Interview responses re Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter
- For possible general interest I did an interview this morning with the London newspaper, the Ham&Hi - I used to live in Hampstead. Great if any friendly soul in India might pass it to other review or news editors too, in the hope they'll reprint it. Here it is -
Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter, by Tim Symonds
� You have previously written two Sherlock Holmes detective novels. Tell us about your new book. Why did you choose this Einstein mystery?
I really liked the idea of a fictional character which an amazing percentage of the world thinks really existed - i.e. the great Consulting Detective Sherlock Holmes - in contention with a contemporary real-life person - Albert Einstein - whose reputation as a thinker has grown to near-mythic proportions! When I started looking into Einstein's character in his earlier days, I came across about a gripping real mystery - what happened to his illegitimate daughter known only as 'Lieserl'. When Einstein was pronounced Man of the Century in Time Magazine, the American scientist Frederic Golden said 'Lieserl's fate shadows the Einstein legend like some unsolved equation'. I felt the clue to Lieserl lay in a small, bustling Serbian town called Novi-Sad because the infant's mother was brought up there. So just like my novel Sherlock Holmes And The Case of the Bulgarian Codex, the new novel has Holmes and Watson plunging again into the mysterious depths of the Balkan Peninsular. A characteristic of my three Sherlock Holmes' novels is the way I like to see Holmes struggling outside what we now call someone's 'comfort zone'. The more I read about the Balkans circa 1905 when the Ottoman Empire maintained shaky control, the more deeply unknowable it seemed - perfectly suitable in fact for Holmes to find himself far outside his comfort zone which largely was confined to the great Capital city London and its suburbs and a few English villages. As I put it in 'Einstein's Daughter', Holmes became more and more terse. At home in England, among the coiners and smashers and cheque sharps of London�s underworld, my comrade�s every word, every glance, suggested he knew something you didn�t, some secret which would give him the eternal upper hand � but here, in the Balkans
My partner Lesley Abdela is a post-deadly-conflict specialist and through her I have been to Kosovo and Albania several times. I believe it's as impossible as ever for most of the outside world to figure out what's really happening around you. When Holmes and Watson were there in 1905� well, it's not a surprise to me World War One was triggered there only 8 years later.
� What have you learn about Einstein as a result? Is he still the admirable man we all assume him to be? From perhaps three years of research I learnt two things about Einstein, one very positive, the other not so admirable. The positive one which comes out in the novel was his truly astonishing accomplishment in producing a set of wonderful theories in what has become called his 'annus mirabilis' of 1905, among them E=MC�, the most famous equation in physics. It was a gargantuan intellectual leap which took a lot of what was going on in physics and melded it together into the one apparently simple equation.
The not-so-good is the way Einstein had difficulty acknowledging the contribution made by other scientists, including his wife Mileva Einstein-Mari� - and this weakness plays an absolutely vital role in my plot.
� What attracted you to Sherlock Holmes in the first place and why did you take on the challenge of writing his new adventures? Although I was born in Fellows Road, Hampstead, just north of Regent's Park, my mother took me to Guernsey when I was about 8 where I became a boarder at Elizabeth College in St Peter Port. Once the prefect turned off the dormitory light I took out a torch and read all sorts of detective stories, including the Holmes' canon - and the rival Sexton Blake. In my own novels I give Watson a rather better role than the famous Sherlock Holmes films have allowed him. He was far from a buffoon. He was a typical Englishman of his class - bluff, loyal, good-hearted, an admirer of women, and now and then capable of making an observation - as in 'Einstein's Daughter' - vital to the solution of the mystery, though without Holmes's acute deductive powers Watson doesn't realise its importance until Holmes explains it.
� Is it hard to live up to the style and stories of Conan Doyle? How do you strike a balance between being faithful to the old books and introducing your own flair? The portrayal of Holmes over the past decade has undergone an astonishing bifurcation. For decades Hollywood and world cinema portrayed him as a man of great deductive power combined with intuitive flair, but essentially cerebral - he thought things out, sometimes not even leaving his comfortable chair at 221B Baker Street. Then came the wham-bang Holmes, all martial arts ('baritsu') and physical aggro. My own comfort zone is with the original Conan Doyle Holmes, the Edwardian striding like a colossus in the world of criminality, a true Redresseur de destins, a rectifier of destinies, but essentially thinking along the logical lines of his two most famous dictums: in A Scandal In Bohemia he tells Watson, 'It is a capital mistake to theorise before one has the data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts', and in several of the other stories, 'It is an old maxim of mine that when you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth'. That's the Holmes I most like - and I bet some of my readers will seek out any illogicalities I myself may have overlooked in my plot!
� The new BBC series of Sherlock is proving hugely popular. Have you seen it? Why is Sherlock receiving such renewed affection? It is certainly a most extraordinary phenomenon, the worldwide success of both the Guy Ritchie Action Man Sherlock Holmes and the subtler BBC interpretation. Both have found a huge market and are entertaining mega-millions. It must mean that in a truly terrifying epoch in human history, with conflict raging everywhere, we want to believe that somewhere among us, hard at work, is at least one person who is single-minded and terrible in the pursuit and implementation of Justice.
� You mentioned you�re abroad writing the new Sherlock book as we speak. What�s next for the detective? Do you always traverse the globe to research the stories and if so, have you had any memorable adventures along the way? I am just starting on my next Sherlock Holmes. It will be titled something like Sherlock Holmes And The Theft of the Sword of Osman. I shall spend some time in Turkey, overlooking the Sea of Marmora and the Golden Horn because the plot will take place mostly in 'Stamboul', the old Constantinople, under Sultan Abd�lhamid 11. Britain's foreign secretary Sir Edward Grey takes a dog-cart to Holmes's bee-farm in deepest Sussex. The mystical Sword of Osman has gone missing. Does this mean a coup against the Ottoman Sultan? If so, what are the implications for the British Empire? And what devious role is Holmes's brother Mycroft playing behind the scenes�?
In addition to locating and examining the settings, what do I most enjoy about writing these novels? As I put it in the Acknowledgments to The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter, 'A singular pleasure in writing a novel is how people with great expertise will respond so positively to an author�s request for information or advice. What camera (and more to the point, what plates?) would Watson have taken to the Reichenbach Falls in 1905? The answer came from Dr Michael Pritchard FRPS, the present-day Director-General of the Royal Photography Society. His expertise helped me construct the scene at the Reichenbach Falls where, like the great Criminal master-mind Professor Moriarty fourteen years earlier, Watson�s Sanderson Bellows camera and its precious dark slide tumbled over the edge into the boiling waters below. Or when Watson talks of his �Service revolver�, what calibre was it and what sort of ammo would he have used? Ask Mike Noble or Jeff Sobel�'
Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein's Daughter is available at www.mxpublishing.co.uk/engine/shop/product/9781780925721<http://www.mxpublishing.co.uk/engine/shop/product/9781780925721> or www.amazon.co.uk/Sherlock-Holmes-Mystery-Einsteins-Daughter/dp/1780925727<http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sherlock-Holmes-Mystery-Einsteins-Daughter/dp/1780925727>
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