The annual fall meeting of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit brought 45 erstwhile Sherlockians together to the Station 855 Restaurant near the train tracks that bisect the bucolic suburb of Plymouth, Michigan.
Calling the meeting to order at 1:37 p.m. was the society’s Gasogene, John Kramb, who welcomed the throng and introduced the board members, including two new appointed officers, Bev Ellis (Tidewaiter) and Bobbi Gorevitz (Lascar). Kramb also welcomed guests and first-time visitors Jerry Kelly, Rachel Gosch and Lisa Franks, her sister Beverly and mother Mary.
With that, the grateful crowd settled into the afternoon’s repast -- bistro steak medallions with zip sauce, chicken Marsala with caramelized onions and sautéed mushrooms or broiled Lake Superior whitefish topped with a sun-dried cherry brandy cream sauce. Each of these was accompanied by roasted herbed potatoes, vegetables, salad and a chocolate mousse dessert.
The meal also brought the Mendicant’s traditional toasts. Scott Monty, who oversees the podcast “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere” (ihearofsherlock.com) made the first salutation, to The
Woman, in the poetic style of legendary broadcaster Charles Osgood who had just retired. Next, Bev Ellis toasted the “ever-patient” and long-suffering landlady Mrs. Hudson; Rob Musial stepped in to toast Sherlock’s “older and smarter brother” Mycroft Holmes and Ed Stein raised his glass to Watson’s Second Wife (and no doubt the best).
In addition, longtime member Jerry “Red” Alvin offered his customary additional toast. Noting that Jimmy Cagney once got a starring movie role because of his red hair, Alvin saluted the late millionaire from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Ezekiah Hopkins, who so bountifully provided for the maintenance of the Red-Headed League.
Next, Michael Ellis briefly went over the discussion points of the day’s story, “The Adventure of the Lion’s Mane,” a story chosen mostly because football season had started again (with the Detroit Lions off to their usual dismal start, with one win and two losses by the end of that afternoon).
Anyway, Ellis documented the facts of the story, which in itself is notable for offering a clear picture of Holmes in retirement and because Holmes himself is the narrator, leaving many to maintain that the story suffers for Watson’s absence. In his examination, Ellis detailed some of the questions left by the story, from the evidence of the folded towel to the all-too-convenient locating of exactly the right book of outdoors (and seaside) creatures. Be that as it may, The Master again solved the mystery and all was right with the world, provided you weren’t Fitzroy McPherson, his fiancé, Maude Bellamy or his dog.
The height of the proceedings came as member Glenn Walters then presented his well-researched paper, “The Sherlockian Pastiche: Prevalent or Passé?” Sprinkling his talk with alliteration, Walters gave examples that were pure or pathetic, with the able assistance of Commissionaire Chris Music manning a small spotlight as a visual aid, no doubt to illuminate the brighter points. Walters related how he had read his first Holmes’ stories in elementary school, thanks to a Bookmobile librarian.
But the enduring popularity of the character (Holmes, not the librarian) has spurred a continuing growth industry in authors penning new tales, some good and some not-so. The problem, Walters said, was too often the new stories miss the spirit of Watson as the narrator, fail to adhere to the Canon of original tales, rely too much on other well-known personalities of that era and try to shoehorn Holmes into decidedly sci-fi or supernatural stories. In conclusion, Walters said that while Sherlockians can never get enough of their heroes, the original Holmes, Watson, Mycroft, Moriarty, Irene Adler, Mrs. Hudson et al can never be duplicated.
As the meeting wound down, Gasogene Kramb told the assembled members and guests that the next Mendicant meeting would be Saturday evening, January 21, 2017 at the Commonwealth Club in Warren. That is the society’s traditional gathering to celebrate a new year, old friends and Holmes’ birthday.
Next, the regular prize drawing overseen by Anne Musial produced several winners of Sherlockian books and trinkets, among them Bob Jurva, Lois Krawczyk, Donna Garrant, Natalie Katkowsky, Mary Proberhof, Rachel Gosch and Bobbi Gorevitz.
Then the throng rose to sing the traditional “God Save the Queen,” followed by the customary reading of “221B” by Chris Music. And with that, the meeting adjourned at 4:07 p.m.