Sunday, 18 November 2012

"Sherlock Holmes" Volunteers

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's letter to the War Office, 1914

I have been told that there may be some difficulty in finding offficers for the New Army. I think I may say that my name is well-known to the younger men of this country and that if I were to take a commission at my age it might be of help. I can drill a company - I do so every evening. I have seen something of campaigning, having served as a surgeoon in South Africa. I am fifty-five but I am very strong and hardy, and can make my voice audible at great distances which is useful at drill. Should you entertain my appplication, I should prefer a regiment which was drawn from the South of England - Sussex for choice.  

Taken from Voices by Peter Vansittart, who in the list of contributors says of Doyle that he was "An Anglo-Irish doctor, spiritualist, legal reformer, quixotic in his approach to many social wrongs and miscarriages of justice, writer of historical and scientific romances and detective fiction." A chronicler of the Boer and Great Wars.

Friday, 16 November 2012


An old edition of the Concise Oxford Dictionary has the spring season beginning on March 21  and ending three months later on June 21. This would mean, in 'A Scandal in Bohemia', Watson calling on his friend Holmes on the last day of winter 1888; and that Sherlock  would spring  into action in a number of different  cases, including (to use the Christ codes) BOSC, TWIS, STOC, DANC and 3GAR. In Sherlock in the Spring Time, however, spring means the period from the beginning of March till the end of May. Whichever way you look at it, a comforting book to read in the present miserable weather to remind us (hopefully) of better things to come!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Something for the Christmas Stocking

Sherlock in the Spring doesn't sound like something from Santa Claus, but it will brighten everyone up in this wintry weather with the thought of what might be in store. As the man said: "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" My new book is short, reasonably priced and, hopefully, slim enough to fit into anyone's Christmas stocking.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


A Fellow-Sherlockian recently suggested a Forum for answering one's critics. When it comes to reviews, I've had both 'ravers' and 'stinkers' - making one wonder if those who metaphorically put pen to paper have read the same book. The 'star' system is a blunt instrument used to rate everything from lavatory seats to lawnmowers, and sites such as The Bookbag uses untrained reviewers who only need to submit something to show they are reasonably literate before being let loose to praise or pan whichever book they choose. It doesn't seeem to matter either way whether or not they understand it. Even worse, the only qualification for reviewing a book on Amazon is to become a customer. I must confess I'm with Alistair Duncan on this. Read the reviews, learn from them if possible - and then get on with the next project.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

A Sherlock Holmes Who's Who

I am very gratified that Joel Senter, who lives in Cincinnati and publishes The Sherlockian E-Times, has placed my latest book so prominently this month. There is a question about the canon in every issue, a question which can be answered by anyone who, he says, has a copy of my 'Who's Who'. This can be easily ordered from his electronic 'bookshop', as well as a  large number of other outlets, and we look forward to hearing some great results! 

Friday, 11 May 2012

In Search of Doctor Watson. A Review from 'The Baker Street Bugle'

..."I found [this book] a jolly good read. It begins with a very comprehensive introduction which mentions other fictional detectives. Chapter One speculates on how Watson was created, and if he was based on a real person. The book continues with his time in the army, and there is a mass of information about how military doctors were trained, their experiences in the field, the Northumberland Fusiliers, the Afghan Campaign and other associated matters. We all know how Holmes and Watson met, but the author fills in much of the background in a clever mix of fact and fiction. For example, if you want to know how much policemen earned this book will tell you. And it is noted how many detectives created since Holmes have a rather simple companion as a foil....
   I particularly enjoyed the way the author takes a throw away piece of conversation from the canon and enlarges it. Holmes quotes Goethe, and we have all heard the name, but who was he? Do we know anything at all about the poet Hafiz, and what exactly is a Bohemian?...Holmes says his grandmother was the sister of the French painter Vernet - does that name mean anything to you? It will after you read this boook.Musical references in the canon include Sarasate, Madame Norman Neruda, the De Reszke brothers and Joachim. And what are the Polyphonic Motets of Lassus? Holmes' monograph is 'the last word on the subject.' Read this book and the references will make sense.
   The final chapter looks at other detectives and their often dim companions.For example Poirot and Hastings, Raffles and Bunny Manders, Martin Hewitt and Mr. Brett...and so on. Are all  these derivatives of the Holmes/Watson partnership?
   It is perhaps inevitable that an old chestnut is raised. Were Holmes and Watson engaged in a homosexual relationship? Various authors and commentators have seized on small pieces of the text in an attempt to prove the theory, but the author very fairly quotes other sources who explain that the style of writing in Doyle's time was different to today, allowing more freedom of expression in such matters...
   The author must be greatly complimented on the amount of research that she must have done to write such an interesting and informative book.

An additional comment by Roy Upton Holder, the Founder of  The Deerstalkers of Welshpool -"The only Sherlock Holmes Society in Wales."

   Having read [this] review, I immediately borrowed the book from our Library. I've only read about eight pages and have already decided to buy a copy for my own collection. It is full of information that I might want to refer to - and I can't remember it all!

"In Search of Doctor Watson" is available from all good bookstores including in the USA Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon and with free worldwide delivery to other countries from The Book Depository. It is also available in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks  for the iPad. 

Saturday, 21 April 2012


It's extremely difficult to be objective about a review of one's own book - especially if it's less than complimentary! But the modern habit of allowing unqualified and untrained readers to air their prejudices (either way) results in what can only be called a skewed distribution. Relatives and friends will review a book uncritically. Others welcome the power it gives to shoot an author down in flames. Still worse, words like 'brilliant', 'fantastic', 'boring', 'futile' are used with no qualification whatever. Surely a proper assessment mentions both negative and positive aspects of a work, and comments fully on both before coming to a balanced conclusion? But being able to do this requires great skill, knowledge and experience. So isn't it time reviewing books was put back into the hands of those who are qualified for the job?

Friday, 2 March 2012


HERE BE HOLMES  - Some Idle Thoughts on Sherlock and John




A lovely small book* (10.6 cms x 17.8 cms) came into my possession today (2/3/12). Most pleasant to handle - with beautifully clear print, copious and meticulously presented footnotes and three appendices, it forms part of the Otto Prenzler Sherlock Holmes Library and was published in 1993 by Otto Prenzler Books, New York, with a cover illustration of Sherlock Holmes by Frederic Dorr Steele. While one may quarrel with some of its inclusions (Jean Paul Richter appears to be presented on page 14  as two persons), it's reassuring to find many of my own conclusions, arrived at independently, supported by so famous and able a commentator. How I wish I had read the book earlier. It would have been so much easier to trace all those relevant comments in the canon!

*Sherlock Holmes Fact or Fiction? by T. S. Blackney. First published in 1932 by John Murray, London