The Intel: Martin Davies
We love authors here, and we love books—so it goes without saying that we love publishers. Which is why it’s always a pleasure to discover that there’s a new kid in town. Canelo is a new digital publisher, which combines book publishing and new media. It’s the brainchild of experienced people from the book trade, developers and marketers and the like—the kind of people who know what they’re doing.
And Canelo has already hit the ground running with a trio of crime titles and authors, which we’re going to feature here, because we’re good like that at Crime Thriller Fella, because we love authors and we love books and—well, you get the message.
So, let’s talk about Holmes. You may have heard of him. He’s a character that many authors have reinterpreted over the last century, and now Martin Davies has introduced a clever new aspect to the great sleuth—his enigmatic housekeeper. In Mrs Hudson And The Spirits’ Curse, it’s Mrs. Hudson, and her orphaned assistant Flotsam, who is front and centre on crime-fighting duties.
Author Martin Davies grew up in the North West of England and works in broadcasting. He gives us the intel on Hudson, Raffles, our seemingly unquenchable thirst for The World’s Greatest Consulting Detective, and, of course, the best way to get down to the nitty-gritty of writing…
Mrs Hudson’s name seems oddly familiar – tell us about her…
Her name is certainly a lot more familiar now, in the wake of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock, than it was when I first sat down to write The Spirits’ Curse. In the Conan Doyle stories, Mrs Hudson is little more than a name and a presence in the background at Baker Street; her own character and history are gloriously neglected – giving us a wonderful opportunity to unleash our imaginations.
How does your interpretation of Mrs Hudson build on the Conan Doyle character?
With so little to build upon, I’ve had to supply a lot of my own bricks. But it is obvious from the Conan Doyle stories that Holmes and Watson are not domesticated types, and I loved the idea that for all Holmes’ scientific knowledge and deductive powers, there might be crucial gaps in his knowledge of housekeeping matters that Mrs Hudson would find easy to fill. And of course, were she to have had a long career of domestic service in the houses of the rich and famous (and why not?), she might also have powerful contacts of the sort that Holmes and Watson lack.
Do you plan to reinvent any other minor Holmes characters in the series?
Perhaps one or two. I enjoyed including AJ Raffles in the first novel of the series – not a Holmes character, but a character created by Conan Doyle’s brother-in-law – and there may be more, similarly tangential, connections to come.
I think because he remains a remarkably modern character (just look at how beautifully he was re-imagined for the digital age in the current TV series) and yet there remains a sort of cosiness to the world he inhabits that is a pleasing refuge from the ultra-realism and graphic violence of some modern crime fiction. There may be horrible, violent and gory cases in front of him, but there will still be a fire burning in Baker Street and an honest bobby on patrol just outside.
You say that you can’t work in solitude, and so have to write in cafes, trains and other public places – where’s the oddest place you’ve ever sat down to write?
I wrote the seduction scene of one novel—The Conjuror’s Bird—in the garden of a Spanish monastery.
What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?
It helps to work out some of the basics before you start. I’d like to tell you about the novel that I began in the third person, then rewrote in the first person, then changed back to the third person, then realised that it was all wrong and rewrote again in the first person. I’d like to tell you about it, but I can’t, it’s still too painful.
Who are the authors you admire, and why?
Ooo, so many! But to pick a few: Dickens for writing so many remarkable novels; Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa for writing just one; Malcolm Pryce for writing the sort of books I’d love to write; Anne Tyler for writing the sort of books I know I could never write; Shaun Tan for the joyous originality of his genius.
Give me some advice about writing…
Each week, set aside a time and a place for writing, and be realistic: don’t set yourself up to fail. You may only be able to find twenty uninterruptable minutes a week, but if you spend those minutes writing, you will have a novel in the end.
What’s next for Holmes and Mrs Hudson?
A priceless ruby is heading for London, but so is a mysterious magician whose performances coincide with baffling jewellery thefts. Little wonder that Sherlock Holmes is tasked with keeping the famous gem safe… Mrs Hudson and The Malabar Rose will be available in digital format through Canelo very soon.
So, look, Mrs Hudson And The Spirits’ Curse is already out and getting some terrific reviews, and you can buy it at all sorts of digital bookshops, like this one for example.