Did you ever read a story and feel that something was missing? You scratch your head and wonder, what happened? Did you skip a page, or miss a paragraph? Well, there can be many reasons for this uncomfortable feeling. You may consider reasons from uninteresting characters and confusing plot to simply bad writing—but did it ever occur to you that it may not be the writer’s fault at all?
The editorial process seeks to make a work stronger, better, to cause it to have more impact. There are many things an editor looks at and they usually change things in a story, here or there, or cut parts out for various reasons. That is the editorial process.
For a story published in a magazine or book anthology space considerations are often of paramount importance. Having a story that fits the “space” available—or when it doesn’t fit, “making” it fit by cutting—has damaged many fine stories, to the annoyance of many writers. Writers tend to want our work published just as it was written. I know I do. That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to, and even appreciate, helpful critical comments. I surely do, and am even thankful for them. In fact, I often use these comments to improve my stories. So I am not against editors or their process at all, after all, I am one myself. I also edit Hardboiled, a magazine of cutting-edge crime fiction.
So, it is not uncommon that in a 5,000 or 10,000 word story, editors will have the author cut a few lines here or there, maybe even a paragraph or two. Maybe even a page or two, which could result in a cut of about 500 words. Not excessive. In fact, it may actually improve the story by making it move faster, deleting extraneous material not necessary to the plot or characters.
When editors find themselves under very tight space limitations then the cuts to a story can become excessive, even extreme, making them very detrimental to the quality of the work.
Two stories being presented here for the first time in their original, uncut versions, are victims of excessive editing.
Now, I admit it, these two stories were long, but I felt they had to be.
Even before my earlier Holmes pastiche was nominated by the Mystery Writers of America for Best Short Story in 2005 (“The Adventure of the Missing Detective” collected in my previous Ramble House book, The Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes), I have done my best to write my stories just as Doyle would have written them. I work hard to keep the characters the traditional ones we all know and love. So you can see how it galls a writer when cuts delete essential scenes, even entire characters from the plot, making the story seem disjointed or confusing. In some instances this became much worse, because key pieces of evidence—evidence the reader needs to follow the story—were also cut.
Here are the facts:
“The Notorious Crosby Murders” was originally 17,500 words but the published version was cut down to fewer than 10,000 words. Almost half the story was missing!
“The American Adventure” was originally 19,200 words in length, but the published version was cut down to just 9,600 words. Once again, half the story was missing!
On an interesting side note, “A Study in Evil” originally was just 4,300 words in length. The editor there also had me make a cut—but he had me cut just one word! What was the word? No, it was not some hard-boiled expletive that would be so out of character in the Holmes canon. It was simple really, much more in keeping with the stories as written by Doyle, which is the type of Sherlock Holmes stories I seek to write. It was merely the use, by Holmes, of Watson's first name. In an emotional scene, Holmes calls Watson, “John”. Originally I had him use Watson’s first name twice, so that editor wisely had me cut Holmes’ use of “John” to just that one instance, thereby showing Holmes’ true emotions with more impact. It was a good catch and improved the story considerably. It was perfect.
Now, all three of these editors are fine gentlemen, each has edited many excellent stories and publications, many of these well-regarded magazines or anthologies in the Sherlock Holmes genre. These editors are all well-versed in the Holmes characters and the Doyle stories.
However, in the cases of the two longer stories in this book it was made plain to me that the reasons for the cuts were not because of the quality of the stories at all. In fact, both editors very much liked the stories as written, they just needed them cut solely for space considerations. I understood their needs and complied. After all, I did want the stories published—that is why I wrote them in the first place! But let me tell you, it was a daunting task to cut so deeply from these two stories and still keep the plot working, the characters true—to still keep the story alive and not lose those key ingredients that made them so special in the first place.
You see, every story is an individual creation by a writer who sweats over every word. It is a unique thing that must be true to itself and the characters. Depending on the complexity of the story, it must be a certain length. There needs to be a certain number of scenes to move the plot, a certain amount of time (i.e. word space) devoted to the characters—in order tell the story successfully. A simple story will be shorter in length, a more complex story must of necessity be longer.
The two longer stories in this book deal with very complex aspects of the Holmes mythos. “The Notorious Crosby Murders” shows Holmes using blood evidence in a manner analogous to modern CSI techniques to solve a brutal murder. “The American Adventure” seeks to explain the retirement of Sherlock Holmes, by teaming a young Holmes with Dr. Joseph Bell in an early case that examines the very origins of the Great Detective, as well as his relationship with women. The depth and complexities of these two stories could never work successfully without allowing sufficient length to tell the story fully. I feel that to do anything less, would harm the story and do the characters—and the readers—a grave injustice.
Since the time of publication, these two longer stories have seen book publication in their original versions in the UK—the home of Sherlock Holmes—to outstanding reviews. Over the last year I have also been encouraged by readers to have the original stories printed in their entirety in the United States, hence this new Ramble House edition. This is the first time these two stories have ever appeared in their original form in the United States, so what you are about to read are essentially entirely new stories. In restoring these stories to their proper and original lengths, I have also added a short “Historical Note” at the end of each to bring to light certain facts that I believe put each story into its proper historical perspective.
I also want to take this opportunity to thank Fender Tucker of Ramble House for the opportunity to collect these stories into this book in their original versions; designer Gavin L. O’Keefe for all his work; artist Tihomir Tikulin for his truly wonderful cover art, and literary agent, Uwe Luserke for his valued assistance.
I hope you enjoy this new collection of stories containing More Secret Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.
Brooklyn, New York