Throughout the Kickstarter campaign, we will be adding brief interviews highlighting the talented authors who have contributed to the anthology. Today we have the excellent I.A Watson.
How did you first get introduced to Sherlock Holmes?
My name is Watson and I was brainy at school. People were calling me Dr Watson in the playground when I was six years old. I guess I found out about Holmes by osmosis around then.
I was once interviewed on some late-night radio station regarding my Holmes stories – I think I’d just won a Pulp Factory award for Best Pulp Short Story for a Holmes mystery called “The Last Deposit”. The interviewer asked me if I was related to the famous Dr John Watson. I thought he was joking, so I jokingly replied, “Well, the family doesn’t much like to talk about Great Uncle John. Nobody was happy that he joined the army as a military surgeon, and then afterwards he got a lot of vulgar attention from the press. Grandmother would never speak of him.”
But then, as the interview progressed, it became quite clear that this interviewer had completely bought what I said. It slowly dawned. He’d completely bought into ‘the Great Game’. I was joking about how Uncle John’s service revolver was kept in a locked box and how I wondered if more of his old papers were sealed in there too. The interviewer was getting really excited that he might have an exclusive. I really thought he was playing along, or winding me up. But no.
If that interviewer is reading this, let me just say, “I’m sorry.” Uncle John’s secrets should have been kept in the family.
What was the inspiration for your pastiche?
I’ve written a lot of Sherlock Holmes stories now, mostly for Airship 27’s Consulting Detective series, three for MX, most recently a tale for Sherlock Holmes and Dr Was Not from IFWG. My challenge now is to keep things interesting and new while remaining entirely faithful to the canon and style of the original work.
I often start from the idea that Watson and his literary editor Doyle were known to amend the stories before they were published, to offer necessary anonymity and to suppress details that might have shocked the Victorian public. There are some stories for which the world was not ready in 1891. So sometimes I image what cases Watson may have decided to seal up in his desk drawer and not yet reveal. Perhaps it was because they were political, scandalous, potentially libellous, matters of national security or a lady’s reputation. Only now can some stories be told.
Also, the genre of detective fiction, which almost started with Holmes, has now developed quite a bit. We have police procedurals, forensic investigations, and social psychodramas, and a much wider menu of crimes that can be investigated than was considered proper to mention when Watson was thrilling reader of The Strand Magazine. So there are some story-types and cases that we haven’t seen the master detective handle, though there’s no reason he shouldn’t – except that the story-form had not quite coalesced in his day.
Holmes called in to investigate the kidnapping of a child? Holmes facing a seedy druglord? Holmes against the best agent Otto von Bismarck can send against Britain? Holmes against the Fenian bombers? The game is afoot!
What is your story about? Where and when does it take place?
“The Fourpenny Coffin” is a good example of what I mean about story-types. We often see Holmes dealing with cases brought to him by the richest and most powerful members of society. But what about the murder of an itinerant, a homeless tramp who shelters from the bitter London winter by renting a “fourpenny coffin”, a cheap sleeping box in a Salvation Army-type hostel hall – and is murdered there? We get to see Holmes and Watson in a different kind of London, which allows us to have our familiar heroes doing and reacting to different things.
And I got to add in lots of lovely footnotes about Victorian homelessness and Guy Fawkes’ Night.
What do you believe readers will most enjoy most about your tale?
Holmes has a certain way with experts and pompous authority figures who try to thwart him. He is always the smartest person in the room and sometimes he doesn’t bother to hide it, especially when he is confronted with someone he believes should not be such a fool. Watson often has to act as a buffer to protect mere mortals from the Great Detective’s ire. But sometimes Watson gets worked up too, when he sees an injustice, an impoliteness to a woman, a fellow who is a bounder or a blaggard. And then it is Holmes who must rein in his friend.
If you agree with the above statement, that’s probably what you’ll like about the story.
Which is your favourite story from The Canon and why?
This varies depending on the day you ask me, but today it is “The Adventure of the Bruce-Partington Plans”. It has all the elements that one might wish for in a Holmes story – Mycroft, Lestrade, an odd crime in an odder place (the first mystery to involve the London Underground?), a respectable man who is not as respectable as he seems, and a memorable villain in the brutal Oberstein. There’s even a whisper of Queen Victoria herself; well, someone gave Holmes that tie-pin.
Your favourite Sherlock Holmes-related place?
The seven drops of The Reichenbach Falls are moody and impressive, especially at night, after rainfall, at those parts of the year when the water is not regulated by the new hydro-electric dam. It is also the only Holmes-related destination that one can (and indeed should) reach by funicular.
Tell us three things about yourself that few people would guess?
I would prefer that people use their acuity to interpret the obvious signs from my gait, appearance, vocabulary, and habits: a man of sedentary customs, judging by the spread about my middle, and much given to the use of a keyboard cradled sloppily on the lap; of untidy habits, especially in the matter of filing paperwork, whose study is a cluttered profusion of tomes and manuscripts; and with some interest in the outré and ineffable, judging by the list of some seventy-odd books, short stories, and monographs advertised on the website http://www.chillwater.org.uk/writing/iawatsonhome.htm and at the Amazon author page https://www.amazon.co.uk/I-A-Watson/e/B00E47RJFE
Any upcoming projects?
My next Holmes short story, a rather unusual “team-up” between Holmes and Elizabethan royal Thaumaturgist Dr John Dee (no, really) is in the anthology Sherlock Holmes and Dr Was Not, which will be out in shops pretty much anytime now.
After that my anthology Bulldog Drummond: Disaster Zones follows up on my novel Bulldog Drummond: On Poisoned Ground released by Airship 27 earlier this year.
My four Robin Hood books are due to be re-released before Christmas is one massive 828-page anthology, The Legend of Robin Hood, complete with a new story by me so that everyone has to buy the old stuff again just to get the new bit.
And I am now officially behind schedule to start writing Sir Mumphrey Wilton and the Horrors of the Last Page, a WWII Saturday matinee-style romp sequel to Sir Mumphrey Wilton and the Lost City of Mystery, from Chillwater Press.
For MX, I’ve turned in another Solar Pons mystery, “The Adventure of the Drowned Genealogist” and a couple more Sherlock Holmes stories, “The Adventure of the Substitute Detectives” and “The Adventure of the Giant’s Wife”, which will doubtless be unleashed upon the unsuspecting public in due course.
Click here for more details on the Kickstarter campaign.