“The Game”

Almost as long as there have been Sherlock Holmes stories, there have been ardent readers commenting on the stories, speculating on the Conan Doyle chronology, indulging in genteel (for the most part) arguments over the minutiae of time, place, and technique.  For example, several times, Holmes mentions his partner’s recent change in marital status: So, how many times was Watson married?

Dorothy Sayers, in a commentary on Holmes, describes the process:

The game of applying the methods of “Higher Criticism” to the Sherlock Holmes canon was begun, many years ago, by Monsignor Ronald Knox, with the aim of showing that, by those methods, one could disintegrate a modern classic as speciously as a certain school of critics have endeavoured to disintegrate the Bible. Since then, the thing has become a hobby among a select set of jesters here and in America. The rule of the game is that it must be played as solemnly as a county cricket match at Lord’s: the slightest touch of extravagance or burlesque ruins the atmosphere.

It is impossible to translate the nuances of “county cricket match at Lord’s” into American English–Little League game at Yankee Stadium lacks the requisite class-related overtone–but you get the idea.

So it’s an exquisite pleasure to find that the Russell stories (which have become “the Kanon” amongst the cognoscenti, K for King) are moving into a Game of their own.  For your consideration, a letter received recently from David, a civil engineer from Tennessee, who wished me to see his own interpretation of the Russell/Holmes relationship.  First, he explains his background:

I have been reading and collecting Sherlock Holmes pastiches (almost obsessively) since the mid-1970’s. Over the years I have accumulated – and actually read – over a thousand pastiches in the form of novels, short stories, films, radio and television shows, scripts, comics, unpublished manuscripts, and fan-fiction. I wear a deerstalker from fall to spring, and really enjoy playing The Game. I often point out with pride that my great-grandmother and great-great-grandfather were named Watson, my mother and her father were named Rathbone, and my mother’s mother was a Russell. This Game playing drives my wife and son crazy, but as vices go, it’s not too bad.

Almost obsessively?  One might, perhaps, argue with a man who goes around in a deerstalker, but as a born Californian, I am willing to grant him a touch of the eccentric.  Then my friend comes to the meat of the matter, explaining that he enjoyed The Beekeeper’s Apprentice, although he would have preferred that I stick more closely to the Baring-Gould biography of Holmes (which includes not one but two brothers, and the parentage of Nero Wolfe with Irene Adler.)  However:

I enjoyed the next book, A Monstrous Regiment of Women as well, but I must admit, the last few pages, when old Holmes took the twenty-something girl in his arms, seemed to me like something from another book grafted onto the end. I kept buying your books as they came out (in hardcover!) because I’m a collector, but I didn’t read them for a long time – except for O Jerusalem, which took place before the “incident.”

I finally rationalized a way that I could read the remaining books, which I finally found to be incredibly well written and entertaining as well. Since you are the author (or editor, actually), you may be angry with me, a lowly reader, for coming up with this theory, but I believe that Russell, at some point in the 1930’s, loses her mind.

Essentially, my theory is that Holmes was always Russell’s teacher and friend, and nothing more. No doubt she harbored deeply hidden romantic feelings for him. However, I believe that she married someone else in the late 1920’s, possibly a nice Talmud scholar. Later, in the 1930’s, her husband – and possibly their children as well – were killed. Maybe the Nazis had something to do with it. In any case, Russell lost her sanity, and reverted to her deeply-hidden obsessive love of Holmes. She went back and altered her many journals, changing any reference to Holmes from teacher to husband. Once I understood that, I could read all the rest of the Russell novels with much less concern. I feel sorry for Mary, but that’s what I think happened. Of course, you will probably disagree. However, if you examine Russell’s journals more closely and see that the word “husband” looks like it was written in at a later date with a different ink, feel free to work this theory into your narrative.

I have to say, I admire this gentleman’s attention to detail, a characteristic which I am sure makes him an excellent civil engineer. I further appreciate his enthusiasm for buying the books in hardback, even when he has no intention of reading them.  And I love the idea of Russell married to a Talmudic scholar.

However, I rather feel that, having picked one alternate universe in with to launch an elaborate game, perhaps one should stick to it.

Any thoughts, out there?  Has Mary’s much learning made her mad?


  1. Kelly on October 28, 2009 at 8:39 am

    What a great post! One could mull over your reader’s situation for days. It makes me wonder if literature classes nowadays include these kinds of discussion. It also makes me think of what my mother has always said: “Reality is what you make it.”

  2. Roy Hilbinger on October 28, 2009 at 9:11 am

    Hmmmm… I rather like the alternate Holmesian universe you’ve created and don’t see why the May-December marriage between Holmes and Russell needs revising. In fact, I find it totally in character for the Old Man – eccentricity is the man’s middle name, and that marriage certainly is eccentric! And I like how you’ve woven that universe into not only the actual world of the day (e.g. the Labour victory of 1924 and its ramifications), but also into other contemporary fictional worlds; that scene with Peter Wimsey in A Monstrous Regiment of Women is priceless, and totally in character with Lord Peter himself. (Which leads one to wonder if Russell might not have run across Harriet Vane in her post-graduate Oxford excursions.) I think David should read the entire Kanon again in sequence and see if it all doesn’t fall into place on a second reading.

  3. Nikki on October 28, 2009 at 9:34 am

    Tell the engineer he lacks crucial data. Maybe since he had a problem reading MREG, he completely missed the whole “heaps of S.A.” bit. And, as a woman born with the last name Russell–as opposed to a male person, generations removed from the family name–I can tell him that any man who knows the way to a Russell woman’s heart is through her scalp (in more ways than one) beats any sort of scholar, Talmudic or otherwise, hands down.

    My next question is: How’s this guy going to react when he sees Holmes interacting with a grandchild, and a female one who physically favors him at that?

    Caitlin says: Tell this nice man if he has these outlandish plot bunnies in his mind, he should write his own fanfics and quit criticizing the works of others. Send him a link to L_o_M and tell him to bring on his AU craziness.

  4. Jessica in Indy on October 28, 2009 at 9:35 am

    Oh, my goodness, I’ve played The Game for years, debated it with my husband, (Holmes brought us together, oddly) but never, for whatever reason, brought Russell into it. I believe I’ve always seen the BEEK explanation for his youth (The Strand and Paget wanted him to look older to inspire confidence) very plausible, at least as plausible as W.S. Baring-Gould’s timeline, so I never thought too much about it; just accepted it as a parallel timeline and left it. Now, I find myself wondering why that is. Perhaps because I like the Russell timeline better? 🙂

  5. Strawberry Curls on October 28, 2009 at 10:21 am

    As I came to the game from the opposite direction than most (read Kanon first then read Canon) I have never had a problem with the relationship, the marriage or the time-line as regards to Russell and Holmes. The Holmes of BEEK seems a perfectly natural extension of the man in “His Last Bow” — summer 1914, it just makes sense to me. The marriage also makes sense when you delve into the lack of eligible males in Britain after WWI. May/December marriages were not that out of the ordinary in the late teens and early 20s, it was what was available.

    And, yes, any POV is welcome at the Yahoo fan fiction group Letters_Of_Mary. Everyone many not embrace every POV, but we all support a person’s right to write what they believe.

  6. Megan on October 28, 2009 at 11:03 am

    My oh my…yes, someone tell the poor dear man to go write fanfiction. He can bask quite happily in his…alternate universe. Very alternate. Ahem.

  7. David in Tennessee on October 28, 2009 at 12:21 pm

    I am the person who wrote the original fan letter to Ms. King that started this. She asked me if she could quote my letter in her blog, and I agreed. After waiting for years to write to her, I finally got around to it yesterday afternoon, and she responded within a few hours. Very impressive!

    First of all, I do not mean any negative criticism or disrespect to Ms. King or the Kanon. I think they are extremely well written books, and are some of my all-time favorites of all the Holmes stories that I have read. As I explained to Ms. King, I was simply looking for some sort of patch to explain the discrepancies between her books and the rest of the collected pastiche corpus. Not wishing to pour more gas on the fire, I feel that I must defend my theory and respond to some of the comments posted today.

    During my years reading Holmes stories, I have read hundreds of pastiches, and at least seventy of them, not counting the Kanon or its many related and well-done Russell fan-fics, detail Holmes’s activities between the time he met Mary Russell in 1915 and the time of his death on January 6, 1957. None of those other stories by other author/editors mention either Mary Russell or her marriage to Holmes. Some of these other stories include Rasputin’s Revenge (with a young Nero Wolfe) by John Lescroart, “The Logical Successor” [BSJ, Sept.1962] where Holmes and Watson are visited in Sussex by a young Ellery Queen, and the stories where Holmes is visited in retirement by Solar Pons and Dr. Parker.

    If one accepts the validity of these other narratives (and I do), then I have to find some way to explain the differences between these stories, where Holmes is clearly a bachelor, and the Kanon tales which relate the Holmes-Russell marriage. The number of pastiches that indicate that Holmes is unmarried in retirement vastly outnumber the pastiches of the Kanon which state that he was married. I don’t want to have to pick one set or the other. The only explanation that I could come up with was that Russell’s journals were inaccurate, and that she intentionally meant for them to be that way, for whatever reason. I would be happy to see any other explanations, other than just assuming that they are married, which I do not believe.

    Finally, I realize that many people are very taken with the idea of the old man/younger woman match-up. This was evidenced by the number of Harry Potter fan-fics that came out pairing Professor Snape and Hermione. Earlier, I was encouraged to take my ideas and write AU fan-fics. I would like to point out that the Kanon itself is actually quite AU in relation to the established Canon.

  8. peggy ann on October 28, 2009 at 2:37 pm

    NO! Mary has not lost her mind. I appreciate David’s creativity, but he is too dependent on W.S. Baring-Gould’s timeline. I too have been a student of the canon since the late 60’s and enjoy Laurie’s continuation.

  9. Pat Floyd on October 28, 2009 at 5:14 pm

    I find it incredible to suppose that Mary Russell kept journals through an alternate marriage and a widowhood that brought on the delusion that she had been married to Holmes and that the journals could be easily altered to support her delusion. Did this marriage occur after all the cases described in the books thus far? If one is playing the Game, I think one must choose between marriage or bachelorhood for Holmes. Better to set aside the kanon than to attempt to bend into a shape it doesn’t fit. Why not put aside the Game and view each literary creation as a thing in itself, appreciate the reality it creates, and base enjoyment on literary merit. I might also point out that Mrs. King brings the authority of personal experience to a younger woman/older man marriage.

  10. Strawberry Curls on October 28, 2009 at 5:44 pm

    I have to disagree, Pat, I think it is perfectly reasonable to play the game and not chose, in fact IMHO the 1921 marriage works just fine when you play the game. For me the question of pastiche and Kanon and Canon isn’t a problem. If you play the game then Canon and Kanon are true and the pastiche is just that a story using the characters, something of an alternate universe from the “truth” if it goes too far outside of Canon, or an untold story from Canon. For me it seems unreasonable to try to shoehorn all Holmes pastiche into one timeline and call it all real. The pastiche is an embellishment, a fancy from the mythical Watson’s tin box. Some tell wonderful stories, others are pretty absurd and at times badly written. I’ve not read hundreds as yet, but I have read ten or so books and another fifteen or more short stories. I’m talking the published pastiche, not fan fiction, where I have read hundreds and hundreds.

    There are some wonderful pastiche “Dust and Shadows” by Lindsay Faye is a recent entry and first rate IMHO, but reading it and enjoying it doesn’t diminish what Doyle and King have presented. Nor does it change, and/or clash with Canon and Kanon, and from my investigations there are few pastiche that take Holmes past 1914, therefore what happens after that time is for Mary Russell to tell. 🙂

    Oh, and if you play the game, Holmes is not dead, Wm. Baring-Gould and the others got it all wrong. You see his obituary has yet to appear in The Times so he can’t possibly have died. 😉

  11. Nikki on October 28, 2009 at 7:18 pm

    This bit bothers me:

    ***If one accepts the validity of these other narratives (and I do), then I have to find some way to explain the differences between these stories***

    If we’re all playing The Game (albeit on varying levels, to be sure), then we have to start with the same basis–Canon is what we definitely know to be true, and everything beyond that is speculation or AU. So, why would one author’s speculative fiction be any more or less valid than another author’s AU ideas? Do the works of Baring-Gould or Lescroart carry more weight because you read them first? What makes one story valid, while at the same time invalidating others?

    BTW, I’m not bashing you. I’m genuinely curious about where you’re coming from on this.

    Second BTW: My daughter, Caitlin, meant no offense either. There are quite a few AU pieces and crossover fics on the L_o_M site. Heck, one gal writes Dr. Who-meets-Russ-and-Holmes stuff. Do we think it fits with either Canon or Kanon? No, but it’s fun to read.

  12. Nikki on October 28, 2009 at 7:47 pm

    P.S. I forgot to address the age issue. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not an issue. People make it seem like Holmes was a pedophile. Labeling Russell as a girl (an no, David, you are not the only one to do it) is part of the problem. She’s not a girl, but a woman in every sense of the word. By the time I was 21 I had lived on my own for 4 years, graduated college, married, and started a family. Did the fact my husband was only 3 years my senior instead of over 30 make any difference in the level of my own maturity? No, and it wouldn’t make a difference in Mary Russell’s maturity.

    Now, had Laurie written a sleazy Holmes who couldn’t wait to get his hands on her, maybe chased her around the lab a few times while she was 16, then the dock scene might be an issue. However, as the story is written, it’s sweet, endearing, and passionate…in a businesslike way. That’s very much Canon Holmes.

  13. Elizabeth on October 29, 2009 at 2:45 am

    Professor Snape and Hermione? Blasphemy.

  14. Donna on October 29, 2009 at 7:09 am

    No more “Mad” than any other woman… Men like “logical” universes – women realize that there’s a great deal more to any universe if you include the “heart”… 🙂

    It’s kind of like realizing that 90% of the earth’s “living space” is actually the Deep Oceans… it means humans and the earthbound flora and fauna are the “exceptions”… interesting concept. And that’s just “our world” – doesn’t include our Universe…

  15. Donna on October 29, 2009 at 7:10 am

    No more “Mad” than any other woman… Men like “logical” universes – women realize that there’s a great deal more to any universe if you include the “heart”… 🙂

    It’s kind of like realizing that 90% of the earth’s “living space” is actually the Deep Oceans… it means humans and the earthbound flora and fauna are the “exceptions”… interesting concept.

  16. Roxanne on October 29, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Hi, David in Tennessee:

    You’ve evidently thought a lot about this and you are obviously creative. Your submissions on Letters of Mary (LoM) would be most welcome. LoM is a warm, accepting, diverse group that appreciates contributions. We have several AUs going on over there.

    Roxanne VBC/LoM

  17. VIcki VanValkenburgh on October 29, 2009 at 9:20 am

    David, I think it’s both cool and way brave that you stepped forward with your theory. So snaps to you! Personally, I don’t believe Miss Russell to be mad (and Miss Russell indicated her own astonishment at the theory at http://twitter.com/mary_russell, hehehehe!). But as a Book Lover/Advocate who has been alarmed at the fall-off in reading and in book sales, it makes me just grin with delight to see these kinds of thoughtful theories and debates about books and the fictional people and worlds they represent. That is seriously cool, even if the theory happens to be that one of my favorite literary characters is delusional. 😀

    I second the Letters of Mary recommendation–I think you’d find a supportive (skepticism as to Russell’s madness aside, hehehe) and enthusiastic community to be a part of there. And of course, you’d be more than welcome at the Virtual Book Club, where we discuss all kinds of mysteries and other books, not just those by LRK.

    And keep in mind our huge shin-dig at Bouchercon in San Francisco next October. http://www.bcon2010.com/ I think you’d be right in your element there, being a Holmesian, mystery fan and Book Person. Loads of the LRK crowd will be there and we are a pretty swell bunch, if I don’t say so myself. It’s like old friends getting together, even if we never have met in person before.

    You wouldn’t lack for lunch/dinner companions or people to sit with at the panels (which are so interesting–you’d *love* those). I hope we’ll see you there. And bring your deerstalker! Heck, I may get one myself and wear it alongside you. We’ll have a thread running in the VBC for SF plans–Laurie will post the URL here on the blog, I’m sure. And speaking of Our Fearless Leader, she is Guest of Honor at the SF Bouchercon, which is *huge*. It’s going to be an exciting time!

  18. VIcki VanValkenburgh on October 29, 2009 at 9:35 am

    BTW–I’ve considered another theory that might explain the persistent misconception about Holmes remaining a bachelor all those years. He and Russell did have a secret elopement, and she continued to call herself Mary Russell, and to retain the title “Miss” as well. Being a stand-alone detective who often operated without Holmes at her side, she didn’t often come forward with information about her relationship with him. And in her theological studies, it would not have come up at all, most likely.

    Maybe their marriage simply wasn’t common knowledge outside of a small circle of their closest friends. And although I haven’t read the Baring-Gould volume, maybe he concealed the marriage out of respect for their privacy. On the other side of the argument, we do know that the staff at Simpson’s called Russell “Mrs. Holmes” and Lord Peter called her “Mrs. Sherlock” (though he was likely a close friend). But it’s the news item in the SF paper about Holmes and Russell arriving in town that is the strongest argument in the other direction–if I’m remembering my LOCK correctly. That indicates a certain amount of public knowledge. Ah, well. It’s fun to think about, anyway.

  19. VIcki VanValkenburgh on October 29, 2009 at 10:28 am

    Oh, and there are also some good comments going on this post in the Facebook Fan Page, including this one that made me laugh–

    Grace Thorne
    Perhaps it was Holmes who went mad and imagined being married to Mary Russell who was just a next door neighbour just on nodding terms with him. All that cocaine may have caught up with him in the end!


  20. Rosemary on October 29, 2009 at 10:37 am

    I thought Pethering was dead…
    Seriously, the Russell/Holmes marriage is one of the most charming aspects of the Kanon.

  21. David in Tennessee on October 29, 2009 at 11:19 am

    Your passion and enthusiasm in defense of Mary Russell are very impressive, but I’m afraid you didn’t convince me. But then again, I didn’t convince you, either, did I? I do not deny that Russell played a very important part in Holmes’s life during the Great War and the years that followed. But married? Nope.

    Just one more thought, and then I’m turning my attention back to the wider Holmesian world:

    In The Moor, it is revealed that Holmes’s godfather is Sabine Baring-Gould, which I –and I’m sure the other people on this board – completely accept. Sabine probably had a lot of affection for young Sherlock, since they shared very similar backgrounds.

    Sabine’s grandson was William S. Baring-Gould, the author of THE definitive biography of Holmes. No doubt William established much of his knowledge of Holmes from the documents of his grandfather. Baring-Gould’s biography thus gains some added credence – even with Kanon devotees – because of his grandfather’s association with Holmes as recorded in The Moor. Also, Baring-Gould’s original Chronology was published in 1955, and the biography was published in 1962, much closer to the source material than the ongoing journals of the now 109-year-old Ms. Russell. And the Baring-Gould biography records Holmes’s last word as “Irene.”

    Not “Russell.”

  22. Nikki on October 29, 2009 at 12:45 pm


    You are cracking me up. Take a deep breath and repeat after me: It’s all fiction and done for fun and entertainment.

    This bit also makes me wonder:

    **But married? Nope. **

    So are you saying it’s okay that the old man has a wonderful intellectual and sometimes physical relationship (sharing bolt-holes, tents, and gypsy caravans) with a woman, excuse me..girl.., as long as they do not legalize the union? The Dirty Old Holmes thing doesn’t bother you, but a piece of paper does. Are you saying it’s okay for poor old Holmes to have a booty call, but not a respectable wife?

    Help me understand this, please.

  23. VIcki VanValkenburgh on October 29, 2009 at 7:01 pm

    Pethering dead?! Noooooo! *Sob!*

  24. Donna on October 29, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Reading these fascinating comments reminds me of why LRK thoroughly enjoys being a writer… she gets to read us, then decide just how little or much such fun – anything we might come up with – adds to or is completely outside of her alternate universe. The really nice thing is that she shares her universe with us (and makes enough to live on – i.e. travel, meet fans, even basic sustenance – doing it). 🙂

    Vicki – you really are pretty terrific as a hostess… love your “charm” and perceptive comments too. I’m just wondering about your strong desire to keep he who has already expired alive – you do know that poor Pethering perished some time ago?… 🙂 Hope this trend doesn’t apply to villains too – can’t we get rid of at least a few of them? But then I know your “kind heart” and so we will allow a belated “mournful” note. 🙂

    Nikki, you crack me up and yes, I want to know too about David’s preference for illegality and immorality as part of his “hero”s lifestyle as opposed to a good old (hopefully not “fashion”) marriage… Has this so gone out of style today that the alternative(s) are much preferred? I hope not!!!

    And Curls, I do admire the easy with which you play this “Game”, not something I’m all that good at but do so enjoy watching (and reading) others – certainly the adept and proficient – of which you are a foremost representative.

    Notes to self: So where is the Deerstalker wearers party going to be in SF… Got to find a decent one. Jeremy Brett looked pretty spiffy in his – wonder If mine will find people “running for cover” instead? And I simply can not add a pipe!!!… What to wear? What to wear? Maybe there will be a good claret or Amontillado… and perhaps a repeat of that gorgeous Stilton?….

  25. VIcki VanValkenburgh on October 29, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    Oh, dear–I was thinking of Petherbridge, as in Edward, as in my ideal Lord Peter. I’ll insert my Emily Litella impression here: “Never miiiind.” 😀

    Oh, I found a nice deerstalker (from the UK, but maybe there are some good US sources as well)–


    I want to wear one to B’con with a bee pin on it!

  26. Strawberry Curls on October 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    Oh dear, Vicki, Pethering vs Petherbridge, one is an officious git who comes to a bad end and the other, well, he certainly cut a lovely figure as Lord Peter, such a shame to mix them up.

    Ummm, checkered, really, a multi-colored checkered deerstalker? To each his own, I guess. One of the things I loved about Jeremy Brett’s deerstalker is it matched his long traveling coat and was small, tasteful, and was only worn in the country as a proper gentleman would. Not the fan of the over-sized, checkered deerstalker, as you can tell, but if you want to wear one at B’Con, Vicki, I’ll stand right there by you and dare anyone to make a snide remark. Probably won’t wear one myself, I have stated time and again that I don’t like them for Holmes, but I’ll defend anyone’s right to wear one if that is what they want to do. Now bee pins, well, I have quite a collection and will wear them with pride. This could shape up to be quite the outrageous B’Con, but being in San Francisco it can’t be anything else, now could it? 🙂

  27. VIcki VanValkenburgh on October 29, 2009 at 10:45 pm

    I actually liked this one better, but my wallet vetoed it:

    http://www.scotweb.co.uk/sr_htwed_mista_deerstalker 😀

    We’ll have to see–I’m wanting to spend a few extra days in SF, so ye olde budgette may not allow for much in the way of chapeaux or other swag. 🙂

    Yes, that was an egregious instance of Petherfuzzlement. *Self-thwaps*

  28. Yolanda on October 30, 2009 at 7:15 am

    I read all these posts with interest after having been sent here by Strawberry Curls. My own take is this: Baring-Gould, the biographer David (who by the way, strikes me as both a charming Southern gentleman and man with a remarkably tolerant and loving family) puts so much stock in, is obviously one of, but not the only inspiration for the Kanon. I have my problems with B-G and don’t take it as anything other than another AU examination of what might have possibly happened to Holmes. For me the appeal of the Kanon is not just that Holmes falls in love and marries–I started the series from the first book and didn’t suspect they would marry, rather naively, I admit, till the end of MREG. As for the question of a “fantasy” by Russell, we should all be so lucky! It’s remarkably detailed and dense for a fantasy, don’t you think? And personally, if I were going to go all Ophelia like and decide that Holmes and I had fallen in love and married, I wouldn’t stint on the romantic interludes and whatnot..damnnation, it would be a full blown fantasy!-whereas in Kanon there is a reticence in such matters which lend the entire affair a certain verisimilitude. As for their married/non married cohabitation, I think David simply hadn’t thought that aspect of the matter through. It’s my experience that those who play the game, as in so many endeavours in life, are essentially rationalising what they would like to have happen, what they in their mind’s eye “see” as who Holmes and Watson are. That’s what makes it fun. The fact that Holmes marrying is anathema to David says more about him than about Kanon, to my mind, though I’m certainly not attacking him in any way.
    No, what I like most about Kanon is what Laurie King has done to Holmes. Or perhaps I should say, what introducig Russell into his life has done to Holmes. As Higgins says to Eliza near the end of “Pygmalion” (a story which resembles in some ways that of the Kanon) “I like you this way.”
    Holmes of Kanon is still, to me, the man who came from the Canon, but he’s more understandable, warmer, and just as funny and passionate, though in a different way. Russell convinces me as a partner on many levels, but for me personally it always comes back to Holmes. As Vincent Starrett (in whom I place almost as much trust as David of Tennessee does in Baring-Gould) wrote, “The fact is I can scarcely write a paragraph on any subject without bringing Holmes into the argument.”

  29. David in Tennessee on October 30, 2009 at 10:23 am

    I know it’s like poking a beekeeper’s nest, but I’ve got to add some more…

    I’m not against character marriage. Many of my favorites were married. Tommy & Tuppence Beresford were married, and Nick and Nora Charles were married. I hear that Lord Peter was married (although I haven’t read about him yet…but I will!) Spenser asked Susan to marry him. Lew Archer was married once. John Cuddy and James Bond were widowed. Amos Walker and Jack Ryan were married. Lucas Davenport and Matt Helm and Tarzan and Thomas Covenant and Samwise Gamgee and Captain Kirk and Indiana Jones and Paul of Dune were married. Dismas Hardy and Dave Robicheaux and Dirk Pitt were married. Nero Wolfe hints that he was married to a woman who tried to poison him. I even believe that Ellery Queen eventually married Nikki Porter, that Perry Mason eventually married Della Street, and that Poirot was widowed sometime before 1916. I’m not completely sure that Holmes and Irene Adler didn’t have some sort of secret wedding in Montenegro in 1891. (And yes, I know this is all fiction…I’m not completely delusional yet.)

    I’m not averse to the idea of Holmes finding romantic love. I just don’t think that Russell was that kind of love. One thing that makes Holmes so interesting is the obvious heart he tries to hide behind the intellect. I agree that the Kanon presents a real human Holmes. That is why I found “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” to be one of my favorite Holmes books of all time. It is possibly the most human Holmes in any pastiche that I have read. And in it, Mary found a Father to replace the one she had lost, not a future husband.

    Besides Irene Adler, there a number of women in other stories who breach Holmes’s attempts to defend his cold logical heart. To name a very few: “The Guileless Gypsy” (radio show), “The Reluctant Agent,” “The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes” (both book and film), and many others. As far as Irene goes, there a lot of other stories relating their flirtations and eventual connection besides the Baring-Gould biography. One cannot ignore “Sherlock Holmes in New York” (both book and film), “The Canary Trainer” by Nicholas Meyer, and all the mutual fascination between the Irene and Holmes in the books of Carole Nelson Douglas. (By the way, I once told Ms Douglas that I believed that, no matter how well she portrayed Godfrey Norton, he was doomed to die and be replaced in Irene’s heart by Holmes sometime between her books and Montenegro. She good-naturedly replied that there was a lot of time between the period she was writing about and the Great Hiatus, and that anything could happen.)

    As I said before, the number of traditional stories by other authors set between 1915 and 1957 that do not include a marriage to Russell outnumbers the titles in the Kanon. (And I have read all of the Kanon, some of them 4+ times.) And to Nikki, who dragged the phrase “booty call” into this: In my interpretation of Holmes and Russell, where he is father figure, there is nothing more going on in the bolt holes than there would be if Russell were actually Holmes’s own daughter. I didn’t see any indication during “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice” or “O Jerusalem” that there was anything sexual going on, which means that the two actually could spend time together in close quarters as intellectual partners without going after each other.

    I feel that there must be more controversy within your ranks, however, than you let on. I have seen the numerous contradictory fanfics that veer off from Ms. King’s Kanon, including some at Foxhound where Holmes and Russell have a blind daughter named Judith, for instance. The people who come up with those ideas are surely no more out there than I am.

    In the end, everyone will have their own version of Holmes. I see Basil Rathbone and hear Clive Merrison, and definitely NOT Jeremy Brett – probably another sacrilege for most of you folks. For Watson, I like David Burke, and not Nigel Bruce. And I don’t really care for the Nigel Bruce-like portrayal of silly old “Uncle John” in the Kanon. How do you all feel about that one? Smart Watson or Foolish Watson? If you don’t feel that Watson is truly foolish, doesn’t that mean that to you Mary’s perspective isn’t always entirely trustworthy? Is that worth a new topic? Is Mary so jealous of Holmes that she portrays Watson unfairly as a simpleton? One might add “Sherlock Holmes” to the old dictum: “Don’t discuss religion or politics.” People certainly get passionate about this stuff.

    I should probably cobble my arguments up for some sort of mainstream Sherlockian article. I have showed all this to a few of my traditional-style Sherlockian friends, and they share my belief. I don’t think I’m going to find anyone here who does, but that’s ok. In any event, thanks for letting me spend a few days trying to convince you. I usually don’t focus on the Russell aspects of Holmes’s life very often – in my mind it is more often always 1895 – and it has been fun for me to examine some of this more closely. And to think it all started with a simple fan letter.

    Thanks for the invitation to San Francisco. Sadly, I doubt that I’ll be able to make it, but it sounds fun. And you should ALL get deerstalkers. Be proud of your passion. If every one of you has one, and you get your friends to get one, and so on, soon we will be everywhere, and I won’t be questing alone. I can’t decide whether to wear mine to the Robert Downey Jr. movie on Christmas, though. Someone might think that I am a Downey fan, and not a Holmes fan, and that would never do.

    Now I have to go back to work. You all discuss….

  30. Nikki on October 30, 2009 at 1:33 pm

    Yes, I did bring the phrase “booty call” into this, but not to make it appear there was ever anything improper between Holmes and Russ on those pre-MREG occasions. The point is they could not continue to have the same relationship forever. As you so deftly pointed out, there _are_ a lot of marriages between detective partners. Hmm, wonder how that happens? Close working relationship between two people who respect each other develops into something else. Why not have the physical benefits of the relationship if both parties are of the same mind about it and of an age to consent to it?

    Let’s not get into all the evidence supporting women marrying father figure-ish men.

    **The people who come up with those ideas are surely no more out there than I am.**

    The only difference between you and those folks is they don’t try to say things definitely happened that way and make them fit into Kanon and/or Canon. They have a different attitude toward the whole process. They post their stories as AU Goodness and go on. We, in turn, enjoy it as such.

    To me (and this is _only_ my personal opinion, so take it for what it is and please don’t be offended), what you’re saying/doing/feeling would be akin to B-G going back to ACD and telling him he wrote the stories wrong. At the very least, this reminds me of my friend’s grandson. He’s 6 and they work puzzles together. When a piece looks like it should fit but doesn’t quite fit, he gets a hammer to pound it in. Kanon and Canon are similar puzzles in shape, texture and outline. All the pieces may look like they fit, if you squint a little bit. In the end, though, do you really want to get a hammer and pound all the pieces in place? Most folks here don’t have to do that. It seems like you have a need to do just that. To each his own.{shrug}

  31. Donna on October 30, 2009 at 8:48 pm

    Quote from David: “And you should ALL get deerstalkers.”

    So there really might be a deerstalker get-together in SF!!! Maybe we should do something with pinks – a pink check might be nice – or maybe just the right shade of “red” to induce Our Dear Strawberry Curls to attempt one and not simply stand with placard in or picket sign in hand “defending” all us crazies… 🙂 Maybe we can try different “tilts” so the brim shades one side or the other depending on hair style… I’d say the whole deerstalker fashion statement has yet to be made; the entire concept just beginning to conceptualize… Just think what we could add to the next BS Irregular’s dinner? Anyone up for a trip to NYC?

    PS Hope David is in attendance when we “crash”! … 🙂

  32. Joyce on October 31, 2009 at 8:33 am

    For those interested in taking the deerstalker in never-before-seen directions (pink?? sorry, I’m having trouble visualizing Russell in pink), there is a pattern available for both the hat and a natty looking greatcoat, complete with shoulder cape.


  33. Sarah on October 31, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I have to say, my initial reaction to the Holmes/Russell relationship was somewhat similar, although slightly dramatic, to David’s. You had to have seen it coming though; the “letter” from Ms. Russell to Mrs. King was signed MRH. At the end of the first book, my conclusion was that Holmes had adopted Mary. Ah, silly me. Unfortunately for my hypothosis, though, I ended up reading the rest of the series out of order, due to (and causing) quite a traumatic experience. I was three-quarters of the way through A Monstrous Regiment when the unthinkable happened: Somewhere between fifth period and getting home, the library book disappeared. And of course, no other library in the city carried it. So being an impatient bookworm, I skipped to O Jerusalem, but when I got to A Letter of Mary, I was astounded. What?! They were married?!?! Finally, a few months ago, I stumbled across Mrs. Kings books at Barnes & Noble, and I have finally finished those last few chapters, where it is all explained. I have definitely warmed to the idea, and as an avid Holmes fan-not scholar!-I have to say that Mary Russell is one of my all-time heroes.

    And I have to agree with Joyce: I just can’t picture Mary Russell in a pink deerstalker.

  34. VIcki VanValkenburgh on October 31, 2009 at 9:42 pm

    Oh my dog–to lose MREG in the middle and not be able to find another copy of it. I would have lost my little mind! And I can see how the reading-order snafu would have been traumatic. But all’s well that ends well, thank goodness! 😀

    Wow, Joyce–that’s a great-looking pattern. I sometimes wish I had sewing skills at least rivaling those of a cinder block, if not surpassing them. But I nearly flunked the sewing unit in Home Ec, despite sweating bullets and working many days on my projects after school. The teacher gave me a “pity C” because I worked so hard. 🙁

  35. Donna on October 31, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Joyce, Simplicity does think of everything! And Vicki, I know what you mean about sewing. My grandmother sewed for a living – do you think I could? All I can say is that I passed the “rip that seam out and sew it again” course easily and Mom and I got a “B” on my project… 🙂

    NO, NO, NO,,, not Russell in a Pink Deerstalker (and i’m really glad to know she’s coming to SF B-Con!!! That WILL be special!!!) but we need a “Pink line… in a soft check don’t you think? There might be a nice “Fall” colors version full of reds, browns, oranges, maybe even some yellow shades – in a “houndstooth” pattern of course. And for a young spring green look we need those bright spring colors – I’d say several versions depending on the wild flowers in your “stalking” range… Just think what lovely things we could do to “camaflouge” – any deer would want to investigate such high fashion for sure… The point of those “Pinks” or “Reds” or any other deerstalker color was to make sure all attendees at the “Deerstalker Event (party, get together, bash, gathering, you name it…) had a full line to choose from – “something for everyone” is the idea here… 🙂

    (And if this really comes off I’ll be a …………. but it would be fun, wouldn’t it?) 😉

  36. Tzippurah on November 3, 2009 at 10:24 am

    I have to confess, I’ve been unwittingly playing the Game. I spent several days back in May combing back over the Kanon due to Mary’s remark in The Language of Bees that she is unlikely to have children of her own and so should embrace her stepson. My initial reaction was “WHAT??? Do you mean Russell and Holmes don’t actually consummate their relationship?” Now on the surface this may seem silly, but I can site several examples from personal experience among my twenty something peers where PIV intercourse has not occurred in happy marriages for periods of up to four years (and counting). I eventually had to construct an elaborate alternate theory about Russell being sterile (for the sake of my insomnia, please don’t suggest Holmes is impotent, I had an argument with my boyfriend about this) for the sake of my peace of mind. I also cobbled Nancy Springer’s Enola Holmes into the Kanon, although I was forced to kill her off before 1916. *sob*

  37. David in Tennessee on November 4, 2009 at 7:41 am

    C’mon, admit it. There is surely something, some little thing at some time or another, in the Canon or the Kanon that most of you personally have not agreed with. Be it large or small, maybe just for a minute, you have had to rationalize in order to bridge your way past it. ‘Fess up. How else can one explain some of the inconsistencies in the Canon? If you’ve had to excuse something by telling yourself that Watson’s pen slipped, or an editor couldn’t read Watson’s writing, or that Watson changed a name or date to protect someone, you’re rationalizing.

    Sometimes – believe it or not – people actually suggest that Doyle himself wrote a few of the Canon stories (“The Mazarin Stone”, “His Last Bow”), and that Doyle was possibly responsible for Watson’s errors. Could it be possible that Russell’s inconsistencies are not Russell’s fault, but perhaps due to an editorial choice, or possibly even a hidden agenda, by her editor, Laurie R. King!?!

    For example, there is a Sherlockian editor named Peter Tremayne who has presented several narratives in which he flatly states that Holmes is Irish. Mycroft is Irish, and works for the Irish government. Holmes attended university in Dublin. Mrs. Hudson is Irish. I think he even says that Watson is Irish. Of course Moriarty is Irish, and Moran too. Obviously it is important to Mr. Tremayne that the Holmesian world be Irish-based. When I read these stories, I just have to ignore Mr. Tremayne’s Irish agenda, remember what I know to be true about Holmes’s background, and enjoy what’s left of the story.

    I still don’t believe that Holmes and Russell were married, but is it possible that their marriage was concocted – not by Russell’s madness – but by some hidden agenda of Ms. King?

    Now there’s something to ponder.

  38. Donna on November 4, 2009 at 6:54 pm


    I’m really sorry you may not make Bouchercon, San Francisco. I do hope that somehow your schedule frees up, you find or “win” some funds, and you just can’t miss it. Bring your family; the bay area is fabulous as a vacation spot.

    You sound like such a charming irritant to the VBC; we would love to share a few Holmesian thoughts with you. And of course, you are invited to any Deerstalker Party we might have. 🙂

  39. VIcki VanValkenburgh on November 5, 2009 at 5:43 pm

    That Peter Tremayne thing sounds pretty funny. I kind of would like to see a Welsh and Scottish iteration, too, just for the sake of letting all the UK components have a turn.

    Oh, I have the first Enola Holmes somewhere–my fave indie bookseller recommended it, but I haven’t read it yet. It’s somewhere in the middle of the tottering TBR skyscraper.

  40. Gail Lelyveld on November 6, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    When I read a book or see a movie or play, I tend to let the story pick me up and run away with me. If I like it, what is the problem. I started reading Laurie R King when I returned from unexpectedly getting to attend her talk at a San Francisco Library. I read all the Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes books in 2 months. Then I read Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. It was a wonderful Summer. However you can see that I would be no purist.

    I was a little surprised that there was not talk of the feminist work going on. I suppose that goes without saying as Bernard Shaw wrote whole plays about women working to make poor people’s lives better.

    I was happy when Holmes married Russell. It was right and proper as far as I’m concerned. Peoples attitudes and goals change as time goes on or as the authors change. I love Conan Doyle’s Holmes, and I love King’s Russell/Holmes. I also love Granada’s Sherlock Holmes. I am going to give Rathbone a chance via Netflix.

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