Here is where a few topics we discussed in the last few weeks collide and then we download a free ebook.
A reader of mine (thank you!!) just sent me a book – a wonderful copy of The Sherlock Holmes Handbook, by Ransom Riggs.
The volume is a beautiful compact hardbound book, sturdy and very “Victorian looking”, and it covers the whole of the Holmesian lore concerning the Great Detective’s methods, tools and practices.
I am reading it very slowly to make it last, but it’s a perfect complement for a Sherlockian shelf, and it’s also the sort of handy reference one might need to check when writing.
Beautiful, and (hopefully) not too expensive.
I’ll do a full review as soon as I’m finished, but right now on my first impression, I feel like recommending it.
It might also be a good tool for roleplayer playing Victoria settings.
But there is another handbook I’ve been browsing that is worth mentioning.
I used it marginally as part of my research for Hope & Glory, at the very beginning – and maybe because of this I think it is not listed in the suggested reading list in the handbook.
The volume in question (that I found thanks to the help of my Ripperologist brother) is called Criminal investigation, a practical handbook for magistrates, police officers and lawyers, translated and adapted to Indian and Colonial practice, and it is indeed a translation and adaptation of a German criminology handbook, written by one Dr Hand Gross and reworked by British barristers John Adam and J. Collier Adam.
The esteemed Adam & Adam (that I am imagining as a Victorian/Anglo-Indian version of Simon & Simon), in adapting the work of Gross, did not alter too much the original content, so that we get information and details about a far wider world than India alone.
A hefty tome of 1000 pages, it covers everything, from the role and duties of the investigator to the techniques for the questioning of witnesses.
It is often observed that of two or more persons summoned before a
magistrate, only one turns up ; the other is unwell, has been kicked by a
horse, or otherwise prevented from appearing on the appointed day. The
Investigating Officer then thoughtlessly questions the individual present
and sends him away with a strict injunction to see that the other appears
on the morrow without fail. Of course he does, for the person questioned
to-day has learned in the course of his examination what it is all about ;
he knows what he has said, reports it to his friend, and the two can at
leisure agree as to what statement is to be made on the morrow.
A big chapter covers the use of experts and consultants, and the relationship with the press.
But it’s on page 296 that things get really interesting to anyone playing a detection/crime/espionage game in Hope & Glory, as we are treated to about 150 pages about crime in India in all its aspects, from the criminal slang to the weapons used, to the practices and superstitions connected with the criminal sector of “native” society.
The second half of the book is all about tradecraft: how the investigation is conducted, how to find fingerprints, how to examine traces of blood… the works. Undoubtedly, Mr Sherlock Holmes provided some material, though he remains uncredited.
Quite recently an immense sensation was created in the spiritualist
world by the exposure of a famous medium (one of those curses of modern
society) who enjoyed a great reputation, members of the peerage even hav-
ing been to consult him. To show the methods of these gentry we cannot
do better than give a report of the exposure as told to a representative of
the London ”Morning Leader” by a gentleman well known as a believer
in spiritualism, who indeed expressed his gratification at himself being
the person to show up the fraud. A seance had been held at which some
interesting phenomena were said to have taken place which astonished
most of those present. After the seance the chair which the medium
had used was placed aside and wrapped in a rug, the medium expressing
his desire that it should not be handled, lest any detrimental psychic force,
residing in the handler, should affect it. But there had been present a
gentleman of very great literary experience who was a student of, and
writer on, the subject of criminology. This gentleman was a man of
keen powers of critical observation who was always desirous of knowing
and seeing everything of a psychical nature.
Any guesses about the identity of the gentleman of very great literary experience?
The book is lavishly illustrated, it was published in 1906, and is available for download in various formats from the Internet Archive.
It is not required reading, and printing it out as a handout for a game could be a little daunting. And of course, the Practical Handbook being a real world document, it does not necessarily reflect the society of the Raj in Hope & Glory.
But as a source of inspiration, as a reservoir of ideas, tools and strange anecdotes, for any Victorian/Edwardian setting, it is absolutely priceless.
Good thing it can be downloaded for free.