out our Hated Rivals Web site 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?)