Tanith Lee, Author of “The Human Mystery”

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

It’s about Sherlock Holmes, obviously, and a client who appeals to him for help. She — the client is a woman — appears to have inherited a family curse: the Casson Gall, which may mean her immanent death. But, as is usual in Conan Doyle’s Holmes’ stories (though not in many of his others) the supernatural will, probably, have a stranger, more human, explanation.

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

I was asked by the editors for a story. As a lifelong fan of A.C.D and Holmes, I jumped at the chance. The idea just arrived. (They often do.)

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

I simply enjoyed writing it a lot, and also the opportunity to re-read lots of Holmes.

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

For the above reasons. Additionally because both my husband and I had met the actor Jeremy Brett, whose version of Holmes in the U.K television series was so marvellous and apt.

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

Mostly the reading of the Holmes novels and stories. I’m usually at home (Holme?) in the Victorian era, which I’ve written about rather more than a bit.

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?

Conan Doyle’s genius. A writer of many voices — compare, say, the style and structure of the wonderful The Lost World with The Hound Of The Baskervilles. But Doyle employs a quickness and clarity unusual at the time wherein he wrote. Holmes meanwhile, though he has precursors (e.g. Poe in “Murders of the Rue Morgue”) is that then unique phenomenon, a clever detective, whose moral standards are not quite those of his indigenous society, and whose methods, though they are not, appear sorcerous.

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

I love all the A.C.D ones I’ve read. My favourite therefore will doubtless be the one I am just reading/read last.