Category Archives: Sherlock Holmes

Undershaw — Off the Agenda

Disregard my previous two posts on this matter. Waverley Borough Council has now taken Undershaw off the agenda altogether for next Wednesday’s meeting (26 November 2014). Good thing I resisted the urge to book a flight; I never would have got back in time to attend a Mess Dinner in Cambridge, nor attend a Senate meeting in Hamilton on the 26th.

The application has been withdrawn so that the planners can consider the contents of the English Heritage objection letter. Does this mean that the Application has been called in? I think so! Perhaps a letter received from the National Planning Casework Office in Birmingham citing a relevant Article 25 Directive might have also contributed to this decision.

In my opinion, the DFN Foundation has received much expensive but faulty advice and guidance in this matter. It would appear that the steam-roller to destroy the property has been stopped, at least temporarily, and hopefully permanently.

I am advised that the Land Registry Office has received new information on The Undershaw Hotel. New Owners, amount of the purchase etc. I will have this in hand new Tuesday.

The responsibility for this matter now rests squarely on the shoulders of a fellow called Dr. Andrew Brown at English Heritage. He first met Norman Stromsoy, the architects, and D&M at the property on Tuesday afternoon 29 September. He was given a photograph of the stables, which allegedly had been taken the day before. He was not shown the brick-lined well, because there was an issue of Asbestos contamination. Andy will have to bring a N6 mask for his next visit.

In my opinion, English Heritage should have been involved from the getgo, and not as an afterthought when the plans are drawn and posted on the Waverley website.

And what about that expensive excavating equipment that was on the proporty last week? No doubt that the present owner is paying by the day for it to be there. Will whoever? allow the work to continue. I hope not.

Will Undersahw go back on the agenda again, no doubt, but with the schedule for December already booked, it will not be until the new year, and adter the holiday season. So that will make it a full two years since the property was first listed for sale, and a frightfully flawed sales process it was!


One man’s trash is another boy’s treasure!

In February 1995, after Austin McLean introduced us, Peter Ruber and I started to lay out Vincent Starrett’s collected Poetry which forms Volume 1 of The Vincent Starrett Memorial Library. We talked regularly on the phone, much to the chagrin of Sandra, my secretary. I used to pick up the mail every morning, and one morning I picked up a parcel that I was not expecting from Peter. It contained four manuscripts which Peter later told me had been sitting on his bookshelf since 1971: “Country Matters” by August Derleth; “Return to Sac Prairie” by August Derleth; “The Game is Afoot!” by Charles Layng; and a 4th which I didn’t publish but subsequently sold to a collector, and sent the proceed to Peter. Peter also included a number of Sherlockian ephemeral items, and when I asked him about them, because I immediately called him as soon as I opened the parcel, Peter noted that he no longer had any interest in them, but he didn’t want to throw them out! The one that immediately caught my interest, because I am a life long philatelist was the pamphlet I attach here as a pdf. It appears to me to be the 1957 Christmas offering from Julian Wolff. I’ve never seen another one like it. and woe is me, I have not checked it in De Waal! A Ramble in Bohemia


Do you suffer from Holmesitis?

My friend Cameroon Hollyer prepared a Preface for our collection of Bigelow’s writings back in the 1990s. Good disease to keep in mind, when considering the literary activities of the members of the world-wide Sherlock Holmes community — either fans or scholars.

Preface to Baker Street Briefs: The Collected writings of S. Tupper Bigelow (1993)

Holmesitis: Holmz-i-tis. n. (med.)

A benign disease marked by an obsessive interest in Sherlock Holmes and in the minutiae of his life and career accompanied by an apparent belief in his reality. It is caused by the Holmes virus usually implanted through childhood exposure to the Sherlock Holmes Canon. The disease is frequently latent; emerging fully developed in later life. – The Dictionary of Rare Diseases, by Dr. Hill Barton.

Fortunately Holmesitis is not fatal. No one has ever died from it. Although Holmesians or Sherlockians (either term is usable) have scuffled on the edge of the Reichenbach Falls, none has committed Sherlockocide by plunging into the gorge. Nor does the disease interfere with its victim’s normal functions or appearance. Though the victim must acquire a deerstalker, it is not necessary for him or her to wear it. Only in the seclusion of the study or in genial conference with others similarly afflicted do the symptoms of Holmesitis manifest themselves.

Exactly how or when it struck Judge Tupper Bigelow I do not know. Judge Bigelow is a card player and he has always held the cards of his personal history so close to his vest that it is impossible to get a peep at them. I am forced therefore to supply the want of data with pure speculation and guess-work.

Presumably the young Tupper passed many evenings in his childhood home in Saskatchewan – a province where you can see miles in every direction but there is not that much to see – reading the Sacred Writings (the 60 Sherlock Holmes stories, nominally authored by A. Conan Doyle). In them he found enough picturesque scenes and exciting events to fill a province. He then put these books aside, took up the law, went East and became a lawyer, a Queen’s Counsel, and finally a judge. He lived many years as a respected citizen, calm, steady, judicious, thorough and painstaking in the performance of his duties. No one suspected that he carried the Holmes virus until it emerged full-blown when the century and the Judge were both middle-aged. He continued to work as efficiently as before; but at night he rushed home, barred the windows against airguns, and immersed himself in the Sacred Writings. Stung by the charge of plagiarism (as he tells us himself), he proceeded to acquire all the Writings upon the Writings – the commentaries of the Sherlockian scholars – voluminous even then – not only to read them but to index them so that he would never be caught out again. Finally he articled as a Sherlockian. To article in the Sherlockian rather than the legal sense means to produce learned articles on moot points in the Sacred Writings.

These articles were closely argued as befits a judge and they drew not only upon Judge Bigelow’s extensive knowledge of the Sherlockian literature but also upon his wide reading in other fields especially the law. In several of the articles collected here, he submits the conduct of Mr. Sherlock Holmes to judicial scrutiny. In one article he convicts Mr. Holmes on 17 counts of misprision of felony; in another he has second thoughts and clears him on all 17 counts. Both articles are convincing and you may take your choice as to which is right. In another one, he acquits Sherlock Holmes on several charges of burglary, even though the detective himself has admitted guilt. So cleverly does the Judge argue his client’s innocence, citing obscure laws and legal precedents, that the reader has no doubts that Holmes should walk (as we who are versed in modern crime fiction say). Decrying whimsy in Sherlockian writings, the Judge shows that he can play that game with the best of them, by proving that Sherlock Holmes, far from being Irene Adler’s lover or father of her child (Nero Wolfe), was himself Irene’s father. Here again his knowledge of legal nuances stands him in good stead.

Though Holmesitis shows in general a low recovery rate, some people do shake the disease. When I first met Judge Bigelow in 1969, he was showing signs of recovery. He was willing to part with his collection and it was acquired by the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library, where it became the nucleus of one of the best public collections of Holmesiana and Doyleana in the world (advt.) With the collection went the Bigelow index to the Writings upon the Writings, which the Judge discusses in the first article in this collection. This index is actively maintained by the library with the help – more than the help – of Donald A. Redmond of Kingston, Ontario (“Good Old Index!”). After Judge Bigelow parted with his collection, I believe that he lost interest in the subject. Of the articles collected below only one bears a date in the 1970’s and that was written for a special volume dedicated to his good friend Julian Wolff, Commissionaire of the Baker Street Irregulars (“An Assessment and Valuation of the Ten Best Canonical Stories, with Some Observations on Those Somewhat Less Deserving of Praise”). All the other articles come from the 1950’s and 1960’s when the Judge was in the grip of Holmesitis.

In the course of my twenty years of curatorship of the library’s Arthur Conan Doyle Collection, it sometimes crossed my mind that Judge Bigelow’s articles – scattered through Sherlockian periodicals – should be collected. But I took no action, and it was only after my retirement that I casually mentioned the idea to Dr. George Vanderburgh. One does not casually mention a Sherlockian project to George as some pie-in-the sky, far-in-the-future possibility. His eyes light up, his computer clicks, and the thing is done. George of course suffers from – no – glories in – a case of acute Holmesitis. On top of this he also has advanced Computeritis, caused no doubt by a computer virus.

For the past two years George has been busy reducing to machine-readable form as many Sherlockian and Doylean texts as he can get his hands on. In his computer are two and a half volumes of Ronald Burt De Waal’s massive The Universal Sherlock Holmes. By touching a few keys, George came up with a complete list of Judge Bigelow’s Sherlockian writings. (Hartley Nathan unearthed two unlisted articles in The Ontario Magistrate’s Quarterly, formerly edited by Judge Bigelow). All of the listed articles were available in the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection and photocopies of them were made. George then scanned them into his computer and produced a camera-ready text which the Metropolitan Toronto Reference Library agreed to publish. Although Judge Bigelow is in poor health and rarely receives visitors, George managed to see him and to obtain his blessings on the project. Wherever possible, permission was also obtained from the magazines involved. In all cases, the original sources are cited.

George and I agreed that The Baker Street Briefs was an appropriate title in view of the legal background of the author and the legal nature of many of the articles. The Judge made no objection to this decision.

All the articles that appear here (with one or two minor exceptions) have been published elsewhere. But this is the first time they have been brought together in a single volume. The completist may not be completely satisfied since we did omit an article too faint to be photocopied. Nevertheless the volume contains all but the most trifling of Judge Bigelow’s Sherlockian articles. We dedicate it to all Sherlockians, who like ourselves carry the Holmes virus and suffer from an incurable desire to know ever more about the Master and his doings. Those who knew Judge Tupper Bigelow will be grateful for this reminder of their great friend and colleague: those who know him only by name will find in the work of this Sherlockian master inspiration for further investigations of the Sacred Writings, and perhaps a warning that on certain topics the Judge has spoken the last word.

— Cameron Hollyer, M.Bt., BSI


R.I.P. Peter Ruber (1940-2014)

Peter A. Ruber, BSI, PSI passed away on March 6, 2014. Peter was born September 29, 1940. I have had no contact with him since 2004. He had a major stroke in 2005, and has been in long-term care since 2011. But Peter was absolutely pivotal in my learning and understanding of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Vincent Starrett, August Derleth, Luther Norris, Seabury Quinn, George F. Worts, H. Bedford-Jones and Bertram Fletcher Robinson among others.

Austin McLean introduced Peter to me when I commenced my research on Vincent Starrett in 1994 along with Cameron Hollyer.

I have many fond memories when we travelled together to Minnesota and visited the Sherlock Holmes Collection in Minneapolis. We were royally entertained by Allan Mackler at the time; Allan was full of book stories as well.

Peter and I first visited Arkham House and April Derleth together in 1996. I helped him carry four boxes of books and manuscripts to the airport on his return flight; and Peter was appointed Editor of Arkham House, the following year.

Kay Price extended her hospitality to both of us, and we planned many Derleth publications together for The August Derleth Society in Sauk City. Most, but not all of these can be found on their website

l have pleasant memories of countless long telephone conversations about a multitude of literary matters.

During the course of preparing The Original Text Solar Pons Omnibus 2 volume edition, we had many heated discussions, and resolved many difficult points, but I believe the final published result was worth the effort on both our parts.

Peter talked with me at great length about his publication on The Baker Street Gasogene in 1961-1962. He had plans for a regular journal, but that didn’t work out.

He revised one of the articles to be his introduction to the book The Chronicles of Addington Peace by Fletcher Robinson.

I well remember a meeting on a Friday morning in New York with Richard Lancelyn Green, Peter Ruber, Christopher Roden and myself in New York City. Richard had brought along his personal copies of Baker Street Gasogene for Peter to sign. Richard had also brought along his file of correspondence between Michael Harrison and August Derleth. Peter Ruber also had a file of correspondence he had obtained from Arkham House archives. I was to meld the two and publish the results. Richard also noted there were some missing originals in the files of John Michael Gibson. I did not have the opportunity to complete that correspondence until May 2012. But that’s another story, and the book is ready to go, introduced by David Hammer. I shall dedicate the volume to Peter Ruber and to Richard Lancelyn Green. At the end of breakfast, I adjourned to a second breakfast at The Harvard Club down the street with Dan Posnanysky. I learned later that Peter then presented a number of unpublished manuscripts by H Russell Wakefield which were subsequently published as Reunion at Dawn. But the conclusion to that story is an adventure for another day.

Peter had also done research on the bibliography of George F, Worts. The last item I sent him was the two volume collection of Peter the Brazen. I have also been working a multi-volume collection of Gillian Hazeltine. Rodney Schroeder recently completed the huge editorial job, and the set should be ready for publication soon. I shall dedicate this volume to Peter.

Peter also maintained a rich correspondence with August Derleth, after his first visit to Sauk City in 1962, This is all, now held in the archived of The State Historical Society in Madison Wisconsin. The Derleth archives is well worth a visit. It contains a note scribbled to Derleth by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. If you have trouble finding it, it is filed under “D”.

Peter and I spent three days perusing this archive in some detail in 1996.

Finally, Austin McLean introduced us, and I agreed to publish Ruber’s volume of Vincent Starrett’s poetry. (This is Volume 1 in the Starrett Memorial Library.) Peter sent me four manuscripts, which had been sitting on a shelf in his office since 1971, when his publishing company The Candlelight Press ceased to operate. I examined them in detail. There was also correspondence attached, but in particular Peter had a letterhead logo for his Candlelight Press. You will find it in his version of the Last Bookman. I asked him if I could adopt it as my own since he was no longer using it. The answer was an unqualified yes. The logo had been designed by Henry Lauritzen featuring deerstalker hat, book, candle and pipe. Peter also noted that he did not like the title for my press, in fact he said it was awful! as well as too long! And so The Battered Silicon Dispatch Box press was born amidst controversy. Peter noted that Henry had created it at the same time as he did the illustrations for The Adventure of the Orient Express which was published in 1968.

I well remember when Peter finally consented to let me publish, The Bibliography of H. Bedford Jones, tiled The King of the Pulps. We had talked about it for many years. Peter had two co-authors, Darrell Richardson and Victor Berch. Bedford-Jones was a Canadian, who lived and wrote in the USA. Bedford Jones was prolific to say the least. The rest of this story must be for another day — very complicated and convoluted, but the book was published and is still available. Many additional projects resulted after my perusal of this Bibliography. The Compleat Saga of John Solomon and The Exploits of Riley Dillon are two which immediately come to mind.

In summary, Peter, R.I.P. it was a pleasure to recall our times together, and exciting to remember there are still projects, yet to be published, which will have your imprimatur on them, as well as Henry Lauritzen’s design.


Sherlock Holmes six-pack from the Battered Box in 2011

Victorian Holmes 

by Michael Duke TPB 232 pp. ISBN 9781-55246-940-8 @ $24.00

This is a collection of Sherlock Holmes scholarship from Australia. It went to press last week, and I am about to view the proposed cover. The art work for the cover was created by Tom Roberts of Black Dog Books. It might benefit from an Index, but the Table of Contents will have to suffice.

Thinking Outside the Tin Dispatch-Box

 by William R. Cochran, Trade Paperback 160 pp. ISBN 978-1-55246-941-5 @ $20.00

This is book of Sherlockian scholarship. Many of the Biblical references and footnotes are beyond my comprehension, but it is certainly thought provoking. The project is almost ready for press. Some additional illustrations by Tom Artis are on the way. With a little luck and coordination this book will launch at The ACD/Sherlock Holmes Symposium in Dayton Ohio on 13-15 May 2011. Check Ron Fish’s Sherlock Holmes Calendar website for details.

The Compleat Adventures of Picklock Holes

by Rudolf Chambers Lehmann, Trade Paperback 180 pp. ISBN 978-1-55246-913-2 @ 16.00

This is a small collection which collects the pastiches which are interesting and charming. Many of the stories have been collected in anthologies elsewhere. The original book illustrations are included, and a portion of one forms the cover. This will likely appear in 2011.

101 More Crossword Puzzles and Acrostixs

by Franklin Saksena 221pp. TPB ISBN 978-1-55246-879-1 @ $30.00

This is the second volume of  crossowrds and acrostixs by Franklin Saksena. This publication has been delayed for over a year since I was frustrated with the formatting of the double lines necessitated with the acrostixs. I am sure there is an easy way to do it, but I never could find it. This volumes was launched in New York City on the BSI weekend at the beginning of January. Don’t buy this unleass you already have the first one. This volume uses many of the illustrations by Paul Churchill that originally appear in the first colelction as well as the cover in maroon instead of hunter green. 

The Incident of Ak-Sar-Ben

by P. Whitney Hughes a.k.a. Hugh Whitt. Trade Paperback 200 pp. ISBN 978-1-55246-920-0 @ $16.00

This story is the third in a series. The first two are The Adventure of the Two Coptic Patriarchs and The Adventure of the Victroian Vulcan. This is a four collection of short stories on the drawing board entitled The Wheat and the Chaff. I personally have never been a fan of pastiches, but I do recognize the compulsion of every Sherlockian, big and small, young and old to emulate the story telling of the Literary Agent. I even started to write one once, only to discover I can’t write my way out of a wet paper bag! The wrap around cover is a delightful interpretation by Laurie Fraser Manifold of Sherlock and Watson taking an Air Balloon ride. It is a wrap around and a delight to behold.

Under the Darkling Sky

by John E. Weber. Hard Cover and Trade paperback 392pp. with Index ISBN 978-1-55246-851-7 @ $65.00 or $40.00

This volume also rolled out in New York in January 2011. John is a Holmes and Doyle scholar who has travelled extensively in England to compile this comprehensive volume. The cover is a evocative photo of Dartmoor that the author took himself, and provides an appropriate visual image for the title. The text takes my good friend to task for his selections of canical localities. But it is all part of the game — I think!

Realms of Conjecture

By David Hammer. Soft Cover 120 pp. ISBN 978-1-55246-892-0 @$20.00

This is another volume of fact and fiction by David Hammer. He takes dead aim at some of the high profile characters in the cult (better to say hobby) David has the unique ability of expressing his opinions in words in a very engaging fashion. This ability has undoubtedly served him well in the courtrooms of Iowa over the years. I have reworked the art work of Jean Pierre Cagnat for the cover; it features Monsieur Hammer hanging by a rope impaled with various instruments of death. If you don’t like what David has to say, you will certainly enjoy the cover. The book is about to go to press, after a final proof reading by David. This project was also instrumental in another book project coming my way. In brief, David had written an essay on the demise of Richard Lancelyn Green. David had previously offered the manuscript to the Wessex Press and it was rejected based on the manuscript containing the RLG essay. When Jon Lellenberg heard that I was now considering publishing the manuscript — with the RLG essay, we (Jon and I) had a series of telephone conversations in which a law suite was alluded to more than once. I’ll spare you the details, but the results; David agreed to withdraw the essay altogether; and Mycroft and Moran published Baker Street Irregular. David also did a major rewrite of his essay on Wiggins and The Baker Street Irregulars. In my opinion, David remains highly critical of the irregular organization and I predict it will be increasing difficult for those Irregulars who are “low-bridging” it; and also increasingly easy for those irregulars who are attempting to “low-bridge” it as well.


Contemplating Deerstalkers

I have observed over the years that most Sherlockians own a deerstalker hat. They don’t often wear them, because perhaps they are afraid of being identified as part of a fringe group of readers who might firmly believe in something their heart believes is true. But I purchased my own Fore-and-Aft Cap from a mailorder firm in Florida many years ago now, and which, undoubtedly, has gone out of business by now. It is well used and is beginning to fray at the edges, but it will do me for my remaining breathing time. But I have also inherited some deerstalkers from other Sherlockians.

My friend Bob Gray died some years ago now. He gave me two first editions of the Hound shortly before his death, along with countless other Sherlockian Treasures, including signed material from Richard Lancelyn Green whom he met at the Metro Toronto library in 1980 when Richard was doing research for his ACD Bibliography with John Michael Gibson. When Bob passed away, his family invited me to select some stuff and I ended up with Bob’s deerstalker, his reading lamp and his Betamax tape collection. The hat is a little small for me, but I will always treasure it.

When my friend Bill McCoy died last year, I was in the unenviable position of emptying his apartment. Most of the cupboards and drawers went to Good Will or The Salvation Army, but not his WWII Air Force Uniform, and not his Deerstalker. It too is a little small for me, but I will treasure it always.

When I travelled to Don Izban’s CCC (Canonical Convocation and Caper — I think) in 2005 Don Izban presented me with a handsome black and white checkered deerstalker which did fit, and I wear it proudly, and each time I wear it I remember the events of that late summer weekend in Door County, Wisconsin very fondly. It is a wonderful place to visit on the south shore of Lalke Superior. We took the ferry across Lake Michigan on the way home.

In early 2010, I purchased some of the books from the library of August Derleth from his daughter April Rose Derleth. His deerstalker came as part of that package. It was still hanging on a coat & hat-rack in his studio library upstairs at The Place of Hawks. I tried it on with trepidation. Alas, it too was small. But it had a label inside which intrigued me “Hawkshaw” this was undoubtedly the manufacturer. BUt it also reminded me of a comic Strip that Derleth collected over many years, and I plan to extract and republish from the State Historial Society in Madison. Hawkshaw the Detective. It had some name changes over the years because of conflict with those two reprobates Denis and Adrian Conan Doyle, but I think a collection of the Hawkshaw strips by whatever name would be a useful adjunct to the Sherlock literature — always remembering, never has so much been published by so many for so few!

And finally I contemplated Derleth’s Deerstalker itself. It had a shades of green and dark green checkered design that was familiar to me. The Mycroft & Moran logo than Coyne (not Utpatel) designed for Derleth in 1945. This hat was the model Derleth used for his logo for his Solar Pons stories!


“Under the Darkling Sky”

Only the serious Holmes aficianodo will recognize this as a short quote from The Hound of the Baskervilles. In Florida, I made the final editorial changes to the manuscript, and finished the compilation of the index, and sent the print out to the author John Weber of Syracuse for his final perusal. This book is fully titled: Under the Darkling Sky: A Chrono-Geographic Odyssey through the Holmesian Canon. It should be ready for a conference in August in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The two pictures attached are Sunset on Dartmoor and the author at the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland. In passing, a trip to the Reichenbach Falls is the Sherlockian equivalent of a trip to Mecca — strange but true!