One of the members of the Agra Treasurers of Dayton likes to recall that her father used to refer to Sherlockian meetings as “her literary society.”
And so it is. Amid the friendship and the socializing, Sherlock Holmes scion societies have always been primarily literary associations. Members read stories, they take quizzes about stories, and they often present and hear scholarly papers.
Some scion societies also publish. Perhaps the most published of all is the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis. In celebration of the club’s 70th anniversary, it recently published a book of essays called 70 Years by Gas Lamp: The Illustrious Clients’ Sixth Casebook. The first “casebook” was published in 1948, just two years after the club was founded by precocious teenager named Jerry Williamson.
Edited by Clients Mary Ann Bradley, BSI, Louise Haskett, and Melanie Hoffman, the 23 entries in 70 Years are impressive for the scope of their topics as well as their erudition. For example: Ann Margaret Lewis writes on the polyphonic motets of Lassus, Don Curtis on “Plumes, Pipes, and Lens,” Pat Ward on sex and violence in Sherlock Holmes, Pam Wampler on Holmes and Freud, Michael Whalen on “Rex Stout: Hoosier Heretic,” and Steven Doyle on the history behind what many believe is the worst story in the Canon.
Full disclosure: My own contribution is called “Sherlock Holmes Gone to the Dogs: Canine Capers, Canonical and Otherwise.”
As in previous casebooks, not all the authors are Clients. Some of the chapters were originally talks delivered to the Clients. I particularly enjoyed Patrick Bennett Shaw’s reminiscences of his father, the great John Bennett Shaw; Leslie Klinger on “The Vampire and the Detective,” a Halloween talk; and Michael W. Homer on “Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and the Mormons.”
After all these years the game is still afoot, and as lively as ever. See for yourself in 70 Years by Gas Lamp, available from Wessex Press.