Saturday, August 30, 2008

GG Authors 5 Sherlockian Questions - Barbara Roden

Barbara Roden
Story: The Things That Shall Come Upon Them

1) When did you first encounter Sherlock Holmes?

My first encounter with Sherlock Holmes came when I was eight; I remember being ill in bed, and my mother brought me a volume of Holmes tales from the library, perhaps figuring that as I'd exhausted my store of Nancy Drew mysteries I might appreciate another type of detective story. Sad to say, what stood out for me were the Paget illustrations, although I do recall being thrilled by 'The Speckled Band'. A year later my grade 5 class did a radio play of 'The Red-Headed League', and I was cast in the minor role of Major Duncan Ross. However, come the day, and the classmate cast as Holmes got a severe case of stage fright; so it was decided that she would swap with someone who had a smaller role. Thus it was that I played Holmes; but even that didn't quite do the trick. It wasn't until my grade 7 year, when we were assigned 'The Speckled Band' as an assignment in English class, that I was well and truly hooked. I immediately went out and bought all nine of the original canonical volumes, and it wasn't long before I was immersing myself not only in the canon, but in any books about Holmes and Conan Doyle that I could find. I wrote a Holmes play (shamelessly ripped off from the plot of 'The Speckled Band'), began writing - or at least trying to write - Holmes stories, and watched the Rathbone/Bruce films whenever they appeared on television, back in those far-off days before VCRs and DVD players. I can still recite the pubkeeper's eerie opening monologue from SHERLOCK HOLMES FACES DEATH at the drop of a deerstalker: 'There's folks hereabouts swear they've seen corpse-lights round the old greenhouse, and heard a wailing, like lost souls, in the Lime Walk.'

2) Do you have a favourite story from the canon?

Of the novels, my favourite would be THE SIGN OF THE FOUR, because it seems in many ways to be the novel where Holmes is most fully integrated as a character. Of the short stories, probably 'The Final Problem'; it isn't much of a mystery, but the introduction of so great a villain as Professor Moriarty, and the climactic confrontation at the Reichenbach, makes it a gripping thriller from start to finish, overlaid with sadness on the part of Watson, who knows at the beginning what the tragic outcome will be, but still feels compelled to write it down in vindication of his friend.

3) Are you active in any Sherlockian societies?

I've been a member of the Bootmakers of Toronto since the mid-1980s, and was made a Master Bootmaker in 1990. In 1987 I co-founded The Stormy Petrels of British Columbia, and have belonged to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London and The Northern Musgraves, although at the moment am a member of three societies in addition to the Bootmakers: The Norwegian Explorers of Minnesota, The Pondicherry Lodgers of 44th Street, and the Baker Street Irregulars , in which I was investitured, as 'Beryl Stapleton', in 2005. Since 1992 I've co-run, with my husband Christopher, The Arthur Conan Doyle Society, which examines the life and work of Holmes's creator.

4) Are you involved with any other Sherlock Holmes projects?

For the past year I have been editor of Canadian Holmes, the journal of The Bootmakers of Toronto; I've been a regular contributor to the journal since 1988, and in 2002 was awarded the Society's Derrick Murdoch Memorial Award for my contributions to the journal. I've contributed numerous articles to Sherlockian publications in three countries, have spoken at many Sherlockian conventions and meetings, and co-edited, with my husband Christopher, several books about Holmes and Conan Doyle for our Sherlockian imprint, Calabash Press, as well as for The Arthur Conan Doyle Society.

5) Any other of your projects you’d like to tell our readers about?

In addition to my Sherlockian work, I co-edit All Hallows, the World Fantasy Award-nominated journal of The Ghost Story Society. My husband and I run Ash-Tree Press, an award-winning press which specialises in the publication of classic supernatural fiction. Amongst the 140 or so books we have published are four—soon to be five—anthologies of original supernatural tales; the third of these, Acquainted With the Night, won the International Horror Guild and World Fantasy Awards for the Best Anthology of 2004. I've been writing short supernatural; fiction for several years; in 2005 my short story 'Northwest Passage' was nominated for the Stoker, International Horror Guild, and World Fantasy Awards for short fiction. In fall 2009 a collection of my dark fiction, Northwest Passages, will be published by Prime Books.