[Editor's note: This is an interview with Darlene Cypser, Author of The Crack in the Lens - a New Novel about Sherlock Holmes - that originally appeared on the LondonW1 blog by Marc, who joins us as a regular correspondent.]
W1: Hi Darlene, Welcome to LondonW1, Tells us a bit about yourself:
DC: I am 53 years old. I currently live in Colorado but I mostly grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York. I read everything when I was a child. In my early teens I went through a Ellery Queen streak and then Nero Wolfe and eventually ended up reading W.S. Baring-Gould's biography of Sherlock Holmes. Baring-Gould's book puts an entirely different spin on Sherlock Holmes. When you write a biography you are no longer thinking in terms of individual adventures but rather of reconstructing a mans' life. It was from that book that I learned of the existence of the "Baker Street Irregulars" organization of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts who "play the game" that Holmes was a real person and study his life and works. There are local Sherlock Holmes groups across the US and many of them are considered "scions" (It means "offspring".) of BSI. I started attending meetings of one of those when I was in my teens. I read and re-read the Canon, but I also read the "Higher Criticism" -- essays written by such scholars about Sherlock Holmes, and of course read many pastiches and saw many movies. I wrote my own first scholarly essays (called "trifling monographs" after a comment by Holmes) in the 1980s. I began my collection of Sherlock Holmes books, movies and memorabilia in the mid-1970s. More details on my Sherlockian background can be found on this webpage.
W1: What was the first SH Adventure and what grabbed your attention?
I don't remember what was the first Sherlock Holmes story I read. It would have been over 40 years ago. I think I had read most of them at some time before I encountered Baring-Gould's biography which is what really intrigued me. To me it is the characters of Holmes and Watson that are most interesting. The cases are fun but it is Holmes and Watson that keep us following along.
W1: What inspired you to start writing a SH story?
DC: You need to understand that my book is not a Sherlock Holmes mystery where he solves crimes. In fact the mysteries that arise in The Crack in the Lens are not solved in the book. Sherlock Holmes is an unusual man. He has trained himself in the skills he needs to be a detective at a time when no one really thought such skills were useful. He is not a sociable man. He has few friends. He does not date women. He hides his inner emotions and even Watson rarely sees them. The question in my mind was: "How did Sherlock Holmes become the man we know?" That question went around and around in my head over 27 years ago. As I read the Canon, ideas about the answer to that question came to me and I started keeping notes. Eventually in my mind I started to feel like I knew the character of the younger, more open Sherlock Holmes and how he changed into the man that Dr. Watson knew. Other characters sprang up and the story unfolded. However, I knew that in order to write the story properly I needed to do a lot of research about the time and the place. I've never been to Yorkshire. So I had to learn about the country, what it looks like and how the people live and speak. I taught myself to write broad Yorkshire dialect and then later had to tone it down substantially because most the readers (from the UK, USA, Canada and Australia) could read it! I had to learn about the behavior of the different classes of British society at the time. It took many, many years of research to understand Sherlock Holmes' world but many people have commented that the result is a world that is realistic and believable. Arthur Conan Doyle did not to do that research because he was writing about the time and the places he lived. It is harder to write about a time and place that is 140 years ago and thousands of miles away.
DC: I heard that BBC radio had recorded the entire Canon a few years back but radio stations that play dramas are rare in the US these days. So I have not heard them. I'll have to buy the CDs sometime. I have some interest in converting my book to an audio drama in a year or two. Since Sherlock is a 17-year-old boy in The Crack in the Lens I would probably need someone younger to pay that part. I am a movie producer, so I have contacts with a lot of actors and have access to audio equipment. So it would not be that difficult.
W1: Any thoughts on Anthony Horowitz being the chosen by the estate to make a ‘Holmes return’ and do you think it will ever be seen as Canon?
DC: I have never read any of Horowitz's writing, so I am not familiar with his style or his skills at adapting to other styles. No, it won't ever be Canon. It would be just another pastiche, whether a good one or a bad one, is to be seen.
W1: If you had to take a vacation with Holmes or Watson which would it be and why?
DC: I would prefer to follow Holmes around and learn from him.
W1: What is your favourite SH Adventure?
DC: That is really hard to say. There are some I like better than others but no single one stands out. Among my favorites are the 4 novels: A Study in Scarlet, The Sign of Four, The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Valley of Fear, plus "The Copper Beeches," "The Speckled Band," and "The Devils Foot."
W1: There have been many who have played Holmes but who is your favourite?
DC: Oh, I have several. I do like what Benedict Cumberbatch is doing with the character currently. Jeremy Brett was very good but I also like Basil Rathbone and Ronald Howard.
W1: And will be seeing any more Holmes Novel?
DC: Yes, there is a trilogy that follows after The Crack in the Lens. It is 3 books that cover Sherlock's years at University, his acting career and the early years of his career at Montague Street. The Crack in the Lens ends with Sherlock emotionally and physically devastated. In the following books we see him rebuild his life and gradually become the man Dr. Watson meets in 1881. In fact the last book of the trilogy ends at the moment Holmes and Watson meet.
Thank for all your time Darlene and keep us up to date on further writings...many thanks...W1