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"With five volumes you could just fill that gap on that second shelf" [EMPT]

Autumn is upon us, and even though Halloween is still weeks away, many are setting their sights on completing their Christmas shopping. This year, there is a perfect gift for Sherlockians. The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part V: Christmas Adventures is currently available on Kickstarter. As with all the other MX Books of New Sherlock Holmes Stories all the proceeds go to the benefit of the restoration of Undershaw, Doyle's former estate. We spoke with David Marcum, the editor of the series on his latest collection, future collections, and his latest pilgrimage to England to see Doyle's restored study at Undershaw.

IHOSE: The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories has gone from one planned book to multiple volumes, and now to several books annually. How did this change take place? Did you always know that there would be multiple volumes or were you pleasantly surprised?

David Marcum (DM): It was a very pleasant surprise. When the first three books were finishing up in the fall of 2015, it was intended to be a one-time event. I was very fortunate to get to go to London for the launch of the books in October 2015, and while I was there, a couple of people asked if there would be more, and a few others expressed regret that they hadn’t participated, after seeing how nice the books turned out.

It was only a week or so later, after I returned home, that I realized the process for making the books was still in place. From the time that I first thought of the idea in January 2015, up through publication, Steve Emecz and I had hammered out all the details, such as size and style, so the difficult questions were answered and the machinery was still in place. The author interest was still there, Stepping Stones School (which receives the author’s royalties for the project and is located at one of Doyle’s old homes, Undershaw,) could still use the funds, and of course there are never enough new traditional Holmes stories.

Even though it was mid-October 2015 at that point, I sent out a message, inviting people to contribute even more stories. There was a much more urgent end-of-the-year deadline this time, but they all came through, and we ended up producing the fourth volume, Part IV – 2016 Annual, which came out last spring.

However, even at that point there was so much interest that we ended up deciding to have two volumes in 2016, which led to the next book in the series, Part V – Christmas Adventures, coming out later this year.

The Kickstarter for the next volume can be found here.

IHOSE: The latest MX volume is a collection of Christmas stories. Why did you decide to create a Christmas collection? Are these stories still traditional Holmes stories, or are you starting to allow some AU tales into the mix?

DM: The reason that it’s a Christmas book is because I didn’t want to have something awkward like Part V – 2016 Annual (Part II). Also, it occurred to me that it would be appearing at the end of the year, and even though there have been a number of Holmes Christmas adventures, it had been twenty years since those last great Holmes-at-Christmas anthologies, Holmes For the Holidays, and More Holmes For the Holidays.

These stories are also traditional Holmes narratives. I’m a missionary for The Church of the Traditional Holmes Pastiche, so Alternate Universe (AU) tales aren’t accepted in anything that I’m editing.

IHOSE: As always, the proceeds from the sale of the book will go to support the Stepping Stones School and the restoration of Undershaw. How have the proceeds helped with the restoration work? What still needs to be done?

DM: I was very fortunate to get to go back to London in early September 2016 – Holmes Pilgrimage No. 3!! – for the dedication of Stepping Stones at Undershaw. I had never been down to Undershaw before, although I’d heard and seen for years about how decimated the building was. It’s really amazing how beautiful it is now, and how much has been lovingly restored to honor both Doyle and Holmes.

Because it’s a historic building, it had to be restored according to very strict guidelines. The stained glass windows have been amazingly rebuilt. The plaster, which had sloughed off the walls and ceilings due to massive leaks, was replaced using late 1890’s techniques. Floor joists had either rotted through, or in one case, had been cut completely across by a hotel that occupied the place years after Doyle left in order to install a water pipe – it was a wonder the building hadn’t cracked in half! All of this had to be repaired. The DFN Foundation, which bought the building for the school and did all the work, spent a lot more than they initially intended in order to restore the building to its former glory, as well as making it functional for the school.

The royalties from the MX anthologies have been donated by the authors, and so far, the books have raised an amount over five figures toward continued restoration and future maintenance of the school. In addition to the amazing work they do with their special needs students, the school really wants to make itself available in the future to Sherlockians and Doyleans. Doyle’s study will be available for the public to visit during breaks and holidays when the students aren’t there, and also they would like to make the place available for Sherlockian groups to have meetings or gatherings as a way to raise additional money for the school.

It was great for me and my ever-present deerstalker to be able to visit Undershaw and represent all the pasticheurs! While there, I was able to spend some time with Richard Doyle, great-nephew of the Literary Agent. And visiting in Doyle’s study, where he prepared The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes for publication, really gives one a sense of awe. I was able to sit in the same spot as Doyle to start working on my next pastiche, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.

IHOSE: The Christmas MX anthology is your first anthology with a theme. Will we see more Christmas collections in the future? How about other themes?

DM: I believe that the Christmas-themed book will be a one-time thing. If someone wants to write another Holmes-Christmas adventure for a future anthology volume, that’s fine, but I don’t think there will be enough to make up another whole book for a while.

Even after two volumes in 2016, the enthusiasm to participate is very high. That’s why two more volumes have already been scheduled for next year, and I’m already receiving stories for them. Next spring will be the Part VI – 2017 Annual, and in the fall will be Part VII – Eliminate the Impossible. This will also be a themed book, in which each of the cases will initially seem to have some sort of supernatural mystery. However, they will absolutely have a rational explanation. “No ghosts need apply.” There won’t be any vampires or zombies, no mind-controlling fungi or time-travel. However, there may just be a bit of ambiguity at the end. Even though there will be a realistic solution, there might be the possibility of something additional beyond Holmes and Watson’s understanding – “There are more things in heaven and earth, [Watson], Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” That’s probably as close to AU as I’ll ever get, so if that’s the kind of story you write, please feel free to get in touch with me about submitting something.

IHOSE: Any last thoughts?

DM: I’d just like to thank both the participating authors who have made all of this possible, as well as the many people who have bought the books, and have made the series popular enough to continue. It’s really accomplishing great things for the school, and it’s allowing all of us pasticheurs to combine our efforts effectively as well.

And personally, I want to mention all the great people that this experience has allowed me to meet, both in person and by email. I’ve said it before, but it’s never been more true: Sherlockians are really the best!

Richard Doyle (center), his son, and David Marcum at the opening gala for Stepping Stones at Undershaw

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Volume 5 - Christmas is available at Kickstarter. Books purchased at Kickstarter will arrive in time for Christmas. 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 has recently started the publishing company Belanger Books which released the Sherlock Holmes anthology Beyond Watson. Derrick 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.