Dan Andriacco is a Sherlockian/author/blogger who I mention quite a bit on Always1895, and for good reason: his posts on Baker Street Beat are always worth reading, the fictional universe of the McCabe/Cody novels is rich and entertaining and his Sherlockian talks have all the hallmarks of a scholar deeply committed to the Canon. My review of his latest novel The 1895 Murder (2012) also happens to be the 221st Always1895 post (What better way to celebrate?!) and I enjoyed it so much that I thought an extended chat/interview with Mr Andriacco was in order. As an added bonus, I have a signed copy of The 1895 Murder to giveaway to one lucky reader (see details at the end of this interview). So without further ado, let’s hear what the man has to say…
Part 1: The 1895 Murder and Other Novels.
Matt Laffey: When you started writing the first McCabe/Cody novel No Police Like Holmes did you have any inkling that it would turn into a multi-novel series?
Dan Andriacco: I’ve always loved series characters, so I’m sure I planned this as a series from the beginning.
ML: What gave you the idea to have McCabe write a play called The 1895 Murder within this novel? On a related note, in the novel there’s a description of the poster for the play The 1895 Murder; any chance this really exists or that you might have someone design one for you?
DA: I started with the idea of a murder on the opening night of a play, and then moved to the idea of a Sherlock Holmes play, and then I figured that Mac should write his plan and star in it, and then I decided that 1895 would be a great title for it. The poster doesn’t exist, but I think I could arrange it if there was enough demand. I know artists!
ML: Jeff Cody, the main protagonist of the series, is an aspiring mystery writer in his spare time but not a Sherlockian whereas his best friend Sebastian McCabe is what we might call a hardcore (yet typical) Sherlockian - what were your original intentions for setting-up this specific dynamic? Why not just make Jeff Cody the hardcore Sherlockian?
DA: Originally, I thought McCabe was the protagonist. That’s why he’s the Sherlockian. Jeff was his Watson or Archie Goodwin. That’s why NPLH is subtitled “Introducing Sebastian McCabe.” But when it quickly became obvious that the readers loved Jeff, I realized that I did too. So from the second book on, they are subtitled “A Sebastian McCabe – Jeff Cody Mystery.”
ML: Do you, Dan Andriacco, identify with Jeff Cody or Sebastian McCabe more?
DA: Sebastian McCabe is in many ways what I wish I was. He’s successful at everything, including writing mystery novels, performing magic, and speaking many languages. He’s what I would be if I could wave a magic wand. And yet, he’s not all that likeable. Jeff is, I hope. When I told my wife that Jeff was a humorous exaggeration of all my foibles, she said, ‘Oh, no, he’s just like you.” I guess she would know!
ML: As a Sherlockian myself, I have the sense that McCabe is based, at least in part, on an actual person or persons. Whether or not you want to give us a name, is there a real life McCabe walking around out there?
DA: There certainly is – in my books. Mac is as real as Santa Claus. I’ve never based any major character on a real person. Of course there are various elements of characters that are suggested by real people, but not the whole package. Jeff’s psychological resemblance to me (not physical) may be the closest I come, but I am truly not that neurotic. I hope. There are other differences: Jeff likes baseball, hard-boiled detective stories, and soft drinks. I’m not into any of those things.
ML: Since the release of these three novels have you received any complaints or negative feedback from people who took issue with your portrayal of Sherlockians, college presidents, academics, magicians, actors, police chiefs, etc. in your novels?
DA: Not at all. In fact, I received a wonderful fan letter from a reader who said she loved the way I so accurately I captured the feel of a small town college. Her husband is a retired college administrator. This really pleased me because I’ve never lived in a small town or worked at a college (except as an adjunct professor). Apparently my research has paid off.
ML: In No Police Like Holmes we were introduced to a number of interesting/colorful Sherlockian characters who were in town for a Sherlockian Symposium - is there a chance we’ll ever get to encounter one or more of those characters again in future McCabe/Cody stories? (I very much enjoyed the scene where one of the characters in The 1895 Murder makes a visit to University library to check out something in the Chalmers Collection, first referenced in NPLH.)
DA: I don’t have any specific plans, but it’s quite likely. One of my goals with the series is to create a consistent world in it, so bringing back characters would be a natural. I’ve already done this to a degree in a novella that won’t be published for a while. And I’m sure we’ll see Lynda’s parents and defense attorney Erica Slade from The 1895 Murder again. I knew when I put Sister Mary Margaret Malone (Triple M) in Holmes Sweet Holmes that she would become a major character in the next book. I loved the way you referred in one of your posts to my “Benignusverse.” That’s how I think of it now.
ML: I get the impression that you enjoy inserting ‘Easter eggs’ or little references to ‘real life’, eg. a certain bourbon whiskey brand (which I know you’re a connoisseur), a certain ‘1895’ bumper sticker I’ve seen being given out at Sherlockian events, etc etc. Is this something you started off doing consciously or did these sorts of references accidentally creep in?
DA: The Benignusverse is deliberately populated with a combination of real products that readers know and ones that exist only in my books, such as Cleopatra VII and Birth of Venus perfumes.
ML: Any chance one of these books will be optioned for a film? I particularly think No Police Like Holmes and The 1895 Murder would make great films.
DA: From your lips to God’s ears! I quite agree.
ML: I know a lot of Sherlockians are fans of the McCabe/Cody series - have you received much attention from the mystery community outside of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts?
DA: Not as much as I would like. I was delighted to appear on a panel at Bouchercon, but it was a Holmes-themed panel with some big-name Sherlockians. A couple of non-Holmes mystery writers have told me they enjoy the books.
ML: Rumor has it that you’re working on a fourth novel which almost finished - can you confirm or deny this? Can you tell us anything about it, for example it’s title, premise, Sherlockian reference, general release date, etc.?
DA: The Disappearance of Mr. James Phillimore is finished in first-draft form and should be published sometime next year. In a way, it’s my most Sherlockian story of all. Mac, Kate, Jeff, and Lynda are all involved, but the story takes place in London. As the title indicates, it’s very closely connected to an untold tale of Dr. Watson – the disappearance and then the murder of Mr. James Phillimore. Mac solves it with the help of a Sherlock Holmes pastiche short story that is embedded in the novel. Another unique factor is that this story includes a master villain – Mac’s Moriarty! As a bonus, the volume will include at the end a story written by Lynda Teal about a mystery she solves on her honeymoon in Rome – “The Adventure of the Vatican Cameos.”
ML: And looking even further afield, any chance of a fifth McCabe/Cody novel?
DA: More than a chance! The next McCabe-Cody title will be a collection of novellas and short stories, the first of which is already written. But first, Kieran McMullen and I are collaborating on The Amateur Executioner, a mystery novel set in London in 1920. Holmes is a character, but not the main protagonist. The next two McCabe/Cody books will involve murder at a bookstore in Erin and murder at a mystery conference in Cincinnati.
Part 2: Dan Andriacco, the Man, the Myth, the Sherlockian.
ML: Aside from the Cody/McCabe series you also published a non-fiction book called Baker Street Beat, which collected a number of essays, plays and thought pieces on Sherlock Holmes - can we expect any non-fiction Sherlockian projects in the near future?
DA: Someday, if there’s enough demand, I’d like to publish a book of my talks on Sherlock Holmes and some of my better blog posts.
ML: How did you first get hooked-up with MX Publishing, the company that has published all three McCabe/Cody novels and Baker Street Beat?
DA: I originally planned to self-publish Baker Street Beat but I couldn’t figure out how to do it. Joel and Carolyn Senter, the proprietors of the Classic Specialties online store, suggested MX. Steve Emecz [of MX] agreed very quickly to publish it. It’s been a great relationship.
ML: How long have you been into Sherlock Holmes and at what point did you decide that the Sherlockian lifestyle was for you - opposed to simply being a fan of the 60 stories?
DA: I’ve been strongly into Holmes since I was about nine. Admittedly, my interest has waxed and waned, but I have been a member of the Tankerville Club in Cincinnati without break since 1981.
ML: Which Sherlockian scions are you involved?
DA: In addition to the Tankerville Club, I recently joined the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis.
ML: Have you had a chance to watch CBS’s Elementary and what do you think about it? On a related note, what do you think Sebastian McCabe would think about Elementary?
DA: I’ve only seen one episode, the first. I thought it was reasonably entertaining and almost totally unrelated to the Sherlock Holmes that I know. Mac is more into popular culture than I am, and so probably would like it more. He’s just a big kid.
ML: Whether or not you’ve seen Elementary, what do you think of the current/contemporary state of both Sherlockian culture and Sherlock Holmes in popular culture? Again, any thoughts on what Sebastian McCabe might think of the contemporary Sherlockian scene?
DA: That’s a complex question. I think that Mac would agree with me that anything that brings more fans to Sherlock Holmes is good to a point. The point where it’s not good is where the very name “Sherlock Holmes” starts to be meaningless because we don’t know whether we’re talking about a 19th-20th century man, or a 21st century man in London, or a 21st century man in New York – or a 19th century man in 22nd century New London with an android Watson.
ML: Who are some of your biggest Sherlockian influences, particularly in reference to the fiction you write? [Note: A few months back Mr Andriacco and I (via Baker Street Beat and Always1895.net, respectively) collaborated on a small project where we named and discussed our favorite posthumous Sherlockians.]
DA: I’m not conscious of any Sherlockian who influences my fiction, unless it would be Rex Stout. My prose reminds some people of his, although that’s not conscious on my part and I think there are significant differences in our approach.
ML: Other than being a terrific novelist and a dedicated Sherlockian, what else would you like my readers to know about Dan Andriacco?
DA: I’m available to talk to groups and I love doing it. I can be contacted through my blog at www.danandriacco.com.
As promised, I have a copy of The 1895 Murder to giveaway to one lucky Sherlockian who can answer the following question: What song does Jeff Cody have his ringtone set? (two possible answers, sending one is fine) Please send your answer (along with your name and email address) to firstname.lastname@example.org by December 2nd 2012. The winner will be picked by an extremely advanced robot randomizer and alerted by email. Also, if you are interested in being added to the Always1895 weekly new post alert, please mention “add to 1895 mailing list” in an email to the same address. Thanks for reading!