Gerry Kelly’s collection of 13 (a Baker’s Street dozen as he calls it) Sherlock Holmes mysteries first came to light in a limited edition hardback volume a few years ago and garnered a lot of praise from Holmes societies around the world. The collection is back in new updated edition being published worldwide and we caught up with Gerry to ask him abou the collection’s second outing.
What was your main inspiration for the book?
When I was a young man I was, (and still am) a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. All too soon, however, I had read the complete collection and wanted more! So I tried reading some of the pastiche Holmes stories that were out there at that time. I’m afraid I was bitterly disappointed. Almost all of them had the authentic style and dialogue of the originals, but were woefully weak on the plots. I thought to myself, ‘I could write better stories myself, than some of these pastiches’, so there was my inspiration. In modern times the choice is much better and the bar has been raised by authors like Tony Reynold (Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes).
What is your favourite aspect of the book?
I like the fact that although each story can be read on its own, there are links between them and the first story is definitely linked to the last.
What is your favourite story from the collection?
I would have to say that possibly The Chamber of Sorrow Mystery because I found it so moving, that I actually wept during the writing of it.
What book are you reading at the moment?
THE 4% UNIVERSE, Dark Matter, Dark Energy, and the Race to Discover the Rest of Reality. By Richard Panek. As you may tell from this choice, my other passion, apart from Sherlock Holmes, is science. My heroes are Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Richard Dawkins, Steven Hawking etc. I love cosmology, palaeontology, geology and those related subjects.
What is the best part of being a Holmes pastiche writer?
The fact that the characters already exist and are all household names. Everyone knows them and therefore my task of characterisation is almost totally eliminated.
The most famous pastiches of the current generation are the BBC’s Sherlock and the movies from Guy Richie – what do you think of them?
I enjoyed the BBC’s Sherlock and thought it a novel twist to set it in the present day. However, I am still a traditionalist and prefer the original settings. I’m afraid I haven’t seen the Guy Richie film yet.
Illustrations were an important part of the original stories in The Strand – is that what encouraged you to add in some throughout your collection?
Yes indeed. The Strand Magazine illustrations, by Sidney Paget, were the inspiration for my own humble attempts to replicate that same format. I hoped that the drawings would add an extra dimension to the narrative. They certainly did in the originals.
Do I have any plans for more stories?
Just a couple, but no where near enough for a full book at this stage. I am still hoping for inspiration.
Which of Conan Doyle’s characters is your favourite?
My favourite character, apart from Sherlock himself and Dr. Watson, would probably be the American, Jonas T Rimmer. As well as being a protege of the Napoleon of Crime, Rimmer is a cunning psychopath, very nearly as clever as Moriarty, and is Holmes’ ultimate nemesis in the book. All the world loves a lover, but many people are drawn to an arch villain too, and that includes me.
What question would I ask Conan Doyle if I were to meet him?
How on earth did he manage to come up with so many plots for his stories? I struggled to find thirteen. I would also like to say to him that I hope he would not be offended by being copied by pastiche-writers like me, and that he would be of the opinion that imitation is the most sincere form of flattery!
What else are you working on at the moment?
I would dearly love to see one of my Sherlock Holmes stories acted out on the stage, and so to this end I re-wrote one of the mysteries, The Mayfair Strangler in the format of a stage play. No easy feat, as other writers out there will testify if they have tried the switch from author to playwright! The result, I thought, was pretty good, so I sent it to Neville Roby, Theatre Manager at the Garrick Playhouse in Altrincham, near to where I live. He was not as enthusiastic as I was, but offered me some hope by saying, …With some more work on the script it may merit a further look in due course and we invite you to submit it again for consideration at a later date. Please let us know if it is presented at some other theatre and we will make every effort to come and see it in order to get a better idea of its suitability for this theatre. Not the worst rejection I’ve ever had…… Suitably encouraged I wrote again to Neville suggesting another story from my book called The Chamber of Sorrow Mystery. This time, however, I didn’t go to the trouble of actually writing the stage play, I just sent him the story, with the promise that, if successful, I would then write the stage script. At this moment in time the story is being considered by the Play Selection and Casting Committee, at the Garrick. Wish me luck!
The Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes is available through all leading bookstores worldwide including Amazon, via Amazon Kindle, Kobo Books, and iBooks (iPad and iPhone) and various other formats. If you’d like to stage one of the stories as a play you can get in touch with Gerry through us here.