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Fresh Fiction Review of “Sherlock Holmes and the Return of the Whitechapel Vampire…

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Fresh Fiction just reviewed Sherlock Holmes and the Return of the Whitechapel Vampire by Dean P. Turnbloom

SH&RTNofWV Front cover

Reviewed by Monique Daoust
Posted October 15, 2015

Mystery Historical

Sherlock Holmes is now a country squire who has retired to Sussex to tend to his bees and write monographs. He hadn’t written to his friend Dr. Watson in a few months, so when the post brings news from Holmes, Watson is pleasantly surprised. But Holmes has more than a few banalities to tell his old comrade: bodies have been surfacing near the coast of Newfoundland, drained of blood, but there’s no trace of a shipwreck. Holmes fears their old nemesis, Baron Barlucci, after laying low for over two decades, is up to no good again. Barlucci is a painful thorn in Holmes’ side. The Baron is the only villain the great detective hasn’t captured, and of course, Dr. Watson must sail with Holmes to Manhattan Island, where more bodies have been found.

SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE RETURN OF THE WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE is not the pastiche I thought it might have been, but the almost real deal. Right from the opening paragraphs, I was overjoyed because I felt I was reading a brand new Conan Doyle mystery. Being a die-hard fan of the original, I then became wary: could a modern author be successful in this tremendous undertaking? The answer is a resounding yes! SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE RETURN OF THE WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE is more than an homage to Conan Doyle: Mr. Turnbloom essentially captures everything that is Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson but makes it his own, without the reader ever having the impression of the author “trying”; never does the author endeavour to copy, but he in fact prolongs the formidable legacy of Conan Doyle. Mr. Turnbloom’s writing is eloquent and vivid, he captures the early twentieth century as accurately as a photograph, the tone is impeccable, the dialogues and the banter are entirely evocative of Conan Doyle’s, and Holmes and Watson are exactly how they should be. The pacing is perfect, and the story is as gripping as any Sherlock Holmes book.

If I have one regret it’s not knowing that SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE RETURN OF THE WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE was the third book in this series, and while obviously this instalment can be read as a standalone, the previous books figure now on my to-be-read-pile because it is simply brilliant. SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE RETURN OF THE WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE is absolutely splendid from beginning to end, and should be read by anyone who hasn’t had enough of Sir Arthur’s great detective, and everybody who likes a good mystery!

Chapter 1, Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire

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Today’s post is about the first chapter in SHERLOCK HOLMES and the WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE, my first novel.

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This novel was initially titled “The WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE” and was begun not as a Sherlock Holmes mystery (which some might have guessed who have read it) but as an apologist for Jack the Ripper, the reasoning being that in the Victorian era, it would be less a crime, perhaps, for a vampire, who was unable to cease being a vampire, to act on his instincts and murder the least of humanity. In that way, he might, and indeed in the story did, rationalize his actions as being somewhat humanitarian, even if the acts were performed by someone who wasn’t exactly human.

It reminds me a bit of a tee-shirt I saw recently, where a would-be victim was protesting to a bear who wanted to eat him, “But I’m a vegetarian!”, to which the bear replied, “I guess that makes me a humanitarian.”

At any rate, my method was to try and show this vampire as a somewhat sympathetic creature trapped by a cruel fate, which he did not choose. I also wanted to show, over the course of the three novels, how the events and how they unfolded changed the vampire, that even after six hundred years of existence he could grow and change from a singular predator, as you will see in the first chapter, to something more by the end of the series. I hope the reader would agree. So here, with my comments bracketed [author comments] thusly, is Chapter 1, Fresh Hope (yes, this is a play on Star Wars, Chapter IV, A New Hope…please don’t tell Disney, or George Lucas):

June 30, 1888
[dates are very important in the first novel as I tried to remain very true to the actual dates of the Ripper murders and all dates support that effort]

Her arm dangled as he lifted her from the bed. A single drop of blood remained on her still warm pillow, a silent witness to her last moments. Cradling her body, he carried Marguerite from her room above Le Chat Noir down the back stairway to his awaiting coach. Mademoiselle Dubois, he knew, would not be missed for several hours. To avoid discovery he would deposit the young prostitute’s remains in the one place he knew she would not immediately be found, the Seine River.

Running through the center of Paris, the Seine was ideal. Not only was it a convenient receptacle that would not immediately give up its secrets, but it would also corrupt her body to beneficial effect disguising the true nature of her attacker.

The blood he’d so recently ingested would sustain Baron Antonio Barlucci during the long trip back to his villa outside Milan. It was from there he administered his affairs as one of the wealthiest financiers in Europe, known internationally as the Pope’s banker. But before leaving Paris, he directed his driver to the Academy of Science where a young American doctor was about to give a lecture that piqued the baron’s curiosity.

[a driver, one might ask? What would entice a man to aid and abet a vampire? This will become clear, at a later time.]

His carriage ambled along Le Quai du Tuleries, the clacking of the horse’s hooves against the cobblestones clinging to the humid night air. Movement near the water’s edge caught the baron’s eye; he watched as two policemen, their trousers rolled up their legs, worked to pull a body from the river. “Mon dieu!” The cry echoed up from the river giving it a disembodied quality, “She’s like the others.”

The coach passed a police wagon parked near the water. Two detectives stood beneath a gas lamp. A second voice, addressing the detectives, called out, “Her throat’s been cut nearly through.”

Settling back in his coach the baron smiled, confident his latest victim would not be found till he was well on his way back to his villa.

This centuries’ long game of fox and geese he played with legal authorities across Europe was one he could not afford to lose. At the dawn of his affliction, eluding even crude law enforcement agencies proved a challenge. As time wore on, the agencies became more adept, but fortunately they lacked the sophistication to effectively incorporate lessons learned the way the baron could. His intellect and patient observation allowed him to stay two steps ahead of detection. The immense fortune he amassed down through the centuries, further insulated him from suspicion. One advantage of being a vampire in this modern age was the reluctance of law enforcement to believe in him. Tonight as he watched the detectives and police officers discover the refuse of his appetites, he knew not only would he not be held accountable, but also his involvement would never be suspected.

When he arrived at his destination, he strode unnoticed into the lecture hall. The baron’s fashionable but modest dress allowed him to blend seamlessly into the elite assemblage of Europe’s scientific community. With dispassion he took his place in the rear of the hall.

Curious but cynical, the baron watched and listened to the charismatic speaker at the lectern deliver his discourse titled “Dispelling Folk Lore with Science”. As the young doctor spoke, describing his methods and the success he’d achieved on the Dark Continent with a variety of blood disorders, the baron’s interest became more acute—an interest soon to have a crucial influence over both their destinies.

[this, then, becomes the baron’s inciting moment, where he begins to hatch a plan that will at last free him from the agony of being a vampire. Far from being a creature lusting for the blood of his human victims, the baron yearns to be free of what he has come to see as a dualism, both human and monster, with the monster being the blood lust within.]

With every word, the baron became increasingly convinced that this was the young man for whom he’d been waiting. As he watched, he thought about how patient he’d been for this moment to arrive. He thought back to his awakening in the early thirteenth century when the Inquisition would have burned one such as he at the stake. Unaware at the time just how long this curse would last, he watched as the world around him marched forward with inexorable sluggishness. He watched and waited as the world crept from the dull nescience of the dark ages, through the renaissance of enlightenment, and ultimately into the modern industrial age. Finally after six centuries, it appeared science had freed itself from superstition, attaining the dimension necessary to liberate him from the burden he’d so long carried.

[Science is the cure for ignorance; a theme throughout the novel]

The baron exited the hall with guarded exuberance before the lecture was over. The journey back to his villa in Milan was a long one and he was anxious to return. He would need time, time and research, in order to put into action the plan now formulating in his mind. As he climbed into the back of his coach, he had his driver stop in the middle of the deserted Pont Neuf on his way out of Paris, one final bit of business to tend to.

[Though no mention is made of this, Pont Neuf is the bridge over the Seine that crosses the western tip of the Ile de le Cite, where Jacques de Molay, last Grand Master of the Templar Knights was burned to death.]

The overcast Parisian sky conspired to conceal his actions as the baron removed the lifeless body of Marguerite from her temporary crypt. Effortlessly he carried her to the edge of the bridge. Without ceremony he lifted her over the stone railing. Pausing only long enough to ensure no one would see or hear he relaxed his grip, allowing her body to slip into the black water of the Seine. His dark business concluded the baron retired to the back of his coach for the journey home.

[Contrast his callous disposal of Marguerite with the gentle manner in which he removed her from her bed—man or monster?]

 

This first chapter is short, but does two things quite well. It shows a vampire who can be cold and callous with his victim, and holds out the hope of a flicker of humanity still burning within his breast.

New Novel First Draft Complete…

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Since “Sherlock Holmes and the Body Snatchers” came out last March, I’ve been diligently working on the last installment of the Whitechapel Vampire Trilogy, as yet unnamed, and have at last completed a rough first draft.

A few editorial notes about the trilogy. The first book, “Sherlock Holmes and the Whitechapel Vampire” was written entirely in third person point of view (POV) and I took my fair share of criticism for that as it was not in the Watson first person POV of most of the canon. That didn’t bother, though, as the original concept for the book wasn’t a Sherlock Holmes story, but was conceived as ‘what if Jack the Ripper were really a vampire’. Because of the time period involved, I worked Sherlock Holmes into the story, at first as an ancillary character. But I enjoyed writing the Holmes parts so much, I beefed up his role, which caused me to consider first person, but thought I’d wait.

The second book, ‘Body Snatchers’ was written in first person POV, but from varying characters. I thought it served the story and I was hesitant to attempt a full pastiche by having Watson’s POV be the only one in the book.

But now, in the third and final installment I’ve decided to go all out and write it as Doyle might have. The final book of the trilogy follows Watson throughout and will, I hope, give the reader more than a few surprises along the way. This final book takes place many years after the first two, which took place in 1888, first in London, and then New York. The action in the third takes place again in New York but in the year 1913, long after Holmes has retired to beekeeping in Sussex.

So, this trilogy has several arcs for the reader to follow. The story arc spans some twenty-five years, from 1888 to 1913, and each character in the story, I think, has his or her own arc of change. Finally, the writing itself has an arc from third person POV to multiple first person POV and finally to the first person POV used most often by Doyle, that of Watson. My hope is that aficionados of writing and of Sherlock Holmes will take note and enjoy the varied styles and mostly will enjoy the story from beginning to end.

Short story with MX Publishing…

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I forgot to post that I have submitted a Sherlock Holmes short story to MX Publishing that they say they will publish as an ebook. The story is titled “SHERLOCK HOLMES and the RAVEN’S CALL” and is a pastiche in the true sense. It is set shortly after Holmes has retired to raise bees in Sussex. It is after he purchases his new digs that he discovers the deceased previous owner may not have died accidentally as reported. I think it’s a very good tale and perhaps reminiscent of Poe in some respects. I’ll post as soon as I know it’s available. It should be a $2.99 ebook when it comes out.

Ravens call Adventure

My mindmap…

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I thought that since I mentioned using mindmapping in my last post, I should follow up with a picture of my mindmap for the third in my Whitechapel Vampire series, which is yet untitled by is “Sherlock Holmes and a Vampire’s Lament”…

DSCN1234Also, I’m trying to have a couple of my short stories published in a magazine (The Fog, and The Ninth Baron of Wexley). If anyone has tips for short story publication, please leave a comment.

 

John H. Watson Society

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I’ve found this wonderful new society for fans of Sherlock Holmes and the Dr. Watson, The John H. Watson Society. Anyone who becomes a member by December can be entered as a “Charter Member”…AND they have a great weekly quiz!!

Re-start…new novel is coming along…

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It’s been awhile since I’ve posted anything. I could say I’ve been terribly busy writing (which is true), and my laborious day job has been keeping me extremely busy (also true), but the real truth is I’ve been lax and lazy with this blog.

I am, however, nearing the end of the writing cycle for my sequel to Sherlock Holmes and the WHitechapel Vampire, tentatively titled (though it changes month to month) SHERLOCK HOLMES AND THE BODY SNATCHERS, Whitechapel Vampire Book II.

As part of my research for this book, which is written more in the style of the original canon, though not exactly, I’ve begun re-reading the canon, back to front, so to speak. I’m using the William S. Baring-Gould chrnonology to begin reading the stories that supposedly occurred last, first. Anyone who’s read the short stories is familiar with the way they seem to jump around in time, so I resorted to an authority on the canon. I’m also posting a page here that has the entire chronology listed, as compiled by James Hoy. Hoy used four letter abbreviations for the works, and I include those, with the actual titles and I’ve included which collection of stories they can be found.

So, please avail yourself to the Baring-Gould Chrnonology of Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories about SHERLOCK HOLMES.