Saffi Does Sherlock

Saffi Does what???!!!

No shit, Sherlock!

*

Hands up anyone who hasn’t heard of Sherlock Holmes?

Exactly. Everyone and their great grandmother have heard of Sherlock Holmes.

Now hands up everyone who’s actually read the Sherlock Holmes stories. No, having the Complete Sherlock on your bookshelf gathering dust doesn’t count. You’ve got to have actually read them.

Hmmm. Not quite so many of you now.

Rather like Shakespeare or Chaucer, or Dickens or Thackeray, or Mary Shelley or Bram Stoker, we all know – or think we know – the stories, and we all know they’re classics, and therefore must be wonderful, but few of us would ever have the inclination to actually read them. I mean, be honest, who among you have actually read Frankenstein, or Dracula, or a complete Dickens novel?

How many times do you see someone reading Shakespeare on the plane or on the beach? How many of you could even name ten Shakespeare plays? No, Henry V Parts 1 to 10 will not suffice.

Many of us, however much we may pretend otherwise in company, have a hatred of the classics drilled into us at school by uninspiring English teachers reciting what they in turn were taught at uni’ by uninspiring lecturers.

Often we only come to the classics as adults, usually after a major film or TV adaptation. No question Keira Knightley’s breathtaking performance as Elizabeth Bennett did more to boost sales of Pride & Prejudice than any number of school teachers could ever do.

Thus it has been with Sherlock Holmes this past year or two. The Sherlock books are gaining a whole new reading audience thanks to the recent BBC take on the Conan Doyle classics.

By chance I was in the UK with my daughter when the first of the new BBC Sherlock launched. Of course as a long-standing Sherlock fan I rearranged my schedule to watch it, and absolutely loved it.

But my daughter, while enjoying the excitement and the SFX, was rather lost on the clever word play and the cut and thrust of the intellectual debate behind the stories. Now that may be in part because English is her fourth language and she was only seven at the time. But it got me wondering how I could introduce Sherlock to her, and that in turn begged the question how I first discovered Conan Doyle myself.

It was, of course, through Enid Blyton.

Yes, I’ve waxed lyrical here on MWi many times about Blyton’s unsurpassed contributions to childhood literature. Need I mention Noddy? Tales of Toyland? St Clare’s and Malory Towers? Brownie Tales? The Wishing Chair or The Magic Farwaway Tree?  Dare I whisper the near-perfect The Land of Far Beyond?

Along with these, the Five Find-Outers and Dog mysteries were an integral part of my childhood. The Mystery of the Secret Room was my first introduction to Fatty, Daisy, Larry, Pip and Bets and Buster the dog, and Mr. Goon the bumbling policeman, and the always pleasant Inspector. Yeah, no surprise I should end up writing crime stories…

The Mystery of the Secret Room had it all. Mysterious vehicle tracks inthe snow on the drive of an empty house. Invisible ink. How to get out of a locked room when the key is on the other side. The thin-lipped man. When you’re seven years old this is breathtaking stuff, believe me.

Sure the Famous Five were fun too, but I actually lived on a farm by the sea with light-houses and smugglers caves and harbours, so for me solving the Five Find-Outers mysteries was much more fun that than reading about Julian, George and Anne doing things I got to do every day anyway.

In the Five Find-Outers series Fatty (yes, he was no light-weight – dear Enid had no time for political correctness – but his nickname came mainly from his initials, as the improbably named Frederick Algernon Trotteville) was a big Sherlock fan. Therefore so was I.

But like for so many, being a Sherlock fan and watching Basil Rathbone in the films, and reading the actual original stories, were two very different things.

Conan Doyle didn’t write for children, or about children. He wrote for articulate Victorian adults in a uniquely convoluted style that you either love or hate.

Sadly I hated it. Kicking off with The Hound of the Baskervilles was a big mistake and I set Conan Doyle aside for several years, before rediscovering his delights, thanks to a children’s TV series called The Baker Street Boys.

Not a patch on the later adult series starring Jeremy Brett, of course, but a great idea. Then came the BBC Sherlock… Or more importantly the latest series, reviewed here on MWi by my very own co-author Miriam just a few weeks ago. And it emerged that no less than two of my co-authors had never previously read Sherlock. A shocking oversight since rectified, I might add.

This got me thinking once again about how my daughter, and in due course my son (only five, so not quite as urgent a task) would discover Sherlock. Where’s Enid Blyton when you need her?

I emailed my daughter, now back in England, to get her views. She explained that her teacher had told the class Sherlock was unsuitable for children. And of course Teacher has a point. Much of Sherlock is very unsuitable for children.

The solution was obvious.

And in one of those rare moments of synchronicity, even as I pressed send on my email to Saffi, 3000 miles away, she was pressing send on an email to me suggesting that given the current surge of interest in Sherlock what if we…

Now of course Sherlock is in the public domain. Author and artist both expired long since, and just like with any of the true classics, they’re fair game for anyone. But the last thing we wanted to do was just republish an old Sherlock story under our name. We needed to add value, to use the economic jargon.

And so the Saffi Does Sherlock series was born. We’re taking some of our favourite Sherlock shorts and rewriting them for modern-day kids who want modern-day English reading but want to savour the essence of the real Sherlock Holmes.

Not as easy as it sounds. What we’ve done is try incorporate some of Conan Doyle’s original wording in amongst the modern-day language, while retaining the settings and characters, and while remaining faithful to the original storyline. Quite a challenge when you consider the more adult elements of Sherlock, with often violent crimes, opium dens and cocaine abuse, along with attitudes towards foreigners that border on racist.

To further add value we enlisted the services of one of our cover designers, Athanasios, to produce not only a cover but some original color illustrations for the series, to run alongside the reproduced originals by Sidney Paget.

 

The first in the series, Sherlock Holmes – The Blue Carbuncle, is live on Amazon even as you read this, and will be filtering out to other platforms soon.

The second in the series, Sherlock Holmes – Silver Blaze, will be joining it very shortly.

As ever, my system isn’t letting me access the links, but just type Saffi Sherlock into the site search engine and it shall appear. There’s only one Saffi Does Sherlock!

*

And for those teens among you thinking it a trifle unfair we’ve now provided books for adults and children, but left out the YA market, fear not. It’s your turn next.

The first of our YA releases will be making an appearance in a matter of days – stay tuned.

And be warned, there’s nothing supernatural or paranormal about it. The only wolf in it a real one; there are no vampires; and it is most definitely not a fairy-tale.

No, it’s not the long awaited St. Mallory’s Forever! either, though that is edging closer even as we speak. Watch our for a sneak preview of the St Mall’s cover next week!

But our first YA story, in keeping with our crime-writing tradition, is somewhat more hard-hitting.

It’s about the greatest crime of all – genocide. You have been warned.

 

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    • Miriam Joy
    • March 3rd, 2012

    I feel warned. I shall look out for it, although with my significantly depleted bank balance at the moment, it may be a while before I actually get my hands on it.

    Yay, the secret is now out, so I can talk about it! 😀 (I’m so good at keeping secrets that I managed to forget to tell Charley…)

    I recently finished reading all of the Sherlock Holmes short stories, although I’ve still got a couple of the longer ones to go. It took a while to adjust to the style and I have to admit, Arthur Conan Doyle does seem to give up at the end of the stories… they just sort of end. No aftermath, just, “Solved. Okay. Move on.”

    And I was remarking yesterday that they’re the only stories I’ve ever read to use the word ‘singular’ (which they use, on average, once every three pages in my edition). Once I’d noticed this, I couldn’t stop noticing it, every time it cropped up. It’s such a singular turn of phrase 😉

    • A most singular observation, Ms Mim. You have both seen and observed! 🙂

      I’m going to have to re-read The Blue Carbuncle now and see if we missed a most singular opportunity to introduce new readers to that most singular turn of phrase.

      And fear not,a copy of the YA story will be winging your way just as soon as it’s ready!

        • Miriam Joy
        • March 3rd, 2012

        Hooray! I look forward to it. What a singular thing to say – I was unaware that books had the ability to fly! Previously, such an intriguing statement would have posed a most bewildering problem, but if I check over my archives I can see many occasions on which I have made use of this invention in the past, and can therefore deduce that books *can* fly.

        Erm. You can tell I’m procrastinating, can’t you?

  1. Erm, Miriam … I knew about it too! I didn’t know that you knew though, so i didn’t tell you that I know …. it’s a whole new mystery in itself, lawl!

    Looking forward to seeing what this YA thingie of yours is Mark! And Miriam, I think we’d better get back to work on St Malls xP

    • That’s what comes of you two moaning about three way email exchanges! Far easier if I copy you both top-secret stuff simultaneously, unless I’m being rude about one or other of you, of course. 🙂

  2. This is such a good idea! I’ve read all the Sherlock books and I’m a huge fan, so it’s nice to know I can have something to share with my sisters! Get them into mystery while they’re young! Will these re-writes be done for other authors? Dare I wish… Agatha Christie?!

    • A lovely idea, but Agatha Christie’s estate may have their own thoughts about crime if we did. 🙂

      But for works in the public domain (ie where the author has been dead for more than seventy years) ebooks provide an opportunity to rework and introduce old favourites to new audiences. Another thirty or so years to wait for Agatha Christie’s copyright to expire.

      But we’re looking at several possibilities for the future, if the Saffi Does Sherlock series does reasonably well. But we’ll be keeping details top secret until the release, just like with this one.

    • I must say that I don’t think Agatha Christie needs re-writing for kids! I read a lot of her books while still pre-teen, and so did lots of my friends. She writes in a simple style, available to everyone, which I don’t think could be improved!

      • Actually one point I’ll disagree with you over, Mark. The BBC’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice with Jennifer Erhle and Colin Firth is the one that set Austen once more ablaze across contemporary society. My personal feeling is that Hollywood and Keira Knightley’s version looked a touch plastic.

        • I’ve got to agree, Prue. Colin Firth IS Mr. Darcy. Nobody else has come close. He doesn’t just do dark and brooding and arrogant–he shows all that honorable vulnerability underneath.

          • I never much fancied Colin Firth, to be honest! But agreed, probably the better choice for Mr. D. In fact the male lead in the Keira Knightley version came across more like Heathcliffe. Not sure Jane Austen would have approved!

            But the KK film version was worth watching just for the incredible photography. The TV versions inevitably do well on costume detail but lack the scenic sweep that the big screen delivers.

      • Sadly in the UK many teenagers leave schol with pre-teen reading levels, For those who do not share our love of the written word from a tender age I think abridged versions are essential to introduce younger readers to our literary greats.

        • You certainly have a point there, Mark. As I said below, the Saffi Does Sherlock book is a great idea!

  3. To Mr. International and Saffi — congratulations, and may I say, brilliant! As I was driving up the glorious California coast just two weeks ago, my daughter read to me three of the Sherlock shorts, and I loved them. I certainly had absorbed a bit of Sherlock in my time, going back to “Hound of the Baskervilles” in high school, but only a few short stories beyond that. And since my daughter is an actual fan, she has a copy of the complete short stories and has read them all!

    I think it a singular example of synchronicity that you, me, and the BBC are re-discovering the excellence of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle at just about the same time.

    Bravo to both of you for coming up with a new twist on Sherlock — gorgeous illustrations and all. I predict that this will be a grand success and will not only introduce more young people to these wonderful stories but will be profitable to you as well.

  4. One hopes so, Patrice!

    Epublishing presents so many opportunities to explore the classics and introduce long-forgotten texts that deserve new audiences, but were never going to find them in print.

    Of course there have always been children’s versions of the classics, but the economics of print meant they were inevitably over-priced and poorly distributed.

    We hope to team-up with illustrators globally and bring to ereaders not just new versions of the western classics, but also of classics from other cultures.

    If only there were more hours in the day…

  5. This is inventive and farsighted writing and publishing at its best. I’m a completely new addict to the BBC Sherlock and no, have never read Conan Doyle but am off to buy the shorts. And this new addition of course.

    I agree with you entirely about re-writing the classics. Why not? They are classics because of their unique appeal: style, characters, plot, settings; they have it all. And why not even take a slant and seriously re-write the classics? Let’s face it, appreciative Austen fans have been doing it for quite some time: taking characters and creating a whole new plot and selling like hotcakes to Austen aficionados.

    Something about all this has fired my imagination and I feel a blogpost coming on…

    Congratulations to both Saffi and yourself. Very exciting!

  6. This is a great idea, and the samples given suggest that it’s been done really well. I’ve been a Holmes fan for a long time, and I think I’ve read everything he wrote. I’ve often thought of writing an up-to-date Holmes story, but haven’t got round to it yet. I think the TV series was spot on, since Holmes must have been a quite young man if you check out the info in the first stories, and ditto Watson.
    Lots of our best writers are clearly influenced by the Sherlock Holmes stories – P.G. Wodehouse is an obvious example, Agatha Christie is another, and there are lots more. Wouldn’t it be nice to influence a whole new generation of writers? Dream on, McCullough!

  7. I’d say something but all the singularly interesting things have been said. *grin*

    Other than I really need to get those classics on my Kindle so I can start reading them. I’ve read Dickens, and not just for English class, but Sherlock… I’m one of those who has heard of him but had no exposure. Same with Jane Austin, finally read one of her books when it came free with my Kindle app.

    So if I got this for my plain old regular Kindle would it still be awesome? I presume so if you’ve kept to the original drawing style.

  8. Phew! *wipes brow and blow out cheeks* Forgive my tardiness here, blame the football! 😉

    We are THRILLED with this reveal and it has been damned hard work keeping it a secret, but hopefully, worth it! Glad you all like the concept and what’s not to love about the gorgeous illustrations from Athanasios? And the cover? Well, wow! Eh?

  9. This is so brilliant on so many levels. Conan Doyle’s prose is kind of inaccessible to contemporary kids, but his stories are timeless. (And Sherlock’s Asperger’s-like personality may inspire some kids on the autism spectrum to feel more empowered.) I adore Athanasios’s retro-style illustrations. The whole prospect looks like a major winner to me.

    Also the revival of the Enid Blyton type of story. A friend had a trove of these when I was young and I actually preferred them to Nancy Drew. There’s an absence of grown-ups in a boarding school story that intensifies the sense of danger.

    Although I have to say I have read most of Dickens for fun, and I can name at least 10 Shakespeare plays. Off the top of my head, Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, Richard III, The Merchant of Venice, As You Like It, A Comedy of Errors, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Winter’s Tale, Coriolanus, Timon of Athens….Oh, maybe that’s because I’m an actress and I’ve been in a lot of them?

      • Miriam Joy
      • March 21st, 2012

      That would probably help, yes. Every piece of orchestral music I know, I know because I’ve played it.

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  1. November 8th, 2012

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