Don’t think that during my deep hibernation of Xmas/The Onset of Winter I did nothing at all, even if doing nothing was the prevailing theme.
I remembered that I never polished off the Sherlock Holmes stories decades ago, stopping after the two initial short novels and then the Adventures, Memoirs, Return and of course The Hound. So, finally, I went through His Last Bow and the Casebook, and read the Sherlock parts of The Valley of Fear, skipping the entire section set in America. Whenever Doyle tried an American scene, as in A Study in Scarlet, he isn’t worth reading. But even the least Holmes yarns — and there are several that don’t dazzle — may have some charming insult to Watson’s intelligence or reference to an unrecorded case (Giant Rat of Sumatra and company).
And among other things I got the urge and did a complete reread on the collected ghost stories of M. R. James, always a pleasure. Kind of did it as a Hallowe’en treat, kept going, ended up doing “A Warning to the Curious” as my Xmas ghost story. Good old James is a lot more gnarly than Dickens.
I even hit the mean streets in that period a few times with walks, including a Fritz Leiber Tour by appointment that rounded up no less than seventeen eldritch hikers, though I think only about eight made it all the way to the end after over four brutal hours. The first time the walk was scheduled it got rained out, but the next time, no problemo.
The Fritz Tour even got a write-up by Jim Nelson, if you want to gander the review. Jim gets into the presence of Fritz in the Tenderloin and what it means to him, and keeps going, drawing on encounters with Hammett on page and on the pavement. Check it out.