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Author: Bob Byrne

Glen Cook: The Garrett, PI Q&A – at Black Gate

Glen Cook: The Garrett, PI Q&A – at Black Gate

Today we’ve got a real treat here at Black Gate. Glen Cook, best-selling author of The Black Company, as well as The Dread Empire, talks about his fantastic Garrett, PI, series. Glen is one of the founding fathers of dark fantasy, and The Black Company is a bedrock series. I wrote about his wonderful hardboiled fantasy series starring Garrett, here. Today, he’s doing a Q&A about the Garrett, PI books.

Garrett is a private investigator in the fantasy city of TunFaire. He has a huge, brilliant, dead-but-sentient partner, known as the Dead Man. Garrett gets swept up in some large-scale problem each book. There’s far more involved than just figuring out why someone got themselves dead. ‘Cataclysmic’ sometimes applies, without hyperbole. It is a fun, mystery, fantasy adventure series, which is one of my favorites. I often recommend it to folks who ask for something after Terry Pratchett’s Discworld. And if you like Nero Wolfe, this should be your very next read (that vibe starts in book two).

I did a spoiler-free post on the series, which you could check out here, before you read this Q&A.

 

Hi Glen. You are probably best-known for your terrific dark fantasy series, The Black Company. I’ve read through that three or four times. But my favorite work of yours is the hardboiled fantasy PI series featuring a rugged ex-Marine, Garrett. It’s a terrific mix of fantasy and hardboiled private eye, with some other classic influences.

Thanks for agreeing to answer a few questions about the Garrett books.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Truth About Sherlock Holmes (Doyle on Holmes)

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: The Truth About Sherlock Holmes (Doyle on Holmes)

I have about 500 Holmes/Arthur Conan Doyle-related books on my shelves. No surprise, there are some pretty neat things. I’m going to do a couple posts over the next few weeks, looking at some things written by Doyle – or directly involving him.

The first is in my copy of Peter Haining’s The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. It’s a really nifty book put out by Barnes and Noble in 1995 (with Jeremy Brett on the cover). If you don’t have a copy of Jack Tracy’s essential The Published Apocrypha, this has several items included in that hard-to-find classic. It’s also got some additional things including a really cool essay by Doyle.

In 1923, Arthur Conan Doyle wrote The Truth About Sherlock Holmes, for Collier’s Magazine.

In 1903, Collier’s offered Doyle big money to write new Sherlock Holmes stories. Doyle had set The Hound of the Baskervilles back before tossing him over the Reichenbach Falls. So, Holmes was still dead. It was too big an offer to refuse, and Doyle agreed to write eight new stories. They all appeared in Collier’s, and then immediately after in The Strand. Colliers included terrific color covers by Frederic Dorr Steele.

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Terry Pratchett – A Modern-Day Fantasy Voltaire

Terry Pratchett – A Modern-Day Fantasy Voltaire

March marked my tenth year of blogging here at Black Gate! Here was my very first post, on March 10, 2014. I’ve taken a few breaks, but I have posted almost every Monday morning for a decade!  And today is my birthday – pretty neat posting day for me.

Next week, my Doyle on Holmes series starts up and carries us through April and into early May. Had to fill in today with something. I finished up my re-read of the last ten books in Glen Cook’s Garrett, PI, series, and I have a post coming on that soon.

Still in ‘that kind of mood,’ I decided I needed a little Pratchett. We’ve got quite a few Terry Pratchett fans here at Black Gate, and you can find links to various posts on them, below. Since it’s been almost two years since I wrote about Pratchett, it’s high time I added a new essay.

I don’t have any interest in Tiffany Aching, and haven’t read those books. For me, they’re not really Discworld books. To each their own: they’re just not for me. Working from there, I have read everything but Raising Steam. I’ve set that aside, as Snuff was just okay, and Unseen Academicals was the first Discworld book I actually thought was bad. (I believe that his Alzheimer’s was so bad, that someone else – perhaps his daughter – wrote it from his notes. It’s the most un-Pratchett quality book of his I’ve read. Folks get offended by this. It’s how I feel. Disagree with me and move on. It’s fine.)

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What’s Coming Here on Monday Mornings…

What’s Coming Here on Monday Mornings…

So, you’re wondering, “What’s Bob gonna write about in the coming months?”

Actually, not one of you is wondering that, but this is my column. So… Writing about a thousand words a week often involves picking a topic on Saturday morning, and having something ready to go on Monday morning. I’ve actually been working on a few things ahead of time this year, which is kinda cool.

“Really, Bob? You mean, some stuff, you’re not just totally winging?”

Well, I wouldn’t put it so crudely, but yes. I’m trying to go a little deeper on a few things. Including number two below, which I am THRILLED with.

 

DOYLE ON HOLMES

For the entire month of April and into May, The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes returns to Monday mornings. Peter Haining’s The Final Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is a nifty book which had been published by Barnes and Noble. It has several items which are included in Jack Tracy’s foundational Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha.

It also has several additional items worth reading. Doyle wrote some essays regarding Sherlock Holmes, and I’m going to do a series on those. The posts will quote liberally from Doyle’s essays, with my own input. I suspect even serious Sherlockians haven’t read Doyle’s essays in some time.

And if you aren’t familiar with The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes, then you missed my first three years here at Black Gate, as that was the name of my column.

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Five Things I Think I Think (March 2024)

Five Things I Think I Think (March 2024)

And it’s another installment of Five Things I Think I Think. Because we all like to tell EVERYONE else our opinions, right? Social media was a godsend for mankind’s overweening self-absorption. Not that I have a problem with that…

Hopefully I hit on an item or two of interest.

1) BARKER & LLEWELYN IS AN EXCELLENT SERIES

Will Thomas has written fourteen novels and one short story featuring Sherlock Holmes’ “hated rival upon the Surrey shore” (“Adventure of the Retired Colourman”). Cyrus Barker is an Eastern-trained private inquiry agent. Thomas Llewelyn is his Watson. I had read the first several novels years ago.

Audible has most of them, and I went back to book one, the aptly-titled Some Danger Involved, and am about to start book eight, Hell Bay. I highly recommend this to Holmes, or Victorian detectives, fans.

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Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Big Store (Wolf J. Flywheel)

Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Big Store (Wolf J. Flywheel)

For nearly the first time in a year, it’s Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone!

If you read my column here, or follow me on FB, you know that I am a gargantuan Nero Wolfe fan (points if you got that). It’s my favorite series in any genre. I’ve written a lot of fiction and non-fiction about him, and below, you can find links to the prior forty-four posts here at Black Gate.

I have several stories in progress (maybe I could actually finish one or two!). There is one project I set aside that has been one of the most fun things I’ve written so far. I’m also a huge Marx Brothers fan. While The Big Store is not considered one of their best movies, I like it quite a bit.

I’m deep into a story in which I have Wolf J. Flywheel hire Wolfe for help solving a murder in The Big Store. The story is original, but it uses the characters, and is definitely an homage. You can imagine how Groucho gets on Wolfe’s nerves.

If this works, I might write one with Groucho and Wolfe, based on the Flywheel, Shyster, and Flywheel radio show. I think I do Groucho and Chico fairly well. Hope you get a chuckle.

The doorbell rang. I put down my coffee and walked out to the hall, waving off Fritz, who had come out of the kitchen. “Allow me. I’ve been staring at the wall for fifteen minutes. I don’t think it’s going to move now that I’ve taken my eye off of it.” I shooed him away.

I looked through the one-way glass to see two men standing on the stoop. Even as a boy in Chillicothe, Ohio, I was never the slack-jawed yokel New Yorkers think we corn-fed Midwesterners are. But I’m pretty sure my mouth was hanging open now. The guy in the front had a ridiculous mustache and dark, bushy eyebrows. Add in the wire rim glasses and cigar, and he was probably the most unique-looking individual to visit the Brownstone.

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The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Jack Tracy’s ‘The Published Apocrypha’

The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: Jack Tracy’s ‘The Published Apocrypha’

I am bringing back The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes for a Doyle-centric run in April. Getting in the mood, here’s my review of Jack Tracy’s cornerstone book, Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha.

Sherlockians like to hold the Canon (Doyle’s sixty Holmes stories) in the same esteem that Christians hold the Bible. So it should come as no surprise that there are some works by Doyle that are comparable to apocrypha. The term refers to early Christian writings not included in the Bible.

Jack Tracy, author of the superb Encyclopedia Sherlockiana, collected some authentic and near-authentic Holmes works that are not part of the Canon. Few books made up of Holmes fiction can justifiably sit on your bookshelf next to Doyle’s short stories and novels about the wisest and finest man Dr. Watson ever knew. This book should be the very first one.

No one who has looked at Tracy’s Encyclopedia can doubt his Sherlockian scholarship. He utilizes his vast knowledge in an efficient and readable way in Sherlock Holmes: The Published Apocrypha. Each section begins with info about the writings that follow. Interesting and “must know” details set the stage for the pieces themselves.

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A Q&A With Holmes on the Range’s Steve Hockensmith

A Q&A With Holmes on the Range’s Steve Hockensmith

So, I’ve long been a fan of your  Holmes on the Range series. Two weeks ago over at BlackGate.com, I did a deep dive into it for my weekly Monday morning column. Last week, it was a spoiler-free, comprehensive chronology of the series. Along with a publication timeline. I think it’s the only all-inclusive, current one out there. Thanks for your input.

And you’ve agreed to a Q&A to wrap up our coverage of the series. Thanks again!

QUESTION – You wanted to sell more stories to Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, and you saw the annual Sherlock Holmes issue as a way to do that. But you didn’t want to ‘just’ write more standard Holmes. How did you hit on the idea of Gustav and Otto?

Before I start blathering on about myself, I want to pause to thank you for all the attention and positivity you’ve been lavishing on the Holmes on the Range books. It is much, much appreciated!

Now — on to me!

I love Sherlock Holmes, but when I was thinking about writing something Sherlockian for Ellery Queen I just couldn’t get comfortable with the idea of a Holmes pastiche. So many other writers do them so well. Did the world really need me to give it a try? Especially when what I think are my strong suits — my voice and humor — feel so very American. So I tried to think of American characters who’d be inspired by Dr. Watson’s stories about Holmes. And when you’re thinking about fun, interesting, late 19th century Americans, naturally cowboys come to mind sooner or later.

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Holmes on the Range: A Chronology

Holmes on the Range: A Chronology

There are a lot of ways to go about writing a Sherlock Holmes story. Some folks attempt to very carefully emulate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own style, and to turn out a tale that feels as if it might have been penned (or typed these days) by the creator of the great detective himself. No surprise that results vary. GREATLY. Hugh Ashton and Denis O. Smith are the best I’ve found in this regard. Last week, I took a deep dive into Steve Hockensmith’s Holmes on the Range series. You might want to click over and read that. Below, I present a complete chronology of the series (along with a list in publication order, following). Each entry comes with a non-spoiler summary – the kind of thing you’d find on a dust jacket or on a back cover. I think this is a useful reference to a terrific series. Steve himself reviewed and assisted, so it’s accurate. Come back next week for a Q&A with Steve, to wrap up our series.

A HOLMES ON THE RANGE CHRONOLOGY

ss – short story; nvlla – novella; nov – novel

 (ss) Dear Mr. Holmes (July 1892)

So begins the Holmes on the Range saga. Gustav (Old Red) and Otto (Big Red) Amlingmeyer travel to Brownsville, TX, to sign on for a cattle drive. They’re gonna help move three thousand Mexican longhorns all the way up to Billings, Montana. En route one night, there’s a stampede. As they get the herd back in place, two of the cowboys are found, stomachs slashed, eyes cut out, and scalped. Clearly, Indians had raided the drive and killed the men. Except, Gustav’s not quite so sure. For the first time, he gets to try out the Holmes methods he’d heard sitting around the campfire and listening to Otto read “The Red-Headed League.” A stranger shortly joins the group, a lawman shows up, fireworks ensue, and Big Red gets the detection’ bug.

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Roaming the Old West with Holmes on the Range

Roaming the Old West with Holmes on the Range

There are a lot of ways to go about writing a Sherlock Holmes story. Some folks attempt to very carefully emulate Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s own style, and to turn out a tale that feels as if it might have been penned (or typed these days) by the creator of the great detective himself. No surprise that results vary. GREATLY. Hugh Ashton and Denis O. Smith are the best I’ve found in this regard.

You can find stories ranging from pretty good to not suitable for (digital) toilet paper. I’ve had a half dozen of my own stories published and I’m still working on better voice the good doctor.

Some folks write whatever the heck they want, often with the name of Holmes being the only similarity to the famed detective. It is possible to find good Holmes stories that sound nothing like Dr. Watson’s narrative style, of course. And Holmes has been placed in different eras, and even worlds. In addition, there have been Holmes parodies around for over a hundred years. I’ve written a couple myself, and they were fun.

There are Holmes-like successors out there, of whom August Derleth’s Solar Pons is the best. Yes, I’m aware that’s a subjective judgment, but it’s mine, and I’m the one writing this essay, so it stands. I’ve written about Pons more than once, and even contributed introductions and pastiches to anthologies.

But today I’m going to look at one of Sherlock Holmes’ contemporaries; albeit, one quite different and far away. We’re not talking about Martin Hewitt here.

Steve Hockensmith had been writing short stories for Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine Christmas issue, and wanted to sell more to the venerable magazine. EQMM does an annual Sherlock Holmes issue, so he figured that was the way to go. But he wanted to write more than ‘just another Holmes story.’

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