Comments: 7
That sounds like a great Friday night ritual!

Curiously, "The Stockbroker's Clerk" was one of the first Holmes stories I read, and it has always stuck in my mind. You're right of course in that "The Red-Headed League" is so much more polished (and I like it the better for that); yet, in all its imperfection this is one I am partial to, perhaps just because it's a bit closer to what might actually happen to someone falling for a P.T. Barnum-style stunt than the "red-headed league" stunt.

Btw, I repeatedly had the same sense of déjà vu reading Baroness Orczy's "Old Man in the Corner" stories these past couple of days, and I, too, wondered about how her original readership might have responded to this. The plots may differ, but the structure of the stories is always the same, and so is -- in almost every single story -- the central plot device. Obviously it makes a difference whether you read 12 stories in a row or one story per week (or every two weeks, or whatever), but still, even if the intervals are longer, there's no way you can miss it. And yet, her stories were immensely popular ... until, that is, she made the fateful mistake of including coroner's proceedings in a mystery set in Glasgow. :D
BrokenTune 4 years ago
The imperfection of this story certainly does not spoil the enjoyment. It may be that it just fades when compared to TRHL.

How was OMITC? I haven't read it, yet, and now am looking forward to it with mixed feelings about the Glaswegian mystery.
Have you read her Lady Molly of Scotland Yard series?
"Lady Molly" is still on my TBR. The "Old Man in the Corner" stories are amusing, and considering that they're among Orczy's very first literary output, they're even pretty good -- looking at each one individually, you'd never guess that these were part of what she cut her teeth with as a writer. It probably just wasn't a good idea on my part to read all 12 of them (in the edition that I have) back to back, because that way it's impossible to miss her favorite gimmick -- after a while I started to look out for it, and for how she'd be setting it up this time around. (It's something that's central to "The Scarlet Pimpernel, too, btw.; she clearly was learning how to handle this particular feature in these stories, too.)

The "coroner" thing isn't actually a detraction to the mystery as such in the Glasgow story, btw, and she could as easily have used the (correct) procurator fiscal proceedings instead; to the flow of the story, it wouldn't have made any difference at all. But the public reaction to her mistake explains a bit in Sayers's "Five Red Herrings" that might otherwise come across as purposeless showing off on Wimsey's part, where he says something to the effect of "... when you talk to your coroner -- oops, no, you haven't got such a thing, to your procurator fiscal, of course ..." Probably this is an allusion to her fellow Detection Club founder member's experience.
Murder by Death 4 years ago
I can imagine (and I'm just imagining of course) that the Holmes/Watson ritual at the start of each story might have had its purpose in serialisation. As you say, people probably looked forward to reading them each week (month?), and the opening scene so often used in every story, probably became almost pavlovian for the readers - it put them 'in the scene' immediately; that familiarity made it easer to lose themselves in whatever adventure was coming.

I don't know if that made sense or not... my head is all stuffy. All I know is I can open any short Holmes story and not have to work to 'be there', and I suspect a lot of that is the formulaic way he opens each story. :)
BrokenTune 4 years ago
It made complete sense.

The opening, especially when it starts with something like "I was on my way home and decided to visit 221B...", does instantly transport you there. No need to describe the location or atmosphere, no need to go into introductions of characters etc. as each story builds to create the Holmesian world - and of course, readers in ACD's time reading The Strand (or Mrs Beaton's for some of the early stories) would already be familiar with the Victorian England that Holmes and Watson inhabit, so there is no need to "set the scene". In a way, this is where some "sequels" or "fan-fic" falls down for me, too. They try too hard by adding background and description which they feel they need to because it corresponds to the idea that a Victorian setting oozes with atmosphere created by description, and which are probably helpful to modern readers, but which may actually increase my sense of the author "trying too hard" or "being inauthentic".
I am sure you are right about the original readers. It is like meeting up again with a friend, who tells you stories that might not be so different but it is the meeting and the exchange that is valuable and reassuring. And probably people would enjoy one more than another because of little details (a setting, some object they recognised or had used, a character that reminds them of somebody...). After all, people read fan fiction and watch TV series where the stories are pretty similar, but either they like the characters or enjoy not having to think too hard. I guess it is what genres are based on... But yes, the time frame must have made a difference (nowadays when we can watch a whole series in a few hours it is not the same...)
BrokenTune 4 years ago
I really like your analogy to meeting up with an old friend. That is definitely a part of the fun of reading it and of its structure. I'm not sure that I would say that all of the stories are easy to digest - last week's story, The Yellow Face, had a lot of content - issues of racism and attitudes towards people of colour on top of the actual mystery. Still, it helped that is was presented in the "comfort" of the familiar duos setting.