Welcome! Like the book of the same name, this blog is an eclectic collection of Sherlockian scribblings based on more than a half-century of reading Sherlock Holmes. Please add your own thoughts. You can also follow me on Twitter @DanAndriacco and on my Facebook fan page at Dan Andriacco Mysteries. You might also be interested in my Amazon Author Page. My books are also available at Barnes & Noble and in all main electronic formats including Kindle, Nook, Kobo and iBooks for the iPad.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Building a World

In his biography, Rex Stout, the late John McAleer records that he once asked the creator of Nero Wolfe this question:

Anthony Burgess says that those who write series detective stories are artists -- like Wodehouse and Faulkner -- building a world. Do you agree?

Stout responded tersely, "Depends on the writer. Doyle or Simenon, yes; Christie or Gardner, no." (He might well have included himself in the "yes" category, of course.)

For many of us, this is world-building part of the appeal of Sherlock Holmes: He takes us into a defined world of continuing characters, relationships, and places where "it is always 1895."

Jaime N. Mahoney, on her Better Holmes & Gardens blog, recently offered a typically insightful post about how important setting is to Holmes. To take him out of Victorian England in those "fish out of water" stories where he wakes up in the future or is taken there by time machine severely weakens him, she correctly notes.

This is a tribute to Arthur Conan Doyle's success in building a world. My fan Nuno Robles of Lisbon, Portugal, was kind enough to say that in my two Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody mystery novels I have "created a great, mysterious, fascinating and familiar (it seems we could be there ourselves...) universe that I honestly hope will continue for many volumes in the (very near) future."

I can't think of a greater compliment for my books!

What's your favorite mystery world?


  1. I've read little Gardner, but I have to protest regarding Christie. It might be better said she created worlds. She even had Tommy and Tuppence appear in a Miss Marple story. OK, maybe that last was a Granada invention, but I always imagined Poirot, Miss Marple and the Beresfords all staying at the same hotel at some point in their lives.

  2. Setting is so important. As a reader I love mysteries that transfer me to a location that feels so real, I can wait to travel there again. As a writer, creating these locations does the same thing. Setting has to feel real. It has to fit my character. When I began writing Sydney Lockhart, I sat the stories in current times. The writing felt flat. When I changed the setting to the early 1950s, Sydney came alive. She walked into my life and began telling her stories. All I had to do was listen and write them down.
    In the case of Sherlock Holmes, I agree with Jaime that the character Conan Doyle created seems inseparable from Victorian England. However, over the years, Holmes has evolved, and fits nicely in current times. I'm thinking of the new BBC series.
    Holmes traveling about in a Time Machine . . . not sure about that one.

  3. As a writer, I've learned (at least, many many people with red writing implements have told me) that setting and physical description are my weak spots. Seeing as those elements of a story don't always register with me as a reader, this makes sense. Still, I'm not getting Gardner's dismissal of Christie as not building a world-builder. Who doesn't appreciate the atmosphere of St Mary Meade and various manor houses, or recognize Poirot's apartment? Every writer builds a world. My favorite, other than, of course, Holmes', is Preston and Child's Pendergast universe. It's like ours, but...weirder, inside and out. I can't get enough of it; honestly, those books are like crack in handy thriller form.

    But in the end, I think the settings and worlds that really attract me are the internal ones--the characters' emotional, intellectual and psychological landscapes. That's why, to me, Holmes and Watson are Holmes and Watson, no matter where an author throws them in time or space. They're still the same people internally, and while those new worlds force some changes on them, they change those worlds as well. That being said, I don't see Sherlock and John as being the same as Holmes and Watson. They're all individuals, products of their own times with their own strengths, weaknesses, and mental landscapes. I draw the line at Watson as a robot, though. Sorry. --Leah Guinn