How I came to write my first Sherlock Holmes story;
When I was a young man I was, (and still am) a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson. All too soon I had read the complete collection and wanted more!
So I tried reading some of the pastiche Holmes stories that were out there at that time. I’m afraid I was bitterly disappointed. Almost all of them had the authentic style and dialogue of the originals, but were woefully weak on the plots. I thought to myself, ‘I could write better stories myself, than some of these pastiches’. (Writers like Tony Reynolds have since raised the bar.)
I soon got the chance to try a pastiche of my own, when a work colleague, Geoff Croft, who had just returned from an assignment in Malaysia told me about a curious fruit that grows there, called Durio Zibethinus and its peculiar properties. Immediately I had the inspiration for my story. I asked Geoff if he could smuggle me some seeds, from the fruit, back to England after his next trip, which he did. As his reward I asked him if he would like to be one of the characters in the story. He was delighted and now appears under his own name in The Mystery at the Golden Cockerel.
This started a trend because, in the same story, I needed to know quite a lot about fine wines. I myself am teetotal, so was out of my depth. Fortunately another of my colleagues, Mike Hughes, like Geoff a gifted engineer, is a connoisseur of fine wines. (He would describe imbibing a particularly superb wine as an orgasmic experience!) Mike also appears in the same story under his own name, though as a seaman not an engineer!
I sent the story to Ian Henry Publications in Essex, fully expecting a rejection, and was amazed and delighted by their reaction. They wrote back; ‘This is a very publishable commodity. Can you now write another 10 or 12 stories of similar quality? Then we can produce a book.’ That was all I needed to galvanise me into a sustained spell of writing, which culminated in the Outstanding Mysteries of Sherlock Holmes. Nothing came of my association with Ian Henry, but a Canadian publisher took up the baton and produced a superb hardback version of The Outstanding Mysteries. His other dealings with me, however, were anything but superb!