Saturday, August 28, 2010
11:00 a.m.

Hedberg Public Library Public Meeting Room

Vicki Clark, Ron Del Ciello, Linda Fredell, Resa Haile, Elaine Khan, Gayle Lange Puhl, John Richter, Jean Youmans

James Haile

Resa provided the quiz and Victor Rufer, who was unable to attend, nonetheless provided a crossword puzzle related to the story. Gayle answered the most questions correctly, but she abstained from prizes for the very good reason that she had provided them. Ron took first place, with Jean in second, and Elaine and Linda tied for third.

Gayle recently attended “The Spirits of Sherlock Holmes” conference in Minnesota, and she presented her report on the experience. Resa read her original paper, “Upon the Difference Between Admiration and Love: Some Remarks on Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler” and also read a poem, “Watson’s Mournful Reveries” by Harlan L. Umansky, which appeared in the February 1997 issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. She read Victor’s notes on Holmes and Adler, as he was not present.

Jean said she found Holmes to be sexist and she was mad at him in this story. John asked if all men of the time weren’t sexist. Resa asked what specifically Jean found annoying. Jean said, “He underestimates. What irritates me is his cockiness.” Linda said, “He gave it away with the fire.” Gayle noted that “Conan Doyle was not a man who believed in suffragettes.” Resa noted that he did, however, work for reforms of the divorce laws, which were very unfair to women, and that one of his daughters was a suffragette. There was a discussion of the rights, or lack thereof, for women in the nineteenth century and how women many prostitutes were married women who had been thrown out by their husbands. Gayle pointed out that if a married woman wrote a book, the money went to her husband. Resa said that this was used by Carole Nelson Douglas in her series of books in which Irene Adler was the protagonist, as this had happened to Godfrey Norton’s mother.

Ron said he thought that Holmes’ plan was less than stellar. “Irene Adler’s a pretty smart lady. Who’s gonna fall for a [plumber’s] rocket and red paint?” He said he enjoys the stories, but not necessarily for the plot as much as for the “characterization, the atmosphere.”

Resa said it was interesting how the descriptions of the yellow fog seemed so romantic, but that the fog was yellow because of the high sulfur content. Gayle said she was reading a book called Lost on Planet China, which talked about the pollution problems there (among other things). Elaine, who is from China originally, offered some first-hand observations on this.

John observed that the stories were absolutely straightforward about Holmes’ cocaine use. Resa noted it was not illegal at the time. Gayle said there was a theory that Holmes had been introduced to it by his dentist after his left canine was knocked out in Charing Cross Station.

Vicki said the story was “definitely Holmes.” She liked the ending, which she thought was unexpected. “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had me until the very end. . . . I’ve seen it before, but reading the story really intensified it.”

Elaine had some thoughts on the story. She said that Holmes had the idea the King would do something worse if he didn't take the case. Irene Adler was warned about Holmes and Adler and Norton already planned to leave, so she had some preparation. The strangers on the street and everything Holmes set up with the weird things happening, one would believe on the spot, but then would wonder (as Adler did). Elaine felt that Adler did research on Holmes when she was warned about him. Since she was an actress herself, she knew all the tricks. “Sherlock can pretend with costume and disguise, but so can she. She is smart.” Unlike the previous two stories, this one mentioned money. Sherlock Holmes had a little arrogance towards the King. Elaine felt the King was “kinder than perceived.” It was not that easy for a King to marry someone at a lower level; he had to deal with the whole country. It would have been easy for someone in his position to have her killed, but he chose to go to Sherlock Holmes instead.

Gayle wondered if this might be the earliest intimation of Moriarty. Did he see her on the dark side because she was an adventuress and warn her about Holmes? (This was a new theory that Gayle thought of on the spot, and a very interesting one.) Resa mentioned that their were two schools of thought on what “the late Irene Adler” meant: either that she was dead at the time Watson records this adventure or that she was no longer Irene Adler because she was now Irene Norton. Resa preferred the second theory but had also read a theory that the King had caught up with Irene at last. If he did so, she added, perhaps he used Moriarty as his “consulting criminal.”

There was some discussion of the new Sherlock Holmes series and the longevity of Holmes. Gayle noted, “Conan Doyle underestimated Holmes as much as Holmes underestimated Irene Adler.”

A CASE OF IDENTITY—September 25, 2010, 11 a.m.

Minutes prepared by Resa Haile.

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