by Lorie Lewis Ham
This week we have a review of a new Sherlock Holmes book along with an interesting interview with the author Timothy Miller. Details at the end of the post on how to enter to win a copy of the book and a link to order it from Amazon and an indie bookstore.
The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle by Timothy Miller
Review by Lorie Lewis Ham
The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle is one of the most unique Sherlock Holmes stories written by someone other than Doyle that I have ever read. The title alone drew me in—I just had to know more. What could Eliza Doolittle have to do with Sherlock Holmes?
This book takes characters from the Lerner and Loewe musical My Fair Lady (which is based on George Bernard Shaw’s 1913 play Pygmalion) and puts them into the world of Sherlock Holmes. Dr. Watson’s friend Col. Pickering comes to Watson for help, hoping that Watson can also draw Sherlock Holmes out of retirement. Pickering wants to know if the transformation by phonetics professor Henry Higgins of Eliza Doolittle, from a girl on the streets to a duchess, is for real. He fears that Higgins has instead substituted another girl, and that perhaps Eliza has been murdered.
Holmes is intrigued and agrees to help. He goes to Higgins’ home posing as a rich American gangster who also wants his help. Watson goes along as his secretary. They meet other familiar characters from the musical such as Eliza’s suitor Freddy (I can almost hear him singing “On the Street Where You Live), Mrs. Higgins, and the delightful Mrs. Pearce. Throw in the mysterious Baron Von Stettin, and none other than Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and you are in for quite a ride!
This story is filled with many twists and turns, most of which I never saw coming. It was so much fun having all of these familiar characters thrown together in this new story. I felt like Miller’s portrayal of Holmes and Watson was accurate, which is always a key for me in enjoying a new Holmes adventure.
If you are a fan of Sherlock Holmes like I am, or a fan of My Fair Lady, don’t miss out on this unique combination of characters, placed into a very interesting mystery.
Interview with Timothy Miller:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Timothy: Since I learned how to hold a pencil. I started my first novel the summer after first grade. I only got ten pages in, but I knew I wanted to be a writer. Either that or a superhero.
KRL: How/when did you come up with the idea for The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle?
Timothy: The idea actually began gestating in the ’80s, when I reached into the air for some famous English characters for a little murder mystery I put together to help teach English prepositions to an Italian couple I was tutoring. It could have been Batman and Robin Hood. It took me thirty years to figure out why I had picked Sherlock Holmes, Eliza Doolittle, and Edward Hyde.
KRL: Are you a musical fan, or were you inspired by the book that the musical is based on?
Timothy: I am a musical fan, but had no interest in even watching My Fair Lady. To me, Lerner and Loew meant Camelot and Brigadoon. I read Pygmalion first, because I was already in love with Shaw (I was a theatre major). Of course, when I finally saw the musical, I fell in love with it—in spite of the overly sentimental Hollywood ending.
KRL: Why did you decide to tackle a Sherlock Holmes novel? Are you a Sherlock Holmes fan? If yes, do you have a favorite portrayal of the character?
Timothy: I had an unsolvable question—which actually became the inspiration for my second novel. But it seemed obvious to me, when you have an unsolvable question, take it to Sherlock Holmes. And so, when I had another problem… I am a Holmes fan, though not obsessed with him—I say that with a straight face while looking up from working on my third Holmes novel to admire my Sidney Paget print of Holmes and Watson. But my favorite Holmes is Nicol Williamson from The Seven Percent Solution, my inspiration. Or—Jeremy Irons, who has only played Holmes in an SNL sketch, but whom I would love to see play MY Holmes. He’s just the right age now.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense and if not, what else have you written?
Timothy: No, my first novel was actually a homage to The Arabian Nights. Monstrous thing, stories within stories, which I still have no idea how to tame. My second work, which I’m still shopping, is a middle grade book, which is rather like The Borrowers on acid. But mysteries are great fun to write, like working jigsaw puzzles, but with pieces you have to whittle in to shape to make them fit. I think I’ve found a home.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Timothy: I write first to entertain: that’s the melody. But second comes the theme, that’s the harmony, which makes the story resonate.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just work whenever you can?
Timothy: I spend a ridiculous amount of time every day sitting at my desk staring at my computer. I never work when Jeopardy is on.
KRL: What is your ideal time to write?
Timothy: Late at night when all the world’s asleep. For instance, I’m answering this question at 3:30 in the morning.
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?
Timothy: For me, writing is like blowing up a balloon. I start with a few puffs: beginning, middle, and end, and then expand, and let the breaths mingle and heat up. I just have to keep from spitting too much.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Timothy: At first, it looked easy. I found a good agent after only forty rejections, then found a publisher with a great editor after only ten rejections. Then there was radio silence from the publisher for three months, so we decided to cancel the contract. Then my agent and I parted ways. In the meantime, I had learned that silence from the publisher was due to the imprint being sold, and that great editor being sold along with it. Very inside baseball. So I sent the novel to him again. He bought. Again.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Timothy: Let’s see, would you count the fact that just before I was going to sign the contract I had a stroke, and went into a coma? The only reason they didn’t pull the plug on me was because my sister wanted me to sign that contract. So the novel—or procrastination—saved my life.
KRL: Oh wow! Glad it all came out okay. What are your future writing goals? Do you plan to write another Holmes book?
Timothy: I have already written another Holmes book, The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter, which my publisher has already accepted. And I’m working on a third. After that, I intend to ring some changes in the mystery genre.
KRL: How fun! Who are your writing heroes?
Timothy: Dickens and Dumas. They write with such brio. There are no inanimate objects in their novels. Everything is alive.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Timothy: Let’s put it this way: if you want to travel to Paris in 1890, or London in 1912, or Cairo in 1923, I can book all your travel arrangements. The wilder your story, the more it must be grounded in historical fact, if that makes any sense.
KRL: What do you like to read?
Timothy: I’m a great fan of magical realism. Borges, Calvino, Marquez. I like to think there’s a little hint of magic in all my writing.
KRL: What are your favorite TV shows or movies?
Timothy: Dick Van Dyke taught me the most important skill: how to fall. And if I had to pick a movie, I would say To Have and Have Not. It’s Casablanca, but done as a soufflé.
KRL: Have you any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Timothy: Write every day, even if you have nothing to write. Write your name. Write it backward. You’re developing a muscle, and the muscle is as much in the hand and the heart as it is the mind. Don’t worry that you’re lifting five pounds when you want to lift five hundred. You must train.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Timothy: I love board games, and I cheat at all of them. If you’re not arguing over cheating and ending by flipping the board in the air, what’s the point of playing?
KRL: Is there anything you would like to add?
Timothy: I’d like to thank your readers for getting this far. I wish I could invite them all over for coffee, especially if they bring the pastries, and I hope they’ll be tempted to check out the book. And thank you.
You can learn more about Timothy and his books on his website.
To enter to win a copy of The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “eliza,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen April 3, 2021. 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. BE AWARE THAT IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN USUAL FOR WINNERS TO GET THEIR BOOKS DUE TO THE CURRENT CRISIS.
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You can use this link to purchase this book from indie bookstore Mysterious Galaxy, and KRL gets a portion of the sale:
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