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.
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.
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.
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:
1) The Lost Stories of Sherlock Holmes
2) A Chronology Of The Life of Arthur Conan Doyle - A Detailed Account Of The Life And Times Of The Creator Of Sherlock Holmes
3) The Norwood Author (by yours truly)
4) Sherlock (BBC DVD)
5) Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes and Devon: A Complete Tour Guide & Companion
It will only be there for seven days or so.
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.
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.
On the plus side I am off to do some valuable research this weekend so work on the project has not stopped entirely.
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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
To say I am vexed is an understatement.
If you have read either of these books and would like to give your thoughts please add comments to this post.
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.
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.
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.
(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
So, in response, the Undershaw Preservation Trust is starting the legal wheels in search of a judicial review.
Down but certainly not out.
It is no exaggeration to say that this book and my earlier ones would have been hard to write without these resources.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I've also started throwing a few lines into a novel although I think I will struggle to write two books at once.
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.
Early isn't it? I hope you'll all be awake to tune in.
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.
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.
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.
"...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."
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.
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.
Watch this space.
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.
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.
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.
Mrs Doyle has very kindly offered to meet with me so I shall be visiting her (employer permitting) in the next few weeks.
Rest assured folks that work has not halted but is simply proceeding slightly slower than expected.
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).
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. "
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.
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).
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?
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.
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.
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?
These events always make me nervous. Will anyone turn up? How many copies will I sign? Questions, questions :-)
Pictures to follow after the event.
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?
In short, I am once again fired up.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Please note that purchases of my books through any other site will not make a donation.
Donate some money to the fund, buy a t-shirt. Do what you can.
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
The date of the signing is significant as it is Arthur Conan Doyle's 151st birthday.
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.
As soon as the event is confirmed I shall let you all know.
As soon as I hear of a broadcast date I shall post details here.
They have on-line streaming of shows and their schedule.
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)! "
I am still pleased with it. Certainly it needs work but that will get dealt with in due course.