Cracking Into Sherlockian Backstory ~ Interview with Darlene Cypser

Holy hand grenades! It’s been a long time since we’ve posted anything! Energy, motivation, and time have been lacking for both of us lately. Do please pardon our silence!

This interview has been an especially long time coming, so we are particularly pleased to share it with you now! The original plan here was for this to be the usual joint review/interview, but I’m afraid only one of us has made it through the books so far (thanks, real world – we love you, too), and I (S.Sigerson) have been separated from my notes by a couple-thousand miles. In other words, the review is going to have to come in a later post.

In the meantime, however, let me just say that for my part, I have really enjoyed Darlene’s books so far. For those of you who may not be familiar with her work, she’s been thoughtfully filling in some of the backstory surrounding Holmes’ childhood/adolescence, and university years. I’d not read any pastiche of this sort prior to Crack in the Lens and the ‘University’ volume of the Consulting Detective Trilogy, so this was engaging territory for me. 

I think each and every one of us grapples with the mystery of Holmes’ childhood and adolescence at some point in the course of our Sherlockian endeavors, and it’s always fun for me to hear (or read) the sorts of things people have come up with. It’s such a mysteriously enticing topic that it’s frankly pretty hard to avoid pondering it. From what I’ve gathered thus far, opinions seem to differ quite greatly and sometimes (like any such thing really) rather agressively. As hinted at above, I’ve not yet read or discussed my way into this particular subject matter enough to *really* be able to debate along with everyone else, but as far as I can determine, these books are really very thoughtfully done and well-researched. None of us can really, truly ‘know’ what Holmes’ past *really* looks like and I say Darlene’s ideas seem pretty plausible. There really isn’t much in them that I personally found any fault in or took issue with. I suppose I could have written this interview up as a nitpicky, hair-splitting, spoiler-ridden discussion over little details, but who would want to read that?

So then! … Continue reading

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Mastering ‘Mastermind’ ~ Interview with Maria Konnikova ~ March 7th, 2013

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Well, as seems to often be the case these days, it’s taken me (S.Sigerson) a humiliatingly long time to get this pulled together and I feel pretty awful for that, but it’s here now! I’ve been traveling in and out of town more than usual lately and have also found myself rather busy these last few weeks with lots of time-consuming things. Things that sometimes have me feeling a little frustrated in their lack of logistical efficiency, which in turn leaves me feeling as though I’m always moving, but never getting anything of substance done, but nonetheless don’t always leave me with much time or energy for ‘side dishes’, like blogging. I, of course, had a chance to speak with Maria a while back, but before I get to the interview, I’d like to offer a few of my thoughts.

I mention my mundane frustrations here – that feeling of being spread at times irritatingly thin between disjointed obligations piled up around some very difficult and serious decisions – because this topic directly ties in with some of the main themes addressed in Maria Konnikova’s latest book Mastermind. I’ve been grappling these many months with some pretty serious matters, which has made a lot of what Maria has written here feel especially poignant and timely. What I mean by that is simply that this book has given me some very grounding food for thought at a time when emotions frequently run very high and the presence of clarity is about as common (and probable) as Sasquatch knocking on my door for a cup of flour. Continue reading

New Adventures With Old Friends ~ Interview with Martin Powell

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‘S.Sigerson’ here. – Many of you will likely have gathered that Martin has *just* (as of today – February 13th) released a new graphic novel rendering of HOUND (the source of most of the lovely images here), which we will be reviewing in the near future.  We need a little bit of time yet to pull our own reviews together, but we’ll say this much so far:  This book is absolutely worth taking a look at!  Even if you’re not typically the “graphic novel” type.  Our friend over at Well-Read Sherlockian has even broken her own ‘no graphic novel’ rule to read and review it!  (See link to Amazon below.)

We thought you might like to learn a little more about the author himself while you wait for more of our thoughts on the subject, but before we do that, let me tell you guys a neat story.  I spent quite a number of years being very intensely passionate about vertebrate Paleontology, which is what I originally set out to study. Incidentally, it was through this interest in Paleontology that I first came into contact with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I read and absolutely ADORED his Lost World. Of all the books I’ve read throughout my life, somehow that one has always stuck with me as having been one of the most memorable and strangely impacting things I’ve ever read. It was this inspiring impact that initially seeded a distant desire in me some 12 or 15 years ago to read any of Conan Doyle’s other works. (Remember those last two sentences, they’re important.) At that particular point in time, however, my mind could hardly have been further from the world of Sherlock Holmes. All of my energy was focused on things paleontological, and part of that process involved spending a little under five years working at a local museum. While working at said museum I chanced to meet a fellow paleo-enthusiast and avid reader by the name of – wait for it – Martin Powell. Continue reading

Dancing With the Devil ~ Review of Devil’s Grin and an Interview with Annelie Wendeberg

Before we get started…

A Few Thoughts on The Devil’s Grin:

For those of you not yet familiar with Devil’s Grin, here’s an idea of what you can expect (pulled from Amazon):

“In Victorian London’s cesspool of crime and disease, a series of murders remains undiscovered until a cholera fatality is found floating in the city’s drinking water supply.  Dr Anton Kronberg, England’s best bacteriologist, is called upon to investigate and finds evidence of abduction and medical maltreatment.  While Scotland Yard has little interest in pursuing the case, Kronberg pushes on and crosses paths with Sherlock Holmes.  The detective immediately discovers Kronberg’s secret – a woman masquerading as a man in order to practice medicine – a criminal deed that could land her in prison for years to come.  But both must join forces to stop a crime so monstrous, it outshines Jack the Ripper’s deeds in brutality and cold-bloodedness.”

Intrigued?  You should be!  I (‘S.Sigerson’) just finished reading this book and must say that I enjoyed it greatly!  Anna/Anton is a strong, complex, and highly intelligent character with a sharp wit, sharp tongue, and an admirably solid set of morals.  Morals she is stubbornly determined to defend to the very end, regardless of the danger and personal cost.  She is a vibrant, glowing anomaly in a world of often terrifying darkness.  Step-by-step, we follow her through the atmospheric adventure alluded to above as she works her way deeper and deeper into the dismal underworld of Victorian medicine.  Along the way, she stumbles into the path of another great Victorian anomaly…our old friend Sherlock Holmes.  They both set their sights on resolving the same problem, but choose to go about it in two very different ways, grudgingly ‘agreeing’ to accept each other’s intermittent presence (but not without both getting in their fair share of biting snark).

This is a very different sort of Sherlockian fiction from what I’ve otherwise read thusfar.  Rather than being what I’ve understood as a ‘proper pastiche’ (something that attempts to ‘fit into’ the canon by mimicking Doyle’s style and structure), this is the story of an otherwise unrelated character who’s lifeline just happens to cross with that of Holmes.  It doesn’t carry (for me at least) an especially ‘canonical’ feel, but then I don’t believe it’s intended to.  Throughout the story, the emphasis remains on Anna and her own inner dialog (because yes, it really is more of a ‘dialog’), and not on Holmes.  That isn’t to say, however, that we don’t hear from Holmes.  Anna interacts with him regularly and I found it deeply refreshing and thought-provoking to explore and examine his character through the smart eyes of an absolute ‘outsider’.  Annelie provides us with a very different image of Holmes; hinting at hidden personality facets, while also directly underscoring the fact that every person who interacts with him within his own fictional timeline is going to see something different – just the way every reader of the canon does.  She also gives us lots of lovely little colorful details that really bring her scenery to life.  My personal favorite is how she draws our attention to the chemical stains decorating the walls and ceiling above Holmes’ desk almost the very instant Anna enters the flat for the first time.

I found myself really getting into this book and I read it rather voraciously.  I even made it a point one day to go for a long evening walk around the local reservoir just for the effect. (The structure isn’t ‘period’ in the slightest, but the building is made to look a little as though it were.)  It was a gorgeous autumn day and there were a lot of people about, but the space suddenly had a vaguely sinister feel to it.  When viewed from behind (the side facing the water), the building always looks mysteriously shut up and dark, making it feel semi-abandoned, which it of course isn’t.  Staring at the water, I found myself feeling very grateful that I needn’t be fearful of things like cholera in my morning coffee.  Nor did I encounter any bloated bodies.

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Of Earthquakes and Untold Tales ~ Conversation with Hugh Ashton – 8/31/2012

This is a new thing for us!  So new, in fact, that we’ve had to create a special category JUST for this!  What you are about to read, my friends, is our very first AUTHOR INTERVIEW!  Though, when I say ‘interview’ I really mean ‘delightfully meandering discussion’, which is to say don’t expect your classic ‘question – answer – question’ format.  You’ll never find it here.  It only took me ten whole days of squeezing this in late at night to get the full 2.5 hours of recorded dialog transcribed, smoothed out, and edited into a readable text.  That having been said, I’ve done my very best to reproduce the feel of the conversation for you.  I’ve naturally had to edit things out for the sake of length and flow (the full transcription was around ten single-spaced pages), but I’ve tried to leave what I thought were the most interesting bits in place.

Enjoy!

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I recently had the great pleasure of spending a couple of hours late one Friday evening chatting with Sherlockian author Hugh Ashton about the writing and publication of his recent string of canonical pastiche.  Hugh, who was born in the UK, but has been living in Kamakura, Japan since 1988, has recently been putting out a lively collection of truly delightful short stories (and also one full-length novel) focusing on the plethora of ‘unpublished cases’ referenced in the canon.  Hugh has chosen to write from the perspective of a third-party editor, publishing the narratives posthumously on Watson’s behalf after having had the good doctor’s infamous tin deed box shipped to him from London.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading these stories and was very anxious to learn more about how Hugh has gone about writing them.

This was the first such interview I had ever tried to lead (sadly, HamishMD was not able to join me on that particular evening) and I was admittedly a little nervous over how it would go.  (Not to mention the awkward self-consciousness stirred up by the knowledge that I was recording my own voice and would soon have to slog my way through it again in order to write this post.)  But the conversation with Hugh started off marvelously with an intriguing discussion of the inner workings of Amazon, followed by a little detailing of life in earthquake-riddled Japan.  I have never actually lived in an area that gets earthquakes, and so I listened with rapt attention to Hugh’s description of how some buildings are built on top of a sort of “rubber foundation” made up of layers of rubber and steel designed to function like over-sized shock absorbers.  I, for one, had never stopped to consider that this was even possible.  It makes perfect sense, really, but my initial reaction was nonetheless to begin laughing out loud; mostly, I think, because I was visualizing a large building jiggling around like a freshly-set Jell-O pudding on a platter.  Not even remotely funny in reality, but hilarious in my head.  It was also very interesting for me to learn that it’s common in Japan for people to have an application on their phones to alert them of impending quakes (there’s even an app for that), which reminded me just a tiny bit of the radio broadcast-based ‘tracking method’ some Midwestern (US) towns use to follow tornadoes from house to house.  Equally fascinating (and charming) was the description of the clever in-home detection system Hugh and his wife employ – A set of nesting dolls set up in such a way that the relative ‘danger level’ of an earthquake can be determined by watching to see how many of the dolls fall over.  It’s funny how the simplest of solutions sometimes really are the most effective.

Continue reading