New fiction: Dreams That Veil by Dominic Luke

Dreams That Veil9781910208236

December 1911. Twelve-year old Eliza Brannan eagerly awaits the return of her brother Roderick from university, a welcome but brief diversion from her otherwise cosy existence in the heart of Northamptonshire with her widowed mother and cousin Dorothea.

Roderick and Dorothea are growing up fast. They are forging lives and loves of their own, and Eliza feels she is being left behind. When an unexpected proposal of marriage leads Dorothea to a search for her long-lost father in the slums of London, Eliza begins to realize that the world is a bigger and more frightening place than could have ever imagined.

Dreams That Veil is the story of England basking in the calm before the storm of the First World War and of a young girl’s struggle with her transition to maturity.

Dominic Luke

Dominic Luke was born in London and studied history at the University of Birmingham. He lives in Northamptonshire and has written four previous novels: Nothing Undone Remained (Buried River Press), Aunt Letitia, Snake in the Grass, Autumn Softly Fell and  Nothing Undone Remained.

Buy your copy of Dreams That Veil here.

 

 

 

 

 

New fiction titles

9780719816086An Oxford Tragedy by Norman Russell

1894, Sir Montague Fowler, warden of St Michael’s College, Oxford, dies from apparent natural causes but an autopsy reveals that his body was full of the deadly poison mercuric chloride. Detective Antrobus of the Oxford city police is summoned to investigate. Who would benefit most from the warden’s death? His three children are all in desperate need of money and each are embroiled in their own scandal. Antrobus’s list of suspects grows as it seems everyone had something to gain from the death. Aided by pioneer physician, Sophia Jex-Blake, the detective sets about unravelling the truth behind this Oxford tragedy.

Norman Russell was born in Lancashire but has lived most of his life in Liverpool. After graduating from Jesus College, Oxford, he served a term in the army and was later awarded the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. He now writes full-time. Among his previous novels published by Robert Hale are Depths of Destruction, The Dorset House Affair and The Calton Papers.

Buy your copy of An Oxford Tragedy here.

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Imperfect Pretence by Ann Barker

Max Persault loves his sea-faring life as a ship-owner and merchant. When his cousin Alistair, the newly elevated Duke of Haslingfield, appeals for his help, he finds himself masquerading as the duke and on his way to Cromer, while Alistair sets off to France to complete an undercover mission. Before even arriving at his destination, Max has aroused the suspicions of Miss Constance Church. Constance struggles with her misgivings about Max. At first dismissing him, she soon begins to suspect that there may be much more to him than meets the eye. In this lively and comedic tale of love and masquerade, first impressions are questioned, judgments are upturned and pretences must eventually come undone.

Ann Barker was born and brought up in Bedfordshire, but currently lives in Norfolk. For more information about Ann Barker and her books, please go to http://www.AnnBarker.com.

Buy your copy of Imperfect Pretence here.

9780719815843Give Me Tomorrow by Jeanne Whitmee

The Davies family is as dysfunctional as they come. When Frank marries a younger woman, Susan, his ten-year-old daughter Louise feels pushed out, and even more so when baby Karen arrives. Now, years later, with her father gone, Louise feels even more the odd one out. Obsessed with finding her birth mother, she distances herself from her family, hiding the truth of her flailing acting career from them, and spitefully makes trouble for Karen whenever the opportunity arises. Karen meanwhile wants to return to her career as a teacher after baby Peter is born, but her husband Simon has other ideas. Susan longs to see her girls reconciled and to pick up the threads of her own life again.Eventually each one, in her own way, is shown the path to happiness. But will they take it?

Jeanne Whitmee originally trained as an actress and later taught Speech and Drama until taking up writing full-time. She has written many novels including Too Late to Paint the Roses, To Dream Again and True Colours, also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Give Me Tomorrow here.

9780719813009Sherlock Holmes and the Unholy Trinity by Paul Gilbert

A colourfully dressed Bedouin interrupts the breakfast of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson with a cryptic message of warning: they must stay away from the affairs of his people. Before long the detective and his assistant are dispatched to the Vatican to investigate the murder of Cardinal Tosca. Considered the Pope’s natural successor, Tosca was killed as he worked on the translation of an ancient scroll. All clues point towards Holmes and Watson’s Bedouin intruder and there are whispers of the involvement of a so-called ‘unholy trinity’. The duo embark upon a dangerous trip to Egypt, the birthplace of the Coptic Church, to uncover the nature of a parchment missing from Cardinal Tosca’s office and, ultimately, the motives of the Bedouin.

Paul D. Gilbert was born in North London and now lives in Harrow with his wife Jackie and their two sons. As well as his passion for the work of Arthur Conan Doyle, he also enjoys history, science-fiction and Tai Chi. His previous two novels, Sherlock Holmes and the Giant Rat of Sumatra and The Chronicles of Sherlock Holmes, were also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Unholy Trinity here.

Anne-Marie Vukelic talks to us about Caged Angel, Charles Dickens and Victorian novels

For those of us fascinated by Victorian history, who has not been educated, enlightened, and entertained in some way by the works of Charles Dickens?

During his lifetime he wrote fifteen major novels, drawing attention to the plight of the poor, the injustices of child labour, and the absurdities of the legal system. By raising public awareness of such matters he contributed to a number of social reforms.

My own interest in Dickens was sparked by a visit to the city of Rochester in 2005, where the author spent his final years. With its cobbled streets and crooked houses it is a city in which time appears to have stood still, and Dickens drew both characters and settings for his novels from this place which was very dear to his heart. My own time in Rochester motivated me to begin examining the author’s life in greater detail, and wondering how much of his work was biographical.

How vividly the story of Oliver Twist came to life when I learned that at the age of twelve, Dickens worked alongside other boys in a ‘Blacking’ factory under the guidance of a man named Bog Fagin. I discovered that in this same time period Dickens’s father was being held in the Marshalsea Debtors prison and the proud, solitary figure of William Dorrit came to my mind.

And what of Dickens’s heart? As a young man, it had been crushed by his first love, Maria Beadnell, who coldly referred to him as ‘Boy’. While standing in the shade of Restoration House – the inspiration for Miss Haversham’s Satis House – I thought of poor Pip cruelly spurned by Estella in Great Expectations. Yes, there is much of the pain and rejection that Dickens felt he had suffered in his youth that spilled from his pen onto the page.

By his own efforts, Dickens rose from humbling circumstances to author of great acclaim, but in studying his life I found myself curiously drawn to the shy, clumsy and somewhat disorganized wife who lived with this talented, impatient and restless man.

Little has been recorded about Catherine Dickens and yet, within the numerous pages that have been written about her famous husband, her voice appealed to me and so began the random jottings which eventually became my first novel, Far Above Rubies. Dickens’s world is traced from the perspective of a Victorian wife – the mother of ten children – who struggled through life quietly at the side of an exacting husband. When Dickens cast her aside in later years, he wrote a statement for the newspapers and, creating his own fiction, inferred that it was because she had some ‘peculiarity of character’. It was she who was to blame and not him.

My second novel, The Butterflies are Free, followed the fate of the Dickens children, the legacy of bearing the Dickens name and how their father’s secret affair with the young actress Ellen Ternan influenced their own relationships. The title is a quote taken from Dickens’s novel, Bleak House, and for me captured his wish to escape the life he found himself constrained by in his middle years.

Caged Angel, my forthcoming novel, was written as a result of my enduring interest in Dickens and the discoveries I made about some of his lesser-known contemporaries.

Caged Angel relates the story of the banking heiress, Angela Burdett-Coutts, who was considered a remarkable woman for her time in that she largely ignored what society expected of someone in her position, and chose instead to immerse herself in social issues of the day.

Dickens’s own interest in such matters made their friendship a natural one, and he was an ambassador for many of her projects, one of which was a home for former prostitutes.

Their backgrounds were completely different: Burdett-Coutts, the daughter of a baronet, had been raised on her family’s country estate. Dickens was the son of an improvident naval clerk, imprisoned for debt. Many of Angela’s equals could only have seen her in the context of her position in society, but with Dickens as her champion she was free to explore opportunities not usually open to women of her time.

Angela’s great wealth brought with it many unsolicited marriage proposals and unwanted suitors, the most persistent of these being the barrister Richard Dunn. Exploring newspaper archives and court records, I discovered how his enduring fixation with Angela became a frantic obsession. In a world largely dominated by men, there were no laws at the time to protect a woman from the term we are now familiar with as ‘stalking’.

The streets of nineteenth century London could not have provided a better setting for such a dark story to take place, and it is one by which readers of Victorian fiction are always excited.

I have an ongoing interest in the Victorian era for many reasons but partly because of its contradictions: the extremes of elegance and squalor, the veil of sexual morality twinned with hypocrisy, the contrast between the lives lived by Victorian men and women, and also experienced by those within the different class systems.

My interest in psychology and human emotions means that I am always curious about what drives an individual. What are their motives, their ambitions and inner thoughts? When writing the journal of Richard Dunn, capturing this aspect became even more challenging as Dunn’s thoughts descended into insanity.

When considering the time period in which to set a novel, the author has to consider the social attitudes of the day and how these will influence their characters. This becomes inevitably more interesting when the novel is set in the Victorian era, as so often an individual will find their own wishes going contrary to such attitudes and expectations.

All of the foregoing provides an author with an array of tools which lend themselves to a setting with tremendous atmosphere, a society from which one can draw intriguing plots and interesting characters. I think this is why Victorian fiction is still being written, and enjoyed by readers.

New general fiction titles

A Close Connection by Patricia Fawcett9780719814471

Eleanor and Henry Nightingale, and Paula and Alan Walker, are two very different couples brought together by the marriage of Nicola, the Nightingales’ daughter, to Matthew, the Walkers’ son. A holiday in Italy, intended to bring the four closer together, creates both bonds and rifts with long lasting effects. On their returning home, a health scare brings Eleanor’s life into sharp focus and she calls on Paula, who will soon experience her own struggles, to help. Meanwhile, Nicola and Matthew’s marriage is facing its own crisis point. Will these historicthree marriages survive such turmoil?

Born in Preston, Lancashire, Patricia Fawcett now lives in Devon, close to her family. She divides her time between writing, being a lively grandmother and a volunteer at a National Trust property. She is a member of the West Country Writer’s Association. Her previous novels include Best Laid Plans and A Small Fortune, both published by Robert Hale. You can find out more about Patricia at http://www.patriciafawcett.co.uk.

Buy your copy of A Close Connection here.

9780719814907A Killer Past by Maris Soule

Mary Harrington doesn’t want to revive her past. She certainly doesn’t want her son and granddaughter to know what she did forty four years ago. But when two teenagers from a local gang try to mug her, old habits are hard to forget. Sergeant Jack Rossini, Rivershore, Michigan’s lone investigative detective, initially doesn’t believe an ‘old’ woman could have put the youths in the hospital, but once he meets Mary, he becomes curious. That curiosity grows when he discovers there’s no record of her existence prior to forty four years ago. Mary and Jack’s lives continue to intersect as the gang vows to teach Mary a lesson, and a man from Mary’s past arrives in Rivershore, threatening to reveal her secrets.

Born and raised in California, Maris Soule was studying for a master’s degree at U.C. Santa Barbara when she was swept off her feet by a red-head with blue eyes. Soule now lives in Michigan, a quarter mile from Lake Michigan, with an oversized Rhodesian Ridgeback and the same red-head. Maris Soule is on Facebook, Twitter (@marisSouthHaven), and LinkedIn. She also writes a weekly blog on writing and Rhodesian Ridgebacks http://marissoule.com/blog/.

Buy your copy of A Killer Past here.

9780719814990Sherlock Holmes and the Four Corners of Hell by Séamas Duffy

The Adventure of the Soho Picture: When murders are accompanied by unmistakable symbols of ritualism, Holmes’s trail leads to a respected peer of the realm and he unearths a web of vice, deception, and intrigue beneath Victorian society’s respectable veneer.

The Adventure of the Edmonton Horror: A case which causes the wildest speculation, and seems destined to join the apocrypha in Holmes’s ‘uncommonplace book’ – a collection of the strangest and most mysterious occurrences ever recorded in the capital. Is it a matter for a detective, a clergyman, or an occultist?

The Adventure of the Rotherhithe Ship-breakers: Holmes tracks down a would-be assassin, yet no one is certain whom the bullet was meant for. The investigation leads Holmes to one of the foulest, most dangerous corners of riverside London, a criminal plague spot which even the locals call the Four Corners of Hell.

Séamas Duffy lives and works in Glasgow. He is a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society of Scotland, author of Sherlock Holmes in Paris (Black Coat Press, 2013), and wrote the Foreword to The Aggravations of Minnie Ashe, by Cyril Kersh (Valancourt Books, 2014).

Buy your copy of Sherlock Holmes and the Four Corners of Hell here.

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The Tolpuddle Woman by E. V. White

Wesley Gillam has had little chance of romance, growing up in a strict Methodist household in the Dorset village of Tolpuddle. It’s his headstrong brother Saul who’s ignored his parents’ wishes and has turned his attention to local girl Saranna Vye. Wes first sets eyes on Saranna at Dorchester market when she warns him of vagrants plotting to steal his takings, and as he walks home at the end of the day he can’t get the image of her waif-like beauty out of his mind. But when Wes learns she’s his brother’s girl, family loyalty stands in the way of romance. Wes knows in his heart what he wants, but with tensions mounting in the West Country, as farm labourers suffer from crippling wage cuts and rickburners storm the land in protest, Wes is committed to protecting his fellow countrymen from the law’s injustice, before he has the freedom to pursue his most cherished dream.

E.V. Thompson was born in London. After a spell in the Royal Navy, and then at Rhodesia’s Department of Civil Aviation Security Section, he returned to England. His novels have won him thousands of admirers around the world. In 2011 E.V. Thompson was awarded an MBE for services to literature and to the Cornish community. Ernest died in 2012.

Buy your copy of The Tolpuddle Woman here.

New fiction: Three Strange Angels by Laura Kalpakian (Buried River Press)

9781910208120Francis Carson, brilliant British novelist, renowned for his lyrical prose, his drinking, and his womanizing, was a free spirit who crashed through life. In February 1950 he was found dead in the Garden of Allah swimming pool. Diffident Quentin Castle–newly-married, a lowly junior partner in his father’s firm, Castle Literary Agency–must convey this terrible news to the widow in Oxfordshire. Claire Carson’s plight, impoverished, alone with three small children, her dignity, her desolation, her deep blue eyes awaken in Quentin wholly new emotions. In a spasm of gallantry, he promises to escort Francis’s body home to England from California.

Regent Films are making a movie of Carson’s best known book in sun-splashed Hollywood. As a Brit, accustomed to austere, pinched, post-war London, Quentin navigates uneasily through artifice and opulence. The top executives at Regent treat him with conventional sympathy, polite condescension, and something obscure, tinged with evasion. But these few days in California—and a weekend in Mexico—will change Quentin Castle forever.

His subsequent choices—variously brilliant, audacious and unethical—are enveloped in impenetrable layers of betrayal that will crack, crumble, and finally destroy.

Laura Kalpakian is the author of eleven novels and three prize-winning collections of original short fiction.  Her work has appeared extensively in the UK and the USA.  She has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, a residency at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, and her 2006 novel, American Cookery, was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. A native Californian, Laura was educated on both the east and west coasts of the USA, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.  You can find out more about Laura at her website at www.laurakalpakian.com

Order your copy of Three Strange Angels here

The mystery behind Murder on the Minneapolis

by Anita Davison

As a reader, I have always loved the cosy mystery genre, the Agatha Christie style gatherings of genteel characters among whom one, or maybe more, turn out to be the villain(s). I like the easy to read formula which works without taking the reader into too many dark corners. Psychological thrillers are compelling but there will always be a place for the lighter crime story where the threads are neatly tied; the villain is revealed, justice prevails and everyone gets what they deserve. Maybe because it’s so different to real life, which is often inconclusive and messy.

When I decided to write a cosy mystery, I wanted to set it in the Edwardian age, mainly because this was a time of great change and also because there are vast amounts of documented and photographic evidence available to help give the novel an authentic atmosphere. I chose the location to be one of the steamships, which became all the rage during the late nineteenth century. The SS Minneapolis, built in Belfast, and was commissioned in the 1890s by the American Atlantic Transport Line. Along with their sister ships, she was a luxurious, seagoing palace designed to ferry first class passengers only between New York and London before the First World War.

The SS Minneapolis left New York on her maiden voyage in April 1900, which is not strictly Edwardian as Queen Victoria died in 1901 – but close enough as her influence had been usurped by the Prince of Wales by then. At 600 feet long and with a passenger complement of under a hundred, I imagined my characters wouldn’t get lost in a vast, floating city.

                       SS Minneapolis

The murder plot was inspired while researching the skyline passengers would see as they sailed up the Hudson into the Atlantic. I came across a report in the New York Times dated December 1899, whose bold headline announced ‘BRIDEGROOM ***** DEAD’. With journalistic straightforwardness, the report said a businessman had died unexpectedly within a week of his secret wedding. The details were brief and factual, with no speculation as to what had led up to the death, or the effect on his bereft bride.

This lack of back story prompted me to invent a scenario as to the possible circumstances of this tragedy, if there was one. My cosy mystery plotline, complete with villain, red herrings and solution was all there in that one, short news clipping. I have not produced it here as I’d like to avoid leaving little for the reader to work out for themselves – which is surely half the fun of this genre.

I was still unsure as to who my sleuth would be. A Poirot type character or a Miss Marple? Or neither? Then, while searching through Victorian photographs in a local antique shop, I came across a gentle-faced girl with light eyes, her hair upswept into a soft bun, and her slender neck encased in a delicate lace collar. Instantly, I knew this girl would be my investigator and gave her the name Flora Maguire. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy the photograph as it was part of a much larger collection, but she’s lodged comfortably inside my head and resides there quite happily.

Flora is an English governess; intelligent, educated, and a striking woman, though her station in life means that her intellect is often overlooked. She’s observant, but not too forward as she is used to keeping to the background.

When a man dies on board ship, Flora isn’t satisfied with the opinions of the crew and ship’s doctor, so she embarks on a personal mission to solve the mystery before the ship reaches England.

I felt Flora needed a confidant on this voyage, a young man to talk out her theories with, but who would also make her rethink her conclusions.  He needed to be attractive, kind and somewhat enigmatic, after all, any one of the passengers could be a killer. Whether their friendship would progress is unclear as he is from a different class, something which would have been a real barrier in the year 1900.

Amongst the usual complement of shipboard characters is one who appears almost as interested in the death on board as Flora, but whether or not he is a villain is not evident.

Flora’s story was fun to write, but more challenging than I imagined when it came to feeding clues and red herrings into the plot without giving too much away. If the outcome is too predictable, the reader will become bored and if too convoluted, they will become frustrated and give up.

I have heard of strange coincidences cropping up during the course of research. Thus far this has not happened to me – except in this case. During the WW1 Centenary celebrations of last summer, I discovered that all the ‘Minne’ class steamships of the Atlantic Transport Line were used as troopships. At the same time, I was also researching my paternal grandfather’s and great uncle’s service records, discovering they both served in the same regiment. The battalion in which my great uncle served was transported to the Western Front in October 1914 on the SS Minneapolis, and took part in the Battle of Ypres. My grandfather survived the war, but my eighteen-year-old great uncle was killed in France in June 1915.

This was something I was unaware of until then, more than a year after I went looking for a steamship on which to base my murder mystery.  Research, mystical connection or simply coincidence?

Murder on the Minneapolis by Anita Davison will be published by Robert Hale on 30 June

New fiction: The Angel and the Sword by Sally Wragg

The Angel and the Sword

9780719814303The Nazi Party have a firm hold of 1930s Germany when wilful Henrietta Arabella, the youthful Duchess of Loxley, is sent on a tour of Europe by her formidable grandmother Katherine to
remove her from the temptation of an unsuitable love affair with the grandson of the estate’s chauffeur.

But the removal of one temptation only serves to spark another and, craving adventure, and for once escaping her companion, Hettie finds herself alone and lost in an insalubrious area of
Venice.

An incredible chain of events begins against the backdrop of the waterways and winding streets of Italy: Hettie will become
embroiled in the theft of secret war office papers, a German Count and a fantastical tale of a Saxon king and queen before she finds the anchor she seeks, her heritage and her history.

Sally Wragg

After marrying her husband and raising two children, Sally
Wragg completed an English degree at the University of
London and has since turned her hand to writing. Having
begun with short stories in women’s magazines, Sally now
has a number of books published by Robert Hale; Daisy’s
Girl, Maggie’s Girl and Playing for Keeps.

Buy your copy of The Angel and The Sword here

New fiction: The Barchester Murders by G.M. Best (Buried River Press)

Ahead of the bicentenary of Anthony Trollope’s birth in April of this year, we publish The Barchester Murders, featuring the writer alongside many of his characters

9781910208083

Anthony Trollope finds the beautiful city of Barchester idyllic on visiting it for the first time. This idyll is, however, soon shattered when the body of Thomas Rider is discovered in the almshouses known as Hiram’s Hospital.

Trollope soon uncovers the existence of a long-hidden secret which has the power to destroy the reputation of the Reverend Septimus Harding, the Warden of Hiram’s Hospital, and his-son-in-law, Dr Theophilus Grantley, the Dean of the Cathedral and next in line for the position of Bishop of Barchester.

A number of the old bedesmen at Hiram’s Hospital would do anything for the Warden, and his daughters, Eleanor and Susan, have every reason to want the secret kept. It is also possible that family friend and Eleanor’s admirer, John Bold, may have had a hand in the crime.

With so many suspects, the local police officer is at a loss as to how to solve the case. The murderer soon strikes again and it falls to Anthony Trollope to unpick the mystery.

This book does not require you to have read Anthony Trollope’s classic works, but those who love his novels will enjoy meeting their key characters again.

G.M. Best

Brought up in the North-east, G.M. Best studied History at Exeter College, Oxford and went on to become the headmaster of Kingswood School in Bath. He has written widely on Methodist history and is currently Warden of the New Room in Bristol. His previous novels, Oliver Twist Investigates, Wuthering Heights Revisited and The Jacobite Murders were published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of The Barchester Murders here

The immortality of Sherlock Holmes, and why he lives on

Jeremy Kingston

What marks out Sherlock Holmes as different from all other fictional characters is his inexhaustible capacity for inspiring new adventures.  Favourite characters from other books – notably those by Jane Austen and Dickens – have appeared in sequels and prequels and sexed-up adaptations, but almost without exception they are set in the time when the characters first made their appearance.  With Holmes it is very different. Arthur Conan Doyle may have brought him out of retirement to break up a German spy ring in 1914, but a quarter of a century later he was battling the Nazis in a popular series of movies. Basil Rathbone played him as an athletic man in middle age though, logically, he should then have been pushing ninety.

The modern BBC adaptation, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman

The modern BBC adaptation, with Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

The jump across time-space is even more striking in the ongoing TV series Sherlock where Benedict Cumberbatch’s urbane Holmes and Martin Freeman’s steely Watson race through the streets of an up-to-the-minute city dominated by the London Eye.  Here, the vital clue is likely to be found on the screen of a mobile.  Doyle’s Holmes would not have told Inspector Lestrade to ‘piss off’, nor would the original Watson have called Holmes, even if genially, an idiot.  These are the heroes of an absolutely contemporary crime thriller.

The pace of the action is far faster than in its predecessors but Holmes and Watson, while different in so many ways, are somehow still the same, because what is significant about them has to stay the same. No one in the history of the world has ever been as observant as Holmes, or been able to draw such perfectly exact conclusions from what he observes.  He is human but also superhuman, and it is this shifting combination that helps to bring about the rich range of performances from the many actors who have brought him to life on stage and screen, from Robert Downey Jr. to Cumberbatch. He is impossibly perfect but this does not make him perfect. He has his faults, loads of them; the Cumberbatch version admits he is a sociopath; he is a bully, rude, impatient and totally fascinating. For someone to possess such failings and yet be on the side of good – and successful in making the good side win – gives him his heroic stature.  We want to believe in the existence of such a person, even while we know it to be impossible. It is what tempts countless writers to put him in new situations, set either in the Victorian age or today.

Dr Watson is the loyal companion.  At first he was the amazed onlooker, knowledgeable in his own field but panting to keep up with the quicksilver deductions of his friend.  Over time he lost some of his stolid nature but continued to be what could be called ‘the typical Englishman.’  But as the English type changed, so has Watson. At the start of Sherlock he has returned from fighting in Afghanistan – just as in his very first appearance in the 1880s – but this time he admits that he was thrilled to be in the excitement of battle.  His character has become close to Holmes in craving excitement to stave off the boredom of a quiet life.

This film adaptation, starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law, was released in 2011.

Because so many variations can be played on the theme of their fight against crime, there seems no reason why writers will ever stop finding them an inspiration.  Their opponents can be of all kinds and the struggle set almost anywhere. Even back in the period when they first appeared, which is where I set my own version, Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Batavia. Mine is the London, the Camargue and the Cannes of the 1880s. As in so many of the Doyle originals, the fate of nations hangs upon the outcome and royal families are involved.

I was spurred into writing it by some curious events in my own life; just like Holmes, my father retired to Eastbourne after living in Crowborough – where Conan Doyle lived – and became a bee-keeper. I could have started the adventure without any explanation of how Dr Watson’s manuscript had suddenly emerged but I was keen to make it all feel as real and seemingly truthful as possible, and the Eastbourne-Crowborough connection offered a way of doing so – helped by imagining a solicitor in whose vaults the manuscript had long been interred.

Where the writers of Sherlock must have found great fun slipping some original incidents, neatly disguised, into their plots, I greatly enjoyed doing the same, the intention being to suggest that my Dr Watson is writing what truly happened but which he had to disguise for publication. The story of Holmes and Watson will never be done. They are men for all seasons.

Sherlock Holmes and a Scandal in Batavia by Jeremy Kingston will be published by Robert Hale in July 2015.