Dan Andriacco, D.Min., of Cincinnati, OH, USA, is a former journalist and mystery fiction reviewer. His book Baker Street Beat: An Eclectic Collection of Sherlockian Scribblings is a delightful grab bag of essays, short stories and radio plays, plus a helpful annotated bibliography. We cornered him in his library (don’t call it a collection) of Sherlock Holmes books to answer a few questions.
What was the main inspiration for the book?
I’m not sure, but it may have been our trip to the Reichenbach Falls in 2008. It was certainly around that time that I began to pull together various things I had written about The Master over the years, as well as a new essay on the Reichenbach pilgrimage and a nostalgic piece about my long acquaintance with Sherlock Holmes and his world.
Which is your favourite aspect of the book?
The variety of genres represented.
What is your favourite piece from the collection?
I loved the two new essays that I mentioned above, but I’m proudest of my radio play “The Wrong Cab.” I think the premise was original, the Holmes dialogue sounds right to my ear, and the mystery plot was rather good. All in all, there’s a lot going on in that half-hour play.
Of all the canonical Holmes stories which is your favourite and why?
I usually say The Red-Headed League or The Hound of the Baskervilles, but that’s not quite true. It would be more accurate to say those are my favorite Holmes mysteries. My favorite Holmes story is His Last Bow. I love the sense of Holmes acting for king and country and Watson coming in at the end as the old trouper. The friendship that is so evident between the two men and the wonderful monologue that ends the story – beginning with, “Good old Watson! You are the one fixed point in a changing age” – is just magic. I’m also very fond of The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton in which Watson is once again a trouper and there’s another wonderful ending.
Which of Conan Doyle’s characters is your favourite?
Sherlock Holmes! But, really, the Holmes stories are replete with memorable characters. I’m sure I’m not the only reader with a soft spot for John H Watson, M.D., who Loren D. Estleman affectionately called Knight of the Battered Tin Dispatch-Box. And let’s not forget Mycroft, Moriarty, Moran, Milverton – and those are just the ones who names begin with the letter M!
How do you view the new adaptations of Holmes – the BBC’s Sherlock and the Guy Richie directed movies?
Put me in the minority of Sherlockians who didn’t care for the Guy Rtchie film at all. To me the pacing was off so that it managed to be somehow both boring and frenetic – stretches of inaction followed by camera shots that were so fast my brain couldn’t process them. More importantly, it wasn’t true to the characters of Holmes and Watson. Perhaps surprisingly, I did enjoy and admire the BBC production. It seemed to me faithful to the characters as they would be if they had arrived on the scene today instead of in the 19th Century.
Which other modern day Holmes writer do you most enjoy?
Although I wrote a pastiche and won an award for it, I like Sherlock Holmes stories that are not pastiches – that is, they are not written from Watson’s point of view and in imitation of the original author’s style. And I’ve also been fascinated to image Holmes’s post-Baker Street years, about which we know so little. Those being my preferences, my offbeat answer to your question is Michael Chabron in his beautiful little book The Final Solution. It takes place in World War II and Sherlock Holmes is 89 years old. Both times I read it I found myself thinking, “Yes, that’s what he might be like at that age.”
When did you first become interested in Sherlock Holmes?
That’s the subject of the first essay in Baker Street Beat, so I don’t want to say too much except that it happened about a half-century ago. Maybe the most important thing is that my mental image of Sherlock Holmes was formed by the original stories and by the Sidney Paget illustrations before I ever saw an actor in the role. I’m grateful for that.
What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I’m reading Chronicles of Solar Pons, the gift of a dear friend, and a book about T.S. Eliot. I just finished reading a mystery novel I myself wrote nearly 20 years ago and then forgot about. Before that I read The Sherlockian, which my wife and I enjoyed. I also liked Resurrection Day, an alternative-history thriller I read recently about a world in which the Cuban Missile Crisis triggered a nuclear war.
What’s the best aspect of being a Holmes author?
It’s fun! In fiction writing, I especially like creating characters and giving them appropriate names. When writing about another author’s characters there’s an interesting challenge in trying to make them true to the original. I think that’s more craft than art, but it’s still quite satisfying if you think you’ve pulled it off.
What else are you working on at the moment?
I’m updating that old novel of mine that I mentioned earlier. It has a strong Sherlockian connection that I think would be fun for the readers of Baker Street Beat. And reading it with the objectivity of years, I think it’s pretty good. But it was written before cell phones were common and DVD players were invented. Everyday life has changed a lot in two decades and the revised manuscript will reflect that. I also have in mind a historical mystery set in 1921 featuring a retired beekeeper and a historical personage that, so far as I know, has never before appeared in a Sherlock Holmes story. Stay tuned. Of course, before I forget I am busy writing my blog ‘Baker Street Beat’ – feel free to drop by and comment.