Tom Huntington: A New Editor with a Problem
[Our very first Significant Sherlockian interview, conducted by "3-Pipe Problem" Jim Hawkins for the Nashville Scholars, back in 1997 when Tom Huntington had just become the new editor of Historic Traveler magazine.]
Nothing grabs the eye of a Sherlockian like the cover of a national magazine on which one finds the title "Finding the London of Sherlock Holmes." That was the lead story in Historic Traveler, February, 1997. It was the first issue produced by its new editor, Tom Huntington.
I knew immediately I needed to talk with this man. And he was most obliging in giving me an interview on the phone later that same day. Indeed, Tom is a Sherlockian, a past member of the Red Circle of Washington, DC, and on the lookout now for a new scion in the Harrisburg, PA area.
The story about Sherlock Holmes' London had been in Tom's mind for years. He had already pitched it to several magazines, but none were just right for the story. After several rejections, he began to feel like Arthur Conan Doyle, who once remarked, "My stories have the deadly accuracy of a boomerang." After working as managing editor of Air and Space magazine for several years, Huntington was named editor of Historic Traveler recently, and he knew he had the lead story in his files.
I asked Tom the most popular question one Sherlockian asks another, "How did you become interested in Holmes?" He did not hesitate in telling me this interesting story.
As a twelve-year-old he was watching "To Tell the Truth" on television. One of the mystery guests was the London person who was "secretary to Sherlock Holmes," the clerk at the building and loan business at 221 Baker Street who dutifully answered all the correspondence addressed to Mr.Sherlock Holmes. One of the celebrity panelists, Soupy Sales or Orson Bean or the like, asked if Sherlock Holmes still had a drug addiction. That question startled young Tom who immediately felt an urge to go to the stories and prove this 'clown' wrong. Nobody was going to dishonor the name of Sherlock Holmes that easily and get away with it !
Tom grabbed his grandfather's copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles from his parents' bookshelf, but after searching thoroughly he could find nothing linking Holmes to drugs. He felt exonerated and satisfied. Imagine his shock when later he discovered that Holmes DID occasionally indulge in a 7-percent solution of cocaine, just to stem the boredom. But by then, as Tom confesses, he was "hooked on the Canon."
Huntington has always wanted to be a writer. This vision took him to Hollywood and the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, in the 1980's where he majored in cinema, "in the footsteps of a gigantic" mogul, George Lukas. Finally, deciding the movies were not for him, he became a writer, and an excellent one, a fact quite evident from his story in Historic Traveler, Feb 1997.
Like most of us, Tom has several favorite stories and characters in the Holmes stories. He mentioned The Sign of Four and The Valley of Fear as two candidates. Two favorite characters are Inspector Baynes of the Surrey Constabulary (WIST), and John Clay in The Red-Headed League(REDH) For Tom, Inspector Baynes is one of the few characters in the canon that closely matches wits with Holmes.
Tom's favorite movie about Holmes is Billy Wilder's production of "The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes," especially as it appears on laser disc with all the possibilities and extras that format presents. Speaking of dramatic interpretations of Holmes, Tom is completely awed by the performances of Jeremy Brett. He heartily recommends David Stuart Davies book on Brett.
Summing up the unending popularity of Holmes, Huntington points to several aspects of the stories: Holmes' character is fascinating and complex. Conan Doyle gives us tantalizing hints to the true nature of Holmes without making him seem shallow or one dimensional. We are allowed to fill in the blanks, not only to the mystery in the stories, but as to the characters within the stories. It is obvious that Doyle was a great storyteller.
Tom finds the settings compelling as well. He loves the fog-shrouded London, "where horse- drawn hansom cabs scrape against the curbs and thick yellow fog swirls in the gaslight glow outside the windows."
You will be delighted to meet Tom Huntington. He is one of us, a true Sherlockian, a writer of the first order, and a man to keep an eye on. Stay up with his work in Historic Traveler, "the guide to great historic destinations," published bi-monthly by Cowles History Group, Inc. You can also discover the Cowles group on the internet.(see URL below)
Congratulations, Tom, on an excellent Sherlockian article, and on your new position.
End of original article
Catching up with Tom Huntington (February, 2015)
Tom Huntington's latest book: Searching for George Gordon Meade: The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg
Stackpole Books, United States, 2013. Hardback. Book Condition: New. New. 229 x 155 mm. Language: English Brand New Book.
Despite his great victory at Gettysburg and his command of the army that forced Lee's surrender at Appomattox, George Meade saw his fame eclipsed by that of Lee, Grant, and other Civil War generals. This book does a great deal to redress that historical injustice. Tom Huntington has invented a new genre of biography that shifts between past and present as he tells the story of Meade s life and describes his own pilgrimage to the key sites of that life. The result is an engrossing narrative that the reader can scarcely put down. --James M. McPherson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Battle Cry of Freedom
Searching for George Gordon Meade is a splendid book! Well-researched, well-reasoned, and well-written, it s a timely and vital addition to the all-too-meager literature on this neglected American hero. Strongly recommended for serious historians as well as for a general readership. Excellent! --Ralph Peters, author of Cain at Gettysburg
Much more than another Civil War biography, Tom Huntington s gripping personal search for George Gordon Meade is unique and irresistible: a combination life story, military history, travelogue, and cultural commentary that brings us closer than ever to the old general and his strange reputation--and also opens new windows to our own unending search for an understandable national identity. --Harold Holzer, author and Chairman of Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Foundation
A historian's investigation of the life and times of Gen. George Gordon Meade to discover why the hero of Gettysburg has failed to achieve the status accorded to other generals of the conflictCovers Meade s career from his part in the Mexican-American War through his participation in the great Civil War engagements, including Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and PetersburgAvailable for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Explores Meade s legacy today at reenactments, battlefields, museums, and institutions that preserve history.
Stackpole Publishers: Tom Huntington page