The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Crimes Club

Monday, June 30th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

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Doyle with Harry Houdini

Violette Malan wrote a post about Isaac Asimov’s Black Widower mysteries. These were stories about a group of men, members of a private club, who met monthly and tried to solve a guest’s mystery.

The Black Widowers were based on a real-life group that Asimov was a member of, The Trap Door Spiders. Founded by science-fiction author Fletcher Pratt, I believe that the roots go even deeper and can be traced back to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Name That Crime – In December of 1903, six men met for lunch at the Carlton Club in London. That meal was the genesis for the formation the following year of Our Society, better known as The Crimes Club. The founding members, including Doyle, met at London’s Grand Central Hotel on July 17, 1904 for a dinner.

The Crimes Club would meet three or four times annually on a Sunday evening. After dinner, a member and/or a guest would give a talk about a celebrated crime, recent or historical, and the members would discuss and debate it, likely over drinks and cigars. Often, lawyers who had been involved in the case would provide inside information.

Doyle was pleased with the opportunity to hear what had happened to persons in the famous cases, as well as to see trial exhibits and even handle actual evidence.

Such items included strychnine pills found on convicted poisoner Dr. Thomas Neill Cream when he was arrested and bones from the right arm of the Radcliffe Highway Murderer, John Williams.

Williams’s burial site had been dug up when a water main was being laid in 1910. Club member George Sims saw a unique opportunity and grabbed the bones!

And of course, they talked about Saucy Jack: Jack the Ripper!

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Vintage Treasures: The Science Fiction Book Club Original Anthologies

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Between Worlds-small Down these Dark Spaceways-small One Million AD Gardner Dozois-small Forbidden Planets Marvin Kaye-small

Last month I had a look back at one of my favorite Best of the Year series, Jonathan Strahan’s Best Short Novels, a delightful four-volume set collecting the best novellas of 2004-07 and published exclusively through the Science Fiction Book Club. SFBC did many exclusives, but that was the one that got me to excitedly rejoin the club for the first time in over a decade.

It was a great time to be a member. In addition to the Strahan volumes, Andrew Wheeler at SFBC also commissioned some of the top editors in the field, including Gardner Dozois, Mike Resnick, Marvin Kaye and Strahan, to produce eight original themed anthologies, each containing 6-7 new novellas by writers like Robert Silverberg, Peter F. Hamilton, Robert Reed, Nancy Kress, Greg Egan, Jack McDevitt, Alan Dean Foster, Julie E. Czerneda, Charles Stross, Stephen Baxter, Cory Doctorow, Walter Jon Williams, and many others. Each anthology was offered exclusively through the club, which means many fans never even knew they existed.

Each anthology was themed, like Gardner’s collection of far-future tales One Million A.D. Marvin Kaye’s Forbidden Planets looked at visits to strange and hostile worlds, Mike Resnick’s Down these Dark Spaceways and Alien Crimes contained science fiction mysteries, and Strahan’s Godlike Machines gathered tales of future eras where machines ruled. They were a lot of fun, and I snapped each one up as it arrived.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Austin’s Jack the Ripper

Monday, May 9th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

AustinKiller_XmasheadlineThis morning’s post would have been about Houdini and Doyle, the new TV series airing Monday nights on Fox. Except I missed the pilot: and contrary to much public opinion, I only write posts on subjects I know something about. Maybe not much, but… From what I can tell, it’s a buddy cop show in which the pair, one a believer in supernatural phenomena (Doyle), the other a skeptic (Houdini), investigates crimes. Brings to mind a poor man’s Mulder and Scully, but I’ll give it a chance.

And I’m about the last Black Gater you’re going to see a post from regarding the mess that is the Hugo Awards, so that’s not happening here. New fictional TV show aside, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was quite interested, and occasionally involved with, real-life crimes.

I wrote about the George Edalji case here (and even put the world’s first private consulting detective into the crime in Volume III of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories). I talked about his involvement with The Crimes Club in this post. And when time permits, I’m going to refresh my knowledge regarding the Oscar Slater case and write about that.

But my interest in Holmes and other Victorian mystery fiction, as well as hard-boiled mysteries, has resulted in reading about true crimes from those eras. Of course, there’s Jack the Ripper, various ‘trunks on trains’ murders, a plethora of poisonings (Florence Bravo is a particular interest area of mine) and more to delve into.

I lived in Austin, TX for a few years in the early 2000’s. While there, I read Steven Saylor’s A Twist at the End, and was fortunate enough to attend a lecture he gave on the killings. What killings, you say? Read on.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Looking at The Bruce Partington Plans

Monday, June 8th, 2015 | Posted by Bob Byrne

BruceP_FDSSolar Pons is, of course, the next best thing to Sherlock Holmes (which you know because you read THIS post, right?). I’m a Pons fan and I run www.SolarPons.com, the only website dedicated to The Sherlock Holmes of Praed Street.

Along with my two free, electronic newsletters (The Solar Pons Gazette and Baker Street Essays), the heart of the site is a collection of (non-spoiler) case commentaries for August Derleth’s stories. Some day, it will also host commentaries for the Basil Copper pastiches.

One of the many projects on my ‘To Do’ list (which might as well be Wish list) is to write case commentaries for the sixty Holmes stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I’ve done one (woohoo!!!). First, if you haven’t done so, you really, really, really (I mean, really) need to read “The Bruce Partington Plans.” It’s a short story; won’t take long. And the rest of this post will actually mean something to you.

Each case commentary includes a non-spoiler preview of the story, some notable quotes, and a plethora of miscellaneous observations and comments. I’m probably in the minority, but I think there is some good stuff below and you’ll know a bit more about the story after you read it. So, come, the game is afoot!

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: An Index (So Far)

Monday, September 29th, 2014 | Posted by Bob Byrne

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An awesome print by Tom Richmond of Holmes on screen over the years. I own print #7 of 450

Surprisingly, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes has now made it to thirty posts. While I’m sure the dedicated reader types ‘Public Life of Sherlock Holmes’ in the search field to call up all the posts in the series, I said to myself (I talk to myself a lot),  “Bob, there’s got to be an easier way for someone to bask in the entirety of your writings so far.”

And there is! Below is an index with links to all the posts, followed by some topics likely to come.

 

Sherlock Holmes/Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes – Introduction to the column (rather unoriginal title, eh?)

Lord of Misrule – Christopher Lee as the great detective

The Case of the Short Lived Sherlock – One of my favorite Holmes’, Ian Richardson

Creation to Death and Back – A good intro to Holmes, focusing on Doyle’s love-hate (minus the love) relationship with his most famous creation

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A Neglected Master: The Best of Henry Kuttner

Tuesday, December 6th, 2016 | Posted by James McGlothlin

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In Henry Kuttner’s short story “The Voice of the Lobster,” a character who is trying to escape some enemies muses to himself that he wishes he were a Cerean. In a footnote Kuttner includes the following: “The inhabitants of Ceres were long supposed to be invisible. Lately it has been discovered that Ceres has no inhabitants.” (p. 135).

Such is the typical humor of The Best of Henry Kuttner (1975), the fourth installment in Del Rey’s Classic Science Fiction Series. The previous volumes in this series all had insightful afterwords by the featured author, but Kuttner’s book does not contain one. Primarily, I take it, because Henry Kuttner (1915-1958) had already been dead for over a decade and a half by the time of publication. A shame though, given how the previous author afterwords in this series shed much light upon the subtext of their stories.

The introduction for this volume was done by the late and legendary Ray Bradbury (1920-2012). As with the previous three volumes, the cover art was by the amazing Dean Ellis (1920-2009).

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Mysteries at Hallmark

Monday, June 13th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

My wife and I enjoy watching murder mystery movies on Hallmark. More accurately, the Hallmark Movies and Mystery Channel (HMMC). Many of them had previously run on the Hallmark Channel that most folks are more familiar with. My previous cable provider didn’t provide HMMC at the tier I purchased, and many of my friends don’t have it either. It’s out there, but it’s not a low-tier feature in many systems.

Which is a shame, because there’s a lot of viewing for mystery fans. They air reruns of shows such as Hart to Hart, Matlock, Diagnosis Murder, Murder She Wrote and Perry Mason. And a staple of the schedule is Columbo. I haven’t seen every episode, but I’ve seen many of them several times and I never get tired of watching Peter Falk do his thing. “Uh, say, just one more thing…”

I also like a couple of old Hallmark franchises that have come to rest at HMMC.

Most folks knew Kellie Martin first as cute little Beckie (Becca) Thatcher in Life Goes On (a poignant, well done series) and later on as nurse Lucy Knight in ER. But from 2003 through 2007, she made eleven Mystery Woman movies for Hallmark. She played bookstore owner Samantha Kinsey, who constantly found herself involved in murders (that’s going to be a common theme in this post).

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Navajo Sherlock Holmes – Joe Leaphorn

Monday, April 25th, 2016 | Posted by Bob Byrne

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Wes Studi (Leaphorn) with Adam Beach (Chee)

Last week, we had something of an introduction to Tony Hillerman and his Navajo Tribal Police novels. A quick read before continuing on here might serve you well. Or, you can throw caution to the wind and keep going!

In July of 1945, Hillerman was was on a sixty day convalescent furlough from World War II, with a patch over a damaged eye and a cane to assist his gimpy leg. He had been wounded near the German village of Niefern. Carrying a stretcher under fire, he  had stepped on a mine. Now being carried himself on a stretcher, the man holding the front stepped on a mine and Hillerman was on the ground again. Someone picked him up in a fireman’s carry, dropped him in a creek, got him to a jeep and laid him across the hood. Hillerman made it out, alive (He would receive the Bronze Star, the Silver Star and the Purple Heart for his service).

Now temporarily back in the States, he had gotten a job driving pipe from Oklahoma City to an oil well drilling site on the Navajo checkerboard reservation. He stopped as a stick carrier’s camp crossed the road in front of him. They were making the ritual delivery of a scalp to the camp of a Navajo serviceman receiving an Enemy Way ceremonial. That’s a bit different than a deer crossing the road!

Hillerman’s first novel, some twenty years later, heavily involved an Enemy Way (that was his choice for the title. His publisher selected a completely unrelated ceremonial, The Blessing Way).

Tony Hillerman had been a reporter for many years and had also written nonfiction when he decided to write his first novel. As influences, he has cited Ross MacDonald, Raymond Chandler, George V. Higgins, Ernest Hemingway (“when he was still young enough to care about it”), Graham Greene and Eric Ambler (a master of suspense who has become unfairly forgotten over the years).

A less familiar name is that of Arthur Upfield, who wrote about the Australian Aborigine, Inspector Napoleon Bonaparte. Hillerman frequently cited Upfield’s ability to make the setting seem real. That same descriptive ability is at the core of the Leaphorn and Chee books.

And speaking of those books…

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The April Magazine Rack

Friday, April 1st, 2016 | Posted by John ONeill

Analog-April-2016-rack Apex-Magazine-March-2016-rack Beneath-Ceaseless-Skies-195-rack Clarkesworld-114-rack
giganotosaurus-logo-rack Fantasy-Scroll-Magazine-Issue-11-rack The-Glass-Galago-rack Lightspeed-March-2016-rack

Lots of great reading for fantasy lovers this month — including some terrific tales at Tor.com, new issues of Fantasy Scroll, Lightspeed, Apex, Clarkesworld, Analog, and many more.

For our vintage magazine readers, Rich Horton reviewed the March 1964 Amazing Stories, and Doug Ellis dug deep into his impressive collection to report on the Early Chicago SF Fan Club, and Otto Binder’s 1937 letter on John W. Campbell, and we introduced you to Gideon Marcus’ website Galactic Journey.

Check out all the details on the magazines above by clicking on the each of the images. Our Mid-March Fantasy Magazine Rack is here.

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On Writing Modern Noir Fantasy

Friday, January 15th, 2016 | Posted by Peter McLean

Drake Peter McLean-smallMy first novel Drake has been described as a mix of Urban Fantasy and Noir, and I suppose it is, in a way. So what does that mean to me?

Well I think we all have an idea of what Urban Fantasy is – the king of the genre is obviously The Dresden Files, with the magical detective in a big modern city helping the cops solve the unsolvable, inexplicable paranormal crimes.

Drake’s not that.

Don Drake isn’t a detective, he’s a hitman. He doesn’t help the cops – hell, he doesn’t have anything to do with the cops if he can help it. Drake works for gangsters, and demons, and demon gangsters. He’s not Harry Dresden, not by a long way.

But he’s not Philip Marlowe or Mike Hammer either, for all that he’d like to be. The world Drake lives in is hard-boiled but he really isn’t. He’s a cynical, somewhat cowardly opportunist who does the best he can to make his way in a world he barely even understands.

A Noir world.

So what’s that? Noir needs to be dark, by definition, but I don’t think it has to be tied to any particular time period. The classic Hollywood Noir is set in LA or New York in the 1940s but it can work equally well in the backstreets of ancient Rome or the mean cantinas of Mos Eisley, or even in modern South London for that matter.

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