By Taral Wayne: Yesterday I bought a potboiler at the Sally Ann for a mere $.49 — Sherlock Holmes and the Treasure Train, by Frank Thomas. While reading, I jotted down a few things I wanted to look up later. We all know that the Great Detective was an admirer of Sarasate’s violin performances… but who the heck was Sarasate? For that matter, was there really such a person? It seems there was.
Pablo de Sarasate was one of those child prodigies who could play an instrument or compose music at an age when most of us find it challenging to eat pabulum without getting it all over ourselves. I think his reputation must have faded over the decades. The Spanish violinist only made a few recordings in 1904 — four years before his death — leaving little behind for posterity to judge.
On a whim I went into edit mode and added to the cultural references that Sarasate is mentioned in the Frank Thomas novel. I decided to see if Frank Thomas had an entry in Wikipedia also, and link him to Sarasate. He was and I did. But guess who Frank Thomas turned out to be? Not only was he the author of several other Holmes pastiches, he was a very minor film and Broadway actor. In 1950, he was given a television role that nearly knocked my socks off – beating Jack Lemmon for the part, Frankie Thomas played Commander Tom Corbett on early TV! His was the only one out of a handful of TV skiffy for kids that appeared on all four networks.
Another thing we all know is that Tom Corbett, Space Cadet was based loosely on Robert Heinlein’s novel. Thomas must have been a big fan of Heinlein. When he died in 2006, Frank M. Thomas Jr. was buried by his request in his Space Cadet uniform.