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"a large collection of valuable curiosities"[SIGN]

A Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for the three-volume series The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories, an anthology of over 60 traditional pastiches from leading Sherlock Holmes authors, is off to a tremendous start. The anthology has garnered  media attention, as it sets the world record for the largest collection of new Sherlock Holmes stories ever compiled.

The three volumes are not just a new series of stories but also an altruistic collection. The anthology is a fundraiser for Stepping Stones which is helping to restore Undershaw, the home in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, and which has fallen into significant disrepair. The aim of Stepping Stones's involvement is to turn Undershaw into a school for students with special needs. Within 48 hours, the Kickstarter campaign raised its initial goal of £2,000; however, a more ambitious goal is to raise £10,000 by the time the Kickstarter campaign concludes on August 16th.

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere briefly interviewed Steve Emecz, of MX Publishing, the publisher of the anthology, and David Marcum, the editor and compiler of the anthology, about this ambitious project, its goals, and why the funds are going to support the preservation of Undershaw.

IHOSE: For this project, what made you both decide to create such a massive anthology of new traditional Sherlock Holmes tales?

Steve Emecz: I have to give the credit to David (Marcum) for the idea. We had discussed many times over the years producing an MX collection, but it was David’s thought to create a big one for Undershaw and open it up to all Holmes writers, not just MX’s own. The beauty of having so many people participate is it is creating so much awareness for the Undershaw project.

David Marcum: The original intention was much more modest. In late January 2015, I was awakened early one Saturday morning by a vivid dream of a new Holmes anthology. Rather than rolling over, falling back asleep, and forgetting about it. I got up and started thinking about authors that I knew (or with whom I’d communicated) that might be willing to participate. I specifically wanted people who would write traditional Holmes stories, set in the correct time period. I emailed MX publisher Steve Emecz, and he was very positive about the idea, so I started sending invitations. I had initially envisioned something along the lines of a dozen or so stories. However, my wish list kept growing, and so did the number of people who wanted to join the party. I had always thought of this as a one-volume idea, probably paperback, but when the book was going to be so big that it would have a tiny font-size and so many pages that the spine would crack, Steve and I discussed the idea of going to two volumes. Later, when it was clear that it would be substantial enough for three hardcover volumes, the decision to go bigger was much easier. At that point, we realized just how important this collection was going to be.

IHOSE: Tell us about the Undershaw Trust and the Stepping Stone Schools. Why are they worthy organizations to support through this endeavor?

SE: The Undershaw Preservation Trust (UPT) did an amazing job fighting the destruction of the house for several years until a suitable owner came forward. Without John, Lynn and Sue and the thousands of supporters there would be no Undershaw today as it would have been chopped up by a developer. They blocked it all the way to the high court. In 2014 Stepping Stones bought the house and this year began restoration. Stepping Stones is a specialist education facility that looks after children with learning disabilities. I’ve been lucky enough to meet the Stepping Stones team and some of the kids. They do an incredible job and it’s a fitting legacy for Undershaw and one that Conan Doyle would be proud of.

IHOSE:  How was the anthology compiled? How were the authors chosen?

DM: At first, I had a very short list of people that I already knew, often just through email correspondence. I asked them to participate, and the response was immediate and positive. As I became more ambitious and confident – as well as greedy to read new stories straight from Watson’s tin dispatch box – I combed my book shelves, seeing which authors I wanted to ask next. Of course, some that I asked weren’t able to participate due to various reasons, but everyone was gracious and helpful. Along the way we picked up several additional participants that were recommended by authors who had already joined the project. In other cases, I had to do some detective work – and it helped that my first career in my twenties was as a U.S. Federal Investigator – as I tracked down physical addresses for people that couldn’t be contacted by email. Several authors in England, for instance, are only reachable by mail, which certainly makes one recall the old days before emails and instant communication.

My main condition when assembling the stories was that the authors’ submissions had to be about the true Holmes and Watson from the Original Canon. There could be no parodies, and no new characteristics about them that were not in the original stories. I indicated that the authors could use the characters, but they had to put them back unchanged for the next author when they were done. All of the stories in the book do that, with great success. I’m currently re-reading all of the submissions for the final edit, and some of these stories still give me chills, even after multiple readings. This is going to be good!

All the manuscripts from Volume 1 - printed out and edited

IHOSE: I am sure all the stories in the anthology are exceptional. Tell us about a few stories that stand out.

DM: It seems as if there is a unique story for every author that I contacted. Many were strangers back then who were instantly gracious about being approached with no warning, and so many have now turned into friends. For instance, just after we “met” by email, bestseller Andrew Lane sent me another Holmes story that he’d just written for my opinion, probably just because he knew that I’d enjoy it. Then, when he was writing the story for this collection, he sent me a sentence at a time for part of an afternoon, just to drive me crazy.

I contacted best-selling author Lyndsay Faye, who has written a number of Holmes short stories, early on, and she agreed immediately. Of course, she was in the middle of all the things associated with the release of her latest book, including a nationwide tour. I don’t spend much time on Facebook, but this project has made me visit there more often, and I saw some of her journey chronicled there. In the middle of Lyndsay’s busiest time, and before I was expecting it since I could follow how busy she was, her story arrived in my inbox one day. That was really cool.

Lyndsay is a member of both the Baker Street Irregulars and also the Baker Street Babes. This collection also has several stories written by other members of both groups. And then there is Larry Millett, who has written seven excellent Holmes novels. He wrote a story, and then allowed it to appear in the latest Strand magazine in order to give the project some extra exposure.

There are so many other stories as well. I was able to locate my favorite pastiche writer of them all, the legendary Denis O. Smith, and I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to have a new story from him, and to have been the first one to read it. I also found the amazing John Hall, who contributed his first new pastiche in several years. We have a story by best-seller Will Thomas, who has thus far only written about Holmes’s contemporary investigator, Cyrus Barker, and has now written his first Holmes adventure. Then there is best-seller James Lovegrove, who I first contacted last year to discuss the location of Holmes’s retirement cottage in Sussex, near where James lives. After that, I felt comfortable in asking him to contribute to this project.

We have a contribution from Bert Coules, who supervised the amazing BBC broadcast of the entire Canon. And we have a number of stories from writers who have contributed to the U.S. radio show, Imagination Theatre, including founder Jim French, and writers Matthew Elliott, Matthew Booth, John Hall, Daniel McGachey, Iain McLaughlin and Claire Bartlett, Jeremy Holstein, J.R. Campbell, and me (David Marcum).

There are a lot who have famously already written about Holmes, and others who have written in other genres, but not about Holmes before. Several of our authors originally wrote some fan-fiction that’s as good as anything I’ve ever read anywhere about Holmes. I found their real identities and asked them to join us, and they did, with amazing results! Finally, I asked a few people who have done a great deal of work in keeping the world of Holmes alive, but hadn’t tried writing a story until now. Someone once said that every Sherlockian should write at least one pastiche, and this gave these folks the chance to do it. They truly knocked it out of the park. I’m now trying to convince them to write even more stories for their own future books, just so I’ll have even more to read about Our Heroes.

[Editor's note: a listing of the full set of authors is available on the Kickstarter campaign page.]

IHOSE: What is the goal of the Kickstarter campaign?

SE: The goals of the Kickstarter campaign are firstly awareness, and secondly to cover all the setup costs of the project so that we can begin to raise funds for the restoration straight away. We need to get to around £10,000 to achieve that. We set the public goal quite low at £2,000 to ensure it goes ahead but we’re hopeful to reach the main goal. As anyone that has done a crowdsourcing project, quite a lot of what people pledge is taking up in fulfillment costs – the anthology is nearly 3 kg in weight so expensive to ship.

For those wishing to purchase the anthology and help preserve Undershaw, the collection will only be available for preorder through the Kickstarter campaign. It will then be available from major online and brick and mortar bookstores.

Look for spotlight articles - and a contest in which you'll have a chance to win a set of the entire set - in the next 30 days here at I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, where we will have anthology contributors tell us a little bit about their stories and why they felt it was important to contribute to the anthology and help save Undershaw.