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The View from the East End (6)

By Inspector Hopkins

February 6, 2005
 

"The Many Facets of Sherlockiana"

Part 5: More Tools for the Toolbox

There are literally hundreds of Sherlockian books out there, ranging from apocrypha to pastiche. These are probably best reserved for later, after the beginning Sherlockian has obtained a thorough grounding in our beloved Canon, or the "Sacred Writings of Doctor Watson"."Apocrypha" refers to Sherlock Holmes stories outside of the Canon purportedly written by A. Conan Doyle, and "pastiche" refers to Sherlock Holmes stories written by others.

In between lies the gigantic field of reference works, thoughts, articles, theories, and otherwise totally educational works, and which must constitute 90% of every written word concerning Sherlockiana. There are journals filled with scholarship to which one can subscribe. On this side of the Atlantic, The Baker Street Journal (BSJ) is the way to go. Across the pond, they have the equivalent in The Sherlock Holmes Journal. I will have more for you on the BSJ in a later column.

Of all of these, if I had to pick ONE single work to recommend to the newer Sherlockian, it would have to be the Encylopaedia Sherlockiana by the late Jack Tracy. In my own experience, I have found this book to be absolutely indispensable in my personal Sherlockian studies, and I have referred to it more times than I can recall!

When I first became a serious student, I did not know the difference between a "gasogene" and a "four of gin hot"! Once you have made your first pass or two through the Canon, there will undoubtedly be a number of terms and phrases with which you will be unfamiliar. This book absolutely shines in explaining some of the terminology found in the Canon. It also encapsulates the basic idea and history of each of the Canonical stories, and contains references to just about every person mentioned in the Canon. I obtained my copy from Amazon.com, but you may be able to find yours in a used-book shop.

And, for you cyberphilic students out there, you can also get this book in searchable Adobe Acrobat format on a CD-ROM.

There are, of course, many other reference works out there as well. For example, The Canonical Compendium by my late friend Steve Clarkson, comes to mind. This book is available from Calabash Press, but is almost out of print as of this writing.

E-mail me if you would like the particulars of any of these items.

I recently became aware of a more recent book entitled Encyclopedia Sherlockiana: an A-Z Guide to the World of the Great Detective by Matthew E. Bunson on Amazon.com If you can’t find either Tracy’s or Clarkson’s books, this one may be the way to go. And, at around $9 for a paperback, it is a good bargain as well.

Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that I am an expert in all reference works, mind you! I am only a "sophomore" in Sherlockiana, after all. In addition, please let me state that I have no financial connection or interest with any of these works, so my opinion is indeed honest and impartial.

For the newer Sherlockian student, as well as the more seasoned one, these compendiums exist for the understanding of the basics of the wonderful world of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It is my hope that they will inspire us all to pursue our studies even further.

Until next time, and thanking you for your attention, I remain,

Yours faithfully,

STANLEY HOPKINS