Saturday, March 26, 2011
11 a.m.

Hedberg Public Library Public Meeting Room

Vicki Clark, Tom Drucker, Resa Haile, Elaine Khan, Gayle Lange Puhl, Victor Rufer

James Haile


The quiz was presented by Victor with prizes provided by Tom. Gayle took first place, Resa second, and Tom third. Gayle reported that she recently gave a talk at the Menomonee Falls Public Library on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. She presented copies of A Practical Handbook of Bee Culture by Laurie R. King (writing as Sherlock Holmes) to the group. Resa read “The Date of The Red-Headed League” by Greg Darak, from The Baker Street Journal, December 1991.

Elaine reported on watching Matt Frewer as Holmes. A Royal Scandal combines “A Scandal in Bohemia” with “The Bruce-Partington Plans” and changes both stories considerably. Elaine was not favorably impressed and noted that they dropped the most important part of “A Scandal in Bohemia”—when Adler greets Holmes on the street. Elaine also thought Sherlock Holmes was portrayed as mean in the Matt Frewer series of movies.

Gayle noted that Holmes brought the pack of cards to the stakeout. Resa said he was thoughtful of the banker. Tom suggested that maybe he was planning on playing for money. Gayle said he liked whist and maybe always carried a pack of cards with him. Victor said, “I play whist. Simple game. Sometimes frustrating. Simple to learn, hard to master.”

Vicki said she liked how the story changed and progressed and how Conan Doyle brought in so many little things that the reader had to pay attention to—Holmes’ looking at the assistant’s knees had meaning later on. Gayle said that hunting is done in couples. There is an even number of dogs. Tom noted that there was honor among thieves in the story, which differed from Doyle’s representation of the aristocracy.

There was the question of what was done with the dirt from the tunnel. Gayle noted one theory is that it was taken away on a dray in wooden crates. The gold could also be taken away this way, in small bags. Gayle explained the worth of the gold in modern terms. Victor noted it took two to six months to work on the tunnel. Gayle said there was a similar bank robbery in France a year or so ago. The logistics of the robbery were discussed. Victor said it was necessary to dig down fairly deep to avoid a tunnel collapse.

Resa wondered about Holmes and John Clay. Holmes recognized Clay, but Clay didn’t recognize Holmes. When they met before, was Holmes in disguise? As the fourth-smartest man in London, could Clay have been one of the men who had previously beaten Holmes? Gayle said Holmes might not have directly met Clay. Tom questioned the meanings of the pierced ear would have in terms of the upper class or homosexuality. Gayle suggested rebellion.

Resa read two similar quotes and asked for comments. From The Red-Headed League: Jabez Wilson says, “Now, it is a fact, gentlemen, as you may see for yourselves, that my hair is of a very full and rich tint . . .” From The Copper Beeches: Violet Hunter states, “As you may observe, Mr. Holmes, my hair is somewhat luxuriant, and of a rather peculiar tint of chestnut.” Victor said when targeting someone, you pick out something peculiar to that person. Gayle said the hair color was integral to the League. Elaine noted that red hair is not really the color red. Gayle wondered if Jabez Wilson was dying his hair. Possibly he was homosexual and dying his hair to make himself attractive to younger men. The fourteen-year-old girl could have been an unwitting accomplice. Resa said that Wilson’s age is really subjective. It is Watson as a young man who is viewing Wilson as elderly. Some people don’t go grey as early as others. Elaine said it depended on the person. Her mother had black hair  at sixty, but at seventy, it was grey. Gayle thought maybe the events of the League would turn Wilson’s hair grey. In the Annotations, it is suggested that Clay’s “jump and I’ll swing for it” line might mean to swing himself back into the hole and escape, rather than swing as in hang. This bank robbery wasn’t a hanging crime. Resa noted that he had committed a hanging crime before, as he was “murderer, thief, smasher, forger.” Murder was a hanging crime. Perhaps this was when he crossed Holmes’ path before.

The question of why they dissolved the League before the crime was discussed. Resa noted that in another article Greg Darak wrote, it was Clay’s ego; he couldn’t stand listening to Wilson tell him to improve himself any longer. Gayle thought maybe Duncan put up the card without telling Clay. They might not have had enough time together when they were able to speak for Duncan to tell Clay.

Elaine wondered how heavy the gold was. There was some figuring, which led to a possible 1850 to 1875 pounds. Elaine said, “There must have been more members to the gang.” Gayle suggested that Moriarty might have hired out some helpers to Clay. It was not a standing-up tunnel, she noted. She felt Moriarty must have been involved, possibly in planning, providing drays, crates, and diggers, and that he would have received a cut of maybe 15 percent.

Resa had just read The Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock, which deals with boy Sherlock Holmes’ first case. There is a character in danger of hanging and it seems the hanging will take place very quickly after trial. Of course, that story takes place in the 1860s, but she wondered about the appeal process. Gayle said new evidence would go in front of the same judge who had tried the case, and he was unlikely to reverse himself. Doyle helped establish the British Court of Appeals. Gayle shared a pastiche idea she plans to write.


THE BOSCOMBE VALLEY MYSTERY—April 30, 2011, 11 a.m.

Minutes prepared by Resa Haile.

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