Pages

SHSL Winter 2010 Journal is now out

The new journal arrived on my doormat yesterday and I seem to be all over it. Okay that's an exaggeration but I am in it three times.


My first appearance (literally) is in the section concerning the 2010 AGM at the National Liberal Club where I was part of the victorious team in our Sherlockian version of Eggheads.



The second, and saddest, appearance is my contribution to the messages relating to the passing of the Sherlockian Titan Bernard Davies. Finally my review of Graham Moore's The Sherlockian features, unsurprisingly, in the book review section.

This will probably be my last post until the New Year so I shall take this opportunity to wish you all the best for the season. I hope you continue reading my missives in 2011.

A.

Ian Richardson

In my book Eliminate the Impossible I talk at some length about selected actors to have played Holmes on screen. One of those actors who seems to have been almost forgotten in the role by all apart from Sherlockian societies is Ian Richardson (Wikipedia article).

Richardson played Holmes (right) in TV movies of The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Sign of Four. The latter was the first filmed and was the best of the two despite some tinkering with the original plot. More detailed information on both films can be found in the excellent book Starring Sherlock Holmes.

There would have been more but the producers found themselves in direct competition with Jeremy Brett's Granada series and eventually withdrew.

I do consider Brett's portrayal to have been superior but I also wish that Richardson had done at least one or two more appearances as his Holmes had much to appreciate.

Richardson was doomed to suffer the same curtailment with his next Sherlockian outing as Holmes inspiration Dr Joseph Bell in Murder Rooms.

Again he gave an excellent performance but after the initial movie and four follow up episodes the series was discontinued. See the Wikipedia article for more details.

Richardson seems destined to be most remembered for his turn as Francis Urquhart in The House of Cards and its sequels. This is a shame as he deserves to be remembered for so much more.


Where to cut?

My book The Norwood Author (UK US), which covers Conan Doyle's life in South Norwood, was only possible to write because of the Local Studies Archive at Croydon Library where issues of local papers were available on microfilm for me to study. It is no exaggeration for me to say that the project rested almost solely on that material and the expertise of the staff.

You only have to look at the Croydon Guardian website to see how government cuts are threatening this resource (amongst others). I have mixed feelings about this as I do recognise the need for cuts but I don't want this to be one of the things that is cut. This may come across as NIMBYism but that cannot be helped.

I think it reflects badly on the local council as they are suggesting (either by accident or design) that the local people will not miss the library. Regrettably I can understand this to a point. I won't pretend I ever had to queue for access to the local studies archives. The expression 'use it or lose it' does have some weight here.

However when you see and hear how much money is wasted in local government you cannot help but feel that they should tidy up their own act before they throw people out of work (or redeploy them) and deprive the community of a resource that is needed and wanted.

If you care about these proposed cuts you should fill out the following survey:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/arts-and-heritage-consultation

A question re Undershaw

As many of this blog's readers know, Undershaw - the former Surrey home of Arthur Conan Doyle - is under threat. At the present time that threat is mostly from the elements but it is also under the shadow of redevelopment which would irrevocably destroy its character and historical connections.

At present the building is slowly disintegrating as it takes a battering every year from nature and vandals. This forces me to ask a question. Is grade II listing legally enforceable or is it not?

I was under the impression that a building, when listed, had to be kept in good condition by its owners and it was the local authority's job to ensure that they did so. So, assuming I am correct, why is Undershaw slowly falling to bits?

The owners should be keeping the property up to standard until such time as a final ruling is made on the building's future. This applies regardless of whether the ultimate decision goes in their favour or not. However at present the building continues to deteriorate.

The local authority concerned, Waverley Borough Council, stated on their own website that they had been forced to undertake repairs on the building and then chase the owners for reimbursement. So why is nothing being done now?

Surely if the building is listed it is a legal requirement to keep it maintained?? If this is not being enforced, what message does it send? Is it the case that in economically difficult times enforcing the law has become an expensive luxury?

This would be the thin end of the wedge. How long before other laws are not enforced due to budget cuts? Sorry we cannot investigate this murder. We're a bit strapped for cash. You may laugh at the example but it is the same principle.

Food for thought.

A3 colour prints of Undershaw

A3 colour prints of Undershaw in the snow are now available. These are absolutely fabulous. Limited amount. £10.00 each.

To contact the UPT visit

http://www.saveundershaw.com/

British Library Visit


On Saturday I paid a visit to the British Library to view some of Arthur Conan Doyle's diaries and accounts. I didn't get all the information that I wanted but I came across some fascinating information. Pretty much all of it will find its way into the book and I would like to offer my thanks to Rachel Foss for assisting me with access to the material.

Slow going

Thanks to the snow and the negative impact it has had on my day job I have not been able to write a word for the last week and a half. It's not good but I hope to get back to writing at some point next week.

On the plus side I am off to do some valuable research this weekend so work on the project has not stopped entirely.

A.

"Save Undershaw" - Christmas Cards

The Save Undershaw campaign have produced a special Christmas Card. Proceeds will go towards the cause.


Order your pack now, 5 cards, one design. Price: £10.00. The cards will be folded to a finished size of A5 (210 x 148mm). Please place your order through this website. Cheque or postal order accepted - paypal currently being set up - details to follow.
These cards are printed by:

DRAGON PRINT - Established 1979. Dragon Print Centres Limited is a member of the BPIF & BAPC


3 Hillcroft
Shepherd's Hill
Haslemere
Surrey
Telephone: (01428) 651116
Fax: (01428) 656262


More details on the website http://www.saveundershaw.com/

Save Undershaw Awareness Day

The fight to save Arthur Conan Doyle's Hindhead home continues. Please visit the Undershaw Preservation Trust website for more details.

http://www.saveundershaw.com/

Snowed in

Apologies but thanks to the snow precious little work has taken place on the book over the last few days. Hopefully I'll get back on the case soon.

"The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes" - Book Review

The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes is presented as a collection of cases that Watson was forced to suppress. In some cases the reasons given for their suppression seem a little weak but that is a trivial point.


The book contains eight stories and, on a cosmetic level, the most pleasing aspect is the way that the book is presented in the style of the original Strand Magazine. The typeface is the same (or very close to) and the illustrations are excellent. In fact they almost make you feel like Sidney Paget had been resurrected to produce them.

The stories are all very much the same length and in that the author has again done a good job of emulating the stories from The Strand. Like the original stories themselves, some are better than others. I particularly enjoyed "The Adventure of the Medium" and "The Adventure of the Amazonian Explorer" but felt that "The Adventure of the Gypsy Girl" was a little too straight-forward and easy to work out. These are, to a certain extent, matters of personal taste and I think that plenty of people will disagree with my assessment of individual stories.

The headline act (as it were) is the first story "The Giant Rat of Sumatra". This is one of the many cases mentioned by Conan Doyle in the original canon but never written up. Of all of such cases this is probably the one most often subjected to the pastiche treatment. I've always felt that one of the reasons Conan Doyle never expanded upon this was because he realised that it would be difficult to do.

To be fair Tony Reynolds does his best with it and produces a workmanlike story but the narrative shows off little of Holmes's talents as a detective. I feel though that anyone would struggle to make a story out of this particular case. I certainly wouldn't pretend that I could do any better.

All in all this is very much one of the better collections of pastiche stories. For me personally I very much like the fact that the author has stuck to the spirit of the originals. He has not brought Holmes into battle with demons nor has he had Holmes meet other characters from Victorian literature.

Well worth the money and you should add it to your collection.
 
Amazon UK  Book Depository UK Amazon US

Sherlockian / Doylean Christmas List

Looking for ideas for presents? I suggest you consult my Amazon Sherlockian Listmania list at:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/lm/R2NPMVGVPZH38F

Naturally it contains my own books but a number of other things as well.

Happy shopping.

Progress report

The latest book has just passed the 30,000 word barrier. I am also in communication with the British Library about paying them a visit early in the New Year.

6 days until the "Lost Stories"

On November 29th The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes will be released.

I'm reading this book at the moment and will provide a full review in due course. However I will say that I have read nothing that would cause me to caution anyone against it.

The title will be available on Kindle as well as paperback.


Books to review soon.

I am being sent copies of the following two books to review:

The first is The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes. As you can see from the cover the artwork is superb and very much in the Paget style.
The second is A Study in Crimson. This is the latest from Molly Carr - the author of The Sign of Fear. I must confess that I have not yet read her first book (although it is in my 'to read' pile) so you're not likely to see the review for this one in the short-term.

If you have read either of these books and would like to give your thoughts please add comments to this post.

Murder Rooms

Top tip for anyone attempting to get hold of the Murder Rooms series of films. You can get all of them, including the very first one, from Holland. Check eBay.

Dealing with criticism

My recent discovery of a negative review of one of my books got me wondering (again) about bad reviews and how to handle them. If you're starting out it may be of some use to you.

When I started work on my first book I knew that I was, in effect, sticking my head above the parapet, painting a bullseye on it and inviting people to take aim. All would-be writers need to remember this. If you're asking the public to give you money you have to expect them to give you comments too.

The age of the Internet has not only made it easier to comment it has also made it easier to get those comments before the author. In a lot of cases I have found very obscure opinions on my work simply by the use of Google.

Unfortunately the Internet has also made it easier to be downright nasty. Safe behind their screens and their bizarre usernames there are certain types of people who will express their displeasure (whether they genuinely feel it or not) in the most hurtful terms possible in the knowledge that they can almost certainly avoid detection. For some of them the thought of the pain they could cause the author is what drives them. For others it's just that they genuinely dislike your work.

If you're a sensitive person you have to learn to toughen up very quickly. Your only other options are to not write at all or never read any reviews of your work. I've been advised to take the latter course on more than one occasion but my problem is that I am eager for praise and tend to keep an all too sharp eye on the comments pages of Amazon etc. This carries the risk that occasionally I'll find something less than palatable.

When my first book launched I had an uneasy wait for the first reviews. I was all geared up for the slings and arrows but instead got several very encouraging reviews. At this point I made the mistake of lowering my guard so I was totally unprepared when the first dose of vitriol arrived shortly afterwards.

I won't go into the review in question but it basically had nothing good to say. I'm not ashamed to admit that the only reason I didn't hang up my pen was that I had more positive reviews than negative. Had it been the first review to arrive I might have easily given up.

I then began work on my second book and did so with the attitude of "I'll show that b#%&$%d". Fortunately I quickly realised that it was not the best frame of mind in which to write and I put it behind me and got on with the job. The only way I could proceed was to ignore all reviews both good and bad. You cannot allow them to influence you. The bad ones make you an angry writer and the good ones can make you complacent. Neither is a good position from which to write.

This swift learning experience paid dividends and my second book was a greater success than my first and was even short-listed for an award. However it has not escaped negativity. A review in September 2009 (which I've only just seen) described it as "badly written".

My third book too has received some negative feedback but for the most part this has been constructive rather than destructive. However I know all too well that sooner or later something bad will pop-up. After all no book that has ever been written has enjoyed universal praise. Conversely none has received universal condemnation either.

If you get a bad review just remember the following:

The reviewer is not the ultimate arbiter of what is or is not 'good' writing. If they don't like it remember it's just their (one) opinion.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to look at the Amazon comments page.

A well trodden path

My writing now moves on to the George Edalji case. As my title above suggests, this subject has been well covered but obviously I cannot omit it.


Edalji was imprisoned in 1903 for three years of a seven year sentence on the charge of maiming and killing horses, cattle and sheep in Staffordshire. The case was largely based on highly suspect, circumstantial evidence with more than a hint of racism. Upon his early release in 1906 he approached Conan Doyle to help him clear his name. ACD's efforts assisted in Edalji's eventual pardon but he was never compensated.

Haslemere Festival Latest

It's time for a further post on the Haslemere Festival for 2011. I was approached (a few times) about giving a talk at this festival but turned it down. My reason was simply that it would impact too negatively on the work on my latest book.

I was then re-approached and asked if I would be prepared to introduce a series of ACD related films. For the most part I imagine these would have been Sherlock Holmes films.

I confess I was tempted but I have just this minute declined this also.

The reason is basically the same as before - i.e. I don't wish to do anything that impacts negatively on my writing. However this illustrates the bind you can often find yourself in when you're in demand. Attending such events is often quite fun and gives you a chance to sell yourself and, by extension, your work.

Regional interest

Hmm. I seem to be most popular in the U.S. and Russia at the moment.

Book title

No sorry I'm not giving it away just yet but I have settled on a title for my next book. Regrettably I'll be breaking my habit of three-word titles but I still think it is a good title.

Can you stand the suspense?

A.

Things to look for in my new book

As many of my regular readers will know, I am at work on a new mini-Conan Doyle biography. On this occasion I am devoting myself to Conan Doyle's life during the period he lived at Undershaw. As well as looking at life at the house and in the area I shall also look at ACD's life on the wider stage during the period
(1897 - 1907).

As with my last book The Norwood Author I shall tend to focus on the Sherlockian aspects as that is where my main interest lies. That is not to say that I will ignore all else but it is where I shall lay emphasis.

Look out for some theories on The Hound of the Baskervilles.

At the moment the most likely release date is Autumn 2011.

Interesting

Some rather interesting information arrived in my inbox yesterday afternoon. It adds some weight to a theory I was already forming. I just need to find the right words to express it.

Haslemere Festival 2011

I know it's advance warning but the Haslemere festival will take place in May 2011. Amongst the many things that will be discussed is Arthur Conan Doyle. If you can be in the area do try and attend. I shall post more details and links as I get them.

Tick tock

One of the most frustrating things about writing non-fiction is the research. By that I don't mean the act of carrying out said research but the delay waiting for other people to do things.

Right now I am waiting on Ancestry.co.uk to provide me with a marriage certificate and the Surrey History Centre to do some paid research for me.

Now, to be fair to them both, I haven't been waiting all that long but when you're trying to motor on any delay is frustrating.

Current word count : Approx 22,000.

First Pics of Sherlock 2

The following link shows the first pictures from the shooting of Sherlock Holmes 2.

http://www.joblo.com/index.php?id=34357

A new society

I would like to draw the attention of Sherlockians (especially Scottish ones) to the existence of The Sherlock Holmes Society of Scotland.

http://sherlockscotland.blogspot.com/

They are a new society and are in search of an appropriate name with a Scottish slant. It needs to be a Sherlockian one though.

Foyle

I have learned the the Crime Thriller Award for "The People's Detective" went to Foyle of "Foyle's War". Whilst the decision of the public to overlook Sherlock Holmes stuns me I salute the makers of Foyle's War for their win. At least a period detective won.

Crime Thriller Awards

I was very pleased to see that "Sherlock" won the first Dagger at the Crime Thriller Awards. I've yet to watch the whole programme. I shall list any other relevant awards as I learn of them.

The Official Papers Into The Matter Known As The Hound of the Baskervilles

Some time ago I reviewed a book which was sold on the basis that it provided you with facsimiles of documents that were pertinent to a number of Sherlock Holmes's cases. One of these cases was The Hound of the Baskervilles. The result was a very disappointing offering that was more akin to a monthly magazine collection than a serious Sherlockian work.

Consequently, when I was asked to cast my eye over The Official Papers Into The Matter Known As The Hound of the Baskervilles I very much feared more of the same. Fortunately my fears were largely unfounded. The author Mr Freeburn has mined the original story and other tomes on the subject and used this information and his experience as a former CID officer to produce a series of authentic looking papers.


What you get are police reports, witness statements, coroners' reports, post-mortem findings and correspondence between various police figures that were supposedly involved in the events of the novel even if that involvement was out of the book's scope.

One of the most enjoyable aspects is the exchange of correspondence between figures in the Devon constabulary and Scotland Yard over what they see as an unwarranted breech of protocol in Holmes summoning a Scotland Yard Inspector (Lestrade) to Devon rather than making use of the local force. One can easily imagine such events taking place behind the scenes and it helps give the story some valuable background even if it did not come from the pen of Conan Doyle himself.

However there are downsides. As has been pointed out in other reviews, the forename of the convict Selden changes and there is the odd spelling mistake. In one of the facsimile newspapers your attention is drawn to the spelling mistakes which are underlined. This is presumably because they were being identified by the software that was used to create them. There are other mistakes which could have been easily ironed out if the book had been put before another Sherlockian in advance of publication.

The other downside is the chosen font which the author recognises as an issue and warns you about. The vast majority of the book is written in a sloping font designed to mimic handwriting. Whilst it adds authenticity it makes the book very hard to read and, in my case, I had to regularly stop in order to avoid a headache. In hindsight I think it would have been better to have put some (or all) of the "handwritten" documents into an appendix and present more readable versions in the front. Then again this would no doubt have made the book more expensive.

In summary, this is a good book that largely achieves what it sets out to do. It is slightly let down by some relatively minor mistakes and an eye-straining font but undeniably adds another dimension to one of Sherlock Holmes's greatest cases.

Lack of recognition

Some readers of this blog (especially if you've read "Close to Holmes" or "The Norwood Author") will know that I was responsible for a South Norwood pub erecting a display marking Arthur Conan Doyle's residency in the area. I have just noticed a sign that greets people as they emerge from the station.  It commemorates William Stanley.



Now I realise that Stanley did a lot for the area, in fact I wrote a little about it in my latest book "The Norwood Author", but Conan Doyle should be mentioned also. Stanley means little to anyone outside South Norwood (and probably little to many who live there) whereas people the world over have heard of Arthur Conan Doyle.

I'm not suggesting that Stanley be overlooked but Conan Doyle, if mentioned correctly, could do something for the are economically.

Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon: A Complete Tour Guide & Companion

Back in 2009 my second book "Close to Holmes" was published. It was praised as a book that could be used as a reference work as well as a travel guide.



The same can easily be said for "Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon: A Complete Tour Guide & Companion" by Paul Spiring, Brian Pugh and Sadru Bhanji.

It is broken down into five sections. There are chapters on Arthur Conan Doyle; George Turnavine Budd, his one-time medical partner; George Newnes, the notable
publisher; and Bertram Fletcher Robinson, the journalist and author. The final and largest chapter is the Devon tour.

The sections on the four men are not comprehensive biographies but that is not their intention. The purpose of these smaller chapters is to give you a good idea of who these men were, their relationship to each other and, more
importantly, their relationship to Devon. This goal is achieved with great success. It is like being introduced to the actors in a great drama before the curtain goes up.

The fifth section is a guide to some thirty Devon locations with connections to the Sherlock Holmes stories or the lives of Doyle, Budd, Newnes and Robinson. All the locations come with maps, written directions and notes explaining their relevance. The locations cover everything from houses to graveyards and all have
strong links. Other books have often gone to great lengths to mention locations or people with tenuous links to the work of Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes. The same cannot be said for this book.

Even if you have no plans to go to Devon this book deserves a place on your shelf. If you do go to Devon it will be an invaluable companion.

The Science of Sherlock Holmes

This book has been around for a while now but like others covered in this blog it has been attacked for its readability. Some people have criticised it for not flowing very well for example.

 
This is an unreasonable criticism as this is a reference work that I don't believe is really designed to be bed time reading. Yes it can seem a little disjointed at times but that is a criticism that has been thrown at my own books.

What this book really is is a reference work covering the emerging science of forensics at the time of Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle. Treat it as such as you'll have a good time with it.

A confession

I have begun reading "A Duet" which is one of many works that ACD composed during his residence at Undershaw. Like many people I came to ACD through Sherlock Holmes and have not read many of his non-Holmes works. I have, of course, read "Memories and Adventures" and have dipped into such works as
"Through the Magic Door" but I have never been able to persevere.

Why is this? Perhaps it's because I only want Holmes. I honestly don't know. However I will finish "A Duet" which is proving charmingly entertaining.

Arthur Conan Doyle Society

I recently took possession of my latest eBay purchase. This was issues two to fifteen of the society newsletter of the Arthur Conan Doyle Society.

I've not read them all yet but I am impressed with it and would love to get hold of a copy of the first issue. Indeed I would like to know the total number of issues to-date.

Book review - England's Secret Weapon

Note: This is the book that pipped me (with Close to Holmes) and others to the 2010 Sherlock Holmes Society of London - Tony & Freda Howlett Award. Rest assured however that I shall remain objective :-)


The author Amanda Field presents the reader with a truly exhaustive study of the 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios Holmes films that featured Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce. Before I launch into my review I think it is important to manage expectations.

I have looked at some Amazon reviews of this book which have been decidedly unkind. For the most part they are written by people who bought the book expecting it to be full of witty anecdotes and trivia about the Rathbone/Bruce films. When they have found this not to be the case they have damned the book.

So, to be clear, this is NOT such a book. There remains a space in the market for someone to produce a more light-hearted book on these films but to criticise Field's book for not being in this style is not fair. 

Field's book is a film study and concerns itself with the style of the films and the way they depicted changing attitudes in society and how they in turn were affected by them.

While she does address all of the films, Field focuses largely on those produced by Universal Studios (the latter 12 of the 14 Rathbone pictures). She breaks these down into three groups and proceeds to analyse each of them within the context of that group.

The first group were the films that were evidently rooted in their time. These were the overt war films such as "The Voice of Terror" where Nazis featured and Holmes was very much fighting for the allies.

The second group are the chronologically ambiguous films which were deliberately devoid of too many specific temporal references. Amongst these were such films as "The Scarlet Claw" and "The House of Fear".

The final group consisted of the horror films. These often shifted between time periods with Baker Street remaining firmly Victorian but the rest of the world being very much mid-twentieth century. However these films (examples being "The Woman in Green" and "Dressed to Kill") featured glamorous and dangerous female villains and monstrous forms of death such as venomous spiders and deformed giants that broke their victims backs.

Field analyses these films by looking at everything from sets, costumes and publicity materials and explains how they were all adjusted in line with the impression the films were desired to give and the audience they wished to attract.

Light reading it is not but it is the ultimate resource for those wishing to understand the thinking behind these iconic films.

The Strange Case of Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle (DVD)

I know this was broadcast some years ago but I feel that it is time to review it because for me it causes real issues.

My principal issue is that I love it even though it is littered with errors.

It remains, in my opinion, the best way to show a non-Sherlock Holmes / Arthur Conan Doyle fan the lead-up to Holmes' "death" (and the reasons for it) along with Conan Doyle's personal struggles. My wife, who likes the stories but is not a Sherlockian, got a good grasp of Conan Doyle the man courtesy of this drama.
It is also a hugely enjoyable piece that is, I think, well shot and acted.
 
However we then have to launch into the negatives...

Mainly the issues are those of chronology. The time line is all over the place. The story opens in 1893 just before Holmes' "death" yet the party depicted in the opening scenes took place in 1897. Conan Doyle's son is depicted as a baby (which he would have been in 1893) but at the party in question he would have been five years old.

Conan Doyle has a butler called Cleeve from the opening scene. However Cleeve here is too old and ACD did not hire him until 1897 when he moved into Undershaw in Surrey. All this happened four years after Holmes vanished at Reichenbach.


Back to the positives.

Louise Conan Doyle is given sympathetic treatment which is good as she is too often portrayed as the sick wife who is the obstacle to her husband's happiness.


Back to the negatives.

However Jean Leckie (later to be ACD's second wife) is still presented as the woman who saved ACD from his personal hell and gave him the happiness that he so craved. Precious little is made of the fact that they conducted themselves right under Louise's nose. All we get is one brief scene that alludes to the conflict ACD's conduct causes in the family.

Douglas Henshall and Emily Blunt as Arthur Conan Doyle and Jean Leckie

At the end, ACD's decision to resurrect Holmes is portrayed as springing from the realisation that Holmes was part of himself rather than the knowledge that Holmes would bring in good money. ACD was always very economically driven and made no secret of the fact that he used Holmes as a cash-cow.

Back to the positives.

The casting is excellent (butler excepted). Douglas Henshall in particular makes a first class Conan Doyle and the best I have ever seen portrayed. Emily Blunt (pre-Young Victoria) makes a good Jean Leckie despite the fact that she is more attractive than the original. However she plays a Jean that seems too innocent and unaware of the trouble that she is causing. It seems pretty clear that the real Jean Leckie saw what she wanted in Conan Doyle and got him. You get no sense of that in this drama. Allan Corduner makes an excellent Herbert Greenhough Smith (of the Strand Magazine) and, despite looking nothing like the original, Brian Cox makes a good Dr Bell. However for me the laurels go to Saskia Reeves for her sympathetic portrayal of Louise Conan Doyle.

It is hard to get hold of the DVD except as part of a larger set. However you should try your best to get hold of it. Despite its flaws it is a quality drama and educational too.

Book suggestions

Feel free to recommend books (Sherlockian or Doylean) that you think I might like. Any I get I will review here.

Research

Popped into Croydon Library yesterday. I practically lived there when researching my book on ACD's Norwood years. It was rather nice to be back and see the section where all my books sit.


Alas I didn't get what I wanted when there but I did unearth a few useful facts which I shall be writing up over the course of this coming week.

Review of "The Sherlockian"

The Sherlockian is the story of new "Irregular" Harold and his quest to find answers about the death of famous Sherlockian Alex Cale and to locate Arthur Conan Doyle's lost diary. In parallel we head into the past and follow Conan Doyle and Bram Stoker as they investigate the murder of a number of women in London's East End.

I have to confess that during the first few chapters my eyebrows were almost permanently raised as the author Graham Moore re-wrote the history of Conan Doyle in order to make his story work. Conan Doyle not only gains an extra son, Roger, but also a grandson, Sebastian, and lives out his final years at Undershaw rather than Windlesham.

Initially these changes worried me as I wondered where Moore intended to go with them but as the story moved on his changes began to make sense and my worries evaporated.

Various characters throughout the book are based on actual Sherlockians. Moore confesses to some of these at the end of the book but not all which suggests that he himself is unaware of how similar some of his characters are to real people.

I had to smile when, towards the book's end, the hero (if he can be so called) arrives at Undershaw and Moore describes the battle between developers and preservationist groups to determine the building's future. I am personally involved with "The Undershaw Preservation Trust" and visited the house quite recently so I felt a real connection to this section of the book and understood Harold's feelings as he visited the site.

The chapters alternate between Harold's quest and Conan Doyle's investigation  and, at first, you wonder if this constant switching will work. Rest assured that it does although it is very often the case that a chapter set in 1900 ends on cliff-hanger and you want to rush through the next contemporary chapter in order to see where Conan Doyle's story is going next.

The depiction of Conan Doyle is occasionally hard to swallow especially when  Moore has him and Stoker dressing up as women to attend a suffragette meeting  but a little suspension of disbelief is all you need to get past this and see  the humour in the situation.

The Sherlockian is a fun story which keeps you hooked. The way the story ends  can be seen coming but the enjoyment does not suffer as a result. If you have enjoyed Gyles Brandreth's Oscar Wilde murder mysteries you will enjoy this and I very much hope that Graham Moore puts his pen to paper (or finger to key) again
and writes more in this field.

The battle has begun

I have just received the distressing news that Waverley Borough Council have finally decided to grant the owners of Undershaw the right to develop it. It was hoped that this would be denied but the council have decided to proceed, arrogantly casting aside overwhelming worldwide opposition. It strikes me that they are doing this out of sheer spite rather than anything else.

So, in response, the Undershaw Preservation Trust is starting the legal wheels in search of a judicial review.

Down but certainly not out.

Wordage

Another 350 words (approx) today. Well done me.

The Sherlockian

Last night I finished reading Graham Moore's new novel "The Sherlockian". I have
written a review which I shall publish here as soon as Mr Moore has had a chance
to read it.

The shame

I was so determined to do some research this evening but I just don't have the energy. I promise you all that I'll be back on the case tomorrow.

Online newspapers

I have been very fortunate with the availability of on-line archives of old newspapers. The New York Times very nicely allow access to theirs for free. The British Library has a mixed access collection of old UK regional papers and there is of course the Times archive.

It is no exaggeration to say that this book and my earlier ones would have been hard to write without these resources.

Book update

My Undershaw book approaches 20,000 words. I may have to have a mini-party.

A brief hello

Having just looked at my blog statistics, I would like to say hello to my audience which, apart from the UK and US, extends to South Korea and Russia.

Welcome to you all and I hope you find this blog of interest.

Pilgrimage

Yesterday I finally stood (and sat) in the grounds of Undershaw.


The house is in a shocking state. You really cannot grasp how bad it is until you are there. The sooner it is rescued from those who see it purely in cash terms the better. We should all continue to hope things turn out well.

Afterwards I met John Gibson the co-author of the famous Conan Doyle Bibliography.

He was very generous with his time and I feel that he will be a great help with information for my book on the Undershaw years.

The Sherlockian

Well if I had any doubts over what I should be reading for the next few weeks they have been laid to rest by a parcel which I have just received.

Yes I have just received the 'advance reading copy' of "The Sherlockian" by Graham Moore. It is released in December so I have a little time to get on with it and write a review.

I'm an American now apparently

Well I was much amused to be told (and later read) that I am now an American 'Internet writer'.

It appears that the Haslemere Herald, in one of its many pieces on Undershaw, has described me as an American Internet Writer in their latest piece.

I have just now received an email of apology from said paper.

It's refreshing to know that our country's journalists diligently check their facts before going to print.

I wonder nationality I'll be next.

Sit rep

Just shy of 800 words written today. Plus some research and new leads to follow up.

My books on ebay - a warning

I have noticed that a number of sellers are selling copies of my books on ebay. What disturbs me is the number that are selling them at above the RRP.

Please remember that my royalties are fixed so when you pay over the odds this is going into the pocket of the seller not me. These people have no justification that I can see for overcharging.

I implore anyone who wants my books to order them from a proper bookshop or conventional on-line retailer. Don't be persuaded to pay over the odds.

Thanks.

Some people just don't get it

Well I have to report that I am stunned.

I have just popped to Amazon's UK website and read some of the negative reviews of "Sherlock". I have to say that I am taken aback by how some people can be so negative.

I am a traditionalist (as I said on Radio 5) and I am on record (in my first book) as saying that only a Victorian set Holmes series could ever have a chance of laying claim to the title of "definitive". However this new series has no ambition to be definitive. Consequently I don't rate it on its ability to be classed as such.

Instead I look at it for what it is - a modern day version of a 19th century classic. On that basis it is very good (episode 2 aside - fire that writer) but it should never be compared against Granada's series. That would be a perfect example of apples and oranges.

Right now the Holmes pantheon is dominated by two figures. Jeremy Brett remains unrivalled for his true Victorian portrayal and Basil Rathbone stands alone for his Nazi fighting Holmes.

If BC continues on his present course he will very likely join Brett and Rathbone in the pantheon as the ultimate 21st century Holmes.

APD.

Milestone passed

I have now reached a significant milestone with my book on the Undershaw years. There is now something written for every single year from 1897 to 1907. The entire foundations are there.

Thank you

Many thanks to the person (people) who answer my cry for help yesterday, and it seems, bought all three of my books.

A mistake perhaps

It is perhaps dangerous to admit this but it seems my latest tome "The Norwood Author" is struggling. There could of course be many reasons for this. It could be an awful book or it could be that I was simply silly to release a mini-biography of Arthur Conan Doyle so soon after two full-life biographies. Those books, written by Russell Miller and Andrew Lycett, have probably cast a long shadow over my little tome.

I cannot blame public perception for this. Why would you buy a biography covering only three and a half years when there are two covering the subject's entire life?

However, I should point out that my book contains information that is absent from these two other tomes. With my much narrower focus I have been able to describe many details that the other biographies simply would not have had the space to cover. It is worth buying and you don't have to take my word for it.
Read the Amazon reviews (both U.S. and U.K.).

The sluggish sales somewhat deter me from my latest project which is to do pretty much the same thing for the Undershaw years of 1897 - 1907. Go on, show me that my efforts are appreciated. Buy my book.

*grovel grovel*

APD.

Drip drip drip

Work on my latest book is coming along slowly. I hope to be making a visit to Hindhead in the near future in order to pursue one or two research angles. I'm having second thoughts about my current choice of title. Although it is a good in-joke I feel it might be too obscure for some. I shall give some thought to other options.

A.

Sherlock Episode Three

Well last night we had a return to form. You can see what difference it makes when a real fan is behind a script. Mark Gatiss turned in an excellent episode largely based on the original story "The Bruce Partington Plans" but with a little "Final Problem" thrown in. Having canvassed opinion, people seem to be agreed that the episodes are too long. I don't agree with that but I do think that I would prefer series two to be a greater number of shorter episodes - say six one-hour episodes. I feel that three is not enough. However I suppose they did adhere to the showbiz maxim of  "always leave them wanting more".

My only complaint with last night's episode was Moriarty. If that really is Moriarty I am disappointed. To me the actor was playing the role far too much like John Simms' Master from Doctor Who. I remain hopeful that this man is just a front for the real Moriarty.

Letter in The Times

A letter I wrote in response to an enquiry in The Times has been published today. It concerns the naming of Undershaw.

British Library

Hurrah. The British Library have finally got around to listing Close to Holmes in their catalogue. It's only taken a year and a half :-)

CTH on iPad

Hopefully my second book "Close to Holmes" will be available on the iPad very soon. Please check back to learn when it has been released.

Sherlock - Episode Two.

Well I feel it is time to review Sherlock - Episode Two.

The creators of this series have mentioned their fondness for the Rathbone films and their intention to be just as irreverant with their new series. I think they have achieved this but not in the way they might have wished.

The Rathbone films (and I'm talking about those made by Universal) went from the entertaining to the absurd. In my opinion, the best were those that were largely devoid of any obvious references to the period in which they were set (the 1940s). The worst Rathbone films were those that were too rooted in the 40s. The most striking example of these being "The Voice of Terror" where Nazis were practically falling out of the trees by the end.

With the second episode of the new Sherlock we seem to have swapped Nazis for Chinese gang members. I was honestly waiting for Charlie Chan to make an appearance at some point. After the excellent start with "A Study in Pink" we have gone downhill. I can only hope the last episode takes us back to the original heights.

If I were feeling ungenerous I would be forced to say that this most recent episode was written by someone who is not a major Holmes fan but who loves Dan Brown. The reason being that the symbology and the visual effect of having the symbols hanging in the air around the characters reminded me very much of Tom Hanks in the Da Vinci Code.

I don't think you need to be a Holmes fan to write for this new series but you do at least need to understand the original stories. Without understanding their essence you simply cannot write Holmes adventures  (Victorian or modern). If we wanted Dan Brown we'd read his books or watch the films.

Slow going

Thanks to a number of events, welcome and unwelcome, progress on the new book has been slow. Fortunately this one is currently without a deadline so I am under no pressure.

I've also started throwing a few lines into a novel although I think I will struggle to write two books at once.

BBC Wales

About 50 minutes ago I went on BBC Radio Wales to talk about Sherlock. The most nerve wracking part of it was hoping that I didn't lose phone reception during the broadcast. All in all it went well. Well that's what my wife says. I thought I sounded an idiot.

A.

Swift service

Well I was up at 5.30 this morning and thus ready for my cab to Wood Lane. Arrived with 5 mins to spare and was promptly whisked up to a waiting area near the studio. There I enjoyed a quick coffee while I waited with the Sun's agony aunt who was there for an interview about something far more serious.

I was shown into the studio where I had to become an excellent mime artist. Then at 7.55 I was on. I spoke for no more than two or three minutes and then was whisked out and into another car.


I did the maths and I spent 16 times more time in cars to and from the studio than I did speaking.

Oh well. The general opinion was that I spoke well.

That's showbiz

Well a nice BBC Courier dropped round an advance copy of Sherlock today. I have just watched it in preparation for my five live interview tomorrow.


I have to admit to being impressed. True it's not Victorian (and I would prefer it to be so) but for a modern day version it does keep the core requirements intact and I'm sure will get some people interested in the world of Holmes.

Incidentally five live wanted me to take part in a discussion on TV detectives tonight as well but I can only do so much.

Newsnight

I was approached earlier today about being involved with BBC Newsnight on the subject of Sherlock Holmes. Due to a number of factors (including my busy schedule) I decided to decline.

BBC Radio 5 LIve Breakfast Show

I should be "appearing" on this Sunday's (25th July) edition of the Radio 5 Live Breakfast Show. The aim being to discuss my thoughts on the new BBC "Sherlock" that starts that night and the recent RDJ movie. According to my current information I should be on at about 7.50am.

Early isn't it? I hope you'll all be awake to tune in.

Weird brain

It's weird the way my mind works at times. On the way home from the office yesterday all sorts of potential starts to murder mysteries came to mind. I've made a note of them all and will no doubt develop them at some point.

Why is this weird?

Well, as regular readers will know, I am working on a non-fiction book about ACD covering his life between 1897 and 1907. The last thing I need right now are mysteries for my own detective.

Modern-day Sherlock approaches

This coming Sunday (July 25th) sees the arrival of the Moffat/Gatiss modern-day Sherlock Holmes on BBC1.

Like many fans, I am nervous about this approach. I personally see the Victorian setting as a vital part of the success of the Holmes stories so any version that omits this gives me cause for concern. However I acknowledge the inconsistency that I did (and do) enjoy the Universal Rathbone adventures.

I guess that what I fear the most is that we end up with a version of Waking the Dead that happens to feature characters by the name of Sherlock Holmes, John Watson and Lestrade. If we end up with a program that is a run-of-the-mill police drama that only succeeds because it contains Holmes and Watson I shall be disappointed.

Gentlemen I am waiting to be impressed.

Portsmouth ahoy!

Last Wednesday I travelled to Portsmouth for an interview with the manager of the Richard Lancelyn Green collection. For those of you who don't know - RLG was widely viewed as the foremost expert on both Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes and his collection was donated (by the terms of his will) to Portsmouth Library following his death in 2004.e

Michael Gunton heads up the collection and I spent an hour with him and explained what I was trying to achieve. It certainly seems that they have items which will be of interest but I need to put together a proper "wish list" of requirements before I visit again.

Mrs Georgina Doyle

Below is an excerpt from an email I received from Mrs Georgina Doyle regarding my recent book "The Norwood Author":

"...thank you so much for the gift of your book.   I have now read it and think it is excellent - well written and well researched with a good choice of illustrations.   I enjoyed it a lot."

Out of the Shadows

On Friday I spent a wonderful yet rather warm day in the company of Mrs Georgina Doyle. We had an entertaining chat about all manner of people and places and I was then allowed to go leafing through her collection.

I had a look at some of the diaries of Innes Doyle (Sir Arthur's brother) and came away with a whole collection of photos. Many of these will find their way into my current project.

Watch this space.

Buck passing

Yesterday I received a letter which really disappointed me. It was from the department for culture etc on behalf of the Culture Secretary. I had, some time earlier, written to protest about the decision re the development of Undershaw.

I had been led to believe that the Culture Secretary was sympathetic to the cause, being MP for the local area too, but it turns out that he doesn't appear to have the house's fate very high on his list of priorities.

The letter essentially said that it was the council's responsibility (which I knew) and that was that.

I am forced to question the purpose of a Culture Secretary who is unable or unwilling to defend our culture.
My Undershaw book is now just shy of 10,000 words which is not bad for a book that I only really started in mid-May. I have already made some interesting discoveries and have sourced some interesting photographs which will feature in the end product.

Watch this space.

Book Review

The title of this book, Arthur, Louise and the True Hound of the Baskervilles (by Margaret Newman Turner), promises rather a lot and consequently demands a comprehensive critique.



Turner appears to have two principal aims. The first is to tell us about a legend which she believes to be the basis of The Hound of the Baskervilles. The second is to raise the profile of Conan Doyle's first wife Louise and show her in a more positive light than has been customary in the past - an aim I totally support.

We shall now turn our attention to the first of these aims. The legend in question, which is referred to as "The Hound of the Vaughans", does share many similarities to the legend mentioned in The Hound of the Baskervilles and Turner gives us its details and background very well. As a history lesson it is undeniably good. Turner also points out that it is a legend that has its roots in the area that Louise's family originated from. The problem is that she uses this to assert that Louise must have mentioned this legend to Conan Doyle at some point and it therefore must be from this that Conan Doyle got the idea for his most famous story.

Although her assertion is perfectly possible it is very unstable ground upon which to build what is, at the end of the day, no more than a theory. There are numerous legends of spectral hounds in Britain and they all share some common ground. This suggests that they may have sprung from the same source but not that said source was "The Hound of the Vaughans". The established record (and Conan Doyle himself) makes it clear that the basic idea for the Baskerville story came from the legends told to Conan Doyle by the journalist Bertram Fletcher Robinson and that these legends were East Anglian and Devon legends. No mention is made of the Vaughans or their hound. It is true that Conan Doyle's editor Herbert Greenhough Smith believed The Hound of the Baskervilles to have been based on a Welsh legend (which would boost the Louise link) but that was just his belief and there is nothing from Conan Doyle, that we know of, to give that belief any weight.

Bertram Fletcher Robinson is rather ill-used by Turner. She presents him as opportunistic and as forming a friendship with Conan Doyle more or less solely to benefit from the association. This is demonstrably false as Robinson clearly gained little if any benefit and Conan Doyle had known the family from before their first meeting.

She then suggests that Conan Doyle and Robinson slowly fell out over the famous story and that this was demonstrated by how Conan Doyle downgraded Robinson's contribution to the story with each published edition. In fact Robinson was always conscious of what he personally saw as his limited contribution (he often referred to himself as the 'assistant plot producer') and it clearly didn't concern him as he and Conan Doyle remained good friends until he (Robinson) died.

After telling us her theory, Turner then undermines it by reproducing a letter from Conan Doyle in which he states that the entire idea for the story came from Robinson. In the face of this evidence she resorts to suggesting that Conan Doyle was being misleading (intentionally or otherwise). This comes across as a King Canute-style attempt to deny the tide of known facts and make the events fit her theory.

Thus the first aim of her book has to be marked down as a failure. The theory, although interesting, currently lacks any substantial evidence to back it up.

Now we turn to the second and nobler aim. Louise Conan Doyle has been ill-used in most biographical works concerning Conan Doyle. This was because of the influence of the children of his second wife Jean. Mrs Georgina Doyle has already fought Louise's corner in the excellent book Out of the Shadows. Turner would have done well to have read Mrs Doyle's book (and others) thoroughly before commencing her own as it would have saved her from a list of mistakes and factual errors.

Firstly she makes the mistake of relying too much on The Stark Munro Letters as a source of autobiographical fact. The Stark Munro Letters is a book that certainly mirrors Conan Doyle's early life as a doctor in Portsmouth but it is only a semi-autobiographical work and cannot be taken as true from end-to-end. Turner unfortunately adopts this position and makes assertions that simply have nothing apart from the book to support them.

She repeatedly refers to the Portsmouth Literary and Scientific Society as the Portsmouth Library and Scientific Society and then goes on to get much of Conan Doyle's life in the wrong order. It is fact that Conan Doyle left Portsmouth to learn about eye medicine in Europe. When he returned to England he secured lodgings at Montague Place (near the British Museum) and opened an eye practice at 2 Upper Wimpole Street. It was at the latter location that the early Holmes short stories were written and when he abandoned medicine he left both these properties to live in South Norwood.

Turner asserts that Conan Doyle moved to South Norwood almost immediately upon his return from Europe and opened his eye practice at Montague Place. A simple review of current books such as A Study in Southsea or Conan Doyle: The Man Who Created Sherlock Holmes (which the author claims to have consulted) would have demonstrated that this was not the case. There are other inaccuracies (and theories presented as more or less fact) but we don't need to explore them all.

The bottom line is that the research into the legend of the "Hound of the Vaughans" is clearly well done but its relevance to the creation of The Hound of the Baskervilles is not demonstrated convincingly. The sections on Conan Doyle's life, his marriage to Louise, his life in Portsmouth and, later, Norwood demonstrate a clear lack of research. I cannot but feel that the author's noble desire to present Louise in a (deservedly) positive light has led to her (consciously or otherwise) bending the known facts to suit theories - a position that Sherlock Holmes would never have endorsed.

Man of Letters

A few weeks ago I wrote a letter to both the Haslemere Herald and Surrey Advertiser to lay out my objections to the proposal to "re-develop" Conan Doyle's former home 'Undershaw' in Hindhead.

Much to my surprise it made it into both papers and was the lead letter in one case. With my permision it was also forwarded to The Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph  and I have today been told that it has been printed in the former.

Regrettably, for whatever reason, they have chosen to cut it down quite severely. Presumably this was for reasons of space but if you can lay your hands on the Surrey papers they have the letter in full.

Beyond wow

On Sunday afternoon I had the great pleasure of a conversation with Mrs Georgina Doyle who is Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's niece-in-law. After a lot of nerves on my part (which never entirely left me) we managed to have a good conversation about a wide range of Doylean subjects. These included Undershaw but also other books and some of the howlers that some authors have written.

Mrs Doyle has notably contributed to Doylean literature herself with the fantastic book Out of the Shadows. This book looked at the lives of ACD's first family who were so often neglected by writers in favour of his second. It is a book well worth obtaining.

http://www.abebooks.co.uk/servlet/BookDetailsPL?bi=2262266792&searchurl=an%3Ddoyle%26bt.x%3D0%26bt.y%3D0%26sts%3Dt%26tn%3Dout%2Bof%2Bthe%2Bshadows

Mrs Doyle has very kindly offered to meet with me so I shall be visiting her (employer permitting) in the next few weeks.

Real life gets in the way

It is often the case that real life gets in the way of more enjoyable activities. In this case the workload of the day-job combined with other events has interrupted my efforts on my latest book.

Rest assured folks that work has not halted but is simply proceeding slightly slower than expected.

Comments

For some reason I have become a target for unwanted post comments by some Chinese (?) user. Due to this I will have to moderate all comments from now on.

Message from Lynn Gale of The Undershaw Preservation Trust

I am calling on the nation to show their disappointment at the decision by Waverley Borough Council by writing to Jeremy Hunt MP in his position as Culture Secretary to instigate a review and get the decision overturned. His address is: 2 Royal Parade, Tilford Road, Hindhead,
Surrey, GU26 6TD (MP for SW Surrey).

Unlikely reviewer

I have just found this review of "Close to Holmes" on the website of the Chorleywood Residents' Association
 
"
A new book of interest to all those fascinated by historical London has been published ("Close to Holmes: A Look at the Connections between Historical London, Sherlock Holmes and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle" by Alistair Duncan, MX Publishing, 206pp £9.99).

Well reviewed in the Sherlock Holmes Journal, this is the book for me. "

Undershaw book - latest update

My book on Undershaw (arguably even more important now) is almost 6000 words long. In light of the planning decision I have redrafted the introduction.

Waverley Disgrace

Read more details the BBC
 
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/surrey/10282302.stm

A national disgrace



It is with anger and regret that I must report that yesterday Waverley Borough Council granted permission for the present owners of Undershaw to redevelop it. In short this means that the building, which both the owners and council took inadequate care of (despite its grade II listing), will be carved up into a number of separate dwellings.

I would very much like to know who, in the present financial climate, would be in a position to buy one of these proposed dwellings. I very much fear the property will be carved up and then continue to sit empty which will benefit no one.

I urge people to contact Waverley Borough Council and make their feelings known. It may not achieve anything but I think they need to be made aware of the anger this will cause for Conan Doyle fans worldwide.

Well deserved win


This is Lynn Gale of the Undershaw Preservation Trust handing over the prize of my three books to raffle winner Mrs English.

Well done and I hope you enjoy them.

D-Day - Undershaw Planning Meeting

Today at 5pm Waverley Borough Council decide whether or not to grant permission for a developer to make changes to Undershaw.

If they grant it they will be guilty of national and cultural vandalism. In addition they will also be, in effect, rewarding a developer who has failed to look after the property adequately in accordance with its grade II listed status. This little fact is acknowledged by Waverley Council on their own website.

They will send the message that it's okay to let listed buildings decay in defiance of council instructions and that ultimately you will get the development permission you seek (plus the chance to make a tidy profit).

Undershaw book

The fledgling book is now up to 4,500 words (or thereabouts). Clearly there is still much to do but it is looking good so far.
 
A.

Goggle-eyes

It is without doubt the case that the on-line archive of old newspapers provided by the British Library has been of immense use and value to me. Without it I would have struggled to write "The Norwood Author" and it is proving equally as useful for my, as yet untitled, book on Undershaw.
 
However I am suffering from a severe case of goggle-eyes after spending two afternoons browsing through all manner of papers for the years 1898 and 1899. I have to repeat this excercise for every year up to and including 1907.
 
Why do I do it to myself?

Charging over RRP

Is it just me who finds it scandalous that there are organisations and individuals selling my books on-line for prices in excess of the RRP?
 
As an author my royalties are defined by my contract so regardless of what the book is sold for I get x. So, when a book is sold above RRP, all the extra money is going to the retailer.
 
What's more these are on-line retailers. They don't have the argument that they have staff to pay or a premises to maintain in a costly retail centre.
 
It quite frankly disgusts me that these people are making money off the back of my hard work. Charging up to the RRP is fine but above it is simply not on. If you genuinely cannot afford to sell it at RRP then please don't sell it at all.

Progress update

My new book on the Undershaw years is approaching 3000 words long. I have made some interesting discoveries and formed some interesting theories. I can say no more at present as I desire to keep my powder dry.
 
I am also more or less settled on its title but, as I desire to retain the right to change it, I shall not reveal it.
 
A.

What a day

Well Saturday was a curious day. It began at the unworldly hour of 5.30am when I discovered that my on-line email account had been hacked overnight and that emails had been sent to my entire address book. To add insult to injury the people (or program) responsible had proceeded to empty my sent items folder thus robbing me of over 1500 sent emails.

Fortunately I was able to recover these with the help of my provider's on-line tech support.

Once that was sorted there was the business of my book signing.

This was not a success. Not only was the store not prepared for me when I arrived but they were also displaying the wrong times for the signing. Despite this, and the fact that they set me up behind a pillar with no backdrop, I did manage to sell some books. However the total count was a mere five. I also signed eighteen to go on the shelves.

Of course it was the glorious weather that did me the most damage. After all, when there's such sun to be had why would you browse a bookshop?

Signing - "The Norwood Author"

Well tomorrow brings my signing sesssion for "The Norwood Author" at Croydon Waterstones. Despite what their website says I shall be there from 11am-1pm.
 
These events always make me nervous. Will anyone turn up? How many copies will I sign? Questions, questions :-)
 
Pictures to follow after the event.
 
A.

What's in a name?

Word is starting to travel regarding my decision to write a book on Arthur Conan Doyle's Undershaw years. The comments that have found their way back to me have been overwhelmingly positive. One lady informed me that she had 'squealed with delight' in the middle of her office upon reading the news and was struggling to explain her conduct to her colleagues.
 
However one thing seems to preoccupy all those who have come back to me - my choice of title. Now I have a couple in mind at present and have all but settled on one of them. At this stage though I have no desire to reveal anything. So - kind people - please stop asking.
 
Lynn Gale - what have you got me into?
 
A.

A gentle reminder

For those who don't already know, I am signing copies of "The Norwood Author" at Waterstones in Croydon this Saturday (22nd) between 11am and 1pm.
 
See you there...

The old fire is back

Yesterday I drafted the introduction to my next book. This was easy as it was just a personal account of how the idea came into being. Today saw me begin my research efforts with a dig into some of the books within my own collection.
 
In short, I am once again fired up.

Work has begun

I sometimes wonder why I do such bad things to myself. Yesterday I bought two notebooks. Nothing all too remarkable about that you might say but for me it is significant. Over the past three years I have only used notebooks for one purpose - to store my research for my books. So what does the fact that I've bought two notebooks mean?

Yes it means that I have committed myself to yet another book. I am going to do the Undershaw book. As I write, I have just completed the introduction.

A.

Raffle winner

Congratulations to Mrs English who won the signed set of my three books at the Save Undershaw event on Saturday 15th May.

Undershaw book

Sunday afternoon found me at the Criterion Restaurant with my wife (see earlier post). Over the course of the meal SHSL President Guy Marriot added his voice to those suggesting that I examine the idea of writing a book about Arthur Conan Doyle's years at Undershaw. This now makes about half a dozen people who have suggested that I look at it. This is of course very flattering as it clearly implies a belief on the part of those people that I am up to the task.

I therefore declare that I shall look into it. This should not be taken as a guarantee that I will do it however. If I do decide to do it said book would not be likely to emerge for one or two years.

Undershaw Blog entry re my good self

Here is the link to the Undershaw blog entry about yours truly.
 
http://undershawhelp.blogspot.com/2010/05/alistair-duncan.html

Goal achieved

Today I finally dined in the Criterion Restaurant. This is a major thing for any Sherlockian as it is the place where Dr Watson's journey began in A Study in Scarlet.

A Golden Evening

Last night saw the AGM of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. This took place at the National Liberal Club on the Embankment in London.

At the conclusion of the main agenda it was time to announce the winner of the 2nd Tony and Freda Howlett Award. This award came into being in 2009 and recognises published Sherlockian / Doylean works written by society members. Yours truly was gratified to discover that "Close to Holmes" (which you can see me holding on the left) had been shortlisted for the award. Alas it went elsewhere on this occasion but I am nonetheless very flattered to have been shortlisted.

Then came the SHSL Eggheads competition. The Eggheads consisted of Guy Marriot, Society President; Roger Johnson, Co-Editor of the Society Journal; Heather Owen, his fellow Co-Editor; and finally Catherine Cooke the society's events secretary. A formidable line-up indeed.

There were two teams of challengers. The first team defeated some Eggheads but ultimately lost in the final round. Then came the turn of my team - The Old Mycroftians.

We won all our rounds, in my case I got all three of my questions correct in the round "The Fair Sex" (although I had to take a guess at one question). At the end it was down to Catherine Cooke to defend the Eggheads earlier win. Despite her gallant efforts we prevailed. The closing round of the competition was presided over by Kevin Ashman from the real Eggheads team on the BBC.

Eggheads beckons

On Friday just gone I came down with a heavy cold which I am still trying to shake off. Its timing could not be worse as the Sherlock Holmes Society of London's AGM is this Thursday and I need to be fit for the Eggheads competition.
 
At present I feel I am on the mend but the next obvious concern is that it will get its claws into the missus. If it does she'll be coming down with the worst of it at precisely the wrong time.
 
Fingers crossed that she makes it.
 
A.

MX Publishing Charity Campaign

I have reported before on the campaign to save Undershaw, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's former Hindhead home, from the attention of developers. I have now taken an extra step in my support for this campaign.
 
If you buy any of my books direct from the MX Publishing website and checkout using the promotional code 'Undershaw' a donation of £1.50 per book will be made to the Undershaw Preservation Trust.
 
Please check out the following link for further details:
 
http://www.mxpublishing.co.uk/engine/shop/page/Partners/Save+Undershaw+Campaign
 
Please note that purchases of my books through any other site will not make a donation.

Save Undershaw - now!

I am donating one copy of each of my books to the Undershaw Preservation Trust which is campaigning to save Sir Arthur's former home in Hindhead from the clutches of property developers who would convert it into a number of apartments. I urge all of you with an interest in our literary heritage to get involved.

http://undershawhelp.blogspot.com/

Donate some money to the fund, buy a t-shirt. Do what you can.

Thank you.

Wikipedia

Well I've spent a few minutes updating the Wikipedia entries for "221B Baker Street" and "Herbert Greenhough Smith". The former needed some citations and the latter was in desperate need of a picture.
 
Both have now been provided.
 
My work here is done.
 
A.

Waterstones Croydon - Signing Confirmed

After some little confusion I can confirm that I will be signing copies of 'The Norwood Author' at Waterstones in Croydon (Whitgift Centre) on Saturday May 22nd from 11am - 1pm.
 
For those of you who are interested I would advise registering an interest in advance by contacting the store by phone or email.
 
The Croydon Waterstones details are as follows:
 
1063/4/7 Whitgift Centre
Croydon CR0 1UX
Tel: 020 8686 7032
E-mail: manager@croydon.waterstones.com

 
The date of the signing is significant as it is Arthur Conan Doyle's 151st birthday.
 
 
A.

Waterstones Book Signing - The Norwood Author

Subject to final confirmation my next signing will be as follows:
 
Waterstones Croydon (Whitgift Centre)
Saturday May 22nd 11am - 1pm
 
The manager has currently pledged to get in extra stock of my latest book only. If this changes I shall let you know.
 
A.

Book Signing Event - To be confirmed

There is a strong possibility that I will be signing copies of 'The Norwood Author' in Waterstones - Croydon on May 22nd. This is an important date as it is Arthur Conan Doyle's birthday.

As soon as the event is confirmed I shall let you all know.

A.

UK sales up

Sales of all three books have improved. Amazon sales ranks for all have shot up.

Very nice. Thanks to all those who bought them.

Back to the grind

After a week's holiday I will get back to work on my novel. My detective has been idle for too long.

10,000 words

My restarted novel has now broken the 10,000 word barrier. Given that I have been neglecting it of late I am quite pleased to have made this milestone.

All we hear is...radio ga ga

On Saturday I went to Evolution Studios to record my contribution towards a documentary on Sherlock Holmes. I will be one of many contributors so it is anyone's guess how much of my input will make it into the final cut.

As soon as I hear of a broadcast date I shall post details here.

Latest AmazonUK review for Close to Holmes

"This book is full of surprises. Any Holmes fan will find it useful. Very interesting, full of research, and ideal for anyone wanting to explore
the London of Sherlock Holmes. Excellent! "

Radio

This Saturday (3rd) I will be visiting Resonance FM to record my interview re Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle. At this stage I don't know when the broadcast will be but their website can be found here:
 
http://resonancefm.com/
 
They have on-line streaming of shows and their schedule.

Ebay sales

I am selling one dedicated and signed copy of each of my books on ebay. Go and look and get bidding.

Radio Interview

My radio interview is taking place this Saturday at 11am. However it is a recording at this stage so you won't be able to hear it. As soon as I know when it will be broadcast I will let you all know.

British Library Fun

As many of you will know, the British Library is one of the UK's copyright libraries which means they are legally entitled to a free copy of every book published in the UK. Due to the sheer volume of books it can take a while for entries to appear on their searchable database.
 
The entry for my first book only appeared in February and my first name had been spelled incorrectly. I reported the error and received, today, an email to apologise and to inform me that the spelling had been corrected. However it contained this postscript which I found rather amusing:
 
 
"We still have a "clash" between you and
another author called "Alistair Duncan" - joint author of the title
"Impact of agricultural practices and catchment characteristics on
Ayrshire bathing waters" (2001)! "