Down the past few years, I’ve been writing small batches of 3 or 4 Sherlock Holmes stories and publishing them as little 99c ebooks on Kindle. But now I’ve pulled them all into one big collection, 13 tales in all. Here's a rundown of the stories:
In ‘The House of Blood,’ someone is draining lucky Vegas gamblers of their vital essence. In ‘The Desert King,’ a self-styled shaman holds unnatural sway over his followers, and more. In ‘The Hidden Shore,’ vacationers are inexplicably taking their own lives on a Caribbean island. In ‘The Terror in the Park,’ something monstrous is killing financial workers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In ‘The Vanished,’ a San Francisco newspaper owner has gone missing without any warning, and he’s not the only one. In ‘Shiny Trinkets,’ very valuable jewels are disappearing from heavily secured vaults in New York. In ‘A Shadow in the Harbour,’ cargo-workers in Hong Kong are dying in a most mysterious fashion. In ‘The Hunters and the Hunted,’ a swarm of bees in Africa appears to have developed a mind of its own, with deadly intention. In ‘Vermillion Moon,’ something is robbing the customers of an Amsterdam bordello of their minds. In ‘A Ghost in Tokyo,’ Holmes confronts an extremely modern apparition, and meets his match in the form of a female Japanese detective. In ‘Flight of Fantasy,’ he finds himself trapped aboard a doomed jetliner bound for Europe. In ‘Above the Boulevards,’ a bizarre vigilante is at work in Paris. And in ‘The Crimewave,’ Holmes is summoned back to London to confront his most puzzling and lethal case of all.
And here’s my Introduction to the book:
FINALLY FINDING SHERLOCK
It was at the World Fantasy Convention of 2008, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. World Fantasy traditionally takes place around Halloween, and goes on for four or five days. And some of the people who attend seem capable of spending almost all their time in the hotel, hanging round the bar and showing up for the various panels. But I’m afraid I’m not one of those types. After the first day or so, I begin contracting a powerful dose of cabin fever. I start getting stir crazy. I just need to get out.
It was a brisk day, but a sunny one, and so I headed out through the pleasant streets of what is essentially a fairly prosperous oil town, albeit that it has as many panhandlers as downtown San Francisco. I was gone a couple of hours, dropped in on a couple of bookshops along the way. And I was finally making my way back to the Hyatt when I noticed a small knot of conventioners grouped outside the entrance, including one person I’d met several times before and really, honestly liked.
There were a small handful of things that I already knew about Charles Prepolec. One, he is not only a very pleasant feller but a genuine, well-mannered gentleman, which is a rarity these days. Two, he happens to be a resident of the same city I was visiting, and owns a bookstore there. And three, he is a total Sherlock Holmes fanatic.
So we exchanged pleasantries and swapped news for the first few minutes. But then Charles sprang a question on me that left me genuinely stunned. Namely:
“I’m editing a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories at the moment – supernatural ones. Would you like to try submitting one?”
And some thought processes can be terribly complex ones, for sure. But not my reaction to this particular request. I can sum it up for you extremely neatly. I thought:
Because – don’t get me wrong, I love the great detective just as much as the next reader – but it had never occurred to me, not in all my wildest dreams, to personally sit down and write a Holmes tale.
But hold it just a second. I make my living as a freelance writer. Which means that when an editor asks me for a contribution, the very last thing that I do is immediately turn him, or her, down. I don’t go burning bridges or slamming doors behind me, however unexpected the subject matter that is being asked for. And so … after a few seconds of stunned silence … I managed to force out the words:
“I’ll certainly give it some thought.”
And we nodded at each other and left it at that.
On and off over the next couple of months, I thought about it quite a lot, and with no small degree of anxiety. There was a huge problem attached to writing such a piece of fiction, so far as I was concerned. And the huge problem was this.
I generally don’t write period fiction. I’m just not that kind of author. The stories that I write are based on places I have been, things that I’ve encountered, people that I’ve met. All reflected and distorted into fantasy in the dark mirror of my warped imagination, for sure. But I almost never write stuff that I’ve had no kind of direct experience of.
So what to do? How to get across that hurdle? It was a dilemma that I worried at intermittently for the better part of eight weeks, until I finally saw a possible solution.
And it went like this.
Back in 1893, Arthur Conan Doyle finally tired of writing about Sherlock Holmes and killed him off in a story called ‘The Final Problem,’ sending him on that famous plunge down the Reichenbach Falls. But he misjudged the fervour of his audience. The great detective’s fans were having none of it and pestered Doyle constantly, begging him to bring their hero back.
And so eight years later, in 1901, Sir ACD put into print perhaps the best of all his Holmes stories, The Hound of the Baskervilles. He revived the character, in other words. Dragged him back out of the grave, not as any zombie or revenant, but as the brilliant man that he always had been.
And I thought: Okay so, in a way, Sherlock has simply popped back into existence, rather like Captain Scarlet in those old Gerry Anderson shows. Which means he is effectively immortal. Which also means that he could still be around in the present day.
This was a good couple of years before either the Cumberbatch or the Johnny Lee Miller TV incarnations … I feel I should point that out. But I sat down at my laptop and began writing ‘The House of Blood,’ setting Sherlock Holmes in modern-day Las Vegas, a city that I’d long wanted to set a piece of fiction in. I finished it relatively quickly, emailed it to Charles and his co-editor J.R. Campbell, and it finally appeared in 2011 in Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes from Edge Publishing.
But that was hardly the end of my encounter with Holmes.
Because I absolutely loved writing ‘House of Blood.’ I had more fun behind my laptop than I’d had in years, and not simply because it is an exciting adventure. My version of Holmes might still be living in the present day, but his heart belongs to the Victorian Age. He’s frequently critical of our society. Some of our attitudes and habits surprise and appal him. Which is not to say there are not modern things he isn’t rather fond of. Mr. Spock in Star Trek, to give one example. Why exactly? Well, that’s a no-brainer. And he’s swapped his cocaine habit for a partial addiction to pina coladas into the bargain… pineapples were very rare and a genuine delicacy back in the London that he came from, and so that makes sense.
I saw more possibilities, and didn’t want to stop. So I began writing some more fiction about the great detective trapped here in our era. And – since he now has an entire eternity to go on fighting crime – I couldn’t see any genuine reason to confine him to just one location. I had him travelling and solving cases all over the globe instead. The whole way across the United States. In the Caribbean. Africa. Paris, Amsterdam, Japan and Hong Kong, and even Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. I’d write three or four of these tales over the course of a few months, then publish them as little 99c collections on Kindle Direct.
But here they all are now, pulled into one big collection and topped off by a final story in which Holmes is called back to his native London. He’s finally found his way home, much the same that I finally found a way to write Holmes. I hope that my enjoyment in penning these thirteen tales rubs off on you in some way. Let’s find out. Read on.