MINING MARILYN’S MYSTERIES “OLDIES”: THE INCREDIBLE SCHLOCK HOMES

THE INCREDIBLE SCHLOCK HOMES

by Robert L. Fish

(Marilyn Reviewed on April 15th, 2017)

And now for something completely different, as Monty Python would say.  In this book, the late Robert L. Fish created the most clever and enjoyable pastiche I’ve ever read.

The Incredible Schlock Homes deconstructs and “destroys” twelve of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved stories featuring Sherlock Homes.  In the process the reader, or at least this reader, is completely captivated by Fish’s word play, his twisted logic, and his obvious devotion to the most famous detective in fiction.

Do the stories’ titles–“The Adventure of the Adam Bomb,” “The Adventure of the Spectacled Band,” and the “The Adventure of the Artist’s Mottle”–give you a clue about Fish’s style?  In “The Adventure of the Adam Bomb,” Homes arranges a fake funeral for himself because his disappearance is essential to solve a crime.  When his colleague Watney questions the amazing disguise Homes needs to wear while presumably dead and yet be able to investigate, Homes explains.  The body in the casket?  “An excellent example of Madam Tussand’s art.”  The “corpse’s” extra weight?  “One of Mrs. Essex’s pillows.”  His present stature, at least a foot shorter than Homes’ actual height?  “Special shoes,” responds the detective.  Are you beginning to get the idea?

True to the style of Sir Arthur, Fish begins each story with the year it takes place and a brief history of other cases the celebrated detective solved.  In the intro to “The Adventure of the Spectacled Band,” Watney describes the mystery of a gang of Parisian cabbies as “The Adventure of the Taxi Drivers’ Métier.”  Honestly, I was laughing and rolling my eyes at the same time.

The two men live at 221-B Bagel Street (truly) on the second floor of Mrs. Essex’s boarding house.  While trying to get to the location of the house featured in “The Adventure of the Artist’s Mottle,” Homes and Watney need to decide what train to take.  “There is a train that runs on even days that fall on odd dates,” Watney complains.  “Besides, it has the notation M-W-F listed above, which I frankly do not understand.”  “Milk, Wine, Food,” replied Homes curtly.  “It has a combination restaurant car and bar, is all.”

“But that one is annotated T-T-S,” Watney continues.  “What can that mean, Homes?”  “Most probably, Tewksbury Temperance Society, indicating that on that train the bar is closed,” is Homes’ thoughtful explanation.  Who wouldn’t come to that same conclusion?

With the brilliant introduction by Anthony Boucher, for whom the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention is named, the reader is swept away into the nineteenth-century world of telegrams, hansom cabs, and veiled women.  Boucher is quick to point out Fish’s other, more serious achievements–winning the 1962 Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America for the best first novel of the year (The Fugitive), penning police procedural short stories and novels, and his completion of Jack London’s unfinished The Assassination Bureau, Ltd., in which Boucher contends it’s impossible to detect any difference between the writings of London and Fish.

In his closing paragraph, Boucher writes, “Robert L. Fish, I am by now pretty thoroughly convinced, can do anything….but I shall never forgive him if his unpredictably assorted output does not continue to include, from time to time, a fresh triumph/fiasco of Schlock Homes.”

I will leave you with this from Robert L. Fish:  “Author’s note:  The characters in this book are all real, and any similarity to fictional characters is strictly coincidental.”  Want to have a feel-good hour or two?  Start reading The Adventures of Schlock Homes asap.

Our MYSTERY MAVEN Marilyn Brooks

I’ve always been a reader and, starting with “Nancy Drew” (my favorite, of course), I became a mystery fan.  I think I find mysteries so satisfying because there’s a definite plot to follow, a storyline that has to make sense to be successful, and, of course, there’s always the fun of trying to guess the ending!

 

My blog, published every Saturday, can be found at:   www.marilynsmysteryreads.com.

DECEMBER TECH TALK WITH JOHN RUDY: SOME INTERESTING WEBSITES

Some Interesting Websites

I always enjoy being educated and amused.  Here are a few websites that you should be aware of due to their huge amount of interesting data.  My favorite is Netflix, but that costs about $10/month, and I’ll only discuss free items here.

  1. Stumble Upon https://www.stumbleupon.com/

When you first go to this site, it asks if you want to become a member and then gives you a wide variety of subject areas to choose that represent your interests.  It asks for 10, but you can provide fewer, and the list of options is enormous.  Don’t worry about picking them perfectly; they are easy to change.  Once you provide some other information, like your name, you are ready to go.  A few times a week, you’ll receive email with links to about four articles that are chosen because StumbleUpon thinks you will find them interesting.  There are thumbs-up and thumbs-down icons on each article, and if you click on one, you are telling the system that, in fact, you enjoyed (or did not enjoy) what it provided.  This will further identify your interests.  I find that about 50% of what it now sends me is very interesting.  Articles are short, usually about 2 pages.

2.  IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. These two sites provide insight into movies and TV. Rotten Tomatoes https://www.rottentomatoes.com/ aggregate reviews, categorizes them as positive or negative, and then averages them.  They provide two scores: one based on general viewers, and the other bsed on professional reviewers.  I have learned that my preferences frequently do not align well with the professionals.  The site also allows you to purchase tickets.

IMDB is similar though it has a lot more information on the movie and links to all the directors, cast, etc.  I always check both when considering whether to watch a movie on TV. http://www.imdb.com/  IMDb also provides, if available, show times and the ability to purchase tickets.

  1. Youtube is one of my favorite sites and I use it all the time. I decided to see if he movie Gladiator was available there for free.  Frequently movies are noyt, but in this case it was https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XwEWOro5o7Y.   Last year I considered buying tickets for a concert and there was a piece of modern music on the program.  I suspected that I wouldn’t like it and worried that it was going to be long.  So I did a YouTube search, found it was 7 minutes, listened to it and enjoyed it, and bought the tickets’

I love the old tap dancing movies of Fred Astaire, Eleanor Powell, etc.  When you search for something on youtube, it then provides a set of links to similar material so that I can watch this for hours.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T45iRSvxaVM .

Then if you follow the links, you can find The Nicholas Brothers who I suspect most of you are not familiar with.  Here is a spectacular number of theirs https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKRm6H-qOU&index=2&list=RDEBqSBVxUKM4 .

Or see the Clark Brothers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNVDBH_z8VA&index=5&list=RDEBqSBVxUKM4

And I’ll leave this section with my favorite Triplets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjW_yvrC0cE .  This looks impossible but how did they do it? By balancing on artificial legs strapped to their knees, Fabray reports; they fell dozens of times before getting it right and relied on pain-killers.

  1. Find the best price for something. PriceGrabber http://www.pricegrabber.com/ and Google Shopping https://www.google.com/shopping .  Both sites look at hundreds of places to purchase a particular item and tell you the best on-line or brick-and-mortar location.  Obviously do this when you have decided what you want.  Using Price Grabber I did a search for a ream of copy paper and got back a pretty good deal.

Let me finish with something a bit creepy.   https://www.deadmansswitch.net/.   You write emails and store them.  Periodically the system will send you an email asking if you are alive.  If you do not respond then the system will send the emails.  Batter be careful if you change your email address, though!

“Tech Talk” writer John Rud

A long-time computer expert and guide, John provides his helpful hints in this monthly BOLLI Matters feature.  In the comment box below, provide questions or comments for John on any computer/tech topic .

john.rudy@alum.mit.edu (781-861-0402)