Dominic Green, Author of “The Adventure of the Lost World”

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

The story is basically a fusion of two Conan Doyle canons — the Sherlock Holmes stories and the Professor Challenger series.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

It originated simply as a story request from Ann Kelly of the BBC, who was producing a series of Sherlock Holmes stories for the “BBC Cult” website. The story was read by Andrew Sachs, the well-loved actor of Fawlty Towers fame, who recently came to prominence again after two BBC radio presenters, Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand, who are both capable of far greater things but choose to use their talents for evil, were suspended for prank-calling him and hurling insults about his granddaughter at him over the phone. It was a big thing in Britain. In the US, I suspect no-one either knows or cares.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

The story wrote itself. By pure coincidence, I was reading a big brick-thick book of facsimile reprints of the original Strand magazine Holmes stories at the time. It was as if Conan Doyle was holding the pen for me, although I suspect he wouldn’t have taken the mick out of his own characters quite so cruelly.

Most authors say all their stories are personal. If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I wanted to write a story that didn’t make any alarming departures, but stayed with the characters as they were originally and maybe just made them a little bit more outlandish. I wasn’t out to write a “Sherlock Holmes is a Martian” type of story. Conan Doyle’s Holmes is, after all, outlandish enough to begin with. He’s far from being a Barbara Cartland conception of the perfect English gentleman — famously, he’s a cocaine addict, and in A Study In Scarlet, the first ever Holmes story, Conan Doyle outlines all of Holmes’s inadequacies in great detail:

“His ignorance was as remarkable as his knowledge. Of contemporary literature, philosophy and politics he appeared to know next to nothing… he was ignorant of the Copernican Theory and of the composition of the Solar System. That any civilized human being in this nineteenth century should not be aware that the earth travelled round the sun appeared to be to me such an extraordinary fact that I could hardly realize it.”

Holmes has become, like James Bond, an omnicompetent superman in the hands of later writers, but like Bond, he was originally a character with limits. Bond was initially an English public schoolboy with a gun and not much else. Now he has an invisible flying submarine car, an encyclopaedic knowledge of whatever is necessary for the advancement of the plot at any one time, and of course, that eighteen foot penis.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I had to bone up on both The Lost World and the Holmes stories. Luckily, I had copies of both. I also had to make sure that the creature discussed in the story had been discovered by paleontologists at the time of writing. This in turn necessitated moving the story forward until after the First World War.

What is the appeal of Sherlock Holmes fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

Holmes is like Arthur or Robin Hood in that he has acquired a life beyond the one given him by his creator. This is because he’s become a superman rather than the exceptional but plausible human being he was originally intended to be. Unfortunately, even in Conan Doyle’s stories, his hair gets bluer and his pants start to creep outside his trousers more as time goes on. The trouble with characters who become overpowered is that the author has to invent increasingly implausible enemies to throw at them — Dr. X returns, only this time he has a cybernetic hook for a head! It’s a reversal of the Steven-King-horror-novel syndrome, where the author invents a menace so horrible he can’t figure out how to kill it. Like many people, I find the later “super-Holmes” character rather ridiculous, and I’ve poked a little gentle fun at it.

What are some of your favorite examples of Sherlock Holmes fiction (either original Doyle works or contemporary works), and what makes them your favorites?

The best contemporary Sherlock Holmes story is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen — without a doubt the best use for Mycroft Holmes I’ve ever seen (and a cunning fusion of the Bond and Holmes stories). The League is effective because it is of the time. It is written as if it were a nineteenth century novel — or more correctly, a mélange of every novel written in the nineteenth century. It has an affection for the material it’s sending up. And the man who wrote it comes from Northampton, where I do, which makes it even better.