sharing my love of books with you

Month: December 2022 (Page 1 of 2)

Happy New Year from Jotson & Sholmes & Me

“After the clock had struck thirteen – ever since Sholmes gave it a wash and brush up it had worked overtime – the conversation turned on New Year’s resolutions.”

Dr Jotson, “Pinkeye’s New Year Resolution”, The Complete Casebook of Herlock SHolmes, circa 1921


I am sure I’ve never seen this word before I found it in “The Case of the Lame Snail”, in The Complete Casebook of Herlock Sholmes. I had to stop reading and look it up. From the context, I thought it might mean something like the center of attention. I wasn’t entirely wrong.

Cynosure – someone or something that strongly attracts attention or admiration; something serving for guidance or direction

Usage: “Herlock Sholmes was the cynosure of all eyes as he picked up the football and drew from his pocket a large magnifying glass.”

In this case, Sholmes’ help is required to determine the winner of a football (soccer) match. Dr Jotson is concerned at the end of the story that Sholmes made a mistake, the only one he had ever known Sholmes to make. You will have to read “The Case of the Lame Snail” yourself to determine if Sholmes did in fact make a mistake.


This is a fun word to say. I found it in “Pinkeye’s New Year Resolution” in The Complete Casebook of Herlock Sholmes. From the context, I thought it might mean courage, maybe even stupid courage, and I was not far off the true definition. There are some modern terms one could use, but they are vulgar and (in my opinion) distasteful. Why not use a nice word like temerity instead?

Temerity – reckless boldness, rashness

Usage: “Information at my disposal leads me to the conclusion that he has rented an office in the wing of a large building, owned by the Limehouse Trust, Limited. Moreover, he has had the temerity to put his real name on the door.”

Jotson on the Neighbors

“The violin under the lean, capable hands of my famous friend [Herlock Sholmes], was emitting the strains of that well-known Christmas carol “Rest you merry gentlemen”. Unfortunately the lodgers in the flat above refused to be rested. They stamped their hob-nailed boots, they dropped enamel plates and started an atrocious gramophone in opposition. But then they weren’t gentlemen.

Dr Jotson, “The Mystery of the Mince-Pie”, The complete Casebook of Herlock Sholmes, circa 1920


I know that I have read this word and heard it spoken before. I think it means fast or quick. When I found it in “The Mystery of the Mince-Pie” in The Compete Casebook of Herlock Sholmes, I decided it was high time I looked the word up to be sure. Well, I was not very close with my definition.

Voracious – craving or consuming large quantities of food (voracity is the noun version of this adjective)

Usage: “With some dismay I noticed that my amazing friend was suffering from a severe lack of proportion. He served the Turnham Greens, their guests and me, with a cube of pudding about the size of a piece of loaf sugar. The remainder he placed on his own plate. Even though the dinner was a change from the kippers and pancakes of Mrs Spudson, Sholmes might have controlled his voracity. Once he nearly choked with a large mouthful of pudding and had to bury his head in the large red pocket handkerchief.”


Here is a curious word that Dr Jotson uses to describe Sholmes’ pipe in “The Mystery of the Mince-Pie”. As I am not a smoker, I decided to look the word up to find its exact meaning. In fact, the word has no special meaning or tongue-in-cheek use. It truly describes the pipe.

Meershaum – a mineral, hydrous magnesium silicate, occurring in white, claylike masses, used especially for pipe bowls

Usage: “Between his thin lips was a large meershaum pipe.” (from The Complete Casebook of Herlock Sholmes)

The E. S. Politovskiy

I have to tell you about the part I just read in The Hunt for Red October. Remember I mentioned earlier that the book has some technical parts, but even those serve to boost the momentum of the story? The chapter on the Eighth Day has just such a moment.

For eight pages (I had to count, because I’m odd like that), Clancy describes the Soviet submarine E. S. Politovskiy. She was named for a man with back luck, and it seemed his luck overshadowed the sub. However, it had good officers on this mission, and luck seemed to have turned. Until new orders were given.

The order was to get to the next station as quickly as possible, so the political officer on board intervened when Chief Engineer Vladimir Petchukocov wanted to stop the sub for repairs. The political officer stated to stop would be “politically unsound”. And so, at top speed, the E. S. Politovskiy raced across the Atlantic Ocean without stopping for even the minutest of repairs.

At this point, Clancy begins to describe the inner workings of the cooling system on a Soviet nuclear submarine. It took about two pages before I realized that tensions were mounting again. If something goes wrong, the cooling system would stop working which could cause the submarine to over-heat or over-pressurize. What would that mean miles below the surface of the ocean?

As the sub races under the waves, a small metal valve in the cooling system breaks. It’s made of titanium, so it floats with the water through the pipes until it jams. This jam only lasts a few seconds, but it is enough to send a back wave of pressure through the cooling system, causing it to malfunction. When Petchukocov discovers the malfunction he notifies the captain, who immediately orders the submarine to the surface. It shoots upward vertically, like a bullet. But it is too late.

Not far away, the USS Pogy detects the E. S. Politovskiy on sonar.

“[The captain] was now listening to direct sonar input. There was no mistaking it. The submarine was flooding. They had heard the ballast tanks refill; this could only mean the interior compartments were filling with water. If they had been closer, they might have heard the screams of men in that doomed hull. Wood was just as happy he couldn’t. The continuing rush of water was dreadful enough. Men were dying. Russians, his enemy, but men not unlike himself, and there was not a thing that could be done about it.”

“It took nine minutes for the Politovskiy to fall the two thousand feet to the ocean floor,”

The hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy, 1984

Mutiny and Barratry

I really like it when I can tell the meaning of a word from the context in which it is found. But I was really in luck when this passage from The Hunt for Red October not only gave me two words, but also defined them for me too. Mutiny and Barratry.

“Judge, we are not dealing with mutiny or piracy,” Foster noted. “The correct term is barratry, I believe. Mutiny is when the crew rebels against lawful authority. Gross misconduct of the officers is called barratry.”

Admiral Daniel Foster, The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy, 1984

The Hunt for Red October, update

I am really enjoying this book! It can be technical and at times a little hard to understand, but I can feel the tension mounting. One moment, I’m trying to follow the Navy or CIA jargon, and the next, I’m caught up in the suspense. It’s so neat to read a book and watch my progress through the pages. At times, I feel so close to the end, then I check my bookmark and realize I’m not even halfway through yet. It’s really a genius of a story!

Sonarman Jones on Music

Here is a conversation between Sonarman Second Class Ronald Jones and Lieutenant Thompson aboard the submarine USS Dallas that struck me as funny. Just like Sonarman Jones, I usually prefer classical music over modern, popular music.

“Got something, Mr Thompson.”

“What is it?” Thompson leaned against the bulkhead.

“I don’t know.” Jones picked up a spare set of phones and handed them to his officer. “Listen up, sir.”

[after listening and discussing what the sound could be, the conversation continues]

“Irregular,” Thompson said.

“Yeah, it’s funny. It sounds regular, but it doesn’t look regular. Know what I mean, Mr Thompson?”

“No, you’ve got better ears.”

“That’s cause I listen to better music, sir. That rock stuff’ll kill your ears.”

The Hunt for red october, Tom Clancy, 1984

This made me laugh when I read it. It’s just a quick exchange, but as the book progresses, Jones will break the sound down, slowing it to try to figure out what he heard. His discovery will result in a promotion. Never underestimate the guy who “categorized his [Bach] tapes by their flaws, a ragged piano temp, a botched flute, a wavering French horn”. He definitely had “better ears”.

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