|Paul M. Chapman (left) and Mark Jones|
How did the two of you happen to come together around Arthur Conan Doyle?
We met about five years ago at a book fair in York, United Kingdom, where we were both hovering around a bookseller who was selling various early works by ACD. Paul was already very active in Sherlockian circles while Mark was then a “solitary cyclist,” as it were. We’ve been good friends ever since.
Are you both Sherlock Holmes devotees as well as ACD champions?
Absolutely! We both came to ACD through the canon and love it immensely. We’re members of the Scandalous Bohemians of Yorkshire which meets every six weeks or so in Leeds and in York. Our York venue was once the home of Joseph Aloysius Hansom (1803-82), the inventor of the Hansom cab, which we’d like to say was by design but we only discovered later by chance. Paul was editor of The Ritual, the journal of the Northern Musgraves scion society, and has written for Sherlock magazine, while Mark has written for The Baker Street Journal, Canadian Holmes, The Serpentine Muse and others.
Why did you choose the format of a podcast to explore the writings of ACD, mostly the non-Canonical ones?
We’re both keen radio listeners and thought that podcasting was a very immediate way to bring the works of ACD to the attention of a wider audience. We’ve also been inspired by various Sherlockian podcasts, notably Scott and Burt’s I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere, the grand-daddy of them all.
Do you think these writings are less well known by Sherlockians and Holmesians than they should be?
ACD’s wider writings are generally less well known among Sherlockians and the general public alike, which was part of the reason for doing the podcast. ACD was an astonishingly prolific and versatile writer and his bibliography is wonderfully rich. There’s so much to enjoy in his work. That said, we appreciate that most people, like us, come to ACD through the canon, so we try to bring out the canonical connections in each episode. Hopefully, this makes ACD’s wider work more relevant to the Sherlockian audience and helps to shine a new light on the canon too.
Does playing “the Game” that Arthur Conan Doyle was Dr. Watson’s literary agent devalue ACD’s achievements?
The game can be great fun but it’s hard to say it hasn’t worked against ACD and his reputation to some extent. The scholarship of ACD’s wider work is relatively thin compared to that of his contemporaries. That said, it’s all ACD’s fault! The game is really a reflection of ACD’s success – that he could create characters as rich and vibrant as Holmes and Watson that they have, to some extent, overshadowed their creator.
Are you confident that readers who love Holmes will also love other ACD writings?
That’s a good question! ACD’s work is very varied so there is something for everyone. We would tend to favour his short stories over his novels – he was a master of the short story – so its perhaps best for people to dive in there and see what they find. And let us know what they think we should cover in future episodes.
What traits of the Holmes stories are present in all ACD fiction?
Part of ACD’s success was his compact style with those short, crisp sentences and his effortless ability to delineate a character effectively in a sentence or a phrase, or to paint a picture in a lot less than a thousand words. There is an immediacy to his writing that makes him very accessible (while leading some critics to undervalue his work). He has a preoccupation with the gothic, born out of childhood fascination, that carries through a lot of his work, plus there’s a certain “pawky humour” that is often present.
Possibly two answers to this one: For each of you, what is your favorite ACD work that’s not a Holmes adventure?
Mark’s favourite is Tales of Long Ago (1922), a collection of short stories that is a reflection on the end of Empire and has a tremendous sense of pathos. That said, he’s been re-reading the Captain Sharkey and Brigadier Gerard adventures recently with much delight.
Paul is particularly drawn to the Gothic short stories, such as ‘Lot No. 249’, ‘The Parasite’, and ‘The Captain of the Pole-star’, and also The Tragedy of the Korosko, ACD’s resonant novel of Imperial Adventure and speculation.
How often will this new podcast be dropping new episodes?
We have set ourselves the target of recording a new podcast every month. We released the first one just after we had recorded the second one, so we hope to always have a month in hand in case life gets in the way! We’ve also asked a number of people to join us on future podcasts. At last count, we had ten shows planned. There’s a lot to go at!
What is the best way to find the podcast?
It’s on Apple podcasts, Google Play podcasts and Spotify or you can get to it directly from the website, www.doingsofdoyle.com.