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Adventures Set Exclusively in England

Tim Symonds Author Interview

Tim Symonds Author Interview

A Most Diabolical Plot is a collection of six Sherlock Holmes stories that perfectly fit the originals style. What draws you to the Sherlock Holmes mystery novels and their style of storytelling?

I first read the Sherlock Holmes ‘canon’ (the Arthur Conan Doyle originals) when I was at Elizabeth College, a boarding school in the British Crown Dependency of Guernsey, built in 1563. I must have been around 12 years of age. Although this was many decades after Conan Doyle penned his last story, life in a boarding school on a small island off the French coast was recognisably Edwardian in atmosphere. When the prefect or housemaster

Elizabeth College, Guernsey, C.I.

Elizabeth College, Guernsey, C.I.

turned off the dormitory lights and warned us not to talk any more, I retrieved a torch (flashlight) from under the mattress and spent an hour or so with Holmes and Watson while they encountered mastermind criminals (Professor Moriarty) and some downright East End thugs who would kill them as soon as look at them. Perfect escape from the rigours and routine of life at the college. In turn, my full-length novels are adventures equally designed to offer readers hours of sheer escape. ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Bulgarian Codex’ takes place deep in the turbulent Balkans, ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter’ also takes the resolute investigators into the Balkans – Serbia – via a short stay in Switzerland. ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Sword of Osman’ finds them entering the hurry and scurry and paranoia of magnificent Constantinople in the bizarre last years of the Ottoman Empire and Sultanate. ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil’ takes them even further afield, into the mysterious streets and colourful roofs of Peking’s Forbidden City’

What were some sources of inspiration for you while writing the stories in this new collection?

A reader in the United States wrote to me saying he enjoyed reading my novels but how about some more adventures set exclusively in England, with London’s mists, Watson’s Gentlemen’s clubs, 221B, Baker Street and so on? So in ‘A Most Diabolical Plot’ all six adventures take place almost exclusively in England. I describe them in the Introduction as follows:

‘The title story, A Most Diabolical Plot, involves the dastardly Colonel Moran hiding away on the borders of Suffolk and Essex, plotting a grisly death for his arch-enemy Sherlock Holmes. Holmes and Watson criss-cross England during those near-fabled days when Queen Victoria sat on the throne of Britain’s immense Empire, followed by her son Edward V11 and in turn her grandson George V. The spooky The Ghost Of Dorset House takes place in London’s expensive Mayfair district. Die Weisse Frau finds the pair caught up with horses, spies and Zeppelins in the midst of the Great War in the Wiltshire countryside not far from Stonehenge. The Mystery Of The Missing Artefacts opens with Watson a prisoner of war in the Ottoman Sultan’s Palace but moves quickly to the British Museum and the small village of Battle in deepest Sussex. The Pegasus Affair, a story of treachery, begins after Watson finds an envelope on the hall table at his Marylebone Medical Practice containing a cutting from The Eastbourne. The final story, The Captain In The Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, is set in an East Anglian university town (possibly Cambridge) and around Apsley House, the great Duke of Wellington’s mansion at Hyde Park Corner.’

You were able to capture Sir Arthur Conan Doyle style of storytelling, but what were some new things you wanted to bring to the genre?

I’m always keen to bring into every one of the adventures just how valuable dear old Dr. John H. Watson is to Holmes’s success. In the original Conan Doyle stories, at best Holmes seems to tolerate his amiable companion while deriding him so often, for example ‘You see, but you do not observe, Watson!’ Five or six years ago I came across a description of a real Englishman I believe is/was the perfect John Watson. I was on a train to London Charing Cross from my home in a valley in deepest East Sussex when I read The Crooked Scythe, an anthology of memories of men and women of a past era—farm labourers, shepherds, horsemen, blacksmiths, wheelwrights, sailors, fisherman, miners, maltsters, domestic servants. The introduction described the author George Ewart Evans as follows: ‘George was in his mid-fifties when I first saw him… upright and vigorous, with an open and friendly manner and a clear, piercing gaze. He looked the part of a countryman, in a tweed jacket, a hat also of tweed, drill trousers, and stout brown shoes. As I grew to know him, I discovered that he was sympathetic and generous with help and encouragement. He was intelligent and shrewd; his judgements, though seldom sharply expressed, were acute and rational. In conversation he was tolerant and unassertive, but it was soon clear he held independent views with firmness and conviction’.’

I’m certain this is how Watson’s many friends at The Traveller’s or the Junior United Services clubs and at the Gatwick races would have viewed him too, a man of gentility albeit of straitened financial means and no property. All of us should have friends who wear stout brown shoes.

What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?

I have just finished a further quite lengthy short story set in Crete as the First World War approaches. It’s titled ‘The Case of the Seventeenth Monk’. The first chapter is titled ‘A Visitor Arrives at Dr. Watson’s Clinic.’ ‘The Whittington chimes of the grandfather clock flooded along the hallway. It was five o’clock. I was alone in the consulting-room of my medical practice in London’s fashionable Marylebone district. If no further patients came, I could soon stroll to the In and Out Naval and Military Club for Soup of the Day and Whitebait. I walked across to the window and stared out. A light drizzle put me into a contemplative mood. Some months had passed since, to the relief of the criminal underworld, my old friend Mr. Sherlock Holmes retired at the very height of his powers. The decision had taken me utterly by surprise.’

‘The Case Of The Seventeenth Monk’ will appear in the 2019 edition of The MX Book Of New Sherlock Holmes Stories.

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A Most Diabolical Plot: Six Compelling Sherlock Holmes Stories by [Symonds, Tim]In the year 1903 – the exact moment is now lost to history – Sherlock Holmes proclaimed to the world he was quitting England’s Capital to go into retirement on a small, wind-swept farm in the Sussex South Downs. His shocked comrade-in-arms Dr. John H. Watson was later to write, ‘The decision took me utterly by surprise. I thought I had become an institution around Holmes, like his Stradivarius, or the old, oily black clay pipe and his index books.’ Reluctantly Watson wrote up three recent cases yet unpublished and returned to his medical practice. Holmes retirement didn’t last long. Once more his faithful Amanuensis Watson took up his pen – and his Army Service revolver. The result was three more of the most intriguing cases ever undertaken by the famous pair. All six adventures have now been brought together in this special edition.

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