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"...when a clever man turns his brains to crime..." [SPEC] 

What if Sherlock Holmes had turned his brilliant mind towards crime?  That is the question explored by author Rob Nunn in his exciting new book The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street. The book reimagines the entire 60-story Canon through the lens of Sherlock Holmes the master criminal. We interviewed Mr. Nunn, via email, to see what made him made him decide to rewrite this champion of justice as a law breaker.

I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere: What made you decide to have the cleverest of men turn his brains to crime?

Rob Nunn (RN): I was rereading “The Greek Interpreter” for the umpteenth time one evening, and Gregson’s line, “It is a mercy that you are on the side of the force, and not against it, Mr. Holmes,” jumped out at me for whatever reason. I started mulling it over in my mind, what if Holmes had worked against the force instead of with it?  What would that look like? From there, I methodically worked my way through the Canon, imagining how each of the sixty stories would play out if Holmes were a criminal instead of a detective. I think I filled half a notebook with notes and speculations before I really had a grasp of what I was getting myself into. This idea had originally started out as a possible article for the Baker Street Journal, but I quickly realized that it would adapt itself nicely to a book format.

IHOSE: Your book covers the entire Canon. How did you organize the stories? Did you have to rearrange some to help with your story arc?

RN: I modeled my fictional biography off of William Baring-Gould’s Sherlock Holmes of Baker Street and used his chronology exclusively to outline my story arc. Once I had the dates in place, I fleshed out the outline with my notes and figured out where in the chronology other important events such as Holmes telling Watson about his early years and the Ripper murders of London would go. Having the outline of dates really helped keep me from twisting facts to suit theories.

IHOSE: Which story was the most difficult for you to incorporate in making Holmes a criminal? What made this story uniquely tricky?

RN: “A Scandal in Bohemia.” I tried a couple of different versions of that story before I settled on a take that I liked.  You have to walk a fine line with the character of Irene Adler. She’s only in one canonical story, but she looms so large in the mind of many readers! One day, I would consider completely writing her off, and over-inflating her role in Holmes’ life the next. There are so many different ways to use that character, but I found a way to keep her role in The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street very close to the role that Doyle gave her. I was really happy when I finally found an angle to use SCAN that showed Holmes’ criminal cunning while being true to the canonical characters.

Author Rob Nunn at a book signing for The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street

IHOSE: If you were stranded on a desert island with just one Sherlock Holmes story, which would it be and why?

RN: The Sign of the Four is my favorite. Starting from the scene with Watson’s watch to the boat chase down the Thames, this is a story that has so many aspects! You get to see Holmes and Watson’s domestic life at 221B, Watson’s only recorded romance, a hidden and then stolen treasure, a murderous pygmy and a vengeful peg-legged man, the Baker Street Irregulars, Holmes being snarky with an inspector, I could go on and on about how much is packed into SIGN. That is definitely my desert island Holmes story.

IHOSE: You are currently the head of the Program Committee for the Beacon Society. Tell us a little about what this job entails.

RN: The Program Committee proposes education related programs to the Beacon Society board of directors. We also recommend educational resources and activities for the Beacon Society to offer to educators in spreading the word about teaching students about Sherlock Holmes. The program committee is currently assessing the resources we have and looking for other resources to make available at all levels of education. Education never ends, and neither does trying to get students to learn about Holmes!

IHOSE: Any upcoming projects?

RN: I post on my blog, Interesting Though Elementary weekly about Sherlockian topics, so that is an ongoing project that keeps my creative juices flowing.  Chairing a committee for the Beacon Society is also keeping me pretty busy in the Sherlockian world.

Speaking of Sherlock Holmes and education, I have an essay about teaching Sherlock Holmes to my fifth graders in Chris Redmond’s new About Being a Sherlockian that is out this month and I am part of an upcoming BSI Profession Series book titled Education Never Ends: Educators, Education and the Sherlockian Canon due out in 2020. That seems really far away, but my deadlines for the project aren’t!

I am head of The Parallel Case of St. Louis, and we are just about ready to dedicate a special collection of Sherlockiana at the St. Louis Public Library early next year, so that planning is also underway. I am part of one or two other upcoming Sherlockian projects, but I haven’t been told that I can announce them publicly yet.  

Rob Nunn is the author of The Criminal Mastermind of Baker Street and shares his thoughts on Sherlockiana at Interesting Though Elementary. He lives in Edwardsville, IL with his wife and daughter. There he teaches fifth grade and enjoys reading and watching baseball in his spare time.

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. He resides in Colorado and continues compiling unpublished works by Dr. John H. Watson.