Friday, May 7, 2010

Catching Up: Midmorning with Kerri Miller

On April 1st I had a real treat: I was a guest on Kerri Miller's "Midmorning" show on Minnesota Public Radio. (Follow the link to listen to the show; I was on the second hour, 10-11am). I'm a big fan of public radio. I listen to it when I get up in the morning and its the last thing I hear when going to bed at night. Unfortunately, I don't always get to hear Kerri's show because it falls in the middle of my work day. But I try to check her program web page as often as possible to see and hear her guests. On her program page pay special attention to the "Of Note" links on the sidebar. I'm always interested to see what she's reading as well as the "Talking Volumes" section. There's some great material here!

Earlier on I was contacted by Chris Dall, who helps produce "Midmorning," wondering if I'd be interested in joining the program on April 1st to talk about Sherlock Holmes, the Collections here at the University, and anything else Sherlockian that might come our way. The main guest for this segment of the show was David Grann, a staff writer at the New Yorker, who was going to be talking about his new book "The Devil and Sherlock Holmes." I jumped at the chance.

The timing was perfect. Only two nights earlier I'd watched an interview with David on the "Charlie Rose" show. I was ready to go out and buy the book and the invitation from Chris just sealed the deal. I had to admit, however, that I was a bit nervous, for a number of reasons. First, I'd come across David's writing earlier in the New Yorker, in a piece that also features as the lead chapter of the new book entitled "Mysterious Circumstances." When "Mysterious Circumstances" first appeared it was not received well by some members of the Sherlockian community; there were mixed reviews. Glen Miranker, a friend and devoted Sherlockian, wrote a very nice letter that appeared in a later issue of the New Yorker and Otto Penzler, another friend of the Collections, also complimented David on his writing. I was of a mixed mind. I'd had the chance to meet and correspond with Richard Lancelyn Green, the subject of David's piece, and was very saddened by Richard's death. I was looking forward to a long and interesting friendship with Richard, but we never made it past the acquaintance stage. I knew others, close friends of Richard's, had denounced the article. I didn't want to put on any airs, or presume to speak for the entire Sherlockian community, so I was a bit concerned about how to strike some kind of middle ground during my time on the radio. I was certain that Richard's death would come up in the conversation, but was not sure what approach I should take. I talked to a number of friends, both local and abroad, to get their input and advice. My thanks to all of them for helping me in this portion of my "prep" for the interview.

I was also nervous because this was going to be live, on the air. There were no opportunities for edits. I've not done a lot of interviews, but its probably safe to say that I've done more then many of my colleagues here, so this wasn't totally new territory. But I was remembering a previous interview I'd given, also on radio, where I'd made a mistake in the facts. It wasn't a major thing, and most listeners probably missed it, but I wanted to make sure that I was as prepared as I could be for the interview. So, in preparation, I re-read "Mysterious Circumstances" a number of times. I also re-checked other media accounts from the time of Richard's death as well as looking at old postings on various Holmes/Doyle discussion lists. I wanted to have a good sense of what people had said at the time and what, if any, reverberations were still out there.

Finally, I was a bit nervous because Minnesota Public Radio is a great radio operation. They do things at a high level of excellence and I didn't want to disappoint them. I have to admit that I was thrilled at the opportunity to see some of the behind the scenes operation, and really enjoyed the time in the control room before I went into the studio for my segment of the show.

In the end, I just had to be me. I think I come off all right in interviews, but you never quite know until you've finished. Just relax and enjoy the time. Those were the best words for me to remember as I entered the studio. Everything else would take care of itself. Good preparation can lead to a good frame of mind. You're sharp, alert, and ready to go.

I didn't have any reason to worry. It was a great time and a good conversation and Kerri put me totally at ease. It was very natural talking with her and David. The added bonus for me was the chance to talk more with Kerri after the show was over. We stayed in the studio for another ten to fifteen minutes talking more about Holmes, Doyle, and the U's collection. I hope she has the chance to come over here some time for a visit. I'd love to show her around. She may bring me back a couple of weeks before our conference for a chance to plug that event and talk more about Holmes. I'm looking forward to the chance. My thanks to Kerri, Chris, and the other folks at MPR for the invitation to talk about the Collections and about a great Sherlockian, Richard Lancelyn Green.

And don't forget to read David's book. I really do like his writing. I haven't yet read his "Lost City of Z" but will get to it shortly. At the moment I'm reading Christopher Andrew's authorized history of MI-5, "Defend the Realm."

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