Where exactly is Sherlock Holmes’s place in history? Well, if you’re a writer the answer to that is rather simple: It’s anyplace you care to put him—within reason.
Like so many other pasticheurs, I enjoy placing Sherlock Holmes in situations that are grounded in reality. In other words, I think of my works as a blend of history and mystery. I like to think of it as Conan Doyle meets Dan Brown.
With a background in the medieval and early Renaissance periods, I’m always seeing various connections that span the centuries. As a result, druids figure prominently in one of my works, The Druid of Death, as does the ogham system of writing, used hundreds of years ago by the Irish.
In another work, I focused on the plique-à-jour style of jewelry-making, and was fortunate that the best example of this technique—The Mérode Cup—happened to be housed in the South Kensington Museum (which became the Victoria and Albert Museum some years later) and shown here.
An article about Fabergé eggs, and the discovery that Consuela Vanderbilt, Duchess of Marlborough, had commissioned the Pink Serpent Egg served as the starting point for my novel The Merchant of Menace. Also worth noting is that the Duchess was the first person outside of Russia to own one of these masterpieces.
Sometimes an event sends me scurrying down the research rabbit hole. I was intrigued when I learned that a group of Scottish students had stolen the Stone of Scone on Christmas Day in 1950. They pilfered the artifact in an effort to attract attention to the cause of Home Rule for Scotland. In The Stone of Destiny, I changed things a bit to suit the history of Holmes’s times and had a group of Irish separatists abscond with the stone in order to delay the coronation of King Edward VII.
In my most recent book, The Devil’s Disciples, which is due out later this year, I once again examine the question of Home Rule for Ireland. This time I focus on the Fenian dynamite campaign that plagued London in the mid- and early 1880s. Among the targets was the London Bridge, followed a few weeks later by the Tower of London, the House of Commons, and Westminster Hall—all on the same night!
At that point, Holmes is contacted by Her Majesty’s government and tasked with bringing the bombers to heel. This is a more in-depth look at the question of freedom for Ireland, and I touch on such events as the potato famine; the support for the movement in America, specifically from a group called the Clan na Gael; and one particular individual who shall live in Irish infamy forever.
The challenge in my books is to insert Holmes into these events without disturbing the line that is history. Sometimes, it’s fairly easily accomplished, but at other times it can be a real struggle. And, of course, I also have to find a place for Dr. Watson, so in some instances it is doubly tricky.
If you’d like to check out The Devil’s Disciples, this link will take you to its page on Kickstarter, and you can see part of the cover and check out the various rewards. Right now, we are at 94 backers, if we get to 100, everyone will receive $50 worth of free Holmes ebooks as a bonus.
The Mérode Cup photograph is licensed by CC (view license here).