Saturday, January 23, 2016

Kids with Irregular Lives

The Baker Street irregulars are a gang of street Arabs whom Holmes employs from time to time to aid in his investigations. This back-street brigade serves to gather 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 collection – Sherlock Holmes – The Golden Years. However, as my stories take place nearly twenty years after their last appearance, the the irregulars in my stories are led by a sixteen-year old boy named Archie, who has a tag-along little brother names Benjie.

As a writer, I find the irregulars fascinating. They create a poignant counterpoint to the richer society that is the focus of most of Doyle’s stories. Also, kids are just fun to write. They inject energy into a story. Having alleged this, you will not be surprised to learn that I have just begun writing a new book, or collection of stories, where the irregulars play a featured role. This book begins in 1919, when Holmes would be about 65 years old. The book is still in the research and outline phase, but as it unfolds, I will publish snippets in this blog.
I am writing in a small Mexican working town called La Penita. It's a dirty, dusty place were poverty is a very real thing. I see every day and it helps be to have a more visceral feeling for my subject matter. For, like every place, Mexico has its own version of the irregulars.


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