Hey there kittens! HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!! On my blog today I’m hosting one of my authors from An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. His name is Thomas Fortenberry and he’s a phenomenal writer! He dabbles in spy stories and H.P. Lovecraft, two things I just love in a writer. This article originally appeared on his own site: http://thomasfortenberry.net/ but he’s letting me lift it for my own purposes today.
I’m pleased to see you’ve made it through the fog-shrouded streets of London to cozy little 221-B. Now, take a cup of tea and pack your pipe, gather round the fireplace in a comfortable chair, and let’s talk about our dear old friend, Mr. Holmes.
There is cause for celebration as a new anthology has arrived, An Improbable Truth: The Paranormal Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I am proud to admit I contributed a tale to it.
I had an absolute blast writing a story for this collection. It was an opportunity at which I jumped, because Sherlock Holmes is one of the literary icons I have spent a lifetime admiring, yet who rarely become available to explore or write due to ever-increasing (-ly insane) copyright laws. I am still waiting on a chance to have adventures with Doc Savage, for instance. Just recently I thought I had an opportunity to write a James Bond tale, but it turns out I had to be Canadian. So close, yet so far north of litigation. As my Grandfather explained to me as a child, Ca Nada means, “Nothing here.” I expect nothing there for me, Mr. Bond.
Therefore, you see, these chances can be extremely rare. The case of Sherlock Holmes is newly won as he has entered the public domain this year. Voila! We write.
Crafting Sherlock Holmes tales have a few intrinsic difficulties. Most obviously, there is the mystery. Sherlock Homes is the world’s most famous detective, hence, this will be crime story that needs solving. But, more on this in a moment.
Next is the fact that these are period pieces. Luckily I love history, so in my case this proved quite fun. Any excuse to research a given era or culture. I read up on English history, specifically the Victorian and Edwardian Eras. My challenge was not to get lost in all the details. For instance, when Holmes and Watson needed to get across town, I started researching different types of conveniences, and then found myself studying styles of carriages, how they are pulled and how they are made, and then begin thinking of ways to include in the story a certain stitching in the seats, or wheel and axle, or breed of horse, and… you begin to see. It is always a matter of trimming back hundreds of hours of research into a few pertinent details rather than, literally (ar-ar), a flood of historical proportions.
Then, the most wonderful portion is also the most difficult. The attraction of these types of serial tales is the characters themselves. From pulp adventures to cozy mysteries, these are self-contained universes. Half the fun of reading one is to get to see what Fritz cooks for Archie and Nero’s dinner, or what Monk and Ham are fighting over this week while Doc is ensconced in his lab developing his next great invention, or what tomb Amelia and Radcliffe are exploring when the next corpse is discovered. It isn’t just the mystery that draws us in, it is the familiar banter between Holmes and Watson in the comfort of their 221-B domicile. This is what I loved writing, but also what I found most daunting, because it was not my own world and yet I had to honor it explicitly. Therefore, I reread every Holmes short story and novel in preparation for this write. That was the best way to pick up the flavor of their speech and nuances of their relationship. Because, in my opinion, it is paramount to honor these characters as they are created and the world they inhabit.
Furthermore, whenever possible and for my own enjoyment, I mention or embed characters from other worlds in most of my stories and did so here. I love writing cameos. So several non-Sherlockian people were featured in this tale, some from my own writings and some from others. Enjoy hunting those “Easter eggs,” as my children say. In this particular tale, since this was an historic Holmes horror, the confluence of subgenres lent itself to certain types of crossovers.
Now, back to the mystery. I love mysteries, but in the case of Sherlock Holmes it is a wee bit difficult to write simply because he is the Great Deducer (Deduceretur) or Cluemeister (to coin some fun). That is, how do you craft a mystery when the protagonist is constantly figuring it all out before you want to reveal it? Hard times, indeed. Nevertheless, it is a joy to write with such a vibrant, intelligent character. Also, since this had a slight supernatural vibe to it, I was able to keep Sherlock in the proverbial dark, exploring unknown territory as well.
All in all, a fantastic time. I hope you enjoy reading the stories in this new anthology as much as we did crafting them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Thomas Fortenberry is an American author, editor, reviewer, and publisher. A Pushcart Prize-nominated writer and history teacher, he has also judged many literary contests, including The Georgia Author of the Year Awards and The Robert Penn Warren Prize for Fiction. A lifelong fan of Sherlock, mysteries, and Pulp Era adventures, he is very honored to participate in a crossing of two of his favorite “worlds,” that of Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos. He can be found strolling the internet on his website: www.thomasfortenberry.net.
EXCERPT From “The Hunt of the Red Boar” by Thomas Fortenberry
Another cry arose from the tortured soul below and I could tarry no longer, pondering my strange weapon of choice. I ran down the stairs to face our threat.
Downstairs I found Holmes engaged in a struggle. The Lord of the manor was wrestling with my friend, bending him back upon a table whereupon a young lady was strapped. Wild-eyed, black hair bristling atop his head, the tall Lord Eoforred looked to be quite insane. He was throttling Holmes and slavering somewhat whilst making incoherent sounds. It might have been articulations, but if the sounds were words all I could fathom were random noises, like snarls and grunts. I fully believe, to this day that this once noble man had gone stark raving mad.
A naked lady, obviously Eoforred’s maid, was tied to the table. For modesty’s sake, I tried to look away. As I did my eyes were drawn to a book in the corner. It was a large volume, lying open upon a stand near the head of the table like a Bible in a church. Only this was no Bible. My vision seemed to be pulled into it, as if it were a well drawing me down. My blood froze and my breath caught, for most bizarre of all, from its pages there emanated an eerie darkness. A living shadow rose into the air. This shadow seemed to shift and grow, almost like some figure attempting to stand.
I was terrified beyond words, but the young lady’s screams wrenched me from my reverie. But she screamed with ample cause. A… thing was crawling up her naked body. It was a creature, a living nightmare of slimy, grayish-green skin. It seemed to be like an octopus, only more odious. It crawled upon a writhing mass of appendages from a large, ornately-carved ceramic bowl placed between her bound feet. The thing moved in a sinuous manner up her chest, smearing the blood-soaked pentagram carved into her flesh. It wrapped its tentacles around her neck, and constricted her flesh. Her scream abruptly ended.