Laurie R. King on falling in love with Sherlock along with her character
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by Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
At first, mystery author Laurie R. King wasn’t too much of a fan of Sherlock Holmes – despite creating a character who would eventually marry the storied detective.
When King first began writing her Mary Russell series, the subject of this spring’s Amarillo Reads events, the author thought Holmes wouldn’t play too large a role – even though the first line of her first book, 1994’s “The Beekeeper’s Apprentice,” was “I was 15 when I first met Sherlock Holmes.”
In an introduction to the 20th anniversary edition of the novel, King said she “envisioned the coming-of-age tale of a young, female, 20th-century Sherlock Holmes.”
“However, within a few paragraphs, I ran into a problem: I knew almost nothing about the man she was patterned on (and would be partnered with) apart from vague memories of stories read in childhood colored by contemporary television adaptations.”
So, as King told me, she began researching Holmes, “and I discovered that he was rather a different character than what I had expected.”
“You often think of him as a boys-only adventure … a thinking machine,” she said. “But I was fascinated how in the stories, he was not. He’s a man who’s deeply committed to his work, passionate about the need of restoring fairness and justice in the world,” King said. “I found this man who was not aloof and cold. He was passionate. If anything, his aloofness was protection.”
King will discuss her excursions into the world of Arthur Conan Doyle – and her latest novel, the portentously titled “The Murder of Mary Russell,” out today – when she speaks at 7 p.m. April 12 in the Amarillo Civic Center Complex Grand Plaza, 401 S. Buchanan St. The event is free.
“When my editor and I first discussed (this book’s title), we got this far-away gleam in our eyes,” King said.
Though the title foretells doom for her signature character, King said the novel focuses just as much on two of Doyle’s creations whom she adopted for her books – both Holmes and his long-suffering housekeeper, Mrs. Hudson.
“It’s about Mary Russell, but it’s also partly about the entire situation she unknowingly steps into when she meets Sherlock Holmes in 1915, 10 years before (this) novel opens,” King said. “It was always interesting to me where Mrs. Hudson came from.”
As Sherlockians know, the surname “Hudson” also cropped up in “The Adventure of the Gloria Scott,” given to a sailor who was blackmailing his former shipmates in what was one of Holmes’ earliest cases.
“Conan Doyle was a writer who got distracted a lot, I think, and he sometimes forgot that he had already used a name,” King said. “I don’t think Conan Doyle had any intention that our Mrs. Hudson had anything to do with the James Hudson of the ‘Gloria Scott’ case, but I am not the first to say she may have.”
Writing this novel also inspired King to look back at Sherlock – both Doyle’s version and her own – to see how he was affected by “the Great War” (after which Doyle retired him), “how he is affected by Mary Russell … and then I murder Mary Russell and have to look at how … her death would make him react,” King said.
King has found great success in imagining new adventures within Doyle’s realm: She is a New York Times bestselling and award-winning author of 23 novels and other works, including her 14 Russell & Holmes novels.
“Sherlock Holmes is just a lot of fun, and of all of the different people who have reimagined him in a different way or another, we think she is one of the best,” said Stacy Yates, the library’s public relations coordinator. “The mysteries are just terrific books. They are good read, but they are also thought-provoking.”
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