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Countdown to Mystery: Locked Doors

September 30th, 2020

A woman enters a room. Closes the door. Then, from inside, a voice cries “Murder!” When her father breaks down the door, he finds her bleeding on the floor. She is alone. The windows are barred. There is no other exit. Yet the perpetrator is gone!

And so begins The Mystery of the Yellow Room (Le mystère de la chambre jaune) by Gaston Leroux (1908), a novel considered by many to be one of the greatest locked-door mysteries of all time.

Over the years, some of mystery’s greatest writers have tried their hand at the subgenre, each attempting to outdo those who went before. Consider, for example, this locked-door scenario from the back cover of the 1983 Signet reprint of Ellery Queen’s The Chinese Orange Mystery (1934):

No one had seen the fat man enter the luxurious suite; no one knew his name. All his clothes were on him backward, and all the furniture around him was reversed. The room […] was locked from the inside, and aside from him, was empty. [And now …] the man was dead.

How can you not want to read that one? And if you’re a writer, how could you not want to play in that sandbox?

In this series of posts, I’ve been recommending mysteries that feature elements you’ll find tomorrow should you accept Prime Time Theatre’s invitation to join me for the first installment of A Knavish Piece of Mystery. The story features an eccentric detective in the mold of St. John Lord Merridew (Sleuth) and Hercule Poirot (Murder on the Orient Express); a sidekick who complements the qualities of that detective (Zero Effect), an ensemble cast (The Last of Shelia, Murder on the Orient Express), a writer who blurs the lines between life and fiction (Sleuth) and a locked-room puzzle (The Mystery of the Yellow Room, The Chinese Orange Mystery). The fun starts tomorrow at Noon. I hope you’ll join us then … or any time during the days that follow.

That’s one of the nice things about podcast theatre. You can attend at your convenience. Here’s the link.

In the meantime, click the link below to view a 1931 adaptation of the locked-door mystery The Speckled Band, based on a Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyal. It stars Raymond Massey (in his first starring role as a film actor) as the master sleuth and Athole Steward as his sidekick Dr. Watson.

Enjoy, then stop back tomorrow as we unlock the door to A Knavish Piece of Mystery.

I’ll Meet You in the Gaslight

December 9th, 2011

If you missed the Bitten By Books event last week, you can still access highlights at The Gaslight Gallery, a new blog sponsored by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

The blog features some of the best responses offered during the Bitten By Books event as well as new answers to some intriguing questions.

Drop by, read the interviews, post a comment. I’ll hope to see you in the gaslight.

New Trailer for Gaslight Arcanum

November 21st, 2011

The good people at Edge did a terrific job on this new trailer for Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes

The trailer features a catchy soundtrack, illustrations from the book, and photos of the authors. Great stuff!

Related news, on November 30, the website Bitten By Books will be hosting a 24-hour interview session with many of the Gaslight Arcanum authors. It’ll be a great chance to meet the writers, pose questions, and learn about this third Gaslight book edited by J. R. Campbell and Charles Prepolec.

More information is available at the Bitten By Books website. 

I’ll hope to see you there!

Airships and Sherlock Holmes

October 22nd, 2011

The master sleuth and Master of the World.

What’s not to love?

The World Fantasy Convention has just released its program schedule for 2011, one that offers an impressive blend of topics centering on this year’s theme: Sailing the Seas of Imagination.

At the con, I’ll be joining a discussion about airships and reading from my latest Sherlock Holmes mystery “The Executioner.”

First up, I’ll be joining  Jetse de Vries, Eric Flint, Charles Gannon, and Cliff Winnig for a panel titled “To Sail Above the Clouds: Airships.” Here’s the description:

With Steampunk’s popularity, airships are rising too. Sometimes they’re treated just like sailing ships. (Airship pirates!). Sometimes more like trains or planes. What is unique about this form of transportation that’s grabbed the attention of Steampunk? What has literature done with it and what does literature get wrong and right? (Friday 2:00 PM)

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about airships, working on a new story tentatively titled “Zeppelin to the Moon,” which brings together Professor Challenger (The Lost World), Mr. Bedford (First Men in the Moon), and Count von Zeppelin (the renowned airship designer) on a mission to rescue the inventor of cavorite from the clutches of the Grand Lunar. Sound interesting?

 “To Sail Above the Clouds” will mark my second appearance on a steampunk-themed panel this year. The first was two months ago when I joined my good friends Paul Genesse, Anton Strout, Gregory Wilson, and Maurice Broaddus at GenCon for a presentation titled “Make it Steamy: A Look at the Steampunk Genre.” That event really packed them in, with nearly 100 people in attendance. One of the highlights was Maurice’s account of his forthcoming “steampunk story with all black characters.” It’s title: Pimp My Airship. Looking forward to that one!

Paul and I also got the chance to reminisce about works that introduced us to the tropes of steampunk. His was the Ray Harryhausen 1961 film Mysterious Island (soon to be released in a limited-edition Blu-Ray  from Twilight Time). Mine was Karl Zerman’s 1958 Vynález zkázy, released in the States as The Fabulous World of Jules Verne. I remember catching that one at a drive-in near Philadelphia. The world has never been the same.

Also on the bill at this year’s World Fantasy will be a Saturday night book launch and party hosted by Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.  This will be the big debut for Gaslight Arcanum: Uncanny Tales of Sherlock Holmes, the third in the critically-acclaimed series of anthologies edited by Charles Prepolec and J. R. Campbell. I understand that Paul Kane will also be there, reading from his entry “The Greatest Mystery” – one of the anthology’s standout horror stories.

And of course, as always, there will be the WFC mass-autograph session on Friday night, where I’ll be looking forward to meeting old friends, making new ones, and signing copies of Gaslight Arcanum, as well as Veins, Vipers, Visions, and last year’s collection This Way to Egress. (All titles will be available in the dealers room.) I also hope to have some preview material for the forthcoming Voices: Tales of Horror, which Fantasist Enterprises will be releasing later this year.

If you’re one of the thousand or so people lucky enough to be attending this year’s World Fantasy Convention (memberships sold out last winter, making this year’s con one of the hottest tickets around), I’ll look forward to seeing you there.

Oh yes, and did I mention Neil Gaiman is this year’s Guest of Honor? Should be a good time.

Whether you’re attending or not, please consider leaving a comment below. I’m particularly interested in hearing about when you first encountered the wonders of steampunk.

Perhaps it was Mysterious Island or The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, or maybe it was with more recent works, ones actually published under the steampunk banner. Either way, feel free to chime in.