The team behind the brilliant Sherlockology fansite are running a short story competition. They are inviting people from anywhere in the world to submit a Sherlock Holmes short story or poem and the best 20 will be published in an anthology by my own publisher, MX Publishing. Money from the sales will go to the highly-important Save Undershaw campaign, of which BBC Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss is a patron.
For those of you not familiar with Undershaw and therefore unaware of this important cause, here is a brief explanation. For more details please follow the links at the bottom of this blog to reach their website.
Undershaw is the house that Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle designed and built at Hindhead in Surrey. He acquired the land first then drafted designs for the house before passing them on to an architect for completion. The eventual outcome was an impressive eleven bedroom house set in beautiful surroundings.
Conan Doyle was living at Undershaw when he received his knighthood in 1902 and also while he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles and The Return of Sherlock Holmes – resurrecting his most famous creation from his ‘death’ at the hands of professor Moriarty.
The house and grounds are now in the hands of a developer called Fossway Limited who acquired it in 2004. Since then this historic property has been left to fall into disrepair. The building has basically been abandoned to the elements – windows are broken, vandalism has occurred and water has poured in causing much damage. Pictures on the Save Undershaw website tell a sad story, the boarded up windows and disrepair so very upsetting to see.
In 2010 the local council granted permission for Fossway to carve up this historic house into three terraced houses, with five more homes to be built on the site. This will mean that Undershaw will be lost forever.
Thanks to the hard work and protestations from the Save Undershaw campaign, development has been put on hold pending a Judicial Review on the 23rd of May 2012. Surely common sense will prevail and Undershaw can be restored to its former glory – treated with the respect due to such an historic monument. Within its walls Sir Arthur entertained many famous people and high-profile writers. The homes of lesser writers have been preserved, along with residences such as Chartwell which was the home of Winston Churchill, so why has Undershaw not received the same level of respect?
Conan Doyle created the world’s most famous literary character, Sherlock Holmes, and for that alone he deserves our efforts to support his former home. But we must also remember that Doyle created a great body of literary work, was a prolific letter writer and championed the cause of George Edalji who was falsely imprisoned for animal mutilation (a campaign which took place while he was living at Undershaw)
So I hope that the new anthology of Sherlock Holmes stories will be a big success and generate much-needed funds for the Save Undershaw team. Only trouble is, I really want to enter but just can’t decide what to write.
Do I create something very different to my novel and show versatility? I fancy doing a modern-day Sherlock Holmes story but how can you do that without basically just creating a version of BBC Sherlock? Or should I try my hand at a very traditional pastiche? I’m always harping on about how I could have done that with my novel if I’d wanted to, so perhaps I should prove it? Or maybe go completely ‘far-out’ and try something radical like Holmes in space! No, probably not for me that one. And what if I don’t get picked? I’ll be so gutted. The pressure is really on now.
Please ‘like’ the Save Undershaw Facebook page to show your support.