Rob Rogers, author of “The Adventure of the Pirates of Devil’s Cape”

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

A trail of clues at a terrible massacre leads Holmes and Watson to what Holmes calls "a city that swallows law," the corrupt Devil’s Cape, Louisiana. Founded centuries earlier by a masked pirate, Devil’s Cape is almost a separate nation unto itself, one of the most crime-ridden and dangerous places on earth, and it will pose a terrible danger to our heroes.

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

I heard about this anthology and wanted to be a part of it. I’ve always loved Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson, and the more I thought about the idea of taking them to [the setting of my novel,] Devil’s Cape, the more excited I grew about the idea.

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

I’ve never done a lot of writing with other people’s characters, and it was important to me to capture the essence of Holmes and Watson well. I was putting them in a city that I’d created in my own book, but I wanted to ensure that it was their story, that the essentials of their personalities and backgrounds remained strong. It ended up being a little easier than I’d feared–the characters are so strong and deeply ingrained in me that their voices seemed clear to my writer’s ear. But the biggest challenge was the responsibility to the wonderful characters that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created.

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

All of it was personal. I have a deep love of Holmes and Watson, and it was thrilling having an opportunity to write about them. And I loved the chance to visit a period earlier in the history of Devil’s Cape, to take details that were deep in the background of my original novel, like the dirt magnate or the Holingbroke brothers, and bring them to life with characters from the same time period. Tthe writing was just lots of fun to me: Taking odd elements like Siamese twin gunslingers and pirates and giant alligators, and weaving them together in a story featuring my old friends Watson and Holmes? A great experience.

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

I started out by rereading some classic Sherlock Holmes stories, just to get the right feel. Then I did some specific research on elements of the characters’ histories–Watson’s war experience, Holmes’s battle at Reichenbach Falls, Moriarty and Lestrade, and more. I always loved the little references to tales untold, like the giant rat of Sumatra, and was delighted to be able to turn one such reference into a major part of my story (in this case, it was "the shocking affair of the Dutch steamship Friesland, which so nearly cost us both our lives," from "The Adventure of the Norwood Builder"). Interestingly enough, I’m not the only writer to take on that particular reference; I think that there’s even another story in this same anthology that used those words as a launching point.

Interestingly enough, I guess, my own first novel was something I had to research. I used the map, of course, but also many of the little historical bits I’d dropped in throughout the book, identifying aspects of the city that might affect Holmes and Watson on their visit, and making sure that I didn’t contradict anything I’d already established.

But I researched other things, too. Here’s a partial list of things I studied that made their way into the story: the Cod Wars, alligators, étouffée, porkpie hats, Siamese twins, steamships, the Royal Danish Navy, pirates, dirt, fencing, and Louisiana architecture.

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 and Watson have become iconic characters. The details of their fictional lives are so rich that people view them like old friends. Hundreds of thousands of people–me, included–have visited the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London, or gone on Sherlock Holmes walking tours, just to try to feel a little bit closer to our heroes. In a way, they’re as much the predecessors of superheroes as pulp characters like the Shadow and Doc Savage were. It’s always a thrill to watch Holmes unraveling a mystery and there’s tremendous story potential there. But I’m one of the ones who always loved Watson the best. The modest Englishman, the kind friend, brave and self-effacing. One of my goals for the story was to give Watson a couple of his own moments to shine, without throwing off the balance of the relationship everyone knows so well, and I hope I achieved that.

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

Doyle’s stories were wonderful. It’s hard to single out any one in particular, but A Study in Scarlet will always be a favorite of mine as the first that I read. I’ve enjoyed a number of alternate Holmes stories over the years, as well. Probably the first I encountered was Basil of Baker Street as a kid, about a mouse detective. The movie Young Sherlock Holmes was a favorite of mine when I was younger, too. And I remember loving Daniel Stashower’s The Adventure of the Ectoplasmic Man, where Holmes met Harry Houdini. There’s The Seven-Percent Solution, of course, which stunned me when I read it at age 12 or so; Laurie R. King’s wonderful Mary Russell books; and of course Detective Comics #572, where Batman teamed up with Sherlock Holmes.

Any new work of yours just out or forthcoming you’d like me to mention, or anything else you’d like to add?

I’m working on a sequel to Devil’s Cape, but haven’t sold it yet, so I guess there’s nothing to report other than the fact that I’m working on it.