He. Does there have to be a he? It seems weak and unoriginal doesn’t it, for stories told by girls to always have a he?” ―
Somewhere a chicken is roasting as I can clearly smell its deliciousness. Well, it’s in the Estate kitchen, obviously. With sage, rosemary and lots of roasted garlic. And fatty bacon slathered over it as well. I’m guessing that it, along with several others, is intended for a soup pot later this afternoon along with lots of tasty veggies.
In the meantime I know that Mrs. Ware has been making use of the Ghirardelli Chocolate Cookbook to make really fudgy chocolate brownies that are truly awesome with a glass of that really amazing chocolate milk that she’s been making lately.
So it’ll be all Holmes related material this time for our book reviews this time because that’s what tickles my fancy. Now the culinary section is all chocolate related as it often with items drawn from our Archives. And I’d write of a review of that bottle of Bicerin Italian Chocolate Liqueur made with hazelnuts that came in, if I could ever get it back from Iain – though I’m expecting it’ll be empty soon…
Craig starts us off with a tasty buffet including offerings from from the Firesign Theatre and Michael Moorcock: ‘No doubt Sherlock Holmes will continue to be the subject of more literary, audio, and even cinematic offerings for years to come, so we’ve no need to fear his disappearance any time soon. Personally, I prefer the old standards myself, but I’m always interested in a new voice’s interpretation of a mythic character. These offerings show just in how many ways he can be approached. Holmes is in our public consciousness now; we all own him, so why not have a little fun with him?’
Faith is next up with this tasty reference work: ‘Andrew Lycett puts Arthur Conan Doyle in context in The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes: The Life and Times of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, talking about his parents and grandparents and the circles they moved in so as to explain the milieu into which he was born and the influences on his childhood. The advance copy has spaces for family trees and I’m sorry not to have had the benefit of them. Both sides of Conan Doyle’s family had a lot of interesting people in them, and a family tree would certainly make them easier to keep track of.’
Irene says of a slender volume by Dorothy Sayers on a subject dear to many of us: ‘These essays, as well as a transcription of an original radio play featuring a young Peter Death Bredon Wimsey and Sherlock Holmes, are reprinted in the slim volume by The Mythopoeic Press entitled Sayers on Holmes: Essays and Fiction on Sherlock Holmes. The essays are lovely examples of canonical scholarship and show Sayers’ skill as a detective and a scholar (for what is a true research scholar but a detective) as well as her undoubted skill as an entertaining author.’
J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec are the editors of Gaslight Grimoire: Fantastic Tales of Sherlock Holmes of which Kage says, ‘All in all, Gaslight Grimoire is well worth picking up if you enjoy lighting the fire, curling up in your armchair with a glass of sherry at your elbow in the gloom of a winter afternoon, and having a good Victorian-era read.’
Matthew has some Sherlockian fiction for us: ‘In Sherlock Holmes: A Duel with the Devil, Roger Jaynes has added another leaf to the immense Holmesian corpus. In this slim volume, Jaynes provides Holmes fans with three mysteries tied together by the character of Holmes’ archnemesis, Moriarty. In ‘The Case of the Dishonoured Professor’, Holmes and Watson labor to remove scandal from an academic’s reputation. In ‘The Case of the Baffled Courier’, they turn their attention to good smuggling. The final mystery, ‘Moriarty’s Fiendish Plan’, is half the book’s length and pulls out all the stops, bringing in most all the trademark Holmesian mystery elements: a secret code, deception, and of course, Moriarty, not to mention Watson attempting to murder Holmes.’
Wat er next a neat Sherlockian reference work for us: ‘Mike Foy’s The Curious Book of Sherlock Holmes Characters is a new incarnation of a rather old concept. It is a full alphabetical concordance of the many characters and personages to appear or be mentioned in the original Sherlock Holmes tales by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In a tried and true formula, attempting to stand out can be difficult, and Foy finds clever ways to do so.’
Next up for him is one is one in which Holmes isn’t a character: Tales of Scotland Yard: Lestrade is a most entertaining volume, and speaks well to publisher Orange Pip Books and author Bianca Jenkins. There is a mystery, and a carefully and considered investigation. Easy to recommend as a short and easy, if not particularly light, read. This review has failed until this line to mention Sherlock Holmes, and has done so because the book stands well enough entirely apart.’
He’s got some offbeat Holmes for us next: ‘Dorothy Elllen Palmer’s Wiggins: Son of Sherlock is not for anyone looking to read a Sherlockian story as it is known. It is not a traditional Watsonian tale, nor even one of the more common variations upon reinventon. It is a well written reinvention and reexamination of the classic concepts and characters. Certainly worth a look to someone a bit tired of standard Sherlock Holmes pastiche, me, someone wishing for surprises. It is well told, and a reader will look forward to seeing what else Dorothy Ellen Palmer creates.’
He wraps up our Holmesian reviews with a look at a (relatively) slim volume of Sherlockian scholarship: ‘A difficulty for most Sherlockian scholars is getting their hands on much of the wealth of older material. One reprint anthology that aids in this a great deal is Philip A. Schreffler’s Sherlock Holmes by Gas-Lamp, which contains a variety of materials from the Baker Street Journal from its first forty years of publication.’
Cat leads offs with a look at Diana’s Bananas’ Dark Chocolate Banana Babies: ‘OK, it’s way too cute a name, I’ll grant you, but once you meet them and taste them for the first time you’ll forgive the overly cute name, as they’re amazingly good. Diana’s Bananas’ Dark Chocolate Banana Babies are one of those snacks that are both an indulgent treat and, surprisingly, rather good for you, as I’ll detail shortly.’
Cat R. encounters chocolate of a different manner: ‘By the register little chocolate squares beckoned. Labeled, somewhat exotically, ‘Xocolatl de David’, there were three sorts, but the one that caught my eye read “72% Ecuadorian Chocolate with Black Truffles and Sea Salt.” Not a chocolate truffle, mind you, but the kind of truffle pigs sniff out of the woods in Italy and France. I surrendered to impulse and bought one.’
Ghirardelli’s Intense Dark Hazlenut Heaven Bar is a new favorite of Denise’s: ‘I’m always game for dark chocolate. Plus, I’m a sucker for hazelnuts (aka filbert, a name I absolutely love) in any form. So hello, combination of the two! Ghirardelli blends their premium chocolate with nicely minced nuts to create a bar that’s going onto my list of favorite scandies.’
Gary seems to have enjoyed a chocolate bar made from single-origin beans by a company based in Eureka, Calif. From his review, it sounds like a multi-media experience. ‘The bar is beautifully decorated in an incised pattern that resembles Islamic geometric tesserae.’
Jennifer flashes back to a consulting firm’s typing pool, where every birthday was celebrated with all that was good and fattening. This sour cream chocolate cake lives on long after its creator, alas, has left the red dust of earth.
Robert was a little ambivalent about Trader Joe’s Organic Dark Chocolate PB&J Minis, but decided that, on the whole, they’re a plus: ‘I don’t know if I’ll go searching for these at my local Trader Joe’s, but they are a nice treat if you’re in the mood for PB&J and don’t feel like making a sandwich. And the chocolate is a plus. But be warned: it occurs to me that it would be very easy to work through a whole bag without realizing it.’
Craig has a choice Sherlock film for us: ‘Nicholas Meyer adapted The Seven-Per-Cent Solution from his own novel, and he and director Herbert Ross turn out a fine Holmes pastiche. The book is even better, capturing the language as well as the different mannerisms of the characters. Meyers’ other outings were not as successful and can be skipped, but this one is a must-see (and read) for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s best-known creation.’
Barb very much enjoyed an album of Icelandic folk music, Bára Grímsdóttir’s Funi. ‘Each of the 18 songs on Funi has something very special to offer. The variety is refreshing. So often folk music albums have no dynamic or textural changes. Not so with Funi. And it accomplishes this without losing its focus on the singing. I also find the accompaniment exceptional for the way that it always supports that singing without getting boring.’
Gary explored Volume 11 in the Naxos World Folk Music of China series, Folk Songs Of The Dai And Hani Peoples: ‘The music of this region could hardly be more different from that presented in Vol. 9, Folk Songs of the Uzbeks & Tatars of China, Turkic peoples in China’s far west, whose culture and music are closer to those of the Central Asian republics than to Han China. You won’t mistake the music on Vol. 11 for anything other than East Asian.’
Mike reviews a concert recording by Jez Lowe & The Bad Pennies, Northern Echoes: Live On The Tyne. ‘There is a perceptible warmth that permeates Lowe’s lyrics, demonstrating empathy and gentle humour, whilst painting vivid portraits of the characters and their livelihoods that fill his songs. A more palpable warmth is captured in the exquisite quality of this live recording.’
Music festivals are getting set to resume in one form or another, so we looked through the archives for some past examples. Peter very much enjoyed the Chester Folk Festival he attended: ‘As festivals go, Chester Festival may not be biggest, but it must surely take the prize for one of the best thought-out festivals on the calendar. It has something going on most hours of the day between 11 a.m. and midnight for three days, and importantly, all the venues are within yards of the main stage marquee making it easy walking distance.’
Peter also greatly enjoyed the English folk trio Isambarde’s Living History. The three young musicians all sing and play multiple instruments as well. ‘So, what’s the music like? In short, bloody marvellous! Isambarde have re-worked and breathed fresh life into another collection of mainly traditional songs such as ‘The Outlandish Knight’, ‘Ye Mariners All’, ‘The Maid On The Shore’, ‘Just As The Tide Was Flowing’ and ‘Annan Waters’, to name but a few.’
From the archives this time we delve into francophone music from Canada and the United States. Gary kicks things off with a twofer of Genticorum’s La Bibournoise and Le Vent du Nord’s live album Mesdames et Messieurs!: ‘Genticorum plays Quebecois music that displays its connections to Celtic folk music more than most, due largely to the presence of flute on many tunes,’ he notes. And of Mesdames et Messieurs! he says: ‘This is Quebecois music as it was intended, fast, hot and sweaty and live, with a partisan crowd dancing and cheering at the lip of the stage. Wish I’d been there!’
Speaking of Le Vent du Nord, Gary also listened to their followup studio album: ‘On La Part de Feu they incorporate a few ideas from other avenues of world music, particularly Celtic and American roots, that they’ve picked up on tour. But mostly, they continue to do what they’ve always done, perform traditional French Canadian music with an ear toward modern sounds.’
Gary also will tell us about two discs from Quebec: Reveillons!’s Quiquequoidontou? and Belzébuth’s Les Pèches du Diable. ‘Both of these albums are superb and highly entertaining examples of contemporary Quebecois folk music. Both include lyrics and more information (in French) in the liner notes. Though self-produced and released, both are solidly professional products.’
Gary heads south for an album by a boundary-pushing group from Louisiana. ‘Grand Isle, the 11th album by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys, continues to push southern Louisiana’s Cajun and Creole music in new directions while remaining solidly rooted in tradition.’
Finally, Richard takes a deep dive into Le Vent Du Nord’s Les Amants Du Saint-Laurent and La Volute’s Descendez A Gaspé, and he notes both are primarily dance music. Of the former, he says, ‘Not only the instrumental pieces and passages but also most of the songs are danceable, with the foot-tapping and step dancing to encourage listeners to start moving their own feet’; while of the latter, ‘Most of the tracks again follow the Québecquois tradition by being eminently danceable even when they are songs rather than instrumentals, and there is again much unison singing.’
The Austin, Texas folk fusion group Ley Line recorded a song about the importance of water, the day before a record-breaking storm cut off power and water to millions across the Lone Star State in February. It’s a lovely song all in Spanish with rich harmony vocals and minimalist percussion, called “En Busca del Agua,” and sales benefit Austin Youth River Watch, an organization working to protect and conserve water in Central Texas.
That looks like it for today, so for our Coda we have a special video presentation by The Lonely Lockdown Consort, a.k.a. early music specialist Jude Rees, formerly of the superb folk trio Isambarde. She presents several versions of herself performing “A Round of 3 Country Dances” spliced with “A canon for four voices” plus hurdy-gurdy and two crumhorns. Very creative!