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Abdul-Jabbar and Lyndsay Faye Discuss Conan Doyle, Mycroft, and the World of Holmes Pastiches

Not to dwell on this subject, but I was a fan of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar long before he started writing Mycroft Holmes novels—he was already incredibly accomplished, I have watched many a “skyhook,” and his political commentary is always apt and insightful.  It’s such a pleasure to read his and Anna’s work, and it’s also a joy to have the opportunity to chat with such a lovely person—I embarked on this interview writing about 700 questions, thinking he could pick and choose.  But they’ve all been answered and as a fellow author of historical fiction, I’m especially glad to share a conversation about culture, and connections, and writing the people who were erased at the time.

Lyndsay Faye: First off, thanks so much for speaking with me again!  It’s a wonderful book and I was thrilled to get an early read. Your previous effort,Mycroft Holmes, received very favorable reviews by both Sherlockians and historical critics.  How did you try to up the ante for the sequel?

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: The biggest change in the two books is that in Mycroft and Sherlock, Mycroft is dealing with some unexpected physical impairments that put his life in jeopardy and keep him from being quite as active as he was in the first book. And, because he keeps these ailments a secret from both Sherlock and his best friend Cyrus Douglas, we see how Mycroft begins to go his own way, keeping secrets, and doing what seems best to him. He’s also much more confident in his mental acumen than he was in the first book. (In the first book, he was engaged, in love, and much more innocent.) And, because his ailments force him to be more sedentary, the plot is more “twisty” (as our editor put it) than the first one.

LF: In your first book, a large percentage takes place in Trinidad, which is relevant to your own cultural history, while Mycroft and Sherlock occurs almost entirely on more familiar ground for readers of the Holmes mysteries, in London.  Did this produce any new challenges for you and Anna?

KAJ: It posed the same challenges as the first book, in that it always requires a lot of research. Whether he’s in Port of Spain or in London, we need to know what he sees, what he hears, and even what he smells: how he travels, what he wears, what he’s likely to eat, and so forth. In other words, it’s his era, not ours. If anything, it’s more difficult to get it right in London, because there’s more material on “how it was,” which is sometimes contradictory. We’ve been praised for research in these two books, particularly from Sherlock Holmes aficionados. We feel we owe it to them and to ACD to do right by the characters he created.

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