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140 • include a couple of dozen hopeful aspirants and special guests. Early on I invited my friends Neil Gaiman—chronicler of “The Sandman” and author of the Sherlockian-Lovecraftian pastiche “A Study in Emerald”—and the novelist Peter Straub, as well as two women of letters, also close friends: Alice Turner, longtime fiction editor of Playboy, and Michele Slung, author of Crime on Her Mind and many other books. Need I add that another good time was had by all? I had begun to see why the BSI had been going strong for so many years and why it flourishes still today. “I Play the Game for the Game’s Own Sake” • After being invested in the Irregulars I soon took to answering my phone at Book World with a jaunty “Dirda—the second most dangerous man in Washington.” That gave people pause (and some tried to guess who was the most dangerous). Better still, I was also now eligible to participate in that most exclusive of all local dining sodalities: the Half Pay Club, open only to DC area members of the BSI. Like science fiction and fantasy fans, Sherlockians enjoy carousing as often as possible. From the “I Play the Game for the Game’s Own Sake” • 141 Scowrers and Molly Maguires of San Francisco to the Six Napoleons of Baltimore, almost every major city possesses a scion society, and nearly all these welcome anyone interested in Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It goes without saying that their curious names derive from the Sacred Writings. In Canada, for example, the Bootmakers of Toronto are so called because Sir Henry Baskerville ’s boots—a key element in The Hound of the Baskervilles—were made by “Meyers, Toronto.” At all these bodies, people play “the game,” or more formally “the grand game”—that is, they speculate upon the historical gaps in the canon or attempttoharmonizeitschronologicalconfusions. The great bible of the game was for many years W. S. Baring-Gould’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes. This classic has now been updated, enlarged, and modified by Leslie S. Klinger in his Wessex Press Sherlock Holmes Reference Library—minutely annotated editions of the nine canonical books—and his more popular, and abundantly illustrated, New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, published by Norton in three substantial hardcover volumes. Yet even these mammoth tomes contain only a fraction of the voluminous Sherlockian scholarship indexed by Ronald De Waal in his vast bibliography, The Universal Sherlock Holmes. De- 142 • spite some rival claimants for the honor, the generally accepted starting point for the game is the 1911 paper “Studies in the Literature of Sherlock Holmes,” delivered by Ronald Knox while a student at Oxford. Here, the youthful Knox—in later life a distinguished Catholic savant—compared the Sacred Writings to Platonic dialogues and Greek tragedies, proposed a deutero-Watson, addressed the possibility of spurious adventures, expatiated at length upon the symbolic importance of Watson’s bowler hat and, most important of all, provided an eleven-point morphology of the Sherlockian tale, organized according to Greek rhetorical categories. Any authentic Sherlockian story, writes Knox, begins with “the Prooimion, a homely Baker Street scene, with invaluable personal touches, and sometimes a demonstration by the detective,” then nearly always advances to the “Ichneusis, or personal investigation, often including the famous floor-walk on hands and knees,” and ends with the Metamenusis “in which Holmes describes what his clues were and how he followed them.” The whole narrative is then capped by an “Epilogos,” which usually takes the form of a “quotation from some standard author.” Perhaps awed by Knox’s formidable example, Sherlockian studies lay relatively quiescent for the “I Play the Game for the Game’s Own Sake” • 143 following two decades. But by the early 1930s a Golden Age had dawned with a series of groundbreaking works of Baker Street scholarship and “dialectical hullaballoo.” Landmark volumes of this era include Cambridge don S. C. Roberts’s Dr. Watson: Prolegomena to the Study of a Biographical Problem (1931), and The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett (1934), probably the single most important study of the great detective and the canon. Over the years other cornerstone works would appear: Edgar W. Smith’s Profile by Gaslight, Dorothy L. Sayers’s Unpopular Opinions, James E. Holroyd’s Baker Street Byways and Seventeen Steps to Baker Street, T. S. Blakeney’s Sherlock Holmes: Fact or Fiction, H. W. Bell’s Baker Street Studies, the Starrett-edited 221B Baker Street, and Christopher Morley...


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