A Sherlock Holmes fan since childhood, Portland Monthly co–executive editor Dundas (The Renegade Sportsman, 2010) embarks on a cheerful romp through the conception, fame, and afterlife of Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous sleuth. The detective story was still in its literary infancy when Conan Doyle invented a character based on one of his medical school professors, “a hawk-nosed, gray-eyed wizard radiating an air of command.” Joseph Bell was a master diagnostician, making deductions from astute observations. “What if a detective did that?” Conan Doyle wondered. Dundas chronicles Holmes’ evolution as Conan Doyle fleshed out his personality and appearance, beginning with A Study in Scarlet (1887). In The Sign of the Four (1890), Holmes emerged as“a magnetic figure, coiled in his armchair, wreathed in smoke: a gray-eyed whipcord of skinny muscle wrapped in a dressing gown.” Watson, too, became deeper. Though “bluff and hearty,” he seemed to harbor “inner pain and loneliness.” Watson’s regard for Holmes, Dundas writes, is “one of literature’s great studies in devotion.” Readers found the Holmes stories irresistible, but by 1893, Conan Doyle was tired of producing them and summarily killed off his hero. Watson was not the only one bereft; readers called the author a brute. Years later, offered substantial money by a periodical, Conan Doyle revived Holmes with a barely believable tale accounting for his survival. Dundas offers attentive readings of Holmes stories; traverses the bleak landscape of The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902); investigates Conan Doyle’s homes, haunts, and obsession with spiritualism; chronicles his visit to the cheesy museum at 221b Baker St. and his meetings with the Baker Street Irregulars, a “mother ship of a small, dedicated subculture of Holmes enthusiasts”; and recounts the work of the actors who have played Holmes, including Basil Rathbone, who felt the role consumed him, and Benedict Cumberbatch.
Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.
Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").
Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)