Here are the responses from the participating authors in chronological order by the time their story takes place:
I have a particular fondness for the Gothic Conan Doyle tales, and Harbinger of Death falls into that category. In my story, a young woman seeks Holmes's advice because it has been foretold that her beloved aunt will die on Friday the Thirteenth.
The story is set in Baker Street and in the north London region of Hadley Wood during March 1896. I needed a month and a setting that would enhance the eerie mood. I also wanted to set the story around the first Friday the Thirteenth of the year.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's work has given me immeasurable entertainment over the years. Supporting his home of Undershaw seems a very small way of repaying that gift. On a more selfish level, I'm thrilled to be involved in such a fabulous anthology which brings together the richest cream of Sherlockian writers.
My story is based upon ACD's cryptic reference to the 'peculiar persecution of John Vincent Harden' as it has always intrigued me. The setting of 1896 is my favourite period because I prefer the way the relationship between Holmes/Watson/ Lestrade had developed by then.
ACD is a literary icon and I did not hesitate in contributing once I realised that the scene of some of his greatest achievements was under threat. What a noble cause!
My story is set in 1896, and concerns a corpse found in a London alleyway in which all identifying marks - down even to the tailor's labels in the man's coat and trousers - have been removed. The Police think he may be a spy, killed for his troubles, and ask Holmes for his opinion ...
I'd seen mention of the anthology here and there, but never dreamed of appearing amongst such august company, but fortunately editor David Markum liked my recent Holmes' novel - The Albino's Treasure, from Titan Books - and asked if I could come up with something suitable. Luckily he liked what I sent him, and I'm now terribly honoured to have my story in volume 3!
Lyn McConchie here, female farmer and author, (small farm, 34 published books to date) cat-lover and New Zealander. Yes, probably the furthest author to be in the anthology. I blame that on the editor. He ran into my book, Sherlock Holmes: Repeat Business
, a collection of new stories (from Wildside in the USA) and came looking for me to contribute. I approved the cause and his request sparked an immediate story idea too, so very soon thereafter A MISTRESS - MISSING was on the way to David - who liked and accepted it.
The story was suggested to me by a cat combination, my own Ocicat Thunder, who often brings me his mice. And the cat stories of a friend who died several years ago, English writer Doreen Tovey. Add in Holmes and Watson, and all at once I had the whole plot laid out in my head needing only to be written down.
I like Holmes and Watson and I really enjoy writing their further adventures in the original background and style.
Holmes taunts Watson with word conundrums, while at the same time solving a major robbery. It takes place in their receiving room at 221b about 1883. I chose the time because it was still fairly new in their friendship.
I wanted to help with Undershaw in the way I knew best. I hope I've succeeded.
In the Adventure of the Coptic Patriarch, Inspector Lestrade has a curious predicament which brings him to Baker Street one Easter Morning in 1898:
‘It’s a strange one, Mr. Holmes,’ said Lestrade, ‘two definite crimes have been committed, a robbery and a kidnapping, but in the very oddest of circumstances. Have you seen the newspapers?’
‘Not yet,’ Holmes replied.
‘I don’t suppose either of you gentlemen has ever heard of the Coptics?’
‘In that bureau by the window,’ said Holmes languidly, ‘you will find a letter of thanks from His Holiness Pope Kyrillos, for whom I undertook a small commission last year.’
‘And beside it,’ I added, relishing the spirit of Holmes’s rejoinder, ‘you would also discover my copious notes on the case.’
Lestrade laughed. ‘I might have guessed! What was the affair, then?’
‘With the best will in the world,’ replied Holmes suavely, ‘I am afraid that I cannot possibly breach a client’s confidence – not even to you.’
Father Philxenous of the London Coptic Patriarchate has been kidnapped – along with him has disappeared the Athanasian Scroll: ‘written in a language directly descended from that which the Pharaohs spoke … an absolutely unique document … which is literally priceless’. The search for the abducted Patriarch and the rare purloined treasure of Egyptian antiquity leads Holmes and Watson to a quiet backwater on the River Thames.
Why participate in the anthology? To support a very good cause.
I have a short story in the third volume. My story takes place in England, in Hertfordshire to be exact. Holmes and Watson are called out there by the local inspector when a local gentry is found dead in his bed. The story is set in 1898 and that date was set by Conan Doyle as this story is my attempt to put flesh out one of the many stories that were mentioned in passing in one of the other adventures.
Although I have written for a variety of magazines, Sherlockian and otherwise, and edit Canadian Holmes, I took on this project as a challenge. I usually do not write fiction, have not written fiction in a few decades and this was my chance to give it a try again. The thought of contributing to such a landmark set of books could also not be easily passed up.
I’d been kicking around a story in my head since I finished the final edits of The Pearl of Death
last summer. It had to do with a young violin savant who could communicate only through writing and playing music. I’ve always been fascinated with Holmes’ use of the violin and I wanted to write a story where it played a more integral part in the plot, but the story I was thinking up was getting so complicated, I hesitated at even starting it. Mr. Marcum’s invitation to join the anthology changed that. It forced me to rethink the story, simplify it, and soon I had great motivation and desire to complete it.
Whenever I write a Sherlock Holmes story I try to add something new, push the envelope a little bit, while staying within the strict guidelines of the original canon of stories. It’s a technique that forces me not to repeat myself. The Strange Case of the Violin Savant was no exception. Testing Holmes’ genius against a completely different form of genius excited me and I believe made for an interesting story. I hope the reader agrees and more importantly, I hope the reader receives some modest amount of entertainment from it.
As far as the specific time the story takes place, I purposely left that vague, allowing Mr. Marcum the leeway to fit it into whichever anthology book he desired.
I was supremely honored one day in early April, 2015, when I received a message through Facebook from David Marcum, editor of this fantastic anthology, asking if I would be interested in being a part of it. Flattered, I told him I would and promised to send him a story by June of 2015. I knew, because of the worthy cause the anthology supports, that there would be a great deal of interest from other writers (including me) and I couldn't pass up a chance to be included with some of the great Holmes writers of today. I cannot wait to see the final products!
We decided on a story that wasn't earth-shattering and wouldn't change the world. It wasn't Holmes and a huge villain. We wanted to do something smaller and perhaps touch on little hints of character with Holmes. There's still a mystery but it's low key. It's largely set in Baker Street and is in the latter half of the 1890s. I'm sure sure why we picked that era. I assumed people would probably go early, and I wanted a time when they could just be sitting in Holmes's rooms so I chose the late 1890s. It tweaked Holmes a little because I think he changes as he ages, but this felt like the right time for this story.
I got a message out of the blue from David Marcum explaining the book. I knew a number of the people contributing and we felt we'd be letting the Imagination Theater side down if we didn't contribute. Besides, the cause is a good one and there were a lot of interesting people in there. It was a very busy time. I was finishing a book, writing a James Bond short story and launching a publishing company, for which Claire was working on a book with a tight deadline, so we struggled to squeeze this in but we're glad we did. It's something we're very proud to be involved with.
I was one of the last contributors to deliver their story (I always leave things until the last minute), so I asked the editor which periods of time were under-represented. I think there's a kind-of automatic preset in people's minds that puts Sherlock Holmes and the period around 1887 together, and I had a suspicion that a lot of stories would be set around there, so I definitely wanted to avoid it.
The 'Mr Holmes' film was just about to come out, as well, and I had another suspicion that several people might want to write about Holmes's retirement years. I was fortunate in that the period around 1901 was under-represented, which meant I could also tie the story in with the death of Queen Victoria - something that must have been a traumatic moment for Watson (probably less so for Holmes) and was a changing point in British History. Everything seemed to come together, and I found that writing about Holmes and Watson in middle-age was very satisfying. As usual, I wanted to have a crime whose solution was not obvious - or, at least, not obvious if you don't believe that the immediate suspect is the culprit. Looking at my rather extensive collection of research books, I remembered that I'd wanted for a long time to write a Sherlock Holmes story touching on the Victorian interest in complicated clockwork mechanisms and the recreation of "life" in mechanical form (the Mechanical Turk chess player being a perfect example), so that informed the story as well. All in all, everything came together neatly, and I even managed to slip in a reference back to one of my own 'Young Sherlock Holmes' novels, so I was happy. Fortunately, so was the editor.
It's always fun to write a Sherlock Holmes story in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle, and so I always grab an opportunity when one comes along. I also want, in the fullness of time, to be able to put together an Ebook collection of my various Sherlock Holmes short stories (five so far, and still going) under the title 'The Bizarre Investigations of Sherlock Holmes', and so it seemed like too good an opportunity to miss.
My story has a somewhat unusual shape for a Sherlock Holmes story, but it came to me one day when I had been visiting Conan Doyle's grave in Minstead, and I was walking around the beautiful English countryside much like Watson is doing in the story. I was inspired by the many quaint old cottages that lie scattered around the landscape, some of which are quite remote and would have been even more remote in the Victorian period. Such remoteness is certainly thought-provoking when one is about to write a Sherlock Holmes story...
I think that all attempts at preserving and promoting remains of the past are becoming increasingly important in our age. I am reminded of this whenever the media presents a picture of the past that is prejudiced due to a lack of historical knowledge. We speak today so much of tolerance towards people from different cultures, and yet we treat the people of the past with the same intolerance that an immigrant would have been treated seventy years ago.
My story is The Adventure of the Reluctant Corpse. It's set at a Christmas party shortly after Dr Watson's second marriage and concerns a man who dies three times. I'm keen to feature the second Mrs Watson, because I have a pretty clear idea of who she really was, and it'll be interesting to see if readers guess who I'm hinting at.
Appearing in the collection means that I'm in ridiculously good company! These are some of the biggest names in the Sherlockian world, and some of the biggest talents in the writing world in general. Maybe some of that talent will rub off on me.
Are there problems the solutions of which are better left unsolved? This is a question that confronts Holmes and Watson during their investigation of a case that leads to opening a grave and scaring an elderly mother half to death.
Why participate in the anthology? This is difficult to answer. I suppose it's partly vanity, a desire to reach a broader audience and I think partly the honor of being asked to contribute satisfies a bit longing that's existed since we began back in 1998; to taken seriously the devotees of the adventures of The Great Detective.
I have contributed a short story titled "A Most Diabolical Plot." It takes place in the Spring of 1903 and opens as follows:
Not til the day the bugle blows for me shall I forget the most diabolical attempt ever made on my friend Sherlock Holmes’s life. I was seated in the airy living-room of the lodgings we shared on the second floor of 221, Baker Street. Our landlady, Mrs Hudson, came in with my breakfast together with the morning edition of the Westminster Gazette. The newspaper contained a summary of the year’s significant events so far – on February 3rd a British expedition captured the mud-walled city of Kano, in Northern Nigeria. Under Pelham Warner’s captaincy the first cricket tour of Australia was in its final planning stages. I was about to turn my attention to the plate of kidneys, kedgeree and ham when my eye was caught by a short article on an inside page titled ‘Mystery Disappearance of Society Murderer’.
‘Nothing has been seen of Colonel Sebastian Moran, formerly 1st Bangalore Pioneers and well-known at London’s card-playing clubs, since his unpublicised release from Newgate last year when the gaol was closed for demolition. The Colonel served only half of a twenty-year sentence for the willful murder of his gambling partner, the Honourable Ronald Adair, second son of the Earl of Maynooth. Moran fell into a trap laid by Inspector Lestrade of Scotland Yard a decade ago when the former attempted to assassinate the famous Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes, employing an ingenious air-gun designed to shoot bullets instead of small lead pellets. To gain early release Colonel Moran vowed to turn his considerable talents to good causes.’
I lowered the newspaper and stared unseeing at the wall.
Unknown to Watson, the fearsome Colonel Moran, still seething over the death at Holmes's hands of Moran's Criminal Master Moriarty, has come up with a deadly game involving the terrible Africanised bee to wreak revenge on Holmes.
I was very keen to contribute to the Anthology which may well become one of the best-sellers of this new 'Sherlockian' era and provide Undershaw with the funds it needs to remain a monument to the master story-teller who designed and built it over a Century ago.
It's well-known that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle spent a great deal of time and effort fighting for justice on behalf of the wrongly convicted George Edalji. It was even recently a BBC miniseries. I'm a great Solar Pons fan and have researched the Edalji affair for a future Pons story: even writing about it in my The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes column over at Blackgate
For David's project, I thought I could try a story in which Holmes investigates the Edalji affair at the time it happened. So, 'The Adventure of the Parson's Son' is about Holmes and Edalji, as opposed to Doyle and young George. Of course, I had to work around the fact that the ending was rather predetermined.
Since Edalji was arrested in 1903, that was an automatic choice for the year of the story.
David Marcum and I send each other long, rambling emails throughout the week; they're more akin to novellas than short stories! He emailed me one early afternoon, saying he'd had a dream and had already sent an email off that morning to Steve Emecz, his publisher, proposing a collection of traditional Holmes stories. I still have his email, in which he wrote, "I plan on asking a small and select group of authors to participate."
As we all know, his idea caught fire and more and more authors agreed to be a part of the project. I write mostly non-fiction these days but hit upon the idea of sort of a Holmes prequel to a Pons story, with Doyle as the bridge between the two detectives. Fortunately, since the project went to three volumes, I didn't get cut for space!
I'm really impressed how David recruited so many authors, growing the anthology from his original idea and I'm happy to be included with so many folks whose books adorn my Sherlockian shelves!
"The Botanist's Glove" is set in both London and, predominantly, my home county of Sussex. It's my first attempt at a locked room mystery, or rather a locked conservatory mystery, and I'm pretty pleased with the result. I went for the year 1903 for a very specific reason relating to a particular plot detail involving epinephrine. The drug wasn't synthesised and available for use as a counteragent for anaphylactic shock until just after the turn of the last century, which meant the story couldn't legitimately take place any earlier than that year. I'm fond, also, of Holmes tales from the twilight of his career, when he is winding his consultancy down and considering retirement. The canonical stories from that era are usually weirder and wilder than average.
Why contribute to the anthology? I was asked to, it seemed a worthy cause, I couldn't see a reason why not to. It seems remarkable to me that Rudyard Kipling's house, Bateman's, is owned and protected by the National Trust, but not Undershaw, whose owner has left a legacy of writing which is equal to, and I would say greater than, Kipling's in terms of renown, longevity and stature. And by "remarkable" I mean "absurd". And by "absurd" I mean "wrong". I hope the anthology will go some way to remedying that.
My story, "The Opera Thief," is set in St. Paul in 1904. Holmes and Watson are in Minnesota because Watson is undergoing surgery at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. After events detailed in my latest novel, Strongwood, Holmes is called on to investigate the theft of a beloved prop from a touring company performing Mozart's Magic Flute in St. Paul. The story is about loss and wonder, and it ends on a deeply personal note for Holmes.
I decided to add my small voice to the anthology because I liked the idea of contributing something concrete to the memory of the man who made it possible for all of us to take part in the never-ending story of Sherlock Holmes.
If you would like to be entered to win a copy of the three-volume anthology, here's how you can qualify:
"Blood Brothers" takes place in 1913, after Holmes is supposedly retired. Of course, we know this is not possible, as was made clear in Sherlock Holmes – The Golden Years, with its five new “post-retirement” stories.
This story takes place in London in 1913 -- an interesting time because London was then the largest city in Europe, with a population of more than 6 million. The city was struggling to accommodate the poorer neighborhoods and slums, where the irregulars were born – which brings me to the story itself.
"Blood Brothers," as the title implies, is about brothers — two very wealthy, and two very poor. The poor brothers are members of the tribe of street urchins Holmes calls the irregulars. These brothers, who have helped Holmes solve mysteries, now desperately need his help. One of the brothers disappear, which is strange, as all the irregulars are street-wise survivors. Holmes lends his eye, wits and heart in an effort to find the 12-year old irregular Benjie. In so doing, the reader is introduced to a cast of characters who draw a stark line between the rich and poor who live in, then, the “greatest city in Europe.” And, while this story takes place over a century ago, the social and moral issues wrapped around this story are still playing out today throughout the world.
"Blood Brothers" is narrated in two voices, and will be found in Volume III of the new anthology. It sets the stage for my next Sherlock Holmes book wherein the irregulars play a dominant role.
I can say, that there wasn’t a moment of hesitation when David invited me to write and send an original story. Of course, I resonate with the cause itself — to preserve Undershaw. Doyle is one of the world’s greatest story tellers and he should be honored as such. I would quickly add, however, that I was immediately struck with David’s selfless commitment to his project. I cannot resist highly committed people who take on a huge challenge. It is such people who change the world. David Marcum and Steve Emecz will be putting the eyes of every Sherlock Holmes fan in the world on this anthology. My deerstalker hat is off to them, you, and the other 60 authors whose work is contained in what I believe is the largest collection of new Sherlock Holmes stories in the world.
My story, "The Adventure of the White Bird," is about the mysterious disappearance of two French aviators during their attempt to cross the Atlantic Ocean and claim the $25,000 Ortieg Prize. Had they succeeded, they would have been the first aviators to cross the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean from Paris to New York City. They disappeared not long after overflying Newfoundland. In New York, relatives and financial backers of the lost aviators, suspecting foul play, approach Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, who are visiting New York on other matters, to investigate their suspicions and bring the culprits to justice.
The story takes place mainly in the northeast United States and eastern Canada, from New York City to Newfoundland. Holmes and Watson, then in their seventies but still healthy and vibrant, meet some interesting characters and confront some dangerous ones. They enjoy the comforts of New York and experience the wilds of Maine, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, and attempt to solve one of aviation's most enduring mysteries.
"The Adventure of the White Bird" spans a period of roughly five months, from early May to September 1927. The disappearance of Charles Nungesser, a World War One flying ace and member of the famous American-French squadron Escadrille Lafayette and his flying partner Francois Coli occurred on May 8th, 1927, twelve days before Charles Lindbergh successfully made his solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean, from New York to Paris, on May 20th. This mystery has always been of particular interest to me because no trace of the men were ever found. In 1927, aviation was still in its relative infancy and to cross the Atlantic in an open-cockpit biplane, made of wood and fabric, with no navigational aids or radios, was a daunting and monumental endeavor. I wanted to give voice to my own speculations on the mystery and what better way to "solve" it than through Sherlock Holmes!
Unfortunately, the reality is that the disappearance of two courageous aviators will never be solved. Nungesser and Coli's success would have radically changed the course of aviation and resulted in a very different world, one where the United States remained as a secondary player in aviation and space development.
I had recently retired from an unfulfilling 40-year career as a draftsman and technical illustrator and finally embarked on a life-long dream to become an author. Derrick Belanger and I collaborated on our Mystery Aircraft website and blog and discussed other writing projects, when he informed me that there were relatively few Sherlock Holmes stories that took place between 1900 and 1950 (Holmes approximately death). Those years covered the time of aviation history I find to be irresistibly fascinating, particularly the years leading up to World War Two. He suggested that I write a story that combined my new interest in Sherlock Holmes and my fascination with aviation mysteries. The FIRST idea I had was Sherlock Holmes and Nungesser and Coli’s disappearance. A perfect match for my “debut” story. This concept was a perfect challenge to my aspirations to write.
And now I am among the dozens of experienced and talented authors included in the next Guinness Book of World’s Records! Not too shabby for my first published work of fiction!
The Pair get together, back at 221B, for Holmes’s 70th birthday and encounter a "con game" that threatens their "client" as well as a number of other trusting, yet gullible, ordinary citizens. The perpetrator of the con character is based on a real person who was, actually, an international con man. This con man was known to have been operating on the Continent and in England, during the late 1920s, hence the choice for the story’s temporal setting in 1929. David told us that our story would probably be the last one in the Anthology.
Dave Marcum is an old friend. We encouraged him to pursue his literary goals early on when he was reluctant to do so, and that has turned out well for him now. He asked us to contribute. It was also tempting to have our work included in a volume along with such noted and famous Sherlockian authors.
My two poems are in classical sonnet form (the Shakespearean kind) and I wrote them because Sherlock Holmes and what he stands for have tremendous emotional resonance for me. Poems are a way to express something deeply felt and intimate in a very concentrated way. And I love working to classical form. Emulating Conan Doyle is another way of writing to form, and I enjoy the intellectual challenge of placing both thoughts and emotions into strictly defined structures - which both mysteries, and poems are.
Why contribute? Because I hope to see Undershaw restored, and because I particularly like David Marcum and Steve Emecz. It's an honor to be part of this.
That concludes this final spotlight article from the authors in the The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories
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