Phil Growick’s debut Holmes novel out next week is a traditional and seriously written pastiche. Add the fact that Holmes heavyweight historian Alistair Duncan was the editor it’s no surprise that the book has been awarded the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate endorsement and carries the seal on the cover.
But, for those of you that were lucky enough to attend The Great Sherlock Holmes Debate 2 live in London and meet Phil in person, what is surprising is that he’s a very funny guy. That makes for a tough time interviewing him and keeping him serious…. oh well, we tried.
Tell us a little about your book(s)
My first Holmes novel is “The Secret Journal of Dr. Watson” - In their most secret and dangerous adventure yet, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are sent into war-torn Bolshevik Russia to rescue the deposed Romanov Family before they can be executed. Increasingly unsure of who is friend and who is foe, Holmes and Watson must outwit the Bolshevik secret police, the counter-revolutionary forces and even their own government. As events unfold, Holmes and Watson become entangled with former opponents, the King and even Lenin, as they attempt to complete their mission and save their own lives.
My other book, publication date ofJune 12, 2167, is entitled “Don’t Publish This Book Until I’m Unfrozen From My Cryrogenic Slumber”. It’s a non-fiction book.
What got you interested in Sherlock Holmes?
As a very small boy, still having only B&W TV, I couldn’t understand how Sir Guy Gisbourne could duel with Robin Hood but also be Sherlock Holmes. My uncle explained about the actor Basil Rathbone and I was hooked on Holmes and the Bas. As soon as I learned to read, which was when I was 27, I devoured all the Holmes stories. My parents would’ve preferred me to have balanced meals of protein, dairy, fruits and vegetables; but I found the Holmes novels quite tasty. Especially “Hound”. Although the cover did stick between my teeth.
Which is your favourite Holmes character and why?
Cliché, cliché, cliché, but Holmes himself - but only embodied by Bas. As a child, he represented to me everything everyone around me was not: good-looking, intelligent, beautifully mannered, imbued with the very essence of “fair play”. You can imagine the denizens of the world around me. In short, to this very young and budding Anglophile, Holmes was the personification of an ultimate Englishman. To this day I cannot shake that characterization. And I’m now 432.
What inspirations do you have for your writing?
Thomas Hardy, oddly enough. While my sense of humor tends to be a bit outré, as the French would say, when I was forced, at gun point, by my high school English teacher to read “Far From the Madding Crowd”, I was drawn into a totally unknown world. And when I read “Jude the Obscure”, and had to go to every comedy club in New York City just to counteract the cataclysmic downer that Jude is, I learned the true, written beauty of total, annihilative turmoil. How’s that for alliteration?
Which other Holmes books are you looking forward to in 2012?
I read David Ruffle’s totally engrossing addition to his Lyme Regis series: “Sherlock Holmes Gets Lyme Disease”. Besides being a majestic thriller, it also serves as a succinct version of Grey’s Anatomy. No one who spends any time anywhere near deer should be without this tome.
Which actor is your favourite on TV and in films?
Well, I think I’ve rather answered that with Rathbone. Physically perfect and quite resembling the great Holmes drawings by what’s-his-name. Not only physically, but Rathbone moves gracefully, which came from years as an expert fencer. His modicum of facial movement to suggest an idea, an emotion, yet able to convey by that tiny gesture all that Holmes’ unrivaled brain is thinking. And you could tell how much he cared for Watson by his subtle, melodic voice, his laugh, his palpable caring on screen. I know others favor other actors, but I still believe the Bas to be the best. More of that alluring alliteration. I’ve really got to stop that.
What are your thoughts on the Great Sherlock Holmes Debates?
I am just one of legions who has re-uttered Roger Johnson’s by now immortal quip as to Robert Downey, Jr. as Holmes: “I think not.” I would like to come back in my next life as Roger’s epée-like wit. The debates were wonderful from my perspective, because I’d flown toLondon fromNew York just for the Debates and so I could meet the Holmes/MX Family. I was not disappointed. Everyone was warm and gracious and so damn knowledgeable. I only wrote one Holmes novel. Here were people who had written several. And people who were experts on the people who had written the novels. And people who had absorbed so much Conan Doyle DNA that they’d sprouted huge, bushy moustaches. Even the women. Quite a sight, really. And at the center of it all, the master magician cum publisher, Steve Emecz. If I wore a hat, I’d take it off to him continuously. Now I’ll have to buy one just so I can take it off. Which doesn’t make much fiscal sense, so here and now I verbally doff my cap to Steve. In perpetuity.
What are your plans for Sherlock Holmes Week [30th July - 5th August]?
Unless Her Majesty is gracious enough to put me up at the Palace, I’m afraid I shall have to forgo another London sojourn. And, in any event, I’ll be diving with whale sharks off the Yucatan peninsula. And watching tortugas lay their eggs on the beach at night. Now that’s a mystery Holmes probably couldn’t solve: how do those turtles find their way back to the very spot where they were hatched, though some have traveled thousands of miles to get there? Nature is the greatest mystery of all. Except for my wife staying with me after thirty years.
What is your opinion on the Save Undershaw campaign?
I posted on Facebook about this. As an American, I simply cannot understand how Undershaw could have been allowed to fall into such disrepair. In the States, a municipal, or county, or even a branch of the federal government would have long ago declared Undershaw a national treasure. We’ve done this for the homes of our great writers and artists and scientists and more. It is deplorable that one of England’s greatest authors should not be appropriately celebrated in like manner.
[Visit the Save Undershaw Facebook Page and ‘like’ it to show your support].
The Secret Journal of Dr Watson is available for pre order from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and in the UK Amazon and pre-publication copies from the Save Undershaw Shop.
The book is also available on Amazon Kindle and all good electronic formats.
You can watch a video review at No Place Like Holmes.