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The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories – Author Interview – Marcia Wilson

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 Marcia Wilson.

How did you first get introduced to Sherlock Holmes?

Good Lord. I don’t think I was ever without Holmes. Sesame Street, for goodness’ sake!

What was the inspiration for your pastiche?

I usually get inspiration from several things. In this particular case, my fascination with alder wood water pipes, picking up a book of witchcraft in the second-hand store, the multidiverse nesting-box worlds of London in *any* era, and of course…crime. In this particular case, I was beginning to come to terms with how my memory had been…erased due to traumatic events. It made me think about the other folks out there with the same problem, and how that tends to fester and breed further crime and damage to victims.

What is your story – ‘The Adventure of the Long-Lost Enemey’ – about? Where and when does it take place?

Close to Christmas, and Watson is asked to perform as an ersatz coroner for the Yard. While confirming the deceased really is deceased, he sees Inspector Lestrade literally stumble into evidence of another problem, and it is fast out of his league. Watson of course fetches Holmes, who in turn fetches a key witness, someone readers of Canon will recognize! Terry Pratchett’s Sam Vimes says, ‘where there are policeman, there’s crime,’ and he refuses to change the wording. Think about that for a moment. If a policeman doesn’t recognize an action as a crime, how far does it go in the courts of justice? How likely is it to be seen as a crime?

What do you believe readers will most enjoy most about your tale?

I would like to think the opening with Watson strolling past a bitter London night, observing the many, many different observances of faiths and cultures and being happy in it. He’s utterly alone yet he’s finding joy on his own terms. And of course, Holmes and his own little adventures with his bookshelf. Oh, the delights of being a bigger reader than you are in possession of necessary storage space… Lupe Lawrence did a bang-up job in conveying the drear cold and isolation with her artwork. We see Holmes and Watson’s POV walking down a looming street to the dubious welcome of that odd, narrow building holding an equally odd crime within. I was impressed as all heck. She showed exactly what I was going for. Lastly, Holmes has proven to take victims seriously. He’s willing to bide his time like a hunter, for the right moment to reveal itself. Nothing is worse than no-one believing in you.

Which is your favourite story from The Canon and why?

Good grief. Who can choose?

Your favourite Sherlock Holmes-related place?

Cornwall!

Tell us three things about yourself that few people would guess?

I’m frantically trying to get a job.

I’m growing strawberries found in an Iron-Age Danish fort.

I preserve skeletal specimens for display on my back porch.

Any upcoming projects?

I’m in survivor mode right now, hoping to complete my math courses for my associate degree. David keeps me in touch so I can chip in when I can.

Click here for more details on the Kickstarter campaign.

MX XVIII front cover large

 

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Review of Test of the Professionals I

Last year, Marcia Wilson joined the Sherlockian mainstream with her wonderful debut novel You Buy Bones. Beginning just after the fateful meeting between Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, it transformed the Scotland Yarders—Gregson, Bradstreet, and Lestrade—from mere foils to be outshone by Holmes into living, breathing characters in their own right. Since then, Ms. Wilson’s short stories have been featured in several MX Publishing anthologies, edited by David Marcum, and in Derrick Belanger’s anthology Beyond Watson.


Now she carries her saga forward to the autumn of 1883, as the Yarders investigate seemingly unrelated waterfront crimes (missing seamen, stolen flour barrels) linked to an agent of the master criminal who still lurks behind the scenes. Whereas Watson was as important as the Yarders to the plot of You Buy Bones, here the focus is on Inspector Geoffrey Lestrade. In Ms. Wilson’s hands, he becomes a full-fledged personality, not the one-dimensional character we met in Doyle. While not the smartest of the Yarders, “Inspector Plod” is truly (as Holmes admits) the best of them, due to his iron sense of ethics (for which he has paid a heavy price) and his grim determination to battle both criminals and his own limitations in the pursuit of justice. In Test, we learn of an incident in Lestrade’s past that forever darkened his relations with his family, as well as his career at Scotland Yard. An old enemy returns to devil him, serving as both the charming, heartless villain of the piece and a romantic rival. For Test is also the story of Lestrade’s meeting with Clea Cheatham, a young woman of independent mind and her own unusual family and backstory. Like the inspector’s, they are woven skillfully into the tale.


Underlying these delights of plot and character is some amazing historical research. Marcia Wilson has an encyclopedic knowledge of Victorian minutia; happily, her footnotes are helpful rather than intrusive. Osage orange trees, Krakatoa, mudlarks, and tie-mates all find their places in the story. A potato pie, we learn, can be an insult. There are even notes explaining Inspector Bradstreet’s strange invective. On another level, Ms. Wilson writes with compassion of the day-to-day perils of the London poor. We see far more of Watson as a doctor, and of Mrs. Hudson as a housekeeper, than we ever did in Doyle.


Readers who buy A Test of the Professionals should not expect a traditional Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Ms. Wilson does not tell her story with Victorian reserve; her intimate, informal style is in keeping with the rough-and-tumble lives led by the Yarders. Yet, devotees of the Master will find nothing to offend them, for the characters in Test are never incompatible with their originals. The idiosyncrasies of Holmes, and his interactions with Watson and the Yarders, are as familiar and delightful here as ever. The difference is that for her canvas of Victorian London, Marcia Wilson employs a more colorful palette and a broader brush than Conan Doyle’s. Such is her artistry that she enriches and fully brings to life the world he left us.

Reviewed by Thomas A. Turley

Test of the Professionals I is available from all good bookstores including The Strand Magazine, Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstones UK and for free shipping worldwide Book Depository. In ebook format it is in Kindle and Kobo.

9781787050297

 

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