By Mark L. Blackman: On Tuesday, February 4th, at its venue, the Brooklyn Commons Café in Brooklyn, which has its own “dreadful record of sin” but is no “great cesspool,” the New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series hosted an evening of “Crimes, Capers, and Conan Doyle,” featuring two award-winning writers whose methods have delved into Sherlockiana, Elizabeth Crowens and Teel James Glenn. (The program, it should be noted, missed Holmes’s birthday by a month.)
The event opened, as usual, with producer and executive curator Jim Freund, host of the long-running sf/fantasy radio program Hour of the Wolf (who described himself as a “Holmes Pun Philosopher”), welcoming the audience and noting that the night’s readings would be on Facebook Live, plugging that the Café’s kitchen would be open till intermission (so order hot food early), and announcing upcoming readings. Guest-hosted by Amy Goldschlager, March 3rd’s readings would be the third in a series featuring writers from Serial Box. On a future date there will be a Latinx Night. (Check the website for details.) He reminded those who can to donate to the Series ($7 is the suggested donation, but no one is ever turned away due to lack of funds), and reported that the home audience may donate on its Patreon page. Finally, as they would be performing in tandem, he introduced both of the evening’s readers.
Elizabeth Crowens has worn many hats in Hollywood (she wore a couple last night), is a Sherlock Holmes fan and an invested member of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, and a contributor to Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazine, among others. Additionally, she has two award-winning alternate history novels, Silent Meridian and A Pocketful of Lodestones, with A War in Too Many Worlds forthcoming, in her “The Time Traveler Professor” series, described as “a 19th-century X-Files meets Doctor Who.” (The titular professor was inspired by H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine to build his own working one.)
Teel James Glenn (or “T.J.,” whom I knew many years ago from fannish gatherings) notes that he “has killed hundreds and been killed even more times – on stage and screen, traveling the world as a stuntman, fight choreographer, swordmaster, bodyguard, actor and haunted house barker.” (I remember when he played a Soviet spy on The Guiding Light, but, with due apologies, not his fight scene with Hawk – the future Captain Sisko – on Spenser for Hire. In most of his parts, he told me, he has three lines, then gets “punched in the face;” fortunately, we presume, Freund didn’t know.) As a writer, he has had stories in over a hundred magazines including Weird Tales, Fantasy Tales, Sherlock Holmes Mystery, and even Mad(!), and is the author of the bestselling SF thriller series “The Exceptionals,” one book in which was a finalist in the EPIC book awards, and the winner of the 2012 Pulp Ark Ward for Best Author. (As both he and Crowens have black belts in martial arts – and also have appeared in Black Belt Magazine – some in the audience wondered about a match between them, but she declined. “He’s a stuntman – he gets lit on fire!”)
Appropriately, Crowens’ selection from A Pocketful of Lodestones featured Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who has been called in to solve a real mystery at a house in Brighton (England, not Brooklyn) during the Great War. (Glenn voiced Doyle, with a Scottish burr, while she handled the other characters.) The McGuffin is a ghost-haunted red book that writes itself and manifests whatever is drawn in it in a closet.
This was followed by Glenn’s “noncanical” story “The Case of the Final Interview,” with him as Dr. Watson (doing an English accent this time) and Crowdens as a dissolute actor (he even is a cocaine user) being recruited to pose as Holmes during his supposed absence; the role, he’s cautioned, can be dangerous (poisonous snakes being only one potential peril).
During the intermission, a Raffle was held for those who donated, with the prizes Glenn’s Tabloid Terror and Crowdens’ A Pocketful of Lodestones. (Something else they had in common: he had illustrated his book covers and she had designed hers.)
Resuming the evening’s program, though stepping away from the Great Detective, Glenn soloed with an amusing short story from Tabloid Terror, “Were Goes There?,” featuring Hollywood reporter and PR flack, Maxie Donovan, up in Québec, Canada for a movie premiere. (Glenn clearly had fun with the broad French accents of the locals.) In lumberjack country, a loup-garou has been killing girls, and he undertakes to figure out who in the tavern with him is the “furry fiend.”
Crowdens’ unpublished “A Case Study from a Scarlet Planet” sends Holmes to Mars, with her enacting a futuristic Dr. Watson and Glenn (doing an English accent) as the Holmes stand-in, who might be a clone of the original (via blood from a bee’s stinger). The two meet while seeking affordable lodging and wind up at Cell 221B. (A Study in Scarlet, Red Planet, elementary.) They have been called in by the android Inspectors Lestrade and Greggson to investigate a murder.
The traditional Jenna Felice Freebie Table offered a small assortment of books and a few magazines. The audience of close to 40, not counting Freund and the readers, included Amy Goldschlager, Karen Heuler, (House Manager) Barbara Krasnoff, John Kwok, Lissanne Lake, James Ryan and Susan Ratisher Ryan. Over the course of the evening, audience members availed themselves of the Café’s food, coffee bar, beer and wine.