This month's Interesting Interview is with author Vicki Delany. Vicki is a former president of The Crime Writers of Canada, a long time Sherlockian, and author of more books than I can count. Her cozy mysteries include the Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series, which currently has three titles out, and a fourth coming this fall.
How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?
My personal definition is someone who is not only just a fan of the Great Detective, but takes their enthusiasm a step further to examine the characters and the plots of the books or movies deeper than the average keen reader does. I maintain that someone who might be a fan of the TV shows, movies, or pastiche novels, isn’t a true Sherlockian without having read the full Canon. A true Sherlockian is someone who capitalizes the Great Detective.
How did you become a Sherlockian?
I read the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle early on in my life and enjoyed them, but my real interest started with the Jeremy Brett TV series. I loved Brett’s portrait of the Great Detective and all the hidden emotions he brought to it. After that I re-read the stories with a better eye for nuance and detail.
What is your favorite canonical story?
The Speckled Band. Truly creepy, in more ways than one. I have an article on The Speckled Band coming later this year in an academic publication (Villains, Victims and Violets) in which I examine the characters of Helen and Julia Stoner and the choices (or lack thereof) facing them through a feminist lens.
What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?
I love the short story collections offering various interpretations of Sherlock Holmes. Some very clever pastiche novels are being written today. Some are not so clever.
What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?
In my Sherlock Holmes Bookshop mystery series, every book and item of merchandise offered for sale exists in the real world. I love looking for books for my character Gemma to refer to her customers or to read herself.
Why do you think that so many Sherlockians enjoy cozy mysteries?
Cozy mysteries are true puzzle mysteries. The clues are laid down for the reader to follow. The astute reader should have a good chance of reaching the correct conclusion at the same time as the fictional detective. I think Sherlockians are almost by definition lovers of puzzles: written ones at any rate. The cozy mystery detective is not a professional. Which means she or he doesn’t have access to forensic analysis, CCTV camera footage, phone records, bank and police records etc etc. Like the Great Detective, they have little more than their intelligence and observation of the people around them to help them solve the crime.
How did you come up with the idea for The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop Mysteries?
I was casting about for an idea for an interesting bookstore for my character to own, and hit on the idea of a store dedicated to Sherlock Holmes. There isn’t much more popular in the world of popular culture today than Sherlock Holmes, and it’s entirely feasible to have a store dedicated to nothing but Holmes. But then, almost without my planning it, Gemma Doyle, the main character, became Sherlock-like. She has a mind like Holmes – for good and not-so-good. It’s been enormous fun to try to recreate Sherlock as a modern young woman.
Can you give us any hints as to what book four, "A Scandal in Scarlet" might hold for your fans?
A Scandal in Scarlet, coming in November 2018, is the fourth book in the series. Gemma Doyle and her business partner Jayne Wilson host an afternoon tea and silent auction at Mrs. Hudson’s Tea Room, next door to The Sherlock Holmes Bookshop and Emporium, as a fundraiser for Scarlet House, West London’s museum. But when the chair of the museum board is found strangled in the storage room, and the police seem to be focusing on the wrong (according to Gemma) suspect, the game is once again afoot and it’s up to the usually perceptive Gemma and the loyal, but ever-confused Jayne, to sort out the impossible and the improbable to arrive at the truth.
One doesn’t have to be a Sherlockian to enjoy the books in this series, but I hope being so adds to the pleasure. I occasionally drop a few references that non-Sherlockians won’t pick up, but failure to do so doesn’t interfere with the story. For example, there are seventeen steps to the second floor of 222 Baker Street.
What Sherlockian things do you like to read other than the Canon?
As I said above, I particularly love some of the short story anthologies, such as Echoes ofSherlock Holmes and In the Company ofSherlock Holmes, edited by Leslie S. Klinger. My favourite anthology is Holmes for the Holidays. I love the MaryRussell books by Laurie R. King. And I like the collection of essays edited by Christopher Redmond beginning with AboutSixty. (Full confession, I have a piece in the next one Sherlock Holmes Is Like). I was lucky enough to get a signed cozy of FromHolmes to Sherlock from Mattias Bostrom at Malice Domestic, and I am planning on relaxing with that by the pool this summer.
Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?
Stronger and stronger. The enthusiasm for all things Sherlock is not dying down any time soon.