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98 • For useful comparison, the reader might note that this little book clocks in at about 45,000 words. It took much longer than a week to write. “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere” • After I returned from the road trip to Mexico during which I’d read The Poison Belt, summer was virtually over. At the end of August I started my freshman year at nearby Oberlin College, having resolutely decided to put away childish things, like adventure stories and comics and science fiction and Sherlock Holmes. It was time to buckle down. Yet the Great Detective was not so easily forgotten, as Conan Doyle himself quickly realized after he had supposedly sent Holmes and Professor Moriarty tumbling to their deaths at the Reichenbach Falls. While I resolutely determined to transform myself from a Wild Ginger Man into a studious grind, come Friday night I’d always spend an hour in the dorm lounge watching Star Trek. As others have remarked, Mr. Spock—that half-human, half-Vulcan calculating machine—is clearly derived from Holmes with, it seemed to me, a touch or two of the detective’s elder brother Mycroft. “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere” • 99 Mycroft only appears briefly in the canon (chiefly in “The Greek Interpreter” and “The BrucePartington Plans”), but is nonetheless quite unforgettable . Sherlock himself regards his brother as his superior in “observation and deduction.” Sedentary and precise in his routines— “Mycroft has his rails and he runs on them”—this supposed minor bureaucrat actually functions as “the central exchange, the clearing-house” for all government intelligence. “In that great brain of his everything is pigeon-holed, and can be handed out in an instant.” In essence, Mycroft is a human computer like Spock. With his sharp analytic intelligence, impressive bulk, and insistence on a regular schedule, he also closely resembles Rex Stout’s gruff consulting detective Nero Wolfe. Years later, I would learn that some Sherlockian scholars believe that Wolfe’s mother was Irene Adler and his father either Sherlock or Mycroft. One day late in the fall term of my freshman year, I discovered that one of my new friends, Roger Phelps, had stayed up all night rereading Sherlock Holmes stories. Being down in the dumps, he had burrowed back into them for comfort and renewal. When I stopped by his room in Burton Hall, we proceeded to share 100 • favorite passages from his worn Doubleday edition . On that typically bleak day in Oberlin, we naturally gravitated to those cases that evoked the cozy snugness of 221B—for instance, “The Five Orange Pips,” which opens this way: It was in the latter days of September, and the equinoctial gales had set in with exceptional violence. All day the wind had screamed and the rain had beaten against the windows . . . . Sherlock Holmes sat moodily at one side of the fireplace cross-indexing his records of crime, while I at the other was deep in one of Clark Russell’s fine sea stories, until the howl of the gale from without seemed to blend with the text, and the splash of the rain to lengthen out into the long swash of sea waves. . . . “Why,” said I, glancing up at my companion , “that was surely the bell. Who could come to-night?” And soon the game is afoot. Like all Sherlockians, Roger and I would speculate about those many unrecorded cases to which Watson regularly alludes and for which “the world is not yet prepared,” the most famous being that of the Giant Rat of Sumatra. In “The “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere” • 101 Five Orange Pips,” itself a strikingly evocative title, Watson is especially tantalizing: The year ’87 furnished us with a long series of cases of greater or less interest, of which I retain the records. Among my headings under this one twelve months, I find an account of the adventure of the Paradol Chamber, of the Amateur Mendicant Society, who held a luxurious club in the lower vault of a furniture warehouse, of the facts connected with the loss of the British barque Sophy Anderson, of the singular adventures of the Grice Pattersons in the island of Uffa, and finally the Camberwell poisoning case. . . . But none of them present such singular features as the strange train of circumstances which I have now taken up my pen to describe. See what I mean? As Holmes would say, the merest mention of those unpublished exploits sets the imagination afire. What were “the colossal schemes” of...


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