As 2016 winds down to its final days, I have taken up a task I never imagined as recently as mid-year: I’m writing a full-length Sherlock Holmes novel.
At least, Arthur Conan Doyle would have considered it full length. His four Holmes novels ranged in size from The Sign of the Four, at 43,372 words, to The Hound of the Baskervilles, at 59,452 words. Mine will fall within that range, probably at the lower end. Many pastiches are twice as long, which spoils verisimilitude for me before I open the book. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy such a novel, but I will never get lost in the fantasy that it’s the real thing.
My work in progress is an attempt to write a book that ACD might have written in terms of plot, character, and style so far as I can imitate a master writer. That means no steam punk, no famous historical characters, and “no ghosts need apply.” Lots of fun books have contained those elements, but mine won’t.
What will it have? Spoiler alert: It’s narrated by Dr. Watson. And it probably won’t hurt to say that the plot will include elements that the creator of Sherlock Holmes used over and over again in his 60 short stories and novels about the Great Detective:
- a damsel in distress
- an American;
- a secret society;
- and burglary (by Holmes).
I’ve written two Holmes short stories, “The Peculiar Persecution of John VincentHarden” and “The Adventure of the Magic Umbrella,” and co-authored the Enoch Hale trilogy in which Holmes appears. But I never expected to write Sherlock fiction again, much less a novel.
So why am I rushing in where wise men fear to tread? For one of the best reasons I can image: A friend asked me to do it. And one chapter into the writing, I’m having a heck of a lot of fun at it.