Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Untold Story of the Irregulars and Sherlock Holmes

THE IRREGULARS were like many children in turn-of-the-century London is some ways, and different in other ways. It seems likely that their association with Sherlock Holmes, and the money they received from helping him, would give them a little advantage over most of the street urchins at that time.

Like most slum-dogs in London, the irregulars had to work instead of going to school. Some had their own professions such as chimney-sweeps, shoe-blacks, mudlarks, and the like. Such is the case with many of the irregular characters that I am creating for my next book. However, even with the help of Sherlock Holmes, the irregulars lived in the same stark environment as most poor children in the period.

The streets, particularly the slums, were disease-ridden because sanitation was bad and clean water unavailable. Many children died from illnesses such as cholera, measles, diarrhea, and tuberculosis. Of course, parents died as well, leaving many orphans. There were few orphanages for the poor. Workhouses were the only option for poorer orphans. Workhouses provided food and shelter in return for hard, unpleasant work. Conditions were so harsh that children would only go to workhouses as a last resort.

The irregulars were a band of street kids who worked together to avoid the workhouses. Many of them walked on the wrong side of the law, out of necessity. They banded together to avoid what were called the “lads-men,” of Dickens fame, who provided meager shelter and food in exchange for the lion’s share of the spoils from thievery. Despite this, it was likely that many of the irregulars were thieves. However, it is nice to think that, thanks to Sherlock Holmes, they had other ways to make a living -- other choices. This is the underlying premise of my new book tentatively entitled: Irregular Lives: The True Story of Sherlock Holmes’s Urchin Army.

As a writer, I find the irregulars fascinating because they provide a stark counterpoint to the richer society that is the focus of most of Doyle’s stories. Indeed, I recently published a story called Blood Brothers for the new multi-volume anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories being created to support the The Undershaw Trust’s efforts to save the Doyle home in Surrey. My story is in Volume III of The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories.

I will soon begin postong portions of the current work in progress in this blog. I invite readers, and followers, to offer opinions, ideas, and criticism. I am curious if this new focus for Sherlock Holmes stories -- the irregulars -- is something you, as a reader, might enjoy.  I hope to hear from you.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Next Sherlock Holmes Movie . . . Hopefully!

Sherlock Holmes is obviously not new the cinematic screen. The first Sherlock Holmes movie was made in 1905. Thereafter, there have been many movies starring actors like Harry Saintsbury, Eille Norwood, John Barrymore and, of course, Basil Rathbone. Recently, Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes, “put the cheery on the cake for me.

The public cannot get enough of Sherlock Holmes who is officially now the most portrayed fictional character in history.

My latest offering, Sherlock Holmes – The Golden Years, is one of many on the bookshelf. However, I am planning to get my stories off the shelf and onto the silver screen. I have just finished a screenplay based on one of the stories in my collection and made it available via a website called Ink Tip-- a place studios, actors and directors go to find new material.

The script is tentatively entitled: Sherlock Holmes and the Kongo Nkisi Spirit Train. The action-packed story takes place around one of the most remarkable real life engineering projects ever conceived -- the Cape to Cairo Railway which stretched over 5,700 miles from Cape Town South Africa to Cairo Egypt. This turn of the century project faced, and overcome, many obstacles over the last 150 years—swamps, impenetrable jungle, the ravages of the white ants and termites, encounters with lions, elephants and other beasts, disease, and regional wars, to name a few. However, one of the most terrifying obstacles was the Kongo Nkisi  spirit.

In my movie, Sherlock Holmes and the Kongo Nkisi Spirit Train, Sherlock Holmes travels deep into the forbidding jungle of central Africa to unravel a mystery that puts him among the walking dead.

The walls of Sherlock Holmes’s rational world crumble as an African witch, acting as an agent of illegal mining operation in the Belgian Congo, sets out to steal his soul. The spirit of “the woman” he loved intervenes, to try and save him. Sherlock Holmes does solve another mystery, but he is left to reconcile his ultra-rational world with his mystical experience.

So, tell all your friends in Hollywood about Sherlock Holmes and the Kongo Nkisi Spirit Train. And, in the meanwhile, check out the other 4 stories in my printed collection on Amazon.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson: The Consummate odd-couple

All, but four, of the Sherlock Holmes tales are narrated by Watson. But, the character Watson not only serves as a chronicler, but also as a story telling device. Watson often makes his own observations and offers his own theories, which throw the reader off track a bit, and thus make Holmes’s deductions and solutions all the more surprising.

If you have enjoyed any of the many Sherlock Holmes movies and television programs, you may have noticed that writers and actors interpret the character of John Watson in wide-ranging ways. In some adaptations, Watson is a bumbling fool, in others he is a wise and invaluable ally. So, two of the most important decisions I had to make, as I was writing a new collection of Holmes pastiches, were:

“What kind of man was Dr. John Watson?
And, “What was the nature of Sherlock’s and John’s relationship?

To some extent, I drew upon my own experience, as an older man, with long-time male friends. What kind of relationship do I have with some of my better male friends?

You will be able to see how I answered that question in my new collection of Holmes adventures – Sherlock Holmes – The Golden Years.  One of the stories in this collection, The Kongo Nkisi Spirit Train, a character (Jameson) chats with Dr. Watson about what he sees as the role Watson plays in Holmes’s life and work. Watson says about his relationship with Holmes:

          "I am a mere acolyte.”
         Jameson held a glint in his eye. “I know better, John. You do what any good colleague does, and provide something that Mr. Holmes needs, even if he may not fully comprehend it.”
          “I cannot imagine what that would be.”
         “Certainly, a shared journey is richer, and more meaningful. You make that richness available to one another. But also, much of Mr. Holmes’s life is lived within his lofty intellect. You provide the tether that ties him to humanity, and grounds him in the world.”
            “I had never thought of our relationship in that particular manner.”
        “What is more, Mr. Holmes is a craftsman, an artisan. His craft is unique; but, like all craftsmen, his work must be seen and appreciated. As the master storyteller, you display his craft to the world.”
        “Mr. Jameson . . . Lanner . . . your sagacity and discernment are much appreciated. You hold up a mirror into which I seldom peer. Thank you.”

This and the other five new tales in this collection take place when Holmes and Watson are “retired” – 1912 to 1913. I felt it was important to show how their relationship had evolved, mellowed, and become deeper and richer in the decade following their supposed retirement in 1903.

I hope that my humble interpretation of their relationship contributes to their longevity as one of the most famous male duos in history alongside Laurel and Hardy, Cheech and Chong, and Han Solo and Chewbacca.

The book Sherlock Holmes – The Golden Years is AVAILABLE ON AMAZON and most on-line and main-street bookstores.