Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Sherlock Holmes and Me: Vicki Delany

Vicki Delany
JENN: When I was asked to read Elementary, She Read for a possible endorsement, I was delighted. Why? Because it's penned by a terrific author, Vicki Delany, and also it's centered around one of my favorite detectives in mystery fiction Sherlock Holmes. It was a wonderful read, and now here is the brilliant author to tell you more about it.

VICKI: There is, as we are always being told in creative writing classes, no such thing as a new idea. It’s all been done before. Take the story of an orphaned boy: a lowly (and lonely) childhood; a hidden, ever-watchful guardian; dangerous times; an eternal enemy; the big reveal of the boy’s true identity; then, armed with knowledge of his destiny, boy saves world.

It’s been written a hundred times, from the tales of King Arthur to Star Wars to Harry Potter.  (Why it’s always a boy, is a post for another day.)

The trick is not to come up with an original idea, because you probably can’t, but to make it your own.
Enter Sherlock Holmes. I don’t have to tell you how popular Sherlock is right now, from movies to TV (two series!) to more books than you can count. Colouring books, puzzles, mugs.  Old books reissued and re-illustrated, new ones being written.
Favourite characters reimagined.
Make it your own, they say.

And so I created Gemma Doyle and the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium.

I’m a cozy writer and I’m also a keen mystery reader. When I was looking for inspiration for a new series, I thought a bookstore would be fun.  The idea popped into my head: A bookstore dedicated to all things Sherlock Holmes.

When I started to do some research on that, I quickly discovered it’s not such an unfeasible idea.  You could easily stock a store with nothing but Sherlock.  Not only things I mentioned above but all the stuff that goes with it: playing card sets, tea towels, games, puzzles, action figures, cardboard cut-out figures. The list is just about endless. Throw in all the modern pastiche novels, nonfiction works on Sir Arthur and his contemporaries, maybe a few books set in the “gaslight” era. And, presto, a fully operational bookstore. What would a bookstore be without a cat?  In this case, one Moriarty, who has a strange antipathy to Gemma.

I’ve enjoyed stocking my bookstore, and as befits a book about a bookshop, I drop a lot of names of real books.  Many I have read, some I haven’t, but I enjoy fitting the book to the imaginary character buying it.

Because cozy lovers (and me) love food to go with their reading, I put Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room next door, run by Gemma’s best friend Jayne Wilson.

My original intent was that the main character would be a normal cozy character. A nice young woman who owns an interesting bookshop, lives in a pleasant community (in this case, on Cape Cod), and has a circle of friends.

But, by the time I got to page two, Gemma Doyle had become “Sherlockian”.

And that’s been enormous fun to write. Gemma has an amazing memory (for things she wants to remember), incredible observational skills, and a lightning fast mind. She is also, shall we say, somewhat lacking on occasion in the finer points of social skills. Jayne is ever-confused, but always loyal.

Like any modern Sherlock, such as Benedict Cumberbatch’s interpretation, Gemma deciphers cell phone signals and finds clues on the Internet. Like any Sherlock, her relationship with the local police is complicated, but in her case it’s because she’s in love with Ryan Ashburton, the town’s lead detective, and he with her, but they broke up because he couldn’t be with a woman who sometimes seems to be able to read his mind. 

Detective Louise Estrada (Estrada/Lestrade. Get it?) doesn’t trust her one bit. But Gemma Doyle investigates nonetheless, because:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

“The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.”

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


But sometimes, as Gemma learns, people don’t like having the obvious pointed out to them:
                                      
     “It was perfectly obvious,” I said. “I smelled flour, tea, and sugar the moment we came in. Those are normal scents in anyone’s house, but tonight they’re of a strength that indicates they’ve been recently dumped from their containers. Overlaid with the odor of rotting vegetables, by which I assume the fridge door has been left open. I keep meaning to eat that kale because it’s supposed to be healthy, but I really don’t care for it.

     “We can also assume that our intruder is a nonsmoker and doesn’t apply perfume or aftershave regularly. Unfortunately, it hasn’t rained for several days, although the forecast did call for some, so they didn’t track mud into the house. The flour! An unforgivable oversight on my part. You will, of course, want to take casts of footprints that have tracked through the spilled flour and sugar.”

     “It didn’t get on the floor,” Estrada said. “But it’s all over the counter."

     “As the front door appears to be untampered with, and I don’t hand spare keys for my house to all and sundry, I’ll assume our intruder came in through the back door. Therefore the kitchen would be the logical first place to search.”

     “Enough, Gemma,” Jayne whispered to me.

     “I only want to point out the obvious facts.” I’ve been told on more than one occasion that some people don’t understand my attention to detail and thus misunderstand the conclusions I draw from it. I have tried to stop, but I might as well stop thinking. And this didn’t seem like a suitable time in which to stop thinking."

     “The back door’s been forced open, yes,” Estrada said. “I’ll admit, that was a good guess.”

     I was about to inform her that I never guess, but Jayne elbowed me in the ribs.
                                                                                                            
Elementary, She Read by Vicki Delany

Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, reimagined as modern young women just trying to get on with life. And solve mysteries. Vicki Delany is one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers and a national bestseller in the U.S. She has written more than twenty-five books: everything from clever cozies to Gothic thrillers to gritty police procedurals, to historical fiction and novellas for adult literacy. Her latest is Elementary She Read, the first in the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop series from Crooked Lane Books.  The second, Body on Baker Street, will be released in September.  
Vicki is the past-president of Crime Writers of Canada. Her work has been nominated for the Derringer, the Bony Blithe, and the Arthur Ellis Awards.

Tell us, Reds: What’s your favourite screen or novel interpretation of the Great Detective? If you don’t have one, because you can’t stand Sherlock or never got into it, tell us that too. 

Let’s let Vicki go first: Jeremy Brett for TV and the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King for books. My favourite Holmes movie is Murder By Decree with Christopher Plumber as Holmes and James Mason as Dr. Watson. It came out in 1979, and is worth searching for.


63 comments:

  1. Your Gemma sounds absolutely delightful, Vicki . . . I’m looking forward to reading your book.

    Favorite Sherlock Holmes? Jeremy Brett remains at the top of my list, but I still have a soft spot for those Basil Rathbone films . . . .

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    1. I've never seen the Jeremy Brett version. I must catch up. Thanks for recommending it, Joan.

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    2. You haven't seen Jeremy Brett as Sherlock?

      In some parts of the world, I think that constitutes blasphemy.

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  2. Congratulations, Vicki! The series sounds delightful. Did you use a real Cape Cod town or make one up? Am off to order the book.

    I also love the Laurie King series.

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    1. The town is fictional, West London, but it's very close to Chatham.

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    2. I loved your description of the town, Vicki - it warmed this relocated New Englander's heart.

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  3. One vote here for Badil Rathbone , the original, but I'm also very fond of The 7% solution. Book and movie! Remember that?
    And the Les Klinger and Laurie King Anthologies with Sherlock stories by various authors… Love those! It was such fun to write mine… Starring Annabelle Holmes.
    and hurray Vicki, ! Your book just arrived at my doorstep from Mystery Lovers Bookshop!

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    1. I have that book, Hank, and I love your story. I think the title is Echoes of Sherlock Holmes.

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    2. Vicki, thank you! (I'm very fond of it, too :-)

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  4. I did love Jeremy Brett. And Bendict Cumberbatch is brilliant. And I'm a huge fan of Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series. And oh HankI DO remember The 7% Solution!

    Vicki (waving!) I love that title: Elementary She Read - it telegraphs exACTly what's afoot.

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  5. Dare I say I dislike Laurie King? But this is why there are menus in restaurants. Welcome Vicki, and excuse me while I am off to Amazon to have a look at your book.

    I've read most of Arthur Conan Doyal at one time or another in my life, and Basil Rathbone IS Sherlock. The Cumberbatch Sherlock is magnificent however. I've not watched them all, and my only issue is that I sometimes have difficulty following the rapid dialogue.

    The finale this year blew me completely away. How far we have come from Conan Doyle's stories to the Bondian Cumberbatch!

    Good luck on the new book Vicki. I look forward to reading it.

    Ann in R

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    1. Thanks Ann. And you may definitely say! That's why we have discussions. And menus

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    2. I haven't read Laurie King's version of Sherlock. I will have to check her out. I did enjoy The Baker Street Letters by Michael Robertson. Very clever.

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  6. Clearly they're gaps in my Sherlock experience: I haven't seen Basil Rathbone or Jeremy Brett! I really enjoyed the first couple of seasons of the Benedict Cumberbatch version, but that started to bore me. I love Lucy Lui as Watson, on the American series.

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    1. Basil is very old, and Brett circa 1980s. Some, including me, say he is the best interpretation of Holmes as Doyle envisioned him. I think Sir Arthur would be somewhat taken aback by Cumberbatch, nevermind Robert Downey!

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    2. I'm unfamiliar with those, too. I have seen Cumberbatch, Downey, and Miller. Of the three, I enjoyed Cumberbatch the best.

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    3. Oh, gosh. everyone come over to my house, and we will watch Basil Rathbone. Seriously.

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    4. Depending on my mood, Jonny Lee Miller's Sherlock on Elementary is sometimes more interesting to me than Cumberbatch.

      I got to see the Basil Rathbone movies as a kid when I was allowed to stay up late on the weekends and got to watch Sherlock Holmes and Charlie Chan movies at 2am.

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  7. Ooo, this sounds like a great idea. Love the snippet - and the description. Sigh. More books. The Hubby is going to kill me.

    I loved Jeremy Brett, but I have to admit I have a soft spot for Benedict Cumberbatch. I mean - who wouldn't?

    Mary/Liz

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  8. Ingrid, I love the American version with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Lui. It's fascinating that both of the recent modern TV versions portray Holmes as someone on the autism spectrum.

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    1. Julia, I have had some criticism that my Gemma is "unlikeable" or "full of herself". And that's fair, but I don't see Sherlock, in any manifestation, as being easy to get along with. That's why Doyle created Dr. Watson, to make Sherlock more human.

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    2. I liked Gemma! I wonder if this is the usual case of smart women being considered abrasive because they're smart - heaven forbid - okay, now I'm having feminist ire. Grrr.

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  9. Congratulations Vicki on this new book and series. I was fortunate to get an eARC via Netgalley and read and reviewed it last month...it was a fun read! Yes, Gemma may turn some people off with her Sherlockian deductive abilities but she is an interesting protagonist and I love the store and adjoining tea shop! My favourite TV Sherlock would be Jeremy Brett but I also like the new ones with Benedict Cumberbatch.

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    1. Grace - I love Netgalley. I'm delighted that publishers are getting books into librarians' hands early. Yay!

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  10. I will have to look for your book, since I also love the Laurie King Mary Russell books. The relationship between Mary and Holmes is so entertaining. I like both the current US and U.K. Versions of Sherlock, Jonny Miller and Cumberbatch. Interesting that they shared the role of the monster in Frankenstein. Saw that, also, and loved it.

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    1. Teri - I didn't see that Frankenstein. I'll have to look for it. Thanks for the recommendation.

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  11. I must admit, I haven't seen or read that much Sherlock. I've read a few books inspired by it, however. My favorite series in that vane is the Holmes on the Range series by Steve Hockensmith.

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    1. Mark - I haven't heard of this one. Must go look it up...

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    2. A new one for me too. Just the name sounds great.

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  12. I am really looking forward to reading Elementary, She Read -- a great title for what I know will be a wonderful book. My favorite Sherlock is Benedict Cumberbatch, but I did recently see Basil Rathbone in The Hound of the Baskervilles, and enjoyed him as well. The Mary Russell books just popped up on my radar, and I am looking forward to reading them as well ~

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    1. Hi, Celia,
      I'm with you on needing to check out the Mary Russell books. And I do think you'll enjoy Vicki's book - it was a fun read!

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  13. Hi Vicki! How could I not like a Sherlockian detective named Gemma??? Another one for my must-read list!

    I did love Jeremy Brett. I'm sure I saw every episode multiple times. He was so devoted to his craft. I was quite cut up when I heard he'd died.

    Hank, I adored The Seven Percent Solution, book and movie! Nicol Williamson was fabulous as Sherlock. I also like the Cumberbatch TV version, but more for Martin Freeman's Watson. And I love Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes on the US version, Elementary, and adore Lucy Liu as Watston. Brilliant.

    Books? Oh, I love the Mary Russells, too. And the Les Klinger/Laurie King anthologies, as the stories are so inventive and fun (and I also have a vested interest:-))

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    1. Martin Freeman is a perfect Watson. I haven't seen Elementary, the US show. I'll look out for it.

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  14. Vicki, I really like the sound of Elementary, She Read -- adding it to my TBR list!

    My views feel pretty redundant with what's been said already. Jeremy Brett is the definitive Holmes for me, but what's not to love about Benedict Cumberbatch? Especially coupled with Martin Freeman? It's a shame, in a way, that two such good interpretations hit the airwaves around the same time, as the Johnny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu version is really quite good, too! And Hank, I did enjoy the anthology of Holmes stories very much, especially yours.

    Not many people have mentioned Robert Downey Jr. He's a fine actor, but those movies just didn't work for me. I did not see him as Sherlock Holmes.

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    1. Susan - Now I have to check out the Jeremy Brett version. I agree with your take on Downey. I couldn't follow the plot at all - no idea why. I might have been too tired but it seemed very disjointed to me.

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    2. I didn't care for the Downey movies either (great minds here). They weren't even "Sherlock" to me.

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  15. Jenn, I saw your blurb on the back cover for Elementary, She Read.

    Vicki, welcome to Jungle Reds! I loved your Year Round Christmas Mystery series. I picked up the first in the series at a mystery convention. I am in the midst of reading Elementary, She Read.

    Right now, I am watching a Sherlock Holmes movie with Christopher Lee and Morgan Fairchild on Acorn TV. I liked the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series on PBS. I remember when Jeremy Brett played the bad guy on Hart to Hart and was surprised that he had blond hair! The new Sherlock Holmes series with Benedict C. is a modern take. Loved the Laurie King series with Mary Russell Holmes and Sherlock Holmes. There is a new book, written for young adults (preteens), called The Great Shelby Holmes. I loved the book. I think the author is Elizabeth Eulberg (sp?).

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    1. Also good for YA is the Portia Adams series by Angela Misri, about a sleuth who lives at 221B Baker St, London in the '30s

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    2. Oh, I'll have to look for The Great Shelby Jones for the young ones in my life.

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  16. Vicki, what a great post today! You even quoted one of my favorite books (Sherlock and others included), The Hound of the Baskervilles. Your new series is one I can't wait to start reading, with its female protagonists, a Sherlock Holmes bookstore, Mrs. Hudson's Tearoom, a cat called Moriarty, and a detective named Detective Louise Estrada. All so clever. Elementary, She Read is a book I'm looking forward to reading very soon.

    I love the Mary Russell books by Laurie King, and the short story anthologies compiled by Laurie and Les Klinger. Lyndsay Faye has a great pastiche entitled Dust and Shadow, and her latest book, The Whole Art of Detection: Lost Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes, is a wonderful collection of short stories written in the style of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. A new young adult series by Brittany Cavallaro features teenagers Charlotte Holmes and Jamie Watson (boy). I've read the first in the series, A Study in Charlotte and enjoyed it, and I have the second one, The Last of August, ready to go.

    The film adaptations of Sherlock Holmes' stories have produced lots of great movies. I don't think I can pick a favorite, although in the earlier films, the contenders are adaptations of The Hound of the Baskervilles. In the more contemporary offerings, I have to admit that I love Robert Downy, Jr. and Jude Law as Sherlock and Watson, and Benedict Cumberbatch has captured my interest, too.

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    1. Lyndsay Faye has just popped up on my radar, and I've put her books on my TBR list.

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    2. I have A Study in Charlotte in my TBR pile - very excited to read it. So many books so little time!

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  17. Hi Vicki and congratulations on your new book and series. I will definitely check it out. I too really enjoy Murder By Decree with Christopher Plummer and James Mason. Two thumbs up!

    As far as TV series, my current favorite has to be Elementary with Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. It is my favorite series on TV at the moment. I also am enjoying reading Laurie R. King's Mary Russell / Sherlock Holmes book series.

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    1. I looooooove that movie! (Murder by Decree). I haven't see Elementary yet, I must try to find it. I don't have a TV so am somewhat dependent on Netflix for new things.

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    2. I haven't seen the Christopher Plummer movie, Angela. I will add it to my list.

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  18. Loved this post. Congrats on your new release. And am looking forward to reading your books. Have been a Sherlock Holmes fan since I can remember. The first was with Reginald Owens, it was a rerun that I saw. He also played E. Scrooge. He also played Watson, So did Patrick Macnee. But my favorites were Basil Rathbone, Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch. I think I have seen most of the movies and series out there. Lot's of famous names. Peter Cushing, Charlton Heston, Christopher Lee, Brent Spiner, loved his ST Next Gen portrayal. Of all the fictional characters. Sherlock Holmes has been played the most. Della Williamson

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    1. So many great actors have played Holmes and Watson. I loved Data's portrail on Star Trek TNG

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    2. I didn't know that he was the most portrayed character of fiction - even on ST? This fascinates me.

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  19. Another fun anthology is Holmes for the Holidays and More Holmes for the Holidays. All the stories are set around Christmas.

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    1. That practically merges your two cozy series, doesn't it?

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  20. Moviewise, Basil Rathbone will always be my Sherlock Holmes. Jeremy Brett did a great version for TV. I do enjoy the Cumberbatch version and Martin Freeman is an awesome Watson. Does anyone remember the comedy from the 70s with Gene Wilder as Sherlock Holmes's Smarter Brother? Bookwise Laurie King's Russell/Holmes books are hard to beat. Also Carole Nelson Douglas has written several books with Irene Adler as the main character and Holmes popping in from time to time.

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  21. Yes! I enjoyed the Carole Nelson Douglas books. I haven't seen one of those (the Irene Adler ones) in a long time. Has she stopped writing them?

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  22. I loved Elementary, She Read.

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  23. Many thanks to Jenn and the Reds for hosting me. Looks like we all have some movie viewing and book reading to catch up on!

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  24. Without a doubt, the best TV Sherlock Holmes is Jeremy Brett. He is the perfect example of how to play Holmes. I love the "Sherlock" series with Benedict Cumberbatch, but he's never going to be more than 2nd place to Brett.

    For movies, I really don't know that I have a particular favorite portrayal. I do admit to liking the Young Sherlock Holmes movie while acknowledging that it isn't actually all that good of a movie overall.

    And outside of the actual Sherlock Holmes stories, I have found that Laurie R. King's Mary Russell series is the best use of Sherlock Holmes. I have read a few different anthologies and those are always good, but for a continuing series, King is KING...or should that be QUEEN?

    And count me in as one who loved Elementary, She Read.

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    1. You are welcome. I just got the preorder notice for Book 2, so I'll be taking care of that after work.

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  25. By the way, has anyone read the Bonnie MacBird Sherlock book The Art in the Blood?

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  26. I haven't. Jay, but I just looked it up. It looks interesting.

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