Friday, 26 March 2010

Leigh Russell interviews Alistair Duncan

LEIGH RUSSELL, author of runaway success thriller CUT SHORT, in conversation with Sherlock Holmes scholar and author ALISTAIR DUNCAN whose latest book, THE NORWOOD AUTHOR, has just hit the shelves.

Alistair Duncan talks to Leigh Russell

Leigh: Many fans of Sherlock Holmes give little thought to his creator, Conan Doyle. What first sparked your interest in him?

Alistair: I was initially far more interested in the creation than the creator. When I wrote my first book it naturally included some details on Conan Doyle. My interest really gained momentum when I found myself living in South Norwood where Conan Doyle himself had lived. As I researched I became more and more interested. This reflected itself in my second book where the balance between Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes became close to 50/50. Finally this interest culminated in my third book where the book is primarily focused on Conan Doyle.

Leigh: Even though I write fiction, I spend quite a lot of time researching my books. I wonder what proportion of your time is spent on research, and what proportion is spent on writing?

Alistair: Good question, and it has varied for each book. Taking the last book I would say that the allocation of time was roughly 50/50.

Leigh: How much of your research is conducted on the internet and how much of it consists of studying original documents and consulting other scholars?

Alistair: The internet is often a good starting point for any research but it is not good to rely on it. I generally begin with the internet and if a promising lead comes up I pursue it through libraries and other sources. For my latest book internet research was far less than the other two and most of my time was spent in front of microfilm readers at Croydon Library where films of the old Norwood newspapers are kept.

Leigh: Can you share with us the most surprising fact you have discovered about Conan Doyle?

Alistair: I unearthed the fact that he became president of the Upper Norwood Literary and Scientific Society. Very few books (in fact only one that I found) mentioned that he was even a member of the society. None had mentioned that he became president.

Leigh: You mentioned The Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Can anyone become a member or do you need to have published a scholarly work on Sherlock Holmes - or have red hair?

Alistair: The original society began in 1934 but was suspended due an unfortunate event otherwise known as The Second World War. When the Festival of Britain was held in1951 it demonstrated such a continued fascination with Holmes that a small group decided to resurrect the society. Unlike some other societies, the SHSL does not operate any old-fashioned admissions policy. An interest in Holmes is deemed sufficient.

You can read the rest of the interview on


  1. Very interesting! I like hearing about an author's writing and research process.

  2. I am always in awe of people who write knowledgeably as opposed to those of us who just make it all up. That said, I have to spend a lot of time researching, as many of my readers are police officers, or medically trained. With the range of characters in my books, I write about many worlds I don't inhabit, from street markets to mortuaries, and I have to create an authentic sense of them all. I'd love to be an expert, like Alistair, but I can't claim to know much about anything really.