Dorothy L. Sayers, the state of the bees, and the Great Hiatus of Sherlock Holmes: newsletter, July 28, 2023

July 28, 2023 | By Jim Stovall | Filed in: books, fiction, history, newsletter, writers, writing.

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (2,845) on Friday, July 28, 2023.


A question that frequently comes my way these days is, “How are the bees doing?” My typical response, unless the inquirer desires more details, is a simple, “They’re doing well.”

During July and August in my region, bee colonies, especially those cared for by beekeepers like myself, face critical times. The blooming season has mostly come to an end, leaving limited sources for the bees to gather additional food. While the past few months should have provided them with enough resources to last most of the year, it doesn’t always work out that way.

As a beekeeper, the question on my mind is, “When and how much should the colonies be fed?” It’s a matter of judgment, and responsible beekeepers take time to consider the issue carefully. That’s precisely what we are doing at the moment. The bees themselves are indeed doing fine, but the real concern lies in how they will fare in the upcoming couple of months. Only time will tell.

But, like most beekeepers, I always appreciate the question.

Meanwhile, have a great and literate weekend.


Under the newsletter’s hood: Last week’s newsletter was sent to 2,887 subscribers and had a 38.2 percent open rate; 11 persons unsubscribed.

Important: Remember to open the images or click on one of the links so that my email service will record your engagement, and you will stay active on the list. Thanks.


Dorothy L. Sayers and her radio classic, The Man Born to Be King

On the night of Sunday, December 21, 1941, the people of Great Britain tuning in to BBC radio experienced something unique. Amidst the wartime chaos, instead of the familiar sounds of German planes or Winston Churchill’s rallying speeches, they encountered actors portraying New Testament characters engaging in plain, everyday English conversation.

At that time, Britain was a deeply religious nation, with the Anglican church, British government, and society closely intertwined. The version of the Bible prevalent in the country was the King James version, filled with archaic language like “thee” and “thou” and formal syntax that no modern English speaker would use in everyday conversation.

But Dorothy L. Sayers, the creative mind behind the radio play The Man Born to be King, believed that Jesus and his disciples likely spoke in common language. Her radio play challenged convention, presenting a series of 12 episodes that followed the life of Christ. The characters were depicted as real human beings, expressing emotions and actions not explicitly described in the gospels, using ordinary language and even Cockney accents.

The idea of these plays caused a storm of controversy even before the first episode aired. At a press conference arranged by the BBC to promote the production, Sayers read a part of one episode, including a colloquial exchange among the disciples. The boldness of this presentation shocked journalists, and the Daily Mail ran a headline proclaiming “BBC ‘Life of Christ’ in U.S. Slang.” Various churches, ministers, and Christian societies voiced protests, branding it sacrilegious. Appeals were made to the prime minister and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

However, the BBC, supported by its Religious Advisory Committee, stood firmly behind Sayers, and the first episode, “The Nativity,” was broadcast as planned.

Dorothy L. Sayers, born in 1893, was the only child of an Oxford cleric and educator. Her early education included Latin lessons from her father at the tender age of six. She attended Oxford University at 19, studying modern languages and medieval literature, and graduated with first-class honors.

Though she is primarily remembered for her detective fiction, with her enduring character Lord Peter Wimsey, Sayers’s literary range was extensive. Her works tackled modern issues like the reintegration of war veterans and the role of women in society in the post-World War I era. She also demonstrated her literary prowess through her translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy, which she considered her best work.

Sayers’s strong Christian beliefs led her to write about her faith. In 1941, she published The Mind of the Maker, followed by Creed or Chaos? in the previous year, both exploring Christian faith and beliefs within an Anglican context, akin to the works of G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.

The radio plays depicting Jesus’s life underwent months of preparation, during which Sayers navigated the politics between the BBC and the Church of England. The journey wasn’t easy, but after the broadcast of The Man Born to Be King’s first episode, public reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Sayers received praise for her bold and creative depiction of the scenes and characters, and the BBC and the Church of England, which had supported the project, were relieved.

Following World War II, Sayers mostly shifted away from fiction writing, though not entirely, focusing on Christian topics and education. By the time of her death in 1957 at the age of 64, she had become one of the most celebrated and influential women of English literature in the 20th century.


The Prolific Reader. Kill the Quarterback is listed there along with some other great mysteries.”


Sherlock Holmes and the “Great Hiatus”

By 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle had had enough of Sherlock Holmes. The fictional detective that he had created, who first appeared in A Study in Scarlet in 1887, had dominated Doyle’s literary efforts. Numerous short stories chronicling the adventures of Holmes and his intrepid partner, Dr. Watson, had appeared in the Strand Magazine. Readers loved these characters and the stories.

However, Doyle was much less enamored with Holmes and Watson. He had other stories to tell, and he wanted to move on from them. Instead of just halting the stories, Doyle decided to kill off Holmes, literally. In his story, “The Final Problem,” Holmes came face-to-face with his mortal enemy, the criminal mastermind, James Moriarty. The two men had a physical confrontation in Switzerland, and Holmes fell to his death at the Reichenbach Falls.

And that was supposed to be the end. No more Sherlock Holmes. No more adventures, no more problems to solve, and no more clever, deductive reasoning from a man whose emotions had been held strictly in check.

But, as Doyle and the editors of the Strand Magazine found out, that wasn’t exactly the end. Readers were not accepting of Doyle’s decision. In fact, many of them vehemently rejected it. Approximately 20,000 readers canceled their subscriptions to the magazine, putting it into a precarious financial situation. Others who did not cancel protested vigorously.

Doyle was surprised at how much readers had taken to the eccentric ways and odd reasoning of the Sherlock character. The public outcry for more Holmes stories would eventually blow over, he thought, as he worked on other stories and characters.

Again, he was wrong. He was incessantly questioned about when there would be another Sherlock Holmes story. Finally, after an eight-year absence, the great detective returned in the form of a long, serialized novella, “The Hound of the Baskervilles.”

Sherlock was back. Watson was back. And they would remain on the literary scene until 1927. Holmes lovers were once again satisfied.

That eight-year period at the end of the 19th century when Holmes was thought to be dead is now known in Sherlockian history as “The Great Hiatus.”

Sherlock Holmes dominated detective fiction during this era, but he was not alone. Doyle had not only created a memorable character but he had also inspired many writers with a model they could emulate and manipulate in an endless variety of ways. This summer and fall we are taking a look at some of the authors and characters who came in the wake of Doyle and Holmes. This time was indeed the Golden Age of Detective Short Story Fiction.

One of the best, of course, was Father Brown by Gilbert Keith Chesterton. For the past few weeks, we have looked at a series of the Father Brown stories. That examination continues below with “The Curse of the Golden Cross.”

But there are many others beside Chesterton and Brown, and we will provide commentary and links in the coming weeks.

Image: Holmes and Moriarty struggle at Reichenbach Falls. Drawing by Sidney Paget.


G.K. Chesterton: The Incredulity of Father Brown: The Curse of the Golden Cross

G.K. Chesterton’s retiring, priestly detective, Father Brown, is well-known to modern readers and viewers mainly through a series of television adaptations of his character. Chesterton, who died in 1936, was one of the chief public intellectuals of his day, and his output as an author is astounding: 4,000 essays, 80 books, several hundred poems, and numerous plays. (See the JPROF post: G.K. Chesterton: Everything about him was big, including his ‘colossal genius’.)

Many of his Father Brown stories first appeared in magazines and then were gathered into several volumes of collections. During these weeks of the long summer months, we are presenting you with easy access to the Father Brown stories in one of the collections, The Incredulity of Father Brown.

These stories take about an hour to read or listen to.

This week’s story is “The Curse of the Golden Cross.”

The Curse of the Golden Cross

Listen to this story here on

Six people sat around a small table, seeming almost as incongruous and accidental as if they had been shipwrecked separately on the same small desert island. At least the sea surrounded them; for in one sense their island was enclosed in another island, a large and flying island like Laputa. For the little table was one of many little tables dotted about in the dining saloon of that monstrous ship the Moravia, speeding through the night and the everlasting emptiness of the Atlantic. The little company had nothing in common except that all were travelling from America to England. Two of them at least might be called celebrities; others might be called obscure, and in one or two cases even dubious.

Continue reading “The Curse of the Golden Cross”


Group giveaways for July

Kill the Quarterback and Murder Most Criminous are part of several group giveaways this month:

Mystery, Crime & Suspense July 2023

July Chills for the Beach (July 10-28)

Each of these giveaways includes more than 20 books of various sub-genres. You can download any or all of them in exchange for your email address. The email address will be shared among all authors participating in the giveaway. The purpose of these giveaways is to get books into the hands of readers and to increase email lists for the authors.


Women With Words promotional campaign extended

We have extended the special promotional campaign for Women With Words, begun last month, into July. The book is now widely available (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Lulu, and on a number of other platforms) and can be purchased as a hardback, paperback, or ebook. During this month, I have reduced the price as much as possible wherever it was possible to do so. Now is the perfect opportunity to purchase a copy.

Perhaps you know a young woman who loves to read and write and needs some inspiration. This would make a great gift and a perfect birthday or Christmas present. (I know, it’s July, but is it really too early to start your Christmas shopping?)

Don’t wait to make your purchase. Prices will soon be back to normal.


Check out last week’s newsletter

Finally . . .

This week’s watercolor: Old Presbyterian Meeting House

Best quote of the week:

The most valuable possession you can own is an open heart. The most powerful weapon you can be is an instrument of peace. Carlos Santana, musician (b. 1947)

Pray-as-you-go podcast

If you are looking for a quiet, meditative, non-theological but scriptural podcast to start or close your day, try The podcasts are 10-12 minutes long, and they feature beautiful music, a scripture reading, and a very short devotional. It’s a great respite from an otherwise all-too-noisy world.

If you are interested in reading scripture, either the Old Testament, the New Testament, or both, you might be interested in the videos, commentary, and podcast of the The people who work on this site have done some deep and thoughtful reading of the Bible, and the videos they have produced (generally shorter than 10 minutes) are both entertaining and enlightening. They view the Bible as a single entity with a single purpose, and their approach is both delightful and refreshing.

Helping those in need

Earthquakes in Turkey, fires in California, freezing weather in Texas, hurricanes on the Atlantic Coast, tornados in Tennessee: disasters occur everywhere. They have spread untold misery and disruption. The people affected by them need our help.

It’s not complicated. Things happen to people, and we should be ready to do all the good we can in all of the ways we can. (Some will recognize that I am paraphrasing John Wesley here).

When is the last time you gave to your favorite charity? The United Methodist Committee on Relief ( is my favorite charity. Please make a contribution to this one or to yours.

Keep reading, keep writing (especially to me), and have a great weekend.


Jim Stovall

You can connect with Jim on FacebookTwitterLinkedin, and BookBub.

His Amazon author page is where you can find more information about his books.

Last week’s newsletter: The Dreyfus affair, more Chesterton, and plenty of reader reaction: newsletter, July 21, 2023

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