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"when, for the fourth time" [BRUC]

It is exciting to report that while the Kickstarter campaign for the fourth volume of the MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories assembled by MX Publishing is fully funded, and the book will officially be released on May, 22nd 2016 — not coincidentally, the 157th birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

We thought it would be a great idea to give some of the participating authors a chance to reflect on their involvement. As we did for the first three volumes (see Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 here), 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? 
Here are the responses from the participating authors in chronological order by the time their stories take place:

Arlene Levy

My poem is an expression of interest, curiosity, and credit due Mrs. Hudson, the landlady and guardian of 221B Baker Street. Her presence is noted throughout the Canon, yet her purpose is never exaggerated nor promoted. I am new to reading/studying the Canon, but a woman who is mentioned briefly but repetitively, adds depth and significance to her mention. The value of refuge, tolerance, and service, to men (characters) such as Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson cannot be overstated.

I wanted to contribute to the anthology because my beginning, my enthusiasm, and my following, hopefully encourages others to embrace the tales of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Derrick Belanger

My story is titled "The Tale of the First Adventure," and it focuses on Holmes recounting a case he solved while a pupil in Kennington at the age of 11. As a teacher, I have always wondered what Holmes would be like as a student in my classroom. This story gave me the opportunity to explore that idea, plus I thought it would be appropriate to include the tale in an anthology which will support the Stepping Stones school at Undershaw.

As before, I wanted to support Undershaw and help keep Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's legacy alive for many generations to come.

Deanna Baran

Sherlock Holmes once authored a monograph which analyzed 160 separate ciphers, and yet in all of canon, he only used codes or ciphers five times: "The Gloria Scott"; The Valley of Fear; "The Adventure of the Dancing Men"; "The Musgrave Ritual"; and "The Adventure of the Red Circle". I have a fondness for puzzle mysteries and secret messages; what would be more appropriate than having Holmes demonstrate his prowess by cracking a double-substitution cipher before our very eyes? The Wheatstone-Playfair cipher was invented in 1854, but came into prominence during the Second Boer War and World War I. "The Adventure of the Turkish Cipher" opens in late November, 1885, but refers to a case that took place in the midst of Holmes' two years at university.

This project has generated so much momentum and interest for the restoration of Undershaw. I've been impressed by the generosity and enthusiasm the readers have shown in their support for these volumes. I was happy for the opportunity to play my small part once more, and it was an honor to participate in Volume IV.

Daniel D. Victor

As anyone who reads my literature-oriented pastiches can tell, I'm an English teacher (now retired), and I try to convey my love of great books through my stories about Sherlock Holmes. One of my all-time favorite short stories which I used to enjoy teaching is Guy de Maupassant's "The Necklace." With Holmes gaining ascendancy in my brain, I began to think of the story in terms of a mystery. Without giving away the plot of "The Adventure of the Missing Necklace"--let alone giving away Maupassant's--I'll just say that Holmes' encounter with a diamond necklace serves as my explanation for the basis of Maupassant's wonderful story. Holmes' part in my piece takes place in 1879 in London's Montague Street and its environs. He does end up in France, however, where he meets Maupassant. The timing is important because my intrigue involving Holmes had to occur before Maupassant's story was published in 1884.

My experience with the first MX Anthology was so positive that I couldn't resist the chance to repeat the process. With encouragement from editor David Marcum, not only could I write about Sherlock Holmes, but I would also be helping the restoration of Undershaw. As a teacher, I'm proud to lend my support to a project destined to produce a new school.

Mark Mower

My chapter is The Case of the Rondel Dagger, which is set in London in March 1880 and narrated by Charles Stewart Mickleburgh, a research fellow at the British Museum. The tale revolves around the unexpected death of an Australian diplomat in Stoke Newington and has the great detective partnering up with Mickleburgh for a whirlwind investigation commissioned by Mycroft Holmes. Mickleburgh proves his worth, being an expert on medieval weaponry, and together the two uncover more about the mysterious Bosworth Order.

I loved the idea of writing about Holmes when he was living in Montague Street, in the period before he met Watson. The relationship between Mickleburgh and Holmes gives us a glimpse of how the detective benefits from - but is sometimes seen to be struggling with - the dynamics of working in partnership. While very different to our beloved Watson, Mickleburgh nevertheless provides us with a fresh perspective on the approach and character of the consulting detective in those early years. I began writing Holmes pastiches in 2015 and my first story, "The Strange Missive of Germaine Wilkes," appeared in Volume I of the anthology. Shortly afterwards, my own collection of Holmes and Watson tales was published by MX under the title, A Farewell to Baker Street. While I have made my name as a non-fiction crime and history writer, I am now pursuing my real dream of penning more and more lively tales about Holmes and Watson. Ensuring that some of these appear in forthcoming volumes of the anthology is important to me as I believe passionately in the campaign to support the continued use and renovation of Undershaw.

Craig Janacek

My story, "The Adventure of the Double-Edged Hoard," is set in December 1881 primarily in the great university town of Cambridge. The location was chosen over Oxford in large part due to my fond memories of doing a semester abroad there while in college. The time-frame was chosen as it preceded the 1883 publication of "The Silver Hatchet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In the spirit of the Great Game, I suppose that Watson's first literary editor plainly had heard the 'true' version of this story from Watson and subsequently changed many of the details before publishing it in the London Society magazine. Let the truth finally be told!

As for why I wanted to contribute, well, the thought of not doing so as soon as David asked me never crossed my mind! In fact, I dropped the longer tale that I was writing at the time and immediately set to work upon the Double-Edged Hoard, given his rather tight deadline. But after the great pleasure of feeling the weight of Volume I in my hands, I couldn't resist the opportunity to do so again, and all in the name of a great cause!

J. R. Campbell

My story is a Watson-lite story, one in which Holmes investigates a crime while the good doctor is otherwise engaged. So much of the canon is defined by their friendship and I was intrigued to see what influence Watson would exert on Holmes when the Doctor was absent. The story takes place in London, because that’s where Sherlock Holmes lived. I don’t worry much about timelines but it occurs when Holmes and Watson have known each other long enough to hear their friend chiding them even when they are not present.

Being part of second volume was enjoyable experience and am happy to support project that fix Arthur Conan Doyle’s star in the literary firmament.

Bonnie MacBird

"Adventure at the Beau Soleil" takes place in Nice in late November of 1889. It recounts a brief incident at that faded grand hotel which occurred while they were on a longer case which will be recounted in my upcoming novel, Unquiet Spirits. Enroute to Montpelier to visit a scientist there, Holmes and Watson detour to this place, where they receive free lodgings in return for Holmes consulting for the house detective on this small but tricky matter of a jewel theft.

My first visit to Undershaw was with Luke Benjamen Kuhns organized by Steve Emecz in 2013, and it was a highly emotional moment. The plight of this place has troubled me since. While controversial, the restoration and repurposing will, I believe, honor the legacy of Conan Doyle. It was very moving to stand in the very room where the Hound was written, and it is my belief that the study will be restored to resemble its original state. If I can contribute in any way to that, I am very happy to do so.

Arthur Hall

The story I contributed to Volume IV concerned a request to Holmes from his brother, to come to the aid of a fellow Diogenes Club member, Rodney Trasker. The home of Trasker was the scene of an attempted burglary during which he killed the intruder, Albert Derringsham, who swore revenge with his dying breath. As Trasker was of a nervous disposition, he was particularly disturbed to see from an upstairs window the deceased Derringsham driving a coach at night. When this incident is repeated, Trasker shoots the apparition, blowing it to pieces with his shotgun. He cannot explain these happenings, still less so when Derringsham reappears yet again, no worse for the experience. Subsequently, Trasker appeals to Mycroft for help, hence the involvement of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson.

I wrote this story primarily to assist the project, but I would be less than honest if I did not disclose that I also hoped for some exposure that might result in the attentions of a publisher. I am the author of three Holmes novels and several short stories published only by (apart from Volume IV, and possibly V) Amazon CreateSpace.

Roger Johnson

My contribution is actually a radio play. Although in my younger days I wrote enough weird fiction to fill a book (In the Night  In the Dark, published by MX, since you ask) I've only ever written one detective story. Unsurprisingly, it's a Sherlock Holmes story, based on two clues that still seem to me rather good. The idea for "The Adventure of the Grace Chalice" had been buzzing around in my head for a very long time before I wrote a proper version, as my entry in the the Sherlock Holmes Society of London's first and only pastiche competition. It was placed third, and was published in the Winter 1987 issue of The Sherlock Holmes Journal. A few years later I revised the story, bringing the style as close as I could to Conan Doyle's, and submitted it to Mike Ashley for The Mammoth Book of New Sherlock Holmes Adventures, published in 1997. It's still entitled "The Adventure of the Grace Chalice", but I changed the client's name, to link the narrative to one of the cases that are mentioned in the canon but not recounted there. Neither the story nor the subsequent audio play mentions a month or a year, but Mike Ashley dates the case to December 1895, and I'll happily agree with that. After all, "it is always 1895", is it not?

The adaptation came about because in 2010 I had volunteered to provide a dramatic entertainment for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Rather than badger the industrious Matthew J. Elliott, I decided to see what I could do. The result, later recorded by the same cast (freely downloadable here), works better, I think, than the original narrative version. The action takes place at 221B Baker Street, at a large house in Highgate, near the famous cemetery, and at a mortuary at Stoke Newington, near another notable cemetery.

Why do I want to contribute to the anthology? I want to see that sadly abused house Undershaw brought to life again and put to a use that Arthur Conan Doyle must surely have endorsed. And I'm deeply impressed by the dedication, the imagination and the sheer hard work that Steve Emecz, David Marcum and the MX team have put in to helping the Undershaw project become a reality.

Hugh Ashton

My adventure is one which is mentioned by Watson in "The Solitary Cyclist": "The Persecution of John Vincent Harden"  one which has been told by others in the past, but I feel it makes for an interesting story. It takes place in London, with a backstory in an unnamed Southern US state (probably Virginia). It takes place when Holmes is an established consulting detective - he is well-enough known for his name and fame to have crossed the Atlantic. I like to have Holmes' reputation known to those with whom he comes into contact, when he is at the height of his professional career, as it makes for interesting interactions between the detective and his clients, (and his quarry at times). The adventure remains untold, by the way, as it involves some unsavoury doings of Harden's in the past. Naturally, as a good Victorian gentleman, Watson refrains from giving details of these, but we may fill in the gaps for ourselves.

I was very flattered to be asked, and I am pleased to be able to contribute to the maintenance of Undershaw and the preservation of the memory of Sir Arthur, as well as helping Stepping Stones.

Vincent Wright

"The Adventure of the Green Lady" is about a painting stolen from a snooty American in a wealthy part of London.The action takes place mainly at his flat in Piccadilly. I placed it late May of 1897, but not for any particular reason.

As before, I was happy to be a part of the Undershaw restoration process. I am also honored to have been asked again to be a part of this amazing series.

Daniel McGachey

"The Adventure of the Fellow Traveller" mostly takes place on board a moving train as Holmes and Watson return once more to London after solving a countryside case of murder. When another passenger with something weighing heavily on her mind joins them in their compartment, Holmes swiftly persuades her to lay the facts before him. In this setting our heroes are presented with a tale of unease and suspicion - a tale which soon escalates into one of horror as their travelling companion relives a nightmarish encounter with a monstrous fellow traveller…

The story is set in 1897, as this would have been a period when Sherlock Holmes and John H. Watson were at the height of their fame and were recognisable public figures. I adore the Baker Street sitting room as the setting where so many of their adventures begin, and can quite happily write long scenes of dialogue and bickering and banter between the two friends, with occasional interjections from Mrs Hudson, before a client even knocks on the door with a problem to present for the detective's consideration. In fact, Imagination Theatre recently recorded my Holmes and Watson two-hander, "The Case of the Confounded Chronicler," which focuses entirely on the two men and occurs entirely within their familiar sitting room, for their long-running The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes radio series. So by commencing this new story in a different environment, and bringing the "client" into contact with our heroes in a different manner, I wanted to give a little shake up to my own approach to tackling a Sherlock Holmes adventure. Besides, where better to present a tale of train-travel and terror than in a compartment on an actual train?

I was just one out of the many contributors to the initial project that grew in scope to three weighty volumes (my story, "The Adventure of the Seventh Stain" appears in Volume 1), and I was delighted not only by the books themselves - which are incredibly handsome editions packed to bursting with wonderful stories by some hugely talented and imaginative people - but also by the tremendous response to the collection on Kickstarter and subsequently.

So when David Marcum revealed there were more volumes in the works, it wasn't a difficult choice in agreeing to contribute a further untold tale. The actual writing of it was by no means such an easy process, but thanks to the voices of Holmes and Watson urging things on - and a very patient editor in David - the story, like the train, reached its destination safely.

As before, I'm proud to be able to contribute in some small way to helping with the preservation of Undershaw, and supporting the tremendous work done by the Stepping Stones School. The fact that I've been able to do so by writing about two of my favourite characters of all time just makes it all the better.

Nicholas Utechin

My contribution, 'The Adventure of the Highgate Financier', takes place, er, in Highgate, North London. I have attached no date to it, and I don't think have given any hints as to a date! It is a fairly straightforward seemingly inexplicable death which turns out to hinge on the appearance of a bathroom.

I wrote it because Editor David Marcum came to Oxford, UK, where I live, in 2015, and I showed him around and showed interest in his pastiche project - and then asked myself why I should not try my hand again exactly 40 years after my co-author Austin Mitchelson and I published two barely adequate novella-length pastiches - The Earthquake Machine and Hellbirds. I nod in the direction of Austin by giving his surname to a character in this new story.

Jeremy Holstein

My story is entitled "A Game of Illusion" and takes place in 1899, when someone claiming to be 'Raffles' threatens to steal a famous emerald. The only problem is that A.J. Raffles, the infamous Amateur Cracksman, is dead! I chose that particular year as it was the period of time who Raffles was known to be "dead" and Watson was back living in Baker Street.

Why did you want to contribute to the anthology?

Because David Marcum asked me to! It's always fun to explore another case with Mister Holmes and Doctor Watson, and the MX Anthology is supporting a worthy cause. And what a lineup of authors!

Matthew Booth

The story is called "The Wargrave Resurrection" and it is set in 1888 in the West End of London and
the slums of Whitechapel. Holmes is consulted by an elderly labourer named Henry Collins, who once did some work for a wealthy publisher by the name of Theodore Wargrave. On the morning he consults Holmes, Collins was on his way to his present employment when he sees Theodore Wargrave going into a grim boarding house in Whitechapel. Holmes sees nothing strange in this, until Collins tells him that three years ago Wargrave had taken a pistol and blown his own brains out…

I chose 1888 simply because I think it is a time when Holmes is at his best. He and Watson are established companions but the shadow of Moriarty has yet to loom over Baker Street. Holmes is at the height of his powers and his fame is widespread, which seemed to fit with the idea of a lowly old labourer knowing about him and being able to consult him. Also, of course, in real terms, it is the year of the Jack the Ripper murders, which is a topic which has long fascinated me since I was a young (perhaps far too young!) boy.

As with volumes 1-3, I think this is an ambitious and exciting project. I am a writer and a lifelong Holmes fanatic and the opportunity to contribute to such a continuing and important collection of new Holmes stories was too good to miss.

But, as with my contribution to volume 2, it is not simply having the opportunity to contribute to a new series of Holmes stories (which is of course always a welcome thing). There is also the added incentive of the cause behind it. The preservation of Undershaw is an important project and being asked to assist in the preservation project by doing something which I love was a request which was impossible to turn down. I think the calibre and the number of writers who agreed to participate is testament to the passion for (and the importance of) the cause. I think it’s something of which everyone involved with should and will be proud.

Jay Ganguly

My tale is called "The Adventure of the Impossible Murders" and it is set in 1884. I have a weakness for early tales of the Holmes-Watson duo, so it is set in the early days. Peers of British Empire are simply dropping dead at an alarming rate, and when a frightened one approaches our favourite pair, they reluctantly agree to look into the matter. Holmes is a bit more involved than usual, Watson gets passionate and Lestrade suspects(?) Holmes. Er...I think that ought to be enough - any more would be spoilers!

Well, David and Steve have got the coolest Sherlockian pastiche collection out there, AND it is for Undershaw, so why not? I am sure Sherlock would approve.

David Marcum

My story, “The London Wheel”, takes place in 1900, which puts it near the end of this collection. Like I did when editing the previous volumes, I’ve arranged the stories chronologically, with the initial tales consisting of Holmes relating to Watson several of his pre-Baker Street cases, and the last story in this book, set in summer 1903, taking place just a few months before Holmes’s retirement.

As usual when I write, I don’t know a lot when I start – I wait for Watson to tell me. In this case, I found out from listening to Watson when the adventure occurred, as I certainly didn’t plan it that way ahead of time. When the narrative begins, Holmes and Watson are visiting Lestrade’s office at New Scotland Yard on another matter when they observe a small circus that has set up across the Thames on an abandoned lot. Deciding to walk across Westminster Bridge and have a look at it, they are quickly involved – as so often happens to Great Detectives wherever they decide to visit someplace – in a murder.

After putting together the first three books, I thought that it was a one-time thing, never to be repeated. However, very soon after their publication in October 2015, people began to ask me about assembling another one, and I realized that this could be an ongoing series.

Since the last one ended up being so well received, and the biggest collection of new Holmes stories ever assembled in one place, and for such a great cause as well, how could I not participate?

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Volume IV can be purchased in advance of its May 22nd release date from  MX publishing, The Strand Magazine, or on Amazon.  For more information on the Undershaw restoration and Stepping Stones, please visit the Stepping Stones website.

Derrick Belanger is the author of the #1 bestselling book in its category Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Peculiar Provenance, which was in the top 200 bestselling books on Amazon. He also is the author of the MacDougall Twins with Sherlock Holmes books, the latest of which is Curse of the Deadly Dinosaur, and he edited the Sir Arthur Conan Doyle horror anthology A Study in Terror: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Revolutionary Stories of Fear and the Supernatural. Mr. Belanger also is a frequent contributor to I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere. He resides in Colorado and continues compiling unpublished works by Dr. John H. Watson.