The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes
The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 4
by Liese A Sherwood-Fabre
Be as smart as Sherlock Holmes!
Arthur Conan Doyle's original tales include many references to everyday Victorian life that are no longer part of current readers’ world. What Holmes would have eaten from a can while searching for the hound of the Baskervilles, Watson's enjoyment of a yellow-back novel, or the proper use of a gasogene would have been common knowledge to the Victorian contemporary but compels modern readers to run to the nearest reference book. These twenty-five short essays pull such items from the past and expand on their significance in the story. As an additional bonus, this book contains an essay on the role of scandal in Holmes; cases, originally appearing in a collected volume of essays on feminism and agency. After enjoying these concise treatises on Holmes’ world, readers will have a deeper understanding and appreciation of both the times and the life of the world’s greatest consulting detective.
Transgressions: Scandal in the Canon
The threat of scandal appears in almost a quarter of the tales in the Canon. In four of these cases, clients seek Holmes’ assistance to avoid exposure of a Victorian norm violation: three involve letters to previous lovers; the fourth, an attempted theft of an item entrusted to a banker. In the other ten, as Holmes solves the mystery, he uncovers evidence that, if revealed, would cause a scandal for someone entangled in the case. In many of these tales, the mere threat of such publicity is enough to force them to do another’s bidding (such as paying blackmail or changing a will). That committing murder is considered a better solution than suffering the negative public reaction to such revelations indicates the power certain Victorian social norms carried (and still do) within certain social strata.
While many behaviors may be unacceptable (stealing, for example), not all are scandalous, and even disreputable behavior can be tolerated under certain circumstances. Ari Adut in On Scandal: Moral Disturbances in Society, Politics, and Art defines the public experience of scandal as “an event of varying duration that starts with the publicization of a real, apparent, or alleged transgression to a negatively oriented audience . . .” Three basic elements must exist to form a scandal: the transgression, someone to publicize the offense, and a public who cares or is interested in the offense.
The danger of scandal played an important role in maintaining proper Victorian social conduct, and in several of Holmes’ cases, was suffcient to force some to break the law themselves—including murder. Understanding what makes a scandal and why avoiding such exposure in Victorian times provides greater depth and understanding of the motivation behind the crimes Sherlock is called in to solve or prevent.
About the Author:
Liese Sherwood-Fabre knew she was destined to write when she got an A+ in the second grade for her story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic. After obtaining her PhD, she joined the federal government and worked and lived abroad for more than fifteen years. Returning to the states, she seriously pursued her writing career, garnering such awards as a finalist in RWA’s Golden Heart contest and a Pushcart Prize nomination. A recognized Sherlockian scholar, her essays have appeared in scion newsletters, the Baker Street Journal, and Canadian Holmes. These have been gathered into The Life and Times of Sherlock Holmes essay collection series. She has recently turned this passion into an origin story series on Sherlock Holmes. The Adventure of the Murdered Midwife, the first book in The Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes series, was the CIBA Mystery and Mayhem 2020 winner.
An Interview with Liese Sherwood-Fabre
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
Because this book is a series of short essays on different topics, I truly enjoyed delving more deeply into the subjects and learning more about each one. For example, I learned more about how widespread addictions were in Victorian times. Drugs that are now considered controlled substances were readily available in all sorts of products, including some for children. At the same time, drug use was viewed differently according to the user’s class. A middle-class person might have a habit, but a lower-class person who visited opium dens had an addiction.
Beyond such heavy subjects are lighter ones filled with trivia—such as the introduction of canned (or tinned) milk had an impact on babies’ health by ensuring it was sterile.
Do you have any other books you are working on that you can tell us about?
I am continuing to write these essays and share them with various Sherlockian societies each month, as I have for the past eight years. In two years, I’ll publish another volume. As for fiction, I’m starting a new series set in San Francisco and have the seed of an idea for case five for my Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes series. I’m not ready to share more about the fiction yet.
Can you tell us about what you have planned for the future?
Beyond what I said above, I don’t have much more to share. I plan to continue my Early Case Files of Sherlock Holmes and hope to sell the new series as well.
How long have you been writing?
About thirty years. I was almost an overnight success on Venus. It only took me 45 days to become a published author there. [Thirty Earth years are only 45 days on that planet (243 earth days=1 day on Venus).] See, lots of trivia at my fingertips!
While I’ve written things since I was young (did I mention my A+ on my story about Dick, Jane, and Sally’s ruined picnic in the second grade?), I never thought about it commercially until I was living in Mexico. I had a subscription to Isaac Asimov Magazine, and after reading one story, I thought, “I could do this,” and I tried my hand at penning stories. The first one I submitted was promptly rejected, but rather than being discouraged, I continued with the goal of getting published. It took years, but I finally sold one story to a small literary magazine for $10. That told me I could do it. I’ve kept it up since.
Anything more you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I know that nonfiction might not be to everyone’s taste, but I try to keep these essays from being dry by keeping them short and full of interesting facts.
What types of nonfiction do you enjoy?
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Liese-Sherwood-Fabre/e/B00810INE6
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Liese A Sherwood-Fabre will be awarding a $20 Amazon, Apple or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.