Taking liberties

Well we have a little over two weeks before the latest Warner Bros Sherlock Holmes film hits screens in the US and Europe. I think it is pretty safe to say that whether you loved or hated the first offering you are expecting more of the same from the sequel. I certainly am and if the trailers to date are anything to go by I am not wrong.

There was an awful lot wrong with the first film but, to be fair, there was a fair amount that was right also. However this has been the case for Holmes screen dramatisations since the first. If we look back to the dawn of cinema it is easy to see that the Sherlock Holmes stories have suffered as much as other works at the hands of screenwriters.

The most famous of the early screen outings starred Eille Norwood and his (silent) films were set in the era in which they were filmed (i.e. the 1920s). Norwood enjoyed the rare distinction of approval from Arthur Conan Doyle himself even though he, Doyle, wasn't entirely happy about the non-Victorian setting. A contemporary setting was also used when Arthur Wontner starred in some of the earliest talkie Holmes films in the early 1930s. In both cases this was dictated largely by budget.

Fox’s early efforts with Basil Rathbone relocated back to the Victorian era but, when they took over, Universal swiftly reverted to a contemporary setting.

In the 1950s and 60s efforts were made to keep Holmes in his Victorian setting. We saw the likes of John Neville, Douglas Wilmer, Ronald Howard and Peter Cushing all as loyal servants of Victoria. This continued as we entered the 80s with Ian Richardson and Jeremy Brett continuing in the same vein.

Yet all of these took liberties with the source material to some degree or other. So when we object to such liberties do we do so more on the basis of what they are (i.e. do they cross any of our personal red lines) or who it is that is taking them?

Not a bad opening

I said on Twitter this morning that I wouldn't blog today but what the hell. This will be the only one today.

My book An Entirely New Country is down to one available copy on Amazon UK. My other books have benefited from this as well with The Norwood Author also down to its last copy and sales increasing of Close to Holmes.

This is rather pleasing although I'll have to wait for the official sales figures before I know whether I am celebrating too early.

If you're in the UK and Amazon are sold out be sure to check Book Depository or Waterstones. With the former you don't need to have an account with them. You can make an unregistered purchase with Pay Pal.

Amazon UK - Nearly Sold Out

Good news. Amazon UK are down to their last two copies of An Entirely New Country.

Interesting - Book on sale now

Hi all. It would appear that Amazon UK are shipping my new book now.

This may seem odd but....

Yes - I've just written a book on Arthur Conan Doyle's years at Undershaw. I know, you don't need to remind me. However I do have a question which I need answers to.

Does anyone out there know anything about the design and layout of the house's garden? It was something I never came across in my researches and was, I will admit, something I wasn't overly concerned about.

I intend to raid the home library in an effort to unearth facts but if anyone out there knows anything it would be useful. It is for a little side project.


AENC Snippet - 4 Conan Doyle and Parliament

When Conan Doyle was campaigning to enter Parliament it was suggested that his conduct was inappropriate for a member of a certain London club. Conan Doyle was forced to defend himself in the press.

Want to know more. Order now.


I have recently taken delivery of three postcards. Not a newsworthy event as such but it is mildly irritating for me. The postcards depict the Beacon Hotel, The Hindhead Golf Club clubhouse and the home of Grant Allen.

The latter two in particular would have been fantastic for inclusion in the new book.

Oh well. Perhaps in the second edition......

AENC Snippet - 3 Conan Doyle during the Boer War

In 1900 Arthur Conan Doyle went out to South Africa to work at a field hospital. He did this because he was desperate to serve his country during the Boer War but was considered too old for active service.

In his autobiography and private letters he was rather disparaging about the head surgeon Robert O'Callaghan and his suitability for his position.

Was this justified? I think find out more order now.

AENC Snippet - 2 Hound of the Baskervilles

Have you ever wondered where Conan Doyle got the idea for the Barrymores for The Hound of the Baskervilles? Have you ever wondered why the Barrymores talk of leaving Sir Henry's employment even though they won't leave before the end of the novel?

A theory can be found in my new book. Order here

AENC Snippet - 1 William Gillette

William Gillette, the American stage actor, brought Sherlock Holmes to London's Lyceum Theatre in September 1901. The play had done very well in the United States but its London debut was met with boos and shouting.

Many people have believed that this was due to people objecting to such an iconic British figure being portrayed by an American. The truth was somewhat different.

Want to know more?

Order now.

AENC - Snippets

I have decided, with just over a week to go until the release of my next book, to post some teaser items. First to follow shortly.

Editing hat on

As some of my Twitter followers will be aware I am trying my hand at a bit of editing. I freely admit that I have never edited for someone else before but this is not any old editing job. This is the editing of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche.

I can say nothing specific about the title at this stage but the task has proved an eye-opener. It is one thing to self-edit, another to deal with an editor who is going through your work, it is quite another to do the editing for someone else.

The problem of course is that you have to be critical, bordering on nasty, about the things that don't seem right. I'm also putting a lot of myself into someone else's work and, even though my name will not appear on the end result, I feel that my reputation is on the line as much as that of the author.

Why? Simple. Not only am I doing the regular thing of hunting for typos and anachronistic language I am also having to recommend changes where my Sherlockian knowledge tells me things are amiss. So the part of my reputation that is on the line is not my reputation as an editor (I have none to damage) but my reputation as a Sherlock Holmes 'expert'.



I'm told that the Mysterious Bookshop in New York has placed an order for some copies of An Entirely New Country. Many thanks indeed.

Pipe Ashes to Ashes - an amusing thought

I have often wondered what it must have been like to be a person reading the Sherlock Holmes stories as they came out. Anybody that has come to Sherlock Holmes since 1927 has had the benefit of having all the stories instantly available, the entire canon has been there for us to dip into.

What must it have been like to be one of those people who had to wait for the next instalment to be published, one of those people who mourned the publication of The Final Problem without the assurance that Holmes would return?

I also wonder what it must have been like for people when Holmes ceased to be contemporary. As I have mentioned before, Holmes began his adventures operating in the same world and age as his readers but as the world entered the 20th century Holmes remained largely in the 19th. By the time 1927 was reached Holmes had not had an adventure later in time than 1914 and his last published adventure Shoscombe Old Place was set at the turn of the century, nearly three decades prior to its publication date.

So, looked at another way, Holmes went from being a contemporary detective to being almost a retro detective. He operated in the past but it was a past that many of his readers were directly familiar with. Or, to put it yet another way, Holmes became trapped in the recent past - he entered his own version of Life on Mars.

How about that? A parallel between Sherlock Holmes and Gene Hunt.


Speaking with babes

Yesterday evening I spoke with the Baker Street Babes for their next podcast (number 13). My contribution to proceedings included the story of how I came to be interested in Sherlock Holmes, how I came to be involved with the Undershaw Preservation Trust and how I came to write my latest book An Entirely New Country.

I was joined in the discussion by Lynn Gale, known to many of you as one of the driving forces of the Undershaw Preservation Trust.

I understand the podcast will be released before the end of November.

Less than three weeks to go...

An Entirely New Country - my new book on the life of Arthur Conan Doyle during the Undershaw years will be available worldwide in just under three weeks time.

Get those pre-orders in. Links can be found at the foot of this blog. Remember that 50% of net royalties will be placed at the disposal of the Undershaw Preservation Trust.

Speaking to the Babes

I hope, this Sunday, to be speaking to the Baker Street Babes for part of a future podcast.

I see that episode 12 is already announced so I guess that I'll be featuring on unlucky number 13. I'm just guessing but there's a fair bet they'll quiz me about Undershaw and my new book.

A wee trip to Hindhead

Yesterday took me to Hindhead to see Lynn Gale and hand over an early copy of An Entirely New Country. It was a suitably foggy day.

We then proceeded to a nearby hostelry where we had a little chat about the book and our hopes for its success. You can now - links here.

One sneaked out

A certain lucky(?) individual received a copy of my book from yesterday. Thanks to a small oversight on Amazon's part they released a copy (at least one that we know of) before the official date. A few words in the right ear and this has been halted.

Just goes to show that automated systems are not a substitute for a good old fashioned human being.

The debate draws near

The Great Sherlock Holmes Debate draws near. Yesterday I put together my thoughts for team three and submitted them for inclusion in the team's slides.

My fear for The House of Silk

There has been much raving in the press about the new Sherlock Holmes story The House of Silk by Anthony Horowitz. Journalists seem to be lining up to report that it is excellent. They also seem to be saying that Horowitz writes in the style of Conan Doyle which begs the question - are they qualified to judge that? To my mind, the individual reader will decide that for themselves and the opinions are bound to be wide ranging.

I am still waiting for my copy to arrive but a day does not seem to go by where I don't see a sign proclaiming it to be Holmes's darkest case and so on.

I fear that these adverts are raising my expectations to a level where it may not be possible for the book to reach. Much is also being made of this being the first Conan Doyle Estate sanctioned book. Why? Is it a guarantee of quality? What level of input did the estate have?

Please don't get me wrong. I am not condemning the book. That would be daft as I am yet to read it. My fear is that the publicity surrounding it will do more harm than good.

Have you read it? Does it live up to the hype? Please let me know - just don't write any spoilers.

Happy birthday Mr Brett

As you will have read elsewhere today is Jeremy Brett's birthday. For my generation this great man IS Sherlock Holmes and no one has come close to matching him. Older generations may adore Douglas Wilmer or Basil Rathbone - younger generations love Benedict Cumberbatch but, for me and countless others, Brett is best (although the others are good).

As I've stated elsewhere, it was Basil Rathbone that first got me interested in Sherlock Holmes and Arthur Conan Doyle but it was Jeremy Brett that made me stay the course. It was Brett who ultimately caused me to be sat here writing this blog entry with nearly three decades of fandom and four books behind me.

For that, and so much more, my thanks sir. May you rest in peace - that peace is richly deserved.

More can be read here

Look what has just arrived

The 'author copies' have arrived.

Sorry folks they are all taken.

Not long now

It is a little over a month now before An Entirely New Country is released. I imagine that the first batch of review copies will be heading out soon.

Links to it and my other books can be found here. The links are all Amazon but the books can of course be purchased from other retailers such as Book Depository, Play.Com and Barnes and Noble.


I have just submitted my last radio play review. This was for The Old Court Theatre Radio Company production of Sherlock Holmes - A Drama in Four Acts. The decks are now clear.