Mystery writer Terence Faherty will talk about “The Top Ten Reasons to Love the Universal Sherlock Holmes Series” at the Holmes, Doyle, & Friends conference in Dayton, OH, on March 25. Let’s interrogate him.
How and when did you first meet Sherlock Holmes?
The earliest “meeting” with Sherlock Holmes that I can date occurred when I was nine years old, that is, in late 1963 or early 1964. I was living in New Jersey at the time, and one of the New York television stations was showing a week of the Rathbone/Bruce films on its afternoon movie program. By Tuesday, I was hooked. Sometime after that, I borrowed a collection of the Conan Doyle stories from the library and got hooked on those, despite being taken aback when the author of the volume’s introduction called the Watson of the movies a “silly ass.” Not only was I offended by what I then considered immoderate language, I was shocked that anyone would object to the casting of Nigel Bruce.
How and when did you become a Sherlockian?
I officially joined the ranks of Sherlockians when I was invited to become a charter member of the 140 Varieties of Tobacco Ash in 1998. The 140 Varieties is a small scion founded by three Baker Street Irregulars—Steven Doyle, Mark Gagen, and Donald Curtis. That trio and the other 140 members were very welcoming and tolerant of this Rathbonian, especially Michael Whalen, then head of the BSI. Michael, who liked my Owen Keane books, was a good friend to many mystery writers.
What effect has Sherlock Holmes (print and film) had on your own writing career—both your “first draft” parodies and your two mystery series?
Holmes led me to detective fiction, which became a lifelong passion of mine. Though I toyed with writing literary fiction in college, when I got serious about writing afterward, I returned to my first love, the mystery. My first protagonist, Owen Keane, is no Great Detective, but he shares my love of Holmes and manages to work a Sherlockian allusion into almost every book. Scott Elliott, my Hollywood private eye, owes more to Raymond Chandler than Conan Doyle and he’s almost as fallible as Keane. I didn’t try my hand at a Great Detective protagonist until I started my Holmes parodies for Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine in 2013. The parodies purport to be the rediscovered first drafts of Watson’s famous tales. I actually write the series for Sherlockians, credentialed and not, since a familiarity with the real stories makes a good deal of the humor work.
What has it meant to you to be part of the Sherlockian community?
I’m not by nature a joiner, so becoming part of the Sherlockian community, even in a small way, has gotten me out of my comfort zone, which is a good thing. And the connections I’ve made have been a good counterbalance to the writing life, which can be very solidary. Of course, being around people who know who Basil Rathbone was is a definite plus.
To what Sherlockian groups do you belong?
I belong to the 140 Varieties of Tobacco Ash, as I noted above, and the Baker Street Irregulars. And I’m occasionally able to attend a meeting of the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis, an old (and illustrious) scion. I’ve been published in one of their Casebooks, I’m proud to say.
Besides Holmes, Doyle, & Friends, are any other Sherlockian events are on your calendar this year?
I attended the BSI’s annual dinner this past January. It’s always well run and entertaining, and this year’s was especially so. And I plan to attend the 140 Varieties’ 25th anniversary dinner (!) later this year. The 140 dinner is always very nice, once one gets through the clouds of cigar smoke.
What non-Holmes film of Basil Rathbone’s should Sherlockians discover (or rediscover)?
If I Were King, Paramount, 1938. It contains one of Basil’s two Academy-Award-nominated performances and the one for which he should have taken home the statuette. Perhaps coincidentally, 1938 was his last pre-Holmes year.
Although Holmes, Doyle, & Friends Seven, March 24-25, 2023, is closed out for vendors, participants can still register here.
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