The Red Circle is Sherlock's home in Washington DC. Now in our seventh decade, we continue to celebrate his immortality and enjoy each other's company.
All are welcome to join us and share our interest in all things Sherlockian and Doylean.

Next Meeting

Friday, June 13, 2014
Hyatt Regency Bethesda
7400 Wisconsin Avenue, Bethesda, MD
Drinks at 6:00 -- Dinner at 7:00
Adventure of the Evening: The Sign of the Four
Featured Speaker: Ken McQuage
"Afloat in The Sign of the Four"




We Smell a Rat  One of your webmaster's behind-the-scenes duties is to monitor the performance of our website--the statistics that tell us how many of you visit, along with a host of other details. Buried in the blizzard of information is a list of the "search terms" people insert in their web browsers that bring them to The Red Circle. In March someone asked for "The Giant Rats of Sinatra Holmes Society."  Many Sherlockians will remember that in "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" Holmes says, "Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson; it was a ship which is associated with the Giant Rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared." The notion is so outlandish that it has been resurrected liberally in both Sherlockian and non-Sherlockian contexts, often in pastiches like the one by Bob Bishop shown above, and usually with a wink. Naturally, when we saw the substitution of Sinatra for Sumatra, it seemed likely that our internet researcher was alluding to the infamous Rat Pack, the legendary troupe of entertainment "bad boys" that included Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and other supporting players. Peter Blau reports that there is no Sherlockian group called "The Giant Rats of Sinatra" in his annals, but recalls that back in 1991 British Sherlockian Roger Johnson asked, "What is huge and furry, has vicious fangs, big ears and a long tail, and sings 'My Way'?" Of course the answer is "The Giant Rat of Sinatra." Roger not only remembers the joke, but adds that his wife Jean Upton memorialized it in a delightful drawing which she's kindly shared with us.


Meeting Notes from The Red Circle's March 14 meeting are available here.


A Tree Grows in England  The featured speaker at the Red Circle's March meeting was Alan Rettig, who gave a well-received presentation called "My Sherlockian Family Tree." In it, Alan discussed the intersections between his recently-completed research on his mother's family and the world of Sherlock Holmes. You can read the illustrated text of "My Sherlockian Family Tree" here. (.pdf)


Sherlockianagrams  At the Red Circle's March meeting, members confronted a quiz devised by our own Dana Richards. It's a trove for anagram fans, based on the letters in the word Washington. Nobody completed the quiz in the limited time available at the meeting, so we're converting it to a "take-home" test for those at the meeting and those who download it here. There will be prizes for the first four correct and complete solutions e-mailed  to Peter Blau. Your webmaster believes that this challenge is even more formidable than the classic Frank V. Morley crossword distributed at our holiday party. Good luck. The winners and the solution will be revealed here in due course. You can download and print the Washington Mix-ups anagram quiz here. (.pdf)


The New Sherlockians  At our June meeting, Red Circle members Cindy Coppock, Nea Dodson and Lynne Stephens gave a summary of the first annual 221B Con in Atlanta. They reported that the April conclave drew 643 attendees, which exceeded expectations by a factor of six. It drew media attention too, with Mo Rocca of CBS Sunday Morning shooting a segment at the festivities. After a nine month gestation, the piece finally aired on January 19. It's a lovely tribute to Holmes and to a new generation of devotees, and proof positive that the great detective--and his appeal--are ageless. You can view Mo Rocca's piece here.


Sherlock Resurrected   Well, now we know how Holmes snapped back to life! Maybe. The premiere of the third series of Sherlock films made us understand that the way Holmes survived his fall is less important than the effect it had on the friendship between the detective and the doctor. And we take comfort in knowing that any explanation is no less plausible than surviving a tumble into a Swiss waterfall. Those who enjoyed the new film, along with the excellent half-hour documentary that followed, may also be interested in the "extras" currently available online. The most formidable is an hour-long documentary about the Sherlock phenomenon, called Unlocking Sherlock. Far more than the standard "making of" fare, Unlocking Sherlock puts the Sherlock series in a proper historical context and gives us insights into the thinking of the producers and the cast. Their devotion to Sherlock Holmes--past and present--helps explain the consistent high quality of the films. You can watch it right here. And if that weren't enough, the BBC has also given us a tantalizing seven-minute teaser for the new series called "Many Happy Returns," which is available here, plus a discussion between producers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, which you'll find here. Happy viewing!


Sherlock Holmes character and most story elements may be used freely in US  Many Sherlockians have followed with interest the federal lawsuit brought against the Conan Doyle Estate by the well known Sherlockian, author and attorney, Leslie S. Klinger. Klinger contended that since the 50 Holmes tales published before January 1,1923 are no longer covered by copyright in the United States, the use of the characters and plot elements in those stories are not subject to rights payments. On December 23 an Illinois federal district judge found in favor of Klinger, ruling that all elements in the pre-1923 stories may be used freely without paying licensing fees to the Estate. Klinger did not challenge the protected status of the ten remaining stories, which are still covered by US copyrights that will expire over the next decade. Klinger's suit marks the first time the Estate's position requiring payment for use of the elements in the pre-1923 stories has been challenged. The Estate is appealing the judgment. Full details are at Klinger's website here, and in a New York Times story here.


A Canonical Crossword  Everyone at the December Red Circle meeting received a copy of the world's first Sherlock Holmes crossword puzzle, published by Christopher Morley in his column "The Bowling Green" in the Saturday Review of Literature on May 19, 1934. Back then it was used as a test to be passed for acceptance into membership in the Baker Street Irregulars. The puzzle was devised by his brother Frank V. Morley, without recourse to the Canon, and there were very few people who solved it correctly. Nor have many solved it correctly since without looking up some of the answers. A printable pdf file of the puzzle (and the clues) is available here, and the solution can be found here.


  • Scuttlebutt: One Fixed Point in a Changing Age  Our own Peter Blau's monthly Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press has endured for more than four decades, and has a permanent home right here on our website. It's the most remarkable collection of Sherlockian news and notes anywhere, and your webmaster recommends a monthly visit. The very latest edition is available now, as are past numbers. It's just a click away--use the "Scuttlebutt" button at the top of the page.
  • Be an Inner Circle Contributor We welcome submissions from all quarters for this page. Please direct materials to the webmaster, alan@redcircledc.org
  • For earlier, archived items from The Inner Circle, click here.