Many folks answer this question with a resounding ‘No!’ Doyle left us with 57 short stories and four novels about Holmes and Watson, so why aren’t these enough? Why did I write Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Undead Client? The big answer is that there are never enough stories as long as people yearn to tell them.
Having read the entire Doyle canon many times over, I wrote my book based on my love of the characters Doyle created and a desire to see them partake in new, relevant adventures. After all, Holmes was active in the fictional 1888. The Ripper’s identity is still a matter of conjecture, and who better to give us the name of that murderous fiend than the world’s only consulting detective? To the active imagination, the absence of a real, historical Sherlock Holmes, has little to do with the way he operates in our minds and hearts: he’s one of the first super heroes. For those of us who read Doyle’s work, of course a need exists for Holmes to deal with the Ripper crimes. The ‘reality’ of those stalwart Victorians, Holmes and Watson, is just as palpable to us as the story of ripper murders. They belong to the dark alleys and quaint manners of the Victoriana passed on to us by our culture, for better or worse.
One cold night, around a crackling fire, I asked Mike Brewer—my dear old friend, zombie expert, ‘Jack the Ripper’ scholar, and writer of renown—why no one had written an account of those murders as perpetrated by zombies and dealt with by Sherlock Holmes. When I asked him the why question, Mike replied that the world was waiting for me to write that account. I had no inkling that he would say such a thing, but he pointed out to me that my need to read such a story implicated me in the attempt to tell it. Holmes and Watson vs the Ripper existed in my imagination, especially if I could play upon those murders as done by zombies. Having seen the savage images that survive in pictures of the Ripper’s victims, I saw the need to tell that story in light of our own cultural realities, to create a fiction around those ghastly remnants of the real world of Victorian London. And zombies are big, still, I hope.
Having gone into detail with studies of other Victorian literature and the history of that period, exposed me to many important ideas that still have currency: the need to resist corporate evil, the rights of people who have no voice in a success driven society, and interest in the growth of a person—Watson, in the case of my story—and his need to deal with the ways in which he is implicated in the evils of his time.
However, Doyle, I think, knew better than to touch those ghastly crimes and pull them into his fiction because he published A Study in Scarlett first in 1887 in The Beeton’s Christmas Annual, and in book form in June of 1888, in the midst of the Ripper’s chronology. Way too brutal for the fictional press at the time and not at all in keeping with the sorts of puzzles central to Holmes cases, Doyle, I figure, saw no need to try and deal with something actual, something historical, in relating his fantasies about Holmes’ unbelievable abilities.
That, however, did not stop me!