It’s a new story about what Sherlock Holmes may have been doing in 1920. Read an excerpt from Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton and then enjoy an interview with her. Be sure to ask more questions in the comments section and follow the rest of the tour. Best of luck entering the giveaway!
The game is not afoot. The Better-Every-Day world of 1895 is gone, even hard to recall as WWI ends. From his rural cottage, Holmes no longer provokes Scotland Yard’s envy or his landlady’s impatience, but neither is he content with the study of bees. August 1920 finds him filling out entry papers at a nearly defunct psychiatric clinic on the Normandy coast. England’s new Dangerous Drugs Act declares his cocaine use illegal and he aims to quit entirely. Confronted by a question as to his “treatment goal,” Holmes hesitates, aware that his real goal far exceeds the capacity of any clinic. His scribbled response, “no more solutions, but one true resolution,” seems more a vow than a goal to his psychiatrist, Pierre Joubert. The doctor is right. Like a tiny explosion unaccountably shifting a far-reaching landscape, the simple words churn desperate action and interlocking mystery into the lives of Holmes’ friends and enemies both.
Read an excerpt:
oubert speaks to Holmes: Joubert spoke eagerly. “You have managed a disguise?” “Yes. Simple, but effective. I am half naked and barefoot. I have torn away one leg of my trousers entirely and, otherwise, kept my vest. The cinders work well to dirty my hands, arms, legs, and feet. A rag, held in place by a piece of the fishing net, serves as a kind of veil. Do not doubt it! Nakedness is one of the finest of disguises. Men see through a change of dress long before they see through a lack of it.” I couldn’t help a burst of laughter, but when Joubert glared at me, I nodded my acquiescence. His attention reverted to Holmes. “I hunch forward,” my colleague explained, “and affect an exaggerated limp, dragging my right leg . . . Moving to the edge of the crowd . . . I follow a man who has lost both legs from the knee down. He pushes himself along in a flat, small-wheeled cart, jeering as heartily as the rest . . . He wears a military jacket—split up the sides and faded, held to his chest with what might be a gentleman’s stocking. Across his thighs is draped a flag of the republic, doubtless torn from its place outside one of the big city houses . . . but I pass easily in his wake, for I am bizarre, but not so remarkable as he. The mob grows, and yet we two seem to be able to move through it, into the center. Everyone fears our filth, our stench—and the disease they presume. . . A boy with a drum joins the crowd. . . Then the same chant.
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Do you ever wish you were someone else?
I often wish for more of some qualities and less of others, although I’ve never had a particular person in mind. Why can’t I be more patient? I want to wait in line without fuming. Why can’t I perform patient work, like hemming my jeans, without making a mess of it? More self-control is high on my wanna-be list, too. I want to eat half the giant butter pretzel, get in the 10K steps and write as many words as Charles Dickens did in a day. His daily word count was so high I have actually repressed it. On the other hand, he had some qualities I can do without. I read that he felt a need to rearrange the furniture in his hotel rooms, for instance. No thank you to actually being another person.
What did you do on your last birthday?
That’s a good question. Isn’t there some regulation about the right to a Covid birthday redo? Everyone can simply designate an extra personal celebration day as soon as it’s possible. Go all out.
What part of the writing process do you dread?
Dread is a strong word. Sometimes I just lose whatever it takes to get me to my desk. A friend once gave me a dollhouse picture frame, smaller than a postage stamp, with a tiny hanging chain. She said, “Just sit down and fill up the frame.” It hangs on my desktop’s screen right now and it works. I manage enough words to fill up that inch square space and before I even think about it, I’ve got a page or two. Another dread? Rejections are hard, but eventually I received so many I earned a callous against them.
Do you ever suffer from writer’s block? If so, what do you do about it?
My attention gets diverted, that’s for sure, but that’s not the same as writer’s block. If I don’t have a deadline, I let the diversion happen. The diversion might be just what the story needs.
Tell us about your latest release.
The book is a Sherlock Holmes mystery, but the game is not afoot, not yet. WWI has ended. The glory days the 1890’s are gone. No one believes any longer that the world is “getting better in every way, every day.” In response to the rise in cocaine addiction, the Dangerous Drugs Act has made the drug illegal and Holmes aims to quit. He fills out entry papers at a rundown clinic on the coast of Normandy. Confronted by a question as to his “treatment goal,” Holmes hesitates, realizing his real goal far exceeds anything any clinic could do for him. His scribbled answer, “no more solutions, but one true resolution,” strikes his doctor as more a vow than a goal—and the doctor is right. Very soon the little phrase churns up a far-reaching, desperate, interlocking mystery that changes the lives of Holmes’ friends and enemies both.
Susanne Dutton is the one who hid during high school gym, produced an alternative newspaper and exchanged notes in Tolkien’s Elfish language with her few friends. While earning her B.A. in English, she drove a shabby Ford Falcon with a changing array of homemade bumper strips: Art for Art’s Sake, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Free Bosie from the Scorn of History. Later, her interests in myth and depth psychology led to graduate and postgraduate degrees in counseling.
Nowadays, having outlived her mortgage and her professional counseling life, she aims herself at her desk most days; where she tangles with whatever story she can’t get out of her head. Those stories tend to seat readers within pinching distance of her characters, who, like most of us, slide at times from real life to fantasy and back. A man with Alzheimer’s sets out alone for his childhood home. A girl realizes she’s happier throwing away her meals than eating them. A woman burgles her neighbors in order to stay in the neighborhood.
Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Susanne grew up in the SF Bay Area, has two grown children, and lives with her husband in an old Philadelphia house, built of the stones dug from the ground where it sits.
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