Local enthusiasts celebrate all things Sherlock Holmes

BY NINA EARNEST | MAY 03, 2011 7:20 AM

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Twilight set upon the streets as a group of 30 gathered in the Iowa City Public Library — each member a lover of mystery, of classical fiction, and the stories of a detective named Sherlock Holmes.

They are the Younger Stamfords — named after the briefly mentioned character who introduced Holmes and Dr. Watson.

And they are Holmes enthusiasts — known as Sherlockians — just few of many who remain nearly 125 years after the series' initial publication.

"We're getting the continuity here," said Richard Caplan, who founded the society in 1988. "The interest in this character and the stories and the spinoffs has gone on for quite some time now."

The famous detective is a character who has evolved beyond the Victorian London era in which he was born, adapting to new technology and a new century. He is everywhere — from books to televi- sion to Robert Downey Jr. movie updates.

"As a cinematic and television character, he has constantly been reinvented," said member Monica Schmidt. "He's evolved over the years into something new and something different."

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And the members of the Younger Stamfords have changed as well.

Schmidt, 29, said she is one of the younger mem- bers of the Younger Stam- fords.

The counselor operates the society's web page in an attempt to update their visibility beyond word of mouth.

"I thought we should at least have a website and do a little viral marketing," Schmidt said.
She attended the Monday evening gathering — just one of two meetings the members attend throughout the year — alongside 30-year-old Scott Stulken.

Stulken, a new member, said his Sherlock Holmes knowledge paled in com- parison with the rest of the group.

"I'm really rusty," Stulken said. "I'll need to go back and read them again."

Sandy Powell, 71, and Jean Reese, 73 — each pinned with a nametags bearing the pipe-smoking profile of the famous sleuth — participated in the initial quiz.

Members know where Watson met Stamford, what Watson's middle name was, and where Watson was wounded in Afghanistan.

The evening began with a toast, first to the queen — as would be proper in Victorian England — then to each key character in turn: Holmes, Dr. Watson, and young Stamford himself. Members took a quiz over the evening's selected reading — "The Man with the Twisted Lip." No one had a perfect score.

But some of the mem- bers have been meeting for years, and they seem to know every paragraph of every story.

Despite the changes, they continue to be enthralled by the century-old stories. And, Caplan emphasized, Arthur Conan Doyle was simply a great writer — even if some members don't remember all of the details.

"I didn't remember 'The Man with the Twisted Lip,' " Reese said. "I didn't remember any of this stuff."

Powell laughed.

"That's the good thing," she said. "You can read it again."

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