Saturday, October 3, 2015
From Baker Street to the backstreet: The irregulars
Sherlock Holmes, form time to time, employed a gang of street Arabs he referred to as the irregulars. They aided Holmes in his investigations by gathering information, find missing people, track individuals, deliver communications, etc.
This urban army appears in the first Sherlock Holmes story, A Study In Scarlet. They also have their own chapter in a subsequent novel, The Sign of the Four. They reappear some years later in The Adventure of the Crooked Man.
In the early stories, the irregulars are led by an older boy called Wiggins, whom Holmes paid a shilling per day plus expenses, with a guinea prize (worth one pound and one shilling) for a vital clue. Of course, the irregulars are often included in various movies, television programs, and Sherlock Holmes pastiches. Indeed, they play a prominent role in several of the stories in my new collection: Sherlock Holmes – The Golden Years. As these tales take place nearly twenty years after their last appearance, the irregulars in my stories are led by a sixteen-year old boy named Archie, who has a tag-along little brother Benjie.
I reprise Benjie and Archie in a story called Blood Brothers within a new three-volume anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories recently published by MX Publishing in London. As a researched the wrote Blood Brothers I was immediately aware that the irregulars were a fascinating collection of characters and offered a rich background the poorer side of London upon which Doyle seldom touched. My revelation is not surprising if we consider that one of the greatest novelists of all time, Charles Dickens, found the underprivileged in London provided some of the most memorable characters of all time: Oliver Twist, the Artful Dodger and, of course, Fagan. And so, while I would not pretend I am following in the footsteps of “The Inimitable,” as Dickens playfully called himself, my next writing project will center on the irregulars of London wherein Sherlock Holmes will play a significant, but supporting, role.
If you haven’t already done so, check our Sherlock Holmes the Golden Years – available ON AMAZON and most every on-line and main street bookstore.