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, 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,'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 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)


Tim said...

It's good to know some others don't especially like Holmes - in fact, there's not a lot to like (in terms of feeling affection) about him. For the pastiche writer or the Conan Doyle reader, it's for his forensic skill we admire him, but like...? No. I reserve that for dear old Watson.


Paul Stuart Hayes said...

I wrote my first book last year (Requiem for Sherlock Holmes, available in all good shops as long as they're called Lulu or Amazon) and came across all the pitfalls above. However, the biggest stumbling block of all that you have to avoid is not to place your story during 'The Great Hiatus', the period between 'The Final Problem' and 'The Empty House' when Holmes was presumed dead. A good few people have fallen into this trap and set their stories in 1892 or 1893 (Conan Doyle included) when it would have been impossible to have occurred.

David Ruffle said...

Yes you are right Paul, have encountered this before too.

Hugh Ashton said...

One other thing that I have found about writing pastiches is that it is useful to have the ebook version of the Canon beside you. Instant searchability (where did Holmes talk about Horace as compared to Persian poets?) and comparisons are very useful indeed.

I agree 100% on getting the details right. Make sure that the stations and lines that you put in there actually existed at the time that you set your story.

And, while on the subject of the timing - as long as you are roughly correct, since the chronology is so mixed, anyway, I tend not to be obsessive about it.