Risingshadow has had an opportunity to have a Q&A with James Lovegrove about his latest novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon.
About the author:
James Lovegrove is the New York Times bestselling author of The Age of Odin. He was short-listed for the Arthur C. Clarke Award in 1998 and for the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 2004, and also reviews fiction for the Financial Times. He is the author of Firefly: Big Damn Hero with Nancy Holder and Firefly: The Magnificent Nine, and several Sherlock Holmes novels for Titan Books. He lives in south-east England.
Click here to visit his official website.
Author photo by Katie Vandyck.
About Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon:
It is 1890, and in the days before Christmas Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are visited at Baker Street by a new client. Eve Allerthorpe - eldest daughter of a grand but somewhat eccentric Yorkshire-based dynasty - is greatly distressed, as she believes she is being haunted by a demonic Christmas spirit.
Her late mother told her terrifying tales of the sinister Black Thurrick, and Eve is sure that she has seen the creature from her bedroom window. What is more, she has begun to receive mysterious parcels of birch twigs, the Black Thurrick’s calling card...
Eve stands to inherit a fortune if she is sound in mind, but it seems that something - or someone - is threatening her sanity. Holmes and Watson travel to the Allerthorpe family seat at Fellscar Keep to investigate, but soon discover that there is more to the case than at first appeared. There is another spirit haunting the family, and when a member of the household is found dead, the companions realise that no one is beyond suspicion.
Q&A WITH JAMES LOVEGROVE ABOUT SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE CHRISTMAS DEMON
- Your latest novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon, was published a couple of weeks ago by Titan Books. Could you tell us something about it?
It was my wife who suggested I should try writing something set at Christmas. She gets much more excited about the season than I do. I thought that it would be the perfect opportunity to do a Sherlock Holmes story involving ghosts and other supernatural happenings (outside my Conan Doyle/Lovecraft mashup trilogy The Cthulhu Casebooks, that is). After all, there’s a literary tradition going back to Victorian times of equating Christmas with ghosts, from Dickens to M.R. James and beyond. Something, I reckon, to do with it being the darkest, coldest time of year, with real shivers to match emotional ones. That was my goal with Christmas Demon: to create a proper Holmes story with an overlay of ghostliness.
- You've written several Sherlock Holmes novels over the last years. What inspires you to write about Sherlock Holmes?
I like the challenge of finding new mysteries for him to pit his wits against, coming up with new, gnarly adventures for him, and giving my fellow Holmes fans a satisfying read that won’t, I hope tarnish their love of the character and his world.
- Because Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are both iconic characters whom readers have come to love, do you find it challenging to write about them?
Their relationship is, in my view, crucial to the success of any Holmes pastiche. If the writer doesn’t understand the dynamic, no amount of cunning plotting is going to make up for that. These two men are like brothers. They’re utterly different from each other, they spark off each other, sometimes they despair of each other, but their bond is so strong that nothing can break it. They need each other. Also, they’re equals. The assumption often is that Holmes makes all the running and Watson just follows along behind, but they have a mutual respect and trust that makes each indispensable to the other.
- The events in Sherlock Holmes and the Christmas Demon take place in Yorkshire, at the Fellscar Keep, which is a castle owned by the Allerthorpe family. What inspired you to write about this Gothic castle built upon the lake?
You’ve hit on the answer there with the word “Gothic”. The setting for the book had to be somewhere remote, dark, rambling, eerie, full of twisting corridors and hidden corners where sinister entities might lurk. But the book is also a family drama. The Allerthorpes are a large clan, and when they all gather at Fellscar Keep for their Christmas festivities, as they do every year, tensions arise. Those tensions are at the heart of the puzzle that Holmes has to solve.
- This novel features a demonic Christmas spirit, the Black Thurrick. Were folklore legends (Krampus etc) a source of inspiration to you when you began to write about the Black Thurrick?
Very much so. I remember on a visit to Vienna at Christmas time a few years ago, my wife and I saw lots of images of Zwarte Piet, who is Santa’s somewhat demonic little helper. I knew of Krampus anyway, and I discovered, after doing some research, that this element of Christmas is fairly universal across the continent. Many countries have their own versions of this anti-Santa figure. It’s something, however, that hasn’t made its way from Europe to the UK, so I set about fixing that with the Black Thurrick.
- Will you be writing more Sherlock Holmes stories in the near future?
I’ve just completed a draft of a sequel to The Hound of the Baskervilles, called The Beast of the Stapletons. That’s out next year. Beyond that, I have no Holmesian plans. I’m not saying never again, but I’m probably going to focus on other projects for the time being.
- Is there anything you'd like to add?
People really should buy physical copies of Christmas Demon if they can, rather than the ebook version, because the design of the book, by Julia Lloyd, is extraordinary. Everything, from the dustjacket to the endpapers to the binding, is beautifully thought out and filled with lovely little details. It’s a thing of wonder to behold.