So I’ve been away for a little while- sorry- but I am hopefully now coming back! And what better way to do that than with a guest post from a brilliant author; so here we are with a post from the fabulous Stuart Douglas, author of ‘The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes; The Counterfeit Detective’…
When it came to puttin together my first Sherlock Holmes novel, I reckoned there were two ways to approach presenting the world’s most famous detective to a 21st century audience. One was to go down the tv route, following Sherlock and Elementary in taking the bones of the character and building a new one using those bones as a base. Nothing wrong with that, of course – I love both Sherlock and Elementary and have often sat, awe-struck by how clever the writers of those shows can be. The problem for a prose writer, though, is that so much of those shows is primarily visual – it’s all in the tics and inflections of the lead actors, rather than in the thoughts and impressions of Watson.
So I settled on the other approach – the simpler, much more obvious approach. I went for absolute fidelity to Conan Doyle’s original stories. Which I know sounds like a cop out – ‘how did you set about recreating the classic detective for a modern audience’? you ask. ‘By making it as much like the classic style as possible!’ I reply, and you wander off, shaking your head at the lack of ambition of the modern crime writer.
But I think that’s to do a dis-service to the brilliance of Conan Doyle’s original template. Take one easily bored genius detective and one sturdy, down to earth observer, add a pinch of bungling officialdom, a wonderfully evil nemesis and a really clever puzzle and you have all you need to create a mystery story which will appeal as much to the reader of 2016 as it did to that of 1896.
Obviously, there are some potential pitfalls which Conan Doyle didn’t have to worry about – he knew, for example, whether a lower middle-class family would refer to their drawing room, sitting room or living room. He also never had to rake through a pile of old reference volumes to find out exactly when Scotland Yard started taking photographs of crime scenes, or had to be gently reminded by his editor that Holmes could not, no matter how useful it might be for the plot, have heard a murder reported on his radio! But those are relatively minor problems compared with the sheer pleasure of taking a cast of characters over one hundred years old and constructing new puzzles for them to solve, using the exact same tools and the exact same setting as the original author.
Which is why, when I’m staring at a word document, wondering just what Holmes should do or say next, I tend to ask myself, ‘what is he bound to do, given he’s Sherlock Holmes?’, just as, I suspect, Sir Arthur must have done a century ago. Well, if it was good enough for him…