Friday, April 23, 2021

Frank Loesser

 



"I don’t write slowly, it’s just that I throw out fast."

                     –Frank Loesser

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Raiders of the Lost Interview

 I just came across this, which I had almost forgotten about. This was an interview with a site which will remain unnamed, which for reasons unexplained they never published. So, hell--I'll publish it and you can still enjoy it. 



Hello Timothy Miller! As you're a relative newcomer to most readers of historical fiction, please take a few moments to introduce yourself. In particular, tell us about your writing background before you took on your first novel. 
 Well, I took on my first novel the summer after first grade, but I only got as far as ten pages, so perhaps that doesn’t qualify.
      [Note: these were the characters. Weird-O's, they were called.]

 I got serious after college with poetry in traditional forms, which I would recommend to anyone wanting to learn how to write compactly—which, when your favorite writer is Dickens, is something you really need to learn. Then somewhere along the way I drifted into screenwriting, which taught me plot and structure. (In case you’re wondering, I was a theatre major in college, not a creative writing major, which is why I had to teach myself all these basics—slowly and painfully.) Then I felt I was ready to take on a novel—not this novel, but a children’s fantasy novel (sort of The Borrowers on acid), which I still hope may see the light of day. Then I thought I was ready to take on this novel. 

 For years, many writers have created Sherlock Holmes "mash ups" featuring Holmes encountering a wide range of both historical and fictitious figures from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Why did you take the creative leap of having Holmes and Watson working on a mystery featuring the characters George Bernard Shaw created in his play, Pygmalion? And those of Robert Louis Stevenson? 
 My characters first bumped into each by accident other when I was teaching Italian in Milan. I had a young couple who were having trouble with English prepositions. There are something like six prepositions in Italian, and, if I recall rightly, about thirty-five in English, so you can imagine. So I decided to write a little fill-in-the-blank story centered around prepositions, and a detective story suggested itself. So there was Sherlock, well-known to even Italians, and a well-known villain, Hyde, and a well-known setting—27A Wimpole St., the home of Professor Higgins. I think in that one, Eliza murdered Higgins. The next twenty years were spent figuring out why my subconscious had suggested this particular grouping. 

 Tell us about the research you did to prepare for this story. Clearly, you explored a lot of details about London, the minutia of the time period, and, of course, the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle canon. 
 This was a little different from your ordinary historical novel, because most—not all—of the characters are fictional. (Although Holmes, due to the fervor of his fans, who play the Great Game, is almost real, like the Great Pumpkin.) Probably the most important thing was simply to read and re-read the Holmes canon for one thing—Watson’s voice. I didn’t want a word out of his mouth that didn’t sound like him. Certainly I had to consult contemporary maps, and currency, and train schedules, and fashions and a thousand details which actually became more important for cementing a fully dimensional world. But I was awfully lucky in my research. Did I need a member of nobility interested in Eliza? I found that the prince of Bavaria’s wife had just died. Did I need something to delay a train? There had been a plane crash near Oxford and both airmen had lost their lives. It was like dealing with a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle. 

 Beyond Doyle, Shaw, and Stevenson, Who have been your literary influences? As I mentioned above, Dickens above all. For big hearty scoops of shameless pathos and gut-busting humor, he has no peer. Certainly Nicholas Meyer, whose Seven Per-Cent Solution opened the world of Holmes pastiches to me (and to, I suspect, half the writers working in the genre). And then Italo Calvino, who taught me the virtues of lightness. 

 What is next for Timothy Miller? Clearly, you didn't set us up for a sequel, so we should all expect some non-Holmes surprises down the road? And where can readers go to learn more about your novel and learn more about you?

Actually I have another Holmes pastiche, set earlier, already taken by Seventh Street, and I’ve got a third in the oven—set later. After that, I think I’ll wander afield, although I have a couple of ideas which might include a cameo role for Holmes. Where can people go to learn more about me? Well, I’m a southerner, so I would say to drop by for coffee, but apparently there’s this pandemic thing going on, so that’s out. So I’ll try to keep folks up-to-date on my web page, https://www.thestrangecasesofsherlock.com/, and on Goodreads and Amazon. Thanks for reading!


Monday, April 19, 2021

Reading Club


Lynda Dillon is a woman of impeccable taste.



 

Susanna Clarke

"C. S. Lewis said that all of the Narnia books began with the image of a faun in a snowy wood, carrying parcels. Or I might start with a character about which I know very little, just one or two things (for instance that, as a child, he got lost in some Roman ruins). The important thing is that the idea, whatever it is, has roots, that it goes deep down into the imagination, into the unconscious. Because if it has roots, then it will, with a bit of watering and careful pruning, grow into something quite interesting."

–Susanna Clarke

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Shakedown, shake it up

 I'm instituting a policy of  once a month harassment for my favorite cause: First Book. This is where I attempt to shake you down to help fund what I consider is one of the most essential (and most neglected) needs for poor kids: books. Schoolbooks, school supplies, and books to call their own. First Book seeks equity in education through a network of educators, a market for low and no-cost books, research and most important: action. 


First Book reaches 5 million children annually, counts 500, 000 educators in its membership, and has thus far distributed 200 million books and resources. A good start, but so much more is needed. 


Today's young readers are tomorrow's informed citizens. If you can, consider giving.

To give, and for full information, click here or up on First Book in the navigation menu. Thanks.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Inspiration

I think I've come up with the plot for my next novel.

                                    Thanks to the great B. Kliban.
 

No More Cover-up

  I would like to unveil for you the cover of my second novel due to be released (tentatively) in January of 2022, The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter. I don't want to say too much about it right now. Suffice it to say that Sherlock Holmes investigates the murder of Vincent van Gogh.

That's right--I said murder.
May be an image of text

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Pinteresque

This time for sure!  I've come up with my million dollar idea. I'm going to start a new antisocial networking site I shall call Pinteresque, where everybody posts moody, meaningful silences. 

A Cautionary Tale

New Lagniappe story up, set in my dawlin' New Awlins. Check it out.



A snippet:
 

Pretty soon, though, some disturbing news filters its way down to Ed. The newspapers are full of it. Some society babe, apparently, last year’s queen of Comus, has had her house on St. Charles burglarized. Nothing missing, ma’am, except her shadow. This is a new one, even for New Orleans cops. They sit around scratching their heads and sipping hot coffee even in the heat, because that's what cops do.


Monday, April 12, 2021

Portrait of the Artist as a Young Pup


 Something a little different: a great profile of yours truly by Jule Ward at Jule Ward Writes. Jule is an old Chicago friend as well as a formidable writer herself. Check out some of her blog posts while you're over there.

A snippet:

When it comes to writing, however, he likens his mind to a popcorn machine. “I can take a scenario and play a thousand different variations on that. It’s hell for solving real-life problems, but it works pretty well for fiction.”.

The Power of Voice

 Here's a link to an excellent column by Patricia MacEnulty of the Historical Novel Society called The Power of Voice in Historical Fiction.

Here's a snippet:

"I start by asking the character, what’s going on? What is she worried about? How does she feel about the situation she finds herself in? And most importantly, what’s she going to do about it? Usually I’ll get some kind of response. Sometimes the answer is a complete surprise."

Good stuff, eh? Okay now: the paragraph I didn't quote?--is some very nice words about my novel. What restraint on my part! How modest! How self-effacing!

Go READ it already.

Stranger Day


 Unfortunately, Stranger Day festivities have been canceled this year due to, uh, circumstances. Some have even accused last year's festivities of, uh, exacerbating circumstances. To which we reply with a resounding, uh, uh, hummnnnuh.

Join us next year, April12th (unless we've met) for all the fun and unfellowship the day deserves.

The Begging Bowl

I've gone and done it. I've signed up with Buy Me a Coffee, which, if you're not familiar with it, is a simple method by which you can drop a dime--no, that doesn't sound good--drop six bits on me in appreciation for what you see here. It's mainly for readers of my Lagniappe feature, but on Blogger I'm not able to assign de widget to de specific page. 

(According to my stats, some of you are reading it, or have at least wound up on that page by pure accident and run shrieking into the night. You might give me a hint.) 

Of course, you do not have to give a wooden nickel. I am not so easily discouraged and will continue to accost you with material one way or another. But if you feel an itch to do so, I will toast you as I down each cup of delicious Jamaica Blue Mountain (if I should make such largesse. JBM is not for the cheap seats.)

There's a little yellow button on the side of the page, along with all the other junk. If you feel insulted by the very idea, let me know in the comments below. I'm not wedded to the idea, and those used coffee grounds are good for three, four days. Thanks.

(There's a new Lagniappe feature soon to arrive.)

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Raymond Chandler

 

"The most durable thing in writing is style, and style is the most valuable investment a writer can make with his time. It pays off slowly, your agent will sneer at it, your publisher will misunderstand it, and it will take people you have never heard of to convince them by slow degrees that the writer who puts his individual mark on the way he writes will always pay off."

                                                           –Raymond Chandler

You've Got to Pitch a Pastiche or Two

 I've stated ELSEWHERE that I haven't read many Holmes pastiches yet, and why. But I'm curious, and not yellow. I'm interested in what are--not necessarily your favorite--but the one or two pastiches you would foist upon your best friend to hook then on Holmes pastiches forever. Your friend may or may not have ever read any any of the canon. 

I suppose I should stipulate that your choice should not feature Sherlock's brother, sister, wife, daughter or third cousin, at least not in a starring role, but should feature Sherlock Holmes himself, with or without Watson.

Nor, just in case you suspect me of dealing from the bottom of the deck, should your choice be my own pastiche, The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle. (Frankly, I'm being selfish. Once I've hung up my own spurs, I want a nice list of the best pastiches to turn to.)

As for myself, I still adore the first Holmes pastiche I ever read, the inspiration for my own work, Nicholas Meyers' The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, which pairs the finest detectives of the 19th century, fictional and real,  Sherlock Holmes and Sigmund Freud, in a ripping yarn which also gives us insight into the shaping of Holmes's character.

So leave your choices in the comments (along with your reasons for them if you like) and I'll feature them in a future post. Thanks!

Saturday, April 10, 2021

In the bowels of the night...


 I don't know about other first-time novelists, but I will confess here that in the lonely hours of the night--every night--I scour google for mention of my book, and sometimes I come up with some truly odd ducks. I decided to share one of those I came across last night. It's by one of those many sites that offers your book as a free download. (My publisher assures me that such sites afford you nothing for free except the opportunity to have your information stolen, possibly your credit card, in exchange for a nasty virus. I'm not sure that's true of ALL such sites, but it's a comforting thought.)

The flowery encomiums of my book are lifted from one such site. It is possibly the most fawning review ever written. And I was half-way through the second paragraph, soaking it all in, before I realized the review was not about my book at all, in fact had nothing to do with my book. I was able to elide over "useful information and life tips", but ran up on the reef at "This memoir..."

In case you haven't read my book, it could in no light be mistaken for a memoir...unless you assumed that I was Dr. John Watson.

I assume that this was a real review which has come unmoored from its original book, and been drafted into service for any book you might have been searching for. It's a wonderful review for anyone, as long as you ignore things like nouns and possibly adjectives. As a matter of fact, with a little judicious trimming, this could make boffo advertising copy.

The author beautifully combines beauty and truth in an elegant and effective way..."

Why, it's positively Keatsian!

Friday, April 09, 2021

Sidney Lumet


"Except in two cases, every writer I've worked with has wanted to work with me again. I think one of the reasons is that I love dialogue. Dialogue is not uncinematic. So many of the movies of the thirties and forties that we adore are constant streams of dialogue.

Of course we remember Jimmy Cagney squashing a grapefruit into Mae Clark's face. But does that evoke more affectionate memory than "Here's looking at you, kid"?

          –Sidney Lumet

3 Comments


12 Masterworks


Remember these twelve paintings, all by French masters, all from a certain period. Most were hanging in the Louvre in 1890. Remember what happened to the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in 1911?



 

--The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter



For Writers: the Theory of Myth

 You've all heard of Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, made popular in interviews with Bill Moyers, but have you heard of Canadian critic Northrop Frye's theory of myth, elucidated in his Anatomy of Criticism

Frye holds (as does Campbell) that myth is the basis for all literature, and all literature can be categorized as one of four archetypal genres or mythos: comedy, romance, tragedy and satire. Further, he associates each genre with one of the  four seasons, sharing the cyclical nature of seasons. Moreover, each genre can be merged with its adjacent: thus comedy gives rise to comic romance, romantic comedy, comic satire, satiric comedy, and so on. 

Each archetype gives rise a different relationship between the hero and society. For instance, in comedy, the movement is the hero's integration into society; in tragedy, his expulsion from society. In romance, the audience identifies with the hero; in satire, the audience looks down on the hero.

Further, the hero of each genre moves through six phases, literary structures which can be derived from each mythos-- moving from innocence to experience, from fantasy to reality--but the hero experiences each of them differently, colored by their their genre.  In each phase, two of its structures are influenced by the preceding season,  two by the succeeding season. There is a downward movement toward tragedy, an upward movement toward comedy                                            

All this may seem a little complex, but it's really quite elegant, describing the general shape of, well--every--story. This is not meant to weigh you down, but to gives you the tools to satisfy the audience's genre expectations (which are bred in the bine) or to subvert them. 

Perhaps a diagram will help, Luckily, I happen to have one handy.

You can see, for instance how in the third phase of comedy, the young hero is triumphant: how romance evokes the quest theme, how the hero finds victory in tragedy, while satire engages the victory over common sense. The book is rich with examples of each of these phases.

Again, this is analysis of what has gone before, not a prescription for your next project, any more than music theory should get in the way of writing a song. Study of structure is meant to reveal, not to hamper. If you have any questions on this admittedly incomplete summary, just leave them in the comments below, and I'll try to address them.



Thursday, April 08, 2021

Reader's Club

Some kind words from:

The Cozy Tea Cottage
A place to enjoy a cuppa, a little nibble, read a good book, or solve a puzzle.                                                                        
             
                                                                                           cozy_tea_cottage 

What are you reading? I've just finished this thoroughly enjoyable mystery from Timothy Miller and Seventh Street Books. It's a wonderful collaboration of characters from two classics. 

 What if Eliza Doolittle was never actually transformed into a proper lady? What if, instead, she was replaced? And if so, what happened to the real Eliza Doolittle? 

 Well, that's what Colonel Pickering has asked Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson to find out. And along the way, the story is joined by some of my other favorite historical characters (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, what have you been up to?) 

 If you enjoy historical fiction, a good mystery, and spending time with some interesting characters, you'll love The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle!

Wednesday, April 07, 2021

For Writers: B. Kliban

 Familiarity with the work of B. Kliban is fading fast; which is a damn shame. He was one of wildest minds and most influential cartoonist of the 70s and 80s till his death at 55 of a pulmonary embolism.  He entertained us with such collections as Cats, Never Ear Anything Bigger Than Your Head, and Whack Your Porcupine. When Gary Larson's The Far Side gained notoriety, Kliban fans knew we were getting toned-down Kliban; Larson acknowledged his influence.

This is my favorite B. Kliban cartoon. So much so that years ago when I lived in Houston with my friend the Rainbow Trout, I reproduced it on one of the walls. I don't think we got our deposit back on that apartment.

It strikes you as laughably simple, right? a man is working on a 4-piece puzzle of a yin-yang symbol. He appears to be giving it far more thought than necessary. His brow is furrowed. Ha-ha, dumb guy, right?

 But think about it for just a second. Don't we constantly overthink, making mountains out of molehills, second-guessing ourselves, making the simple difficult?

Now look at it again on a yet another level. He's contemplating how the elements if the yin-yang symbol mesh. Yin-yang is a powerful, highly complex symbol.

Two opposing forces: active and receptive, male and female, before and behind, light and dark.  The duality of nature.Yet are the two forces opposing each other or chasing one another, alternating? And each force contains the embryo of the other, each giving birth to each other: the oneness of nature. One might well hesitate over such a conundrum.

So the moral of the story (yes, there's a moral) is: when you're writing, don't get caught up with the simple or obvious. But realize that few things are simple or obvious.

To hear this song, click here.




To Librarians, with Love

It's National Library Week. This seems like an apt tribute.


 

Tuesday, April 06, 2021

Agatha Christie

 

“There was a moment when I changed from an amateur to a professional. I assumed the burden of a profession, which is to write even when you don't want to, don't much like what you're writing, and aren't writing particularly well.”

                                     ― Agatha Christie

Moriarty's Ghost

 "I am not a fanciful person, but I give you my word that I seemed to hear Moriarty’s voice screaming at me out of the abyss." 


In all the annals of Sherlock Holmes, there is only one recorded instance of him personally taking another life...Moriarty, mano a mano, at the Reichenbach Falls. This is well l known.

What isn't known is how Holmes felt about causing that death?  (I know, the unfeeling Mr. Holmes. Hogwash.) Certainly it was self-defense. But certainly it was premeditated. And he watched the man plunge to his death. Never to face justice. How did that make him feel?

I think it shocked him to his core. I think he felt insupportable guilt and shame. So much that he could not face his beloved London for three whole years. What else could explain his decision to abandon his beloved London to the predations of the criminal underworld? Fear for his life? Please. Does that sound like Sherlock Holmes, who had always faced danger head on? And with the trials of Moriarty's confederates ongoing? Would he not be needed as a material witness?

No; Holmes was undergoing a crisis of the soul. Where did he go? The first name he mentions is Florence; no doubt he continued on to Rome. Then he treks to Lhasa, to meet with the Dalai Lama. From there he goes on to Mecca, no easy task for a city forbidden to unbelievers. If he followed in the path of Sir Richard Burton. he must have spoken at least passable Arabic. Then he pays "a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum." This would have been Abdullahi ibn Muhammad, the Sudanese ruler who had taken up the mantle of Mahdi, the Islamic messiah, upon the death of the original Mahdi, Muhammad Ahnad.

Can there be any doubt that Holmes was seeking solace in a variety of what were (to him) a series of exotic religions? 

As for his "several months "studying coal-tar derivatives" in Montpellier, I think Holmes was withholding the truth, that he in fact had unfinished business in Montpellier with a French cousin. (For more about this cousin and the reason he mentions coal-tar derivatives, you'll have to wait for my next novel, The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter.)

But none of these ploys offer the peace he seeks, and he finally decides, as he counsels Watson, that "work is the best antidote for sorrow." and turns his face toward home. Yet he has not given up on his spiritual quest entirely. What book does he drop in front of Watson? The Origins of Tree Worship-- seeking answers in his native British Druidism? This, for a man who'd espoused his admiration for the writings of William Winwoode Reade, an avowed atheist, was quite a journey.

But would he have been able to reveal himself to Watson, if not for his accidental meeting with his associate that morning at Park Lane? Perhaps not--not because his affection for Watson had lessened, but because of Watson's role as his public chronicler. He no longer wants the public's eye upon him. He forbids Watson from publishing any new reports, and lays this injunction upon him for a full ten years before he relents.

Did Holmes ever come to terms with the death of Moriarty? In The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle, I introduce a pet raven to Holmes's retirement--a raven named Moriarty.


But you'll have to wait for my third book (in the works now) The Strange Case of the Pharaoh's Heart, to see whether Holmes at last comes to terms with the blood of Moriarty on his hands. 

Until then.


As they say in The Godfather

 





My book supply is almost completely deleted now. 10 books are winging their way to the winners of my Goodreads giveaway in the far-flung corners of America and up in Canadi-i-o.  I hope they enjoy the book and they let me know about it, one way or the other. I like hearing from readers. I'n a habitual reader myself.

 As they say in The Godfather,





Inaudible Books

  I don't know whether to try to crowdsource this or go straight to the big financial backers in Silicon Valley, but I've got a great new idea for an invention -- Inaudible Books™!

Inaudible Books™ are just like Audible Books, except that the volume of the narration is so low you can't hear it at all. This will be perfect for people who are intimidated by audible narrators, or people who can't get to sleep because of the noise. And it should attract high-quality celebrity narrators who always shied away before for fear of straining their vocal chords. Imagine the Outlander novels narrated by Queen Elizabeth, but so low you won't be irritated by that squeaky little voice. Or The Art of the Deal narrated by Teller, in the voice that made him famous.



I know, right now you're begging me to take your money. And I'm willing to, because I'm your friend. Let's just wait till I hear back from the Shark Tank people first, eh? Inaudible Books™-- listen for them everywhere! Closely.

Monday, April 05, 2021

Also...Indie Bookstore Day!

indie bookstore day
April 24th.
Find out how you can support your local indie and score a free audiobook! Am I good to you or what?

 

It's National Library Week !



                            Celebrations during National Library Week



  • Monday, April 5: State of America's Libraries Report released, including Top Ten Frequently Challenged Books of 2020.
  • Tuesday, April 6: National Library Workers Day, a day for library staff, users, administrators and Friends groups to recognize the valuable contributions made by all library workers.
  • Wednesday, April 7: National Library Outreach Day, a day to celebrate library outreach and the dedicated library professionals who are meeting their patrons where they are.
  • Thursday, April 8: Take Action for Libraries Daya day to rally advocates to support libraries.


Sunday, April 04, 2021

Missed Opportunity?

 Let me get this out of the way: I hate to criticize, so let me just say after one episode that Netflix's The Irregulars is not my cup of tea. It's not your cup of tea. It's not a cup of tea at all. More like a cup of treacle, if I had ever tasted treacle, which I haven't, and I do not intend to test my simile.

But among its many apostasies from the Canon, one struck me. 


Girls

Girls in the Baker St. Irregulars.

And why not? Although Doyle only mentions boys, that doesn't actually preclude the possibility of girls in the group. He mainly refers to them as street arabs (a term which I suspect has fallen out of favor in our more enlightened times). And even if Holmes specifically required boys, who's to say that a young girl dressed as a boy wouldn't have escaped his notice? He wouldn't have strip-searched them. I think he left recruiting details up to Wiggins.

So why, pray tell, couldn't a motherless, nearly fatherless, ragamuffin girl of the streets been a member? 

A girl named Doolittle.

Eliza Doolittle.

Now, if this possibility had occurred to me when writing The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle, would I have incorporated it into the book? Very possibly. It would be hard to resist. How much or how little would it have changed the telling? I'd hate to speculate here, because even speculation would require innumerable spoilers. I'll let you rewrite in your minds, as you're reading or re-reading the novel. And let you mull over the road not taken.

Calvin Trillin

 

“A new regulation for the publishing industry: 


The advance for a book must be larger than the check for the lunch at which it was discussed.”

           -- Calvin Trillin


Saturday, April 03, 2021

John Watson, Groupie

 



I fear I’ve done John H. Watson a grave disservice.
 This blog should after all really be named The Strange Cases of John. I’m leaning shamelessly on the incandescent fame of Sherlock Holmes, even as John did. After all, Holmes may be the hero of the stories, but John is certainly the protagonist. Doyle
made that decision when he changed his name from off-putting Ormond Sacker to plain John Watson. Holmes is more of a mentor in the stories. It is through John’s eyes we experience the action. And it is John who is the founder of Holmes fandom, the original groupie. We are all John Watson. 

   That’s right, I said groupie. 

What better way to express the Holmes/Watson relationship? A completely unbalanced relationship, in which Holmes is always the star, and Watson garners what recognition he can by association, assiduously chronicling his successes (and even at times his failures, for the purpose of displaying his intimacy with his hero) And what better candidate for groupiedom? A damaged child who has developed a penchant for danger, seeking out another damaged soul who shines far brighter than himself? It’s classic groupie psychology. If Watson were alive today, he’d wear a      Guns’n’Roses t-shirt. 

Wait, damaged child? 
   Of course. Why do you think Watson never mentions his family, and Holmes’s only sparingly? (And Holmes returned the favor, in return for Watson's concealing his past.)

 The one thing we know about Watson’s family, thanks to Holmes’s rather perfunctory analysis of his pocket watch, is that he had a brother, a drunkard who frittered away his fortune (what was left after his father's frittering) and died young. The watch was inherited from their father. 

There are a few inferences one can make from this, which Holmes refrained from saying out loud: John's brother, Harry was an older brother, who inherited not only the watch but most of his father’s wealth. He was the favorite son, who also inherited Henry's genes for incipient alcoholism. Both resented John’s discreet words of caution when they drank. His father beat John regularly when he was in his cups. The only reason he did not beat his wife as well was that she had abandoned him when John was young and gone back to her people in England--after he thrashed her once within an inch of her life.

 She had pleaded to let her take the boys, at least John, knowing he would never let Harry go, but he was implacable, refusing even to let them see her letters, which finally dwindled away as the years passed. John didn't know even where she was for years, until he gained fame through his connection with Holmes. That was when she reached out to him--for money. She was always a practical woman, and assumed John had inherited something--a notion which John did not try to disabuse her of.  It was enough for him to know that she read his chronicles in The Strand. It was in reaction to this treatment that John always treated women so honorably, so fastidiously. 

 John had a wicked temper of his own, which led him to Afghanistan--away from his father. But he left it on the battlefield there. By the time he returned to England, the drink had killed Henry and Harry both. Depression replaced his anger, along with a certain buttoned-down British attitude, which might have led him to join Holmes in his addiction--but he had already seen the destruction caused by addiction, and quietly set about to cure Holmes--succeeding eventually (Whether he enlisted the help of Dr. Freud, only Nicholas Meyer can say). 

He was addicted to excitement though, and mortal risks, the same as Holmes (a condition well captured by the writers of Sherlock). He would dare any danger, any humiliation, to be next to his star. And thanks to John, we’ve been trying to get next to Sherlock Holmes ever since.

 

Thursday, April 01, 2021

Roger Angell

 “Since baseball time is measured only in outs, all you have to do is succeed utterly; keep hitting, keep the rally alive, and you have defeated time. You remain forever young. Sitting in the stands, we sense this, if only dimly. The players below us—Mays, DiMaggio, Ruth, Snodgrass—swim and blur in memory, the ball floats over to Terry Turner, and the end of this game may never come.”

― Roger Angell