With well over 800 books on the TBR, I haven’t had time to read Catflap by Ian Jarvis, but I was so intrigued by the concept of a modern take on Sherlock Holmes that I asked Ian to tell me a bit more about it. Catflap is published by M X Publishing and is available for purchase here.
A contemporary Sherlock Holmes, the eccentric Bernie Quist is a consultant detective in the city of York. Christmas is days away and once again the reclusive sleuth will be quietly celebrating alone. His assistant Watson, a teenager from the Grimpen housing estate, has other ideas, mostly involving parties, girls and beer.
Yuletide plans are halted when three chemists die and the fiancé of one hires them to look into her apparent suicide. After discovering the chemist wasn’t engaged, they’re drawn into the mystery when their employer is killed.
Added to this, Watson has a puzzle of his own – Quist is clearly hiding something and he’s curious to know what.
The investigation leads to a shady cartel of northern businessmen, a forgotten Egyptian cult and an ancient evil lurking in the medieval alleyways of York. Quist’s secret is also revealed, and Watson doesn’t know what terrifies him the most.
A Guest Post by Ian Jarvis
Hello Linda. I’m so pleased that you like the concept of Cat Flap – a humorous urban fantasy inspired by the Sherlock Holmes stories. You asked why Holmes and Watson are still relevant today and how a supernatural element might give the concept a freshness for a modern readership. Hopefully, the following might answer this and some of your other questions.
Sherlock Holmes appeared in 1887 in the book A Study in Scarlet and the world has been fascinated by Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation ever since. William Gillette was the first actor to play him, incredibly over 1300 times on stage, and he firmly cemented the image of deerstalker hat, magnifying glass, violin and calabash pipe. In the books, Holmes smoked a simple briar pipe, but the actor felt this obscured his mouth and adopted the elaborate curved pipe instead. Later actors maintained this image on film through the decades, including the superb Jeremy Brett, Peter Cushing and my personal favourite Basil Rathbone. It’s a tribute to the enduring fascination with Holmes that he’s been portrayed on screen over 250 times, with around 100 actors having now played him.
We also see Holmes in many other incarnations. Maverick cops dispense with police procedure and, quite often, the law itself, and instead use intelligence, deduction and observation to solve complex crimes. There are many fictional private detectives like this and other screen characters such as the Mentalist. Holmes has recently been updated, of course, in the amazing Sherlock series with Benedict Cumberbatch. This show constantly pulls in record viewing figures which proves that, well over a century later, everyone still has a huge love for Holmes.
With all this in mind, I decided to try a new take on the character with Bernie Quist – a different and original approach and hopefully both urban fantasy readers and Holmes fans will enjoy the idea. Quist, his assistant, and the other protagonists are likable and quirky, and the stories are humorous without being outright comedy. A contemporary Holmes, Quist is a consultant detective operating from Baker Avenue in the city of York. His eccentric personality and deductive methods resemble the celebrated sleuth and his assistant is named Watson, although this Watson is a black youth from a notorious housing estate and he’s definitely no doctor. The mismatched duo take on bizarre cases which invariably lead to the realms of the supernatural, a shadowy world Quist is all too familiar with. Reclusive and very much a loner, the consultant detective has a dark secret which eventually comes to light in the first novel Cat Flap.
It’s easy to see why the Hound of the Baskervilles is the most famous and best loved of the Conan Doyle stories. It’s a truly fantastic novel. Many readers love the supernatural, and here they get their favourite detective involved in a seemingly paranormal mystery of ancient legends, misty moorlands and a terrifying spectral beast. A similar atmosphere permeates the Quist novels, but where the Baskerville hound turns out to be a real dog, similar to the ones owned by drug dealers on estates, the eerie situations Quist faces are genuinely paranormal.
You asked how easy or difficult it was not to be derivative whilst still retaining an affection for Holmes? It was actually quite easy and I’ve included many tributes and nods to the Conan Doyle stories; hardcore fans should enjoy spotting these. Watson, for example, lives on the infamous Grimpen housing estate – named after the Grimpen Mire in Hound of the Baskervilles and described there as one of the most awful places in Britain. Because of the modern setting, my main task was to keep this a million miles away from the feel of the Sherlock television series. With the humour, the supernatural slant and various other factors, I’ve managed that.
Cat Flap begins days before Christmas and once again, Quist is quietly celebrating alone. His new assistant has other ideas, mostly involving parties, girls and beer, but Yuletide plans are halted when three York chemists die and the fiancé of one hires the pair to look into her apparent suicide. After discovering the chemist wasn’t engaged, they’re drawn into the mystery when their employer is killed. Added to this, Watson has a puzzle of his own – Quist is clearly hiding something and he’s curious to know what. The investigation leads to a shady cartel of northern businessmen, a forgotten Egyptian cult and an ancient evil lurking in the alleyways of York. Quist’s secret is also revealed, and Watson doesn’t know what terrifies him the most.
Beginning as a murder investigation, Cat Flap soon develops into an urban fantasy, set against a backdrop of Manchester and York, a beautiful city of historic buildings and medieval fortifications that has seldom been used by mystery writers. The novel was published on the first of February by MX Publishing, the world’s largest publisher of Holmes stories, and it’s the start of a series. Assuming, of course, that Quist and Watson survive their first adventure, the second book, the Music of Sound, revolves around the British music industry, an enigmatic pop star and her management team of mercenary soldiers.
Thank you for reading. The game is afoot, or quite possibly thirteen inches, and you can find out more about me below.
About Ian Jarvis
Ian was born in the north of England, where he worked for three hectic decades as an operational firefighter with West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.
He’s spent the past twenty something years in a village near Selby, where he writes urban fantasy, humour and supernatural thrillers.
He travels regularly, usually though Asia and the Americas, and his interests include walking the North York Moors and Yorkshire Dales, natural history, with an emphasis on birds, real ale, and ridding the world of all known evils.