The game’s afoot in Denis Smith’s collection The Mammoth Book of the Lost Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes.
When did you first start reading Holmes and Watson?
When I was 12 or 13, our English teacher asked us all to bring a book to class that we were reading, and one boy brought in the omnibus volume of the Sherlock Holmes short stories. As this was by far the most interesting book, the teacher got him to read some of it out to the rest of us. After hearing some of “The Speckled Band,” I was instantly hooked. Within 48 hours, I had borrowed the same volume from the central library in the middle of town and began reading it enthusiastically.
How do you account for enduring appeal of these stories?
The early stories in particular are generally very novel and original, and not quite like any other mystery stories. They usually involve perfectly ordinary people, with whom one can instinctively identify, who find themselves in strange or unusual situations. The stories are also very varied. Then, of course, there are the attractive characters of Holmes himself, the highly perceptive investigator who always sees his way to the solution of a perplexing mystery, and Watson, the Mr. Everyman who is our eyes and ears throughout the course of the story. There is also a wonderful sense of anticipation at the beginning of the best stories. Holmes and Watson are in their sitting room, reading, having breakfast, or perhaps just talking, and you know that something interesting—you don’t know what—is about to happen. This draws you irresistibly into the story.
What’s hardest about writing them?
The same with any fiction, I think: getting the pacing right. Of course, with Sherlock Holmes pastiches, it’s crucially important to get the atmosphere right, too, but although that’s perhaps the most important thing, it’s not necessarily the hardest to achieve.
Are there aspects of the characters you’ve tried to emphasize?
I see Holmes as, at bottom, a very noble figure. With his gifts, he could certainly do great good or great evil, but, of course, he would never do the latter. His own essentially noble character would not let him. He wears his own great gifts very lightly, laughing at pretension, but he is—as I see him, anyway—a bold knight errant, riding out with justice in his heart to right wrongs and use his great powers to help those less fortunate than himself. As for Watson, I try to show that he is an intelligent, educated man, who occasionally makes suggestions and observations that are not totally ridiculous.