History of The Parallel Case of St. Louis
By Joe Eckrich
The Parallel Case of St. Louis was founded in November 1988 in the belief that there were area Sherlockians who would like to meet in a setting more informal than a banquet and discuss the stories that make up the Canon. For many years, the only Sherlockian society in the immediate area was The Noble Bachelors, a group with an illustrious history of their own. This group would typically hold several banquet meetings a year at which someone would present a paper or some form of Sherlockian program. However, as is normal for such groups, the formal presentation would often be the only time the name Sherlock Holmes would be mentioned during the evening. Actual discussion of a particular story was impossible at such a large and formal setting.
Some years ago, an attempt to remedy this was made with the creation of a sub-group, the Jefferson Hopes, but membership was strictly limited and the other rules made it very restrictive and not attractive for Many Sherlockians. Eventually, this group, which continues today, broke off from the Noble Bachelors. However, the seed was sown, and I continued to believe that such a group could exist and flourish that was small enough to discuss a specific story at each meeting. So in late 1988, I set about forming such a group. I placed flyers in several bookstores and notified various local Sherlockians. I was fortunate in making the acquaintance of the two owners of a fairly new mystery bookstore in St. Louis. While they were not Sherlockians, they were very encouraging and offered to help spread the word, which they did.
Thus, it was on the 3rd Monday in November 1988, a small group of Sherlockians met at my apartment for the first meeting of the new group. I had already thought of a name for the group, which the assembled body thought was appropriate. I had wanted a name that would connect Holmes and St. Louis, and I could find only two references to the city in the Canon. One mention appears in The Sign of Four, when Holmes discusses two parallel cases which he has used to point the way for a French detective, Francois le Villard. These cases involved a will and took place in Riga and St. Louis. Well, why not "The Parallel Case of St. Louis"? And so, a name was found and a rather a unique name at that.
Our society began as a small group and has remained so. The original intent in the founding of the group was to allow for an in-depth discussion of each story in the Canon, as well as any other aspects of Sherlockiana that appealed to us. We began by meeting in members' homes and progressed to meeting in a mystery bookstore. Neither venue allows for large groups. Given our reason for being, a small group works quite well.
Over the years, members have come and gone. A few sampled one or two meetings and decided it wasn't for them. However, most who appeared for one meeting continued to attend, as best they could. For some, other commitments or moves to distant locations made it difficult or impossible to attend meetings. However, several kept their memberships alive and continued to support the group and enthusiastically received the Parallelogram.
It has been a great 10 years, and I look forward to the next ten. If you're ever in the area, why not look us up? I don't think you will be disappointed.
-Joe Eckrich (1999)
Edited by Jen Liang
Timeline of events
November 1988- The Parallel Case of St. Louis has its first meeting
Summer 1989- Summer banquet with Tony Harreies
David Hammer, BSI comes to St. Louis
September 1991- The first newsletter, The Parallelogram, is published and distributed (2 issues)
1992- Five issues of The Parallelogram are published and distributed
1993- The Game's Afloat Conference
April 1995- The Parallel Case starts meeting at Big Sleep Books in the Central West End of St. Louis
March 1996- First film night
1998- The Game's Afloat Conference
2005- Holmes Under the Arch Sherlockian Symposium