Contents:

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.

Friday, 8 April 2016

An Interview with Sherlock Holmes author, Tim Symonds

Tim Symonds was born in Hampstead, London. He grew up in Somerset, Dorset and Guernsey. After several years working in the Kenya Highlands and along the Zambezi River he emigrated to Canada and then the United States. He studied at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa in Political Science, and in Germany at Göttingen. He writes his novels in a converted oast house in 'Conan Doyle country', near Rudyard Kipling’s old home Bateman’s in East Sussex and in clement weather among the trees and hidden valleys of the Sussex High Weald, on two occasions polishing the final draft on the tiny Mediterranean island of Gavdos (see photo, seated on a fallen tree).

He first thought of writing novels when he was 12, watching his uncle Elleston Trevor (‘Flight of the Phoenix’, ‘The Quiller Memorandum’ etc) in Guernsey at the time Elleston Trevor was struggling to get published. During his undergrad and grad days at UCLA Tim spent the summers deep down in Mexico at a near-abandoned village by the name of San Blas, trying to write a novel based on his own adventures in Africa a few years earlier.  He continued working on the story in Jamaica, Versailles, a tiny island off West Africa by the name of Fernando Po, and in Oxford. The unfinished typescript is still lying around in some dusty cupboard unpublished.

The author’s detective novels are published by Steve Emecz at MX Publishing, the world’s largest publisher of Sherlock Holmes stories. They include Sherlock Holmes and The Dead Boer at Scotney Castle (now into its second edition), Sherlock Holmes and The Case of the Bulgarian CodexSherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter and Sherlock Holmes And The Sword of Osman. The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter is based on a real-life event in the life of Albert Einstein circa 1903. (Einstein and Holmes were, of course, near contemporaries). His fifth is expected out in the summer 2016, with the provisional title of Sherlock Holmes And The Empress of China - once again, for geopolitical reasons, Britain's esteemed foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey has asked Holmes to help a decaying Empire survive for a while longer, this time the Qing.


Q. You are noted for your meticulously researched Sherlock Holmes novels. How important is it for you to get all that detail correct?

I like to get details correct mainly because I feel my readership has an enquiring mind and can take it in, as long as I don't overdo it. One of the joys of doing the research is the way people at the top of their game are ready to provide information - scientists, historians, botanists (including specialists in plant toxins), guns and explosives experts, and Conan Doyle specialists such as Roger Johnson and Jean Upton and David Marcum, and top librarians like Catherine Cooke who manages to get me the most bizarre information, most recently on the size of printed Chinese ideograms for my next novel.

We live in a period where more people have become literate and knowledgeable (especially with Google and Wikipedia at their fingertips) than in all the history of the world. In Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery Of Einstein's Daughter I brought in some background on how Albert Einstein at age 26 came up with his staggeringly important theories (including E = mc 2while at the same time an event was taking place in Serbia concerning him that has never been solved - the greatest mystery in the world's greatest physicist's life.

It pays for all novelists to get the research right or you will get a correction from some of your readers.  I remember a novelist-uncle of mine, Elleston Trevor ('Flight Of The Phoenix', 'The Quiller Memorandum' etc) writing a war book at an early stage of his writing career. He was in Guernsey where I grew up. In those days it took a fortnight or more to order library books from the Mainland (England), and doing research was really tough.  In his novel he mentioned the Tommies using a certain weapon. As soon as the novel appeared, a retired Military chap wrote a scornful letter to the publisher saying that 'while that weapon did go into service later that year, at the time the novel is set it was still in the testing stage'! 

Elleston sent him a very pleasant note saying he would like to check such military matters with him in the future, nicely getting the Colonel on-side.


***                               

Q. I noted with pleasure the sale of your 'Sherlock Holmes And The Dead Boer at Scotney Castle' adventure in the gift shop at...wait for it...Scotney Castle! That must be enormously satisfying to you as a local resident.

Yes, it's nice to have a modicum of recognition in one's own home territory - people at the wonderful Bistro at my nearest railway station at Etchingham are friendly and interested, and the owner, Paul, has put up a large colour poster of the cover of Sherlock Holmes And The Dead Boer At Scotney Castle on the wall. In the plot,  I deliberately used two famed National Trust properties in East Sussex, partly because I go to Scotney Castle and to Bateman's, Rudyard Kipling's old home in Burwash, regularly for a walk and a cuppa and a chance to sit reflecting in the famous gardens, but also because umpteen thousands of people from across the world come to see those two properties and might like to read a Sherlock Holmes adventure set in the very place they're visiting.

***

Q. Is it hands-on research? Do you travel to the places you set your works in?
My research is both hands on in the sense I find Google and Wikipedia absolutely essential - wouldn't my uncle Elleston Trevor have loved having all the information in the universe at his finger tips in those faraway days in St Peter Port - and, yes, from visiting the setting of my plots. I live in deepest Sussex which is where Conan Doyle spent many of his later years and where Holmes retired to tend his bee-farm (near East Dean). I had also visited Istanbul (the 'Stamboul' of my 'Sherlock Holmes And The Sword of Osman') several times before deciding to use the old city for the plot.  I'm hoping to have my next novel - the one set in Peking circa 1907 - translated into Mandarin to try out the Chinese market. If it does sell there, I plan to visit Peking as well as other parts of China mentioned in the novel - including the Eastern Qing Tombs. As yet, my now considerable knowledge of the last of China's Chinese Dynasties and the extraordinary Empress Dowager Cixi has come from reading a pile of books at my shoulder so high they threaten to collapse on me and end my writing career.
***

Q. Where do you do your writing? A quiet room? The fields of Sussex, Sussex weather permitting?

Through the winter I do the writing in a small room in the converted oast house (see photo attached) where I live with my partner Lesley Abdela. In fact I displaced her from a small room she set up as a painting room complete with easel. During the afternoons, whatever thetemperature, I take a book and step out straight into the High Weald, a wonderland of trees and deer and bird sounds, including four buzzards which circle above with their weird cry.  I have about 5 canvas chairs placed strategically around the woods, hidden from ramblers (andpoachers).  Even when it's in the depth of winter, hidden by trees from the cold winds, I can spend a very happy hour or so doing my research. On some unseasonably warm mornings the badgers come out and sniff around my Wellingtons. Ditto rabbits, like Watership Down. The crows are around all the time, raucous lot. They are said to have the intelligence of a 5 year old human. I haven't had much experience with young kids but I bet it's true.  A crow is at the centre of my next plot so I've been in touch with some of the world's experts on the Corvid family.  As I say so often, one of the wonders of writing when you have at least one novel 'out there' (e.g. 'available from all fine bookshops') is how amazingly willing the greatest experts are at advising you.  The unfortunate crow in my next novel carries a black powder firecracker strapped to its leg. I sought advice on black powder from Britain's top explosives' expert.

Writing is not really seasonal. Autumn comes and goes, so does Winter (Winters are long and really noticeable living in an isolated English valley far from the diversions of a town). And then Spring - mostly still inside the workroom. In Summer I fire up a lap-top and take it up into the hills to continue the novel, though as yet there isn't enough signal cover in my neck of the woods for me to use a dongle, so no wiki up there. Even my iPhone finds it hard to get a signal.

For three years in succession I rounded off the final copy on a tiny island off Crete called Gavdos.  That's where I completed 'Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Einstein's Daughter' and also 'The Sword of Osman'. There's no doubt it pays to do a final run through in a completely different location. As I say in my Acknowledgments, given the tremendous competition among authors of Sherlock Holmes tales for readership, I would not be able to complete any of them if it were not for the hard work of my partner. She's a world expert on post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding and goes into truly dangerous regions, in the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa etc.

***


Q. What do you think of Conan Doyle's Holmes?

I must confess I admire Holmes's qualities immensely while not finding him a deeply likeable character - but he doesn't ask to be liked, either in my novels or in Conan Doyle's original stories. However, Dr. John H. Watson does want people to like him, and I do. I have made sure that while he is still baffled, bewildered and staggered by the speed and clarity of his comrade-in-arms' mental faculties, he is himself far from the doddering twit early motion pictures portrayed him.  As I reported in the Author’s Notes in my novel ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Sword Of Osman’ I was on a train to Charing Cross from deepest East Sussex  when I read a description of an English countryman which struck me as the epitome of Dr. Watson in middle age. It was in ‘The Crooked Scythe’ by George Ewart Evans, an anthology of memories of men and women of a past era—farm labourers, shepherds, horsemen, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, sailors, fisherman, miners, maltsters, domestic servants. The introduction to ‘The Crooked Scythe’ was by a David Gentleman who described the author George Evans as follows:
‘George was in his mid-fifties when I first saw him… upright and vigorous, with an open and friendly manner and a clear, piercing gaze. He looked the part of a countryman, in a tweed jacket, a hat also of tweed, drill trousers, and stout brown shoes. As I grew to know him, I discovered that he was sympathetic and generous with help and encouragement. He was intelligent and shrewd; his judgments, though seldom sharply expressed, were acute and rational. In conversation he was tolerant and unassertive, but it was soon clear he held independent views with firmness and conviction.’

I’m certain this is how Watson’s many friends at the Junior United Services Club and at the Gatwick races would have viewed him too, a man of ‘gentility though of limited means and no property’.

***

Q. How old were you when you first encountered Sherlock Holmes?                    


I must have been around 12. My single-parent mother put me in a boarding-school in Guernsey by the name of Elizabeth College. The college had been paid for by Elizabeth Tudor circa 1600. It had turrets and looked like a castle but it was what is known as 'domestic' in that any ship's cannon down in St Peter Port's harbour could have wreaked havoc. I was in 'the long dorm' in the main turret with 6 other boarders. When the house-master or prefect came along to switch off the lights and tell us to shut up, some of us retrieved our cats-whisker radios or a torch and read for an hour or so. I was the principal story-teller in the dorm, charged with bringing adventures like 'The Hound of the Baskervilles' back from the Summer holidays, to read out aloud to the others. Conan Doyle's stories were wonderful company until the batteries ran down.

***

Q. And what next for you?

My next 'sherlock' should be ready for the market this Summer. After my latest Holmes-and-Watson adventure which saw them keeping a shaky Ottoman Sultan on his throne in Stamboul in 1906 at the urgent behest of Britain's Foreign Secretary (Sherlock Holmes And The Sword of Osman), the duo get asked by His Majesty's Government to help prop up another shaky regime, the Emperor and Empress Dowager of the Qing Dynasty in faraway Peking.  Neither Holmes and Watson nor Sir Edward like autocracies but for important reasons to do with the bellicose German Kaiser and other predatory Great Powers, Britain needs these Empires to hang on for a while. I haven't got a title for it yet.  I like to start the titles with 'Sherlock Holmes And…' so it could be something like 'Sherlock Holmes And The She-Dragon of China' or 'Sherlock Holmes And The Empress of the Purple City' though I'm definitely open to suggestions!  As I mentioned, I'd particularly like to explore getting this adventure translated into Mandarin to test out my style in the vast Chinese market.  

***

Q. Do you have a website for news about your novels?

Belatedly, after publishing my first Sherlock Holmes five years ago I have just forked out for a dedicated website which will be simply timsymonds (probably .co.uk) though I'd have liked something to do with Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Watson in the domain name.  If anyone knows of existing Holmes and Watson websites they consider cleverly-constructed and easy on the eye and welcoming, do let me know so I can pass the suggestion on to the web designer to look at. Ditto advice on how to get potential readers to come to it.

***

Finally,

Q. Do you have any unsolved 'mysteries' about writing your novels?

I do! The question I grapple with all the time as I write is - how do we as authors identify our principal readership, our target audience?  I asked the Editor of The Author journal and he didn't know either.  We all have an image in our minds - perhaps the readers are mostly over, say, 45, reasonably educated - but maybe they're really between 20 and 35 and all young techies escaping the 21st Century for a few hours.  Or would another culture - say, German - take to my stories; if so, is it worth getting my novels translated?  Although I understand it can be a minefield, I do intend to get my next novel translated, the one set in the Forbidden City as the Qing Dynasty totters to its end (hence my question to Catherine Cooke on ideograms).

Thank you very much, Tim. Good luck with all new ventures.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

MORE BEYOND WATSON with Luke Benjamen Kuhns


I have Luke Benjamen Kuhns with me today. Not literally (I might have to feed him!). Luke is a London based crime writer and reviewer. He has published several novels including The Untold Adventures of Sherlock Holmes (now in Italy & India), Studies in Legacy and graphic novels The Horror of Frankenstein and Case of The Crystal Blue Bottle. He also  contributed to the Fan Phenomena series: Sherlock Holmes, spoke at University College London’s Past and Present conference on pastiche writing and was featured on the Japanese TV Network NHK. 

First of all, I hope I am forgiven for taking your family name in vain in 'An American Adventure'.

 HA! No, no I had no problem with that. The Kuhns' are a crazy bunch from my experience. 
Your short story collections are well-known for the great plotting of the individual pieces. The question is: How the hell do you keep coming up with them?                         

 I find it really hard, to be honest. Sometimes I feel like these stories could be full length novels or novellas. Which is exactly what happened with The Scarlet Thread of Murder. But often I try and come up with a good murder or I'm inspired by something I've seen somewhere and go from there. But it's no easy task. Especially when you do lots of short stories, because you sometimes want to reuse ideas but you don't want to come across as lazy or unimaginative so you always got to push yourself to come up with new or interesting characters and narratives. 

How does your home or work life inform your writing? Is it easy to find the time you need? 

Yes, there are influences. A conversation here, a comment there can sometimes be the basis of a subplot or lead to an interesting piece of interaction within a story. I know my story The Acquitted Client (in Untold Adventures) was based on my friend who had an issues with a cabdriver that lead to a court case, lots of fees, before finally being acquitted when the driver was actually in the wrong. So work and personal life is always a source of inspiration, often it's just finding the right Victorian setting for that! And no, it's never easy to find time!! Often is very hard and you work through the tiredness in order to get things done.  

You have collaborated with some very talented people on a series of Sherlock Holmes graphic books. How did that come about and can we expect more? 

Crystal Bottle (my first) was a charity effort and that put m in contact with lots of illustrators (many of whom I've developed great friendships with). But how it came about was that I simply wanted to try and comic but I didn't have the funds to pay, hence why we did a book with royalties for Undershaw and many many illustrators were keen to help. I met Marcie Klinger who illustrated a part of Crystal Bottle and went on to do my second book. We have a third in the works, but not sure when it'll be ready. But I would like to do more comic book in the future. Marvel, here I come! 

How did you find writing your piece for 'Beyond Watson' given the non-involvement of Watson? 

It was a very fun challenge. Scarlet Thread of Murder was a story that in some part featured Holmes but didn't always get told by Watson, so I loved the idea of writing a Watson-free story.  The tricky bit was writing a story that hadn't been done before! I always loved the character of Violet Hunter and thought it would be incredibly fun to see where she was and if she had any other adventures or interactions with Sherlock Holmes. 

Do you feel you have grown as a writer through your Sherlock Holmes tales? 

Certainly. I was incredibly inexperienced when I wrote Untold Adventures and it painfully shows! But I laugh it off now. Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle have been great to research and learn from. Writing these stories have put me in contact with some really wonderful writers who have been great influences and encouragements to me. I'm certainly no pro. I might have graduated from Freshmen to Sophomore, but no further! Or I might still be in that Freshmen year. haha! But I've picked up some great tips that have aided my second and third books. 

What can we expect from you in the near and far future?

I am completing a historical piece about Undershaw, that will be releasing in July/August of this year. It'll be a very short intro to Arthur Conan Doyle and his early life and his time at Undershaw. I still have a graphic novel on the back burners and I'm writing my first wholly original crime novel that I can't say much about now. But I'm really excited for it and seeing where it might take me. 

Visit Luke's website: HERE

For the latest news on Beyond Watson: HERE

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Beyond Watson: An Interview with Geri Schear

Geri Schear is a novelist and short story writer. She was born in Dublin and currently lives in Kells, County Meath. She has contributed a story to a new Holmes anthology: Beyond Watson.  I caught up with her recently.


As a writer, what initially drew you to the world of Sherlock Holmes?

I started reading Holmes stories when I was very young (seven) so he's been part of my life for almost as long as I can remember. 

I began my writing career with literary short stories, and published a fair few of them. In 2012 I won an international award for my as yet unpublished first novel, a traditional ghost story called Shakespeare's Tree. However, the idea for my first Holmes tale was already nibbling on my brain (which didn't hurt so much as tickle), and eventually I started writing it down. I began by wondering what would happen if someone discovered a stack of old papers and journals and, through them, discovered the great Sherlock Holmes was his grandfather. The idea eventually morphed into A Biased Judgement: The Sherlock Holmes Diaries 1897.

Writing A Biased Judgement was great fun. It allowed me to combine my passion for all things Sherlockian with my interest in history. My Holmes novels try to weave real historical events and people with the canonical tales and an original story of my own. The first novel dealt with the rise of anarchy in 1897, and the second, Sherlock Holmes and the Other Woman, has the Dreyfus Affair as a backdrop.

How do you think your pastiches differ from the mainstream of new Holmes tales?     

All writers bring their own vision to Holmes. For some, the attraction lies in exploring secondary characters like Irene Adler; for others it's imagining Holmes in outer space, as a puppy, as a woman. All these ideas are valid, which says something about the genius of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work. 

For me, the heartbeat of the original tales is the Holmes - Watson relationship. To be honest, I'm not wild about stories that eliminate Watson altogether. Even though Holmes is married in my novels, his marriage does not restrict him in any way. Most importantly, allows him to continue to live in Baker Street with Watson. 

My first novel begins a few years after Holmes's return from his apparent death. I try to explore the impact his absence had on his relationship with his 'Boswell'. Watson is, I think, as generous and supportive of his friend as he ever was, but perhaps his wounds are a little more apparent. In other words, I'm trying to imagine the characters as real people. 

The other thing that sets my stories apart is they are written in the form of Holmes's diaries. This allows me to get inside Holmes's head and, more importantly, his heart. He can say things in his journal he'd never say out loud. The diary format also helps me to show how oblivious Holmes is to some things, such as how beloved he is to  so many people. That blind spot helps me add a lot of humour to my novels.

Finally, I plant 'Easter Eggs' in my stories, little inside jokes for Holmes fans. For instance, in the new book, Return to Reichenbach, the big villain's name is an anagram of an actor who once played the great detective. Don't worry, though, I reveal all in my notes at the end of the book. Don't cheat! Read the book first.

Does your heroine, Lady Beatrice share any of your own traits. or is that a closely guarded secret?

I'd love to be more like Lady B. She's feisty, independent, and funny. I'm not as feisty as she is -- though I have my moments -- but I am very independent. I hope readers will agree I'm funny!

How do you prefer to write? Certain times of day? In silence? Or?                     

I'm lucky enough to have a study in my house, but I tend to use it primarily for editing and proof-reading. Even though it's full of books and pictures, I can't seem to shake the business-like feeling I get when I'm in there. That makes it a good environment for detail work, but it's not so good for generating ideas. For my first couple of drafts, while I'm still in creative mode, I tend to use the living room. I curl up on the sofa with my laptop and I'm off. 

I find I do my best work first thing in the morning, the earlier the better. By 2pm I'm starting to flag and I have to stop for a few hours. If the work is going well, though, I'll pick it up again after dinner and will sometimes work through to the early hours. 

Over the past few years, I've discovered I can no long work with music in the background. It's just too distracting. Oddly enough, I'm fine in a cafe with a lot of people around talking and I can tune out the babble. Weird, huh?

Who has inspired you?

My grandmother was a great reader and I get my love of books from her. She was also a wonderful storyteller, and I'd like to think I inherited some of her talent. She gave me my first copy of The Hound of the Baskervilles when I was seven, too, so she has a lot to answer for!

Your story for the 'Beyond Watson' collection reveals how Holmes and Mrs Hudson first met. Can you tell us a little more without giving too much away?

When Derrick Belanger first suggested the anthology I immediately had the idea for this story. It features a very young Holmes not long up from university meeting his future landlady (or is that housekeeper?) for the first time. As you know, Holmes once solved a case by observing the depth which the parsley had had sunk into the butter on a hot day. My mystery hinges upon a bonnet's ribbons changing from yellow to white. 

What is your next project?                                                                           

I'm nearly completion of a new Holmes novel called Return to Reichenbach. It opens like this: 

The telegram said only, "Man found on moor in nightshift. Please come." 

The story sees Holmes face a terrifying antagonist known only as The Sorcerer, a man whose specialty is exploiting the fears of his victims.

Once the Holmes novel is finished, I'm planning to resume work on an urban fantasy novel about the knights of Camelot in modern day London. I have a first draft but it needs a lot more work before I can start looking for a publisher.

Finally, who for you, has most successfully played 'The Great Detective' on screen, both small and big?

Oh dear, I was afraid you'd ask me that!

I think my perfect Holmes is an amalgam of several. For instance, in film, I loved the late Christopher Lee's intelligence, Peter Cushing's humanity, and Basil Rathbone's appearance and overall interpretation of the character. I hated most of their scripts, though.  I'd probably go with Rathbone in terms of performance, but only if he had a different screenwriter.

For TV, I'm a big Jeremy Brett fan. I love how kinetic his performance is, and how nuanced. I'm also a big fan of Douglas Wilmer's series. I think his Holmes was the first I ever saw on television. Then again, I also adore Benedict Cumberbatch's modern take. The wit and vulnerability he brings to the character reveals something fresh and new, but never loses that sense of Conan Doyle's character. I'm going to cheat and say Brett for classic Holmes, and Cumberbatch for modern. 

Edward Hardwicke for Watson, though. Most of the others are good, but he's my favourite.

Visit Geri's website HERE

For news of Beyond Watson, click HERE

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:

AN EXCERPT


‘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.’