Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows

Our latest review enters the murky world of HP Lovecraft’s cosmic horrors to explore the first volume in The Cthulhu Casebooks trilogy. But it is not a mash-up.

Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows by James Lovegrove, Titan Books, December 2016.

Hardcover. 352pp £12.99

Reviewed by Adrian Middleton

Sherlock Holmes and the Shadwell Shadows starts strongly and with some well constructed prose that presents us with a slightly different version of Messrs Holmes and Watson that that seen in the original canon.
   Taking us from their original meeting through their very earliest adventure, Lovegrove presents us with a mystery too terrible to be told at the time, revealing exactly why Dr Watson was invalided out of Afghanistan and why we never heard of any of Holmes’ more supernatural cases.

   These subtle changes–all presented as truths concealed by the fiction of the canon–justify the voice of an older, more honest, more intelligent Watson who shows us a Holmes whose dedication to spurious possibilities in conversation a conspiracy that positions the pair as champions of the war against Cthulhu and his minions.

   Some minor niggles. First, while the book presents a crossover between the world of Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos of H P Lovecraft, and wile it revisits and reimagines the early adventures of Holmes and Watson, it is not a mash-up. 

   Such a label does the book, and Lovegrove, a disservice. The words are not Doyle’s, and the characters have be appropriated so effectively that they acquire a new life in the telling of this story, dipping into key moments in their lives together, but never truly quoting the original. There are common facts, but there are also divergent ones, and Lovegrove tales is deeper into the realm of period adventure, evoking both the classic Weird Tales of Lovecraft and Howard, the lurid Dime Novels of Hammet and, of course, the more rigid tales of Doyle himself.

   The second niggle is language. Overall the voices of Holmes and Watson are captured. With Holmes this is flawless, and with Watson almost so. While Lovegrove effortlessly inserts period language into his narrative in such a way as to infer the meaning of words most readers will be unaware of, these insertions do stand out and, on occasion, jar. I never once needed to reach for a dictionary, but there were times when I just knew a word or phrase wasn’t quite right (‘myocardial infarction’ instead of ‘coronary thrombosis’, for example). That said, he has introduced me to my new favourite word: parrumping!

   The Lovecraftian element is layered enough to introduce the novice to Cthulhu and his minions. Using plot devices resembling those used by Sax Rohmer to shift from the mundane to the exotic, weaving the two worlds together seamlessly in a pulp style that would make the late August Derleth green with envy. Indeed, the common criticism of supernatural Holmes crossovers is the idea that the irrational undermines the great detective’s rational approach, meaning that it might only take one horror story to unravel Holmes’ approach. Where this was previously tackled head-on in Andy Lane’s Holmes/Cthulhu/Dr Who crossover All-Consuming Fire, Lovegrove takes an entirely different approach, using Watson’s Afghan experiences as a touchstone for Holmes’ scepticism, and setting the pair up for a trilogy of adventures spread out over a lifetime of cases. Not once did I feel that Holmes’ mundane cases would be affected by the inclusion of the mythos, merely that the forbidden knowledge that he acquires adds an additional dimension to his thought processes. 

   In conclusion, while not perfect, Shadwell Shadows comes as close to unifying the Holmes and Cthulhu canons as is possible, easily meriting Titan’s foray into producing a very special hardback trilogy that stands apart from its other Sherlockian ranges.

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Christmas with Sherlock Holmes

It’s that time of year, and to celebrate Christmas I thought we’d share a couple of items.

The first is a link to an old time radio show starring Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson. The episode is called…

THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS

The Night Before Christmas

Second up is a Christmas story from December 2014, written for a Christmas reading in the Midlands.


SHERLOCK HOLMES & THE SMOKING POPE

by Adrian Middleton


Christmas. That time of year when mid-season misery needs an infusion of hope and festivity. Where days of light have given way to the dark, where the winds are bitter and the cold rain bites. The snow, when it comes, is both another hazard and a source of relief—a distraction made better by the celebrations that have taken hold of this part of the year. As I cast my eyes over the white, frosted cobbles of Baker Street, I cast my mind back to the Dickensian Christmases of my boyhood. The city came to life back then, and as the people moved into the gas-lit capital from the moonlit villages they struggled to build a sense of community with neighbours they barely knew, and the penny post became a way to share their love for those with whom they had been parted. I wondered, at that moment, where it might end. Would our reliance upon brightly coloured cards and the giving of gifts perhaps spell the end for the values that had spawned them?
 

My reverie was disturbed by the arrival of my good friend, Sherlock Holmes, who entered in his gown and bedclothes, risen late as is often his preference, while I had risen hours before, travelling by hansom from my Kensington practice, where Mrs Watson had entrusted me with a seasonal duty. She had, after some reflection, agreed to invite Holmes to join us for dinner on Christmas Eve, and I was under the strictest instructions not to brook his usual rejection.
 

“Good morning, Watson,” he said in a lively tone as he picked up the mail which had been left beside the untouched breakfast left for him some hours before. “I trust your message from Mrs Watson is not so glum as the frown upon your face.”
 

“My message? How could you possibly…”
 

“Come, Watson, I know that look intimately. It is an expression you use exclusively when considering the best way to tell me something you are certain will meet with my disapproval. Given that you are here a good ten minutes later than is usual for this time of year I must consider what, exactly, might have delayed you. You are keen to complain about traffic delays, and such trivia causes you to pace, so I concluded that your delay was domestic. A ten minute discussion about your meeting with me is therefore the most apposite conclusion. Ah!”
 

Holmes stopped abruptly. As he had been addressing me he was shuffling through the post, finally pausing at a Christmas card. Unlike the rest of the mail it was not in an envelope. 

“A card from Mrs Hudson!”
 

“Oh?” The conversation was derailed by this. Holmes had long since impressed upon myself and the household staff that he had no truck with such greetings, and in our years together Mrs Hudson had always respected this.
 “It is more than just a Christmas card. It is an invitation to dinner!”
 

“An invitation?” My heart sank as I realised that Mrs Hudson must have similar thoughts to my dear wife. Holmes had been quite preoccupied of late, and his raised spirits were quite atypical.
 

“To dinner on Christmas Eve. Shall I be giving your apologies?”
 

“You intend to go?”
 

“Indeed. We are both invited, and from your face I now know that your message related to a similar invitation from Mrs Watson. You must of course have dinner with her, but I am afraid I shall have to accept this offer rather than your own.”
 

“What is its importance?”
 “Mrs Hudson has never before made such an invitation, which in itself is unusual. However, her invitation includes a list of the other dinner guests, which piques my interest yet further.”
 

“Why is that, Holmes?”
 

“Well, being Scotch like yourself, Mrs Hudson is more likely to celebrate Twelfth Night. Christmas Eve is also the anniversary of Mr Hudson’s death. Not a time that our landlady would normally choose to hold a dinner. Upon seeing who else is a guest, I must conclude that the dinner has been foisted upon her, and that the invitation is an attempt to seek my assistance.”
 

“Who are the guests, then?”
 

“The first is Mr Andrew Trelawney, of the Portman Estate. As his lessee Mrs Hudson may be currying favour, although it is also possible that she is simply balancing the numbers.”
 

“More likely she invited him for good luck,” said I. “It’s a Scotch tradition.”
 

“The second is Miss Turner, her niece. The third is Mrs Bartholomew, who runs a lodging house three doors down. Like Mrs Hudson she is a widower, and from the times of her comings and goings a devout churchgoer, although her subscription to the Two Worlds newspaper marks her as a Spiritualist.”
 

“How do you know what newspaper she reads?”
 

“She is quite the gossip-monger, and often accosts the postman on the street so that she may extract whatever useful news she can from him. He has, on occasion, reported some of her gossip to me. She is of the view that your comings and goings—along with the many visits I receive from telegraph boys and the occasional Irregular—are not respectable, and that we may be performing unnatural acts that the police have chosen to turn a blind eye to.”

“Good lord!” I ejaculated. “Why on earth would Mrs Hudson have anything to do with such a woman?”
 

“I doubt she would share such confidences with our landlady. Pay it no heed, Watson. Idle gossip is for poets and actors, and your accounts of our exploits in the Strand are more than enough to set the record straight.”
 

“Then I am glad I shall not be attending,” said I.
 “And I am glad that Mrs Watson shall not be joining you. She was also to be invited, and I have no doubt she would have brained the woman for suggesting she were married to a sodomite.”
 

“Who else is on the list?”
 

“Just two more. Mrs Barnard, another widow of the landlady’s acquaintance, and a Brother Makary, of whom I have read before. He is a Caucasian monk and a renowned medium on a tour of the country. I should be able to find a review of his method in one of the spiritualist papers. His invitation is almost certainly at Mrs Bartholomew’s insistence, and without a doubt the reason that Mrs Hudson is appealing for my assistance.”
 

“Appealing? I should say it is a little more discrete than that.”
 

“Indeed. Were this a proper case I should have no hesitation in exposing the man as a fraud in direct and unequivocal circumstances. On this occasion, however, we need to be more subtle. The man may well be a charlatan, but we have received no complaint and he has committed no crime. I shall therefore have to be more circumspect.”
 

“In that case,” said I, “would you accept a friend in my place?”
 

“A friend? This is a day for the unusual. It is rare for you to share an acquaintance with me.
 “Well, he—”
 

“Tsh!” Holmes raised a finger to stop me. “Let me deduce it. If your friend wished merely to meet with me, you would have already raised the matter. It could be the opportunity to see a séance, but that seems unlikely unless it is to see me involved in a séance. Given you had no awareness of the other guests, the other possibility is the desire to meet with Mrs Hudson. Again, you would have raised the matter with her directly, so I must conclude that it is someone who wishes to meet both Mrs Hudson and myself, and who may wish to see my method in action. It therefore relates to your stories in the Strand—so, your publisher or your editor. A publisher would have foisted himself upon you long ago, which leaves your editor. As a fellow author and a medical man it is likely that you are better acquainted with Conan Doyle, and that he must be your proposed substitute.”
 

“Astounding, Holmes. Doyle wanted to meet you both and to witness your method so he could gain a better perspective of my stories.”
 

“Then he is welcome to join me,” said Holmes, taking up the bell and summoning the page boy. “In the mean time I shall dress, for we have a gift to secure for Mrs Hudson. Be sure to instruct Billy that I shall be glad to accept the invitation, and that Dr. Doyle will also be invited.”

***

The acquisition of a gift for Mrs Hudson was an unusual matter that had taken us to an old curiosity shop to the rear of Westminster’s Black Jack Inn. It was dark when we arrived, and closing time loomed. Here Holmes picked through a variety of odds and ends like a hawk seeking its prey. He finally descended upon a corner of the shop filled with what could best be described as alchemical paraphernalia. Here he picked out a weathered retort and a thick glass boiling flask with three stoppered necks.
 

“Excellent!” he said, examining the object for any cracks. “This will do perfectly.”
 

With our acquisition wrapped, Holmes led me back to Baker Street, stopping off to collect various ingredients—sour oranges, lemons, cloves, cinnamon, mace, ginger and a bottle of Burgundy, with which he announced his intention to make a celebratory concoction known as a Smoking Pope.
 When I reported the day’s events to Mrs Watson, I could see that she was relieved that my friend had declined to join us. The next day I arranged to meet with Dr. Conan Doyle, who was eager to accept the invitation, while Holmes disappeared for an appointment at Kew Gardens. I did not see him again until after Christmas, although his account of the evening’s events—along with that of Dr. Doyle—provided me with more than enough information to recount them here.
 

As the nearest guest Holmes was certain to arrive last. He was genial upon his arrival, carrying with him the boiling flask which he set upon the retort, and setting a candle beneath it while insisting that his gift would be ready to consume by the end of the evening. Mrs Hudson seemed quite taken with the gesture, and as part of his introduction Holmes chose to tell what can best be described as a tall tale.
 

“This is no ordinary boiling flask,” he had explained. “It was once an alchemist’s homuncularium. Said to have been the property of Sir Isaac Newton himself, the homuncularium was used to mix his blood with various essential salts which, when combined and heated, are said to have formed an homunculus—a mystical spirit given material form.”
 

“Nonsense, of course,” said Doyle, “although it is well known that Sir Isaac did indeed pursue alchemy as a means of understanding the nature of the elements.”
 

“Do not be so sure, Doctor,” said Brother Makary in broken English. The monk was a portly man with a wild and ragged beard whose rural origins were reflected by the simple habit that he wore beneath a winter cloak. “As a medium I work with spirits of the earth and the air. Without their guidance I could not commune with the dead.”
 

“That,” said Holmes as he coughed politely, “is also the case with alchemists. The homunculus is the physical manifestation of an air-spirit known as the Soror Mystica. It is her guidance that leads the alchemist towards enlightenment.”
 

“It seems to have worked for Newton,” said Doyle, “although I’ll wager that a more scientific explanation will one day be forthcoming.”
 

“You should see the Brother at work,” said Mrs Bartholomew. “I travelled all the way to Keighley to see him perform. My own husband spoke to me—the first time any medium achieved it, for Henry had been a reluctant man in life. Only drink would entice him to the table otherwise.”
 

“So are we to be treated to a display of the Brother’s skills this evening?” Tremayne asked. 

“Given that Mr Holmes here is London’s foremost detective I am sure it will be a challenge for you, Brother Makary. I hear that little gets past the great detective.”
 

“Rest assured, Mr Trelawney, I am here as a dinner guest, not as a skeptic; but I shall of course be fascinated to see how the Brother pursues his craft.”
 

“You surprise me, Mr Holmes,” Trelawney said. “I had expected more. Still, I have no wish to spoil the fun. I look forward to the evening’s entertainment.”
 

“Spiritualism is hardly a game,” said Doyle. “It is a serious religion concerned with investigating the afterlife. I have heard something of Brother Makary’s psychic gifts, and I would love to see a demonstration.”
 

“Thank you, Dr. Doyle,” said the Brother. “We shall see how the evening progresses. It is important to work with those who have an open mind, for the actively critical will deny all that they see, clutching at the most ridiculous excuses to justify their experience.”
 

Pleasant laughter followed, and with the mood settled, attention was turned towards dinner. Mrs Hudson stuck to her Scotch roots by serving up Cock-a-Leekie followed by an impressive joint of Angus Beef with all the trimmings. For dessert the guests were treated to a generously infused Cranachan and shortbread.
 Rather than the traditional separation of the men and women, the evening took its expected turn, and Mrs Bartholomew again pressed for Brother Makary to demonstrate his skills. 

“We are three widows,” said Mrs Barnard, “surely you can entice at least one of our husbands to the table.”
 

Mrs Hudson, whilst smiling, was clearly nervous by this turn of events, but when the Brother, flattered, demurred, her relief was barely concealed. Mrs Bartholomew, however, had other ideas, and pressed for the monk to reconsider.
 

“Very well,” he agreed with faux reluctance. “We shall hold a séance. Place the candles upon the table beside the food. I shall need to leave the room to compose myself and shall return shortly. In the mean time can you douse the candles and that—thing.” 

He indicated the ‘homuncularium’ in which the Smoking Pope slowly bubbled.
 

“I am sorry,” said Holmes. “It is a delicate mixture and the light is low. I am sure that putting out the candles will be sufficient.”
 

“Very well,” said Brother Makary, checking the room before making his exit. 

***

With the lights dimmed, the room was in complete darkness but for the flickering blue light of the boiling flask. There was a pregnant pause as the guests awaited the Brother’s entrance, which was heralded by three loud taps on the door.
 

“Come in,” said Mrs Hudson, a nervous tremor in her voice.
 

The door creaked open, and Makary stepped inside. His eyes—the only visible part of his body—appeared to be glowing with a pale luminescence. Oblivious to the darkness, he returned to his seat and joined the table.
 

“Now, we must form a circle by holding hands. This will enable me to tap into the psychical forces that will bring forth my spirit familiar. I must warn you, he is an unruly spirit child. Once a student of mine, his soul was displaced by the demon which now inhabits his mortal form.”
 

The group clasped hands, and as they did so a draught swept into the room and, one by one, the unlit candles burst into pale yellow flames. One of the ladies gasped as the Brother began a low chant in his native tongue.
 “Grigori, dukh proshlogo,” he began, “dvigat’sya sredi nas. We bring you gifts from life unto death. Be guided by this light to enter this world and visit upon us.”
 

There was another pause, followed by the sound of convulsions as Brother Makary’s hands tugged at those that gripped him. Retching, a white mass protruded from his frothing lips as he gurgitated an ectoplasmic shape into the air before him. As he did so it took physical form, shifting from a rag-like strip into the head and shoulders of a white-faced boy that floated a good foot or two above the table.
 

The Brother, his wretching done, whispered to the spirit. “Grigori, is that you?”
 

The ghost boy responded by grinning and rolling its eyes, a lascivious giggle announcing its presence as it drifted around the table, pausing at the shoulder of each member of the circle. Beside the men, he merely glanced up and down, but with the women his actions were less appropriate, smelling their hair and getting close to their necks in a sexualised fashion that threatened to break the circle.
 

“Grigori, vesti!” Brother Makary snapped.
 

“Svin’ya!” The apparition replied curtly. “Sdelat’ ikh razdevat’sya!”
 

“Grigori is an earth-based spirit,” said the Brother. “He invites you to explore your corporeal forms and prove to yourselves just how very real you are. This will help him to manifest, and to tune into your desires.”
 

On cue, Mrs Bartholomew and Mrs Barnard began to writhe, breathing heavily and squirming in their seats. Trelawney seemed bemused, while Doyle and Holmes looked on with a mixture of uncertainty and interest as the spirit child hovered over the women. Then, noting that Mrs Hudson was not similarly compliant, Grigori moved towards her. As he neared the landlady there was a loud thump in the centre of the table, which shook for a moment as the candles and the blue light of the burner guttered. A moment later there was a flash of blue light as the Smoking Bishop ignited and flooded the room with a brilliant azure light.
 Hands snapped open and the circle was broken. The spirit, however, was transfixed, the brilliant light exposing not just the head and shoulders but the entire body of a boy.
 

“Iisus Khristos!” Grigori screamed, backing away from the table on very real legs.
 

“Rasputin!” Shouted Brother Makary. “He is materialising. He is made real by that crazy flask. He is becoming corporeal!”
 

The boy bolted towards the door, tugging it open and running from the room as Brother Makary abandoned his seat and raced after him. As he disappeared onto the landing outside the sound of feet clattering on the stairs echoed around the room.
 

“A real boy,” said Trelawney with a trace of humour in his voice. 

“Who would have thought…” Sherlock Holmes, meanwhile, erupted into laughter.

***

“Holmes, how could you?” I chided him as he completed his tale.
 

“I could hardly let that wretched boy compromise Mrs Hudson. It was as subtle an expose as I could muster, and they were all more awed by the boiling flask than by the dear departed medium and his errant ward. Especially when the light subsided and we all shared an excellent cup of mulled Burgundy.”
 

“How did you achieve it?”
 

“You will recall my visit to Kew. They have an algae there with curious properties. Quite harmless, but in the dark–when exposed to something acidic–it is prone to flaring up with a brilliantly luminous glow. While the liquid is still it is invisible, but when the water is made to suddenly ripple, as it was when I kicked the table, a chemical reaction ensues.”
 

“Well Dr. Doyle was quite shaken by the matter. I fear you may have spooked him a little too much.”
 

“Oh? I confess to being surprised by how open he was to the idea that Spiritualism might be real. I’d have expected him to see through my expose, but I rather fancy that he fell for my Newtonian lie.”
 

“Yes, well it might have done more harm than good. He said you were quite an insufferable fellow.”

 “Oh dear,” said Holmes. “Have I soured your relationship?”
 

“I think you might have,” said I. “He doesn’t want to edit my stories any more. Or if he does he intends to kill you off!”
 

“Well that,” said Holmes, toasting me with a charged glass full of brandy, “is a gift that I might truly appreciate. A return to anonymity will do us both the power of good. Merry Christmas!” 

Copyright ©2014 Adrian Middleton

Echoes of Sherlock Holmes


Nice premise, mixed execution. Something for everyone.

Echoes of Sherlock Holmes edited by Laurie R King and Leslie S Klinger, Pegasus Books, October 2016

368pp £18.99 (Hardback)

Also available as an ebook.

Reviewed by Adrian Middleton

In the wake of their award-winning Holmesian anthology In the Company of Sherlock Holmes (2014) comes a further collection of tales edited by King and Klinger, inspired by the works of Conan Doyle. Broader in scope than the earlier volume, Echoes presents 17 diverse stories from a mixture of authors known and less well-known.   To be honest, I didn’t feel this volume was as strong as its predecessor. It has a solid core of strong, enjoyable stories scattered throughout, but there are a few weak ones whose inclusion may have owed more to the name of the author than to the strength of the stories. Also, there is less focus on the period and the art of deduction than on interesting characters and premises, particularly those revisiting the elder canon in some way. I did get the feeling that the stronger stories in this collection were positioned earlier in the volume, so to avoid that pitfall I looked at the stories in alphabetical order.

   Tasha Alexander’s Before a Bohemian Scandal provides a prequel to the famous Scandal which focuses on Irene Adler’s experiences leading up to the famous case. An interesting take on the woman.

   Dana Cameron’s Where there is honey didn’t sit so well with me. The scarce information provided in canon made the possibilities presented by this story fun as a premise, but it left me feeling that the core characters just didn’t ring true.

   John Connelly’s Holmes on the Range is a humorous tale set in a sort of library of the literary afterlife which couldn’t help but remind me of the first ever Holmes parody by J K Bangs.

   Deborah Crombie’s The Case of the Speckled Trout introduces Holmes’ goddaughter in an amusing tale involving a fish and a potential murder. Fun, but I tend to struggle with gender-flipped Holmes adventures with descendants (in this case Sherry Watson) and whatnot taking over the reins. Marred by my personal tastes, I’m afraid.

   Cory Doctorow’s The Adventure of the Extraordinary Rendition was a story I was looking forward to, but which quickly disappointed. As a modern story inspired by Holmes it felt more like it was trying to be too clever for its own good, and fell a lot flatter than I had hoped for.

   Hallie Ephron’s Understudy in Scarlet was an enjoyable take on both Irene Adler and the nature of American movie productions, taking the books remit seriously, and delivering because of that.

   Meg Gardiner’s Irregular plumps for a modern day detective, but in doing so failed to capture either my interest or my investment in the character. Again, my personal tastes may be a barrier here.

   William Kent Kreuger’s The Painted Smile takes us into the realms of child psychology, with a clever and very different spin on the identities of Holmes and Watson and their influence on us all.

   Tony Lee & Bevis Musson break up the prose with a fun comic strip called Mrs Hudson Investigates. Sadly too brief to have much impact, although I do believe that more anthologies should sneak a comic strip in.

   Catriona McPerson’s The First Mrs. Coulter explores the literary stirrings that Doyle’s writings evoke in a Victorian lady’s maid. Well enough told, but I didn’t feel like the target audience.

   Jonathan Maberry’s The Adventure of the Empty Grave introduces a grieving Watson to none other than C. August Dupin. A clever reminder that modern Sherlockians enjoy their post-modern reflections.

   Denise Mina’s Limited Resources again triggered my aversion to the gender-flip, with the rather odd Shirley. 

   David Morrell’s The Spiritualist cleverly explores Doyle’s spiritualist beliefs, which are challenged when he is visited by the ghost of someone he knows never existed… a good, strong interlude.

   Anne Perry’s Raffa amusingly asks the question “what if a TV Holmes were approached to solve a mystery”, and doesn’t disappoint.

   Gary Philips’ Martin X was a breath of fresh air which brings Holmesian inspiration to the funkadelic sixties, mixing up the rise of the civil rights movement with a very unusual spin on Sherlock Holmes.

   Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The Adventure of the Dancing Women managed to just about overcome my aversion gender-flipping and absurdly-names descendants as Annabelle Holmes brought the Dancing Men up to date with text and emojis.

   Michael Scott’s Crown Jewel Affair introduces us to an Irish bordello madam-turned-detective, but doesn’t give us enough room to really appreciate her.

   In conclusion, the diversity is good, but it does make me feel that overall more stories miss the mark than hit it, which is a shame as there are some gems here. 

   Traditionalists may struggle in places, and some stories feel more like experimental fan fiction, but the collection emphasises just how much variety exists in the world, and that can only be a good thing. There is shipping, Mary Sueing, crossovers and game-playing aplenty, but ultimately that is what the book is about: embracing the many aspects of Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes, and reflecting the mix of modern audiences contrasting modern with period, personality with problem, postmodernism with tradition, and women with men.

Associates of Sherlock Holmes

Excellent premise and execution. Let’s see if we can get an interview to follow.

Associates of Sherlock Holmes edited by George Mann, Titan Books, August 2016

378pp £7.99

Reviewed by Adrian Middleton

In recent years Titan Books have established themselves as the premium publisher of Sherlock Holmes books. While their line of reprints has occasionally been questionable, their modern retellings have been largely successful ventures, capturing the spirit and enthusiasm of fans, and reminding us that Holmes is as effective a brand as any modern phenomenon, be it Doctor Who or Star Trek.

Associates of Sherlock Holmes
is the third such anthology edited by George Mann, with a fourth volume – The Further Associates of Sherlock Holmes – in the works. I will not, however, treat this review as one of the third in a series, but rather as a stand alone book. 

The premise is a simple one – these are short stories told by people who appeared in the canonical adventures of Sherlock Holmes, as such they are character studies which flesh out the sparse detail recounted in Doctor Watson’s narratives, bringing an extra dimension to the world in which the Great Detective resides. 

These tales do not always place Holmes as the centre of attention, not should they, but instead they give us to see he and his methods through the eyes of different observers, many of whom will be familiar to the followers of the original Holmes.

There is the one weakness to this volume – that without some knowledge of canon you may not be tempted to read this book. It is a real pity, because not knowing the characters is far from problematic – each tale stands alone and can be enjoyed without any specialist knowledge.

If, however, you do happen to be a Sherlockian, then this volume is one of the best examples of ‘the game’ that I have seen in recent years, with each tale crafted from the clues laid down by Conan Doyle in a manner reminiscent of a Baring-Gould or a Dickson Carr. 

For those who are Sherlockians, my reviews makes advance mention of the associates in each story – not to spoiler you but rather to provide an aide memoir that might help you choose this volume over others, because it is very much worthwhile.


The River of Silence by Lyndsay Faye starts the game by reintroducing Inspector Stanley Hopkins from The Adventure of the Black Peter, revealing his origins and his place in the great detective’s affections. 



Pure Swank
by James Lovegrove makes some clever deductions concerning Barker, Holmes’ hated rival on the Surrey Shore who appeared in The Adventure of the Retired Colourman.

Tim Pratt’s Heavy Game in the Pacific Northwest sees a Holmes-free hunting trip through the eyes of Colonel Sebastian Moran, henchman to Moriarty and the principal villain of The Empty House.

Jaine Fenn’s A Dormitory Haunting reintroduces The Adventure of the Copper Beeches‘ Miss Violet Hunter in her later years as the head of a private school, proving that Holmes’ faith in her capabilities was well-placed.

Ian Edgington’s The Case of the Previous Tenant sees Inspector Baynes of the Surrey Constabulary (from The Adventure of the Wisteria Lodge) come to the rescue.

Set in Paris, Cavan Scott’s Nor Hell a Fury brings A Scandal in Bohemia‘s Irene Adler into a new controversy that might change the way readers look at Holmes and Watson forever.

Andy Lane’s The Case of the Haphazard Marksman is recounted by Langdale Pike (from The Adventure of the Three Gables) who regales us with the details of a new and untold case for Holmes.

Jonathan Barnes brings to life The Adventure of the Creeping Man‘s afflicted scientist, Professor Presbury, in a tale of espionage, obsession, and the deeper consequences of his original appearance in The Presbury Papers.

Willie Meikle chooses Holmes’ undercover assistant, Shinwell Johnson, who gave assistance in The Adventure of the Illustrious Client and other untold tales, as the protagonist of A Flash in the Pan, a story that might involve a little photography along the way.

In The Vanishing Snake, Jeffrey Thomas reacquaints Holmes and Watson with Miss Helen Stoner in a direct sequel to The Adventure of the Speckled Band.

Simon Bucher-Jones’ A Family Resemblance brings us an account of a conversation between the brothers Holmes and Moriarty from the memoirs of Mycroft Holmes himself.

Kara Dennison’s Page Turners provides us with a glimpse into the life of Holmes’ most overlooked of assistants, Billy the Page.

Finally, Nick Kyme’s Peeler tells of a rather gruesome case which may well have been the last time Holmes, Watson and inspector Lestrade worked together.

While there is not a clunker among them, I can honestly say that I enjoyed all but one of these thirteen tales, and I shall not single it out for negative attention, because each story has a different approach and different strengths, each of which will perhaps appeal to a different kind of reader.

My one regret is the list of authors – they feel drawn from a common stable, and I’ve seen some of these writers time and again in books of this kind – I do enjoy their work immensely, but some more names wouldn’t go amiss in future volumes.  A mix of fresh blood and of pastiche writers from the past would be ideal – there are plenty of great pastiche writers out there who could do with some acknowledgement in a mainstream publication. 

I would, paradoxically, also like to have seen a story by the editor himself. That or at the very least a proper foreword. George Mann is an accomplished writer of Sherlockiana, and I always like the opportunity to see what an editor has in mind when he puts together an anthology. That said, it is good to see a sequel is already in the works. I look forward to it.

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell (Part Two)


Following on from our interview with Paul Kane, we can now present our review of his novel.

Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell by Paul Kane, Solaris July 2016

384pp £7.99

Reviewed by Adrian Middleton

Servants of Hell is a book of two parts, the first being the intrusion of the Hellraiser mythos into the Victorian world of Sherlock Holmes and the second bringing characters from that world into the dark and bloodlit corridors of that part of Hell that is the Kingdom of the Cenobites. But readers should not expect to meet Pinhead or the creatures of the films – being set 18 years before the Great War, those familiar faces are if a later generation, allowing Kane to establish a very different Order of the Gash.

The first part of the book draws us into the world after Holmes has returned from the dead to a less than certain relationship with Watson. The demons that haunt the Great Detective threaten to consume him. Paul Kane plays the Sherlockian game well here, shaping the post-Reichenbach world into one which spins so many of those shadowy elements of Sherlock Holmes continuity into a sturdy web that launches Doyle’s heroes into a series of connected cases where the impossible cannot be eliminated.

There is, however, little detective work on display. It simply isn’t that kind of story. The trail of clues is so easy to follow that Watson gets to take the lead for a change, but beyond this the novel instead dwells upon the characters – on how Holmes is consumed by his obsessions while Watson, plagued by bereavement and the return of his friend, cannot help but be foolishly heroic, even in the absence of a decent plan.

That is the book’s one failing for me. Not quite so much for Holmes, whose single-mindedness makes his path inevitable, but for Watson there is a little too much steamrollering for my liking – most of his actions are shaped by the actions of those around him, and I was left feeling that he had no volition of his own throughout the story. In the first part it was simply a character flaw, but being separated from Holmes and forced instead to follow the path chosen by his hellish guides felt a little too simplistic for my tastes. Perhaps this is a result of the author juxtaposing the tropes of horror – and of the Hellraiser mythos in particular – against the traditional format of the the Holmesian mystery. Something has to give, and with the defeat of Moriarty behind him Holmes is in desperate need of a new obsession…

For this reason, upon passing into the second part of the book, I felt myself wishing more and more that Servants of Hell were a graphic novel, with so many cameos and characters (some new, some drawn from the Holmes canon, and others drawn from The Hellbound Heart/Hellraiser and from the Hellbound Hearts anthology by Kane and his wife/co-editor, Marie O’Regan) coming and going that the pace quickened to that of a pulp novel, and the visceral images being described were screaming for a storyboard artist to convert them into visuals. It would also make one hell of a nineties horror movie.

As a story based in part upon the works of Clive Barker I was finding myself drawing more comparisons between Cenobite society and Barker’s other army of grotesques, the Midianites of Cabal/Nightbreed. For Barker fans there are Easter-eggs aplenty, mostly unobtrusive and woven well into the fabric of the story. I shan’t spoil them here because, unlike in Holmes fiction where subtle facts are added as part of the ongoing game, they add to the wider tapestry of Barker’s creations. 

For Holmes fans the lack of mystery and the descent into the realms of the supernatural might be discomforting, but it is clear that great care was taken in placing the story so that its consequences reach both backward and forward across the canon, addressing many of those off-the-page mysteries beloved of the avid fan.

With the exception of a possible sequel, it certainly feels as if Servants of Hell is presented as Holmes’ one and only supernatural venture, which is as it should be. In fact, it is Holmes’ ability to accept what he sees as real that enables him to quickly come to terms with what he finds, and who he must overcome; and while Watson is no buffoon, I did find myself struggling to accept his character to quite the same degree.


I thoroughly enjoyed Servants of Hell – it was a fun, quick and unputdownable read, but I can’t help thinking that it draws much more from the cross-over comics phenomenon than from the literary or even cinematic. Epic comics did Pinhead vs. Marshal Law a few years ago, and I can’t help thinking that Servants of Hell should be adapted as the first of a new series of crossovers, with Alien, Batman, Conan, James Bond, Judge Dredd, Predator and a dozen other franchises queuing up to appear in the next volume.


Sherlock Holmes and the Servants of Hell (Part One)


“The world’s greatest detective meets horror’s greatest icons, what more could you want? Paul has been a significant voice on the horror scene for a while now and he’s steeped in Clive Barker’s hell-bound mythos. That we now have the chance to pit Holmes against a world he could never have imagined is very exciting indeed. This promises to be a journey into hell, pitting two great masters against each other. Gruesome, yet compelling, Kane will undoubtedly deliver the horror crossover of 2016.”

Published by Solaris on 12th July 2016, the Servants of Hell brings together the worlds of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and master of horror Clive Barker, in a new book by Paul Kane.

As a change from how we normally do things, we’re going to start proceedings with an interview with the author, Paul Kane.

Is SoH your first foray into Sherlockian fiction? If not, where else have your stories appeared?

 It’s actually my fourth Sherlock story – I wrote two shorts and a novelette before Servants. I don’t think I’d have been brave enough to tackle a novel if I hadn’t had a run up to it and tested the waters. The first was a bit of an experiment and remained unpublished until SST – who brought out Blood RED last year, and are releasing my ‘Best of…’ collection Shadow Casting later this year – showed an interest. So that one, ‘The Crimson Mystery’, is coming out in August; more details will be released soon. The second was ‘The Greatest Mystery’ which appeared in the third Gaslight anthology, Gaslight Arcanum – published by Edge and edited by J.R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec; Charles later, of course, was my co-editor on Beyond Rue Morgue. That one was reprinted in my book, The Butterfly Man from PS Publishing, and will soon appear again in my crime/psychological collection Nailbiters. The novelette was written at the request of Simon Clark – of Night of the Triffids fame – who was putting together an anthology for Constable & Robinson/Running Press called The Mammoth Book of Sherlock Holmes Abroad. In that one, ‘The Case of the Lost Soul’, I took our hero to Haiti to confront voodoo and zombis. That was great fun, and by the time I’d finished it I felt like I was confident enough to write something even longer.

Outside of Clive Barker himself you have become known as something of a gatekeeper of Hellraiser literature. How did this come about?

 I do seem to have become, as Nancy Holder calls me, the Hellraiser guy, which I’m more than okay with. I suppose it comes from my lifelong love affair with the Hellraiser mythos, which began when I read The Hellbound Heart by Clive and saw Hellraiser in my teens. I was just blown away by it all and lapped up the subsequent sequels and comics. Years later, while doing an MA in film, I had the notion of writing about the original movie to be published as one of those BFI type books – like Mark Kermode’s one on The Exorcist. That didn’t really pan out, but when I showed it to McFarland they wanted me to expand it to cover all the films – eight at that time – and comics. It took a while, but then The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy was born, which became a kind of bible for the mythology; they even use its picture for the Hellraiser page on Wiki. That, and the anthology I co-edited with my wife Marie, Hellbound Hearts, kind of put the seal on things. And of course as well as Servants I also have an interview book out soon from Avalard called Hellraisers, so things like that all add to it really.

From SoH it seems clear that you are as much a fan of Doyle’s Holmes as you are of Barker’s Cenobites. Can you tell us how these two passions came about? What led you to cross them over?

 Oh, I am indeed! My love for Holmes goes back as far as my love for Hellraiser. In fact coming across them at roughly the same time almost certainly sowed the seeds for this project. I was reading the original Conan Doyle tales and watching Jeremy Brett – in my opinion the definitive screen Holmes – around the time I was first reading Clive’s work. But it wasn’t until we did Hellbound Hearts and I was reading all these fantastic Hellraiser stories, that it actively surfaced again – because I was looking to write something fiction-wise about the mythos myself. That, coupled with the popularity of Victorian horror material, including Holmesian horror, inspired me to come up with the story. And the more I thought about it, the more the two seemed destined to meet at some point. As one reviewer said, it’s the world’s greatest puzzle-solver trying to figure out the world’s greatest puzzle…and the puzzle box!

Is SoH a one-off, or will there be similar mash-ups from you in future?  

 There aren’t any solid plans at present, but I would definitely be up for more. A lot of it depends on how this one does, I guess, and whether Clive would be willing to give permission for any more in the same vein. That’s not to say other crossovers couldn’t be done, they’re cropping up all over the place; I read with interest about one the other day that has Dracula fighting Hitler and the Nazis, which sounds amazing. There’s always scope for awesome crossovers with anything.

The world of Hellraiser is not just one of visceral horror, but it is also set within an intrinsically supernatural milieu. Neither would be seen as a natural fit for the rationalist Holmes, so how do you overcome the problem of giving Holmes a supernatural challenge, because once the impossible cannot be eliminated, his entire world must surely be changed forever.

 Well, there’s definitely a precedence in other Holmes stories, not least in my own mentioned before. And I think that’s the key really: once you show him something that can’t be explained away with logic and reason, he has to accept it as the truth. Actually, he’d probably accept it a lot easier than you or I, as he relies on what he can see and deduce. There’s a scene in Servants with Watson that touches on this very thing, but I don’t want to give too much away. And if you read the book you’ll see that this knowledge absolutely changes Holmes and his world…how can it not?

 The book is peppered with instances of you playing the Sherlockian ‘game’, embedding some of your own interpretations of what makes Holmes and Watson tick. Perhaps you could share your thoughts on how their characters are interpreted in SoH.

I tried to stay faithful to the original characters and their relationship, but at the same time the story necessitated that they be a version of Holmes and Watson that we hadn’t seen before. Their brush with Hell changes them, and in fact has been changing them for some time – they just didn’t realise it. There’s a distance between them when we first meet the pair, which was always present to some extent after what happened at the Reichenbach Falls – it’s just slightly more exaggerated and you find out why it’s there in the first place during the course of the story. It’s sort of a fractured relationship, although you do see flashes of the original Holmes and Watson – and this is all dealt with gradually, though maybe not in the way you might expect. Again, to say any more would be a spoiler if you haven’t read the novel. 

Everyone has either a fantasy casting of Holmes and Watson or a favourite pairing that inhabits their story. What are yours?

 I think the pairing of Brett and Burke/Hardwicke is pretty tough to beat. But at the same time you’ll probably spot the influence of many different versions of Holmes and Watson in my interpretations. I especially love the new versions starring Robert Downey Jr/Jude Law, Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman and Johnny Lee Miller/Lucy Liu. They all add to the universe in their own different ways.

 You have some subtle references and cameos – Inspector Abberline from Simon Clarke’s Gods of Rome gets a mention, while a Barker fan favourite also makes a cameo. Whenever this kind of Easter egg appears, it’s always nice to know why the readers should hunt these books and characters out.

I just think it makes it more interesting and – dare I say it, fun – for the reader. Hopefully these little nods to the Hellraiser/Barker/Holmes/horror genre in general aren’t too obtrusive and add something for fans of any or all of these worlds. It felt very organic to just slip those in, which of course reflect my own interests and tastes in fiction and movies/TV. 

With Simon’s Abberline books there’s already an established connection between Holmes and the Ripper case alluded to in many other books, so it’s not too much of a stretch that they might think of asking him for help. For people who might have read and enjoyed Hellbound Hearts or Barbie Wilde’s Voices of the Damned, there are cameos from Cenobites in there too. Just mentions and nods, but another way to bring everything together under one roof and interlink it all. At the same time, it’s important not to alienate anyone who might not have come across those characters or books, so I was at great pains to make it just as accessible for that audience as well, while at the same time maybe hoping they might track the sources down…because they’re really, really good. I should also mention here that Barbie provided the excellent introduction to the novel, for which I can’t thank her enough.

Paul, thanks very much. You can now brace yourself for the review which we will publish tomorrow.


Paul Kane is the award-winning, bestselling author and editor of over sixty books – including the Arrowhead trilogy (gathered together in the sellout Hooded Man omnibus, revolving around a post-apocalyptic version of Robin Hood), Hellbound Hearts and Monsters. His non-fiction books include The Hellraiser Films and Their Legacy and Voices in the Dark, and his genre journalism has appeared in the likes of SFX, Rue Morgue and DeathRay. His work has been optioned and adapted for the big and small screen, including for US network television, plus his latest novels are Lunar (set to be turned into a feature film), the Y.A. story The Rainbow Man (as P.B. Kane), the sequel to RED – Blood RED – and Sherlock Holmes and The Servants of Hell from Solaris. He lives in Derbyshire, UK, with his wife Marie O’Regan, his family and a black cat called Mina. Find out more at his site http://www.shadow-writer.co.uk which has featured Guest Writers such as Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Charlaine Harris, Dean Koontz and Guillermo del Toro.

The Irregulars Present…

  

So, last Christmas, before we launched our blog the Sherlock Street Irregulars took over Southcart Books for a day of Sherlock Holmes readings. And we are doing it again…

A book was sort of launched, and as well as experiences Sherlockians we had some writers who were embracing pastiche for the first time. It was fun, and I got to air my Christmas story, Sherlock Holmes and the Smoking Pope, and much enjoyment followed.

Now it’s time for our second foray, which Southcart has again agreed to host, on September 19th.

It’s a hard time of year to secure speakers – the last straggling cons are happening, the last family weddings are being crammed into the late season, and Doctor Who is returning to our screens. And everyone who likes Sherlock Holmes seems to like Doctor Who.

Sadly that includes the author we were hoping to coax along, Andy Lane, who will instead by at Big Finish Day talking about their adaptation of his Holmes/Doctor Who crossover novel, All-Consuming Fire, which has been adapted for audio by Guy Adams, whom we had also hoped to coax along on account of being a writer of Holmes stories and the man who wrote the foreword to the book we are launching, Vallis Timoris.

Yes, a book launch, plus a bit of pre-launch goodness for Constance & Robinson’s Adventures Moriarty, edited by Maxim Jakubowsky, and for MX Publishing’s three-volume set of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, edited by David Marcum.

That’s Saturday, 19th September 2015, starting at 11.00am until 4.00pm.

Names and times will be updates as they become available.

Sherlock Holmes. 221b Baker Street (2013)

Russian_Sherlock_Holmes_2013

In 2013, shortly after the tragic death of one of it’s stars, Andrey Kavun’s Sherlock Holmes TV series was broadcast. After the success of its highly popular 1970s predecessor, the eight part series had a lot to live up to, and despite being a reimagining of the Victorian Holmes, it seems to have succeeded… 

Heavily inspired by the Guy Ritchie film version (in spite of being announced before that had even been made), 2013’s Russian Sherlock Holmes TV series is, quite literally, a shot in the arm. Evoking the same gritty imagery seen in shows like Deadwood and Ripper Street, there are only occasional lapses where Russian cultural influences bleed into the show. With only on postmodern exception (where Holmes gives the name Basil Rathbone as a pseudonym), the script gives us a new but plausible take on Holmes. Imagining what he might be like from Watson’s perspective as a neighbour – before  his tales have passed through the filter of a written account, and editor, and publication in The Strand magazine.

The first episode (and the others) is available on youtube.

Much is made of Watson’s time in Afghanistan – a telling point of commonality between Britain and Russia, both then and now – and the account described in the introduction is subtly different in a way that promises to explore it further (in the following episode, no less).

Watson_2013

Watson himself is brilliantly portrayed by the late Andrei Panin (who sadly died from a head injury before post-production of the series was completed) as an intelligent, if a little lost, man of action, whose return from military service leaves him alone and in need of a friend. His meeting with Holmes is very different to tha seen in A Study in Scarlet, bringing them together in the midst of a case which can best be described as a portmanteau episode in which The Adventure of Black Peter has elements of A Scandal in Bohemia and The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton thrown in.

Watson is very clearly set up as the protagonist (with Holmes as the agonist), and the character is better served than in any version I have previously seen, taking a little of Holmes’ invincibility and transferring it to the doctor by making him the great detective’s boxing tutor. This slight shift has a fantastic impact on the dynamic between the two men, making them more like partners than master and apprentice.

Holmes_2013

Holmes, played by Igor Petrenko, also gets a makeover, looking more like the character of Raskolnikov from Dostoevsky’s Crime & Punishment than the deerstalker (or even top hat) wearing Holmes. This, and his favouring of spirits over tobacco, show Holmes to be a younger man than Watson, and in need of just a little friendly restraint. His deceitful side is also less constrained, giving an altogether more human aspect to the character.

The other regulars – Lestrade and Mrs Hudson – are similarly made over. the former seems quite intent on treating Holmes as the villain, whilst adopting perhaps the most unconvincing costume of the show. Mrs Hudson, meanwhile, is gloriously described by Holmes as being ‘nasty’, and seems more attractive and respectable than we are used to, whilst the introduction of other lady lodgers keeps us guessing which of them is the landlady.

The mystery itself cracks on apace, and is well-structured so that the clues are readily apparent and almost incidental to the action. This works well, setting up a wonderful boxing sequence which goes to show that you don’t need the cinematic trickery of Ritchie to pack the action in.

A lot has been made of Russian cultural context elsewhere. Certainly the friendship between Holmes and Watson is more physically explicit than contextually implicit, but that works well for TV these days. Where the cracks occasionally show is in costume – Holmes and Lestrade’s sartorial choices notwithstanding, those Russian costumiers really do struggle with the shape of the old British policeman’s helmet, and uniforms in general (I definitely spotted a Russian sailor drinking in a London pub), but if feels authentically Victorian, although there are moments where a modern Russian perspective on the attitudes of the British Empire isn’t quite in keeping with a native’s viewpoint.

Still, it is an enjoyable and engaging drama, and the first episode – at 90 minutes – is enough to make you want to binge-watch the remaining seven.

ADRIAN MIDDLETON

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)

“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