The Maniac Collector's Inbox
By Don Hobbs
Last Sunday when Barbara Ford introduced me to the Cowtown Crimesolvers, she said I had the world’s great job. I know there are better jobs out there but mine is perfect for a Sherlockian. I earn my pay traveling around visiting other Sherlockians. I can say this because I am the only Sherlockian in my company, so no one there will read these remarks. Maybe I should say that there are Sherlockians I can visit close to the places I work. Regardless of the reason, I use every opportunity to visit as many Sherlockians as I can when I am away for work. I was in Louisville, Kentucky during this past week and called on Sherlockian collector extraordinaire, Ralph Hall and his wonderful wife, Debbie.
Ralph Hall and me
Ralph and Debbie invited me to view the Ralph’s collection along with an invitation to stay for dinner. He has been amassing it since 1970. Amassing is a great word to describe his basement. The shear vastness is one thing but the completeness is in a Red-Headed League all of its own. Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, pastichers, higher criticizers, three-dimensional items, and a plethora of other marvelous items overwhelm one’s senses after descending the 17 or so steps to this amazing place. I have been fortunate in my travels to visit great Sherlockian collections. I have seen John Bennett Shaw’s in Santa Fe and seen Saul Cohen’s library that is also in Santa Fe. I have seen Peter Blau’s library in both of its last two places. There is Les Klinger and Jerry Margolin’s out on the west coast. These all are fabulous places but nothing prepared me for the one I saw in Louisville.
Ralph and Debbie Hall
I have treasures, Peter and Les have treasure upon treasures, John Bennett Shaw had treasures upon treasures upon treasures and Ralph has more than is humanly possible to absorb. I have never seen a Doyle collection so complete. Nearly every British and American edition with dust jackets line shelf after shelf, many of them double stacked. There is a separate room for the 3-D items and the same for the comic books. Many recognize me for owning one of the most complete collections of foreign translations in the world yet Ralph was able to pull out book after book that I don’t want. I could ramble on for pages but just let me say I was impressed with this collection far more than any other I have seen. Maybe I was too new into being a Sherlockian to overly be in awe when I visited John Bennett Shaw. Now that I know more about collecting, Ralph’s collection blew me away.
Part of the 3-D room
When I arranged to meet the Halls, I told Debbie it might be me or as many as three other co-workers. Not an issue, she said bring as many I needed to and she took care of the rest. Nothing can beat southern hospitality and Debbie is the consummate southern woman. She served dinner and dessert with a smile and displayed honest gratitude at having us there. Even if I didn’t have the world’s best job, Sherlockians are the world’s best people. Ralph and Debbie Hall are a prime example.
Past 2011 Columns