Category Archives: Sherlock Holmes

How did you meet August Derleth?

I’ll met everyone who reads this entry will have their own answer to this question. I first encountered his writing in the lobby of the Algonquin Hotel back in January 1991 at around 6:00 p.m. on a Thursday during the BSI weekend. I was standing in a group listening in on the conversation, trying desperately to learn Dr. Watson’s middle name? How many wives he actually had? Whether a goose really does have a crop? and What Sherlock Hoolmes actually did when he visited Tibet during the Great Hiatus.

David Galerstein, engaged me in conversation, and invited me to go for dinner later that evening. He asked me if I had ever read a Solar Pons story? I replied no; and he then recommended them to me. They were written by a fellow in Wisconsin, by the name of August Derleth. I visited Otto Penzler’s bookshop the next day for the first time, and purchased the two volume slip-cased, shrink-wrapped edition of “The Solar Pons Omnibus” along with some other Sherlockian items including a reading copy of the three volume Heritage Club edition of the Canon. Now that’s my story and I am sticking to it!

But I suspect I am not in the majority, far from it. I suspect the majority of Derleth’s readers today are either fans of H.P. Lovecraft; readers of his “Sac Prairie Saga” including fiction, poetry and journals; readers of the anthologies he compiled in Science Fictionand the Macabre; or encountered one of his columns in the newspaper; read one of his many book reviews; or read his many short stories in Weird Tales; or his fiction in Redbook Magazine; or one of his biographies about Zona Gale, or Emerson or Thoreau; or one of juvenile volumes as a child.

Like a diamond, August Derleth had many facets as a writer, that I have only discovered after I followed up on the advise of David Galerstein. When David was going through his collection many years later to divest himself of stuff preparing to meet Sherlock under the Reichenbach, he sent me the original PSI pin that he had received from Luther Norris, as a token of his esteem. I shall always treasure it, and wear it with pride.


Travelling to Florida

During a recent car excursion to Florida, we had some some experiences worthy of note. I won’t bore you with the repetitive details necessarily involved — like lousy or good meals, or lousy and hard beds, not enough towels etc. nobody wants to take their time to read that trivia.

The first night we stopped at Dunkirk, New York. We have stayed there before and I know there is a computer in the lobby with the usual gambling and tourist shortcuts, but there was also a short cut to “Google Earth.” I was struck with an idea and I punched in “Maiwand Afghanistan.” And indeed I did get an aerial view of Maiwand, not in great resolution but certainly recognizable. I printed it out, and have now rescanned it. I wasn’t able to save the original digital image, but I post it here, and hope that I haven’t committed some egregious act of piracy. When I get home I should be able to find the landmarks and the military (British and Jezail) graveyard. I don’t suppose I will see the rock cairns, nor the signed entrance, nor the obelisk in the treed grove that marks the Afghan cemetery. Maiwand of course was where Dr. John H. Watson received his wound(s) serving as a Medical Officer with The Fifth Northumberland Fusiliers.

The first destination the next day was my appointment at The Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group in York, PA to discuss the possibility of two large bulk book purchases. One batch of books was held in inventory at the warehouse in York, and the other batch of books was held at the warehouse, sixty miles up the road at their warehouse in Fredericksburg with a Lebanon, PA mailing address. I met with Joan, Shonna and Bradley in shipping and was very pleased when they accpeted Arkham House lapel pins.

That same afternoon we drove to “Fallingwater” a house built over running water of a stream somewhat southwest of Pittsburgh. We took a wrong turn, and got some excellent directions from Emily and her associates working in Campaign office of a Democrate running for office. Emily was in fact a guide at Fallingwater — serendipity in Pittsburgh. Fallingwater is a remarkable world class attraction where Frank Lloyd Wright built a home for Mr. Kaufman the department store magnate back in the 1930’s. The project went over budget, and rather than describe it here, I’ll let the reader google the word — Fallingwater. They have a remarkable webcam on site which is viewable on their website. The water was running very high under the house with the spring thaw. David Niles and his film crew were conducting a high definition film shoot of the house, and David noted that he had waited for 43 years for this two-day opportunity of a lifetime. The security guard noted that the site had 150,000 visitors per annum. I took a photograph of David doing the shoot, and we agreed that we would meet again at his studio in New York City — likely in January 2011. I invited him to do a shooot of the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and he was interested. He knew of the recent Thomson renovation to the tune of 300 million, but he did not know of the 110 million dollar Reubens! I was going to post that picture of David but when I read the disclaimed that the gatekeeper had given me — no pictures of the site are to be posted on the internet, I decided not to. In closing well worth the visit — and now a cherished memory.

A point of interest: Frank Lloyd Wright (Spring Green, Wisconsin) lived just down the road from August Derleth (Sauk City, Wisconsin). They were neighbors and they kknew each other. Augie hired an architect from Chicago to build his house which Augie called “The Place of Hawks” the house that Redbook built. The money from the downpayment came from a series of Sac Prairie novels that Augie sold to Redbook. Some of these have never been collected in book foorm, and a couple are still in manuscript and have never been published at all. They were presumably turned down by Redbook, but on this point the written record is unclear. When FLW asked AD why he had not hired him to do Place of Hawks, Augie is alleged to have said “because if you had designed the house, it would be your house, and because the fellow from Chiago designed it — it is my house. Neat point! who remebers that fellow Kaufman now? The Fallingwater property designed by FLW belongs to the Pennsylvania Conservatory.

The second night we stopped at Breezewood, Pennsylvania. Then after a hectic drive around Washington, DC.
we stopped at Richmond, Virginia. We walked through the mall next door for a relaxed Italian Dinner. I consulted the tourist guides in the lobby, and thought a visit to The Confederacy White House and the The Holocaust Museum in Richmond were top of the list for a visit, but got on the road first thing instead.

On the road again in North Carolina  we stopped at J&R Outlet Mall and my major purchase was a $3.00 children’s baseball bat. Not that I’m a baseball player, but I am publishing a 3rd edition of The Annotated Casey at the Bat by Martin Gardner. I mailed the bat to Martin in a mailing tube, and suggested that his son Jim take a picture of Martin swinging the bat like Casey did in Thayer’s poem. This will form the back cover illustration for the book with a suitable caption.

The fourth night we overnighted in Florence, South Carolina. The Fatz Cafe was located within walking distance from the motel. The next day we did a whirlwind sight seeing tour of Myrtle Beach, and Charleston South Carolina. I placed a telephone call to Dan Boulden and we discussed the two editions of The Shunned House a 2008 facsimile edition issued in an edition of 100 copies. There are minor differences which will be elaborated in a blog in the near future. 

The fifth night we stopped at Ridgeland, South Carolina after a long day. Mexican meal nearby, and on the road early to visit the St. Augustine Outlet Mall. I sat patiently and quietly for a couple of hours while a shopping spree occurred.

We arrived at our destination in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. Upon registration I was presented with a package from Pasquale Accardo containing the final correction of the Chester-Belloc Project. I collection of G.K. Chesterton’s illustrations, published and unpublished for some 13 books.

We went out to dinner at a Sports Bar, and I was impressed that not a single one of the 100 TV’s in the place featured the Health Care Debate which was in progress, and that I had been following every morning and every evening of the trip. On the way home I purchased a Magic Jack, a rather magical device for placing and receiving telephone calls at no charge in The USA and Canada.

That’s enough! and here’s Maiwand! I uploaded it twice, and I can’t figure out how to delete the second image.


High Water Marks in Canonical Illustrations

If you are not an afficiando of Sherlock Holmes stop reading this blog entry right now! If you are and you have a shelf of books allegedly penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle you will already know of Sidney Paget. But did you know that his brother Walter illustrated one of the stories. You will know of the work of Frederic Dorr Steele who created his Sherlock as a William Gillette look-alive and all these originals — if they survived the sands of time — are highly prized by their owners, and sell for very high prices at auction. There is no point in illustrating them again here, the majority are well known to us all. A definitive study of the engraver’s signatures is yet to be done, and this is a project that Richard Lancelyn Green and I discussed back in 2001; perhaps his notes still reside in a file in the Portsmouth Library archives?

Another complete set of 64  illustrations (2 for each of the 4 novels) was created by George and Betty Wells. The originals were numbered and given out as quiz prizes at meetings. I used the set to illustrate the pages of The Universal Sherlock Holmes back in 1994, and have seen a couple, not many in collections in the interim. I have seen a couple of sale by dealers, and the originals are very collectiable as well. In fact, if the truth be told, Sherlockians collect everything as the 24, 807 entries in USH will tell you. ZHere’s a couple to wet your appetite.


A Partridge in a “Punch”

… not in a pear tree … and not in December but rather on May 12, 1926 in Punch Magazine.

In an earlier  blog I referred to “Patrick” not Partridge, so I must find that and emend the entry according! I well remember the first time I saw this caricature of “Punch Personalities” — Cameron Hollyer showed it to me on the 5th floor of the Toronto Refernce Library in the Conan Doyle room in 1991. The caricature nicely captured what we had been discussing at the time — the character outgrowing the creator. I thought of it once again leaving the theatre after “Sherlock Holmes” on January1st, 2010.

Back in 2005, I was invited to attend a book club meeting of the Quadrangle Society at Massey College. It was held in the library lined on three walls with bookshelves, and windows on the fourth. The shelves were repleat with books by Canadian authors and other Canadiana volumes. Not a single Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle title in the lot. Of course I might have missed one or two, but I don’t think so. On one wall was a bound run of Punch magazine from the late 1800’s through the 1930’s. I had fun finding this caricature because I did not remember the exact date of publication, but had confidence it was there. Even with the index the caricature eluded me for a while!

The though has now crossed my mind how many other Sherlock Holmes related items can be found between the covers of that bound run of Punch? Well a quick electronic search of the e-USH (Universal Sherlock Holmes by Ronald Burt DeWaal) just might cast some light on that question, and that’s the subject of a future blog.


“Sherlock Holmes” in name only!

What I am referring to is the movie released over the Christmas (2009) holidays, with claims of tens of millions in box office revenue in the opening weeks.
   The best part of the experience for me was sitting between two ladies, both sporting borrowed deerstalkers from my bag of inherited hats. (One formerly belonged to Bob Gray, and the other to Bill McCoy)
    When I fell asleep, I initially blamed it on the amount of smoked salmon I had consumed at Barbara Jacob’s brunch, a levee for her friends, earlier on that New Year’s Day. The brunch was memorable, the movie was not. The post-movie meal at a restuarant across the street from the Toronto Reference Library was simply terrible, but the people around the table were all very interesting and accomplished — we discussed: “What is a PIP?”
    I thought the musical score in the closing credit was excellent. I watched the credits with some interest to see a reference to the Conan Doyle Estate or to Plunkett and Associates. But if either or both were there, I missed them altogether with patrons standing up in front of me to leave. I am advised there was a credit to the effect — “Based on the characters created by …” but that is reliable second hand information.
   And now I read in a blog from Western Canada that there will be Sherlock Holmes men’s fashion line in the year to come. Surely ACD will shuffle in his grave outside Portsmouth — not because of this trend but because — the character created there in 1887, has dwarfed his other literary output. It puts me in mind of that Partridge cartoon in Punch in May of 1926.
    An unshaven Holmes, when not in disguise — not for me. I live in trepidation of a sequel, especially if the initial reports of an economic success can be believed.
    Will I see the sequel? Of course, if only to vetch about it.
    Will I rent to video to watch it again? No! Ditto the sequel.
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Posted by on January 28, 2010 in Sherlock Holmes


Six New Titles in 2010

It’s snowing here today overlooking the ice on Lake Eugenia. Standing on my veranda overlooking the lake I can see some fishing shacks in the channel beside the island. I am holding a fresh, hot mug of coffee in my hands, and many projects at hand to occupy the day. Later in the afternoon I will drive up to the post box where 3 days mail still waits in Post Office Box 50. I am also trying to prepare for a read trip to Sauk City Wisconsin; I am looking forward to the visit very much. Finally I am posting the front covers of the six books that have been published so far in 2010 (and it’s only January) — and time permitting each will require a separate blog post, but maybe not enough time. Yes, a good day lies ahead of me.

Reporter's Notebook -- Volume 11 -- by Vincent Starrett

A Verdant Green: A Florilegium of Poetry for Anna & Bill McCoy

The Greatest Canadian Love Poem and Other Treasures of the Heart by Allan Glenn Rose

Walt Whitman's Canada compiled by C.Greenland & J.R.Colombo

Millennium Madness by Raymond Souster

War Christmas by Dwight Whalen


A Lawyer Shot in Court?

I first met David Hammer sporting a walking stick when we shared a cab and returned to the Algonquin Hotel in New York City on a Saturday afternoon in January after a cocktail party. Don Izban also shared the cab.

David Hammer always has another book to hand.


I delivered David’s books to him last month, and he is very busy working on another couple of projects.

Look for “Realms of Conjecture” and “Don’t Eat Them Eggs” in 2010