Sunday, July 08, 2018

Spring Meeting Report

The annual spring meeting of the Amateur Mendicant Society of Detroit took place on June 23, 2018 in familiar haunts – the British Commonwealth Club of Detroit in the bosky suburb of Warren, Michigan.

The society’s Gasogene John Kramb called the meeting to order at 6:44 p.m. and greeted the 50 Sherlockians in attendance. He also introduced the club’s officers and planning committee and welcomed guests, including those who had traveled from such far-flung cities as St. Joseph and Kalamazoo. Mich. and Columbus, Ohio.

He then borrowed from the Baker Street Irregulars and quoted from the Holmes’ story “His Last Bow” (“Stand with me here upon the terrace … “) to honor long-standing member Phil Jones who had recently passed away. Jones, a gentle and scholarly man, was known for his encyclopedic knowledge of The Canon and for cataloging over 11,000 Sherlockian pastiches.
Former Gasogene Roy Pilot then did the same for the club’s late Tantalus Ray Mandziuk and its late Tide-Waiter Walter Young. Mandziuk in particular had been instrumental in reorganizing the club in 1999 and helping to bring it out of one of its episodic hiatuses.

Next on the agenda were the customary toasts, to The Woman (by Regina Stinson), Mrs. Hudson (Michael Ellis), Mycroft Holmes (Bev Sobolewski) and Watson’s Second Wife (Chris Music). Glenn Walters also added a salutation for a character who only appears once in the Canon but without whose efforts we would know little (or nothing) of Holmes – that being Murray, the orderly of Dr. John Watson, who fortunately evacuated him back between British lines after Watson was wounded by a jezail bullet at the Battle of Maiwand during the Second Anglo-Afghan War in 1880.
Glasses drained, the assembly then settled down to a fine dinner of chicken Kiev, ginger pork, a summer salad and the accompaniments.

With the room soon sated, Chris Jeryan walked the crowd through the talking points of the night’s story, “The Adventure of the Six Napoleons,” which started with what looked like a case of simple vandalism but actually involved a jewel heist, the Mafia and murder.

As a curious sidelight, Pilot then explained that he had in his collection a letter from Arthur Conan Doyle, who had served as Watson’s literary agent. The letter discussed how Doyle had invested in a machine that made exact copies of small sculptures – just a few months before he wrote “The Six Napoleons,” a tale that revolved around duplicate copies of busts of the late French emperor.
There was also an attempt to show a brief film clip of “The Six Napoleons” from the Jeremy Brett-as-Sherlock TV series but alas, the sound system briefly failed, no doubt through the evil efforts of one of the late Prof. Moriarty’s minions.

Fortunately, the evening was saved thanks to a stellar presentation by Brad Schwartz entitled “The Great Detectives: How Sherlock Holmes Inspired Eliot Ness.”  Schwartz, whose book on Ness and Al Capone, (“Scarface and the Untouchable”) is coming out in August, also offered a toast – to his father Denny, whose birthday was the following day and who had introduced him to the tales of the original Great Detective years ago.

Among the fascinating revelations in his presentation, he detailed the G-man’s childhood love of the Holmes’ adventures, more than half of which were first published during Ness’ formative years. And he concluded that while both Holmes and Ness represented new kinds of detectives, while Capone could reasonably be considered a 1920s Chicago version of the London crime boss Moriarty.
Next, George Vanderburgh alerted the crowd to that fact that the play “The Hound of the Baskervilles” is being presented now through October 28 at the Shaw Festival in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada. As in the original adventure, it’s a mystery –-- to die for. Theater-goers can get discounted tickets by using the code “conference 18.”

Gasogene Kramb also told the crowd that the next meeting of the Mendicants would be in late September/early October at the Polish-American Cultural Center in Troy. Watch for details in late August or early September.

As the evening was winding down, it was time to do the drawing for this meeting’s door prizes, which included proof copies of Brad’s book (“Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness and the Battle for Chicago”), an English tea set, a Sherlockian puzzle case and a Baker Street book. The winners included Bobbi Gorevitz, Michael Locke, Dan Pilot, Brigit Locke, Douglas Bianchi and Sam Stinson.

Then, Anne Musial and Patience Nauta led the group in the traditional singing of “God Save the Queen,” Tantalus Rob Musial recited the poem “221B” and Kramb gaveled the meeting to a close at 9:37 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,
Rob Musial, AMS Tantalus