Last night, I had the great privilege of addressing this group of fellows, all veteran pipe smokers, about my books, chiefly “The Case of the Undead Client” and the more recent “Werewolves of Edinburgh.” In short, it was a delight. One of the club members, Tim Hynik, is part of a regular on-line pipe chat with my good friend, David Martinez-Ruiz, and, together, they cooked up this Zoom meeting between me and the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club to which Tim belongs. How I wish it had been in person! We met and chatted for well over three hours. The time flew by. And, yes, I did tell them about my “Watson” books, as I call them, to which they listened eagerly. I might even have gained a reader or two.
More than that, though, I had the experience, once again, of finding a community of friends with fellow pipe smokers. As we “Zoomed” through the evening, we told stories of finding friends in other pipe smokers. It seems universally true for pipe guys like us: finding another pipe smoker means finding a sudden, unexpected friend, even if he or she is a complete stranger. With a pipe in hand, strangers become friends. Even where language barriers, creeds, nations, political ideologies separate us, our choices in pipes and tobaccos helps us find fraternity in an otherwise alien setting.
Naturally, our talk led me to bring up a Holmesian fact: any and every Holmes and Watson story must, somewhere, somehow, dip into the comfort that Doyle created in the flat that Holmes and Watson shared at 221B Baker Street. That very fact made me aware of an important change I must make in my third Watson book, which I will see to immediately.
Pipes and tobacco are part of the compelling world that Conan Doyle gave us, as much as the jack knife that pins Holmes’s correspondences to the mantle or the Persian slipper in which he keeps his shag tobacco, as much as the violin Holmes plays with his long, dexterous fingers, as much as Mrs. Hudson, bustling in and out with tea things and muttering about the untidy state of the rooms. Doyle created an image of home, the place to which we desire to return, take refuge from the problems that follow us from our outer lives. He made pipes and tobacco a part of that refuge.
Having a pipe with a friend or two slows the pace of life, affords listening more than talking, often gifting us with shared silence, where nothing needs be said. That, in itself, is a state much needed just now, when so many things separate us, when the chatter of power seeking individuals threatens our sanity, when the very busyness of existence tugs with unremitting insistence at out attentions. How wonderful that a simple thing like pipe smoking–which many will decry as a danger–gifts us with rare moments of friendship and peace of mind, even if just for a while. Truly, one cannot and should not smoke a pipe constantly, anymore than do any other thing to the point of folly, like eating or drinking too much. Moderation is the key and a momentary peace is the reward.
So, I offer my great thanks to my new friends in Boston in the Sherlock Holmes Pipe Club and look forward to the day that I can sit in their presence and kindle the hearth fires that warm us. In this often too cold world we need such friends and moments of peace. I hope you find yours!