The South Downers literary society has been in existence since 1985. Our Altamont (Society Leader) is Phil Angelo and we meet once a month to discuss our appreciation for all things Sherlock Holmes. At each of our meetings, we discuss a chosen story, take a friendly quiz on the story, and discuss other topics pertinent to Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle over a delicious dinner.
Attention All Members!
The next meeting is planned to be held at Scrementi’s Restaurant. We plan to gather at 5:00 PM and watch the video on the case, with the meeting starting at 7:00 PM. The scheduled date is March 22nd The quiz in March will be on “The Cardboard Box" .
Our Altamont is Phil Angelo and his email is firstname.lastname@example.org and his phone number is 815-933-4935
Do you love to read a good mystery? Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote the best with his character of Sherlock Holmes! Come join us for dinner and lively discussion!
- We meet on the last Wednesday night of the month at 6:30. Currently, we meet via Zoom until quarantine is over. For future meetings, our location will change and that information will be posted here when it's decided. Members pay for their own dinners. Details about the time and date of our next meeting are shown on the right in the "Upcoming Meeting" section above.
- Annual membership fee is $20
*We encourage anyone interested in joining to meet us for dinner one night and see for yourself what our club is all about!
Traditions and Details...
We stand on the terrace to honor deceased members. It is a moment where we recall their friendship and contributions. We donate a copy of the Canon to the public library in their hometown as a memorial.
We have an annual Sherlock Holmes birthday party in January, that features an all-Canon quiz and birthday cake.
Most years we have a summertime picnic, with themed games.
Members are willing to give presentations on Sherlock Holmes free of charge for schools, libraries, service clubs and other literary societies. Just contact us in advance.
We have performed radio plays (where we read a script) and murder mysteries (where we stage a mystery) before. If you would like such a performance, please contact Phil Angelo at Philangelo@comcast.net.
Phil Angelo (Altamont) (Kankakee)
Connie Angelo (Kankakee)
Rachel Berg (Bala Cynwyd, PA
Bonnie Dinell-Dimon (Park Forest
Charlotte Fox (Flossmoor)
Val Hoski (York Springs, PA)
Bert Jacobson (Bourbonnais)
Jack Levitt (Homewood)
Deb Morgan (Grant Park)
Gerry Morgan (Grant Park)
Tom Schildhouse (Crete)
George Shannon (Orland Park)
Diane Siaroff (Bourbonnais)
Lenette Staudinger (Honey Keeper - Treasurer) (Orland Park)
George Vanderburgh (Flesherton, Ontario)
The South Downers occasionally get-together in addition to our monthly meetings to experience various Sherlockian events in the area. There's a lot of exciting mystery-themed entertainment and our club enjoys participating in a variety of activities. Going to the theater, solving Watson Adventures mysteries at Chicago museums and breaking out of Sherlockian escape rooms are a few examples.
The South Downers: Murder Mystery Play for the AAUW - Spring 2018
February 2022 Quiz
This month the quiz was on "Wisteria Lodge" crafted by Lenette Staudinger. Scoring in the top five were Phil, Jack, Gerry, Tom and Laura.
January 2022 Quiz
The top three scores on this quiz belong to: Gerry, Bert and Tom.
Few cases in the Canon have so much confusion.
It wasn't Holmes that gave us the solution:
Voodoo; a sacrifice; the message "green and white."
It's no wonder poor Sherlock couldn't get it right.
Baynes' false arrest was the key to the case,
Penetrating the disguise that hid man and place.
But we'll give Doyle this in a tale of villainy:
If ever there was a worse in the Canon than Moriarty,
It must have been San Pedro's Tiger in his tyranny.
A Study in Scarlet (1887)
The Sign of the Four (1890)
The Hound of the Baskervilles (1901-1902)
The Valley of Fear (1914-1915)
Short Stories (56 stories in five books)
The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes(1892)
The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes (1894)
The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905)
His Last Bow (1917)
The Case-Book of Sherlock Holmes (1927)
*Greater details can be found in the monthly minutes that Gerry emails to members.
Our February meeting reviewed "Wisteria Lodge" and since it was influenced by South America, Phil presented other references to that continent in the canon. Phil read his toast to the case and we listened to comments from our visitors as well as our monthly Agony Column.
During the January meeting, Phil read his toast to Inspector Lestrade and provided insight on him. Gerry also discussed policemen in the Canon. Lastly, it's that time of year again to send in your $20 dues. Lenette's address is listed in Gerry's notes that were emailed out.
Our December meeting included a fascinating presentation that Phil provided on espionage in the Canon, and a fun gift exchange among members for the holiday season. Please be sure to read Gerry's notes and Phil's emails which discuss the topics of upcoming quizzes for the next few meetings.
The October meeting was a thrilling Halloween event! Members wore Sherlockian-themed costumes and Jack read aloud a toast to Professor Moriarty in honor of his birthday. Phil read his toast to the case, "The Abbey Grange" and talked about a recent murder mystery weekend in Mackinac Island. He also gave a presentation discussing the ghosts and ghouls of Sherlock Holmes.
There has also been more exciting news...Phil's book has been published! Raise Your Glass to Sherlock Holmes provides readers with 64 different toasts to cases and some characters from the Canon too. Congratulations Phil and thank you! If you would like him to autograph your book, please bring it to a future meeting.
Ira Fistell published a book titled The Hidden Holmes
To order use this address: 910 S. Holt Avenue #305, Los Angeles, CA 90035. The cost of the book is $12.50, and postage is $3.33 which equals $15.83. They accept checks or money orders. Tell them how you want your autographed copy inscribed.
Here are the notes from some of the previous meetings in case you missed them, or need a refresher on what we discussed. Minutes are also located on the "Meeting Minutes" page.
February 2022 Meeting
Go to the Navigation header all the way up above this line almost as far as you can go and click on "Meeting Minutes" to jump to another page to see what we did at the February 16, 2022 Meeting.
January 2022 meeting
December 2021 Meeting
October 2021 Meeting
September 2021 Meeting
August 2021 Meeting
June 2021 Meeting
May 2021 Meeting
April 2021 Meeting
March 2021 Meeting
February 2021 Meeting
January 2021 Meeting
December 2020 Meeting
November 2020 Meeting
October 2020 Meeting
Phil's Toast to the Case.
The Valley of Fear
About detectives in the Canon do tell,
Their reputations do not always fare well.
Gregson, Lestrade are the best of a bad lot.
Dennis Hoey in films, a brain he had not.
But in the Valley a skilled Pinkerton
Put McGinty and the Scowrers on the run.
Jack McMurdo posed as a murderer,
And helped Vermissa’s lodge as a coiner.
All said and done, his honesty gained rewards.
Conan Doyle said he wrote no better words,
Than McMurdo’s speech, “I am Birdy Edwards.”
The Valley of Fear
One of the rarer Sherlockian works when it comes to movies/plays and radio. But the BBC radio play with Clive Merrison as Sherlock is first rate.
Adrian Conan Doyle, Sir Arthur’s youngest son, once said that his father’s most exciting sentence was “I am Birdy Edwards.”
• One of several stories linked to/that begins in the United States before heading elsewhere. The others: A Study in Scarlet, The Red Circle, The Yellow Face, The Five Orange Pips and The Dancing Men. And, of course, Irene Adler was from New Jersey.
• One of six cases where cryptography or decoding plays a big role. The others (His Last Bow, Gloria Scott, Musgrave Ritual, Red Circle, Dancing Men).
• One of two stories (The Final Problem) where arch criminal Moriarty actually does something. There are five other cases (Empty House, Norwood Builder, Missing ¾, Illustrious Client and Last Bow where Moriarty is mentioned.
Of all the cases in the Canon, this may be the one most directly linked to an actual law enforcement case, the undercover investigation, conviction and destruction by the Pinkertons of the Molly Maguires in the coal mining region of Pennsylvania. The Scowrers were based on the Molly Maguires.
The Pinkertons were national law enforcement at a time when law enforcement was strictly local or sometimes by state (as in the Texas Rangers). At times the Pinkertons were the equivalent of today’s FBI, today’s CIA by doing spying for the government and the Secret Service guarding the president before the president had official guards.
The Pinkertons were famed for their tenacity as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid say to each other as they are being chased, “Who are those guys?” The Pinkertons are one of the few law enforcement agencies not criticized in the Canon.
There is an irony in McMurdo making a living by “shoving the queer,” or counterfeiting. Allan’s Pinkerton’s first big case was to break up a gang of Chicago counterfeiters.
There is another story that mentions the Pinkerton Agency (The Red Circle). “Leverton, hero of the Long Island Cave Mystery.”
Arthur Conan Doyle had met William Pinkerton (Allan Pinkerton’s son and the president of Pinkerton’s after his father’s death) during an ocean voyage.
John Douglas/Birdy Edwards/John McMurdo based on James McParland of the Pinkertons. He sometimes signed his name as McParlan. His alias was James McKenna.
McParland was Irish, a redhead, could dance a jig and had a fine tenor singing voice. He joined Pinkerton’s after his Chicago liquor store burned down in the Great Chicago Fire.
Bodymaster McGinty was based on Jack Kehoe. Kehoe was hanged Dec. 18, 1878, but pardoned posthumously a century later by Pennsylvania Governor Milton Shapp.
The character of Ettie Shafter was based on Mary Ann Higgins, who McParland romanced in Pennsylvania while under cover.
Doyle takes the view, as do many historians, that the Mollies were a criminal organization.
McParland would eventually compile reports on 374 Mollies accused of crimes. 20 were sent to the gallows.
Not everyone agrees. Some analysts believe that the Mollies were justified in some ways because conditions in the mines (low pay and little safety) were appalling. The 1869 fire in Avondale mine killed 110 miners. There was a Depression at the time (the Panic of 1873). Mine owners responded by trying to cut wages 20 percent and fire miners.
In 1875 the miners went on strike for six months, but eventually gave in to management.
In The Valley of Fear, Doyle deals with two organizations, the Scowrers and the Eminent Order of Freemen. In reality there were three related organizations.
The Workingmen’s Benevolent Association (WBA) was a union of miners. It was nonviolent. The WBA included Irish, English and Welsh, though the English and Welsh usually had the better jobs in the mine.
The Ancient Order of Hibernians was an association of Irish-Americans. There were many such associations of different ethnic groups in the country.
The Molly Maguires were a secret organization that took action by carrying out assassinations and sabotage. Whether that was justified depends on your view.
There is an 1970 movie “The Molly Maguires” that takes the point of view of the miners. It is a pretty good movie, though it was a commercial failure, and you can find it on demand. Sean Connery plays Jack Kehoe and Richard Harris is James McParland.
Unlike Birdy Edwards, James McParland lived for years after the case, continuing as an active detective. He died in a Denver hospital in 1919 well into his 70s.
Pinkerton’s still exists today as a subsidiary of Securitas.
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The story is based on Fletcher Robinson’s Black Shuck
Wandering about Dartmoor’s mire and muck.
The case begins as Doctor Mortimer’s stick is found.
A dramatic chapter ends with the footsteps of a hound.
In the death of Sir Charles the canine was quite near
And the old baronet collapsed from the fear.
Of all Doyle’s writings, this one is a chiller,
Because our four-legged villain is a repeat killer.
Ghastly, ghostly, spectral, the hound creates a fright,
But if you carefully consider, he was really quite right.
In the 1640s the hound avenged a woman held against her will,
By tearing the throat of out old Hugo Baskerville.
Flash forward two centuries to the year 1888,
And the hound sends poor Seldon to his fate.
In the years in between other heirs were slain.
“Sudden, bloody and mysterious” was the legend’s refrain.
But those two the dog acted well to dispatch
Were both someone, someone else wanted to catch.
The real criminal was not a dog at all,
Twas Stapleton who answered that particular call.
So our hound was really a fortuitous connection
And the first step in Sherlock Holmes’ resurrection.
A practical guide to finding Hound films
Few stories have been filmed as often as Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles.” Here we deal only with versions you can buy or play on the Internet. We also delete any version not in English, parodies, silent films and films lost to history. These are versions you can actually see, listed by the actor who played Holmes. We found eight.
Basil Rathbone version. DVD, 1939. 80 minutes. 20th Century-Fox. Black and White. Holmes is very elegant in this version, with a top hat as much as a deerstalker. Great atmosphere. Lots of fog. Excellent flashback tells the story of Sir Hugo. Tremendous supporting cast. Lionel Atwill as Dr. Mortimer. John Carradine as Barryman (not Barrymore). Barlowe Borland as Mr. Frankland. Nigel Bruce here is better than in almost all the other films (this was the first of 14). Not as much buffoonery, though he does once call himself “Sherlock Holmes.” Largely faithful to the canon, but the film does delete Laura Lyons and adds a séance. A
Jeremy Brett version. DVD, 1988. 105 minutes. Granada and PBS. Color. Brett was not well during the filming and both his performance and the film drew a lot of criticism. It is one of the versions largely faithful to the canon, but it moves slowly. Editing and photography seem uninspired. Edward Hardwicke is good as Watson. The hound is covered with phosphorus (glowing in the dark). While almost every other version shows Sir Hugo in a flashback, here the legend is merely read. A-
Tom Baker version. Buy it on the Internet for $5.99. 1982. 120 minutes. BBC. Color. This was shot as a four-part serial (four half-hours). It is the longest version and the most complete. No major missing characters. Faithful to the original plot with only some changes in dialogue. Baker was a good Holmes, but Terence Rigby was a bland, sometimes mumbling Watson. Christopher Ravenscroft a decent Stapleton. Other than that, the cast was mediocre at best. The moor, 221b and Baskerville Hall are all well-done. The serialization was uninspired, with episodes just sort of ending (the tailing of the cab, Barrymore’s signals and the death of Selden are the breaks). The episode breaks are cartoon drawings and have no titles (just Episode Two or Three or Four). Still, if you want to watch a film that mirrors the story, this is it. A-
Ian Richardson version. Internet. 1983. 100 minutes. British TV movie made for HBO. Though made for TV, better production values than either Granada or ABC. Richardson a sort of middling Holmes. Not bad, but not inspired either. Fairly canonical, though Frankland disappears and Laura Lyons’ husband (Brian Blessed) added as a suspect. Glynis Barber is a very attractive Beryl Stapleton. Ronald Lacey is a good Lestrade. The hound glows at the beginning, but not at the end. The same team also made a Sign of 4 movie. B+
Stewart Granger version. Internet. 1972. 71 minutes. ABC TV pilot (the show was not picked up). Critics said Granger was too old, but his performance was straightforward and dignified. William Shatner (Captain Kirk of Star Trek) was Stapleton. Production values were not the best. An effort was made to make Mortimer and Barrymore more viable suspects. But the script is fairly faithful to the canon. There are no missing characters, no tarantulas, no Christmas party. It also moves along with pace. B
Matt Frewer version. DVD, 2000. 90 minutes. Hallmark. Color. Shot in Canada. Frewer’s Holmes is eccentric, annoying. Kenneth Welsh is a very good Watson. Robin Wilcock is Stapleton and looks like a schoolmaster. Jason London a good Sir Henry. He looks young. The hound has glowing red eyes. The film begins canonically enough, but the ending falls off the rails. Some scenes that were originally written for Holmes are turned over to Watson. Frewer made four Holmes movies. B-
Richard Roxburgh version. DVD. 2002. 100 minutes. BBC. Color. Roxburgh is a great Holmes, intellectual, without being stuffy. A good movie, but not a good “Hound.” Begins canonically enough, but, like Frewer, ending is all wrong. There’s a séance and more bizarre, a Christmas party. Beryl Stapleton dies. There’s a gunfight. Holmes falls into to bog. Richard E. Grant is a good, evil Stapleton. Paul Kynman is a menacing Selden. There’s no Laura Lyons, no Frankland and no Sir Hugo flashback. C+
Peter Cushing version. DVD. 1959. 86 minutes, Hammer Films. Color (the first Holmes film in color). Cushing is an acceptably intellectual Holmes and Christopher Lee lends star power to Sir Henry. David Oxley is a terrifying Sir Hugo and the film begins with his flashback story. It’s the best part. Thereafter, there are all sorts of liberties with the canon. Beryl Stapleton becomes Cecile, a busty daughter. Stapleton has webbed fingers. There’s a parish rummage sale, a cave-in in a tin mine and a loose tarantula. Watson is forced to wear a really crumpled hat. The hound wears a mask. Have you ever tried to put a mask on a dog? D
The best in every category (The Houndies)
Best Sherlock — Basil Rathbone, good looking, serious, intelligent.
Best Watson — Kenneth Welsh, given a lot to do and he carries that film.
Best Stapleton — Richard E. Grant, evil and cruel.
Best Beryl Stapleton — Glynis Barber, hot, hot, hot.
Best Sir Hugo — David Oxley, over the top demented.
Best Sir Henry — Jason London, who is young. Most Sir Henrys look like British subjects trying to appear as if they were from the colonies.
Best Lestrade — Ronald Lacey. Many films omit Lestrade.
Best Mortimer — Lionel Atwill.
Best Frankland — Barlowe Borland.
Best Barrymore — John Carradine. The Rathbone film is really helped by so many strong supporting characters.
Best Selden — Paul Kynman. Big, burly and threatening without being a caricature.
Best Laura Lyons — Elizabeth Spender (Brett film). Again, some stories omit Lyons.
“Sherlock Holmes on Screen: The Complete Film and TV History,” by Alan Barnes, 2002
“Bending the Willow: Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes,” by David Stuart Davies, 2002
“A Study in Celluloid: A Producer’s Account of Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes,” by Michael Cox, 1999
“The Films of Sherlock Holmes,” by Chris Steinbrunner and Norman Michaels, 1978
Here is a quiz that Dick Myhre made in 2004 on Hound of the Baskervilles. The answer key is also included. There is also a Hound of the Baskervilles word search that Kelly made.
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