130 Years of A Study in Scarlet: A Tribute

This piece was originally written for the Baker Street Babes and can be found on their website here.

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To a great mind, nothing is little.

—-Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

130 years ago today, Beeton’s Christmas Annual took a chance on a story by new author, a doctor in his twenties who happened to be named Arthur Conan Doyle. A Study in Scarlet is a peculiar tale by modern standards, with its separated sections and unfortunate depictions of Mormonism. Even at the time, it didn’t create much of a splash at initial publication.

But there’s something about it.

It’s just as well for two fellows to know the worst of one another before they begin to live together

—-Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

There’s something about the youngest, sharpest incarnations of two people meeting for the first time. It’s impossible now to read the story without knowing the context of what is to come, but I believe that if you could, it would still have the power to whet your appetite and make you crave more of the interactions between Holmes and Watson, as the doctor takes you on the roller coaster journey of trying to understand his new flatmate.

It was easier to know it than to explain why I know it.

—-Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

There’s also something about the detection, the “attainable superpower,” as Benedict Cumberbatch once described it. Holmes is always ahead, but he’s not superhuman. This youngest, sharpest Holmes does what all of us do, but he does it better and more, and he makes us realize, or at least imagine, what it would be like to understand the world around us to a far fuller extent.

There is a mystery about this which stimulates the imagination; where there is no imagination, there is no horror.

—-Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

A Study in Scarlet is filled with the sense of adventure and razor-edge plotting that would come to characterize Doyle’s short stories.   His ability to craft suspense, while perhaps not yet at its height, is certainly evident in the story’s most thrilling moments. Another Holmesian through-line is the question of vigilante versus traditional justice, the question of whether horrendous acts can be justified. The very young Doyle crafted an engaging mystery; but, characteristically, he couldn’t resist including the kind of moral dilemma that would pepper the pages of many of his greatest stories.

There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.

—-Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

Except it hadn’t been done before. Though few realized it at the time, when A Study in Scarlet burst onto the scene, it ushered in an era in which the world would be captivated by a detective who could be moody and kind, genius and ignorant, contemplative and frenetic. The Era of Holmes and Watson, when two men with disparate habits and personalities would forge one of the most engaging partnerships in literary history, came with more of a whimper than a bang.

I think that’s part of what makes today wonderful. I wish I could travel in time to tell Doyle that his manuscript isn’t going to linger in oblivion. Jokes related to his feelings about Holmes aside, I wish I could show him that the era he created would never end. Instead, I want to tell him, it will endure through changing tastes and mores, somehow remaining relevant and poignant no matter how much time elapses.

Happy 130 years to a story that started as nothing–and changed the world.

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How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

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Being Watson: Appreciating the Genius of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Jude Law Watson

This past Saturday, I finished writing a story I’ve been working on for several weeks, a Sherlock Holmes short story that will become part of an anthology to be published later this year. The challenge of the project is that the stories have to be completely traditional mysteries in Watson’s voice.

For those who may be unfamiliar with my books, Watson’s voice is not something I normally write, In fact, I never write it. My novels, while traditional in setting and characters and running alongside the canon, include the perspectives of Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes. Watson appears as a character, but his perspective isn’t the focus.

I took on the anthology project as a personal challenge, something new to build my authorial muscles. I did it; I wrote a completely traditional Sherlock Holmes mystery in Dr. Watson’s voice; those who have read it for editing purposes have enjoyed it, and I’m excited to share it with lovers of traditional stories.

I’m still wiping the sweat from my weary brow. The story took me longer to write and was far more difficult than I ever would have expected. Ultimately, I gained a new perspective on the challenges that traditional story writers face and a new appreciation for the incomparable Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

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Here are some reasons why:

1) The Narrator versus the Main Character Issue–There’s a reason that Sherlock Holmes famously says he would be lost without his Boswell. Like Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson, the Holmes stories are about the man in the name, not the narrator (though, of course, both are also about a relationship). Normally, when I’m writing my own books, I know that I will periodically reach a section where I can explore Holmes’s point of view. Writing as Watson, I was limited both in what Watson knows and what Holmes is allowed to show. I found myself, at times, needing to excise Watson inserting his thoughts where Doyle’s Watson never would have. I also found that I had to be careful not to have Holmes be overly obvious about what he knows before it would be logical for him to do so, since his point of view is not a direct part of the narrative.

2) The Secondhand Discovery Issue–Sometimes, both in the original stories and in the ones that come after them, Holmes and Watson make a discovery at the same time. Often, however, Watson is the secondhand discoverer of information Holmes already knows. This makes the pacing and plotting of a traditional story an intricate exercise in keeping things straight. Watson needs to be writing about the actions of a man who is often at least a few steps ahead of him, while maintaining the integrity of his own knowledge level. In other words, a huge part of what makes traditional stories interesting is that Holmes and Watson don’t have the same brain, and they are not usually able to have long conversations about exactly what Holmes knows the moment he knows it. As a result, for a writer, this means maintaining a narrative voice that is in a slightly different place in the story than the man he’s constantly writing about.

3) The Watson is No Idiot Issue–John Watson is not stupid. This is a fact, borne out by his actions in many of Doyle’s stories. He is, however, not the deductive reasoning expert that Sherlock Holmes is. As a result, barring unusual situations, he needs to be firmly in the dark about certain facts that are relatively easy for Holmes to grasp. For a writer, this means having to think like Sherlock Holmes. Stay with me for a second. What I mean is this: if a writer writes a deduction for Holmes that is overly simple, but Watson doesn’t get it automatically, Watson looks stupid, which is a bad result. In order for Watson to take his rightful place as audience stand-in and conductor of light, his deductive abilities need to look average compared to Holmes’s abilities seeming brilliant. This means the writer of a traditional Holmes story has the burden of coming up with something brilliant enough to seem like an average person wouldn’t get it right away. This is a lot harder than it sounds. Ask me how I know…

The above are just a few of the challenges inherent in writing the traditional Holmes and Watson dynamic of the original Sherlock Holmes canon. My own attempts to navigate them made me marvel, in a totally new way, at how easy Doyle made it look. That’s the true mark of genius, isn’t it?


How to purchase my Sherlock Holmes novels:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Holmes: An Open Letter

CushingHolmes

TO: Mr. Sherlock Holmes

221b Baker Street

London, England

Dear Mr. Holmes,

As an avowed part of your adoring public, it has come to my attention that today marks your birthday. It is no secret that you are not particularly fond of marking the day, which is understandable. I doubt I would be overly excited to be one hundred sixty-one either.

I wonder how you will celebrate. Drinks at the pub? A trip to the moors? Viewing The Asylum’s Sherlock Holmes with your brother? Or perhaps a quiet day with Mary Russell, who, I hear tell, shares your penchant for immortality.

I think, really, you’ll probably play chess today with the old specter who haunts Baker Street. No one much minds him any more. We live in an age when ghosts are nostalgic remnants of a bygone time. He will walk up the seventeen steps and greet you as an old enemy—after a hundred years, do old enemies become friends?—and the two of you will sit down with kings and pawns between you, remembering the days when the city was your battleground.

We who form your public are fond of saying that it’s always 1895 in your world, but that’s not quite true, is it? That illusion is for us, for those who would escape into the pages of your friend’s embellished words. But you live beyond those pages, and that year cannot define you.

Sometimes we writers try to make you immortal through logical means. We invent serums and spells and incantations, but all we really need are our words and our imaginations. You live in every year when we envision you there; you take any form our narratives can construct; and you live forever because nothing can die that is remembered.

I’m quite sure you find immortality absurd, but lest you deny the power of the words we give you, let me whisper “Norbury” in your ear. You were once a man alone; you became an ink drawing colored in by the softening lines of friendship. You met the world through the pen of another.

You are still meeting that world the same way. Dr. Watson is also immortal, you know, only today he wears more faces than your disguises ever created. He looks out through the laughing eyes of my rainbow-haired friend. He has thousands of Tumblr followers. He works days at an employment agency, and at night his fingers ache from penning the words he can’t keep inside. He rides public transportation, earbuds blasting heavy metal into his brain, journaling the outline of his next story. He’s a university lecturer who narrates your tales to freshmen purely for love of telling them.

Millions mark your birthday—in apartments, pubs, libraries, and schools. After all, who better to celebrate your day than the ones who love you most of all? For being one of the most seemingly aloof men of literature, you certainly played a masterful trick, Mr. Holmes. You made the whole world your closest friend, and in so doing, you made yourself live forever.

Many happy returns to you and to us.

——–

How to purchase my novels of Sherlock Holmes:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

Book Review: Jewel of the Thames

 

 

Jewel of the Thames

I’m a happy book reviewer. A lot of times, when I review Holmesian literature, I come out with one of two perspectives: Either a book is a respectable pastiche but lags or is stilted in writing style, or it’s entertainingly written but comes across as disingenuous or anachronistic. It is rare, I repeat, extremely rare, to come across a book that is hugely enjoyable in style as well as being authentic and believable in content. Jewel of the Thames is that kind of book.

As the subtitle clearly indicates, this book is not a direct pastiche. It’s about a female protagonist named Portia Adams, with mysterious connections to Dr. Watson, who inherits 221b Baker Street in the 1920s. Portia is an effervescent, charming, and engaging character. Sadly, it’s still quite rare to come across self-actualized, intelligent, and healthy female protagonists, especially in mystery fiction, but Misri has created an absolute classic in the genre.

Even though Jewel is not a pastiche, it is an homage, peppered with references to characters and situations from the Doyle stories that will delight die-hard fans. It’s not just a vehicle for admiring Holmes, though. It’s the beginning of an extremely creative and well-researched mystery series in its own right.

Jewel is being marketed for young adult readers, but any fans of Holmes who enjoy entertaining and very well-written stories will enjoy it. At the same time, it is certainly appropriate for younger readers who have the maturity to comprehend the content, and Portia Adams is an unusually positive role model.

I’m encouraged by the trend toward a positively feminist voice in the contemporary world of Sherlock Holmes, and Jewel of the Thames is, in my opinion, one of the best contributions to this cause that I’ve ever encountered. It carries my strongest recommendation to fans of Holmes and would be an outstanding way to introduce new fans to Sherlock Holmes.

One top of being a great book, Jewel of the Thames carries an almost ridiculously reasonable price tag, so you have absolutely no reason to miss it. Get it here.

The above-reviewed work was provided for consideration by the author. All opinions expressed are the reviewer’s own.

 

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How to get my newest book:

(Book 3) The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USAAmazon UKWaterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

How to get the previous two books in the series:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

The Detective, The Woman and The Silent Hive: My New Book

SilentHive

 

As much as I’m having trouble believing it, tomorrow is D-Day for my third novel The Detective, The Woman and The Silent Hive: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes. Like my other two, it stars Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler.

Here’s what it’s about:

The mysterious death of Irene Adler’s bees leads to a consultation with Sherlock Holmes and the discovery of a sinister connection to a case many years in the past. When this threat imperils the safety of everyone the detective holds dear, he and The Woman are forced to use every ounce of their ingenuity to save their friends.

If you’re a fan of the canon, you’ll enjoy how this story ties into Doyle’s “The Five Orange Pips.” If you’re unfamiliar with that story, though, this one stands alone. It follows on The Detective and The Woman and The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree, but you needn’t have read those to understand and enjoy it.

If you’re planning to attend 221b Con in Atlanta from April 4-6, I’ll be there with a few copies of each of my books for sale and would love to meet you.

I’d really like to hear about your experience reading the book. Hashtag #SilentHive or tweet me @Pickwick12 to let me know how you’re getting on. I’d be delighted to hear from you.

How to get Silent Hive:

If you’d like to catch up on all three books, Dr. Watson’s Lounge has a 3 books for 2 deal here.

Individually, The Detective The Woman and The Silent Hive is available from all good bookstores including   Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

How to get the previous two books in the series:

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

 

Russian Sherlock Review: Clowns

This post will contain mild spoilers for the third episode of the Russian Sherlock Holmes series but should keep most of the surprises intact.

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The third episode of the new Russian Holmes series (watch here; turn on English subs if needed) is an action-packed romp through director Andrei Kavun’s vision of Victorian London. Much like its predecessor, it’s very action-heavy, and it seems that the first episode is the only one that moves remotely slowly in that  way.

In many ways, “Clowns” is really the emblematic episode of this series, because it brings together each of the threads the creators chose as their emphases. The previous introduction of Irene Adler was not, we see, a one-off. She’s back, and her presence wreaks havoc with the lives of Holmes and Watson. Allusions to “A Scandal in Bohemia” are woven together skillfully with a politically-focused story reminiscent of “The Bruce-Partington Plans” and even snippets of “Charles Augustus Milverton.” Over all of these hangs the specter of what we are now shown is a series arc that relates back to Watson’s military career and continues to cast him as a tragic figure losing friend after friend.

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I would be remiss in not mentioning that “Clowns” contains the most magnificent plot twist of the series so far, a clever reversal I really didn’t see coming. Several criticisms I had while watching the episode were completely resolved by it, and I applaud whichever of the writers came up with the idea.

My major remaining critique is of the portrayal of female characters. The original introduction of Irene cast her as a powerful, self-directed woman. This episode gives her layers, but in so doing, it also diminishes her strength and throws her into the more traditional damsel in distress role. Ultimately, I am comfortable with the characterization of her complicated relationship with Holmes, but I wish she had been allowed to retain her confidence in the process. The episode’s other major female character is also shown to be weak and somewhat useless throughout.

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“Clowns” is a good episode, though I felt that its writing fell just shy of “Rock, Paper, Scissors.” Nevertheless, its truly clever plot made up for certain bumps along the road, and Petrenko and Panin really dug into their roles in a spectacular way. Panin’s Watson was still excellent, but it was Petrenko who had the difficult task this time around, to portray a Holmes made desperate by events beyond his control. His communication of the layers of frustration and deception the story demanded was exceptional.

In the end, one particular conversation from the episode remains in my mind. It’s just after a very climactic point in the action, and Holmes and Watson muse together on the futility of life in a way that reminded me powerfully of “Waiting for Godot” and many similarly philosophical Russian works. In my opinion, that emphasis on finding the meaning below the surface of the Sherlock Holmes stories is what makes this series sing. It’s not a particularly Western touch, where we like our stories fast and our characters brash, but it’s a truly beautiful one.

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(Book 2) The Detective, The Woman and The Winking Tree: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.

(Book 1) The Detective and the Woman: A Novel of Sherlock Holmes is available from all good bookstores and e-bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon,Barnes and Noble and Classic Specialities – and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle , iTunes(iPad/iPhone) and Kobo.