The Humor in the Detective

I absolutely love this photo, which depicts the immortal William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes in a dramatic mood, while Watson looks, frankly, horrified. I could laugh at it for hours.

Quite honestly, there’s a lot about Sherlock Holmes I could laugh at for hours. One of my biggest discoveries when I re-read the Canon as an adult was a treasure trove of dry humor that had gone over my head as a child.

Recently, my fellow Baker Street Babe, acclaimed author Lyndsay Faye, commented that in her view, one of the surest ways for a Holmes pastiche/fanfiction story to fail is to be over-serious, because that’s simply not the tone Doyle created. Her thoughts made me realize that as a writer and reviewer, I completely agree. I can forgive a lot of things in Holmes stories, and generally, my reading experience is celebratory of the fact that we all have these characters we love that we continue to want to explore. However, I have a lot of trouble with stories that treat Holmes and Watson and their world as humorless; those lose me.

As a writer, all of my Holmes stories are partially tongue-in-cheek, and I’m not sure readers always get the jokes. Author intention vs. reader interpretation is a topic for another time, but rest assured, if you’re ever reading one of my books and something strikes you as funny? It’s absolutely supposed to be.

When it comes down to it, I don’t think I could have sustained this many years of ardent love for these 60 stories if they weren’t funny. People often ask me and other writers why the stories have endured in popularity for so many years. I wouldn’t argue that humor is the only or primary reason, but I think it’s an important one.

So next time your love of Holmes starts to get over-serious, whisper “Norbury” to yourself and get over it ūüėČ

(See “The Yellow Face” for context)

.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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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 USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

 

Holmes for the Holidays

I just finished writing “The Adventure of the Missing Irregular,” a Christmas-themed Holmes story that will be published in the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part 5, a holiday story collection coming out later this year.

When one of Holmes’s Baker Street Irregulars vanishes, Wiggins joins forces with his employer and Dr. Watson in a heartwarming tale perfect for reading by a (fake or real) Christmas fire.

My previous story, “The Adventure of the Traveling Orchestra,” is featured in Part 1 of this collection.

Post-Post-Modern Holmes

Sherlock New Pic

This past weekend brought a strange and wonderful gift to fans of Sherlock Holmes, the first clip of Sherlock’s Christmas Special, an episode set entirely in the Victorian period.

Click here to see it.

Most reactions to the footage that I’ve encountered have been positive, including my own. There’s something charming about seeing the versions of Holmes, Watson, and Mrs. Hudson that we’ve come to love in the modern era suddenly swanning about in Victorian London.

But there’s something weird about it, too. Suddenly, it’s not 2015 Sherlock Holmes who feels like the AU of a Victorian original; it’s Victorian Holmes who feels like a period AU of a modern character.¬†I realize I’m getting very meta here, but I’m trying to describe the slightly strange feeling I had when the clip came out. For once, I think, I had the experience of fans who met Holmes first in the BBC version (or Elementary) and then went back and met the original.

I’d like to say I gleaned a whole bunch of Sherlockian wisdom from this, but I really didn’t. What sticks out to me is the overarching truth that Holmes is a character universal in time and place. It really doesn’t matter where you put him; he’s still Holmes. I sometimes wonder exactly where we might be headed with him, now that the “Holmes renaissance” is giving way to something else–an era where Holmes mania is less of a fad but more of a cultural staple. I’m not very worried, though. What Benedict Cumberbatch in a deerstalker reminded me of this weekend is the fact that Holmes isn’t going anywhere, and he’s not changing into a different person. As he once said about his friend John Watson, he’s a fixed point, no matter how much the age around him changes.

Oh, and I can’t wait for Christmas.

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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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 USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

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.

FreeWatson

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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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 USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones 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‚Äôll 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‚ÄĒafter a hundred years, do old enemies become friends?‚ÄĒand 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‚Äôm quite sure you find immortality absurd, but lest you deny the power of the words we give you, let me whisper ‚ÄúNorbury‚ÄĚ 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‚ÄĒin 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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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 USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

Sherlockian Gift Guide

It’s that time of year, when we’re all scrambling to find the perfect Christmas gifts for family and friends. Here are a few of my recommendations for the Sherlockians in your life.

1) Gifts for Readers:

A Scandal in Bohemia by Petr Kopl

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I reviewed this astonishingly beautiful graphic novel here. It’s gorgeously illustrated, well written, and would be a treasured gift for any Sherlockian, particularly those who enjoy Holmesian visual artwork.

How to purchase:

Scandal In Bohemia is available through all good bookstores including Book Depository (free shipping worldwide), Amazon USA, and Amazon UK.

Jewel of the Thames by Angela Misri

Jewel of the Thames

I reviewed this well-written book here.¬†Jewel is not a direct pastiche. It’s a Holmes-inspired collection of mysteries starring a new detective named Portia Adams.It’s clever, entertaining, and a truly stunning debut by the author. It’s likely to please Sherlockians whose love of mysteries extends to the wider world of detective fiction.

Purchase it in hard copy or e-book here

The Detective and The Woman series by Amy Thomas

Book Cover Final WinkingTreeSilentHive

My series features Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler as they take on cases in Florida, on the Sussex Downs, and in Metropolitan London. Each book stands alone, but as a trilogy, they tell the story of a slowly-forming partnership between two strong-minded, intelligent characters who begin as enemies and work toward friendship. Many Holmesians of various ages have enjoyed the series so far, and it would make an enjoyable gift for the Sherlockian readers in your life.

How to purchase:

(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¬†‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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 USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK, and for free shipping worldwide from Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle.

2) Gifts for Creatives:

Sherlock Holmes book scarf. Get it here

Book Scarf

221B Journal. Get it here

221B Journal

Sherlock Holmes Detective Stamp Set. Get it here

Stamp Set

3) Gifts for the SherLocked:

Sherlock Limited Edition Gift Set. Get it here

Box Set

Holmes and Watson Friendship Rings. Get them here

Rings

221B Wallpaper T-shirt. Get it here

T-shirt