Lair of the Geek

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Holmes Alone – Written by Guy Adams


Oct 24, 2011

Author of Sherlock Holmes: The Breath of God.

In my recently published Sherlock Holmes novel, The Breath of God, I team the renowned consulting detective with a Super Group of occult figures. AleisterCrowley was real enough of course, though the rest, Dr. John Silence, Thomas Carnacki and Julian Karswell, are lifted from the works of Algernon Blackwood, William Hope Hodgson and M.R. James respectively. Why the guest stars? Isn’t Holmes enough for anybody? Oh probably, but when Publisher of Kings, Titan Books, first asked me to work up ideas for an original Holmes novel they were particularly enthused about pairing the detective with well known historical figures or literary characters. It’s a common-enough conceit, Holmes has battled Count Dracula, the Invisible Man, Jack the Ripper (So. Many. Times.) even Martians. He’s worked with Houdini, Roosevelt and every contemporaneous detective you can imagine. In the world of the pastiche, Holmes has got around.

Within the tobacco-stained, persian-rugged world of Holmes enthusiasts there is a game, a Great Game in fact wherein one imagines that Holmes were real. This is a writer’s version of that where the rules are extended. Imagine ALL OF IT, every novel, short story, movie or comic book were a piece of historical evidence. It was all true. Now mix it all up! Many writers have made great books from the premise (not least the unutterably clever Kim Newman whose book Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles was released at the same time as mine, making me feel like a man trying to keep up with a Honda Goldwing by pedaling hard on my child’s scooter). Certainly it’s a very addictive game, once you’ve slipped a few characters in it’s hard to stop. We’ve been playing the game since we were in the playground, idly wondering who would win in a battle between the Incredible Hulk and the Thing. But is there more to it than merely self-indulgent fun?

Novels are the sum of their characters, they are what happens when you rub a bunch of people up against each other while they’re cohabiting a series of events. Sometimes characters are like foods, you get so used to eating them that it takes a new recipe, a new blend of flavours, to make them seem fresh again. By placing Holmes in the company of people who take the supernatural for granted I’ve been able to explore his rationalist views a little and see him differently as a result. Watson too is cast in a role where he must question a great deal of his preconceived notions, and, as a result the recent death of his wife comes back to haunt him, perhaps even literally. All of this could be achieved by creating brand new characters too of course, but the weight of pre-existing figures helps, it brings a gravitas as well as offering the fun opportunity to subvert a reader’s expectations.

Perhaps the construction of such books can be best viewed as the organisation of a dinner party. Albeit one where not all the guests may live to see the dessert course and the coffee is probably spiked. You can bring out different shades to someone’s personality depending on the company you put them in.
It’s a dinner party to which you are all invited of course, and while the dress code may be formal I hope the atmosphere will be congenial. Well, relatively congenial, perhaps it would be no bad thing were you to come armed.

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