Monday, 31 March 2014

Elementary, My Dear Watson?

Jerome Caminada
The Telegraph has an interesting article on Jerome Caminada, the real-life detective who may well have been the inspiration for the fictional Sherlock Holmes. Author Angela Buckley has written a biography of Caminada entitled The Real Sherlock Holmes, which underlines the similarities in character, methods, and case work between the real and fictional detectives.

Buckley states that “Caminada became a national figure at just the time that Sherlock Holmes was being created. There are so many parallels that it is clear Doyle was using parts of this real character for his.”

Caminada spent most of his career with the Manchester City Police Force, later operating as a consulting detective. He relied on an extensive network of informants to keep him apprised of criminal activity and would often move among the underworld in disguise. He was purportedly responsible for putting 1225 criminals behind bars.
For the full text of the article, please see

For an article on Angela Buckley and her book, please see


Monday, 24 March 2014

Historical Crime Fiction, Anyone?

Historical crime fiction writer S.J. Parris has recently published her latest Giordano Bruno novel in a series set in Elizabethan England and featuring the unlikely detective duo of a monk and a courtier-poet. (The latter is Philip Sidney, whose poetry you probably read if you were an undergraduate in English literature.) The novel is reviewed in The Telegraph.

The Telegraph recently carried an article by Parris entitled "The Best Murder Mysteries Are Historical" in which she postulates that reading about crime in an historical setting is more satisfying to the reader. 

Parris states:

Writing history is a kind of detective work, so it’s no surprise that the murder mystery lends itself so well to historical settings. Part of the pleasure of historical crime is that it allows a return to the golden age of the amateur detective, before investigations depended on forensics and CCTV.

Among her favorite historical crime novels are Josephine Tey's The Daughter of Time, based on the murder of the Princes in the Tower (Edward and Richard); Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, a tale of ritualistic murders inside a 14th-century monastery, and novels by Iain Pears, Charles Palliser, and Matthew Pearl.

For the full text of the article, please click here.

Monday, 17 March 2014

The Science of Aging Wisely

There is an interesting and very positive article in a recent edition of The New York Times which examines the topic of wisdom as it relates to age. The article looks at various studies and how wisdom encompasses not only cognitive knowledge, but our ability to gain insights from that knowledge as a basis for our decisions and behaviors.

Among the observations of researchers are the following:

- Older people have much more information in their brains so retrieving it naturally takes longer;

- While younger people are faster in cognitive performance, the quality of information in older people is more nuanced;

- One neuroscientist has postulated that there are "cognitive templates" based on pattern recognition that develop in the older brain, and these "templates" form the basis for wise behavior and decisions;

- One of the impediments to wisdom in older people is negative thinking and dwelling on the perceived negatives of aging; and

- Showing compassion to others is an important element of wisdom: "Wise people try to understand situations from multiple perspectives, not just their own, and they show tolerance as a result."

For the full text of the article, please click here.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Breezy and Other Animals in Need

If you live in the Ottawa area, you have probably been following the story of Breezy, who was severely beaten with a shovel and left for dead in a dumpster by her former owner. She was nursed back to health by the staff of the Ottawa Humane Society and got a second chance when she was placed with new, loving owners last week. She will always be blind in one eye as a result of the beating, but is fortunate to be alive. (A few years ago, a Boxer was beaten so severely with a broom handle that he lost one eye. He too was rescued and placed in a new home.)

Charlie the Great Dane
Currently the Ottawa Humane Society is nursing back to health a Great Dane that was starved to the point of death. Charlie has now gained 50 pounds and is making a good recovery after he was rescued.

Animal abuse and child and spousal abuse often go hand-in-hand. A few years ago a man stalking his ex-girlfriend, who had fled their abusive relationship, broke into her apartment and killed her two cats. Animal rescue agents are always on the lookout for other types of abuse in the home.

You've probably passed by homes with dogs chained constantly outside with no protection from the elements, and wondered "what's the point"? Neglect is also a form of abuse.

Not everyone is meant to own an animal. It involves commitment and responsibility.

Monday, 3 March 2014

And Nothing but the Truth. . .

There is an interesting post on The New York Review of Books blog by Tim Parks entitled "Writers into Saints". It talks about the apparent need for literary biographers to glorify the lives of writers and to gloss over or justify their behavior as if they "were afraid that the work might be diminished by a life that was less than noble or not essentially directed toward a lofty cause." Among the examples he cites are biographies of Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce. 
Parks sees this tendency most pronounced in the biographies of Charles Dickens. He states:

Quite apart from the writer’s [Dickens'] dramatic rejection of his wife after she had given him ten children, there is simply an enormous resistance to admitting what a tyrant the man was, seeking to control the lives of those around him to an extraordinary degree, deeply disappointed and punitive when they didn’t live up to his expectations, which was almost always, yet at the same time fearful of any sign of competition.

Parks' comments are telling: shouldn't we be able to accept a writer--warts and all--and still be able to critically appraise his/her work?

For the full text, please see