It’s hard to imagine a fictional character – no matter how tenured or beloved – who has gone through more iterations than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.
So what made Miguel Rivera, a retired attorney and assistant professor of criminal justice at John Brown University, think he had a new twist that deserved untangling?
“For several years now, I’ve had a growing desire to add to the canon,” he says. “I’m a bit of a purist, so I wanted to write a novel that fell within the canon and was true to the characters, themes and nuances of Holmes’ world.”
He says his novel, “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Green Dragon,” already in print, and the next book he’s writing, “both fall into certain openings in the canon and explain things mentioned, but not elaborated upon, by Doyle. the story took two years to produce, I thought the story was good, fit in canon, was true to Holmes and his world, and I took the plunge and drafted the novel.
“It’s kind of scary to be honest,” he adds. “Releasing to the world something that you’ve spent so much time writing and rewriting, and with new characters that you’ve created and that you love, is a little scary. In the end, my wife Barbara encouraged me and gave me confidence to send the manuscript to a publisher. Barbara was also my editor, spell checker, and cheerleader. The book is partially dedicated to her.”
“Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Green Dragon” is currently available for purchase at mxpublishing.com and will also be available from February 10 onwards at Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com.
Rivera took a few minutes to answer these questions for our Hidden Gems book column:
D. When and how did you fall in love with reading? Were mysteries your first love?
A. Reading for me is a way to escape to new worlds and realities. It’s a way to learn and experience new things. It’s the most realistic way to become someone else or see the world through someone else’s eyes. Ever since I learned to read, I’ve always had a rigorous appetite for knowledge and for the printed word. I was born in 1960 during the heyday of the space program, so when I started reading, I read about space, the space program, aviation, and then science fiction. In middle school I discovered Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes when I read “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. The rest, as they say, is history. I was immediately hooked. To me, no other character resonates like Sherlock Holmes. I have read and re-read the stories more times than I can count.
Q. Where did the idea for “The Case of the Green Dragon” come from?
A. Good question. In Doyle’s “The Final Problem”, Professor Moriarty visits Holmes at 221B Baker Street. It is a very brief visit in the early summer of 1891. During the visit, Moriarty mentions that Holmes had interrupted his plans earlier that year, but he gives no details and the conversation goes on. I thought how wonderful it would be to know how Holmes had disrupted Moriarty’s plans. We needed a novel about that reference, and thus “The Green Dragon” was born. Like I said, it took me two years to produce what I thought was an original and good storyline. I finally came up with the basic plot, but I needed a place – a literary hook – to really capture the story and place. I turned on my computer one night and the image on the screen was of a lighthouse, and for some reason that image crystallized the place for me and really fired up my imagination. Several hours of searching later, and I had a location in NW England, a lighthouse, old ruins, etc. The perfect “gothic” place for the beginning of the novel and the crime scene.
Q. Did the characters come to life in your head? Meaning, did you have Holmes and Moriarty wandering around in your head as you conceptualized and wrote? And if so, how was it?
A. Oh yeah, and it’s wonderful. My process is that I have to see a whole chapter in my mind with all the details – location, colors, room details, characters, clothes, smells, lighting, etc., – just like a film set – before I can write. Holmes, Moriarty, Watson, Mrs Hudson, Miss Rebecca St. John and all the characters and scenes live vividly in my mind. As the characters became more three-dimensional and “lived” in my mind, they started telling me how they wanted to act, what they wanted to say, in certain scenes. I just needed to set the scene, know the basic direction of the chapter, fill in the details of the scene in my mind, and then the characters took over and “acted” into that chapter’s world. I wrote and described what they did and talked about. I was surprised at times how the characters chose to play within the scene. It’s really a lot of fun.
Q. Was a visit to England involved in the creation of the novel?
A. A physical visit to England did not take place; however, many hours of research into Tynemouth, England and London were involved. A lot of time spent on the internet reading and looking at pictures of places. I have a large map of the city of London from 1890 and have spent a lot of time bent over that map. Every place, place, street, etc., is real and as it was in 1890. Tynemouth, where much of the action takes place, is a real city in North East England, as is the lighthouse, pier, the ruins of the abbey, etc. Frankly, I feel like I’ve been there – all those places. The internet is great for being able to give a detailed perspective of a place without a physical visit. Holmes’ London in my novel is accurate, real places and real street names. This was important to me.
Q. How did you get published by such a prestigious publisher?
A. I am very happy to be published by MX Publishing in London. I spent a lot of time researching publishers and agents. MX Publishing is the world’s largest publisher of books, short stories, novels, etc. by Sherlock Holmes. Frankly, I was worried about sending them my manuscript, but they were great to work with. The editor made suggestions and I did two rewrites and they accepted the manuscript for publication. They have treated me very well, have been friendly from the beginning, are faithful to the canon and incredibly supportive of their authors. Due to the time difference, I learned at 3:30 one morning that they had accepted my manuscript for publication. I woke up my wife and we celebrated with hugs and tears. In the end, it’s about being brave enough to follow your dream and achieve it.
Q. What is the near future for you and your characters?
A. I’m so glad you asked. I am currently writing a follow-up novel to “The Green Dragon” which will move the characters I have created, Miss Rebecca St. John and others, into a new confrontation with Holmes. Again, this new novel will be set in a canonical period and much of the action takes place five years after the events of ‘The Green Dragon’.
The second book is very likely to be released in the first half of 2024.