Philip K Jones (aka The Ill Dressed Vagabond) is one of the USA’s leading Sherlock Holmes Reviewers. Here he reviews ‘Baker Street Beat’ by Dan Andriacco – a collection of Holmes items that the Sherlock Holmes Society of London describes as “it gives you the same sort of feeling as when you’re chatting over a drink with a knowledgeable fellow-Holmesian”.
“This is a collection of personal reminiscences, early fiction and literary commentary by a long-time Sherlockian. It contains a personal history of one man’s lifelong fascination with the Canon. It also presents glimpses of other Sherlockians, their personalities and foibles, their whimsies and their exploits. From my point of view, it provides the added benefit of listing the earlier publications of the items presented. This make their entry into the database of Sherlockian pastiches, parodies and related fiction all the easier for me.
The first two items are personal expositions of the author’s fascination with the world of Sherlock Holmes; a history of his Canonical reading and a description of a pilgrimage to the Reichenbach Falls. Both items are unique and are also typical of the commentaries of other devotees of the Canon. The general trend of the discussions actually describes the process many hobbyists go through in picking up a lifelong interest, especially a literary one.
There are two other items of literary commentary included. The first is a discussion of the mysteries of Doctor Thorndyke, created by R. Austin Freeman, and the influences of Sherlock Holmes evident in those tales. This is most interesting. I have collected and read the Thorndyke mysteries for years and I was aware of some of those influences, but the author’s depth of detail was most impressive. The final literary commentary discusses writing a Sherlockian pastiche, using articles by various Sherlockians and examples of effective and ineffective methods. I found myself torn on reading this segment, for I feel that the author has missed an important aspect of the Canon and I am in the process of writing an article of my own on this very subject. In any case, this item should give ‘newbies’ an idea of what depths experienced Sherlockians can plumb in their efforts to understand the fascination they have with Sherlock Holmes.
The author has included four of his own efforts at writing fiction in this collection. The first is an early pastiche, “The Peculiar Persecution of John Vincent Harden.” This is an interesting effort to relate one of the “Untold Tales,” those cited in the Canon, but never told by Watson. This was one of two such tales cited in “The Solitary Cyclist.” There have been at least ten other efforts to tell this tale, but then some of the “Untold Tales” have been written scores of times. The second tale, “The Adventure of the Amateur Players,” is a mystery surrounding the presentation of a play about “Sherlock Holmes” by an amateur acting group, many of whom are Sherlockian hobbyists.
The final two items presented are scripts for radio programs. The first, “The Wrong Cab,” stars a real life detective in a quasi-Sherlockian adventure with odd results. The second is “The Adventure of the Speckled Band” and it presents a Canonical tale in format for a radio broadcast. I am unfamiliar with the requirements of such compositions and cannot judge the effectiveness of these efforts.
This book concludes with a bibliography that includes all the sources mentioned in the various items. It is not exhaustive, but it does provide a useful starting point for persons new to the world of Sherlockian fixation. All in all, this is an interesting book with items worth re-reading. It gives a good picture of the progress of the Sherlockian affliction, but offers no real promise of a cure for the disease.”