There is also the question of which Holmes do we want to use? The young detective on the rise? The beekeeper called from retirement? (Remember “His Last Bow.”) Or the old man in the twilight of life, his powers fading, but maybe up to one more challenge? (Kudos, incidentally, to Mr. Holmes
. Ian McKellan may well be the first actor to be nominated for an Oscar for playing Sherlock Holmes.)
Were I a better known author, I could get permission from the Dashiell Hammett estate for The Adventure of the Maltese Falcon
, which would be terrific, and the James Bond-Holmes novel I outlined long ago will never see the light of day for the same reason.
What can I say? I love crossovers.
IHOSE: You have another detective series, The Ace Herron Mysteries. Tell us a little about that contemporary series? Does Doyle have any influence on your modern detective writing?
Ace came about for several reasons. One thing I can’t stand is that modern writers don’t know how news organizations work. They don’t do the first thing to get the authenticity right, and I am heartily sick of female reporters sleeping with people just to get information for a story. That is one cliche which simply has to be squashed. My colleagues are not rapacious sluts. It is instructive that, in over 100 years of cinema, only two films I know of got it right: All the President’s Men
, and Jack Webb’s -30-
I've been a journalist for nearly 20 years, and a lot of that is crime reporting. Add that to the fact that newspapers today are being run as profit centers rather than public service organizations, and what you have is the perfect setting for conflict: the reporters want to do their jobs properly, but the only thing management ever cares about is how much something costs. They sure as hell don’t care about their employees, and no one’s job is safe. Thus, The Valentinian combines the worst aspects of every paper where I've worked. I have used real office incidents in the Ace Herron books.
I decided to write the stories as they would likely play out in real life, so that doesn’t leave much room for Holmes-like deductions. When I follow criminal cases in real life, I do pretty much what the cops do: talk to as many people as I can to get to know the nature of the event and the people involved. I recall one missing persons case (which became a murder case) where the cops actually left the victim’s car unlocked in her garage. I tossed it for evidence. The difference between fiction and real life is that in fiction, Ace would have found something. I have, in real life, assisted law enforcement and even put a rapist in jail.
Due to the fact that book publishers put more and more of the burden of sales and promotion on the author, I publish these myself through CreateSpace. That way, I know who to blame for slow sales.
IHOSE: If you were stranded on a desert island and could only have one Sherlock Holmes story, which would it be and why?
SS: The Hound of the Baskervilles
, of course. It's my introduction to the Sherlockian universe.
I was a freshman in high school, and doing homework in the library until I got bored, and so I checked out Hound
. I didn’t put it down until 2 a.m. After that I was hooked on Holmes, and then Victorian literature, for life.
One thing I didn’t know at the time was that Hound represented Holmes’ return from the dead. There is a certain energy and descriptive quality in that novel which makes it stand out. I wonder how Conan Doyle felt as he wrote the story. Did he feel defeat at the fact that he couldn’t keep Holmes dead? Did he feel some elation at being able to write Holmes one more time? Also, 1902, I recall is the year that Conan Doyle became Sir Arthur. I realize the official reason was his writings on the potential of submarines for warfare, but was that the real reason? Could King Edward VII have been a Holmes fan? We’ll probably never know.
IHOSE: What are your upcoming projects?
I have completed the third Ace Herron book, titled Presumed Dead
. This story intertwines the lives of the Valentinian’s reporters with those of the missing persons cases we all have to cover from time to time. I think it’s got my best twist ending, but the manuscript hasn’t been edited yet.
I hope I will have successfully conveyed the agony of a missing person’s loved ones; these stories are heartbreakers, because as long as someone is missing, there is always an iota of hope that he might come back alive, the war between what the heart wants and what the head knows is probable.
There are those who will ask if I based the story on the disappearance of Tina and Bethany Sinclair, a mother and daughter who vanished in 2001. I have not. One thing which sets this case apart is that everyone knows the name of the person likely responsible, but there is just no solid evidence tying him to the crime. But there is also no one else who could have done it.
I am currently writing a time travel tale centered around the Civil War, one of my lifelong fascinations. In it, we ponder what might have happened had the South won the war, and how my protagonist tries to reset the timeline.
In my dystopia, the Confederate states have evolved into something like South Africa under apartheid; sooner or later, they’d have had to give up slavery just to be able to participate in international commerce. But the South winning was not the way the timeline was supposed to be, and this leads to ruptures in the space time continuum, which leads to many other problems. I am toying with a love triangle across 150 years, but I don’t know how that will go just yet.
I am also brewing a Sherlock Holmes-themed Ace Herron story, mainly for the purpose of bringing Ace to a wider audience. But that doesn’t mean I’ll do less than my best.
IHOSE: Any last thoughts?
Just some advice to aspiring writers: you have to keep putting one word in front of the other until things start making sense. Don’t say “I want to become a writer,” as if all there is to it is soaking your hands in warm water for a while and the words will magically appear. Writing is discipline, writing is hard work, it takes some basic native talent to begin with.
The two books you need are Stephen King’s On Writing
, and the Strunk and White Elements of Style,
third edition. (There is one edition that imposes politically correct gender-free thinking on language, a book best left forgotten.)
Also, read, read, and then read some more. Especially if my name is on the cover.