Okay, I can FINALLY announce that the audiobook version of The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle is "coming soon" --"soon" meaning in September.
From Tantor Media.
Also, Eliza Doolittle Day is May 20. Mark your calendar!
If you've been following along, you know that I compulsively google my book to see how it's faring in the wide world. And one thing I've noticed is that it's available in a goodly number of libraries, probably due to my starred review in Booklist, which is apparently the Bible for librarians ordering books.
Now I will admit to you right up front that when I was writing the novel, my imaginary reader was not Singaporean. Which is, I suppose, a failure of the imagination. For there among the dusty e-shelves of Singapore sits my book, waiting for Singapore to discover it.
Let's assume, for the purposes of this fantasy, that Singapore has discovered it. Maybe not all of Singapore. Maybe, really, just one guy. He first came upon Sherlock Holmes when he was thirteen. He read the Canon in Chinese, and fell in love. So much so that he was determined to read it in the original English, so he learned the language backwords and forwords. His name is Charlie.
No, I don't know whether there's a single soul in Singapore (say that five times fast) named Charlie. I could do a little research and come up with a more appropriate name. Never do any research for your fantasies. It can only make them smaller.
So Charlie reads every Sherlock Holmes pastiche he can get his hands on, which is not many, because he doesn't make a load of dough and mainly has to depend on the National Library Board, which he has a fantasy of joining some day. Right now it consists of a dozen grim-faced old greybeards whose idea of good detective fiction is John Grisham.
Some day he'd actually like to write his own Sherlock Holmes pastiche. He figures Holmes made his way to Singapore during his three year hiatus. Maybe he worked the docks and secretly fought piracy for a year. At night Charlie can hear the creaking of
But Charlie really latches on to my book. He's read it three times. He's told all his friends about it till they're bored to tears. He's even started a fan club, which has five members besides himself, four of whom don't know they're members, and one shy girl that he calls Irene. She really likes the book too--at least that's what she says.
Charlie would like to come to America, to meet me some day and shake my hand, maybe get an autograph. Maybe I would introduce him to my publisher (whom I've never even met) so he could show him his book, Sherlock Holmes and the Pirates. He's waiting to finish his book before he gets in touch with me. It could take a while, since he hasn't put down a word yet.
But he's got it all in his head. He's just letting it come to a boil. Keep an eye out for Charlie Singapore in your bookstores. Thank you, National Library Board.
Here's a snippet:
"I start by asking the character, what’s going on? What is she worried about? How does she feel about the situation she finds herself in? And most importantly, what’s she going to do about it? Usually I’ll get some kind of response. Sometimes the answer is a complete surprise."
Good stuff, eh? Okay now: the paragraph I didn't quote?--is some very nice words about my novel. What restraint on my part! How modest! How self-effacing!
Go READ it already.
"I am not a fanciful person, but I give you my word that I seemed to hear Moriarty’s voice screaming at me out of the abyss."
What isn't known is how Holmes felt about causing that death? (I know, the unfeeling Mr. Holmes. Hogwash.) Certainly it was self-defense. But certainly it was premeditated. And he watched the man plunge to his death. Never to face justice. How did that make him feel?
I think it shocked him to his core. I think he felt insupportable guilt and shame. So much that he could not face his beloved London for three whole years. What else could explain his decision to abandon his beloved London to the predations of the criminal underworld? Fear for his life? Please. Does that sound like Sherlock Holmes, who had always faced danger head on? And with the trials of Moriarty's confederates ongoing? Would he not be needed as a material witness?No; Holmes was undergoing a crisis of the soul. Where did he go? The first name he mentions is Florence; no doubt he continued on to Rome. Then he treks to Lhasa, to meet with the Dalai Lama. From there he goes on to Mecca, no easy task for a city forbidden to unbelievers. If he followed in the path of Sir Richard Burton. he must have spoken at least passable Arabic. Then he pays "a short but interesting visit to the Khalifa at Khartoum." This would have been Abdullahi ibn Muhammad, the Sudanese ruler who had taken up the mantle of Mahdi, the Islamic messiah, upon the death of the original Mahdi, Muhammad Ahnad.
Can there be any doubt that Holmes was seeking solace in a variety of what were (to him) a series of exotic religions?
As for his "several months "studying coal-tar derivatives" in Montpellier, I think Holmes was withholding the truth, that he in fact had unfinished business in Montpellier with a French cousin. (For more about this cousin and the reason he mentions coal-tar derivatives, you'll have to wait for my next novel, The Strange Case of the Dutch Painter.)
But none of these ploys offer the peace he seeks, and he finally decides, as he counsels Watson, that "work is the best antidote for sorrow." and turns his face toward home. Yet he has not given up on his spiritual quest entirely. What book does he drop in front of Watson? The Origins of Tree Worship-- seeking answers in his native British Druidism? This, for a man who'd espoused his admiration for the writings of William Winwoode Reade, an avowed atheist, was quite a journey.
But would he have been able to reveal himself to Watson, if not for his accidental meeting with his associate that morning at Park Lane? Perhaps not--not because his affection for Watson had lessened, but because of Watson's role as his public chronicler. He no longer wants the public's eye upon him. He forbids Watson from publishing any new reports, and lays this injunction upon him for a full ten years before he relents.
Did Holmes ever come to terms with the death of Moriarty? In The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle, I introduce a pet raven to Holmes's retirement--a raven named Moriarty.
Let me get this out of the way: I hate to criticize, so let me just say after one episode that Netflix's The Irregulars is not my cup of tea. It's not your cup of tea. It's not a cup of tea at all. More like a cup of treacle, if I had ever tasted treacle, which I haven't, and I do not intend to test my simile.
But among its many apostasies from the Canon, one struck me.
Girls in the Baker St. Irregulars.
And why not? Although Doyle only mentions boys, that doesn't actually preclude the possibility of girls in the group. He mainly refers to them as street arabs (a term which I suspect has fallen out of favor in our more enlightened times). And even if Holmes specifically required boys, who's to say that a young girl dressed as a boy wouldn't have escaped his notice? He wouldn't have strip-searched them. I think he left recruiting details up to Wiggins.
So why, pray tell, couldn't a motherless, nearly fatherless, ragamuffin girl of the streets been a member?
A girl named Doolittle.
Now, if this possibility had occurred to me when writing The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle, would I have incorporated it into the book? Very possibly. It would be hard to resist. How much or how little would it have changed the telling? I'd hate to speculate here, because even speculation would require innumerable spoilers. I'll let you rewrite in your minds, as you're reading or re-reading the novel. And let you mull over the road not taken.
By the way, there are two vehicles which figure prominently in The Strange Case of Eliza Doolittle: Morello's Moreau-Lepton, and the Widgeon Seven which Holmes commandeers late in the action. If you are a stickler for historical detail, you might try to get a peek at one of these autos online. Alas, you will find no pictures of either. They never existed. Well, they did exist. But only in literature.
If you're looking for the magical happy ending from My Fair Lady, you won't find it in my novel. Nor will you find it in Shaw's original play, Pygmalion. Instead you will find this:
"This is where the play gets interesting. Once Higgins wins his bet and completes Eliza’s transformation, she is stuck between two worlds. She can’t to go back to selling flowers and she doesn’t want to be Higgins’ secretary — or worse, his wife. At the end of the play, after an enormous battle of wills, Eliza decides to strike out on her own. “If I can’t have kindness, I’ll have independence,” she declares.
Then, according to Shaw’s final stage directions, Eliza "sweeps out."
This is from an excellent article from The World, which I link to here, because it explains far better than I can. But think of Pygmalion as Shaw's version of Ibsen's A Doll's House. At the end of that play, Nora slams out the door: the slam heard round the world. Now imagine that Nora had come back in the door and given Torvald a big romantic kiss. You'd have never heard of A Doll's House.
But in Shaw's case, everyone conspired against him. The actors, the director of the movie version, and certainly the producers of My Fair Lady, to soften the blow. Think of Eliza's last words in the film before the ending:
"Goodbye, Professor Higgins. You shall not be seeing me again."
Now that is Shaw's sentiment. But Lerner and Loewe had a killer song up there sleeve and a shlocky, if winning, romantic ending to tag on, which directly denies Shaw.
Now, in the ending of my novel...you don't really think I'm going to tell you the ending, do you? To paraphrase Eliza,
"What a fool, I'be, what an addle-pated fool."
“Of course he’s mad. Most aristocrats are mad. In the German states it’s practically a prerequisite. I was Freddy’s second."