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....
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