by Lorie Lewis Ham
I am thrilled today to be reviewing the latest Sherlock Holmes book by Nicholas Meyer, and we have an interesting interview with Nicholas. Had I realized his connection to the Classic Star Trek movies there would have definitely been some Star Trek questions in there too! Maybe next time. Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek are two of my favorite things! Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of the book, and a link to purchase it from Amazon.
The Return of the Pharaoh: From the Reminiscences of John H. Watson, M.D. by Nicolas Meyer
Review by Lorie Lewis Ham
I have been a huge Sherlock Holmes fan ever since I was a teenager and I vaguely remember watching the movie The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, based on the book by Nicolas Meyer, but until now had never read any of his books. After a many year gap, Meyer came back to writing Sherlock Holmes books in 2019 with the release of The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols. When I was offered the opportunity to review his latest Holmes book, The Return of the Pharaoh, I jumped at the chance!
As with many Sherlock Holmes stories not written by Doyle, this book is presented as having come from the journals of John H. Watson, M.D. The book’s introduction opens with a letter to Meyer asking if he will once again edit an excerpt from Watson’s journal, which of course he agrees to. This is one book where you don’t want to skip the introduction.
The story takes Holmes and Watson to Egypt on a very unusual case. Watson actually goes to Egypt hoping that it will help his ailing wife Juliet, but when he runs into Holmes, he is drawn in to the adventure with his old friend despite his hesitance to leave her. This adventure takes place in 1911 when the Egyptology craze is in full force. Holmes has been hired to locate a British royal named Michael, the Duke of Uxbridge. He has been hired by the man’s Brazilian wife and brother-in-law who insist on progress updates.
Holmes is traveling under the guise of Colonel Arbuthnot and it is funny when Watson recognizes his own regimental green tie on a man and then realizes that it is Holmes in disguise. The two of course then pair up to solve this Egyptian mystery. The adventure is filled with interesting Egyptian history, a lot of intrigue, suspense, and many twists and turns. It was a joy to be back reading a new Sherlock Holmes adventure and Meyer does a wonderful job of bringing it all to life.
If you are a Sherlock Holmes fan like I am, I highly encourage you to pick up this grand and wonderfully written adventure, you won’t regret it. My next task is to go back and read The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols! I hope Meyer will be “editing” many more Holmes adventures in the future.
Interview with Nicholas Meyer:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Nicholas: I have been writing since before I could write, which is to say, when I was 4 or 5 I used to dictate stories to my father, who would act as my stenographer. When I was able to form letters, he relinquished his post and I’ve been scribbling ever since.
KRL: When did your first novel come out, what was it called, and would you tell us a little about it?
Nicholas: My first novel was titled, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, a Sherlock Holmes story in which Holmes met and combined forces with Sigmund Freud to solve a mystery, after first being helped by Freud to overcome his – Holmes – cocaine addiction. The book stayed on the NY Times bestseller list for forty weeks in 1974. It was published in August of that year but had been held up previously by copyright issues with the Conan Doyle estate (since resolved), so that my second novel, Target Practice, though written later, actually came out first, in March of 1974.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Nicholas: I have written at least two other novels that mightn’t qualify as either “mystery” or “suspense.” In 1977, I co-wrote an action-adventure novel with Barry Jay Kaplan, titled Black Orchid. In 1981, I wrote Confessions of a Homing Pigeon, a sort of fictional autobiography. In 2009, I published The View from the Bridge – memories of Star Trek and a life in Hollywood.
KRL: I will be looking for a copy of the Star Trek one when we are done here! How many Sherlock Holmes books have you written and why did you decide to take that on?
Nicholas: To date I have written five Holmes novels. I did not plan on writing more than The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, but its success prompted the publisher to offer me a welcome payday to write a second. After consulting with several friends who pointed out the uncertainty of my calling, they urged me to accept so I could buy myself the future privilege of failing and still having a bank balance!
The third novel, The Canary Trainer, occurred to me when a film script I was working on fell through, and I needed a distraction from my gloom and unemployment. A chance discovery of Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera novel in a London bookstore, set my mind racing. Why couldn’t Holmes lock horns with the Phantom?
That was followed by a long hiatus until I chanced upon the protocols of the learned Elders of Zion, the most vicious and destructive forgery of all time. As its publication dovetailed with convenient dates on Holmes’s chronology, I couldn’t resist letting the detective having a go at it!
My fifth Holmes novel, The Return of the Pharaoh, was suggested by my longtime agent and friend, Alan Gasmer, who said, “What about Holmes in Egypt?” This was sufficient to prime my pump, hence the book is dedicated to him. I do have an idea for another Holmes book, so if I get to write that, it would bring my total to six!
KRL: What have been some of the challenges in writing a Sherlock Holmes book?
Nicholas: There are many challenged to writing a Holmes novel or story. Chief among them is mastering some approximation of Doyle’s language and a sufficient working knowledge of the time and place where your story is being set. What is happening in the world? In the street? Etc. so that the details of your story are plausible and convincing.
KRL: Have you always been a Sherlock Holmes fan as well?
Nicholas: My father gave me the complete Holmes stories when I was ten or eleven and my recollection is that I gobbled up all 60 of them in short order. It is safe to say that by the time I finished, I was hooked for life.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to experience from your work?
Nicholas: According to Leo Tolstoy, author of my favorite novel, War & Peace, the purpose of art is to teach us to love life. I think art has possible other purposes as well – to help us endure, or perhaps to escape life altogether. Possibly to alter our view of life!
Henry James said that the least we can expect from a work of art is that it be interesting, and the most is, that it be moving. I subscribe to all the above as being what I try to achieve when I write. “Entertainment” should not be a synonym for “mindless” or “disposable.” In my book, Hamlet is entertaining!
Before all else, I want to make people laugh or cry. If, after they’ve read (or watched) what I’ve created, they then go on to find themselves thinking about what they’ve experienced, I’ve succeeded in my intention. Joseph Conrad wrote, “My aim, above all, is to make you see – and to offer that uncalled for glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.”
KRL: I love all of that! Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Nicholas: I love to get an early start, but I can write at anytime, anywhere and almost under any circumstances – so long as I have something to say.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Nicholas: My process is kind of higgledy-piggledy. I read, I take notes, I outline here and there, then add, subtract and change as I go along. I’m a bit like a person fiddling with a Rubik’s cube, but one who doesn’t really know what he’s doing, and so my method – to put it mildly – is not terribly systematic. I carry a notebook, but whether it reminds me to pick up dry cleaning or it’s a plot point, isn’t organized. I hope I’ve not included superfluous dry-cleaning in one of my stories!
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Nicholas: When I sent my first novel, The Seven-Per-Cent Solution, to my then agent, she said there was no point in her reading it as she’d never read anything by Doyle so how could she tell if it was any good!
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Nicholas: On my first book tour (for The Seven-Per-Cent Solution), I landed in Pittsburgh in a thunderstorm, to be interviewed at the airport by a local reporter, who began by asking me how it felt to be a forger! In truth, this way of looking at my book had not occurred to me, but I realized in a way he was right, I was a forger! That begat my interest in forgery and ultimately led to the writing of The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols. Forgery is a most interesting topic.
KRL: Future writing goals?
Nicholas: As John le Carre said, “All I know is I’m happy when I write and not happy when I don’t write.”
KRL: I can relate to that one. Writing heroes?
Nicholas: Shakespeare, Dickens, George Eliot, Dumas, Stevenson, Haggard, Jules Verne, Anthony Hope, Twain, Jerome K. Jerome, Tolstoy, Tom Stoppard, Steven Sondheim, Kipling, Harold Pinter, Peter Morgan, Dalton Trumbo, Carl Foreman – I guess my writing heroes are unending.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Nicholas: Lots! You never know what you’re “gonna” need. or what you’re “gonna” find…
KRL: What do you read?
Nicholas: Mainly history and biography – that’s where they keep the stories!
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Nicholas: Battleship Potemkin, Duck Soup, His Gal Friday, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Organizer, (Mario Monicelli), High Noon, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Brazil, 20,000 Leagues under the Sea, (the Disney version), La Nuit de Varennes, Bicycle Thieves, City Lights, Modern Times, Alexander Nevsky, Star Wars, Tootsie, Tunes of Glory, Monsieur N….
KRL: Anything you would like to add?
Nicholas: Hope everyone enjoys The Return of the Pharaoh. I had such a good time writing it and hope I wasn’t kidding myself.
KRL: You weren’t! What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Nicholas: I’m a very good sleeper.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?”
I left Nicholas’ answer to that last one as is because it is funny lol but for those interested you can find about all of his social media on his website nicholas-meyer.com.
To enter to win a copy of The Return of the Pharaoh, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “return,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 22, 2022. U.S. residents only, and you must be 18 or older to enter. If you are entering via email please include you mailing address in case you win, it will be deleted after the contest. You can read our privacy statement here if you like.
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