What can you find here? Reviews of new and not quite so new Sherlock Holmes novels and collections. Interviews with authors, link to blogs worth following, links to where you can purchase my books and some reviews of my work garnered from Amazon sites. Plus a few scary pics of me and a link to various Lyme Regis videos on YouTube...see what we do here and how....and indeed why!!! Next to the Lyme Regis Video Bar is a Jeremy Brett as Holmes Video Bar and now a Ross K Video Bar. And stories and poems galore in the archives.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Grinning cats...Captain Nemo...and Sherlock Holmes! An Interview with Joseph Svec.

In addition to Joseph Svec's Sherlock Holmes books, He has previously written and published a book of rhymed metered story poems, Mystical Journeys. He has also written a Guide to Toy Castles and Knights from Around the World. It covers 60 years of toy castle production from 10 different countries, covering over 100 different toy castles. It has been sold to readers in 16 different countries. He has given two presentations to the Amador county Holmes Hounds Sherlockian Society, one on Arthur Conan Doyle's second most popular character, Professor George Edward Challenger, and one on Captain Nemo. Interestingly enough, Sherlock Holmes crosses paths with both of them on numerous occasions. Another interest of his is creating 54mm dioramas. He has created dioramas on many different subjects including Robin Hood, the Battle of Grunwald, in 1410, the classical music piece A Night on Bald Mountain, H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, and Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He has one Sherlock book out right now, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Grinning Cat. The sequel, Sherlock Holmes in the Nautilus Adventure, just went to the MX printer. They are books 1 & 2 in his Sherlock Holmes and the Missing Authors Trilogy.  The first book as you can tell is a Sherlock Holmes, Alice in Wonderland crossover, as the Cheshire Cat, White Rabbit, and the Mad Hatter turn up at 221-B Baker street to enlist the help of Sherlock to locate Alice who is missing from Wonderland, and Lewis Carroll, who is also not to be found. Between a Unicorn, the Jabberwocky, Wonderland humor and word play as well as logic puzzles, H. G. Wells and his time machine, this is a most strange and curious adventure. The second book is Sherlock Holmes in the Nautilus Adventure, featuring Captain Nemo!  

Your love of adventure is readily apparent from your interests. When did that spill over into your writing?
I have always enjoyed writing and medieval fantasy, however, until recently, most of  my writing has been in rhymed, metered verse. I very much enjoy writing story poems. 

Would you say that there are very few books published today which approach the level of enjoyment provided by say, Jules Verne for instance? 
No, there are still excellent books being written today. The Chronicles of the  Imaginarium Geographica, by James Owen, is an outstanding series. Jules Verne, H. G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle are all characters in that series, which makes it even more interesting. Many of the pastiches being written today are excellent stories.

When did you first formulate the idea to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche?
Sherlock Holmes is considered the ultimate proponent of logic and rational thought. The idea came to mind, how would he react to the ultimate un-logical character, the Cheshire Cat? The book developed from that idea.

Sherlock Holmes and the Grinning Cat is quite a crossover. Were you apprehensive as to how it would be received by Holmes fans?
I really did not have any apprehension. Readers like Sherlock Holmes. They also like Alice in Wonderland, as well as H.G.Wells and time travel, so this book should have a very wide audience. Initial comments have been that the Wonderland characters are very well portrayed, and that Sherlock is at the top of his game.

Sherlock Holmes and the Nautilus Adventure takes the reader firmly into Jules Verne territory.  Did you always want to combine those elements?
Once I started writing new Sherlock Holmes stories , yes. Again, I thought it would make a great combination. Take one of my favorite authors and characters and put him in a story with the world's greatest detective. 

Your first two Holmes adventures are part of the Missing Authors trilogy. Who will be next?
The third book is titled Sherlock Holmes and Round Table Adventure. The missing author is Alfred Lord Tennyson, who wrote The Idylls of the King, a epic series of poems about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. He was the Poet Laureate of England.

Your guide to Toy Castles and Knights from around the world sounds fascinating. A life-long love? How many toy castles do you own up to owning?
Yes, toy castles have been an interest of mine since childhood. At one time just after completing that book, I owned over 100 toy castles, but now my toy castle collection is down to somewhere around 65. I have a hobby room where I have at least 15 of them set up in full dioramas. 

After the completion of the Missing Authors trilogy, what then for you?
I am thinking of a Sherlock Holmes and the Missing Scientist trilogy, as well as Unicorn novel. I have over 150 books on the subject of Unicorns, so I have great deal of source material. I also think a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that involves tea would be fun. I am an avid tea enthusiast, and my tea chest includes over 200 different flavor/varieties of tea.

If you were bundling up five of the very best adventure stories to take to a desert island, which five would you choose?
That is a tough one. I tend to read series, not just individual books.
My three absolute favorite series are The lord of the Rings, the Chronicles of Narnia, and the previously mentioned, Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica Of course I would want to bring Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Journey to the Center of the Earth.                               
Can we expect to see a Sherlock Holmes diorama from you?
That is a fun thought.  Sherlock Holmes stories tend to be on a smaller personal scale, while dioramas tend to be on a grand epic scale. It could be done though and would be a fun project. I will add that to,my list of future plans I must say here that the combination of Sherlock Holmes and Alice in Wonderland was a fun writing project. My wife is a great part of all of my writing, providing input, inspiration and ideas. She is truly my muse.

Thanks Jospeh! Visit Joseph's website HERE

Monday, 11 January 2016

Killing Dr Watson!! An Interview with Matt Ferraz

Matheus Fernandes Ferraz Soares, and  a 25 year-old Brazilian from a industrial town called Contagem in the state of Minas Gerais. He never had English lessons outside regular school, and learned the language through movies and internet. He has always loved the mystery genre, from Agatha Christie to Dashiell Hammett and of course, Conan Doyle. His first Portuguese written book, Teorema de Mabel, was self published. After years of trying to publish a book in his mother tongue through a regular publishing house, he decided to write a book in English, and that was Killing Dr. Watson. He has just got his degree in Journalism and is about to move to England to take his Masters in Biography at the University of Buckingham.

Can you tell me about your background in your home town?

I was born and raised in Contagem, an industrial town in the state of Minas Gerais, Brazil. Contagem is a developed town, but its only cultural spots are its two shopping malls. Every time I wanted to see a play, go to a library or watch a non-mainstream film on a theatre, I had to take an hour and a half bus ride to Belo Horizonte, the capital of the state. I had to take that same ride everyday for four years to take my degree in Journalism. So I'd always bring a book with me, and must have read a million words during these bus trips. They were a huge part of my education.

You learned English from reading. How difficult was that?         

It just came off naturally. We had English classes in school, but they just covered the basics. I didn't have internet at home until I was sixteen, so I liked to rent DVD's and watch English films without subtitles. After internet, it got much easier, as I could read websites and watch a ton of videos in English. Once I was confident enough, I started writing texts and sending them to websites. After a decade of practice, I guess I just got good.

Which authors did you concentrate on in those early days?

There was a wonderful series of books in Brazil called Coleção Vagalume ("Firefly Collection"). They had fun, adventurous novels for young teenagers that didn't treat us like fools. One of my favourite ones was "O caso da borboleta atiria" ("The case of the butterfly atiria"), a whodunit mystery with insects as protagonists. Another one was "Enigma na TV" ("Enigma on television"), which is a major influence for "Killing Dr. Watson".

A huge turning point for me was when I was nine and my teacher lent me Agatha Christie's "Murder on the Nile". I instantly became an Hercule Poirot aficionado, and wanted to read every single one Christie's books. That's when I actively started writing crime stories, trying to create my own detective. From her I went to Edgar Alan Poe, Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stephen King and many others. Another writer who was very important to me in my teens was Terry Pratchett. I simply loved his Discworld books!

Your first novel was written in your native Portuguese. Can you tell us more about it and how it came about?

My first book was "Teorema de Mabel" ("Mabel's Theorem"), a novella about a young girl, Mabel, who dreams of becoming a writer. She gets an invitation to work as a secretary for her favourite writer, Milton Dantas, but finds out that what he really wants is her typewriting machine, which holds a very dark secret. I've always been fascinated by typewriters, and wanted to write a book about them. "Teorema de Mabel" brought me a lot of joy and the chance to appear in local media. I have plans to translate it to English myself.     

Your new novel, 'Killing Dr. Watson' was written in English. That must have been a challenge?

My mother has a saying: when you don't know something is impossible, you may have a chance of succeeding on it. That's what I did. Writing in a different language is harsh as it is, but writing literature is simply insane! Plus, I was on my last year in college, doing my monograph on TV series Elementary, and applying for my Masters at the University of Buckingham. In the end it all worked up well: I got my degree, finished my book and was accepted at Buckingham. Only now I see how crazy that was.

Ah, Buckingham...I spent my teenage years there!! Briefly, without giving anything away, what is the novel about?

"Killing Dr. Watson" is a novel about fandom. My main character, Jerry Bellamy, is obsessed with a BBC series called "The Baker Street Sleuth", where Sir Bartholomew Neville played Sherlock Holmes. The book starts at a TV series convention, when Jerry is eager to meet his idol. But after a series of bizarre events, they find out there's a serial killer going after the actors who played Watson in the different seasons of the show. Neville and Jerry team up to solve the mystery, like modern Holmes and Watson, with one major difference: neither of them is that smart, which makes it even harder to catch the killer. 

Have you plans for another similar work?

I really enjoy writing crime novels, and will certainly return to the genre. Another thing I'd love to do is a spy thriller, but this isn't my next project yet. I have a great idea for a private detective character that I'll develop throughout 2016.

And what of the future, what are your immediate plans?

Right now I'll focus on my academic career, which is something I'm love with. I'm currently working for a crime fiction magazine, that gives me a unique chance to meet and interview other crime writers. I have lots of plans, some of them represent great challenge. I still don't know how people would react to the idea of a Brazilian writing a Cold War spy thriller, for example. I guess we'll have to find out.

Thanks Matt!

Killing Dr Watson is available on Amazon UK HERE

On Amazon USA  HERE

And at the Book Depository  HERE

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Sherlock Holmes in Venice

A few years ago I wrote a very odd piece where Holmes and Watson meet Laurel and Hardy (re-posted here recently). In it, Watson is described as trying to write up his notes for The Gondolier and the Russian Countess. Several years later here it is:


‘No dawdling again please, Watson,’ Holmes called.
With a grimace, I set off in pursuit. There were to be a few more twists and turns on our route before we entered the Campo dei Mori. Pinpointing Angelo’s address, even though we turned out to be virtually on top of it, proved to be very tricky indeed, but eventually we climbed a set of stairs that took us to his apartment. The hollow sound that greeted Holmes’s knock on the door told us of an empty apartment.
‘Evidently Angelo is not home. I don’t see what more we can do.’
‘I hardly expected that he would be home, but now we are here we can best be employed by interviewing his neighbours. Any information they can supply however trivial it may seem could aid us.’
Four of the other five apartments were apparently empty for no one answered our earnest knocking. The door of the solitary apartment on the ground floor was opened an inch or two and all we could see of the occupant was a left eye which was protected by the bushiest of eyebrows and a left cheek adorned with flamboyant whiskers. The voice was muffled owing to the heavy door jammed in front of its owner’s mouth.
‘Good morning, gentlemen. Is there something I can help you with?’
Our surprise at being greeted in English became greater when the door swung fully open to reveal man who belonged to an earlier age. His style of dress was as dated as were his whiskers, which appeared to have a life of their own, being too large and bushy for the thin face they framed. I was forcibly reminded of a professor of English who taught me at Winchester, following his fall from grace at one of our smaller universities.
‘You must forgive our intrusion,’ said Holmes as we were invited in by an elaborate sweep of the arm. ‘My name is Sherlock Holmes and this is my friend and colleague, Doctor Watson. We wish to ask you a few questions regarding Angelo who rents an apartment on the top floor here.’
‘I see. Well, do come in. You are most cordially welcomed into my humble abode.’
This humble abode had the appearance of an ancient library, dust covered books filled every available space. Piles rose vertically defying gravity by refusing to topple. The large book cases pressed back against the walls were not just adorned with volumes of every size, but cobwebs hung down from the uppermost corners of each one. This chaos was negated slightly by the order I could see on a large desk situated under the window where pens paper and dictionaries were sitting quite neatly and most surprisingly, dust free.
‘Please sit down,’ he offered, then looked around, surprised by the fact there was precious little to sit on. He swept a few periodicals and journals onto the floor from the chairs they had been occupying and took his place on a well-upholstered chair behind the desk, evidently his usual habitat.
‘Now we have a degree of comfort, we can proceed. Your names are known to me. Indeed, I have some of your work here, Doctor Watson. Tell me, do you realise how often you confuse your tenses? I would also recommend working on your subjunctives, they can be a little clumsy. Aside from those small criticisms, to which I might add your very singular approach to punctuation, I have enjoyed your accounts very much.’
‘Bravo, Watson. You have an admirer who is not so blinded by your prose to spare you constructive criticism. Professor Collins, how came you to pitch up in Venice?’
‘You know me then?’
‘I can assure you I know nothing whatsoever about you other than the obvious facts that you graduated from Cambridge University, you suffered a painful divorce late in life, you have a son you love dearly, but are estranged from, you are a teacher of English at ridiculously low rates and you have lost your faith although that may be temporary.’
The recipient of these insights, smiled at Holmes and looked around the room.
‘I have it, Mr Holmes. The diploma on the wall gave you both my name and university. The painful divorce...’ He looked at his left hand. ‘The mark of my wedding band is still obvious, hence it has been removed fairly recently. If it were anything other than a painful divorce, for instance a bereavement, than you might reasonably expect to me to wear it still. The photographs on the wall feature my son, the familial likeness is clear. There are no photographs of us together of a recent nature, so yes the deduction of an estrangement is sound enough. Now, the loss of faith? Let me see now. No, I confess I cannot see how you came by it.’
‘The explanation is simple, Professor. There is a neck-chain with a cross on it in the corner of the room. Evidently thrown there by you. It is a chain that you were previously accustomed to wearing, even at this distance I can see grey hairs from your neck caught in the chain. I deduce your loss of faith to be temporary from the fact that the chain is still here and not been consigned to oblivion, although I admit I am on somewhat shaky ground there.’
‘And the teaching at low rates?’
‘That fact you teach is plain to see by the paraphernalia on your desk. You hardly live in the lap of luxury if I may be so bold, my dear sir, hence my deduction of low rates. Perhaps you see it as a vocation more than a living.’
‘I do, Mr Holmes. I feel privileged to impart my knowledge to others. All I ask for is enough to cover my humble needs. I gravitated to Venice after my wife left me some five years ago. I intended to stay here just for a short while, but as there was nothing left for me in England, my son already being estranged from me, I elected to stay.’
‘Are you familiar with Angelo, Professor?’
‘I am. I have tutored him a little, in his chosen profession a few words of a foreign language can reap dividends when it comes to gratuities.’
‘Is it just the English language your tutor your pupils in?’ I asked.
‘I have a smattering of knowledge of other tongues, certainly enough to help with common phrases, but English is my main language, followed by French, Spanish, German and Russian. Angelo learned a little of those languages, but his main goal was to become fluent in English. He is a very good student, attentive and punctually completes any work I give him. With the other languages I mention he was keen to learn not only the usual greetings and basic everyday polite exchanges, but also phrases more concerned with, how shall I put it gentlemen, the language of love.’
‘We have heard him described as a ladies’ man,’ I interjected.
‘A more than fitting description, Doctor Watson. He loves their company, they love his. It’s an arrangement that entirely suits him and there is some financial gain, always a bonus for an often impoverished gondolier. You appear shocked, Doctor.’
‘I am not shocked, Professor, I have seen too much of life to be shaken by a matter like this. Rather, I am surprised that Angelo would let slip something like this.’
Professor Collins gave a wheezy chuckle which turned into a prolonged coughing fit. When he had regained his composure he continued.
‘You must excuse me, Doctor, my solitary life affords me very few opportunities for laughter. The fact of the matter is that Angelo did not let it slip, he likes to boast of it; his conquests and their generosity towards him. You may reason that he should be ashamed of what he does, but I say live and let live. He provides a service much like he does as a gondolier. Good luck to the fellow. But, tell me, has our romantic gondolier strayed into criminal activities? I cannot imagine Sherlock Holmes making a social call on a humble gondolier.’
‘As far as we are aware he is an upright citizen notwithstanding his amorous adventures. We are here at his sister’s request. She is worried because she has had no word from him for three days and her intuition leads her to believe there is something gravely wrong.’
‘It is not unknown for Angelo to sequester himself away for a period of time with a new acquaintance, something his sister must be well aware of. Three days absence is by no means unusual for Angelo.’
‘Do you know any of these acquaintances by name,’ Holmes asked.
‘Although Angelo is boastful, he does exercise a degree of discretion and has never revealed names to me. Of course I can deduce their nationalities by which language he needs to brush up on.’
‘Has there been such a request recently?’
‘There has indeed, Mr Holmes. Angelo was desirous of a little Russian to help smooth his way. Mostly phrases as I intimated before, redolent of the language of lovers.’
‘When did he make this request?’ Holmes asked.
‘It was three weeks ago today, Mr Holmes. I especially remember the date for that morning I had decided to embark on a thorough cleaning of my apartment. But, as you can see, gentlemen, the spirit is willing, but the flesh rather less so.’
Holmes got to his feet, picked up a stack of periodicals from the floor and placed them back on the chair he had vacated.
‘Thank you for your time, Professor Collins. You have been of great help.
‘It was a great pleasure to meet you both and if I can be of any further assistance please feel free to call again.’
‘Thank you. It’s entirely possible that we will need to use a little Russian ourselves. If so, we will be in touch. Arrivederci.’
‘Well, Holmes,’ I said, as we entered the campo once more, ‘there is nothing more we can do.’
‘I think there are several courses of action open to us. There can’t be that many Russians in Venice that one of their number cannot be tracked down. Angelo may have been the very soul of discretion with the professor, but he may be less inclined to be so with his fellow gondoliers; interviewing them may bear fruit.’
‘We do not know who his closest colleagues are and we have no clues as to who this Russian is.’
‘I think, Watson, that we can at least assign a gender to the Russian in question.’
‘A Russian needle in an Italian haystack.’
‘Oh, we can do better than that I am sure. Come, we will report back to Maria Grimaldi who can probably supply us with names of some of her brother’s fellow gondoliers. Along the way, Watson, we will begin our sight-seeing. I have in mind a small church that you will find most interesting.’

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

An Interview with David Marcum

David Marcum first discovered Sherlock Holmes in 1975, at the age of ten, when he received an abridged version of The Adventures during a trade. He is the author of "The Papers of Sherlock Holmes" Vol.'s I and II (2011, 2013), "Sherlock Holmes and A Quantity of Debt" (2013) and "Sherlock Holmes - Tangled Skeins" (2015). Additionally, he is the editor of the three-volume set "Sherlock Holmes in Montague Street" (2014, recasting Arthur Morrison's Martin Hewitt stories as early Holmes adventures,) and the massive three-volume "The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories" (2015). He has contributed essays to the "Baker Street Journal", "The Solar Pons Gazette", and "The Gazette", the journal of the Nero Wolfe Wolfe Pack. He began his adult work life as a Federal Investigator for an obscure U.S. Government agency, before the organization was eliminated. He returned to school for a second degree, and is now a licensed Civil Engineer, living in Tennessee with his wife and son. He is a member of The Sherlock Holmes Society of London, 

You have been editing the MX short story collections Vol’s 1-3, which have received great reviews. Tell us about the selection process.

First of all, thank you for asking me to participate in this interview. I’m really excited about the three books in the new Holmes anthology, The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, and this is a great chance to share some about it.

When I first had the idea for this anthology, I had no idea how big it would become, and  all in less than a year. Back in January 2015, I literally popped awake early one morning, having just had a vivid dream about having edited an anthology. I could see it, and the idea was fully formed in my head. If I’d gone back to sleep, it would probably have never happened. But I got up started thinking more about it. I emailed MX publisher Steve Emecz to see what he thought, and he liked the idea, so I began to contact some Sherlockian authors that I knew and liked.

Initially, I pictured a book of about two-dozen stories at most. I certainly didn’t know that this would become the largest collection of new and traditional Holmes tales ever assembled at one time. I started reaching out to pastiche authors that I’d either met in person or by email, as well as some that I didn’t know. The response was overwhelmingly positive. These authors suggested others, and I invited them as well. Steve and I were trying to decide how big of a book this was going to be, since it was still only going to be one volume then, when word got out about the project, and still more people became interested. We decided to expand it to two volumes, which was not how I originally pictured it. But I realized that more volumes would mean more new Holmes stories to read, and how could I say no to that? When even more people offered stories, it was easier to go to three volumes. Still, I think of it as one big book, just in three parts.

How did you set about collecting the stories from so many writers? Were they specifically invited to participate or was there a general appeal via social media, etc.?

There was never any general call for stories on social media. Part of that is because I’m not much for social media, to the consternation of publisher Steve Emecz. I write a lot of emails to people, but I take so much time over them – editing, punctuating, revising, and so on – that they end up more like letters, and they’re quite long all on their own. I’m really only on Facebook because it became necessary when putting together the anthology, and I don’t spend tons of time there.

Anyone that is involved in this project is here because I invited them, or they were suggested by someone else already involved. I didn’t want to issue a general call for stories because I was so strict about the types of stories that I would accept – traditional Holmes only, set in the correct time period, and no non-Canonical aspects, such as vampires or major character deaths, absolutely no “Sherlock and John”, and no other Alternative Universe twists. If there had been a general invitation, I would have had to read a lot of stories that I wouldn’t have accepted – and I already had my hands full reading and editing all 63 stories that did make the cut, along with some others that didn’t.

Can we expect to see more collections in the series?        

I’m currently editing stories for “Part IV – 2016 Annual”, which should appear in May 2016, and also “Part V – Christmas Adventures” for late 2016. And I already have several stories promised for “Part VI – 2017 Annual” as well! The word “Annual” is certainly meant to indicate that this project will go on as long as there is interest. So far things look very promising!

Part IV is planned to be out in time for the opening of the Stepping Stones School at Undershaw, one of Doyle’s former homes. I should explain – if people don’t already know – that the author royalties for all of these books and stories are being donated to the Stepping Stones School for special needs children. It’s located at Undershaw, which is where Doyle lived when he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes. The house is currently being remodeled, after being nearly ruined over the years by former owners and then abandonment. The response from the authors contributing to these collections has been amazing, both in the quality of the stories that they came up with, new for this collection, and also for their generosity in donating their royalties to be a part of something so special.

You are a noted writer of Sherlock Holmes pastiches . . . how did that come about?

Thank you for that saying that I’m “noted”, although I don’t know how true that is. I’ve certainly wanted to contribute to the Sherlockian world for a great part of my life, and since I’m a Missionary for The Church of Sherlockian Pastiche, this is my way of doing so.

I’ve been reading and collecting literally thousands of Holmes stories since I was ten years old, in 1975. I read a lot of other things too, but I’m also always concurrently reading a Holmes adventure as well. Soon after I found Holmes, I received Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, and I yearned to be part of the group of experts listed in the Bibliography who had contributed to the World of Holmes. Back in 2008, I was laid off from my job as a Civil Engineer, and realized that I’d never have a better opportunity to try and write something and add to the Great Holmes Tapestry. I had an ambitious idea for a story, “The Adventure of the Other Brother”, but I felt that I wasn’t ready to jump in that deeply, so I wrote a practice story first, “The Adventure of the Least Winning Woman”, to see if Watson would speak to/through me. Then, as now, I don’t write with an outline. Rather, I just start listening to Watson, and then transcribing what he says, finding out the mystery and solution as we go along.

I ended up with nine stories, including “The Other Brother”, the one that had intimidated me to begin with. And then . . . I did nothing with them for a while. I printed them out on 8½” x 11” sheets of paper and put them in a binder with the rest of my Holmes collection, and there they sat for a couple of years, known only to me.

In 2011, I finally let a few people read my stories, and they liked them, and I got the bug to let others read them too. I initially contacted George Vanderburgh with the Battered Silicon Dispatch Box, a publisher with whom I’d had some dealings, and later that year he published all the stories as a book, The Papers of Sherlock Holmes. Then, in 2013, I got in contact with Steve Emecz at MX, and we arranged to republish that book for a larger audience, but now dividing it into two volumes. Since then, it’s also been published as a re-combined hardcover, a Russian edition, and a planned edition (someday) in India. Additionally, I wrote two scripts from two of the stories that were broadcast nationwide as part of Imagination Theatre’s “The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”.

After that book, I wrote a novel, Sherlock Holmes and A Quantity of Debt (2013), and another book of short stories Sherlock Holmes – Tangled Skeins (2015). The latter was named by Randall Stock of the Baker Street Irregulars as one of the five best Holmes fiction books of 2015 on his famous yearly Christmas list.

What are particular pitfalls to avoid when writing Holmes pastiches in your opinion?

As I said, I’ve been reading and collecting thousands of Holmes stories for the last forty years, and I’ve made extensive notes on all of those adventures. I maintain a Chronology of both Canon and pastiche, fitting stories into it by day, breaking them down by chapter, page, or even paragraph. By seeing the entire lives of Holmes and Watson this way, and not just by looking at the pitifully few 60 stories of the Canon, or just a few pastiches, I get a sense of the big picture, and I often see the same big mistakes jump out.

I always play The Game, that fine old tradition where Holmes and Watson are treated as real historical figures. Therefore, I like it when someone who is writing a pastiche does the same. That means we’re writing about people who were born in the 1850’s, and NOT the 1970’s. Just because some modern shows have characters with Holmes and Watson’s names does NOT mean that those characters are about Holmes and Watson.                                        

If one reads the Canon, Holmes and Watson NEVER call each other “Sherlock” or “John”. Holmes is not a barely functioning sloppy drug-addict with Asperger’s Syndrome who can only survive through Watson’s constant attentions. If you are going to write about the true Holmes, play The Game and treat them as real people, not caricatures. Verify historical facts, such as who is the Prime Minister when a story is set. Do your research and don’t make assumptions. For instance, it always drives me crazy when a story that is set in the 1880’s has Watson already publishing in The Strand Magazine, which did not even come into existence until 1891, just in time for “A Scandal in Bohemia” to appear. If a story has Watson already publishing adventures in The Strand in the 1880’s, it’s wrong.

Hugh Ashton, who I interviewed recently, does not read other pastiches. Do you? (Obviously, allowing for the fact that in your role as editor you could scarcely avoid it).

I couldn’t NOT read pastiches. I’ve been reading them, collecting them, and intensely addicted to them for 80% of my life, so far. I couldn’t and wouldn’t stop reading them just because I’ve now written a few.

The most amazing thing personally for me about editing the MX Anthology is that I get to read all of these stories brand new, straight out of Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box, before almost anyone else. When I was putting together the first three volumes, I was the only one for months and months who had read all of the stories, and knew how good they were, and how much pleasure the readers were going to have. It was like having a big secret that I couldn’t share yet.

Do you set aside a certain amount of time each day to write or edit?

Unfortunately, no. If I were to win the lottery, I would probably have a go at being a real author, treating it as a real job, and working set hours each day. But instead, I have to find time here and there, and get geared up for the painful process of squeezing out a few thousand words.

I’ve read about authors, such as Jonathan Kellerman, who scribbled his first novel in bits in pieces while he was a doctor, and when he had a moment or two here-and-there between patients. I’ve never tried to write that way, but I don’t think it would work for me. I need a big chunk of time where I can throw the door open and let the words flow for a while. I don’t have any problem letting the words flow – as you can see from these long answers – but finding the time isn’t always easy, and it isn’t exactly painless either, so it’s a commitment every time.

Do you like to write in solitude and silence, free from interruptions?

As I’ve written elsewhere, when I write I go into a “zone” and I’m only vaguely aware of the outside world while the story comes out. I don’t have a real plan, and I transcribe what I’m hearing Watson narrate to me. When I come back a few hours later, I’m somewhat stiff and sore, all of my coffee is gone, and I have a few thousand words on the screen that weren’t there before.      

I can generally write about 3,000-5,000 words in a sitting, over the course of a 2-3 hour period, and I can get a basic 8,000-word Holmes story down in a couple of writing sessions. Then, after I let it sit and percolate for a few days, I re-read it to improve the language, eliminate repeated words, look for loose plot threads, and so on – probably not that different from how other people do it. I have to write on a real keyboard though. I can’t use a laptop keyboard for some reason, and I certainly can’t write in longhand, since my thoughts (or Watson’s dictated thoughts) flow too fast for that. I learned to type when I was nine years old, and I’m pretty fast, so I can keyboard a conversation in a story just about as fast as they can say it.

Solitude and silence are definitely necessary. Our desktop computer is set up in our dining room. My wife and son leave me alone when I’m writing, but ideally I get up early and crank out a chunk of story while the house is absolutely quiet. I’m not a full-time writer, so I have the luxury of doing it when I feel like it, but I have to discipline myself to feel like it, since it’s a somewhat painful process. Still, there’s nothing like sitting down with nothing there, and coming back to the real world a few hours later with something that didn’t exist before.

There are probably more Holmes books being written than ever before. Too many do you think?

Never too many. When I was growing up, I was lucky to get a couple of new Holmes stories per year. Later, when I was in high school and college, I used to receive a couple of Sherlockian catalogs, and I would place one big order per year on my own, and then mark the catalogs for my parents and sister so they would know what else to get for me for Christmas. In the late 1980’s, when I was in my early twenties and started dating my future wife, she introduced me to a local bookstore that had hard-to-find Holmes items on the shelves, and I would snap them up with the proceeds from my first job. My wife is a reference librarian, so over the years she has showed me how to track down lots of Holmesian rarities.

In the 1990’s, I went back to college for a second degree in Civil Engineering and discovered the internet. That changed everything, from giving me access to fan fiction adventures (which I printed off as permanent paper copies if they were traditional Holmes stories – something that I still do to this day,) to finding new places to track down and purchase obscure Holmes books. Now it’s a rare day when I don’t add some new traditional Holmes pastiche to my collection. And I always read them, and add them to the Chronology. And I still want more!

Granted, the quality of these new Holmes stories is WAY up and down, but I try to look past the presentation, or even the grammatical and Canonical mistakes, to see the actual Holmes adventure. All of these current “editors” of Watson’s notes are accessing what I’ve described as The Great Watsonian Oversoul. Or maybe they’ve all just found different Tin Dispatch Boxes. Every new story that appears isn’t perfectly polished – after all, Watson, with the help of his Literary Agent, only cleaned up 60 of them for publication in his lifetime. The rest of these new stories might be rougher, and they might have some mistakes or inconsistencies in them, but the Watsonian essence is still there. To me, with that kid still inside who only got a few new Holmes stories per year, this is an incredible and amazing time. I’m not going to turn down a new traditional story just because it was free on a website, and not in a slick-and-shiny book that was on a shelf at a book store. What we’re living in is beyond a Holmesian Golden Age – It’s a Platinum Age to be a Sherlockian.

There is a great snobbery among some Sherlockians, wherein they won’t even consider reading a pastiche if it isn’t in a fancy published book from a big-name publisher, written by one of their pals in the same popular kids club. These people would never deign to look at stories from lesser sources, such as a shabby fan fiction. It’s too bad, because they’re only cheating themselves. Some of the very best Holmes stories that I’ve ever read were fan fictions from the internet, or in books or chapbooks or pamphlets from small publishers, and people who won’t be open-minded are missing an incredible assortment of great Holmes adventures.                                       

If you could take five original stories from the canon with you to a desert island what would they be?

Ah, the always difficult question. I suppose I’d have to pick some of the favorites that I always enjoy the most when I revisit them: “The Speckled Band”, “The Copper Beeches”, “The Abbey Grange”, “Charles Augustus Milverton”, and The Hound of the Baskervilles

But don’t ask me why I like all of these, or I might write even more. This list might be different on a different day, or even an hour from now. And if I could pick some of my favorite pastiches too, then the list would become positively unmanageable.

And the future. What’s next for yourself?

As I said, I’m currently editing stories for the fourth and fifth volumes, but it isn’t as difficult this time around as it was for the first three books. Now, there are less stories – but still about two-dozen per volume! – spread out over a longer period before the deadlines, and Steve Emecz and I worked out all the formatting when we set up the first three books, so those issues aren’t hanging over me now like before.

I’ve completed (as of this morning) about 60,000 words of a new Holmes novel, and I’m also writing four new Holmes short stories, two for the next MX Anthologies, and a couple for two Holmes collections coming from Belanger Books next year. I have a lot of loose Holmes stories that I’ve written, now placed in various locations, and I hope to collect them into a new book in a year or so. And the other day I had an idea for yet another type of Holmes anthology, so I’ll see where that goes as well.

Through all of this, I’m still so fortunate to be able to read all these new Holmes pastiches that are appearing every day. I’m extremely lucky to finally be able to play in the Holmes sandbox that I first became aware of when I read Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street, forty years ago. (Wow – where did that time go?!?) And I’m incredibly blessed to have met some really great people through this whole process, and I thank them so much for all that they have done through this whole process. You’re all great!

Thanks David

David Marcum can be reached for questions or comments at:

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Sherlock Holmes meets Laurel and Hardy

This is  a slight re-write of an earlier piece, Posting it again because...well, just because!!

The Laurel and Hardy Incident

            When I glance over my increasingly copious notes and records of some of the cases that my good friend, Mr Sherlock Holmes has been involved in to some degree, I am faced by a surprising amount that are out of the commonplace and present so many singular, strange features that it is no easy task for this humble chronicler to decide just which narratives to put before the public.
            The incident I am about to relate involved no known crime and the puzzle, although trivial, it presented to Holmes had no solution nor in fact required one. Yet it begs to be recalled as one of those whimsical moments that can occur when six million people are jostling together in a great metropolis.
            We had both broken our fast early for the heat in our Baker Street rooms was stifling. The morning sunshine bathed the street in a golden hue, the light danced and dappled its way down the thoroughfare. The morning murmur of the city coming to life was now bursting into a symphony of noise. A paean to the rich, varied life that abounds in London.
            Holmes was busy reading The Times and I was attempting to write up the case of The Gondolier and the Russian Countess when we heard the doorbell, followed moments later by hurried footsteps ascending the seventeen steps.
            Holmes looked up from the agony column which had been occupying his attention.
            ‘Two men, Watson, one certainly taller and larger framed than the other, but even so just as nimble and fleet of foot as his companion.’           ‘I had no time to indulge Holmes’s deduction with my usual ‘How?’ for the door opened wide and two men, such as Holmes had described entered the room. The larger of the two men, who towered over his companion was the first to speak.
            ‘Pardon me, gentlemen for the intrusion, but we appear to be lost.’
            ‘Yes that’s right and we don’t know where we are either,’ announced his friend.
            ‘You are in Baker Street,’ I stated.
            ‘Baker Street where, sir?’ asked the ample proportioned one.
            ‘In London of course. Do you not know even what city you are in?’
            ‘London? London?’ He turned to his thin friend. ‘Well, here’s another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.’
            His response was to burst into tears. ‘I didn’t mean to…I couldn’t help it….I only touched the button.’
            ‘You can’t leave anything alone can you? Pardon me, gentlemen, allow me to explain.’
            ‘Yes, please do,’ said Holmes, ‘for beyond the obvious facts that you are both down on your luck, have both been in the US Navy, have bought a boat recently, have wives who hen-peck you and are regularly harassed by a balding Scotsman, I assure you I know nothing about you whatsoever.’
            ‘Say, does this guy know us, Ollie?’
            ‘He most certainly does not and don’t call me Ollie. Gentlemen, I am Oliver Norvell Hardy and this my friend, Mr Laurel.’
            ‘My name is Sherlock Holmes and this is my friend and colleague Doctor Watson. Now pleases explain, if you can, the nature of your predicament.’
            ‘Well, it’s like this. We were sweeping a chimney at the home of a mad scientist and he asked us not to touch a particular machine he was working on. Stanley accidentally pressed one of the buttons, pulled four levers, turned three dials and engaged six of the gears and now we find ourselves in another country.’
            ‘I just wanted to know the time,’ said Mr Laurel.
            ‘Then why did you have to interfere with the machine?’
            ‘He said it was a time machine, recomember? Say, did you say another country, Ollie? Is this London, England?’
            ‘Why, certainly,’ Mr Hardy replied.
            ‘That’s swell. I had an uncle once who was building a house in London, but he died.’
            ‘I’m sorry to hear that Mr Laurel, what did he die of?’ I asked.
            ‘A Tuesday or was it a Wednesday,’ he replied, taking off his hat and ruffling his hair so that it stood on end.
            ‘No, my dear fellow. I meant what caused his death?’
            ‘He fell through a trapdoor and broke his neck.’
            ‘While building his house?’
            ‘No, they were hanging him.’
            I looked at Holmes intently, hoping to convey to him a silent message that one of us should make an excuse to leave and bring back the nearest constable for clearly we were in the presence of two lunatic who have escaped from Colney Hatch asylum. To my surprise, he was laughing in that peculiar silent fashion of his and was displaying no alarm at all.
            ‘Do you have often get into scrapes like this?’ he asked.
            ‘No, I reckon this is our first mistake since that fellow sold us the Brooklyn Bridge.’
            ‘That was no mistake, Stan. That bridge is going to be worth a lot of money to us one day.’
            ‘Well, gentlemen,’ Holmes said, his eyes twinkling merrily. ‘I have a reputation for solving the most abstruse cryptograms, puzzles and conundrums, but I fear that this particular problem is beyond even my powers.’
            ‘Say, Ollie, I have an idea.’
            Mr Hardy’s face bore a look of complete and utter amazement at this remark from Mr Laurel.
            ‘You do?’
            ‘Sure, I’m not as dumb as you look.’
            ‘You certainly are not,’ replied Mr Hardy, twiddling his bow tie. ‘We will leave you in peace gentlemen. Come, Stanley.’
            ‘Goodbye,’ shouted Mr Laurel as they left.
            ‘Good day to you both,’ I called after them.
            ‘Quick, Watson. There is not a moment to lose, we must run after them.’
            I was most gratified to hear that Holmes had not been taken in by our visitors and had seen them for the madmen they were.
            ‘If we are to overcome then, Holmes, shall I bring the police-whistle to attract the nearest bobby?’
            ‘Overcome them? I have no intention of doing so nor asking the assistance of the police.’
            ‘I do not understand. Then, why pray, we going after them at all?’
            ‘Elementary, my dear fellow. I have not laughed like this for a long time. Come, Watson.’

Friday, 11 December 2015

An Interview with Dan Andriacco

Dan Andriacco discovered Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's original Sherlock Holmes stories at about the age of nine. Not long after, he became acquainted with such greats of the Golden Age of detective fiction as Agatha Christie, Ellery Queen, Rex Stout, John Dickson Carr, Erle Stanley Gardner, and many more. He has been a member of the Tankerville Club, a Cincinnati-based scion society of the Baker Street Irregulars, since 1981. That connection is reflected in many ways in his book Baker Street Beat: An Eclectic Collection of Sherlockian Scribblings. He is also a member of the Illustrious Clients and of the John H. Watson Society.
Andriacco's Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody mystery series, set in a small town in Ohio, is very much in the tradition of his Golden Age favorites.
Andriacco, known to friends as "Doctor Dan," holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Columbia Theological Seminary in Georgia. He was born in 1952 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he lives with his wife, Ann. They have three adult children and five grandchildren.     

How did your first book come about? Why, what and when?
My first published book in the Sherlockian field was Baker Street Beat. At some point I realized that I had written a lot about Holmes over the years. I assembled them into a book of essays, radio plays, and short stories just to have them all in one place. I planned to self-publish but I couldn't figure out how to do it. Then Joel Senter of Classic Specialties told me about MX Publishing. Amazingly, the book was in print just a few months after I sent Steve Emecz the manuscript. That was in 2011. I've had two books a year published ever since.

Your McCabe-Cody series of mysteries go from strength to strength. Did the idea come to you fully-formed?
Thanks! I think I started with wanting to have a "Watson" that had a built-in conflict with the amateur sleuth protagonist for the sake of dramatic tension and also for comedy. So I came up with the idea of a small Catholic college public relations director hose best friend and brother-in-law was a professor who created PR problems for the college. It didn't work out exactly that way because there isn't really that much tension between Jeff and Mac, but that's how I originally saw them.

And was it a conscious decision to have the Holmesian themes?
To some degree, the Holmesian element is automatic. It's just so much a part of me that it comes out in all my mystery writing. But my publisher specializes in Sherlock Holmes so some of it is put in with malice aforethought. The second book in McCabe-Cody series, Holmes Sweet Holmes, originally had a different title and the Holmes element wasn't nearly as strong. I wrote the first version many years before it was rewritten and published.        

    How do you see the series and characters progressing?
There have been some changes and there will continue to be. I'm not sure that Lynda's job at the media company is secure. Tere's a major change in another character's job at the end of the next book in the series. And at some point a continuing character will turn out to be the murderer. I don't want the series to stagnate, so there has to be some changes - but not enough to ruin the sense of familiarity. Readers tell me that when they open one of my books it's like revisiting old friends. I don't want to ruin that!

The Enoch Hale series in collaboation with Kieran Mc Mullen is a recent innovation. Is that series set to run and run?
It's over! Kieran and I decided to make it a trilogy. I think I had the basic plotlines of the second and third books finished before the first was published. The third ends with a shocking surprise. I think that was a good conclusion to the series. The last line of the book may read like we're setting it up for another book, but that wasn't the idea.

Any plans to write a full length Sherlock Holmes pastiche?
No! I will leave that to others. It's hard to make a Holmes novel seem like the Canon. To be authentic - at least to me - a Holmes novel has to be relatively short (45,000-60,000 words), have Holmes missing for about half the book, and be an adventure story as much as a mystery. Even The Hound of the Baskervilles follows that pattern - Holmes is gone for much of the book, and the killer is revealed way before the end. And of course the first and last ACD Holmes novels are divided into two parts, with the second part set in America in the past and Holmes is nowhere in sight.

Are your family very supportive?
Yes! My wife is one of my four beta readers. Our grandchildren are great readers, so I look forward to them meeting Sebastian McCabe and Jeff Cody some day.

What constitutes a normal day for you?
That  depends a bit on what stage I'm in with a project, but basically I work on writing or editing or plotting for an hour every morning after I work out at the gym. Then I do my day job as director of communications at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, which involves a lot of writing. I also write or edit my own projects at home after work, but how long I do that depends on how much energy I have and what needs to be done that day. I'm pretty focused, which is how I wrote two books a year four years. That pace may not continue. 

How does your faith work in your life?
It impacts every area of it - at least, I hope it does!

And the future? What can we expect from you?
At the moment I'm reworking a comic detective novel set in 1991,  which is when I originally wrote it. Re-reading it makes me laugh out loud. It's so "high-concept" that I don't want to say anything more about it right now. My wife and I also plan to write a mystery series about an early twentieth century vaudeville clairvoyant - her grandfather. The first book is largely plotted. Neither of these efforts is Sherlockian and so probably will not be published by MX. But friends of Jeff Cody will be happy to know that I expect his adventures to continue, at least one a year, for a long time to come.

               Visit Dan's website: HERE