The Game is not afoot and the Better-Ever-Day World of 1895 is gone, even hard to recall as WWI ends. From his rural cottage, Holmes no longer provokes Scotland Yard’s envy or his landlady’s impatience, but neither is he content with the study of bees.
Welcome to the August 17th stop on the blog tour for Tour for Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton with Goddess Fish Promotions (and come back next Tuesday, August 24th, for my review stop on the review tour!) Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for spotlights, author guest posts & interviews, and a giveaway! More on that at the end of this post.
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Author Guest Post
Something Unexpected and a Bit Odd Smelling on the Way to My Book
An unexpected, tattered, and a bit odd smelling thing happened on the way to my book, Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable. Stacks of Victorian media, mostly magazines and newspapers found on eBay, made a home atop my upright piano. There’s The Lady’s Realm, featuring advice, short bio articles, and fashion, and Punch, for satire, politics and cartoons on every page. I have The Pall Mall Gazette and six copies of The London Illustrated, a newspaper featuring finely drawn sketches on most pages. I collected more than a year’s worth of The Strand, in which Arthur Conan Doyle published the first Holmes stories. Of course, I resorted to reliable sources for research, but there’s nothing like holding that venerable 100+-year-old artifact, and leafing gingerly through its pages. History books might provide information, but the articles in The Pall Mall Gazette, the old newspaper personals, the advertisements, the drawings and photos offer something otherwise unattainable: an opportunity to put oneself in the place of that long gone reader. It’s a rare chance to measure the differences and similarities between that person and myself.
Below, I’ve chosen to share the gist of one quirky article from an 1897 Gazette about “Peculiar Occupations”—with a couple snarky interruptions by me. It seems the Victorians loved to learn about oddities, and “one-offs” as much as we do.
The Black Eye Artist
Tools employed by Mr. Clarkson include greasepaint of two colors, lily powder, and carmine. The unaffected eye is painted to match the “made up” injured eye. Process takes half an hour and lasts one week.
Mr. Clarkson provides examples of patron predicaments:
- A solicitor wants a black eye painted out before entering court.
- Two women, who ought have know better, fought as they entered Buckingham Palace drawing room.
- A man had a black eye painted out one night; came back the next for the other.
- Angry wife threw a book at spouse, but missed. He asked Mr. Clarkson to have a black eye painted in to elicit remorse.
Professional Height Increaser
M. Binet is a professional height increaser employing two methods:
Method one involves plush covered pads, which can be moved from shoe pair to pair. Method two is accomplished with special boots, which M. Binet explains can raise you as far as SIX INCHES. (Both of these wily tricks continue in use to this day, though no one seems to claim this occupation on current tax forms.) Who are M. Binet’s customers?
- Police and others in uniform, such as Army officers
- Footmen (to whom stature is “everything,” according to the Gazette)
- Barristers, Churchmen, Members of Parliament
- Women who want their feet to appear smaller. Raising the instep does this, according the M. Binet.
(Small feet no longer seem such a prize, but some do take trouble for height in 2021.)
One customer related that he left his pads in his boots when he put them outside his hotel room door for polishing. Alas, they returned minus the pads. Customer was too embarrassed to complain. M. Binet’s moral of the story? KEEP DUPLICATE PAIRS!
Mr. Seaward supplies horses for funeral processions, as undertakers do not keep horses but hire them. In London in 1897, population 6.7 million, there are 900 hundred horses who do part time duty for funerals.
- Funeral horses are those imported from the Netherlands. They are “stately, feisty and expensive.”
- Horses are dark. White fetlocks are painted black.
- Occasionally, a no-tailed Dutch Black is used and a composite horse created. A tail is strapped on for the funeral and removed later so that the horse can return to taking people to and from theaters.
As we know, another peculiar occupation, Consulting Detective, was taken up by Mr. Sherlock Holmes of 221b Baker Street. His clients ranged from music teachers to dukes to pawn shop owners. He made a further claim, however, saying, “I suppose I am the only one.”
About the Book
Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable
by Susanne M. Dutton
Published 1 June 2021
Page Count: 140
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
The game is not afoot. The Better-Every-Day world of 1895 is gone, even hard to recall as WWI ends. From his rural cottage, Holmes no longer provokes Scotland Yard’s envy or his landlady’s impatience, but neither is he content with the study of bees. August 1920 finds him filling out entry papers at a nearly defunct psychiatric clinic on the Normandy coast. England’s new Dangerous Drugs Act declares his cocaine use illegal and he aims to quit entirely. Confronted by a question as to his “treatment goal,” Holmes hesitates, aware that his real goal far exceeds the capacity of any clinic. His scribbled response, “no more solutions, but one true resolution,” seems more a vow than a goal to his psychiatrist, Pierre Joubert. The doctor is right. Like a tiny explosion unaccountably shifting a far-reaching landscape, the simple words churn desperate action and interlocking mystery into the lives of Holmes’ friends and enemies both.
Holmes speaks, Watson answers:
“It’s clear, Watson, that you have come to trust this man, never mind your fancy knot work.” He let a hand rest briefly on Joubert’s shoulder, and then snatched it away. “The charade you two gentleman have just now performed causes me to question myself. You are evidently in collusion.”
I said, “We were that obvious?”
“I’m afraid so,” Holmes said. “In fact, when I have time, I will publish a monograph on what I will call ‘body language.’ Today’s performance will serve as a prime example. I watched you usher this Frenchman across the cottage—your hesitation, your caution lest you cause him the least pain, was evident. Your care was exactly as you would grant a lifelong patient going through a complicated procedure. You watched his every backward step, lest he trip. I noted the commiserating tilt of your head—and the lines of concern on your brow. Without a single word, you managed to signal your sympathy. To sum up, between the gun and the man you pointed it at, I detected at least a hundred yards worth of high-grade Watsonian scruple.
Holmes glared down at the top of Joubert’s head. “No doubt the entire Punch and Judy was your conception, Pierre, but you could not hide your concern for Watson, how you sought to assure him that it was all for a worthy purpose. Indeed, I saw you shudder and sweat, but you were in no fear for your life—in no dread of John Watson, at least. I submit to you both, that what I have witnessed just now was more a dance than an arrest.”
About the Author
Susanne Dutton is the one who hid during high school gym, produced an alternative newspaper and exchanged notes in Tolkien’s Elfish language with her few friends. While earning her B.A. in English, she drove a shabby Ford Falcon with a changing array of homemade bumper strips: Art for Art’s Sake, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Free Bosie from the Scorn of History. Later, her interests in myth and depth psychology led to graduate and postgraduate degrees in counseling.
Nowadays, having outlived her mortgage and her professional counseling life, she aims herself at her desk most days; where she tangles with whatever story she can’t get out of her head. Those stories tend to seat readers within pinching distance of her characters, who, like most of us, slide at times from real life to fantasy and back. A man with Alzheimer’s sets out alone for his childhood home. A girl realizes she’s happier throwing away her meals than eating them. A woman burgles her neighbors in order to stay in the neighborhood.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Susanne grew up in the SF Bay Area, has two grown children, and lives with her husband in an old Philadelphia house, built of the stones dug from the ground where it sits.
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