Why Author Pens Sherlock Holmes Expansions of Dr Watson Mystery Adventures

Jun 11, 2022

In “The Green Man,” recently published by The Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, ancient Celtic myths meet the environmentally non-friendly ambitions of the industrial revolution. It's part of my collection called The Chronicles of John H. Watson MD, a series of twenty-eight Dr. Watson-without-Sherlock Holmes mysteries, in which the doctor solves, or at least investigates, crimes completely independent of his illustrious friend, whom, we might add, Dr. Watson himself made famous. We can tell that the doctor, even though he puts himself in the background and focuses on the brilliance of his friend, is a keen observer, an engaging chronicler, loves adventure, and has a strong moral backbone. His character deserves his own series, in which we can see the good doctor evolving as a detective in his own right, from a sixteen year old in love and trying to impress his girlfriend through finding Bonny Prince Charlie's treasure, to investigating a vampire in Edinburgh or a demon cat on the craggy fells of the Lake Country, or, as a retired writer, visiting his German-jewish publisher in 1933 Berlin, and encountering the beginning of the Nazi terror.

My inspiration was naturally the stories of Conan Doyle themselves, hearing Watson’s voice, noting his writing style, his ear for dialogue, his eye for characterization, and his sense of pacing. The techniques I used simply were to reread some of the stories and pay attention to Watson’s narration, to try to do justice to this unique, humble, and memorable character and his methods of chronicling an adventure.

When I’m not writing, I’m teaching literature and creative writing at the College of Marin in the Bay Area. It’s great to have a job that overlaps with one’s passion of writing, for reading good writing of course helps one’s own. I also walk with my dog in the Open Space in Marin, among bay laurels, old oaks and redwoods, and often in these strolls think up stories.

Besides The Chronicles of Dr. John H. Watson, I’m working on a collection of stories called Ancestors, which include events from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries; a novella about a time-traveling shell-shocked World War I soldier, called The Druid and The Dragon, and a novel, Exile’s Story, about a Coast Miwok native who encounters the repressive Spanish mission system in California, rebels, flees to the Russian colony up the coast, ends up in St. Petersburg, then Paris, and eventually returns as a stranger in his native land. Writing poetry has been a natural part of my life for decades, and I’m also collecting my poetry in a book called The Path of ReturningThe Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine has bought eleven of my Dr. Watson-without-Sherlock Holmes mysteries, and I’ve published selections from Ancestors as well as poetry in the literary journals Literature and Psychology, Blue Unicorn, Nostos and others. My book, Annette Vallon, A Novel of the French Revolution, about the poet William Wordsworth’s French lover, who was also a dynamic and courageous woman in the Resistance against the Reign of Terror, was published by HarperCollins in 2008 and was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great Writers Pick and a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller.

As you can tell, history inspires me—there are innumerable stories waiting in the dramas people like us, only in a different or highly dramatic time period, experienced, that we can imagine and bring to life, always keeping to the parameters of the actual history itself. My Dr. Watson stories blend the mystery and the historical fiction genre. I also like to bring into many of my Watson stories myths and legends of the region in which the story takes place, as the Green Man of Celtic lore, and the ancient tale, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, which J.R.R Tolkien translated and brought to modern awareness. Recently, Simon Armitage has written a fine modern translation.

My favorite mystery reading lately (besides rereading Conan Doyle) has been anything by Rhys Bowen, from her Constable Evans and Molly Murphy books to her Royal Spyness novels, and the series of Brittany Mysteries, by Jean-Luc Bannalec; and on television, the series, “Death in Paradise,” which I think has the best who-done-its that TV writers have yet produced.

Where would we be without mysteries, that excite and entice our mind with figuring out a riddle—which probably echoes everyone’s interest in figuring out the central riddle that we’re all in—the riddle of life.