"Matilda Briggs was not the name of a young woman, Watson, ... it was a ship which is associated with the giant rat of Sumatra, a story for which the world is not yet prepared." — from "The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire" by Arthur Conan Doyle
It was an intriguing but never-followed-up line from the Sherlock Holmes oeuvre. What it means is up to debate. What is clear is that the Giant Rats of Sumatra, a group of Memphis Holmes fanatics, is going strong after three-plus decades and new members are welcome.
"It's a love of Sherlock Holmes, the master detective," explains Robert Campbell, First Garrideb of the Giant Rats, of the group's membership. "Everybody brings his own awareness, his own sets of likes and dislikes, whether it be characterization, plot, or the sheer mystery of everything. Holmes is one of the most loved characters ever created for fiction."
Each year, the Giant Rats gather for a dinner in honor of Holmes' birthday on January 6th. The dinners usually include a speaker or live entertainment. This year's dinner, January 8th at the University Club, features music by Marshall Fine, a composer and assistant principal violist of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, and a menu created by Chef Andrew Salguero that includes beef and mushroom pie and fisherman's pie. The dinners are themed around Conan Doyle's stories. This year's theme: "The Adventure of the Empty House" and "The Adventure of the Engineer's Thumb." Remember this, as you will be tested. "Every year, there's a quiz," Campbell says. "You have to really read the stories closely."
For those interested in joining the Giant Rats, membership is $5. Or, if you attend the dinner, membership is included in the $45 price for the event.
"As long as there's an interest in Sherlock Holmes and there's somebody to put together an annual dinner," Campbell says, "there should be a Giant Rats of Sumatra well into the future."
Giant Rats of Sumatra Dinner, 6-9:30 p.m., Saturday, January 8th, at the University Club. $45. Cut-off date for reservations is Tuesday, January 4th: giantratshotmailcom.