The resurgence of the Regina Irregulars

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Next stop, Baker Street! Get out your pipes, folks! Joshua Brown via Wikimedia

The Queen City’s Sherlock Holmes and detective fiction society reconvene after hiatus

Mystery and detective fiction are probably the most popular genres of fiction in all forms, with work spanning the mediums of short stories and novels to radio shows and television series. Plots sometimes showcase one detective, or can be more of a police procedural where the entire law enforcement agency is considered the protagonist. Sometimes the investigator is just an amateur with a passion for all things mysterious and macabre. In my opinion, few other stories make as good a companion for a long flight or a lazy weekend afternoon.

Few characters in this genre, however, have enjoyed the level of fame, discussion, and continued pop culture presence attained by Sherlock Holmes, the amateur consultant detective created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Other writers of the genre have undoubtedly been influenced, consciously or otherwise, by the legacy of Sherlock Holmes. His science of deduction and his purely logical approach towards building theories based on observations – and observations only – have influenced detectives in the pages of books as well as those in real life.

Today, the address of the fictional Holmes and Watson, 221B Baker Street, houses the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Film interpretations start in the 1930s when Basil Rathbone played Sherlock Holmes in fourteen movies. Then, in the mid-80s to mid-90s, Jeremy Brett portrayed Holmes in the TV series Sherlock Holmes, produced by the British television company Granada Television. As recently as 2008 and 2011, Robert Downey Jr. played Sherlock Holmes in two original screenplays based on the characters and settings created by Doyle, and a third movie in the series is set to come out later this year. Also, over the last decade, Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch have played in modern-day re-imaginations of the Holmes and Watson duo, featuring more than a few Easter eggs for the avid Holmes fans. Miller played a modern Sherlock Holmes – a recovering addict, no less – living in New York City in the show Elementary, while Cumberbatch played a high-functioning, somewhat cold and aloof Sherlock who is often involved in high espionage in the BBC show Sherlock.

The popularity and continued discussion of Holmes is impressive, especially since the last original story about this master of deduction was printed in 1927. Modern writers of detective fiction find it hard to avoid being compared to Doyle’s work, and Holmes continues to remain relevant. All over the world, Holmes aficionados pour over the novels and short stories, watch the movies, and have hearty discussions and debates about Holmes.

In the past few months, our very own Queen City has seen the re-emergence of a Sherlock Holmes book/fan club. The Regina Irregulars, named after the band of street urchins that Holmes put more faith in than the “regular” police force when it came to obtaining intelligence on the streets of London, used to hold regular meetings back in 2008/2009. That’s when Nils Clausson, Professor Emeritus of English at the University of Regina, first found out about them.

Clausson had organized a conference on Doyle at the University of Regina, which is how he met Dr. Brian Brody, who was then the coordinator of the Regina Irregulars. The group used to meet once a month and discuss a Holmes story until the sudden and unfortunate passing of Dr. Brody in late 2010. Following that, meetings became less frequent until they stopped altogether.

After his retirement in 2014, Clausson wanted to do what he could to revitalize the group. He began advertising for new members late last year, soon after the publication of his book of essays on Doyle’s fiction. Currently, the group has about ten members and met for the first time in August 2021. Meetings are held on the last Saturday of the month, usually at the Regina Public Library’s central branch.

The Regina Irregulars do more than just discuss the stories, however. In the past meeting, Clausson himself found out how one might be able to watch all the vintage Holmes movies from the ‘30s and ‘40s, as well as listen to radio shows about the detective. The group also deals with the history of detective fiction in general and the impact Doyle’s work has made not just on the genre, but on current standards of criminal investigation. If you are a fan of Holmes, or of detective fiction in general, and love discussing books, come attend one of the meetings! Those interested can send an email to reginairregulars@gmail.com or check out their Facebook group “The Regina Irregulars.”

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