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Now out -- the novel’s companion volume!




For a sample and info, go to Sources & Methods.


________________________________________________


Baker Street Irregular,

    a Mycroft & Moran book from Arkham House Publishers:




                                                                   Cover art by Laurie Fraser Manifold 



Jon Lellenberg is a devious bastard. 

At first blush, this is a gripping portrait of New York between the wars, and the early years of the Baker Street Irregulars. Lellenberg is their historian, and its founders and early lights – Christopher Morley, Elmer Davis, Edgar Smith, Rex Stout and others – come to life as never before. As the tale progresses, however, Lellenberg’s agenda emerges as far more ambitious and decidedly more sinister. He sits like a spider at the center of its web, testing each quiver and radiation of a plot that will leave readers thoroughly inconven-ienced, incommoded, and hampered in their plans. 

This man is not to be trusted.  Reader beware.


                                             Daniel Stashower, author of Teller of Tales: The Life of

                                                  Arthur Conan Doyle and The Beautiful Cigar Girl: Mary

                                                  Rogers, Edgar Allan Poe, and the Invention of Murder



Baker Street Irregular is a mystery and espionage tale told by a member of the whimsical Sherlock Holmes club born in a New York speakeasy. It begins in the Great Depression’s worst year and ends with the Cold War emerging. And it deals with some of the era’s biggest issues: Wall Street resistance to the New Deal — fierce struggle against isolationism as America’s response to fascism and war in Europe — FDR coping with a complacent bureaucracy and no strategic intelligence capabilities — Britain on the ropes, and British Intelligence plotting behind the scenes to circumvent U.S. neutrality — war coming to America, and creation of our own secret intelligence means to fight the war — Anglo-American collaboration in strategic deception helping to forge the “special relationship” — and at war’s end, the discovery of deep Soviet espionage operations in America.

    But it is also the deeply personal tale of Woody Hazelbaker, a young lawyer who, to survive in 1933, gets a cold dose of reality from a client he must keep secret from the world, and later puts to use the stratagems he learned from him when Woody and other Baker Street Irregulars react to Hitler’s march to war. Not only the Irregulars but Woody’s marriage splits as Churchill fights on alone, and Woody and his friends join British Intelligence in a covert campaign to circumvent American neutrality — leading event-ually to treason, espionage and murder. In a series of wartime intelligence missions, Woody wages a clandestine war of his own to solve the disappear-ance of the woman he loved, who vanished the day after Hitler’s invasion of Russia. His quest takes him from the White House to London’s Cabinet War Rooms, and finally Germany’s battlefields, then back again to the nerve center of America’s cryptologic campaign against both the Axis and Soviet Union. How he brings his bitter quest to a conclusion is a masterpiece of ruthlessly satisfying deviousness.

    But throughout, the tale is underpinned by Conan Doyle’s classic Sherlock Holmes stories, and the eccentricities and passions of their most gleefully perverse fans, the Baker Street Irregulars.

                                                                        The Publisher



    You may assume many of this book’s adventures, and many of the people

Woody Hazelbaker meets, to be the product of the author's imagination. You will usually be wrong. With a kaleidoscope of real events both famous and little known,

of real people both prominent and obscure, this readable book shows how true is Sherlock Holmes's observation that “Life is infinitely stranger than anything

which the mind of man could invent.”


Thaddeus Holt, author of The Deceivers: Allied

     Military Deception in the Second World War






Explore Woody Hazelbaker’s world:


Starting September 24th, and succeeding Fridays,


a rolling visit to the novel’s times, settings, and troubles:


“The Game’s Afoot!”






REVIEWS:


Publishers Weekly:

Baker Street Irregular

Jon Lellenberg, Arkham/Mycroft & Moran, $39.95 (408p)

Lellenberg, the official historian of the Baker Street Irregulars and coauthor of Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters (with Daniel Stashower and Charles Foley), makes an impressive fiction debut with this gripping period spy novel. In 1933, Woody Hazelbaker, a young Wall Street lawyer, gets an unexpected and unlikely career break after taking on mobster Owney Madden as a client. The knowledge Woody gains from assisting the criminal in liquidating his interests in a number of businesses proves handy years later on the eve of WWII when Woody and some fellow Sherlockians get involved in anti-Nazi efforts amid strong isolationist sentiment. Lellenberg does an excellent job at bringing the original Irregulars, who included Christopher Morley and Rex Stout, to life. His own background as former director of the Pentagon's special operations bureau's policy and strategy office serves him well in recreating the grind and tedium of actual intelligence work. (Nov.)


Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine:

****  Jon Lellenberg: Baker Street Irregular, Arkham House/Mycroft & Moran, $39.95. The outstanding item in our annual birthday round-up is the latest novel about eminent fans of the Baker Street sleuth. Though it follows fictionalizations as excellent as Anthony Boucher’s The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars (1940) and Arthur H. Lewis’s Copper Beeches (1971), this quite different novel may be the best of them all. In an espionage saga extending from 1933 to the early years of the Cold War, New York lawyer Woody Hazelbaker helps settle the affairs of mobster Owney Madden, joins the BSI, and participates in intelligence activities before, during, and after World War II. Clearly based extensively on fact (and a whole second volume is projected to document and clarify), this extraordinary historical novel is recommended to anyone interested in the run-up to World War II in the United States and the role of codebreaking in the defeat of Germany and Japan. Excellent talk in place of physical action gives a much more authentic feel than the cinematic choreography of lesser novels. Historical characters abound from FDR and Churchill to the founding Irregulars, many of whom (notably radio commentator Elmer Davis) had an important role in the war effort. Also appearing is prolific British thriller writer Dennis Wheatley, who would have appreciated how Lellenberg draws several plot strands together for a startling ending.


Dime Novel Round-Up (J. Randolph Cox, BSI)

. . . . This is truly a page-turner, but at a more deliberate pace than is usually associated with that term. Once caught up in the events, the reader does not want to miss a single incident, a single line of prose, a single word of dialogue. Once finished there is a temptation to turn back to the beginning and experience the ride all over again. (Full review here



Sherlockian.net (Christopher Redmond, BSI)

Sherlockians have heard the story so often that it seems legendary: young literary men working and drinking in the New York of the 1930s, discovering now and then that they had a shared enjoyment of the Sherlock Holmes tales, eventually forming a light-hearted club ostensibly to promote that interest, but more importantly to cement their personal friendships and their shared convictions about literature, life and (sometimes) politics. That was the Baker Street Irregulars, which linked Christopher Morley, Elmer Davis, Bob Leavitt and Woody Hazelbaker — wait, who?  


    Hazelbaker is the central figure in this novel by Jon Lellenberg, author of several chronicles of the BSI's early decades, and about the only character in it who the reader can feel confident is fictional. He falls among the Irregulars, finds that he shares their political leanings as well as their literary and social tastes, and ends up playing a not totally insignificant role in the American intelligence apparatus during the Second World War. It is no coincidence that the author, a prominent Sherlockian with (like Hazelbaker) origins in Kansas City, worked close to (though not, he likes to stress, actually in) military intelligence a generation later, and has always hinted that he has tales to tell.


   He tells this one extraordinarily well. Sherlockians are sadly habituated to reading “pastiches” written by enthusiastic amateurs whose mastery of grammar, punctuation and narrative technique is shaky at best. Further, such books are often privately published or put out by one of the not-quite-amateur Sherlockian publishing houses whose staff do not include professional editors. (This one comes from the historic little press Arkham House, lately under new management.) Lellenberg has an editor's qualifications himself, and the narration is impeccable.  


    More than one early reader has reported starting this book, intending to amble through it at leisure, and being forced to read far into the night because it was impossible to put down. It's not a short volume, either, running more than 400 pages, with a nice mixture of narrative and dialogue, character and action, the personal and the political. It deserves to be read and shelved next to the other classic novel that tells a story not of Sherlock Holmes himself, but of the Sherlockians who enjoy him, Anthony Boucher's The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars, published more than half a century ago. And that, for a Sherlockian book from the present loquacious era, is (and is meant to be) a very high compliment.


The District Messenger (Sherlock Holmes Society of London):

Jon Lellenberg, author of Baker Street Irregular (Arkham House, Sauk City, WI 53585, USA; $39.95) is a long-standing member of our Society. His scrupulous research, intelligent marshaling of facts, and clear presentation of conclusions have been demonstrated time and again. He worked for the Pentagon for some thirty-five years, and since 1989 has been historian of the Baker Street Irregulars – all of which means that in this, his first novel, he’s writing of things he knows intimately. In 1933, towards the end of Prohibition, a young New York lawyer named Woody Hazelbaker is obliged to take on a powerful gangster as a client. Working for Owney Madden, and having to keep the fact secret, opens his eyes to much that’s bad in depression-hit America, and to much that’s good and useful. Not long afterwards, Woody is introduced to Christopher Morley’s fledgling Sherlockian society at Christ Cella’s speakeasy, a meeting of kinsprits (Morley’s term) that leads to lasting friendship with Basil Davenport, Earle Walbridge, Fletcher Pratt, Elmer Davis, Edgar Smith and other giants of the early BSI. Since Anthony Boucher’s The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars in 1940, several fine, generally light-hearted detective stories have featured the BSI. There are mysteries in Baker Street Irregular, but it’s something more than a detective story. Lellenberg shows us, through Woody Hazelbaker’s eyes, America’s reaction to the rise of Nazi Germany and the outbreak of war. A group of Irregulars helps promote Anglo-American cooperation, in defiance of a strong isolationist movement, and when America enters the war, Woody joins military intelligence in Washington. While he is politically active in one direction, his wife is active in another; he doesn’t learn the depth and purpose of her commitment until the end of the war, but his work and his search for the truth have taken him from Washington to London and on to the front line in Germany.


    Fact and fiction sit so easily together that it’s often hard to tell which is which. Real people, including those early Irregulars, come vividly and credibly to life. And through the sometimes extraordinary experiences of one man, Mr Lellenberg helps us to understand why things in America were as they were. Baker Street Irregular is an ambitious novel and a very considerable achievement.


Marv Lachman in Deadly Pleasures, Fall 2010:

. . . a fascinating, well-told tale of the birth of a mystery fan and organization and especially of the role the BSI played in the early days of World War II. The dialogue is sophisticated. If you enjoyed the way Forrest Gump and Woody Allen’s Zelig appeared at important world events, you’ll love reading of Woody Hazelbaker.


Bill Crider’s Popular Culture Magazine:

Baker Street Irregular, the first Arkham House book in several years, is billed as a mystery/espionage thriller. Maybe so, but to me it was more like the kind of novel that I used to read fairly often, a big, sweeping historical that blends the coming-of-age story with the story of changing eras in 20th century.


    Our hero is Woody Hazelbaker, a young midwesterner who works for a prominent New York law firm during the Depression. He's afraid he might lose his job, as others have, but because of his unlawyerly personality, the head of the firm gives him a new client, one that others in the firm wouldn't care to work with: Owney Madden.


    Madden is the first of many actual historical figures to appear in the pages of the novel, and Hazelbaker learns a lot from their association. He profits from it in a lot of different ways as the story moves along.


    Hazelbaker also falls in with Christopher Morley's Baker Street Irregulars, and it's a lot of fun to see what Lellenberg does with characters like Morley, Rex Stout, Alexander Woollcott, Basil Davenport, Lucius Beebe, and Fletcher Pratt, to name a few.


    When WWII comes along, Hazelbaker and many of the other Irregulars are involved in various ways, primarily with codebreaking and espionage. They're a big help to the allies, and Hazelbaker sees a bit of England and Europe along the way. He's a married man now, though separated from his wife, and that part of the story is also tied to the war effort.


    The writing swept me up and carried me right along. The complex story is easy to follow, and Woody Hazelbaker is an engaging and sympathetic narrator. Sherlockians will enjoy the by-play among the Irregulars, and everyone will get a nice refresher course in mid-20th century history. Baker Street Irregular is an ambitious and entertaining book. I really enjoyed it.


Dan Andriacco’s Baker Street Beat:

Irregular, but Wonderful:  Baker Street Irregular by Jon Lellenberg is not at all what I expected when my Portuguese friend Nuno Robles recommended it to me.


This first foray into fiction by the eminent BSI historian is more than just a thriller. It is a historical novel of depth and complexity which begins before the United States' entry into World War II and ends during the Truman Administration.


As I closed the last page, I felt that I had not just read a book but lived through all the loves and losses of the hero-narrator, Woody Hazelbaker. It's the story of his gradually being dragged into a very personal war along with other original members of the Baker Street Irregulars.


One doesn't have to be a Sherlockian to enjoy this book, but there is a special treat for those who are: The giants of the early days of the game -- Christopher Morley, Vincent Starrett, Elmer Davis, Alexander Woollcott, Edgar W. Smith, Rex Stout, and others -- come to life in these pages.


If my shelf of books related to Sherlock Holmes but not Canon or pastiche were considerably smaller than it actually is, this book would still be on it. Thanks for the recommendation, Nuno.



“I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere”

podcast interview and related links at

http://www.ihearofsherlock.com/2010/12/episode-29-baker-street-irregular.html



International Thriller Writers

interview article at

http://www.thebigthrill.org/2010/10/baker-street-irregular-by-jon-lellenberg





Sharp, clever, and extremely well-written, Baker Street Irregular is a wonderfully literate tale that subtly uses the intrigue of the 1930s to explore many of the issues facing the United States today. Jon Lellenberg is a master and Baker Street Irregular is

a must-have for all Sherlock Holmes aficionados!


Brad Thor, #1 New York Times bestselling author

of The Athena Project



A related talk to the

29th International Churchill Conference,

Toronto, October 13, 2012.



In Print:  408 pp., $39.95 plus shipping.


Arkham House was founded in 1939 by writers August Derleth and Donald Wandrei to publish work by their late mentor H.P. Lovecraft, naming the press after the eerie New England village where his stories take place. Since then Arkham House has published the best supernatural fiction in the world. In 1945 Derleth, a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, created Arkham House’s Mycroft & Moran imprint to publish mystery titles as well, beginning with his Solar Pons pastiches of the Sherlock Holmes stories.



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