There’s no use phoning up the likes of Mark Gatiss or Guy Ritchie and saying, ‘If I give you a tenner, can I be part of your next project?’ because they’d probably tell you to get lost – assuming you could even find their phone number in the first place. But give author Patrick Kincaid a tenner, and he’d be cock-a-hoop, and you’d get your name listed in the back of his book as a patron.
Patrick is looking for pledges on the Unbound publishing platform towards his new novel, The Continuity Girl – a book set around the filming of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Billy Wilder in 1970. You can pledge as little as £10 to become part of the project, and have that warm fuzzy feeling that comes from helping someone – even if you are secretly thinking, ‘If this becomes a film, I might get to hob nob on set for a few days…’
Husband says: ‘Yes but why are you writing about it? There are loads of Holmes books and projects out there, so why this one?’ In other words, ‘Why have you given ten of our hard-earned pounds to some bloke from Coventry who’s done a book?’
Well, I do see his point. There really are so many books and short stories out there involving Holmes that it’s becoming a landslide. But for me, this one stands out as offering something a little different. It’s a fusion of things Holmes fans will love, and an altogether different story with universal appeal. Could this be the sort of palate-cleansing treatment we need after the emotional roller coaster ride of Sherlock series four?
I bumped into Patrick in his home town of Coventry and we had a good old natter about all things Sherlock Holmes, publishing and The Continuity Girl. He’s a thoroughly decent bloke, a writer going it alone without the backing of an agent or large publisher – writing away furiously while still holding down a full-time job as an English teacher. It’s hard, I should know. He has a PhD in Shakespeare Studies from the Shakespeare Institute and used that research to write his first novel, a detailed historical book about the run-up to the Gunpowder Plot. This gave Patrick a thirst for writing which has remained a passion. His story, ‘The Doll and His Maker’ was published as part of the ‘Sherlock’s Home, The Empty House’ anthology and remains my favourite in the collection.
Patrick describes The Continuity Girl as, ‘A comic love story with two plots that eventually converge. In 2014, the discovery of a full cut of Billy Wilder’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes leads film scholar Gemma MacDonald to make contact with the movie’s continuity supervisor, April Korzeniowski (she’s my invention – it was really Elaine Schreyek). In 1969, dedicated Loch Ness monster hunter Jim Outhwaite is put out by the arrival of a film crew in the vicinity, until he meets the film’s continuity girl, April Bloom… Nothing is quite how it seems, however, and – much as in a Billy Wilder film – it’s not always clear who you can trust.’
Patrick was inspired by a trip to the Highlands on his honeymoon, and a boat tour of Loch Ness complete with a real-life Nessie hunter who was there during filming of The Private Life. Patrick is a life-long Sherlock Holmes fan and feels that the film has become very important to the way we view Holmes, as well as inspiring Mark Gatiss and being key in the development of BBC Sherlock. ‘It’s very Millenial, it’s fan fic before there was fan fic. It doesn’t just give us more of Holmes, it tries to unpick what lies behind his character. And of course, it’s interested in his sex life!’
Always a devotee of the canon, I had to ask whether anything from it features in The Continuity Girl. ‘At the beginning, my main protagonist, Jim, has never read a Sherlock Holmes story,’ Patrick explains. ‘His boss recommends them to him when he gets upset about the arrival of the film crew, and over the course of the novel he becomes a fan. I use a couple of the stories as a way of commenting on what’s going on in his life: The Man with the Twisted Lip (my personal favourite) and A Scandal in Bohemia.’
Patrick’s had lots of interesting support so far. The satirical novelist Jonathan Coe (What a Carve Up!, The Rotter’s Club) has promised an interview about his own obsession with The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Kim Newman (Anno Dracula, Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles) has also been supportive. There has been interest from others connected with the film and funding on Unbound has now reached 64%. But it needs to reach 100% for the book to be published.
‘Unbound are a fairly new publisher created by John Mitchinson and Justin Pollard (creators of TV show QI) and Dan Kieran,’ says Patrick. ‘It punches above its weight by crowdfunding all projects initially, whether they’re by a newbie like me or an established writer like Terry Jones or Raymond Briggs. Because authors post articles about their process in their writer’s ‘Shed’, it feels like you’re in constant dialogue with the people who want to read the finished book. That’s very exciting.’
Here, Unbound is giving a chance to get involved with an interesting Sherlock Holmes project by a new author. Certainly, in the Holmesian world, you only tend to hear about the next big thing once it’s already too big for you to interact with. But, now you have chance to give support and link up with a talented author before he, and his book, hit the big time. Head over to Patrick’s page on Unbound for more information – https://unbound.com/books/the-continuity-girl