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"they reflected the thoughts which possessed him" [STUD]

The world's largest collection of new Sherlock Holmes stories is on its way to being realized. While the Kickstarter campaign is well underway for the collection assembled by MX Publishing, we thought it would be a great idea to give some of the 64 participating authors a chance to reflect on their involvement. For the next three weeks, I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere will publish the answers of two questions that we asked each author:

  1. Tell us a little bit about your story without giving too much away. Where and when does it take place? Why did you choose that time for your story?
  2. Why did you want to contribute to the anthology?

In addition to a chance to learn about the authors, their motivations and the stories they've written, you also have a chance to win one copy of the three-volume series from MX Publishing. See below for more details.

For this week's article, we are posting the answers we received from the authors in the first volume of the anthology.  Here are the responses from the participating authors in chronological order by the time their stories take place:

Hugh Ashton  

It's a classic locked room murder mystery, involving some forensics by Holmes. It takes place in the Midlands city of Lichfield, where I have some personal connections (soon to become stronger!), and you can actually find the scene of the crime on Google Maps, as well as various other locations mentioned in the story. It's an early mystery - in many ways I prefer the early Holmes to the later. Holmes is less blasé in his judgements, and maybe less arrogant.

It's an extremely worthy cause - and (being somewhat geographically isolated) it's also good to feel that I am part of the wave of Sherlockian enthusiasm which is sweeping the world.

Adrian Middleton

One aspect of Holmes adventures always interested me - his veiled references to various cases for the Vatican. The early years of his career were a curious time for the Catholic Church - recently forced to give up the Papal States to the new Kingdom of Italy, their traditional nemesis - England - was turning into something of an ally. So with all the religious politics of the time - a new Pope, the influence of Cardinal Newman in England, the impending rise of the Rosicrucians and the Golden Dawn, 1881 seemed to be the perfect year to peek into that aspect of Holmes' life, with maybe a hint of the darker trends of that time.   

It's all about the cause. I've always been involved in regeneration projects, and I feel very strongly that the loss of Undershaw to the nation could be a very real prospect at a time when homes are in high demand and there is little public money available help new heritage causes as they appear. These anthologies are already succeeding in raising awareness, but they also need to raise the funds that will help Stepping Stones preserve Undershaw for the benefit of future generations.

David Marcum

The story is called “The Adventure of the Pawnbroker’s Daughter.”It’s set in early 1882, about a year after Holmes and Watson meet. By this time, Watson is comfortable working with Holmes, but Holmes still has some tricks to show him. I knew that I wanted to write about that early period, but initially I didn’t know the details of the story. The first idea that came to me was actually for the story’s epilogue, set in the mid-1890s. In it, Watson is carrying out a task for Holmes and sees something that reminds him of the events of the earlier case. The vision of that epilogue scene literally burst into my head, and then I had to try and find out what was going on with that early case. 

I don’t write with an outline. Rather, I just try to transcribe the story as Watson is telling it, and I’m often surprised at the direction a story goes. I’ve talked with several other writers of Holmes stories, and they work the same way – if you trust Watson, it just turns out better. In this case, I had seen that epilogue, but I didn’t know yet why it occurred. As the story unfolded, I was interested to note that Holmes reveals one of his methods to Watson, which coincidentally is something that I learned during training way back in my twenties when I was employed as a Federal Investigator with an obscure U.S. government agency, now long since defunct. It’s something that I still use myself on occasion – when I can remember to do so – in my second career as a civil engineer.

When I first had the idea for the anthology, I began to contact a wish list of people that I knew produced traditional and Canonical pastiches. That’s what I want when reading about Holmes, and therefore that’s what I asked for. As someone who has also made occasional trips to Watson’s Tin Dispatch Box, I quickly realized that I didn’t want to arrange this little excursion and then not climb on board myself when the train pulled out of the station. As the first person who was able to read all of these stories assembled in their entirety, I can say that they are absolutely amazing, and I hope that my own small channeling of Watson’s voice lives up to the work of all these other incredible authors.

Jayantika Ganguly

My story is called, "The Adventure of the Defenestrated Princess." That is pretty self explanatory, eh? It's set in London, 1882. Formative years, because that's a fascinating period in the Holmes-Watson dynamic...catch 'em early, as they say! Also, it reveals a softer side to the great detective, much to the good doctor's amusement. Oh, no, Sherlock's not in love or anything! (He'd kill me if I did that!)

Why contribute? What Sherlockian wouldn't? Brilliant publisher-editor duo, biggest (and most varied) anthology of pastiches ever, supports Undershaw - the list goes on! Sixty authors in one book!

Denis O. Smith

My story – “The Inn on the Marsh” – is set in the early 1880s, at a remote and windy spot on the English coast, in the county of Norfolk. A young married couple stay for their honeymoon at an old inn there, “The Wild Goose”, but when they visit there again, later in the same summer, they find that the entry in the register relating to their previous visit has been removed, and the landlord claims never to have seen them before. Soon Sherlock Holmes is involved, and finds there is more to the situation than meets the eye.

I wrote this particular story because when David Marcum asked me if I would like to contribute a story to the anthology, I wanted to try to come up with something that I thought would be quite different from anyone else’s story. I myself live in Norfolk, and both the terrain and the weather I describe are true to life. I chose to set it in the early 1880s because to me that is the most interesting time in Holmes’s career – when he was not so well-known as he was later to become, and was still struggling, to some extent, to establish himself.

As soon as I heard of the proposed anthology, I was keen to contribute (if I could think of anything suitable) as the cause seemed to me a very good one. Conan Doyle’s time at Undershaw was an important period in his writing, and without the work of the Undershaw Preservation Trust it seemed likely that it would all vanish into the dust of history. Also, David wrote me such a nice letter that I couldn’t possibly decline the proposal!

Amy Thomas

The story takes place early in Holmes's and Watson's partnership when the two are living at 221B Baker Street before Watson's marriage. The setting is London, a traditional one for a Holmes story, complete with a client who approaches Holmes by coming to the flat. As a reader, I am interested in the entire timeline of the Canon, but when I think about the most traditional, quintessentially Holmesian stories, I usually find myself thinking about the early years. That's why, when I sat down to write a traditional story in Watson's voice, which isn't something I normally do, I gravitated toward an early point in Holmes's timeline.

First, I hugely enjoy writing about Sherlock Holmes and John Watson, something usually I do in my series of The Detective and The Woman novels. Second, I enjoy a challenge. I'm not used to writing in a Watsonian voice with a style that is imitative of Doyle, and I was attracted to the challenge of producing a story in that style. Third, I care a great deal about Undershaw. I worked with the Undershaw Preservation Trust to help save the property from destructive development, and I'm thrilled that the new owners are committed to preserving his legacy for the public. I'm delighted to contribute to a project that will provide practical help with the restoration.

Kevin David Barratt

I am a member of a group called The Scandalous Bohemians based in Yorkshire who meet every other month to discuss all things Holmes over a few drinks. For our Christmas meeting last year I decided to write a Christmas ghost story. Taking "The Adventure Of The Speckled Band" as my starting point, I wrote "The Haunting Of Sherlock Holmes." John Hall, another group member, liked it and wanted to share it with a friend. That friend was David Marcum who also liked my story. Although I have given talks to our group, this is my first published story and I am absolutely thrilled and excited to be involved in this wonderful project.

Luke B. Kuhns

"The Allegro Mystery," is about a French ballerina who is performing in London. When something from her past comes to haunt her, it could be deadly, and possibly end her career! It's up to Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson to help save her life before things turn dastardly. The question is, will they?

The story takes place in Autumn-ish 1885. Originally it was an undisclosed time because I wanted to avoid any clashes with other stories, but my main reason for setting it officially in 1885 was down to the fact that I love the early years of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. When it's just the two of them solving mysteries, and back in time for supper in the warm study of 221b Baker Street.

I loved David's idea of having a new series of short stories. I've got several collections of shorts that range from classic pastiche to Sherlock Holmes Meets the mind of H.P. Lovecraft. The world loves Sherlock Holmes and it was Nicholas Meyer who said something along the lines of we write more Sherlock Holmes because we want more Sherlock Holmes, and these three massive volumes of stories reflect that desire. But I also like that David wanted traditional stuff. I love a bit of Sherlock crossovers, whether that's Sherlock meets Frankenstein or Churchill or battles supernatural elements. As long as the characters are true to what Doyle did and the story is good, I'm happy. But nothing ever beats that classic Victorian or Edwardian setting that made Sherlock Holmes so popular. So, I'm happy that these volumes are kept to that setting. The Victorian era was bizarre enough, there's a lot to have fun with!

Summer Perkins

My story, "The Deadly Soldier," is set in the mid-1880s in London. Someone has been hired to make an attempt on Professor Moriarty’s life and it’s up to him to use his powerful skills of deduction to find out the man’s identity in order to save himself. I chose to set the story in the 1880s as that is one of the classic Holmes decades in history, and I wanted it to have the same sort of historical feeling as the original Conan Doyle stories.

I’ve been a fan of Sherlock Holmes—and Professor Moriarty—in their many incarnations in books, film, and television for years, and I wanted the opportunity to put my own spin on a Sherlock Holmes tale. I’m also proud to do my bit to help the Undershaw Preservation Trust, because they’re doing incredible work, and I feel it’s important to preserve historic sites for future generations.

Deanna Baran

My favorite moments in the canon tended to happen when Holmes was in disguise. His feats of observation and deduction were always eagerly anticipated; it would take more skill than I have to write a Holmes story, omit them, and convince the reader that the detective is indeed Holmes. Those were a given. But Holmes also needed opportunities to assume various identities like the skilled actor he was, and discourse like a credible musician. For such a Holmes, an appropriate setting incorporated Christmas pantomimes and the song-and-supper clubs of the era. Knowing Watson's reputation for unreliable chronology, it was also important to give "The Case of the Vanishing Stars" a solid grounding in time. After research turned up weather reports and concert reviews, I could find no better placement for my story than early December, 1885.

As someone who has been a museum curator, librarian, teacher, and rehabber, the MX project hit upon so many of my pet enthusiasms: children's education; the restoration and protection of a historic house; taking a neglected building and making it useful once more while maintaining its original integrity. It was a privilege to participate in this remarkable project.

Shane Simmons

"The Song of the Mudlark" has Wiggins of the Baker Street Irregulars bringing Holmes a mystery he hopes will intrigue the detective. A body has been discovered along the banks of the Thames, leaving yet another small child orphaned and at the bottom rung of London society. The police show little interest, and even Holmes dismisses the death as a mundane drowning until he learns the dead man has suffered a terrible head wound that's been inexplicably stuffed full of rusty coins. The story takes place in 1886, between the first appearances of the Irregulars in A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four. It was important to set it in this period if only to keep young Wiggins from aging out of his role as leader of the juvenile spy network.

I came to this anthology in a roundabout way, after being recommended by another Sherlockian anthology editor. I jumped at the chance to participate in such a prestigious collection, both for the content and its role in helping The Undershaw Preservation Trust. It pains me to watch grand old buildings of historic significance being left to rot and then suffer further indignities at the hands of developers and wrecking balls. Preserving Conan Doyle's home and putting it to good use while maintaining its integrity and links to the past is the obvious and best solution for the property.

C.H. Dye

I decided to write about one of the cases Watson mentions as happening in 1887, which set my date pretty quickly, although I did play with a few chronologies to get to decide which cases surrounded mine. It was a little frustrating, as my original idea needed a lot more words than would fit, but I was able to narrow things down and discard the research I didn't need along the way. (It will turn into another story, sometime!)

I've written fanfiction for years under a nom de web, and I was lucky enough to be asked to write a story based on the strength of a recent fanfic I'd done. It was a challenge, too. Most of my writing has not been about cases which needed clues and deductions. It's much easier writing drabbles!

Mark Mower

My story is entitled "The Strange Missive of Germaine Wilkes." It’s set in the late summer of 1887 and has Holmes and Watson assisting Inspector Macdonald of Scotland Yard with a weirdly coded message. It gave me the chance to write about corruption, counterfeiting, villainy and a marvelous new piece of Victorian technology (I can’t elaborate any further as it might spoil the story!). My first degree was in Modern History and I focused on the politics, economics and social history of the nineteenth century – all of which came back to me as I set out to write the tale.

I found the whole idea of contributing to the preservation of Undershaw absolutely irresistible. That alone would have been inducement enough. But the chance to be in a new volume alongside many writers I have admired for so long (Denis O. Smith and Andrew Lane) and others who I have been introduced to and inspired by more recently (David Marcum in particular) made this something I would not have missed for the world. Unlike most of the other contributors, I am principally known as a non-fiction crime writer, but the whole experience has made me want to focus more and more on fictional tales.

Derrick Belanger

While staying in Cody, Wyoming on a trip to Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 2014, I learned that Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show had performed in London during the summer and autumn of 1887.  I thought it would be perfect to have Mr. Cody hire Sherlock Holmes to solve a case.  The story involves a murderer who, after ascending to a building rooftop, appears to have vanished into thin air.  One of the members of Mr. Cody's troupe has been accused of the crime, and it is up to Holmes and Watson to clear his name and find the true killer. The story also has a brief appearance from the Baker Street Irregulars, and it involves my own invented member of Scotland Yard, Sergeant Rousseau, who returns in my forthcoming novella, Sherlock Holmes and the Adventure of the Peculiar Provenance.

When David Marcum contacted me, and I found out that the proceeds for the anthology were going to help restore Undershaw, I did not hesitate to get involved.  As a middle school teacher myself, I am thrilled that Doyle's former home will host a school for special needs students and will become a bit of a museum for us Doyleans at the same time.  Kudos to Stepping Stones for finding a unique way to preserve this building, yet make it useful to the children of today. I believe Arthur Conan Doyle himself will be quite pleased with the results.

Daniel D. Victor

In "Writing Great Fiction," an excellent lecture series in The Great Courses, novelist James Hynes had occasion to mention Henry James' novella, "The Aspern Papers." Intrigued enough to read the story, I was immediately struck by its sinister undertones. So devious was the action that I concluded the mild-mannered James must have sanitized a mystery that I judged would require no less than Sherlock Holmes to unravel. Since the original story was published in 1888 and reportedly based on actual events, I had to make my version take place earlier. Thus, my story, which I call "The Adventure of the Aspen Papers," begins in 1887 with Henry James laying out the details of a case that involves Holmes and Watson in a murder investigation.

Preserving Undershaw is a worthwhile goal, especially to fans of Sherlock Holmes. What's more, as a retired teacher, I like knowing that the building will be used as a school. I've also never written a Holmes short story and was curious to see how length-restrictions might affect my writing. And then there's the exhilaration I suppose all writers experience when seeing their names in print.

Stephen Wade

I’ve always been interested in the fictional possibilities of writing Lestrade into a kind of fascinating anti-heroism. The idea for this story- set in the late 1880s – came from photography. I wanted Moriarty and Lestrade to meet, and after seeing a carte de visite of a Victorian gentleman, I had the core of the tale. So it’s about vanity, the power of the arch-enemy himself, and the human comedy that is so full of potential in the little bungling sleuth.

What Sherlock Holmes fan would turn down the chance to contribute? I think the possibilities for extending the Sherlock Holmes narratives are endless, and let’s celebrate that. David Marcum asked me to contribute, and this was to hand. Now I’m in the middle of a collection of Lestrade stories. Moriarty, let’s say, has some fun with the little man.

John Heywood

A shoot is in progress on a Norfolk estate. One of the many distinguished guests is a South African mining magnate known as the King of Diamonds. Along with the other sportsmen, he takes his lunch in the field; within minutes, he is lying dead in the grass. His servant is arrested for murder, but was it really him? Or was the victim killed by one of the guests, perhaps somebody from his African past? And what part was played by the shadowy anarchist group to which the dead man’s servant belonged?

In this story I have tried to picture the world of late Victorian England, both its opulent
surface and its darker side. The story takes place in 1888, a year when:

  • The South African diamond merchants De Beers was founded
  • Anarchist bombs shook respectable society from St Petersburg to New York
  • Jack the Ripper was at work in Whitechapel, and
  • Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson were sharing a flat in Baker Street.

Why did I contribute?

  • I was asked, and I thought why not?
  • I liked the idea of being involved in a collaboration with sixty other Holmes authors.
  • I support the preservation trust’s efforts to save Undershaw.

Daniel McGachey

My story - or novelette, as I believe is the more accurate term for what it grew into (and I had to check the differences between a novelette and a novella, which, in this instance, is somewhere about 500 words) - is "The Adventure of the Seventh Stain." As you may very easily deduce, this has strong ties with an existing tale in the Canon. Rather, it begins by exploring the reasons why a certain narrative, when it finally appeared in print, had no real connection to the teasing hints to that story's contents made in a couple of previous accounts, before then going on to reveal a tale which "deals with interests of such importance and implicates so many of the first families in the kingdom that for many years it will be impossible to make it public." So this is Watson in 1904 looking back to the events of the summer of 1889.

I didn't originally plan to do something which amounts to an unrecorded case based on a canonical reference, but the idea that there were potentially not just two but probably three and possibly even more accounts in Watson's dispatch box bearing the same title set me off and running... even though I had very little idea what I was running towards to begin with. But it was certainly a fun, if sometimes exhausting, journey to find out.

Being invited to contribute to something by someone you didn't previously know on the basis that they've read and enjoyed your previous work is one of the best ways to be commissioned, I think. So when David Marcum got in touch out of the blue and explained what the project was, some of the names already involved, and what it was intended to raise money for, I jumped at the chance to get involved.

My previous Holmes stories (and the novel I'm currently at work on) involve the supernatural - though carefully balanced, I hope, so as not to veer too far away from the Conan Doyle characters and world - so it was an exciting idea and a fresh challenge to attempt a non-supernatural, traditional Holmes and Watson adventure.

That initial approach in no way suggested the size the project would grow to, so it's been thrilling to see a single volume expand to two and finally three books, and David's tireless enthusiasm and support have obviously been a huge part of that. And the biggest driving force has been to do something in aid of both Stepping Stones and the Undershaw Preservation Trust. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle gave a great gift to the world, and one that millions are still enjoying to this day, with his writing, so it's an honour to help in some way to thank the man, however belatedly, by preserving this important part of his life and legacy.

Also, I just really want to see a massive great collection of traditional adventures for Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, so even if I hadn't been involved, I'd have been rushing to buy it.

Martin Rosenstock

My story is entitled 'The Two Umbrellas' and takes place in London in 1887. Moriarty has succeeded in manipulating a government employee who is smitten with a young actress into stealing some secret documents. Will Moriarty and his henchmen be able to smuggle them out of the country and thus compromise British security? I wanted to write a story that features Moriarty, so my story had to be set quite early, before his death in 1891.

I decided to contribute because I liked the cause to which the money goes and I'm proud to be published alongside so many accomplished writers.

Craig Janacek

"The Adventure of the Fateful Malady," is set in 1889, with Holmes at the heights of his pre-Reichenbach powers. The entire tale takes place within the confines of central London, ranging between 221B, Charing Cross Hospital, and Harley Street, and features Holmes' first encounter with a man whose services he later calls upon in "The Adventure of the Blanched Soldier." My hope is that this tale, by highlighting the medical aspects of Holmes' deductive powers, pays homage to the physician whose amazing diagnostic skills seemingly inspired Holmes' to develop his own special talents.

I was thrilled to contribute an original work to this extraordinary collection for many reasons. First and foremost, it is a great cause - supporting education for disabled children - which is near and dear to my heart as a practicing pediatrician ("my day job!"). Secondly, this will be my first fictional manuscript to appear in a printed edition. While I can no longer travel without my Kindle, and I love seeing my other stories exist, if only in electronic format, there is simply no substitute for holding a real book in your hands. I hope that this is the first of many more to come from my desk.

Michael Kurland

My contribution is a short poem called "Sherlock Holmes of London," a verse in four fits and the opening lines are:
If you’ve a missing heir to locate, or a bank you have to guard, /
There’s only one detective, and he’s not from Scotland yard.

And I wanted to contribute to the anthology to help preserve the physical memory of Sir Arthur. I have written five books and a bunch of short stories featuring Professor Moriarty, and where would Moriarty be without Sherlock Holmes?

That concludes this week's spotlight article.  In the next installment, we will post the responses from the authors in the second volume of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories.

If you would like to be entered to win a copy of the three-volume anthology, here's how you can qualify:

  1. You must be subscribed to our email updates; and
  2. You leave us a comment below describing why you're excited about this new anthology.

One winner will be selected at random from all entries. Drawing will take place on Wednesday, August 19, 2015.

And don't forget: the Kickstarter campaign will be active until Sunday, August 16, 2015 at 6:59 pm EDT. There's still plenty of time to pledge and get your copy of all three volumes before they are available to the public.