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The Influence of Sherlock Holmes

September 12, 2013
Sherlock Holmes

Sherlock Holmes

When I first introduced private detective Joey Boloccini in The Champagne Ladies and reprised his role in The Coffin Haulers, I didn’t know much about the business of private investigations. Actually, I knew next to nothing. Years ago when I was a police reporter at a daily newspaper in Illinois, a sergeant told me that private detectives were guys who always wanted to be police detectives but didn’t want to spend the time first being a patrolman and then qualifying to become detectives.

So it seemed to me that they were regular guys who wanted to solve crimes but didn’t like the formality of working for a government agency.

Just like Sherlock Holmes.

I read all the Holmes short-stories and novels when I was a high-school freshman. i was fascinated by how his mind worked, and so I decided the Joey Boloccini, better known by his nickname Joey Baloney, would be that type of detective. My guiding principle was something that Holmes said to Watson: “You see, but you don’t observe.”

Joey would observe; he’d recognize clues that the police had overlooked. Like Holmes he’d rely on his intelligence to solve the case. In The Champagne Ladies, Joey solves his first case, “The Disappearance of Wayne Borsinski,” as an amateur, wannabe detective while he’s still in high school. He had a great future ahead of him.

In an early draft of The Coffin Haulers I had Joey remembering a line from “The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle” to justify his witholding from the police of a significant development: “I am not retained by the police to supply their deficiencies.” (Like me, Joey had read all the Holmes stories).

But it didn’t work; it was unnecessary because I made Joey’s intentions clear in a scene where he’s contemplating his reticence.

So for good or ill, that’s how I created a private detective.

(By the way, you often see Sherlock Holmes depicted in drawings and some movies as smoking a Calabash pipe. He never did in the Conan Doyle stories. For the most part he smoked what’s known as a Churchwarden, a pipe with an elongated stem. He was also a cigarette smoker).

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