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Greetings Planet Peschelteers!
Hello from Bill Peschel! It took 30 months after losing my newspaper job and commence writing full-time, but I finally got around to launching the newsletter. About the first of each month, you’ll receive news about new books and books in progress, background stories on how we’re building a business, and odds and ends that I want to share with you.
I’m making this up as I go along, so this issue of the newsletter is plain text, no art, and I’ll try not to hang around too long. Much as I love to write business-like, I can’t write like that now. Maybe never. We’ll see.
But I can say I’m happy to have you here as this experiment gets under way. If you have any thoughts about this (or have a question you want to see answered in the next issue), let me know!
Below, I’ll be talking about what’s coming out in late June, my TwainLock stories, my bookstore appearance, and recommending two books we just read.
WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW
Summer in Hershey has arrived, The kids will be done with the school year today, the weather ─ after a hot spell ─ has cooled for the past week. At least that’s what weather.com tells me. I’ve spent most of my time in the office under the stairs working on the next book for Peschel Press.
COMING IN JUNE“Sherlock Holmes Edwardian Parodies and Pastiches I: 1900-1904” is slated to come out in the last week of this month [Bill here: Turns out it will be in July]. The manuscript has been edited and needs to be proofed. Yesterday, I finished the Mark Twain / Sherlock pastiche for it. Holmes won’t be in it this time, but Irene Adler will!
Which naturally leads to the question of “What’s this about Twain and Holmes?” Let me start at the beginning.
THE TWAINLOCK STORIES (Part 1)
Once upon a time, I got the idea to write a Sherlock Holmes pastiche with Mark Twain acting as his Watson.
I have read a lot of Twain’s work over the years. In 2001, I wrote a Twain pastiche that he had created, as part of a contest sponsored by the Buffalo public library to publicize their recent acquisition of the remaining half of the manuscript to “Huck Finn.” My entry came in second, and I was flown to Buffalo to receive my prize.
The idea of pairing Sherlock with Twain amused me. Part of it was that Twain had parodied Sherlock in the novella “A Double-Barreled Mystery.” So there were comic possibilities in shackling Twain with Sherlock. There’s also the challenge of writing in Twain’s unique comic voice, and curiosity over what would come out. The result, “The Adventure of the Whyos,” was published as an ebook.
So when I hit on the idea of publishing Sherlock Holmes pastiches from Conan Doyle’s time (the 223B Casebook Series), I decided to include a new Twain story at the end of each volume.
First, I decided to establish a few ground rules:
* The stories would be historically accurate, apart from the obvious elephant in the room.
* They would be written from Twain’s point of view, which means, in true Sherlockian fashion, I would have to come up with a reason why they were written, why they were not found for so long, and why they would reappear now. In other words, the stories needed a backstory.
* They would fit with the Holmes canon. They would not contradict the stories, and be dated to coordinate with them. (Leslie S. Klinger’s “Life and Times of Mr. Sherlock Holmes, John H. Watson, M.D., Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Other Notable Personages” became my bible.)
* They would also fit into Twain’s biography and not contradict any events in his life. For this, I kept at my side R. Kent Rasmussen’s timeline in “Mark Twain A-Z.”
* It’s not until this moment that I realized that I never made a decision about Conan Doyle. Does he exist in this world? I haven’t decided.
The next step was to write down story ideas. I started by comparing Twain and Holmes’ lives and figured out where they could intersect. Twain traveled to London repeatedly, so many stories (such as “Whyos”) could be set there. I also adopted Baring-Gould’s assumption that Holmes visited the U.S. before his career as a consulting detective. The time during the Great Hiatus after he “perished” at Reichenbach Falls was also full of possibilities.
As I was ruminating, story ideas came to mind. I wrote all of them down, whether they could be slotted into the timeline or not (I figured I could work all that out later). And when I say ideas, I mean fragments, sentences, titles, locations.
As you can see, it’s a harum-scarum process that has yielded three stories:
* “The Humorist’s Curse” — with Twain and a pre-Holmes Watson in San Francisco — in “The Early Punch Parodies of Sherlock Holmes.”
* “The Adventure of the Stomach Club Papers” in “Sherlock Holmes Victorian Parodies and Pastiches: 1888-1899.”
* “The Adventure of the Jersey Girl” in the upcoming Edwardian volume.
Next month, I’ll dig further into the writing process and give you a peek into the inspiration of the TwainLock stories, including some that haven’t been written yet.
On 1 p.m. July 18, I’ll be signing books with thriller writer Don Helin at Cupboard Maker Books in Enola, Pa.
In which I’ll check back on my reading list and recommend books I liked:
“The Professor in the Cage: Why Men Fight and Why We Like to Watch” has been making the rounds. Teresa got the book at the library, and at meal times she’s been reading excerpts. I’ve dug into it as well. In his mid-30s, Jonathan Gottschall decided he needed a change from the academic life and began training in mixed-martial arts. He went so far as to fight a match, and also went toe-to-toe with a martial artist/poet at a faculty to-do. It’s full of vignettes and facts about war, warriors, fighting, and entertainment. Especially fascinating (and stomach turning) was the list of animals that had been killed for sport, starting with bear- and bull-baiting and working down the food chain to head-butting cats and putting ferrets down one’s pants. Eminently quotable.
“Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen.” Mary Norris has spent three decades as a New Yorker copy editor and reflects on some of her experiences there and the English language in this memoir/instruction manual. Neither part really satisfies. The memoir part doesn’t dish the gossip you’d find in “The Years With Ross” or “Here at The New Yorker,” and her discussions of grammar and usage are instructive but not useful as a reference manual (she includes a list of books which are in the back). There are some good bits here and there, but is it worth it at hardback prices?