Sherlock Holmes the Next-next-next-next-next-next Generation

Our latest guest blog comes from journalist and podcast producer, Paula Berinstein of The Writing Show. Also California-based, Paula talks to us about the first book in her Young Adult detective series, which introduces us to Sherlock Holmes, the next-next-next-next-next-next generation…

Amanda Lester cover

…or to be more accurate, G. Lestrade the next-next-next-next-next generation.

Amanda Lester, the twelve-year-old protagonist of my book Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy, is descended from Inspector Lestrade and couldn’t be more embarrassed. The man was a twit and everyone except her parents knows it. They think Lestrade is the bee’s knees and want their daughter to follow in his footsteps, but she wouldn’t be caught dead being a detective. She is a filmmaker extraordinaire. So when they send her to a secret school for the descendants of famous detectives in the English Lake District, it’s no wonder she freaks out.

Now you wouldn’t think an idiot like Lestrade would make for the most dynamic reading, but here is my secret: buffoon or no, he exerts way more influence than he should, and that is what Amanda fights against. Her greatest fear is that people will find out they have the same genes and she’ll never be taken seriously. And of course, when she goes to the school where everyone is related to a great man or woman, her fear nearly becomes hysteria. Now that’s an obstacle for a protagonist to contend with!

Of course Amanda isn’t the only modern descendant of a Doyle character I torment, er, bring to life. Despite the fact that Professor Moriarty assumes a major role in just two Holmes stories, he looms large with fans. So of course Amanda will have to tangle with his progeny. Oh, did I say Holmes? My bad. There is no Holmes in this story, only the shadow of the great man, which drives Amanda nuts. It isn’t until the next book in the Amanda Lester, Detective series, Amanda Lester and the Orange Crystal Crisis, that we meet his descendant, and boy, does she hate him. Anything to do with Holmes reminds her how her parents keep shoving her ancestry down her throat. It doesn’t even matter whether the kid is nice, competent, or intelligent–she hates him and doesn’t care who knows it.

You may want to know why I made Amanda a kid. The truth is that at first I didn’t. She was supposed to be a young woman rebelling against her upbringing. Despite her family’s academic bent, she’d be a plumber, and she’d become enmeshed in a mystery when she found a body under a house where she was working. Alas, I couldn’t make her interesting enough. Even I was bored with her. But when I lit on the idea of making her a tween, a whole world opened up and I couldn’t stop writing.

But is that the real reason I made Amanda a kid? Not really. Amanda is a kid because I am–at heart. I started reading mysteries when I was a wee bairn, with Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden and the Bobbsey twins, and yes, Holmes, for I did read him as a child. And I loved him and he got into my blood and he’s still running around in there, strong as ever. I love him so much that I want others to love him too. He’s just so much fun! So if I can make that happen by writing stories about a tween who hates him, and if I can do just one tiny thing to get kids reading, I will be a happy woman.

Oh, and if you will indulge me, I’d like to make one last point before I go. There has been much speculation about what the G in G. Lestrade stands for. It should be obvious that it’s George, for after all, George is the name of kings. Greg indeed. Who came up with that one anyway?

Paula Berinstein

Amanda Lester and the Orange Crystal Crisis, the second book in the Amanda Lester, Detective series, will be out on September 15, 2015.

Paula  2015Author, the Amanda Lester, Detective series, www.amazon.com/Amanda-Lester-Pink-Sugar-Conspiracy/dp/0986030481/ref=sr_1_1

Web: http://www.amandalester.net

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmandaLesterDetective

Twitter: https://twitter.com/pberinstein (@pberinstein)

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“Academic, dear Watson.”

Our second guest blog comes from the fingertips of California-based author Farah Shaw, talking to us about her Sherlock Academy series, which draws on much Sherlockian history, bringing what we may be familiar with to a new, and we hope appreciative, audience.

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When Rollie and his best friend Cecily are invited to attend a school where children learn the art of detection just like the great Sherlock Holmes, they discover a strange burglary has been committed and a mystery is afoot. Determined to investigate, Rollie discovers that appearances can be deceiving, the truth can be hurtful, and friends sometimes turn into foes.

I am the author of the new middle-grade mystery Sherlock Academy out by Future House Publishing. My book is geared for readers 8-12, and any Sherlockian for that matter. At eighteen chapters and 204 pages, it is a good book for bridging the gap between early chapter books and longer middle-grade novels.

I became an avid Sherlockian when I read Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s entire Holmes collection in junior high. I developed my first literary crush on Holmes, and continued an unwavering devotion since. A few years ago when I was searching for the next children’s story to write, I heeded the old adage: write what you know. Furthermore I followed the more important adage: write what you love. And Sherlock Academy was conceived.

I am often asked the reason I write, and more specifically, the reason I wrote Sherlock Academy. While there is a myriad of reasons ranging from philosophical (I write so my soul will stay alive), to personal (I write because I have stories to tell), to practical (I write to have an excuse to leave my two kids and go to Starbucks), the main reason I wrote Sherlock Academy was the following: to create the next generation of Sherlockians.

In the world of Sherlock Academy, Holmes, Watson, all the other supporting characters, and all their cases are real. While they do not appear in my book (for the year is 1931, and these figures have long been gone), my book is peppered with Sherlockian references and facts, so readers new to Sherlock Holmes will learn about him and his history, and old fans will enjoy the Sherlock tie-ins.

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Sherlock Academy is the first book of what will be a 5-book series, and is available on Amazon in hardcover and ebook, and in select Barnes and Nobles and Costcos. Book 2 is due for release in early autumn. Please visit http://www.sherlockacademy.com for more info, and feel free to email me questions and comments at sherlockacademy@yahoo.com. I am also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/sherlockacademy) , Instagram @sherlockacademy, and Twitter @sherlockacademy.

For more great middle-grade and YA fiction, check out Future House’s other new titles at http://www.futurehousepublishing.com

A Study in Sourcery: Michael Kurland

Moriarty Kurland

This seems like as good a place as any to talk about one’s Sherlockian influences – beyond Conan Doyle, of course. I first discovered Michael Kurland in the 1970s. I’d picked up a worn copy of a book called Transmission Error all about a teleportation gone wrong. It was one of my first experiences of postmodernism in fiction, being poignant, funny and surreal all at the same time.

When that sort of thing happens the name sticks in your memory, and I next saw Michael’s name attached to Randall Garrett’s Lord Darcy. For those who are unaware, Lord Darcy was a sort of fantasy Sherlock Holmes from an alternate, magic-using Earth. Created in a novel (Too Many Magicians) and featuring in two short story collections (Murder and Magic and Lord Darcy Investigates) by Randall Garrett. The baton passed to Michael in the late 1980s when, after a bout of encephalitis put him into a coma for eight years, Garrett died. He wrote two Darcy novels, Ten Little Wizards and A Study in Sorcery, and it was the latter book that bought him back to my attention, introducing me to Darcy and, very soon after, to Kurland’s earlier novel, a Holmes pastiche starring Professor Moriarty – The Infernal Device. Its sequels – and other Holmes-related books – appeared sporadically over the years, and as they only appeared to be available in the US, I was aware of them but never succumbed until, to my surprise, all four of his Moriarty novels were acquired and published by Titan in 2014.

Kurland inverts Moriarty, making him the central character of his adventures – a mirror of the Holmes we know and love with his own amanuensis in the form of the journalist, Benjamin Barrett. Consulting criminal, scientist and investigator whose past history with an interfering, paranoid Holmes sparks a series of fast-paced adventures which cast the not-quite-so-evil professor in a very different light.

Subversive, knowing, and thoroughly steampunk before K W Jeter (and later Cassandra Clare and Philip Reeve – you can’t keep a good title down) ‘pinched’ the title and coined the phrase, it was perhaps my hazy recollection of Kurland’s first Moriarty novel that drew me towards my own interpretation of the professor (not quite so amenable, but just as radical). I have a lot of catching up to do.

Michael Kurland

The Moriarty Novels:

Others:

Why Sherlock Holmes?

A Guest Blog from Don Smith

As a spotlight on members of the Sherlock Street Irregulars, we’ll be posting an equally irregular series of guest blogs which will help members get to know each other and, more importantly, to know what other members do/offer/obsess about in the world of Sherlock Holmes. Our first victim, Don Smith, has agreed to start the ball rolling by talking about his new blog and facebook group.

Who Holmes

In the last few weeks, I started a blog called The Sherlock Conversations, which can be found at Sherlockconversations.wordpress.com. And with it a corresponding Facebook page (sherlockconversations).

Why did I do this?

The world is filled with millions upon millions of Sherlockian fan sites, why add to the “Sherlock Spectrum” (or as I call it the Sherlock Zeitgeist)? What could I possibly add to this detective that was first given life by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and then made a reality by the likes of Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett?

Currently, there are four actors running around who have played Sherlock Holmes in major television and film productions (ie. Benedict Cumberbatch, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Lee Miller and now Ian McKellen).

What could I possibly add to this assortment?

Simply, I can add whatever I want because to appreciate Sherlock Holmes is to appreciate the best in humanity and the best in ourselves.

Pardon the metaphor, I took my trip down to Baker Street not via the usual routes, but by way of a blue Police Box. Obviously, the seeds for the trip were planted by my father who read me a child-friendly copy of THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES every night before bed when I was a kid.

One summer as a school project, I read THE ADVENTURES OF SHERLOCK HOLMES and all I remembered was the section with “KKK”. I mean in school, who reads their assignments thoroughly? I didn’t. Real reading comes when we step out of school if we are not taught to properly love reading.

As I implied, I came into Baker Street because of a love of DOCTOR WHO. The Doctor is a man (many times) dressed for high tea in Victorian London and ready to face the villains out of Star Trek and Star Wars. But he was more than that. He was a man who sought adventure and could walk into any room and size up anyone and know where he stands against them.

REG Shalka

About the time DOCTOR WHO had been off the air, the web series THE SCREAM OF SHALKA came forward with Richard E. Grant voicing the Doctor. He described it as “Sherlock Holmes in Outer Space.” And that stuck with me – the Doctor was a literary descendent of The Great Detective. (It should be noted the Doctor Who/Sherlock Holmes connections especially with Cumberbatch, Matt Smith, Steven Moffatt, Mark Gatiss and Grant and “The Snowmen” episode of Doctor Who and one of these days I will chronicle other connections).

Then in 2009, when the Downey movie and the Cumberbatch series hit about the same time, I got into Holmes. It was Downey that brought me into Holmes. The seeds that my father, the school assignment and Grant planted finally began to bloom.

Downey, an addict whose career was all but over, to return with this movie (and of course IRON MAN) made me see the power of the Great Detective.

It would be sometime before I started reading Doyle’s work and it took another few years for it to really bloom, but it did when I read the following statement from Watson in A STUDY IN SCARLET:

“What the deuce is it to me?” he interrupted impatiently: “you say that we go round the sun. If we went round the moon it would not make a pennyworth of difference to me or to my work.”

Watson quoted this after listing all of what Holmes knew and did not know about science and the basic pop culture of 1880s London. To elaborate, Holmes said, “No man burdens his mind with small matters unless he has some very good reason for doing so.”

Our world is a world of pop culture and all that we pursue is something that will not last. It is costing us problem solving skills, character and our souls.

Seeing someone like Sherlock Holmes reminds me that I can focus on my dreams and achieve my goals. I can ask better of myself and work towards it and one day get it!

Why have I added another voice to the world of Sherlock? Because, this is my path to get better from me. And God help me (really), I will.

The game’s afoot and I am talking about it over at Sherlockconversations.wordpress.com.