a baker street irregular

Hello friends and welcome to another edition of Wacky WWII Hijinks! Get hype, today we’re gonna learn about rad spy shit

okay, first some background: the OSS, or Office of Strategic Services, was an American intelligence agency during WWII that was in charge of clandestine shit like espionage, propaganda, and counter-intelligence. It was run by a dude called “Wild Bill” Donovan, because that’s the kind of name people had back then somehow

More background: the SOE, or Special Operations Executive, was a British organization in charge of espionage, sabotage, and assisting local resistance groups in Europe. It didn’t have a director with a weird nickname, but it was sometimes called the Baker Street Irregulars, which honestly I think is even better

as you can imagine, these two organizations came up with a lot of weird shit to help their agents infiltrate into occupied Europe, so let’s get to it already dang

  • Rodent bombs

this one comes to us courtesy of the SOE and were intended for use in boiler rooms, because the british figured that anyone finding a gross dead rat while stoking a boiler would probably just chuck the corpse into the fire and be done with it. Except this time the boiler would explode.

Rat asses, as you can see from the pencil fuse in the image, could also be rigged for timed explosions instead, for those occasions when you’re on a tight schedule about raining down petrified rat entrails in your enemy’s basement

unfortunately (???), the RATS, EXPLOSIVE, never saw actual combat use, as the first box the SOE dropped into Europe was intercepted by the Nazis, who probably had a read good “what the FUCK” moment when they opened it

  • Coal bombs

along similar lines but far less fucking weird were coal bombs, which were essentially the same thing as the rat bombs but with hollowed out coal instead. Both the SOE and OSS actually used these ones

  • Poop bombs (lol)

they then went a bizarre step further and developed mule dung bombs for use in Africa- “specially sculpted” replicas of mule poop that were packed with explosives. These weren’t meant to be chucked into boilers, but rather left around for enemy forces to drive over. Here is an actual American soldier talking about collecting mule shit for war purposes, from O'Donnell’s book Operatives, Spies, and Saboteurs

Mule turds were to be found in great abundance…we added a few samples of local mule dung, and this was carefully packed and sent to London. We took care to explain that the full, rich horse dung of the British countryside would not do in Morocco; it was the more watery, smaller mule type that would pass there without suspicion. Also, it was important to have it a deep sepia color, sometimes with greenish shades, the product of straw and grass, not of oats and hay. In due course of time the British London office made up explosive turds from these samples, and we used them to good effect later in Tunisia.

You do you, mule-poop-connoisseur-OSS-agent.

  • Bat bombs

this is not an actual picture of a bat bomb, but I found it while googling for images to use and I love it okay thanks

anyway are you sensing a theme here?

This one was, surprisingly, not the product of OSS or SOE, but of an American dentist named Lytle S Adams. Everyone needs a hobby I guess.

The idea behind bat bombs was that you take a bunch of bats (specifically Mexican free-tailed bats), tie some little bombs to them, and stuff them into a plane. Then the plane flies over Japan (because Japan has a lot of wooden buildings and therefore is particularly susceptible to incendiary use), and drops the bats. The bats fall down to building-level, then start flying around looking for somewhere to hide because they are having a seriously bad bat day. In theory, the bats would fly up into the eaves and roofs of the buildings, at which point the timers on their little bombs would go off, sending both bats and buildings up in flames.

This idea actually, somehow, made it into the testing phase, but was never used because honestly what the fuck

  • Aunt Jemima

guess what it’s another bomb! In this case, a plastic explosive that looked like flour (hence the name) and could even be baked into something resembling food products, although just a tad more poisonous than most food you find outside of school cafeterias. Aunt Jemima was easy to smuggle through enemy lines due to its innocuous appearance, and the OSS sent a bunch of it to Chinese resistance fighters against the Japanese

  • Silk printing

“wait what?”, I’m sure you’re saying. “finally something that doesn’t explode and it’s…just a totally normal thing?”

yeah. Here’s the thing: if you sent an agent or resistance fighter into occupied territory, there was a pretty good chance they were gonna get frisked at some point, because that was a pretty routine occurrence in places like occupied France. If said agent/resistance member were carrying, say, a map showing escape routes or a code sheet for them to use to send information, and they got searched, either that paper is gonna be found with their other papers or, if hidden on their person, make a pretty distinct crinkling noise when the Gestapo agent gets friendly with that area. Plus, you know, paper doesn’t do great when wet

the solution to this was printing stuff on silk, like this:

this is Leo Marks, the creator of the silk code keys and one time pads that SOE used for their agents, holding a one time code pad that has been printed on silk

these silk documents could be sewn into an agent’s clothing while still being totally undetectable to a pat-down, or even hidden somewhere like rolled up in a thin tube and then stuck inside a shoelace. If you went a step further and printed the document using invisible ink, agents could carry maps around in plain view as handkerchiefs or have their codebook printed directly onto their underwear, because hey why not

I know it sounds boring after all this exploding wildlife, but silk-printed documents were hugely important to covert operations during WWII

  • things that should not be guns but are, in fact, guns

tbh I’m just gonna let the pictures speak for themselves on this one

apparently there was an umbrella one too but I couldn’t find a picture of that one

  • suitcase radio

if you’re dropping people into enemy territory to gather intelligence, you need some way to communicate with them. This was a problem, since cell phones hadn’t been invented yet and radios at the time were like, fucking huge, which is not great when you’re trying to hide them from the Gestapo

SOE got around this problem by creating the suitcase radio, which is exactly what it sounds like- a big old radio disguised as a suitcase. Obviously they weren’t gonna stand up to any examination more rigorous than “yes that is suitcase shaped”, but it allowed agents to at least walk around in public with it without attracting too much attention

  • Joan-Eleanor system

keeping with the “problems with radios” theme, we have the OSS’ Joan-Eleanor system. See, normal radio frequencies were monitored by both sides in the war, which was Not Great. It meant both that radio transmissions could be intercepted by the enemy (and subsequently decoded, like Germany’s Enigma messages), and also that you could use radio direction finders to pinpoint the location of a broadcasting radio. Every time a covert agent turned on their radio to report something, they ran the risk of being located and hella murdered

the Joan-Eleanor (or J-E) system, in contrast, was a Very High Frequency (VHF) system. VHF bands couldn’t be easily monitored, unlike the frequency bands used by other radios.

Why? I actually have no idea. Listen I just read things and ramble about them on the internet, I don’t know jack shit about radios

anyway, as a result the system was hard to detect but very short range, so it worked by giving the agent on the ground a hand-held transmitter (the Joan), that talked to a bigger transceiver (the Eleanor) that was in a plane. At prearranged times the plane would fly over wherever the agent was and they could have an undetectable chat

  • compass buttons

it’s a compass! It’s a button! It’s a compass hidden inside a button!

  • The BBC

okay this one isn’t technically equipment, but it’s cool and was used by spies so you can deal with it

it turns out that during the war pretty much everyone listened to the BBC, even at risk of arrest in occupied territories. The SOE used this to their advantage by working with the BBC to broadcast seemingly meaningless words or phrases at certain times, which were actually pre-arranged coded messages  or orders to agents or resistance members

if an agent had to win over the resistance’s trust or prove they were actually spies and not just random dudes, they could ask the person whose trust they were trying to win to provide them with a personal word or phrase. Then the agent could radio the SOE, give them the word/phrase and ask it to be broadcast at a certain time, which the other person would hear, and bam best friends

  • invisible ink

is there anything more quintessentially spy? agents were often supplied with a little vial of invisible ink before being dropped into occupied territory, for communications outside radio broadcasts. the ink could be developed (made visible) by means of chemicals or exposure to ultraviolet light (some invisible inks are developed by heat, but the SOE at least avoided those because of the worryingly high risk of accidental exposure. “whoops I sat to close to the fire and now everyone can see I actually drew little devil horns on this poster of Hitler you gave me”)

REAL COOL FACT: Josephine Baker, the famous Black singer, was actually a spy for the French Resistance during the war, and smuggled information during her concert tours of Europe by writing it in invisible ink on her sheet music! wow!

okay I’m gonna stop now because I keep thinking of more shit to add and if I do this will literally never end (sorry). For further reading I recommend the O'Donnell book mentioned above and Leo Marks’ Between Silk and Cyanide. Also apparently H. Keith Melton’s OSS Special Weapons & Equipment is really good, but I haven’t read it personally (though I totally stole the pictures of the OSS guns from there, hooray the internet)


Things We Know About the Riddler from TheRiddlerSpeaks blog:

·         He considers himself the “information broker of Gotham”.

·         He’s fond of Harley Quinn to a certain extent, but finds her tiring and the company she keeps unsavory.

·         He finds Scarecrow insufferable.

·         His worst fear is losing his intelligence and thus making everything he’s worked for worthless.

·         He’s a coffee drinker (three milk, no sugar) who doesn’t like tea.

·         He can finish any newspaper puzzle in less than 20 minutes.

·         His favorite movies are Forbidden Planet and Dr. Strangelove, and his favorite actor is Peter Cushing, whom he sees as a role model.

·         He flat-out hates the Joker and his methods.

·         He used to love watching late-night horror movies, especially the Hammer Horror films.

·         He swears quite a bit when he’s frustrated or especially angry.

·         His morning routine consists of a copy of the Daily Planet and a large coffee.

·         His mother was a meek woman who often kowtowed to his abusive father and would insist he change his behavior to make his father happy.

·         He doesn’t at all hate people with genuine mental handicaps, reserving his ire for the proudly and willfully ignorant.

·         He considers Black Mask a decent cohort, if not a decent human being, but doesn’t think he has the proper flair that a rogue needs.

·         He has a great deal of respect for his henchgirls, trusts them to take care of themselves, and feels secure enough around them to poke fun at them in their presence.

·         He doesn’t consider killing an emotional endeavor, preferring to look at the bigger picture the death would be part of.

·         He’s thought about pursuing martial arts, but considers himself too old for it these days.

·         He used to be merely a petty thief, but dabbled in blackmail with important figures, one of whom killed himself under his influence

·         He has quite a bit of disdain for the Mad Hatter, thinking he’s a childish one-trick pony who takes the easy way out with his methods.

·         He dropped out of high school and never got a college education.

·         He’s published quite a few of his riddles and get annoyed at how many of these sites and books get the answers wrong.

·         He’s a history nerd who can quote several past rulers and philosophers.

·         He has the following qualifications for henches:

o   You have to have survived in the Gotham underworld for a minimum of four years (eight months for ex-Joker henches.)

o   You have to be able to shoot straight, knock a man unconscious, crack a safe, create and use basic explosives, and answer three out of five introductory riddles correctly.

o   You have to have at least somewhat stable mental health.

o   You have to have some intelligence and common sense with a healthy enough ego not to take remarks personally.

·         He jokes that his dream pet is a robotic spider with the brain of Albert Einstein.

·         He regards golf as “where testosterone goes to die”.

·         He used to use “the Fish” (in reference to Einstein’s logic puzzle) as shorthand for the answer that must be found, but had to stop after the girls started making “fish stick” jokes.

·         He hopes that after his death his brain will be preserved for a clone or robot body; if the brain is unsalvageable, he’s told his henchgirls where he wants his ashes scattered.

·         He did appreciate his secretaries while he was a private detective and is still fond enough of them to keep in touch.

·         He quit being a P.I. after he got bored and sick of not getting any more respect than he did as a criminal.

·         He’s more scared than he cares to admit of Poison Ivy and avoids her at all costs.

·         He gets his suits and masks from “Paul the crime tailor”; he has suits based on seven different basic designs and prefers black slacks because they show less blood.  He also prefers domino masks and three-piece suits.

·         He’d been working odd jobs at 19 years old and making money on the side winning crossword puzzle contests until he was blacklisted by the New York Times.  His first girlfriend convinced him he was better than the Minnesota education system and gave him his first access to someone else’s private records, which he sold for all the money he needed to get to Gotham.

·         He likes purple because it’s a royal color and green because it’s the color of ambiguity and tends to stimulate critical thought

·         He used to be a hardline atheist, but now is more of an agnostic.

·         He sees sex as an inevitable fact of life, but a pointless and pleasureless one; he subscribes to the “Tesla method” of keeping it from being a priority in his life.

·         He finds Victor Zsasz’s methods pretty genius in their own way.

·         He doesn’t like villain team-ups, viewing the clashing egos as a hindrance to accomplishing the task at hand.

·         He thinks the Baker Street Irregulars were an ingenious use of resources and considers them one of the best parts of the Holmes stories.  He looks down on Moriarty as a rarely-used plot device.

·         He doesn’t listen to music very much and sticks to classical on the rare occasions when he does.

·         He was subjected to chemical injections that gave him crippling migraines and a near-death experience under Lock-Up’s reign of terror and was too ill to attend the famous hearing.

·         He does enjoy travelling, though he rarely has the occasion, and went on a national tour outside of Gotham City during No Man’s Land.  He’s also “unashamedly a town mouse”.

·         He’s had his fair share of experiences with groupies and can spot them on sight.  He once hacked a database and put Condiment King at the top of a popularity poll just to see how many fangirls grouped to him at the Iceberg the next night.

·         He tends to mail back fan mail with grammatical corrections, commentary, and the occasional letter grade.

·         He claims to have written part of the Evil Overlord List and says that several of the points are impractical in real life.

·         He’s been inside The Pandora’s Box S&M club and didn’t think it was that shocking.

·         He’s a Leo—he doesn’t put much stock in astrology, but he finds horoscope descriptions fascinating in how broad and scam-like they are.

·         He thinks fetish gear is ridiculous.

·         He has a scar on his shoulder from Query.

·         He denies that his pursuit of Jessica from his “Joker’s Asylum” story ever happened.

·         He has no desire to get involved in any Gotham turf wars, preferring to wait until all the rogues kill each other and Batman off and rise to the top in their absence.

·         He does believe in multiple forms of intelligence, but believes that certain forms and applications are more valuable than others.

·         He doesn’t put much stock in modern art, especially interpretive dance and mime.

·         He despises the “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” riddle and feels similarly toward the riddles in The Hobbit.

·         He never sleeps with his henchgirls, considering them too close to himself in intellect and personality.

·         He has a thing for “striking brunettes”.

·         He’s a big grammar Nazi.

·         He’s “crazy good” at Tetris.

·         He regards loyalty as the greatest weakness a person can have and doesn’t think family is important.

·         He’s very sarcastic and is practically incapable of not taunting people, even when he’s in no position to be mouthing off.

·         He used to have a bit of a crush on Catwoman, but has become more disillusioned with her since the “incident in Rome”.

·         He doesn’t like being called “Mister”—he thinks honorifics are a bit pretentious.

·         He felt a bit sorry for Enigma, but was largely ambivalent to her, regarding her as more of an interesting case than any kind of valuable relationship.

·         He doesn’t have any tattoos or piercings.

In which Holmes ruins the Baker Street Irregulars’ treasure hunt.

(I missed Mrs Hudson’s first anniversary earlier this month due to Unexpected Hiatus, booooo! I’ll just have to make sure that her second anniversary is extra special.) 

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anonymous asked:

you've mentioned that Jason wasn't around for long, in or out of costume, and I was wondering if you could talk a little about his character, and why he's not as much of a player in the sorrowful and immaculate hearts verse?

Jason had a big impact on Bruce but that’s part of why I haven’t written him much - because even though I made his storyline a lot less being-dead-centric, it’s still kind of emotionally intense? I think that as of right now the most intense thing I’ve written is chapter two of Christmas in Kansas, which is still pretty chill.

I like Batman having his own sort of Baker Street irregulars. He’s got the networks of kids with their Batman superstitions, alerting him to things in their own various ways without directly interacting with him; he’s got the banshees, some of whom he learns to trust for their information networks; and then there’s just Misc. Various street kids or petty criminals (by which I mean, criminals whose only crimes are things like growing weed or sex work) that he’s able to work with on a semi-regular basis.

(Bruce owns a lot of homes for wayward youths but some kids will never trust the system no matter how safe he tries to make it; those kids trust Batman exchanging help for information more than they’ll ever trust someone offering help for its own sake)

Jason Todd in Sorrowful and Immaculate Hearts had a dead mom and an abusive father. He has an inherent distrust of male authority figures who say they want to help him. He doesn’t like to be touched. He learns, very slowly, to trust Batman. When Bruce finally brings him home and lets him in on the secret, it’s because Jason’s situation has become untenable and because Jason has more than proven himself. Jason is never officially adopted; the official line is that he’s the son of some cousin or another that left him with Bruce while they went gallivanting around on cruises or whatever it is that rich people do. There are limits to Jason’s trust, and giving Bruce legal authority over him is that limit.

He was always ready to leave, because he always assumed he’d have to.

(I’m being vague about a lot of things to avoid this being too spoilery or triggery and idk if it’s working).

When things go sideways with Jason, it’s because Jason has a hurt in him that Bruce will never really understand. It’s not like with Dick, where his hurt was like a mirror image of Bruce. It is a fundamental difference in the way they see the world. For Jason, there are some people in the world who are simply not worth saving; Bruce can’t accept that, but he also can’t say that he’s wrong.

Jason doesn’t stop being Robin because he dies. He stops being Robin because he leaves. Bruce doesn’t follow because Bruce doesn’t know what to do and he’s not sure if he’s ever known what to do but rather than appreciating the space Jason takes this as a final rejection. The fact that Bruce just let him go.

(and then there’s the red hood and then there’s talia and bruce has been keeping tabs in his own way and when things go sideways that time they really go sideways but that all comes later)

Rest in peace Jeremy Brett, who died on this day September 12th, 1995. I was fifteen years old, and–while I was introduced to Sherlock Holmes when my dad handed me the canon–we watched the Granada series religiously as a family. Or at least it was religiously for me, because now I am a Baker Street Babe, Adventuress of Sherlock Holmes, and Baker Street Irregular, I can look back and thank Mr. Brett for giving me the first version of Sherlock Holmes who wasn’t solely in my imagination, the first solid human Holmes I ever loved, and when people ask me my religious affiliation, my answer is “Sherlockian.” 

Thank you for all you did for Holmes fans everywhere. – lyndsayfaye

That Was No Lady... Cherchez La Femme!

So, I’m having a grand time reading The Baker Street Reader right now, and I came across this curious similarity.

The essay ‘Watson was a Woman’ by Rex Stout is in there. For those who don’t know, it’s basically arguing that Holmes and Watson were a couple, except it’s phrased in veiled not so charming heteronormative and homophobic ways- with a classic sexist gem of “And we have been expected to believe that a man wrote these things!” I mean, the Very Idea. Shock, horror(!)

But then, straight after that essay, there’s a counter-argument by another Baker Street Irregular: ‘That Was No Lady’ by Julian Wolff. Here’s the part that grabbed my attention:

As a final clincher, we have only to quote the description of Watson obtained by Lestrade from members of Milverton’s household: “He was a middle-sized, strongly built man- square jaw, thick neck, moustache…” Obviously Mr. Stout will have to cherchez elsewhere for La Femme.

Rings a bell, eh? Mycroft tells Sherlock at the graveyard in TAB to “Cherchez la femme.” Obviously, it’s a well-used phrase, @deducingbbcsherlock especially has great theories on the implications of Mycroft saying it.

But, I also like to think that this line popping up in The Abominable Bride was a reference to these two essays. In TSo3, John asks “Am I woman? […] Yeah, but am I a pretty lady?” And as Sherlock ‘looks for the woman’ in the graveyard, “the cupboard is bare.”

In other words, there is no woman to be found. The story of John and Sherlock is a romance, yes, but not a heteronormative one.

Tagging @waitingforgarridebs as per request! <3


Sherlock Holmes inspired Morse code jewellery on Etsy.

Call for Translators and Proof-Readers: Always 1895

The year 2015 marks the 120th anniversary of Sherlock Holmes’s most productive year. In 1895 he got into a bar fight during the case of “The Solidary Cyclist”, caught a cheating student of classical Greek in “The Three Students”, taught Inspector Hopkins what it means to properly handle a case in “The Black Peter” and solved one of the most important cases of his career by discovering who had stolen the Bruce-Partington Plans.  

In 1942 Vincent Starrett, author of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1933), published the poem “221B” or “Always 1895”, celebrating this important year and the immortality of Holmes and Watson.

The year 1895 has also been referred to extensively in Sherlock in connection with John Watson’s Blog and Matt Laffey’s Sherlockian Blog carries the name of the sonnet.

If you have not had the chance to read the poem, here it is:


Here dwell together still two men of note
Who never lived and so can never die:
How very near they seem, yet how remote
That age before the world went all awry.
But still the game’s afoot for those with ears
Attuned to catch the distant view-halloo:
England is England yet, for all our fears–
Only those things the heart believes are true.

A yellow fog swirls past the window-pane
As night descends upon this fabled street:
A lonely hansom splashes through the rain,
The ghostly gas lamps fail at twenty feet.
Here, though the world explode, these two survive,
And it is always eighteen ninety-five.

The idea formed that since the sonnet means so much to so many Sherlockians/Sherlock Holmes Fans and perfectly expresses how we feel about our favourite detective and his faithful sidekick, we wanted to try and get this poem translated into as many languages as possible so that people who do not speak English can also enjoy it.

For that, we need you!

Do you enjoy translating poetry or do you want to give it a very first try? Then this is your chance. We are planning on collecting the translations and publish them as an e-book (and possibly as a hard copy*) to celebrate the 120th anniversary of this elementary year!

If you want to participate, please send us an email to book@bakerstreetbabes.com with your translation along with your name or alias (whichever you prefer to be listed) and the language you translated the poem into until April 30, 2015. Please use “221B” as the subject. You can either copy your translation into the email or send it as a doc/docx, pdf or odt attachment.

In order to judge the translations and pick those who will make the publication, we also need proof readers. If you do not want to translate, but check poems which have been translated into your mother tongue or a language that you speak, please let us know. Send an email to book@bakerstreetbabes.com with the subject line “proof-reader 221B” and specify the language/s you’d be willing to check. We would work together with you to decide which translations will make it into our book. A second call for proof-readers will follow after the deadline in case we do not have proof-readers for all the different languages that were sent in.

The final decisions will be made by June 1, 2015 so that we can edit the poems and finish the book by July 7, 2015, which marks the 85th anniversary of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s death.

You may, of course, apply for both, translation and proof-readership, as we expect several translations of the same major languages. More than one translation into the same language may make it into the book.

Starrett expert and Baker Street Irregular Ray Betzner has offered to write an introduction for the book, which is simply brilliant.

A few remarks concerning the translation of poetry:

Since poetry is a genre which extensively uses stylistic and other literary devices, it is impossible to find an exact translation. End-rhymes, metre and rhythm make translation even more difficult. The greatest challenge is therefore to decide whether you want to translate as much as you can of the content, or keep to the form and necessarily adapt the content.

So be creative and simultaneously give more people all around the world the chance to read one of the greatest poems ever written about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson.

Note:*We don’t expect to make any money from this. In case any revenue is created from a possible hardcopy-publication, which we would try to make as cheaply available as possible, the money would go into the maintenance of the Baker Street Babes’ website bakerstreetbabes.com. Your participation in this project means that you accept this condition.

saturdayv replied to your post “Can you talk about Steve in CACW? I don’t know why I feel so annoying…”

Would you mind further explaining the Doylist/Watsonian dichotomy? From context I think I get it, but I’d really rather be sure.

It goes back (obvs) to Sherlock Holmes fandom, where there are sort of two “philosophies” particularly in the mid-20th century. Doylists analyze the canon from the perspective of, well, reality – that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote these stories about Holmes and Watson and had various motivations or lack thereof for what he wrote, up to and including “Arty gotta get paid”, “This is going to be in a magazine next to Oscar Wilde’s work”, and “Maybe people would find it fun if Watson wasn’t in this one and Holmes narrated instead!” (fun fact when I was a kid I LOVED The Lion’s Mane.)  

Watsonians analyze the canon as if Watson was a real person who wrote the canon about another real person. Usually in this case Conan Doyle is relegated to Watson’s literary manager or good friend. (This is an easy suspension of disbelief since they were both doctors, Conan Doyle had other literary interests so he could have gotten Watson published, and also Conan Doyle was kind of a nutbar.)

Watsonians usually have more fun. Because it is more entertaining to find explanations for things that go beyond pragmatism, to make up interesting theories and share them. Look how much play the “Jar Jar Binks is a secret Sith Lord” theory got. I know about it and I never even saw those movies. 

A Doylist looks at a contradiction in the texts and says “Well, he wrote these two stories twenty years apart and probably forgot what he’d said in the first one.” A Watsonian looks at those contradictions and says “Oh my god – this one says he was wounded in the leg and this one says he was wounded in the shoulder. What if the shoulder wound is something he got defending Holmes?” 

And then you write the hurt/comfort fanfic. 

(See also Sherlock’s take where the leg wound is mainly psychosomatic and the hidden arm wound is actually much more serious. That’s Watsonian.)  

One of my favourite Watsonian analyses is the time Rex Stout spoke to the Baker Street Irregulars on the topic of how, based on clues in the text, Watson was clearly a woman and Sherlock Holmes’ wife. It’s an absolute delight to read as long as you remember that Stout was making gentle fun (otherwise it comes off as dreadfully misogynist). 

But the problem with Watsonian analysis is that it doesn’t take into account realities that you need in order to critically discuss the narrative. “What if Ms. Marvel WANTS to wear a high-cut bathing suit while she fights?” Well, what if she’s been mostly written and drawn by a series of horny straight men? Because the latter is a reality while the former is a matter of interpretation and usually advanced by horny straight men who are pissed Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel BOTH wear pants now. 

Watsonian analysis can be a lot of fun as long as you don’t take it too seriously. But you can’t use it to critically discuss plot and characterization, because characters aren’t real. They don’t make decisions or have feelings on their own; everything they do is orchestrated by a storyteller, and the context of that storyteller – their gender, race, sexuality, upbringing, political beliefs, even who their boss is and what their deadline is – all of that matters. 

Captain America didn’t just have a fight with Iron Man – he had a fight with Iron Man as interpreted from the comics by two brothers who were following a pretty poor second act by a guy who’s now left the studio, and who only control the plot to a certain extent dictated by their boss, who just stopped reporting to the head of Marvel and started reporting to the head of Disney…et cetera. 

So that’s Watsonian vs. Doylist. Hopefully I didn’t muddle things up too badly. :)

Kitty Winter

By BSB Lyndsay Faye

Sherlock Holmes is as reliable on the subject of his own opinions regarding females as John Watson is about trifling matters like chronology.  No, seriously—they’re both equally skilled humans when it comes to communicating their own facts.  Take, just to preface this piece, Holmes on the subject of women:

“Women are never to be entirely trusted—not the best of them.” –The Sign of Four

“Puurrr scritch knead hsssss prrrrrrrr, you are so awesome I can’t stand it, let’s be pals forever.” –Actual (Paraphrased) Sherlock Holmes Behavior with Several Women from the Canon

Sherlock Holmes treats women just as he treats men, for the most part—well when he thinks them honorable, poorly when he thinks them duplicitous.  Meanwhile, nowhere does Sherlock Holmes prove himself more of a gallant pussycat than when it comes to Kitty Winter, as he clearly takes every measure he can to shield her from the long arm of the law.

But this isn’t about Sherlock Holmes, and I have a confession to make.  My Baker Street Irregulars investiture (unexpected when it came, cherished today) is Kitty Winter.  I am not the first to carry this ferocious nomenclature.  ASH, BSI Maureen Green was the original, and she tragically passed before I had the opportunity of meeting her.  I regret this as I wander about with her pseudonym, hoping she approves posthumously.  Additionally, Kitty as a character (and as an emblem of the population of females she embodies) is very important to me in other ways, so let’s talk about those. 

Let’s talk about slut-shaming for a second, shall we?  Don’t do it.  Sherlock Holmes didn’t, so why should we?

If you’re clutching your pearls right now, read no further, because Sherlock “Misogynist” Holmes behaved in a much more civilized manner.  “The Illustrious Client” emphatically resides in my top five canonical cases for several reasons.  One is that we very seldom see Holmes miscalculate, so it is something of a bitter pleasure to watch his ass being handed to him after sassing five too many thugs (or simply the wrong thug, the “unlucky” thug, the one named Baron Adelbert Gruner).  When heroes are too complacent or too competent, we lose interest, so Holmes’s fallibility in this instance is extremely valuable in the storytelling sense.  Far more interesting to me, however, is the way in which he treats Kitty Winter.

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During the Victorian era, it was thought decorous to cover the legs of tables lest improper thoughts arise, whilst concurrently, wicked dirty sloppy epic porn was being written (and published), probably because people thought hovercraft tables were weird and were hoping for a mahogany stem from time to time so they could picture a clawfoot ottoman when wanking in the shower. I figure people can already parse my thoughts on hypocrisy at this point, so I’ll stick to hard data.   Women fell into five categories, so far as I can tell: virtuous youth, virtuous matron/widow, not-white-so-you-don’t-count, wife, and whore.

Sherlock Holmes in “The Illustrious Client” is consulted upon an unlikely topic, as I’m fairly sure he abhors domestic squabbles and wishes he could confine himself entirely to locked rooms: Baron Gruner is about to marry Violet de Merville, a beautiful (and rich) and poised (and rich) woman whose male chaperones think it might be a bad idea for her to marry a dude who almost certainly shanked his exes.  This might have devolved pretty quickly into a revolting moral fable, but when Sherlock Holmes agrees that Violet ought not expose herself to quite so many shivs, he brings in a survivor of the identical abuse: one Kitty Winter.

It’s worth pointing out that most “Kitty Winter” pictures tagged on tumblr look like this:

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Violet is set up by the men in the consulting room as being nine hundred percent cray-cray: “To say that she loves him hardly expresses it. She dotes upon him; she is obsessed by him. Outside of him there is nothing on earth. She will not hear one word against him,” reports Colonel Damery, who gives us a clue as to the state of the sitting room by refusing to remove his gloves for the entire interview.

Holmes initially declines to approach the potential victim in person.  Instead, he visits Gruner, warns him off, is warned off in turn, and reports back to Watson.  I will paraphrase his summary of these events with the words, “I Visited Baron Gruner’s Chinese Pottery Barn and Snuff Sex Shoppe, And All I Got Was This Shitty T-Shirt.”

Enter Kitty Winter.  In Watson’s words, Shinwell Johnson was seated and:

…beside him on the settee was a brand which he had brought up in the shape of a slim, flame-like young woman with a pale, intense face, youthful, and yet so worn with sin and sorrow that one read the terrible years which had left their leprous mark upon her.

So Kitty Winter is a hooker.

Let’s make no bones about this.  We are as close as we ever, ever, ever come here to Doyle mentioning “unfortunates” existed.  Why is Kitty Winter a fallen woman?  She hasn’t done anything wrong, not that we know of.  She seems a kind, intelligent, wryly funny person.  When indirectly asked how she was found, Kitty quips, “Hell, London, gets me every time.”  Her suburb is clearly uncomfortable, her occupation the eldest one, her mind sharp and her sass factor off the charts.  Sherlock Holmes is meant to be squirrelly around the ladyfolk, meanwhile, and might presumably have shied away from this jezebel:

Holmes smiled. “I gather we have your good wishes, Miss Winter.”

Nah.  Holmes is fine.

“…well, there, she’ll speak for herself,” Shinwell “Porky” Johnson avers.

Hell yeah she will.  In the Granada adaptation, she does so without words:

If I were left to my own devices entirely, I’d quote everything Kitty Winter said throughout the entire case, but that would prove inefficient.  First off, she sits there in this room full of men—a nark, a consulting detective, and an army doctor—and tells them without any trace of shame that Baron Gruner ruined her.  She mentions, “Porky Shinwell has been telling me. He’s after some other poor fool and wants to marry her this time.”  Baron Gruner never offered to marry Kitty.  She’s confessing to three Victorian men that she had sex with the Baron and he hadn’t even proposed.  She loved him, so she slept with him—that’s what Kitty has admitted in the Baker Street sitting room.  Does Holmes throw her to the kerb (curb)?  No.

Holmes asks her, very courteously, what more she can tell them.  And she answers:

I tell you, Mr. Holmes, this man collects women, and takes a pride in his collection, as some men collect moths or butterflies. He had it all in that book. Snapshot photographs, names, details, everything about them. It was a beastly book–a book no man, even if he had come from the gutter, could have put together. But it was Adelbert Gruner’s book all the same. ‘Souls I have ruined.’ He could have put that on the outside if he had been so minded.

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You can call Gruner whatever you like.  Call him a serial murderer, a philanderer, a liar, a killer, a fiend, a brute eager to trample anyone in his path.  Whatever you call him, Kitty Winter had the guts to say she’d face down his fiancée as a last resort, and when Holmes offers to pay her for this service:

“None of that, Mr. Holmes,” cried the young woman. “I am not out for money. Let me see this man in the mud, and I’ve got all I’ve worked for–in the mud with my foot on his cursed face. That’s my price. I’m with you to-morrow or any other day so long as you are on his track.”

What a woman, as some have said.  What a woman!  Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was passionate on the subject of divorce reform, as well he should have been.  Holmes in an uncannily Doyle-like voice protests to Violet de Merville:

But I really did plead with her with all the warmth of words that I could find in my nature. I pictured to her the awful position of the woman who only wakes to a man’s character after she is his wife–a woman who has to submit to be caressed by bloody hands and lecherous lips. I spared her nothing –the shame, the fear, the agony, the hopelessness of it all.

Of course this doesn’t work, but Kitty does Holmes one better.  This is one of the most striking feminist passages in the entire canon, because Kitty gives zero fucks about Violet, but she’s there to say her piece anyhow, and meanwhile Holmes has brought a whore to show-and-tell to serve as his evidence, so we are already waaaaaaaaaaaay outside the land of shrouded table legs here:

I am his last mistress. I am one of a hundred that he has tempted and used and ruined and thrown into the refuse heap, as he will you also. Your refuse heap is more likely to be a grave, and maybe that’s the best. I tell you, you foolish woman, if you marry this man he’ll be the death of you. It may be a broken heart or it may be a broken neck, but he’ll have you one way or the other. It’s not out of love for you I’m speaking. I don’t care a tinker’s curse whether you live or die. It’s out of hate for him and to spite him and to get back on him for what he did to me. But it’s all the same, and you needn’t look at me like that, my fine lady, for you may be lower than I am before you are through with it.

Later in the case, highly dramatic events occur.  Holmes is beaten to a pulp, Watson is devastated, Gruner gloats, and Kitty ends up throwing vitriol in her persecutor’s smug face.  Most tellingly, I think, Holmes is severely injured in act three, and he then enlists allies.  Of course he assigns Watson the essential role of affable decoy—Watson was practically gnashing his teeth over Holmes’s sickbed, which is lovely in its own right.  But then Sherlock Holmes brings Kitty along with him to burgle the house.

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Clearly, Holmes thinks she might know where the lust diary is.  But it doesn’t matter to him that she lives in Hell, London.  It doesn’t matter that she’s a prostitute.  It doesn’t matter that she rode Baron Bruner like a rodeo cowboy when only men were meant to have sex drives.  Sherlock Holmes gives nil shits on all of these topics.  And I appreciate that, because I adore Kitty Winter.  And I would argue that—despite his nasty comments on the subject of hairpins and curling-tongs—Sherlock Holmes did too.

i’ve met so many amazing people since i joined the sherlock fandom, so i just wanted to make something to thank all of my mutuals, friends, and people i follow. 

if i’m following you, just know that it means i think you’re the bee’s knees  💕 💕


💕 bachelorjhw  💕

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+ a special shout-out to all the lovely bees in the baker street irregulars network!