Today I reached 70 followers on Twitter. This number will naturally fluctuate over time but right now I feel popular.

Blackwells have been very nice followers so far and have even given me a plug. I now wait to see if that causes a spike in sales.

Cross your fingers for me.


My opinion is out there


Blackwells bookshop (of Oxford) asked me to nominate my favourite book of the decade so that they could list it on Twitter. I consider that rather flattering.


Following in the footsteps of giants

As some you of you will know - my plan is to turn my attention to writing a Victorian detective story of my own. Not all writers can move painlessly from non-fiction to fiction (or vice versa) and it remains to be seen whether I manage the leap or fall into the chasm of failure.

Leaving that to one side, the inevitable problem that I face is that there will be comparisons made between my detective (no I'm not writing a pastiche) and the great detective himself. Being a devotee of said Holmes (with three non-fiction titles concerning the creation and his creator under my belt) means my situation is even worse as my knowledge of the Holmes stories is likely to influence what I write.

I have agonised over this (probably a lot more than I should have) and have finally decided to not worry about it. I shall get my story out of my head onto the page and assess it then. To try and do so beforehand is the way that madness lies.

I have also comforted myself with the knowledge that Sherlock Holmes was, to a certain extent, following in the footsteps of Poe's Dupin. So I am, in a way, facing the same problem that Conan Doyle did himself.

In any event this is all in the future as my third non-fiction book is not yet on the shelves.


Bookbag review of 'Close to Holmes'

This review came out a while ago but, if you scroll to the bottom, you'll see that they now recommend Close to Holmes as a Xmas 2009 gift.

Thank you Bookbag.

As if to prove my point

Regarding my post on movie discusssion sites - just look at the following:

It immediately decends into a Madonna Vs Ritchie argument.

I am rapidly losing my faith in mankind.

Nice ebay purchase

I've just bought a first edition of The Stark Munro Letters. Very good value it was too.

Perhaps I should not celebrate just yet. After all it's not in my hands yet and the good old CWU have already lost several parcels of mine thanks to their strike action.

Plea to the CWU. You have a legal right to strike but at least try to ensure that you clear the bloody backlog when you're done. Thank you.

Bad manners

Is it me or does the Internet actually encourage anti-social behaviour and general incivility?

It seems to me that people are becoming more agressive towards each other largely because, when it is over the Internet, there is little chance of them coming into 'real' contact with the people they are rude/agressive towards - and thus having to face the consequences of their actions (i.e. gettting a slap).

I'm not an angel here. I think I am probably as guilty as the next person. However even I draw the line at some of the xenophobia that seems to be getting indirectly caused by the new Sherlock Holmes film.

There are numerous Web based movie gossip sites and the Sherlock Holmes film has stoked up more debate than most films. However, regardless of how well such debates start out, they all eventually deteriorate into a Brits Vs Yanks slanging match. I have genuinely seen debates on this film that have begun along the lines of 'The film is not canonical because of X Y or Z' which have gone on to entries such as 'you Yanks should leave our books alone' or 'you Brits suck at making films which is why we have to do it for you'.

I am, of course, omitting some of the outrageous comments from both sides which have resorted to insulting people as well as their opinions in the vilest possible terms.

Yes I admit that I find some of the ignorant and ill-informed comments on some of these debates irritating. People arguing over what drugs Sherlock Holmes took (many say Opium - no he didn't). People who suggest that others haven't read the books and then make a remark which shows that they clearly haven't either. It's all maddening and makes me want to press the 'reply' button - yet I don't (well not any longer).

Why? Simply because it is futile. Some people will love this film, some will hate it and most will fall somewhere between those two stools. Sure, there will be loads of things that are wrong. When books are adapted for the screen things are always changed (and I don't pretend to always like the results). I am certain that when I go to see it I will grind my teeth more than once but nothing, repeat nothing, should cause such vitriol to issue forth from people who I like to think are probably quite civil in the 'real' world.


Bad reviews

I just thought that, as a relatively new author, I'd make some comments on negative reviews.

It goes without saying that there are more readers than there are writers and the web has made it far easier for your average 'man in the street' to review books that they have read. However, I have discovered, and it may seem obvious, that there is a whole world of difference between private and public appraisals.

I have no problem with private appraisals. By this I mean things like performance reviews with an employer or similar. Public appraisals are another matter as, by definition, they are open to the whole world.

Before I wrote my first book I had written many reviews of other people's books. For the most part my reviews were positive but on the odd occasion I had been negative. At the time I did not give it much of a thought but all that changed when I got wind of a negative review of my first effort.

The reviewer in question could not bring himself to find a single positive (well not that I noticed) about my book and even suggested that it should not have been published at all. You may be able to imagine how I felt. The best part of a year's worth of work dismissed in a couple of paragraphs.

It was a valuable lesson that I learned that day. The lesson was not to be too eager to slam the work of others. If you genuinely cannot find anything positive to say about a book (or any other product for that matter) then say nothing. Otherwise be critical but in a positive way. Not all people have thick skins (I certainly don't) and to destroy someone's confidence and then claim it was in the interest of consumers is wrong.

Cataloguing Part II

Well after all that I only had two items to add to the catalogue. It doesn't feel right but I'll have to wait for another time before I can get everything out and go through my collection thoroughly.



If, like me, you are a keen Sherlockian/Doylean collector you will know what it's like when you suddenly realise that you're no longer quite sure of how much you've collected.

This is where I am at right now. My last 'stock take' was about three months ago and I've bought the odd thing since then. So that is my task for this afternoon.

Oh joy!

The Secret of Sherlock Holmes

This is the link to some audio from the Jeremy Brett / Edward Harwicke Sherlock Holmes stage play.


I am occasionally asked what I think of Sherlock Holmes pastiche stories (i.e. Sherlock Holmes stories written by other authors). There is certainly a lot of them and, presumably, a market for them. One thing I do know is that Sir Arthur's daughter Dame Jean Conan Doyle was very much against them. In an interview given to the Arthur Conan Doyle Society she said:
" does feel that some of the pastiches that have been written would never have been published if they hadn't had the name Sherlock Holmes attached to them."
Dame Jean's comments are undoubetdly true but I don't take quite the same hard line. Providing the author sticks to the style and spirit of the books then I don't really have an issue and there have been many such stories that I have enjoyed.

The ones that annoy me are those that take a giant leap away from Conan Doyle's vision and bring Holmes into combat with demons and ghosts. Pastiches such as these are those which I feel Dame Jean's comments most apply to.

For the last word on the subject we can turn to the great detective himself. His opinion on the subject was put very concisely in 'The Sussex Vampire':
"This agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. The world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply."
Enough said I think.

It's time to come up with a script

The nice people at Living Literature have asked me to come up with a scripted talk in order to avoid having to adopt the 'interview' format from my debut event. So I now have something to work on in the time before my latest book is published.

Final touches

As far as I can tell there is only thing I need to do in order to complete my book. That is to re-scan a newspaper cutting. Once that's done it's all systems go.


Further writings

I've decided that I need to write a few Sherlockian articles. It is the perfect way to fill the next couple of months before my latest book is published and I start on my first novel.

The only question now is to decide on topics for those articles.


Latest District Messenger

For those of you who are interested, the latest DM was circulated recently. If you are not on the mailing list for it you should be able to download it soon from the Sherlock Holmes Society of London website.


Living Literature


Book signings

It would appear that the hoped for book signing in Kingston is on hold. I'm told this is due to tough times in the book selling business. I'm not entirely sure how that affects signings. It's not as if I charge to appear. My rewards lies in the sales. The bookshop gets 'sale or return' terms so I'm at a loss.

C'est la vie

Mobile updates

Well I do have to say that I am impressed with the ability to update my blog from my phone. This now means that I can instantly convey any Sherlockian thoughts to you extra fast.

My book promotion

I have amended my promotion.

My next book The Norwood Author is released at the end of March 2010. For the discounted price of £7.99 (plus P&P to be determined) the first twenty people who email this address:

With the answer to the following question:

In what year did Conan Doyle and J.M. Barrie's play "Jane Annie" show at the Savoy Theatre?

Will be able to purchase a signed (and dedicated) copy.

Those of you who correctly answered my previous promotion (2 people) can rest assured. You have got your copies (subject to payment of course :-) )

18 copies remaining.

I've been discovered!

On Twitter I have just gained one of the QI 'Elves' as a follower. I wonder if they tracked me down in preparation for series 'H'?

Debut at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel

Yesterday I gave my debut talk on Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle to a travel group. This group, charmingly described by their own tour leader as 'ancient', consisted of approximately twenty retired ladies and one gentleman. At a guess the ages ranged from just over sixty all the way to the mid-nineties.

I, along with representatives of the organisation who had 'hired' me, began by mingling and exchanging easy conversation before sitting down to a less than stunning buffet lunch. Predictably, some of the diners had issues with the food and service and I spent most of the time cornered by two Swiss ladies who, fortunately, were charming company.

At 1.45pm I was 'interviewed' Wogan-style and spent about 45 mins giving them countless items of useful information about Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle, Victorian London and even a few tit bits on Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple (Lord knows how we ended up on them). My talk, upon conclusion, was greeted with reassuring applause.

Then we got down to the business end of the day - selling my book. Tight so-and-sos only bought six copies between them. The royalties on those (before tax) will just about cover the cost of my travel. There's precious little glamour in being an author.

P.S. One lady fell asleep during my talk. However I keep telling myself this was due to the combination of stodgy food and oppressive heat rather than my wonderful voice.

High praise indeed

This is a quote from the email of a member of the SHSL upon finishing reading my draft.

"Please accept my congratulations on another admirable book! Most of us, I suspect, weren't really aware of the missing chapter in our knowledge of Arthur Conan Doyle's life. You recognised that there was a blank patch on the canvas, and you've completed the portrait. Your achievement merits the terms that Francois le Villard applied to Holmes's work - Magnifique! Coup-de-maitre! Tour-de-force!"

I am, predictably, rather pleased.

Recap of my books so far

This is my latest book 'The Norwood Author' which is released in March 2010. It is a biographical look at the life of Arthur Conan Doyle between the years 1891-1894 when he was resident in Norwood, South London.

All of my books are obtainable via Amazon, Waterstones, Barnes & Noble and many other outlets.

My second book 'Close to Holmes' was published in February 2009 and looks at the various London locations that have links to Sherlock Holmes, Conan Doyle or both.
It has received good reviews from many of the same sources. In the case of The Book Bag it gained five stars.

This is my first book 'Eliminate the Impossible' which was published in February 2008. Despite the odd detractor, it has received positive reviews from the following:
The Bookbag
The Sherlock Holmes Society of London
The Sydney Passengers
The Arthur Conan Doyle (Crowborough) Establishment

A flurry of activity

As reported below, I received some comments back from one of my unofficial editors. All of the comments were excellent and I have nearly worked my way through them all. Phew! "The Norwood Author" is shaping up to be my best book to-date. This is quite a tall order as my most recently published book "Close to Holmes" is my publisher's best selling in the genre (or so he tells me).

However an inconsistency has appeared between some sources I have used and I need to investigate. So this weekend I shall be stuck in the library getting a headache (courtesy of the microfilm reader). I need to compare three newspapers from 1892 and see which one is correct.

Then I need to prepare like crazy for my talk on Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle at the Sherlock Holmes Hotel. This takes place on November 10th and has been organised by Living Literature. It's a closed event, I'm afraid, for a set group of tourists but I hope it will lead to further such events in the future.

The book is back

Well I have received my manuscript back along with some comments. I shall be working my way through them over the course of this week. Then it'll be ready to go.