The Public Life of Sherlock Holmes: “The Adventure of the Tired Captain”

Monday, September 21st, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

CuriousIncidents_CoverEDITEDTwenty years ago, I had a short story published for the first time. Charles Prepolec and J.R. Campbell had not yet put out their four Gaslight collections of Holmes horror stories. Their initial book outing was a little collection called Curious Incidents. For some reason that escapes me now, I thought it would be clever to have a story in which Arthur Conan Doyle plays Dr. Watson. The part that made it really clever, was that he would be assisting William Gillette as Holmes. And they’d be solving one of Watson’s untold cases! I’ve since gone on to write ‘straight’ Holmes pastiches – several of them published. As well as short stories featuring Solar Pons, and others with Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin. But getting my name in print began with a twist on Sherlock Holmes.

It was a blustery evening in the Fall of 1901 when I received an unexpected visitor to my hotel room. I had come down to London to meet with my editor at The Strand, Martin Greenhough Smith. Dining at the Westminster Palace Hotel, where the fare is always excellent, we had discussed some particulars relating to the new Sherlock Holmes story that I had, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to provide him with. Returning to my home in Southsea upon the morn, I was still debating upon the merit of bringing Holmes back to life, albeit for only one more adventure.

I arose at the knock upon my door and opened it. To my considerable surprise, I found myself gazing upon the face of Sherlock Holmes. Well, not quite Sherlock Holmes, but the man who had become most identified with him on two continents. The talented actor William Gillette had come to pay his compliments to me.

I shook his hand and relieved him of his wet coat and cap. I bade him make himself comfortable in the over-stuffed armchair by the lamp and poured him a warming glass of good brandy. William Gillette was a famous actor in America. He had starred in several plays and was quite popular. In 1899 he had rewritten an offering of my own, entitled it ‘Sherlock Holmes – A Drama in Four Acts,’ and achieved new levels of success. It had been the toast of New York City and every show had played to a full house. He had recently brought it across the ocean and presented it at our own esteemed Lyceum Theater. It came as no surprise that it was an even bigger smash here in London. Though I considered these detective stories as less important than my other writings, Sherlock Holmes was immensely popular and, I had to admit, financially profitable.

Ensconced in my own chair, Gillette regaled me with his tales of Holmes in America. He certainly made an excellent portrait of the sleuth. Of course, Sidney Paget had drawn a more handsome Holmes than I described, but that had probably been for the best, as it attracted more female readers to the stories. Gillette was tall and lean, with a very distinctive profile. His nose wasn’t quite the hawkish affair that I had pictured, but I could easily see how playgoers had come to identify his visage with that of Sherlock Holmes.

Read More »


That Short Story Thing

Tuesday, July 14th, 2020 | Posted by S.M. Carrière

book-2040901_1920

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay

Good morning, Readers!

Remember a while ago when I asked for story prompts for a sort-of communal writing jam? Yeah, well, neither did I until recently. I had a month to work on this, and so naturally I completely forgot about until the week it was due. University essays all over again. Nevertheless, I figured I’d try my hand at it anyway.

This was the only prompt I received:

She impatiently checked her watch, sighing and rolling her eyes as burning debris rained onto the ground around her.

Many thanks again to Jaina for that prompt.

Short stories are not my strong suit, so it’s probably going to be stupidly rough and less than brilliant. I’ve not written a short story in a long, long time. So, if you’re reading it, feel free to have a good chuckle at my expense. I tried. Also, I’m terrible at titles.

If you can do better (and I don’t think that’d be difficult), link to your story in the comments!

Read More »


Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 11, 12, and 13

Thursday, May 14th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

ArchieFritzHopefully by now, you know what this series is all about. Over at The Wolfe Pack Facebook Group page, I am doing daily entries from Archie’s notebooks, as he endures Stay at Home with Nero Wolfe in these pandemic days. Over the weekend, I hit forty-three straight days, and over 41,000 words. You can check out the group for all of the posts. And there are links to to the first ten days down at the bottom of this post – plus all my other Nero Wolfe writings here at Black Gate.

 

DAY ELEVEN – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

Saul Panzer called today. Del Bascom was always scrambling to make payroll and turn a profit, and he was still finding jobs related to essential services. Saul had agreed to help him track down some money that had gone missing from a bank. He said that seemed healthier than trying to track down some masks taken from a hospital. I was surprised he was doing any work at all out in the danger zone. He didn’t need the money. Maybe he was tired of practicing the piano.

“Bascom told me that Bill Gore is in the hospital. It looks bad.”

Oh. “Covid 19?”

“Yeah. He was working for Bascom and called off sick one morning. Then, a couple days later, he called him from the hospital.”

Read More »


Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 8, 9, and 10

Monday, May 4th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Nero Wolfe TrainHopefully you read posts one , two, and three this series. Over at The Wolfe Pack Facebook Group page, I am doing daily entries from Archie’s notebooks, as he endures Stay at Home with Nero Wolfe in these pandemic days. I’m well over thirty thousand words so far.

DAY EIGHT – 2020 Stay at Home

Sunday is the day things have changed the most here at the brownstone. Normally, Theodore would go to visit his sister, and Wolfe would putter around in the plant rooms, but not the usual nine to eleven and four to six. Fritz would sometimes run errands, including shopping for food. When he stayed in, he usually spent time in his room in the basement, listening to music and reading cookbooks. He had more of those than anyone I’ve ever met. We were all at loose ends on Sunday. But I couldn’t go to a game at the Garden or at the ballpark now, of course, which would have taken care of several hours. In other words, except for Wolfe, the day changed for the rest of us. Which meant all four of us were home together, without our normal routines. That’s a recipe for tension.

Wolfe and I didn’t even make it to lunch. I’ve decided to type up a couple cases from my notes. People seem to like reading them, and they’ve got some spare time at home, so I figured, ‘Why not’? I’ve mentioned before, that when he’s reading, Wolfe doesn’t like what he deems to be unnecessary typing. Granted, it’s not as bad as when I excessively sharpen my pencils, but he prefers quiet. Knowing we don’t have any clients, he would prefer me to do my typing when he’s not in the office. Well, since I’m stuck at home, and he isn’t giving me any work to do, I feel I can be a little more ‘comfortable’ during this lock down. And that includes typing when I want to.

Read More »


Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days 5, 6, and 7

Friday, April 24th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Wolfe_Drawing1Hopefully you read posts one and two in this series. Over at The Wolfe Pack Facebook Group page, I am doing daily entries from Archie’s notebooks, as he endures Stay at Home with Nero Wolfe in these pandemic days. As I prepare this, I have done a daily post for 28 straight days, totaling 27,067 words. At just under 1,000 words a day, it’s been quite an effort! I expanded today’s post to three days, since I’ll never catch up, doing one Black Gate post a week.

DAY FIVE – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

Did you know that the Latin ‘mortuus’ is the root of mortuary? And that mortuary replaced deadhouse as the name of the place where they kept the dead? I do, because I heard all about it at the evening meal. Wolfe’s dinner table conversation is stuck in morbid.

Archie’s Thought of the Day – You might think that in a household of four males, I would organize a card game to help pass the time. In This household, you would think wrong.

Only one near-battle today. At lunch, Wolfe suggested we let Theodore start joining us for dinner. I flat-out refused. I told him I would eat at my desk first. Writing about it now, I will admit, it was not my finest hour. But there is no way I could enjoy supper, even it being Fritz’s incredible cooking, with Horstmann sitting there with me. I don’t hate him in a Rowcliffe-sort of way, but there’s just something about him that I don’t like. Never have. Sort of like a teammate you don’t like. You tolerate him, but you spend as little time around him as you can. Wolfe saw that I was serious, and he knew trading me for Theodore wasn’t a good deal, so he dropped it.

Read More »


Black Gate Fiction: Everybody Comes to Rick’s (Casablanca Chronicles)

Monday, April 20th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Casblanca_CafeFrontCasablanca is my all-time favorite movie. And I few weeks ago I posted a story I wrote starring Captain Renault; set immediately after the movie ends. That was actually the second Casablanca story I wrote. Here’s the first. It is pure cheese. Some day I will go back and turn it in to a proper story. But back before I became a decent writer, I did this oust of love for the best film I have ever seen. Be kind to me (Maltese Falcon reference there).

Rick stood next to the bar, watching the floor, where a few couples were dancing to the slow tune which the orchestra was playing. He took a drag on his cigarette, glad that it was a good crowd tonight. His place always did strong business during the holidays. People wanted to get out for a nice night and forget the insignificance of their daily lives. Carl had decorated the place, putting bows on the doors, and stringing lights along some of the columns. There was even a big pine tree with various oddments hanging from it. Christmas didn’t mean much to Rick: hadn’t since he’d left Chicago.

Sam was setting up his piano near the band. His break would be over in a few minutes. Rick turned his attention to the door where a large man was just coming in. He was over three hundred pounds but carried his weight without difficulty. The man caught Rick’s eye and came towards the bar.

“Good evening, Rick. I see that you have some of my customers here tonight.”

Ferrari ran the Blue Parrot, Rick’s main competition in Casablanca. It had the feel of a local kasbah, while his own Café Americain would have been a comfortable fit in Monaco. It was the most elegant joint in town, and it had an honest gambling room in the back. There weren’t too many honest places in Casablanca. Certainly none associated with Ferrari.

“You know my motto, Ferrari – The customer is always right.”

Read More »


Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay at Home – Days Three and Four

Monday, April 13th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Wolfe_ChaykinHutton2As I explained in the last post, I am channeling my inner Archie Goodwin and writing his notebook entries as he and Nero Wolfe are bunkered down during New York City’s ‘Stay at Home’ order. I’m putting these up over The Wolfe Pack’s Facebook page – highly recommended for Wolfe fans. And I’m taking them two at a time and running them here at Black Gate. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them.

DAY THREE – 2020 Stay at Home (SaH)

It was a day of pure excitement at the old brownstone. Rain cancelled my early morning walk. Fritz vacuumed the second floor. I spent some time with the orchids when Wolfe wasn’t there. I have to admit, he has put together one impressive flower garden up there.

I gave the office a good cleaning. It would make more sense to do that when we had traffic in and out, but now is now. I figured it couldn’t hurt anything, and I certainly didn’t have anything mentally taxing to work on. Of course, the weekly cleaning and oiling of the two guns I kept in my desk went on as scheduled.

Read More »


Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: 2020 Stay At Home – Days One and Two

Monday, April 6th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Nero WolfeAssuming you’re one of the eight people (three of whom are not related to me) who regularly read my posts here at Black Gate, you know that my favorite series of all is Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe. I love John D. MacDonald and Robert E. Howard and harboiled and Solar Pons and Glen Cook and a LOT more: but Wolfe and Archie Goodwin are number one.

When Ohio issued its ‘Stay at Home’ order, it got me to thinking about how Archie and Wolfe would do under New York’s order, which had been issued a day or two earlier. Now, all of the Wolfe fiction I’d written had been set somewhere between the thirties and the sixties. Modern-day Wolfe, with cell phones and whatnot, just doesn’t interest me. But I thought that it made sense to be contemporary, for the lockdown. For the characters, and for us to relate to them. So, here we go!

I’m posting these over on Facebook at The Wolfe Pack’s group page. If you’re on FB, and you like Nero Wolfe, you really should join this group. I’m going to combine two at a time and run them as posts here at Black Gate. Hopefully folks will find something to smile about. And maybe you’ll even become a new Wolfe fan. They’re really great books.

I’ve decided to daily update my notebook with thoughts on Stay at Home (henceforward, SaH). We’ll see which happens first: life returns to normal, or I kill Nero Wolfe in his office.

DAY ONE – 2020 Stay at Home

I don’t think Wolfe even noticed that SaH has begun. Newspaper and mail delivery continued, so his morning routine was unchanged. While special deliveries of some ingredients that Fritz uses to do his magic are going to impact the variety of offerings, the larder is loaded, as it were. The groceries and markets are still open, so Fritz will be able to resupply for at least a while. I may go with him to get supplies as a way to not be stuck here in the brownstone.

Read More »


Black Gate Fiction: “The Case of the Murdered Silk Trader” (Casablanca Chronicles)

Monday, March 23rd, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

Casablanca_RenaultSeriousOkay. I had never seen a Humphrey Bogart movie until my early twenties. Then, I went to the Ohio Theater, an amazing place on the National  Register of Historic Places, to see Casablanca on a HUGE screen. There was even organ music during the intermission. I was hooked for life and I now own almost every movie Bogart appeared in. And from that very day, Casablanca has remained my all time favorite movie, through at least two dozen viewings. I’ve got two stories set around the events of the movie, and I’m running them here in my spot today, and next Monday. This one is my favorite of the pair, and if you picture the great Claude Rains, along with the other actors from the film, I think it works pretty well. Enjoy!

I

It was early and the heat of the desert city had not yet enveloped the occupants like a suffocating blanket. Some sellers were taking their wares to the market, but it was generally quiet in the dusty streets of Casablanca as Rick Blaine sat at a table in front of his café, drinking a cup of strong Moroccan coffee. He wasn’t thinking about much of anything as a dapper little Frenchman joined him. The man sat down with a weary sigh, looking slightly rumpled.

“Good morning, Louie. Coffee?”

Captain Louis Renault, Prefect of Police in Casablanca, declined with a wave of his hand. “No thank you, Rickie. I have already had my share this morning.”

Rick grinned at him. “So, what is the final word on the late Major Strasser, of the Third Reich?” Rick asked with an easy nonchalance, but there were a few new worry lines etched in his forehead. Two nights ago he had shot and killed the German at the airport when the major had tried to stop the Lisbon plane from taking off. But Ilsa Lund had been on the plane with Victor Laslo, and Rick would do anything to see her safely out of Casablanca. So he gunned down the German as the man had tried to radio the control tower. When two cars full of local police showed up, Louie had covered for him by telling them to “Round up the usual suspects.”

Rick hadn’t seen Louie since then. He had expected the authorities to take him away for some very unpleasant questioning at any moment during the past few days, but no one had come. Now, Louie was sitting here, looking not much worse for wear.

Read More »


Nero Wolfe’s Brownstone: The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (The Greenstreet Chronicles)

Monday, February 17th, 2020 | Posted by Bob Byrne

And it’s the final installment in our three-part adaptation of “The Careworn Cuff,” from the old Nero Wolfe radio show staring Sidney Greenstreet. It’s not going to make much sense of you don’t read Part One, and Part Two, first.

The Careworn Cuff – Part Three (of Three)

Chapter Five 

Nero Wolfe TrainI was back at my desk as Wolfe related what I had missed. It seemed that the brownstone had been pretty busy while I was taking Miss Spencer to her temporary lodgings. Wolfe was nearly as good as me at reporting, though, not surprisingly, he tended towards lazy. I had told him to give it all to me.

“So, I awoke to a noise. It was not the front door.”

Wolfe – “Archie?”

Intruder – “No, not Archie.”

“A man moved to the office doorway. I cannot say that I was surprised at who it was.”

Wolfe – “Ah, our impatient and nonmusical friend. I did not hear the bell. You must have come in through a window. I hope you didn’t break anything.”

Wolfe – “How are you Mister…not Porter, of course.”

Intruder – Where’s the girl?”

Wolfe – “That question is beginning to bore me. I don’t know.”

Read More »


  Earlier Entries »

This site © 2020 by New Epoch Press. All rights reserved.