Nicholas Meyer is an award-winning author, screenwriter and director. His body of creative work in publishing, film and television spans more than five decades. His latest novel is The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols and he recently agreed to talk about it with Daryl Maxwell for the LAPL Blog.
What was your inspiration for The Adventure of the Peculiar Protocols?
I have had a life-long interest in forgery—being something of a forger, myself. I collect books on the subject and it’s not long if you’re interested in forgery, you come across the most notorious and destructive forgery of all, the so-called Protocols of Learned Elders of Zion. As the time in which this nauseating document was created, I wondered if this was not a case that mightn’t intrigue The Great Detective.
How did the novel evolve and change as you wrote and revised it? Are there any characters or scenes that were lost in the process that you wish had made it to the published version?
On the contrary, my one worry is that the novel is too short, always a concern (even for Doyle) when he tried to write full-length Holmes stories. Initially, there were too few characters and I found myself revising the book to add more.
Do you have a favorite of the original Sherlock Holmes stories?
Not one favorite by easily a dozen, among them, Silver Blaze, The Bruce Partington Plans, The Devil’s Foot, The Red-Headed League, The Speckled Band…
Do you have a favorite Sherlock Holmes pastiche, television or motion picture adaptation/interpretation? A least favorite? (I realize that you may not want to single out a bad one and if that is the case, please don’t. But I also realize it might be so bad that it could be fun to answer.)
My favorite pastiches are—no surprise—my own. As for those I don’t like, the Basil Rathbone-Nigel Bruce films top the list. Rathbone may have made a wonderful Holmes but in my opinion, he never got the chance, shackled with an absurd Watson. Why does a genius tolerate a buffoon? It doesn’t make Holmes look that cool, does it? Holmes as camp never appealed to me; I just liked it the way Doyle wrote it.
What do you think it is about Sherlock Holmes that makes him such an enduring character and that draws you, as an author, and/or readers to these stories?
It’s a tough question. Something about the idea of a flawed knight-errant in (more or less) modern dress, dissecting and explaining a terrifying world in a civilized fashion has something to do with it, but I’m sure it’s not that simple.
What’s currently on your nightstand?
What was your favorite book when you were a child?
What age child? When I was very young I loved Winnie-the-Pooh. Later, (age 11?) I was hooked on Sherlock Holmes; also Alice in Wonderland, the novels of H. Rider Haggard (King Solomon’s Mines), The Prisoner of Zenda—al that Victorian adventure stuff.
Was there a book you felt you needed to hide from your parents?
One of the most remarkable books of that period, which literally changed my life was a Hungarian novel I found with a lurid picture on the paperback cover. It was called Temptation by Jon Pen. I imagined it was something whose dirty parts would get me going but instead it introduced me to the shocking world of extreme poverty. Set between the wars in Budapest, I’ve never forgotten it or the startling impression it left. Some years ago I stumbled on a hardcover version (having long ago mislaid the original) and it has pride of place on my bookshelves.
Can you name your top five favorite or most influential authors?
Put Shakespeare at the top of my list and then the others are to be found above.
What is a book you've faked reading?
Everything by Faulkner. But I haven’t really faked it, just couldn’t get through the one I tried.
Can you name a book you've bought for the cover?
Temptation (see above), when I was about thirteen. The paperback had a bosomy lady on it.
Is there a book that changed your life?
So many! In way, every book I’ve read has changed my life. Starting with Fairy Tales, Alice in Wonderland, Fairy Tales, Homer, the Holmes stories, all those Victorian boy’s own adventure stuff like Treasure Island, Temptation (of course). I’m a product of all I’ve read, of the paintings I’ve stared at, the music to which I’ve listened, the films I’ve watched—and re-watched…
Can you name a book for which you are an evangelist (and you think everyone should read)?
Is there a book you would most want to read again for the first time?
The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.
What is your idea of THE perfect day (where you could go anywhere/meet with anyone)?
I like going places with my girlfriend. Could be for a walk, or off to Buenos Aires, (which I’d always wanted to do and finally did!) I like eating a great meal and finishing off with a movie (old or new).
Nicholas Meyer is back with his first Sherlock Holmes novel in 26 years (after 1993’s The Canary Trainer) and it is a page-turner. It is a thrilling adventure, a fascinating critique of our current culture and, as characterized in the author’s introductory note, “the biggest and most consequential failure of the detective’s entire career.” This is a must read for fans of the consulting detective!