Hidden Tiger Books caught up with the author of
Requiem for Sherlock Holmes in August 2012 to discuss his revival
of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's great detective.
HIDDEN TIGER: How did you come to write Requiem for Sherlock
PAUL STUART HAYES: I can honestly say that
the book came about quite by accident. I wrote three short stories back in
2005 (two of which are included in this set; my first story didn't make
the cut) and although the few people I dared show them to were extremely
complimentary towards them, I decided not to continue with the writing –
mainly due to work and family time constraints. It was only during the
summer of 2011 that my elder brother, Alan (now also my editor) finally
got to read them. When he had finished, the praise he gave me instantly
inspired me to do more and within a fortnight I had completed my first
story in six years, namely The Penitent Man. No sooner than that
was done I began working on another story that gradually evolved into the
novella, Sherlock Holmes and the Ancestral Horror, and it was only
during the course of writing this adventure that the subject of publishing
the stories was suggested.
HT: Why Sherlock Holmes?
PSH: Sherlock Holmes has been with me from an
early age. After years of reading the books and watching numerous
television and film adaptations, I feel that I know the stories inside
out. Having read the pastiches of many other authors (my favourite of
these being The Adventure of the Purple Hand by D.O. Smith), I
thought that I'd have a stab at it myself. As the characters and settings
are already in place, it can make writing a slightly easier task for a
novice. However, as I discovered, writing pastiche is not without its
HT: How did you discover your love for the
adventures of Holmes and Watson?
PSH: My father has been a fan of the great
detective for as long as I can remember, and it was he who first
introduced me to the stories when I was younger. I wasn't that great a
reader in my younger days and probably read far too fast, hardly taking
anything in, but enough must have passed into my undeveloped mind as it
was not long before I was well and truly hooked.
HT: What was your thinking behind setting
your Sherlock Holmes collection at a point in time after the character had
PSH: I wanted to place Doctor Watson
compiling the collection towards the end of his life, so that I would be
unhindered as to the timeframe within which I could place the stories. I
also wanted to expand on Doctor Watson as a character, and came upon the
idea of doing a story sans Holmes. The best way to achieve this in my mind
was if Sherlock Holmes was no longer on the scene.
HT: The novella in the collection,
Sherlock Holmes and the Ancestral Horror, introduces readers to
Holmes' father. How keen were you to add to the Holmes mythos?
PSH: As there is barely a mention of Sherlock
Holmes' family associations in the canon (bar the occasional appearances
of his brother, Mycroft), it gave me free rein to let my imagination flow
as to what his early life could have been like. It struck me that it
presented me with the perfect opportunity to paint in a little detail of
Holmes' past that could begin to explain some of his peculiarities in
HT: Tradition or reinvention? Which do you
favour in relation to Sherlock Holmes?
PSH: When I'm writing I adhere to the
traditional format as best I can, as I am unwilling to stray too far from
the constraints of the canon. However, outside of this I am open to all
interpretations made on the subject of Sherlock Holmes. I greatly enjoy
the BBC series Sherlock, and the fact that it is set in the modern
day has been relatively easy for me to accept.
HT: How difficult was it getting your stories
to work in relation to other adventures in the Conan Doyle canon?
PSH: It has been a major challenge. More
often than not I would be working on a story, setting it in a particular
year, only to find that the character I had introduced did not first
appear in the canon until a few years later. This is one of the main
stumbling blocks of pastiche, and it is one that I have hopefully avoided.
I have worked very meticulously to fit my stories seamlessly into the
Holmes timeline, so that at no point do they contradict the events in Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle's writings. An example would be if a story was
mistakenly set after Holmes' retirement or during 'the great hiatus', the
point in time between Holmes' supposed death in The Final Problem
and his resurrection in The Adventure of the Empty House.
HT: Occasionally in these stories, you have
used real characters from history. What prompted you to do this and how
did you ensure that your depiction of the people concerned was accurate?
PSH: I have only used historical characters
where I feel they are absolutely necessary to maintain authenticity within
the confines of the story. As it turns out, some of the figures I have
chosen are quite obscure and would not be well known to the majority of
readers today. Nevertheless, to stay faithful to history, I have amassed
as much information as is currently available on these real-life
characters (far more than I had originally intended, or needed, for that
matter). Whilst I have added to the depictions here and there, each and
every one has involved searches in genealogical archives and other
HT: If you had to choose one television or
film Sherlock Holmes as your favourite, who would it be and why?
PSH: If I was allowed to have picked three
Holmeses, this would have been a slightly easier task, as I would have
quickly stumped for Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett, leaving myself the
difficult decision of choosing between Clive Merrison and Peter Cushing.
But being limited to one, I feel I would have to elect Jeremy Brett. To my
mind, he is the actor who has come closest to the character that Conan
Doyle originally envisioned and there has never been a person better
suited to portraying Sherlock Holmes. Regrettably, he passed away before
he was able to complete the canon, robbing me of the chance to see him
play Holmes in my favourite story – The Adventure of the Lion's Mane.
HT: When you were writing, did you picture
him in the 'role'?
PSH: On rare occasions, he does crop up in my
mind when I'm writing, although I strive to make sure that the Sherlock
Holmes I depict is a classic version, more true to Conan Doyle's Holmes
than to any actor's interpretation. Doctor Watson, on the other hand, is
much harder to pin down. Sometimes he is Edward Hardwicke and his
excellent take on the good doctor, and sometimes, as Watson is
the narrator of the stories, I at times cringingly become him – but
thankfully that is only in my own mind.
HT: Did writing for an established character
with a pre-existing audience bring with it any particular pressures for
you as a budding author?
PSH: Probably more than I originally
imagined, the problem being that there will always be someone more
knowledgeable than you on your chosen subject. To avoid the scorn of my
Sherlockian peers, I painstakingly researched every detail to make sure that
nothing went against the facts and the timeline of the canon. Obviously,
trying to follow a world-respected author like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and
doing so in your first book is asking for trouble, but I do so humbly and
in homage to a fine author. He is as good a mentor as any to strive to
HT: Can we expect further Sherlock Holmes
adventures from you?
PSH: I do fully intend to write a second
book, but I think I am going to hold off from starting the process for a
short while. I have been writing solidly for the past year and I think I
should take some time away from it, in the hope that some good ideas will
bubble to the surface. Also, being so preoccupied with the book, I haven't
had that much time to read any books myself, and the piles of the unread
are growing alarmingly.
HT: Where next then for Sherlock Holmes? Can
you give us any teasers for Book 2?
PSH: I haven't got any stories in mind as
yet, but I expect that one or two secondary characters from this book will
be making a return in the follow up and I think it likely that they will
have a big part to play in the proceedings. There is also the fact that
Watson hasn't divulged the details of Sherlock Holmes' death, so perhaps
that is something that could appear in the next book.
HT: While we're waiting for the second book
to materialise, is there anything else that you have been working on?
PSH: Actually, I've just completed an
introduction to The Theatrical Sherlock Holmes, a collection of
Sherlock Holmes play transcripts that Hidden Tiger have just published to
tie in with the release of Requiem for Sherlock Holmes (details
about this title here - Ed.). These plays can be difficult
to obtain in print and hopefully the edition will not only appeal to
collectors, but also casual fans of the great detective who do not as yet
realise that their complete editions of Sherlock Holmes books are not as
complete as they at first thought. Also, as an enthusiast with a love for of all of Sir
Arthur Conan Doyle's writings, I am investigating the possibility of compiling a
collection of rare Conan Doyle stories which are otherwise difficult to locate.
Watch this space.
HT: Finally, how has the process of writing
your first book gone compared to how you imagined and are you happy with
PSH: The writing process has gone more
smoothly than I could ever have imagined. Most of the stories flowed
effortlessly onto the page, with only the smallest amount of time spent
staring at a blank computer screen. I have enjoyed every step of the
journey and am unbelievably happy with the end result; to see my work in
book form has surpassed my original expectations by miles.
Hidden Tiger / Paul Stuart Hayes, 2012