East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai


Hating John Watson

In five days I need to deliver the final draft of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche that I pitched a while back and the editor wants to see finished. It’s a big opportunity – to break in a new market, to make some money, to reach new readers and to please an editor I hope will buy more stories of mine.
In the last three weeks I wrote five different versions of the story, and scrapped each and every one.

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Conan Doyle’s Birthday

It’s the 160th birthday of Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who gave us Sherlock Holmes, then took him away from us, and then gave him back to us.
And as a way to celebrate this day, I think I’ll spend the rest of the evening to work on my Sherlock Holmes pastiche.
Who knows, maybe ACD’s ghost will come around and inspire me.
But I doubt it.

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Sherlock Holmes, maybe

I first went on a Sherlock Holmes bender when I was in middle grade – I was twelve or thereabouts. The national TV had ran a cycle of old Basil Rathbone movies, and I checked out the Holmes stories in the school library. I was by then a solid science fiction reader, but as a reformed mystery fan, I enjoyed Conan Doyle’s stories a lot. I came back to them later, in high school, and I have been a sui generis Sherlockian ever since.

This morning, the postman delivered a paperback copy of The Best of Sherlock Holmes, a selection that includes the 12 stories that Conan Doyle himself had singled out as his favorites, plus other eight chosen by editor, critic and mystery writer David Stuart Davies. Published by Wordsworth Classics and sold for two bucks and a half, this 460-pages book is the perfect thing for anyone in need to refresh the basics, and whose complete Sherlock Holmes is buried somewhere in a box in the attic.
At the tail of the long Sherlockian winter I have been through, in the next few weeks I’ll have work to do on Holmes, and this selection is just what the doctor (Watson, of course) ordered.

And in the meantime it’s been pointed out to me that Conan Doyle’s prose might be off-putting for a teenager. It’s over a century old, and not so easy.
Which, given my experiences, left me somewhat baffled.

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Wan ghosts of Baker Street

sherlock-holmes-greg-joensThe man living at 221B, Baker Street, keeps haunting my life.
I was talking to a friend, a few nights ago, and found out he never read the Holmes stories, nor watched to movies. This was a hard blow for my conviction that Holmes is one of the most immediately recognizable characters on the planet.
But two things soon emerged.
My friend had indeed watched the Robert Downey Jr movies, and he knew of the character, in a very nebulous way (and I guess the Robert Downey Jr movies did not help).
What caused my friend to steer clear of the Canon was his inability to get Holmes’ motivation.
Why the heck is this guy solving crimes anyway? Continue reading

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The Hound of ’59

vMy friend Lucy published today a nice lengthy piece about the 1939 adaptation of The Hound of the Baskervilles, featuring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce.
You can find the post here, and read it through the usual Google Translate thingy. It’s excellent, and it raises an interesting question, by noting that The Hound of the Baskervilles is treated as a proper Gothic story, an old dark house film.
This got me thinking about the connection between the Canon and the Horror genre, and so while clouds gathered and the storm approached, heralded by thunder and lightning, I brew myself a cup of hot tea, and I took a look at the other Hound, the one that was unleashed on the moors, in the full shocking splendor of Technicolor, by Terence Fisher, with the assistance of the fine gentlemen of Hammer Films.
The first Holmes movie in color.
Another Gothic adaptation, featuring Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee.
It was, if you recall, the year 1959. Continue reading