Fans of Sherlock Holmes have a chance to become part of a publishing tribute to the great detective by submitting stories for inclusion in a new book to be compiled by website Sherlockology.
Sherlock’s Home: The Empty House – named after the adventure in which Holmes reappears following his apparent demise at the foot of the Reichenbach Falls – will be a selection of short stories and poems.
Proceeds from the sale of the book will go to the campaign to save Undershaw, the former Surrey residence of Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, in which he penned adventures including The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Empty House.
Aspiring writers are challenged to come up with a story based on Conan Doyle’s characters, or on Undershaw itself. Copyright issues mean fans of BBC1’s Sherlock cannot use characters created specifically for the series (so well-loved lab geek Molly Hooper, for example, is off limits) but otherwise, it seems, pretty much anything goes…
“You can change the character’s genders, ages or nationality,” suggests Sherlockology. “You are limited only by your imaginations; tell a story of [Holmes and Watson] as children, or maybe solving crimes in the Swinging Sixties…
“What if the premise was set in space? Would a futuristic Sherlock Holmes and John Watson battle criminal aliens, maybe outlawed cowboys in the Wild West from the late 19th century, or even pirates?”
But while the broad remit may be enough to make Holmes purists shudder, it’s all for a good cause.
The Undershaw Preservation Trust aims to protect the property from proposed development work that would see it turned into three separate houses.
Sherlock co-creator and star Mark Gatiss, a patron of the charity, said the plans overlooked the historical significance of the house: “It seems to me a very sad reflection on our times that the home of one of our greatest and most popular writers should be so neglected and in danger of unsympathetic redevelopment,” said Gatiss.
“Undershaw bears the stamp of [Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s] massive personality. Here the Hound of the Baskervilles first breathed spectral life and Sherlock Holmes himself was resurrected from the Reichenbach Falls….
“It must be saved and take its place among the sensitively preserved residences of this country’s other literary giants. This is certainly a three-pipe problem but not, I am convinced, an insoluble one.”
Conan Doyle built Undershaw in 1897 on a site in Hindhead, Surrey, deemed favourable for the health of his wife, who was suffering from tuberculosis. He wrote several books there, among them Sherlock Holmes adventures, and entertained literary contemporaries, including Bram Stoker, JM Barrie and Virginia Woolf.
Sherlock’s Home: The Empty House will be published on Tuesday 23 May, the day of a High Court Judicial Review that will decide Undershaw’s fate.