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
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
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