Written by Becky Simpson
My second meeting, and the official third meeting of Scandalous Bohemians at the Victoria Pub in Leeds. I arrived a little late, as I’d been spending the morning getting all my things ready to go to Cheltenham that night to a Benedict Cumberbatch event, and I also had to take the car into Leeds, which meant finding somewhere to park.
By the time I arrived at 12:50pm, everyone was seated in a semi-circle round the front and were just about ready to begin. It was great to see all the old familiar faces from last time, as well as a couple of new faces too. Trevor was leading the meeting this time as the official MC and started off with some shameless (but Sherlockian) self-promotion telling us all about a production of Hound of the Baskervilles he wasn’t in (although he did appear in the 2007 version!). He received a dedication and his picture in the front cover of the recently published edition of the script (written by Simon Corble and published by MX Publishing with a forward by our very own David Stuart Davis). Apparently it’s a brilliant adaptation, and now available from Amazon and all good Waterstones!
“The Real Synthetic Sherlock Holmes”
The first item on the agenda was a talk by John Hall, titled “The Real Synthetic Sherlock Holmes”. It was addressing the issues of what we, the audience and reader, would consider to be a classic Sherlock Holmes story. What components we would be looking for, and if we were to make up a brand new story from scratch what would we definitely want to include? It was especially interesting for me, as an aspiring writer, to think about things like that and analyse what it is that I enjoy and what I expect, from a good Holmes adventure.
First of all we decided that we’d definitely want Holmes AND Watson. They work so much better as a team and one tends to miss one or the other when they’re apart. Watson would also definitely need to be the narrator, as I think we all agreed Holmes pretty much sucked at telling a decent story (and I’m sure the great detective himself wouldn’t object to that statement either).
In terms of location, the majority of the stories in the canon are set in the Greater London area, and everyone enjoys to see the inside of Baker Street. So definitely London, and preferably lots of scenes in 221B. We expect a decent crime, preferably a murder – even though murders aren’t necessarily typical, it seems that everyone enjoys them and remembers the ones with murders more than the ones without. We would also like a decent client – someone exotic, extravagant, interesting, not just a poor peasant off the street for example.
We want the presence of Scotland Yard, preferably Lestrade, who is the most famous of all the Inspectors in the canon. We want moving action and actual looking for clues in different locations, not just static scenes and talking. We want a beautiful woman, mystery, high stakes. After running through all the points, …… concluded that The Second Stain was the quintessential ‘synthetic’ (or classic perhaps) Sherlock Holmes story, although I still feel this is left open for interpretation as everyone has their own personal favourite.
“Hound of the Baskervilles”
Next up was me, performing as Holmes in a short pastiche I wrote of Hound of the Baskervilles, alongside Trevor as Watson and Mellers playing everyone else (she did a great job!). I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. I’d ran through my lines the night before with my parents, and my Dad was doing a Nigel Bruce Watson which rather put me off my stride as I’d written it for a more normal slightly intelligent Watson, and neither of them really knew the storyline all that well so they kept giving me weird looks and asking me “who’s that person again?”. Thankfully, we were performing to an audience of ardent Sherlockians (Holmesians? It’s so hard to keep up with the terminology these days), and there were no explanations required.
It would have been nice to maybe run through the script together at least once before hand, but somehow doing everything totally unrehearsed made it even funnier, especially when pages of the script kept getting stuck together because I’d spilt coke on them in the car on the way there (I mean the fizzy drink not a seven per cent solution).
Luckily, most of the jokes were picked up on by the appreciative audience, I was pleased with my two actors who did a sterling job and the whole thing was rather fun if not a little exhausting with all the running up and down the “stage”. Next time I’m probably going to adapt one of the short stories rather than one of the novels as it will undoubtedly be a lot easier, but there’s nothing quite like going straight in at the deep end and I do love a challenge!
Quiz and Lunch…
After the performance we had a break for lunch and the quizzes were handed out for people to complete whilst they ate. It was a much harder quiz than last week, this time designed by………. The sections were The Life Of Conan Doyle, Anagrams, Pictures, Holmes in the Media and Quotations. The final marks were for a caption contest, which was rather fun.
I didn’t even attempt the Anagrams, I just went through and answered what I could. I struggled in the Holmes In The Media section, but made it up on the Quotations where I got full marks. Life of Conan Doyle was pretty hard too, although I kicked myself at some of them because I’m reading his biography at the moment. Might need to clear out my Mind Palace and delete some stuff to make room for more ACD and SH info. Hmm. Solar System. Don’t need that. Anyway, I think there was a possibility of 50 marks. The highest score was 31, and I got 19, which wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. Just wait till I’m running the quiz, then they’ll be sorry! MWAHAHAHAHA.
“Baker Street Library”
Once everyone had eaten and we’d had the results of the quiz, Trevor set up a table and got out a load of dusty old books, to tell us about his “Baker Street Library”, which was actually really fascinating and got me quite excited to write down all the books and start trying to collect some of them myself. For the past God knows how many years, he has basically been collecting any books mentioned in the canon, and any books he thinks Holmes might have had in his collection. In order to qualify for the Library, the books have to be at the correct date for the period (ie. Late 1800s). It’s probably easier for me to just list the books then give a bit of information about each one:
- Bradshaws Continental Railway Guide (November 1883) – mentioned in Copper Beeches and Valley of Fear
- The Criminal by Havelock Ellis (1890) – Not canon but surely essential to Holmes
- Whittaker’s Almanac (1899) – an almanac is mentioned in Valley of Fear, most likely this one
- Character in Handwriting by Henry Firth (1886) – Again not canon but graphology dealt with in Sign of Four and Reigate Squire.
- The Bible (1872) – although Holmes’ Bible knowledge was “shaky” he would have had one in his collection and a Bible reference is mentioned in the Crooked Man.
- Richard Baxter’s Saint’s Rest, 1827. Holmes misquotes Baxter in The Boscombe Valley Mystery
- Euclid’s Elements of Geometry (1741) – mentioned by Holmes in The Sign Of Four when he I making fun of Watson’s romanticised storytelling: “…as if you worked a love-story or an elopement into the fifth proposition of Euclid.”
- The Origin of Tree Worship – as mentioned in Empty House, does not actually exist. Someone clearly needs to write and publish one to complete the Holmesian collection.
- The Holy War by Thomas Fuller (1840) – EMPT (used by Holmes as part of his disguise)
- British Birds, all three volumes by William Yarrel (1845) – EMPT
- Martyrdom of Man by Winwood Reade (1888) – Holmes hands Watson the book in The Sign of the Four.
- Sabine Baring-Gould’s A Book of Dartmoor, 1900. Too late for Holmes to use for his work on the Silver Blaze case or the Baskerville Case but certainly a book that Conan Doyle would have had at his disposal for his research into the Baskerville novel.
- A Book of Monkeys, 1897. Not canon but Holmes may have used it in The Creeping Man affair. Jeremy Brett certainly uses it in his version of the story, which is very exciting.
- Bees & Their Apiary (1867)
- De Brettes (1893)
- Forensic Medicine and Toxicology by J Dickson Mann (1893)
“The Adventure of the Spotted Dick”
The day was ended by another hilarious effort from the pen of David Stuart Davis, who performed a short pastiche he’d written along with Trevor and Matthew. It was in the style of the old Basil Rathbone radio productions of Sherlock Holmes, including lots of adverts for wine that interrupted the action with comic effect.
The storyline itself (as you can probably imagine), closely resembled that of the Speckled Band but with more funny anecdotes and puns, as well as clever references to a few other Holmes stories and in-jokes. It was well written and well performed by the three of them, the plot was comical and clever, but also very engaging and entertaining all round. A great way to end a great day!
Sadly I had to slope off almost immediately after that and didn’t have time to hang around and chat for too long, as I had to head off to Cheltenham for my date with Benedict. Oh well, won’t complain too much. I’m already looking forward to the next meeting on Saturday 15th December where I crazily volunteered to play my violin for everyone!