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.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Two more excerpts...

....from 'The Abyss'.

I never did the like the name Eliza, but my pa had a liking for it and that was that. My ma never got much of a look in when it came to making decisions whatever they might be. At least they did the decent thing and got married when I came along; now that may just have been ma’s doing so perhaps I was wrong about her not getting her own way. I was not an only child for long; three sisters came along at various intervals, the last of them when I was in my teens, but I have my own theory about that. No, I will not be tempted to share it with you thank you very much. I was nineteen when the final sibling poked his head into the world. Fountain they called him; pity the poor lad who has to grow up with a name like that. There I was, a skivvy to my mother, helping to raise this tribe. All the time I wanted to get out and make my own way in the world, well, who wouldn’t? But those sisters and brother of mine just got in the way and you could say I resented them for it and if you did, you would be right. Not that any of them liked me anyway, not even Emily who at least was a similar age to me, not that stopped her being demanding. I was convinced that I was destined to be a spinster, not that I wanted to be, but meeting men, suitable for marriage or otherwise was not an easy thing to do with all the fetching, skivvying and chores I had to do week in, week out. John asked me twice before I eventually accepted, well, I was twenty-eight and I figured it was him or the shelf. He was a cousin on my ma’s side, first or second I don’t recall nor did I much care to be honest. Of course we couldn’t afford a place of our own at first; well I guess you could say we never really had a place of our own. Mind you, the addresses we did live at sounded rather grand; Montpelier Place, Brook Mews, South Bruton Mews. South Bruton Mews, that was Berkeley Square you know, Mayfair you know. They might have sounded grand, but they weren’t. The Mews houses were little more than stables, well, I guess that’s what they were alright. John was a coachman you see, I think he loved his horses more than he loved me, all the time he took over fussing them and grooming them. He used to reckon that he could polish a horse’s coat so fine that he could see his face in it, not that I ever saw the point in that.


4d a night at Willoughby’s, not bad I thought an’ I know I can earn that easily like. Thrawl Street wasn’t so bad either, it wasn’t the worst street around and wasn’t the best, just normal like. There were four of us sharin’ the room an’ we got on alright, we was good company for each other an’ if one of us was short of doss money the others would ‘elp out. Emily, now she was a nice old stick an’ did more than the others an’ me to keep things tidy like in our room. Anyway, you would ‘ave found me in the Frying Pan that night, always good for a spot of business an’ the landlord looked out for us gals. I was in the money that day alright, ‘ad turned a few tricks an’ got my doss money three times over, but bleedin’ well spent it three time over too. Tried my luck anyway back at Willoughby’s, but the deputy caught me in the kitchen wivout me money and slung me out into that filthy night. Lawd, how it thundered that night, never seen so many flashes of lightnin’ before, must ‘ave jumped a ‘undred times or more. Still, told ‘im I’d be back with me money before long. Pointed at a pretty bonnet I ‘ad found. What do you think of me fine bonnet? It’s only fine if it ‘elps you get your doss, Polly ‘e says. Like I always said, no good asking men ‘bout things like that, they aven’t a clue. Then I seen ‘Em down on the corner of Osborn Street. She ‘ad to give me an ‘and as I nearly fell, well, I ‘ad been drinkin’ my doss money away and was well gone. Are you coming back, Polly? Soon I says, if not I know a place to stay, old ‘Enry won’t throw me out. Didn’t get that far did I? I thought there’s a nice looking gent. Fancy doing a bit of business, darlin’? ‘Allo I thought, got a quiet one ‘ere. It’s usually 4d love but you can ‘ave me for 3d I says to him, how ‘bout a 3d upright? ‘E mumbled somethin’, might ‘ave been a yes, could ‘ave been anything. Point was ‘e seemed willin’ enough. He steadied me as like I said, I was a bit under the drink, seemed a right gent unlike others I ‘ad come across. Steady girl ‘e says. We’ll go in ‘ere shall we? Whatever you say sir, I says to ‘im all posh like. The rain had started to come down ‘eavy like again an’ I was ‘oping for a bit of shelter while we did our business. This way ‘e says. Lawd, what a voice ‘e had, all soft like. ‘E put his cloak over me and just then there was a huge flash and I could see by the sign I was in Buck’s Row. He leaned in close like and there was another great flash of lightning and I could see ‘is face clearly An evil face. A familiar face too, but I ‘ad no time to think ‘bout that. ‘Ow did I ever mistake ‘im for a gentleman? I looked into ‘is eyes and prayed it would be quick.

It was.


   




Her

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Requiem For Sherlock Holmes...

.....is a recent Holmes collection written by Paul Stuart Hayes and published by Hidden Tiger. This is the author's first Sherlock Holmes book but you would not guess that from the quality of the stories. They are uniformly excellent, detailed, well-plotted and with a Watsonian  voice straight from the canon. The centre-piece is the novella which kick starts the collection, The Ancestral Horror. We meet Holmes's father who is languishing in jail accused of murder. We get Holmes's customary
brilliance in solving the crime, but we also get a fascinating insight into the relationship between father and son. Now, the relationship is strained to the point of non-existence and the reasons lie deep in the past. Holmes is not portrayed as a saint and even Watson has to question whether he really knows Holmes. The author plays fair all along and we along with Watson have to determine for ourselves where to apportion blame. It is a wonderful bonus to go hand in hand with Holmesian writing of the highest order. The dialogue throughout is exemplary, the experience authentic. This is one of those collections which require further reading to capture all the nuances in its pages. Now, as you may have surmised the novella is a towering achievement, but don't think for a moment that the other stories are mere filler. They are not. They are every bit as good. Here is an author who loves his characters, loves putting words in their mouths and we the readers are the ones who benefit. If you enjoy Sherlock Holmes collections you will be hard pushed to find a better one around at the moment. If I had written it I would be glowing with pride. Well done, Paul.

Readily available on Amazon. I suggest you purchase it!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

An Interview with Claire Daines

Claire Daines has just had her first Sherlock Holmes novel published and I caught up with her recently.

I very often find it hard to find the time to write, but you have a young family, now extended by one to care for. How do you find the time?
I hold it up at gunpoint! It helps that the three eldest are at school and pre-school five days a week, and I’ve gotten very good at typing one-handed with the baby on my knee.
 
Are you a structured writer, writing at a set time and place? Do you just open up the laptop and let it come to you?
Not structured in the least, but my family always knows where to find me: constantly tapping away on my laptop at the dining room table, one of the few spaces available for writing.  I hate to feel like I’m not achieving anything, so I usually keep several projects on the go at once. If I run out of steam for one, I can switch to another. I also make sure to carry pen and paper with me if I’m going out anywhere.
 
Why Sherlock Holmes?
You know how certain characters just stay on your radar all your life, and you can spot a reference to them a mile off, no matter how slight? For me, Sherlock Holmes has always been that character. The very first Holmes story I ever read was ‘Silver Blaze’ when I was still in primary school. It was in a book of various mystery stories: Father Brown, the Thinking Machine, and so on. I must have read that book a thousand times while growing up – it’s probably still in my parents’ attic somewhere. Funnily enough, the next major ‘Holmes moment’ that I recall was at 10 years old, watching Michael Caine blunder about beside Ben Kingsley’s Watson in ‘Without A Clue’!
I love Sherlock Holmes because of his brilliant mind, but also because he is so obviously not a mere ‘brain without a heart’. His humanity is clear in every story, despite the cold, logical fa├žade he tries to present – which itself is such a very human thing to do!
 
Your novel 'A Study in Regret' has now made its way into the world. How did the premise of this work come  to you?
To answer, we have to travel back in time to the beginning of 2012. I had recently found a certain fanfiction website, and was blown away by not only the sheer quantity, but also the quality of some of it. After reading Discworld for several days straight, I turned on a whim to the Sherlock Holmes section in the hope that it would be just as good... and oh, it was! Some of those authors, I could barely tell the difference between their writing and Doyle’s, and I loved being able to read all those wonderful new adventures. With one particular writer, ‘Aleine Skyfire’ (who is now my best friend and co-author!), I was waiting impatiently for each fresh installment of the Holmes serial she was writing. After reading one chapter in floods of tears, I found myself idly wondering what it would be like for Holmes if Watson hadn’t survived Reichenbach...
The prologue from ‘A Study in Regret’ was the immediate result of that idle thought. It literally poured out of me, I’d never written that fast before in my life, and I’m not ashamed to admit I was crying my own waterfall from start to finish. And that was all it was ever going to be, a one-shot scene. But then before posting it up on my fanfic page, it occurred to me that it would be polite to at least show it to the author who had inspired me to write it, just in case she felt it was too much like her own work. I was astonished by Skyfire’s enthusiastic response: she loved my one-shot, and begged to know what would happen next. By that point, I was curious as well, so I decided to keep writing and see... I never dreamed then that a published novel would be the outcome!
I think my other main reason for the book’s premise was perversity. Sherlockians often opine that the death of Watson would automatically be the death of Holmes, and I wanted to prove that theory wrong, at least in my own head-canon. I felt there needed to be at least one Hiatus story where Holmes could show himself to be Watson’s equal in that regard: eventually pick himself up after the loss of his dearest friend, with the help of his remaining loved ones, and carry on – keep the faith, however much he might dislike that duty at times.
 
Like myself, you have dabbled with putting Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who together. What prompted you to do this?
Actually, it was Sky’s idea – and when she suggested it, I was over the moon! After all, which of us Doctor Who/Holmes fans hasn’t daydreamed about those two meeting and working together? We’ve had loads of fun since then torturing ourselves and our beloved characters (well, I say ‘our’!). We’re about halfway through the first season, with a second planned for next year. It isn’t all fanfiction, either – we’re also working on our first fantasy novel. One of the main challenges we have in writing together is that I’m in New Zealand, and she’s in the States – two different countries and time zones. Thank God for the internet!
 
Is there another Holmes novel on the cards?
Oh, yes – quite apart from the sequel to ‘Regret’, I have a separate Holmes novel in progress, set during the 1908 London Olympics. Let’s just say that a retired Holmes and Watson will learn a great deal about a certain English colony...
 
In general, is your family understanding of your, shall I call them 'obsessions'?
That’s a very good word for it! Mostly yes, although the dirty looks can pile up at the same speed as the laundry and dishes. I have a bad habit of shutting out reality in favour of fiction at the worst possible times – the main reason I write in the dining room, I’m forced to keep a connection with the real world during the day.
 
When not writing yourself, which writers do you immerse yourself in?
Terry Pratchett – I love his Discworld fantasy series. Georgette Heyer is another favourite, with her lighthearted Regency romances. I have a very large soft spot for children’s books – the ‘Anne of Green Gables’ series got me through two bouts of post-natal depression, reading them always makes me feel better about life in general.
 
If you have such a thing as a typical day, how would it go?
When I get one, I’ll let you know. Seriously, in a house with three adults, five children, and one Cairn terrier, mostly with conflicting schedules, Chaos reigns supreme!
 
How do you see your writing future?
Much the same as the present, although I do dream of having my own study one day... I would also like to try writing for younger children, which I’m reliably informed takes even more skill than writing for adults. Luckily, I have my own test audience!
 
You can find Claire's debut novel on Amazon UK, Amazon US. Other links to follow.
 
Thanks Claire.

Friday, 11 October 2013

THE ABYSS: A Journey with Jack The Ripper

The Abyss: A Journey With Jack The Ripper will be published on December 9th! A dark tale as befits the subject. It is a slim volume which details episodes in a fictional Jack The Ripper's life. In addition to this we hear from the five 'canonical' victims in their own words as if they were telling their stories after their murders. There are a few asides to do with Whitechapel life and the 'voices' which inhabit the killer's brain more and more. Fact and fiction in fact and different to anything I have done before, yet I commend it to you. Two excerpts:

Jack: 
A butcher’s in Fulham Broadway needed an assistant, yes, the work was beneath him, but he took it for the money and the sheer joy and exuberance he felt when carving, slicing and cleaving. No artist could have been more enamoured of their brushwork than he was with his butchery skills. The knives became part of him, like an extension of his own arm, cutting through the flesh. And the very smell of the carcasses and the blood, it gave him a pleasure that he had never known before. To the horror of his cousin he would arrive home covered in blood. She may have guessed that he slept in his bloodied apron; if she did she said nothing.

            When he was not working, he paced the streets, covering miles and miles of the city, taking in the sights and sounds, living and breathing them. The city lived for him as an entity of its own; it had an extraordinary heartbeat of love, regret and lives both futile and satisfied. A city which sold itself to all and sundry like a common whore and enticed lovers anew with promises and riches. A city which had no need of sleep for it was continually refreshing itself, re-inventing itself almost, appearing to be all things to all people. Within its walls you could find fortune, you could find wealth or an early grave. The city gave life and snatched it away when you least expected it. He was mesmerised by it, but he was young and the city had yet to deal him the harsh blows it would.
 
 
Liz Stride:
I was no stranger to the court mind you, eight times I was up there, drunk and disorderly they said, but what the hell harm was I doing? None to anyone, but me. Your English courts are always slanted against foreigners, you see us as heathens I think. There was a policeman I knew who would point me in the direction of home wherever that might be at the time and send me on my way, but others would drag you off to the cells kicking and screaming. Sometimes when I was released I would go back to Michael, but he was often as drunk as I was. So much for his protective ways. I had a flaming row with him; I forget what it was about, probably money. I had been making some decent money with my charring and cleaning. Not decent money as the likes of you might make, but good enough for me. Rack my brains as I might I don’t know why we argued, it was either money or drink so let’s just say it was one of those shall we? I got out and left him to cool down and headed to the doss house in Flower and Dean Street. On the way I met an old friend and we agreed to meet at the Bricklayers Arms the following evening. He was just a friend I knew from Stepney way although I was sure I had seen him recently in Dorset Street, nothing had gone on between us, but he was a nice enough fellow, good looking and charming. Tried to look my best for him, put on my nicest clothes and then found I had lost my hair brush. Would you believe it? No one at the house would let me borrow theirs. Still, it was windy and wet so I dare say it would have made no difference anyway. We had a few drink at the Bricklayers and he was quite amorous which was odd because he had never been that way with me before. I didn’t object mind. Like I said, he was a nice fellow. When I agreed to go with him if you know what I mean, he said you would say yes to anything and say anything apart from your prayers. Do I need to say my prayers then I replied. Yes Liz I’m afraid you do he said with a smile.
 
Available to pre-order: Amazon UK  Further links to follow when I have them!!
 
 

Thursday, 3 October 2013

What news from Lyme?

I hear you ask. And here it is. Completed new novella 'The Abyss' two days ago and dived back in for some fine tuning yesterday. It is a tad dark and certainly different to anything I have done before. For instance there is no place for Holmes and Watson. A mix of fact and fiction told by different voices. An excerpt:
When he was not working, he paced the streets, covering miles and miles of the city, taking in the sights and sounds, living and breathing them. The city lived for him as an entity of its own; it had an extraordinary heartbeat of love, regret and lives both futile and satisfied. A city which sold itself to all and sundry like a common whore and enticed lovers anew with promises and riches. A city which had no need of sleep for it was continually refreshing itself, re-inventing itself almost, appearing to be all things to all people. Within its walls you could find fortune, you could find wealth or an early grave. The city gave life and snatched it away when you least expected it. He was mesmerised by it, but he was young and the city had yet to deal him the harsh blows it would.

            His first lesson would be the simplest of all; don’t get caught. Simple, but for some so difficult to put into practice. And with so many things, he learnt the hard way. Next door to the butcher’s there was a laundry. The businesses shared a common yard. He was often to be found sharing time with some of the laundry employees and occasionally being invited into their canteen. Canteen they called it, but it was one very small room, no bigger than a cloakroom, which seemed to be its chief purpose. He spoke little, but he listened, oh how he listened to them prattle on about their sad little lives.        There were nuggets of gold amongst the conversational dross. I’ll tell you people, I don’t trust no bank, I keeps all of my money under the bed. What money is that Fred; you piss it all up the wall down the pub each night? I’ve got some put by, don’t you worry about that. You’re lucky Fred, I spend what I earn, and look here’s last week’s wages in my pocket. I like to keep my money with me at all times. Which pub do you drink in, Fred? Oh yes I know it. We must have a drink together one night. It’s a fair step from my place mind; still, if I have too much to drink I could always kip at yours eh? These people were so easy, so very easy. He was careless though. A wallet in a coat pocket. A pilfering of a pound note. Daylight, a crowded laundry. He was seen. The Magistrates Court was unduly lenient, he had a story to soften their hearts, that came easily to him too. Still, he had to serve two weeks in prison and his employment at the butcher’s was at an end. On his release he walked to Emily’s, a long enough walk for one weakened by incarceration. Emily and the dashing Captain knew well enough his release date, for his meagre possessions were stacked neatly by the door. Not the stoutest of doors. And Emily’s dresses were not made from the strongest material for his knife cut through them like butter. For many years Emily would recount this story and think herself extremely fortunate not to be at home that day.
Again, in the spirit of being different yesterday I also started a new book, a comic novel set in contemporary Lyme Regis. An excerpt:
The old house had always been known as the ‘old house’ apparently. There were other houses of course, some of them old, some of them even known as the old house, but for the purposes of this story, the old house will be a reference to this old house. The house where Michael Hamilton lived with his wife, Judy and their two daughters, Katy and Annabelle. We find them in the breakfast room, only so designated because they were having their breakfast in it. Yesterday for instance it was the mud-covered boots and dirty, smelly coats room. The day before it was, “Who the hell spilled all this water?” room.
 “Do you think all curses are gypsy’s curses? Is it a requirement recognised by law do you think?” Michael asked of Judy, realising that his daughters, as so often, would have no idea what he was talking about
 “Is this about old Mr Williams again?” Katy sighed.
 “Too right it is. If someone tells you your house is cursed you tend to sit up and take notice.”
 “Didn’t the estate agents mention it?”
“Yes of course, don’t you remember their description of the kitchen; Spacious and fully modernised with its own curse.
“Very funny, Mike. I think if you Google it you will find that curses died out along with the Tudors or the Stuarts.”
“Don’t be too sure. I have told you how my mother was cursed by a gypsy on her very own doorstep.”
 “Not her caravan?” Judy asked, lifting her eyebrows all the way to the soon to be painted ceiling in the spacious, fully modernised kitchen.
 “I was referring to my mother as you well know. She was only twenty-five, not a nice age to be cursed. Especially to be cursed with a violent death. Poor Mum.”
 “Mike, she died last year. She was seventy-six!”
 “Even so, a curse is a curse whether it takes a year or fifty years to work.”
 “I think there are more violent ways to die than in your bed during Today on Radio Four!”
 Judy poured some more orange juice into the jug, nominally for gravy, but happy enough to multi-task. Katy pulled a face and shivered as she took a sip, sometimes the fridge doubled as a freezer.  Mike looked intently at the juice as though he had seen it for the first time.
“Any additives in there Judy? You know how hyper Katy can get. We don’t want her bouncing off the walls do we?”
 Katy, as in response to this, placed one of her fingers into Annabelle’s boiled egg, prompting both a slap and a flood of tears from her sister.
“Katy, what are you doing?” asked her dad.
 “Bouncing off the walls, Daddy.” she squealed.
“My daughter, the comedienne,” mused Michael.
Katy and Annabelle resumed their status, a state resembling sisterly love, temporary of course, but heartfelt for as long as it lasted. This spirit of sibling peace and love could last as short a time as five minutes or as long as a whole week. A week was indeed their personal record aided by various bribes and sweeteners from their exasperated parents. Left to their own devices, three days of relative harmony would be as good as it could possibly get.
“What shall we do today?” asked Judy, “A walk into town? Then onto the beach?”
“The beach, the beach,” the sister’s shouted in another display of sibling harmony, short-lived though it may prove to be.
 “Right then, off you go and get ready while Daddy does the washing-up.”
 “Why does Daddy always wash-up?” asked Annabelle.
“That’s easy,” said her mum, “come here I will whisper it to you, it’s….because I don’t.
 The girls raced upstairs to hopefully don their best behaviour along with their clothes. Their footsteps up above echoed through the old house, the soon to be replaced carpets did nothing to deaden the sound. Only the sound of children dressing can raise the decibel level to that of heavy machinery at work. Two pairs of feet came clomping down the stairs. If racing down stairs ever became an Olympic sport than Katy and Annabelle Hamilton were sure to be future gold medallists. Their coats bore witness to the difficulties in matching button to button-hole, a skill that can take years to master. To be fair, they had mastered the almost mystical art of shoelace tying, a feat that even some adults can have problems with. Not that we are referring to Michael Hamilton here, although he has a fairly unique way of tying laces that causes many an observer to burst into uncontrollable laughter. In vain does he point out that his laces achieve their ultimate aim, that of being tied.
            “Are we all ready?” asked Judy, surreptitiously looking at Michael’s shoelaces and suppressing a giggle. “Right, let’s link arms, best foot forward and let’s sally forth.” (Sally Forth, although no doubt an admirable woman, does not figure again in these pages, so all in all I think it’s best to forget her.)
And I have elected to stand for town council here......will keep you posted on how that goes!!!
 
 

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Christmas is coming......

Yes it is. Not long to go now and if you have children to buy for and are puzzling over just what to buy them, may I make a suggestion? Sherlock Holmes and the Missing Snowman!! That's the trouble with snowman, they just don't have the knack of hanging around for long and when young Henrietta's snowman unaccountably disappears who better to help her than Mr Sherlock Holmes. Lovingly illustrated by Rikey Austin with attention to Holmesian detail that will satisfy the adults who take a
peek.

A recent review: Move over adult Sherlock Holmes fans, the younger set now get their own version of our favourite intrepid detective, Sherlock Holmes. Written in a gentle yet classical Holmes style, Holmes does what he does best, solve a mystery for a young girl whose snowman has mysteriously vanished. Would definitely recommend this book for children of Sherlock Holmes fans as it's bound to be a classic. The manner in which Holmes solves the mystery should spark the imagination of a younger reader and lead to thoughtful discussion. Just how did Holmes solve the mystery? Discover it yourself in the pages of this well written book. Lovely illustrations much in keeping with the gentle style of the story round out the book nicely.

Sherlock Holmes and The Missing Snowman is available from all good bookshops including in the USA Barnes and Noble and Amazon , in the UK Amazon and Waterstones. For elsewhere Book Depository who offer free delivery worldwide. In ebook format it is in Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iPad.

And if you are visiting Lyme then you will find it in Alice's Bear Shop.

And check out Ross Foads review here: Ross and the Snowman!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore

The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore is the fourth novel by Dan Andriacco to feature Sebastian McCabe, Jeff Cody and Lynda Teal (now Mrs Cody). The title obviously puts us in mind of the celebrated case of the original James Phillimore who, venturing back inside his house to retrieve his umbrella was never seen again. The present day (2012) Phillimore is a serial embezzler or at the very least, a fraudster, with an alluring, appealing actress wife and a fine taste in Berkshire mansions. Not only does he disappear in the 'classic' tradition, he also ends up dead. Enter McCabe and co who set about catching the murderer in their midst, a multiple murderer at that. This they do even allowing for the fact that Jeff and Lynda are on their honeymoon still....cue unexpected naps and the like. Tesoro mio indeed! With Lynda's yellow silk pyjamas it's a wonder Jeff can get anything done at all! The pacing is formidable, the dialogue sparkling with one liners abounding and wisecracks that Philip Marlowe would have admired. Topical too, with the News of the World hacking scandal, various bouts of corruption and most topical of all: the wet summer!! This is a very entertaining book indeed and throws into the mix a vast array of Holmesian insights and trivia. I found the character of Colonel Ruffle especially pleasing!! This series of novels by Dan Andriacco is becoming a byword for action-packed thrillers laced with a love of all things Sherlockian (If I may be American for a moment!). The bottom line is....search them out.....and enjoy them.

The Disappearance of Mr James Phillimore is available from all good bookstores including Amazon USA,Barnes and Noble,  Amazon UK,  Waterstones UK and for all other countries Book Depository who offer free worldwide delivery. In electronic formats there is Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and iPad.

Visit Dan's website: http://bakerstreetbeat.blogspot.co.uk/



Sunday, 18 August 2013

Giant Moles!!

No, not the kind that require extensive facial surgery to repair, nor those that exhibit prodigious hair growth, but, well actually not giant moles at all. Damn, what a giveaway! No, this is the last in Mike Hogan's Holmes, Watson and young Winston Churchill trilogy. Now, this is very similar to the first two and by that I mean it is superb. Mike's gift for gentle, humourous dialogue is again on show.The by-play between the main characters is delicious without ever detracting from those characters themselves or indeed the plot, which itself is wonderful. The action takes us from London to the wilds of Herefordshire to the delightfully named Wormelow  Tump. (The tump being a supposed burial mound- in the name of progress the tump was flattened to widen the road in 1896!!). We encounter along the way, a balloonist who is of the greatest help to our heroes in a spot of night time aerial reconnaisance, a con man with a gift for portraying elderly clerics and manages to fool Watson into thinking he is Holmes in a great little scene on board a west bound train. We have missing papers of a delicate nature, a doctor intent on locking up his wife in an asylum for his own gain and two Arks, one of a covenantal nature and one of a Noah's nature, I kid ye not. The action, and there is a fair bit of it, is handled adroitly and excitingly. Oh and we have a certain Colonel Moran and a certain Professor who you may be familiar with.
And the giant moles I hear you ask? Well, they belong in Paradol Hall deep in that Herefordshire countryside.....take a visit there yourself in the company of Sherlock Holmes, Doctor John H Watson and Winston Spencer Churchill. Mike Hogan is one of the very pastiche writers working in a very crowded field and this is one of the best pastiches you are likely to come across this year, or indeed any year. I suggest you buy it.

And you can buy Mike's books here:
Sherlock Holmes and Young Winston: The Jubilee Plot  is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones . Fans outside the US and UK can get free delivery from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nookand Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).

Sherlock Holmes and Young Winston: The Deadwood Stage  is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones . Fans outside the US and UK can get free delivery from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nookand Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).
 
 

Sherlock Holmes and Young Winston: The Giant Moles  is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon and Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones . Fans outside the US and UK can get free delivery from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nookand Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).

 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

A companion piece.

A companion piece to my previous blog (you did read it surely...). This is an interview that author Paul Hayes gave and he gives great insights into the whys and wherefores of writing Sherlock Holmes fiction and of course, those pesky perilous pastiche pitfalls!

Hidden Tiger Books caught up with the author of Requiem for Sherlock Holmes in August 2012 to discuss his revival of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective.

HIDDEN TIGER: How did you come to write Requiem for Sherlock Holmes?
PAUL STUART HAYES: I can honestly say that the book came about quite by accident. I wrote three short stories back in 2005 (two of which are included in this set; my first story didn't make the cut) and although the few people I dared show them to were extremely complimentary towards them, I decided not to continue with the writing – mainly due to work and family time constraints. It was only during the summer of 2011 that my elder brother, Alan (now also my editor) finally got to read them. When he had finished, the praise he gave me instantly inspired me to do more and within a fortnight I had completed my first story in six years, namely The Penitent Man. No sooner than that was done I began working on another story that gradually evolved into the novella, Sherlock Holmes and the Ancestral Horror, and it was only during the course of writing this adventure that the subject of publishing the stories was suggested.
HT: Why Sherlock Holmes?
PSH: Sherlock Holmes has been with me from an early age. After years of reading the books and watching numerous television and film adaptations, I feel that I know the stories inside out. Having read the pastiches of many other authors (my favourite of these being The Adventure of the Purple Hand by D.O. Smith), I thought that I'd have a stab at it myself. As the characters and settings are already in place, it can make writing a slightly easier task for a novice. However, as I discovered, writing pastiche is not without its pitfalls!
HT: How did you discover your love for the adventures of Holmes and Watson?
PSH: My father has been a fan of the great detective for as long as I can remember, and it was he who first introduced me to the stories when I was younger. I wasn't that great a reader in my younger days and probably read far too fast, hardly taking anything in, but enough must have passed into my undeveloped mind as it was not long before I was well and truly hooked.
HT: What was your thinking behind setting your Sherlock Holmes collection at a point in time after the character had died?
PSH: I wanted to place Doctor Watson compiling the collection towards the end of his life, so that I would be unhindered as to the timeframe within which I could place the stories. I also wanted to expand on Doctor Watson as a character, and came upon the idea of doing a story sans Holmes. The best way to achieve this in my mind was if Sherlock Holmes was no longer on the scene.
HT: The novella in the collection, Sherlock Holmes and the Ancestral Horror, introduces readers to Holmes' father. How keen were you to add to the Holmes mythos?
PSH: As there is barely a mention of Sherlock Holmes' family associations in the canon (bar the occasional appearances of his brother, Mycroft), it gave me free rein to let my imagination flow as to what his early life could have been like. It struck me that it presented me with the perfect opportunity to paint in a little detail of Holmes' past that could begin to explain some of his peculiarities in later life.
HT: Tradition or reinvention? Which do you favour in relation to Sherlock Holmes?
PSH: When I'm writing I adhere to the traditional format as best I can, as I am unwilling to stray too far from the constraints of the canon. However, outside of this I am open to all interpretations made on the subject of Sherlock Holmes. I greatly enjoy the BBC series Sherlock, and the fact that it is set in the modern day has been relatively easy for me to accept.
HT: How difficult was it getting your stories to work in relation to other adventures in the Conan Doyle canon?
PSH: It has been a major challenge. More often than not I would be working on a story, setting it in a particular year, only to find that the character I had introduced did not first appear in the canon until a few years later. This is one of the main stumbling blocks of pastiche, and it is one that I have hopefully avoided. I have worked very meticulously to fit my stories seamlessly into the Holmes timeline, so that at no point do they contradict the events in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writings. An example would be if a story was mistakenly set after Holmes' retirement or during 'the great hiatus', the point in time between Holmes' supposed death in The Final Problem and his resurrection in The Adventure of the Empty House.
HT: Occasionally in these stories, you have used real characters from history. What prompted you to do this and how did you ensure that your depiction of the people concerned was accurate?
PSH: I have only used historical characters where I feel they are absolutely necessary to maintain authenticity within the confines of the story. As it turns out, some of the figures I have chosen are quite obscure and would not be well known to the majority of readers today. Nevertheless, to stay faithful to history, I have amassed as much information as is currently available on these real-life characters (far more than I had originally intended, or needed, for that matter). Whilst I have added to the depictions here and there, each and every one has involved searches in genealogical archives and other sources.
HT: If you had to choose one television or film Sherlock Holmes as your favourite, who would it be and why?
PSH: If I was allowed to have picked three Holmeses, this would have been a slightly easier task, as I would have quickly stumped for Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, leaving myself the difficult decision of choosing between Clive Merrison and Peter Cushing. But being limited to one, I feel I would have to elect Jeremy Brett. To my mind, he is the actor who has come closest to the character that Conan Doyle originally envisioned and there has never been a person better suited to portraying Sherlock Holmes. Regrettably, he passed away before he was able to complete the canon, robbing me of the chance to see him play Holmes in my favourite story – The Adventure of the Lion's Mane.
HT: When you were writing, did you picture him in the 'role'?
PSH: On rare occasions, he does crop up in my mind when I'm writing, although I strive to make sure that the Sherlock Holmes I depict is a classic version, more true to Conan Doyle's Holmes than to any actor's interpretation. Doctor Watson, on the other hand, is much harder to pin down. Sometimes he is Edward Hardwicke and his excellent take on the good doctor, and sometimes, as Watson is the narrator of the stories, I at times cringingly become him – but thankfully that is only in my own mind.
HT: Did writing for an established character with a pre-existing audience bring with it any particular pressures for you as a budding author?
PSH: Probably more than I originally imagined, the problem being that there will always be someone more knowledgeable than you on your chosen subject. To avoid the scorn of my Sherlockian peers, I painstakingly researched every detail to make sure that nothing went against the facts and the timeline of the canon. Obviously, trying to follow a world-respected author like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and doing so in your first book is asking for trouble, but I do so humbly and in homage to a fine author. He is as good a mentor as any to strive to emulate.
HT: Can we expect further Sherlock Holmes adventures from you?
PSH: I do fully intend to write a second book, but I think I am going to hold off from starting the process for a short while. I have been writing solidly for the past year and I think I should take some time away from it, in the hope that some good ideas will bubble to the surface. Also, being so preoccupied with the book, I haven't had that much time to read any books myself, and the piles of the unread are growing alarmingly.
HT: Where next then for Sherlock Holmes? Can you give us any teasers for Book 2?
PSH: I haven't got any stories in mind as yet, but I expect that one or two secondary characters from this book will be making a return in the follow up and I think it likely that they will have a big part to play in the proceedings. There is also the fact that Watson hasn't divulged the details of Sherlock Holmes' death, so perhaps that is something that could appear in the next book.
HT: While we're waiting for the second book to materialise, is there anything else that you have been working on?
PSH: Actually, I've just completed an introduction to The Theatrical Sherlock Holmes, a collection of Sherlock Holmes play transcripts that Hidden Tiger have just published to tie in with the release of Requiem for Sherlock Holmes These plays can be difficult to obtain in print and hopefully the edition will not only appeal to collectors, but also casual fans of the great detective who do not as yet realise that their complete editions of Sherlock Holmes books are not as complete as they at first thought. Also, as an enthusiast with a love for of all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's writings, I am investigating the possibility of compiling a collection of rare Conan Doyle stories which are otherwise difficult to locate. Watch this space.
HT: Finally, how has the process of writing your first book gone compared to how you imagined and are you happy with the result?
PSH: The writing process has gone more smoothly than I could ever have imagined. Most of the stories flowed effortlessly onto the page, with only the smallest amount of time spent staring at a blank computer screen. I have enjoyed every step of the journey and am unbelievably happy with the end result; to see my work in book form has surpassed my original expectations by miles.
 
My thanks to Paul and Hidden Tiger for granting me permission to use this interview.
 
Paul's book can be obtained from Lulu: Here and Amazon UK: Here! And Amazon US: Here!!
 
 
 
 

Friday, 9 August 2013

Perilous Pastiche Pitfalls

Those pesky perilous pastiche pitfalls, how can we avoid them, how can we recognise them? I've fallen into a few of these pitfalls to find myself impaled on pointed stakes below. Not literally of course, that would be hideous. Ok, so you want to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche, yes you do, you know you do. What year and what month do you set it in? The only way to be safe from marauding Sherlockians is to consult accepted chronologies...if your story is to be set in far flung corners of the world or indeed Dorset then it does not work if during the time you choose, that Holmes and Watson are skirting the edges of the Great Grimpen mire in pursuit of Stapleton and his wee doggy. For instance, I read a pastiche many years ago which had Holmes and Watson in situ together in Baker Street in 1880, the year before their paths crossed in the bowels of Barts! Other common pitfalls to avoid; Transport: Hansoms, dog-carts, growlers....it's as well to know the difference and how, why and when their usage would occur. A pastiche I read once (and only once....ok then, twice for the entertainment value) had our intrepid pair hailing a hansom and pitching up in Oxford in it, the fare and the tip must have been enormous. In that same book, Holmes and Watson catch a train after 6pm on a spring evening and arrive in York at twilight...an impossibly quick journey (just the same as it is now). Always a good idea to check where trains may be inclined to travel to rom the main London stations; if you want your characters to go to Brighton for instance, don't send them to Paddington station..they may be a tad upset when they find themselves in the untamed West of England. Look, I know Victorian London is lost in the mists of time, but it was decidedly not full of cobbled streets. In general, London is not a city of city blocks, they really don't exist and the usage of such a term is not really in keeping. An Englishman may say "I am taking the dog for a walk around the block," but it is used as an informal distance.
Ah, the deerstalker I hear you say, or perhaps more properly, 'the ear-flapped travelling cap'. A familiar image to us all. Later uninformed depictions of Holmes that depict him wearing this hat in the city fail to take into account that the fashion-conscious Holmes would never commit such a sartorial faux-pas; the deerstalker is traditionally a rural outdoorsman's cap, not the appropriate headgear for the properly dressed urban gentleman. Indeed, Paget and the other contemporaneous illustrators who portrayed Holmes as wearing a deerstalker always placed him in the proper setting for such attire, travelling cross-country or operating in a rural outdoor setting. Getting the characters right themselves is tricky, believe me I know. On the face of it, you would think it would be easy to replicate the speech patterns, the cadences, the rhythms that ACD came up with, but of course it's not. I have been trying for some time and I will never master it. There are, perhaps, certain things to avoid here; having Watson say "By Jove, Holmes," far too many times will weary the reader as will the good Doctor say, "I say, Holmes," or the archetypal, "Eh, what?" I pitched headlong into the "My dear fellow" man-trap when writing 'The Lyme Regis Horror' and got rightly panned for it. In general I have no objection to seeing stories in American English, I can smile whimsically when I see 'color' but.....but.....but.....'gotten'!! Never!! Don't do it!!!
Does having an all-encompassing knowledge of the canon make for a better pastiche writer? The immediate answer is yes! I always have a copy handy when writing and a Sherlock Holmes encyclopedia or two. But having said that, I am very much the junior collaborator in 'Sherlock Holmes and the Scarborough Affair' that everlasting novel which has been in the making for 18 months. My partner is actually the main writer, the plots is hers, the storyline, the characters etc. Now, as some of you may know, she has a profound dislike of Holmes, has only read two stories from the canon which she did not enjoy. She should be the last person to even attempt a pastiche, but I have to say, it is superb and without a word of a lie, much better than anything I have done. So, perhaps that canon knowledge is not so necessary after all!

So, tricky things pastiches. I have never got it right, have fallen into several of these pitfalls myself, but there was always a handy rope ladder. But I keep trying....

MX Publishing are the leading publisher in the world of Sherlock Holmes pastiches: MX Publishing/Sherlock Holmes

If you want to see how I got it wrong ( or right!), you can find my books here:

Sherlock Holmes and The Lyme Regis Horror is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USAAmazon and Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones. Fans outside the US and UK can get free delivery fromBook Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).

Sherlock Holmes and The Lyme Regis Legacy is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA AmazonClassic Specialities and Barnes and Noble,  in the UK Amazon and Waterstones, elsewhere Book Depository offer free worldwide delivery - and in all electronic formats including Amazon KindleNookKobo and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone)

Sherlock Holmes and The Lyme Regis Trialsis available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazonand Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones . Fans outside the US and UK can get free worldwide delivery from Book Depository  - and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone)