Sherlock Holmes. Just that name conjures up a lean man in cape and deerstalker tracking through the moors or pacing 221B Baker Street over a multi-pipe problem. Holmes long ago achieved literary escape velocity, transcending Victorian London, crime fiction and even Conan Doyle. First sleuthing upon the page in 1887’s A Study in Scarlet, these days scads of his pastiches and reinterpretations are published every year. Holmes movies, television series, theatre productions. Holmes societies across the world. The game has never been more afoot.
What about him has such lasting magic?
Last year at Killer Nashville I found myself immersed in that question, moderating a panel on modern incarnations of Mr. Holmes. Wonderful authors Nikki Nelson-Hicks and Stephanie Osborn held forth expertly on what makes Holmes timeless: his towering analytical capacity, his fit as a mythic archetype, his addictions and failings of vanity. Nikki and Stephanie lauded the deftly-drawn London backdrop and wit and ingenuity of the stories, the growth of the characters–Conan Doyle kept Holmes fresh and (mostly) alive in print for over forty years. All yes, but for Casual Fan Me there’s something more to why Holmes works as well today as a generation before WWI. Fortunately, I don’t need epic deductive powers to suss out the secret behind Sherlock Holmes. He tells us himself: Continue reading The Case of the Conjuror’s Trick
March 24, 2016
By Certified Mail
Mr. Robert Mangeot, Author of Shameless and Baseless Works of Fiction
Dear Mr. Mangeot:
The venerated and venerable law firm Vernon Stagg and Associates represents the selfsame Vernon Stagg, Esq., a noted figure of legal and civic stature in the greater metropolitan Nashville area. We mean none other than the capitol of the great state of Tennessee. Music City.
As you must surely know, having authored such a mistaken and misguided mischaracterization as “The Cumberland Package,” published in the May 2016 edition of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, you present to Nashville’s reading and voting public a grievously and grotesquely false depiction of Vernon Stagg. For the legal record and for all other records of important nature, now and in perpetuity, in his representation of Mr. Chit “Big Kick” Bowling, Vernon Stagg at no time and in no way engaged in any of the following: conspiracy to commit murder; bribery and fraudulent practices concerning the Tri-Star Bison Show and Sale; inappropriate promiscuous and/or intimate behaviors; unethical billing practices and breaches of client confidentiality; and habitual listening to Artie Shaw’s music. While Vernon Stagg does enjoy a fine swing orchestra, he has no love for the tuneless timbre of a clarinet. This is well-known to his friends and associates and to entire sub-portions of the Nashville community at large. That the Tennessee Bar Association (“The Bar”) may have pursued similar such outrageous claims against Vernon Stagg is both inconsequent and irrelevant. The Bar’s long and lamentable smear campaign against Vernon Stagg is well-documented and understood for the petty display that it is. Vernon Stagg’s good name remains unbesmirched. Given said unbesmirchitude, any portrayal to the contrary represents an assassination of Vernon Stagg’s considerable character and his income, electoral and romantic prospects.
And yet your pernicious portrayal Continue reading Humor: In Which Vernon Stagg Self-Lawyers Up
Vernon Stagg was born from a bad book.
A manuscript actually, mine sadly, and fortunately for us all I abandoned it before the querying stage. This was 2011, early yet for me into This Whole Writing Thing. The manuscript was a sort of Westlake-ian, Hiaasen-ian lovechild romp, and no matter what I did, it came out low on cohesion but high on character.
Such as somewhere in Part Two, when one of the baddies, a gold-digger who can’t believe her luck–or abide her fiancé’s creepy attachment–needs a lawyer on her side. The chapter opens with her asking for help busting a prenup, and suddenly this Vernon character Continue reading Behind: “The Cumberland Package”
How’s this for an opening paragraph?
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
— Charles Dickins, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)
Balance, cadence, clarity, metaphor. Dickens puts together a ripping good opener to set the novel’s themes. No wonder it’s held up so damn well for so damn long.
But what didn’t he do? Continue reading Literary Throwdown: A Tell of Two Cities
2016 is, in Chinese zodiac terms, the Year of the Fire Monkey. At first this gave me pause. It doesn’t take a Chinese astrologer to know giving a Zippo or a pack of matches to a monkey will not end well. Even if it learns to use fire for peaceful purposes, say smoking, well, cigarettes aren’t any better for the monkey than they are for us.
But I was reassured after learning what the Chinese zodiac actually means by fire monkey. No, not torch-wielding monkey hordes. Fire is Continue reading 2016: A Wood Monkey Seeks Fire