Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Interesting Interview: Laurie King

Laurie King turned the Sherlockian world upside down in 1994 when she introduced Sherlock Holmes to Mary Russell.  Over the past two and a half decades, these two characters have discovered secrets of Christianity, revisited the Hound, engaged in espionage, and even took part in an early movie production.  Last week, the newest chapter in the Russell and Holmes saga, Riviera Gold, came out placing this dynamic duo in Jazz Age France with Mrs. Hudson in the middle of a murder investigation.  (On a personal note, I love Laurie's Russell and Holmes books and am really looking forward to delving into this newest installment.)

But Laurie King hasn't just extended the Sherlockian Canon for her readers.  She has also created a great modern day detective series based around San Francisco's Kate Martinelli, other delightful standalone novels, and done some serious Sherlockian editing!  Working with Les Klinger, Laurie edited The Grand Game Volumes 1 and 2 for BSI Books, making landmark early Sherlockian scholarship easily available to the modern-day reader.  (Seriously, these two books should be in every Sherlockian library.)  And along with Klinger, she has overseen five Sherlockian-inspired anthologies by a gigantic list of popular writers.

I could go on and on and on about how impressive Laurie King is, but let's let her do the talking from now on:

How do you define the word “Sherlockian”?

Someone who has a special place in their heart for The Great Detective. It helps if you’re
willing to believe that Holmes, Watson, and the others lived, and were not some fictional
construct of Dr Conan Doyle. It helps even more, especially for those of us still writing the
stories, if you believe that since Holmes’ obituary has yet to appear in The Times of London, that
has to mean he is still alive.

How did you become a Sherlockian?

Well, I began by reading the Conan Doyle stories, then writing stories that began in 1915, after
Sir Arthur was finished with him. And eventually I was invited to become a BSI, when I’d
demonstrated my appreciation and respect for the characters—and after I’d proven my academic
skills by giving a BSI lecture (on Watson’s War Wound, with a close focus on the bullet itself.)

What is your favorite canonical story?

I ought to say “The Red Circle,” since that is my investiture name, but I so like the fact that the
woman gets the better of Holmes in “Scandal in Bohemia” that I have to go for that one. “Good
night, Mr. Sherlock Holmes,” indeed.

Who is a specific Sherlockian that you think others would find interesting?

I have met a lot of interesting Sherlockians, but my closest partnership is with Les Klinger (“The
Abbey Grange”), who forgives all my temerities when it comes to The Great Detective.

What subset of Sherlockiana really interests you?

Being what my daughter calls a “recovering academic,” I have a weakness for scholarship—the
more footnotes, the greater pomposity, and the more firmly tongue-in-cheek, the better.

What things do you like to research related to Sherlock Holmes?

I had a grand time a couple of books ago (The Murder of Mary Russell) doing a lot of very close
analysis of the early stories and their timelines. Unlike the others in the series, which are set
from 1915 on, large sections of that book take place in the Victorian era, as it ties together Mrs.
Hudson the landlady with the sailor Hudson from the “Gloria Scott” case. We also get to meet a
very young Sherlock Holmes, which was fun to write.

In the 26 years that the Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes stories have been coming out,
what has been your favorite development with the series?

In two recent books, including the new one (Riviera Gold), Mrs. Hudson gets center stage, as a
feisty old lady who has spent much of her life getting around her employer, Holmes.

Your fifth mystery anthology full of stories inspired by Sherlock Holmes, In League with Sherlock Holmes, comes out at the end of this year and is full of authors who don't typically write about Holmes.  How did this series get started and how do you keep finding so many wonderful authors to fill these volumes?

Les Klinger and I were at a mystery conference where he ran a panel about Sherlock Holmes,
with all the panelists guests of honor. He and I were talking afterward, wondering if they had
ever dabbled in writing a Holmes story, when a little light went on over his head. So we started
with them, and the collection has taken on a life of its own. All the contributors to the five books
are people we know and whose work we love, who are invariably thrilled to have an excuse to
play the Holmes game.

What book would you recommend to other Sherlockians?

Since much of my base research was collected in the 80's when I was first starting the series,
many of my favorites are older: Michael Harrison, HRF Keating, Dorothy Sayers, and WS
Baring-Gould. More recent is Les Klinger’s Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which belongs on the
shelf—one of the sturdier shelves—of every Sherlockian. And of course, anyone interested in
academic Sherlockiana would be wise to invest $3 in Laurie R. King’s Sherlock Holmes, an e-
book containing the definitive study on Watson’s War Wound, selections from Holmes’ lost
treatise on beekeeping, and the rationale behind the alternate chronology of the Laurie King

Where do you see Sherlockiana in 5 or 10 years from now?

I hope and trust that the entire Sherlock Holmes world will continue to shift into the more
neglected corners of the literary world, with the voices of a joyously diverse set of characters
continuing to ring the changes in this unlikely passion of ours.

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