The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Exclusive interview with author Vaughn Entwistle and a review of his new novel with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle standing in for Sherlock Holmes
Rating: Three Stars
By Gabrielle Pantera
“Early on in the creative process, when I was still kicking ideas around, I decided that J.G. Barrie, the author of Peter Pan, would make a great sidekick,” says The Revenant of Thraxton Hall author Vaughn Entwistle. “As I was riffing on the idea, I thought it would be fun to have Oscar Wilde enter during a restaurant scene. However, Wilde’s overwhelming personality didn’t just steal the scene, he hijacked the entire novel.”
Entwistle’s book is a mystery first and foremost, replete with supernatural forces and a potential murder. The premise of using a famous author to solve mysteries has worked before – for example the books by Stephanie Barron that feature Jane Austen solving mysteries. The premise is great, having Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan-Doyle and Oscar Wilde (JG Barrie having been discarded) off to solve a mystery. Wilde is an over-the-top character. However, book starts with lots of exposition and it takes a while to really get the story moving.
The book opens as Conan-Doyle finds himself the most hated man in England for killing off his beloved Sherlock Homes in ‘The Final Problem’. When he gets a request to meet with a medium who claims her life is in danger, he initially refuses, but with Oscar Wilde’s encouragement, they travel together to Thraxton Hall, a creepy old pile that is Gothic personified. Can Doyle and Wilde solve the mystery before the medium becomes a ghost herself?
“Conan Doyle’s inner life presents a strange dichotomy,” says Entwistle. “He invented Sherlock Holmes, the foremost exemplar of reason and rationality at work, but at the same time pursued a lifelong fascination with spiritualism and the supernatural. I find the tension between those antithetical worldviews intriguing. So when I came to write a real world mystery that Conan Doyle needed to solve, I decided it should reflect that dichotomy.”
Entwistle will have two novels published in 2015. The Angel of Highgate will debut early in the year with The Dead Assassin, book two of The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, scheduled for publication in March.
“Writing this book has rocket-launched my career as a novelist,” says Entwistle. “It landed me my dream agent and secured a two-book deal with St. Martin’s Press, one of the largest English-language publishers. Since then, St. Martin’s has gone on to sell the publishing rights to Russian Publisher Atticus and Titan Books of the UK. And thanks to that latter introduction, Titan Books recently acquired the publication rights to my first novel, The Angel of Highgate.”
Entwistle visited the British Library for much of his research. “The library collection features several of Wilde’s and Conan Doyle’s manuscripts, complete with hand scribbled edits, notes and marginalia,” says Entwistle.
Entwistle also wandered the streets of London where the two writers lived, as well as the Sherlock Holmes museum at 221 Baker Street. “I also took the Wilde Tour of London, which visits the building that was formerly The Albermarle Club (where Wilde received the infamous defamatory calling card from the Marquess of Queensbury) and the James J. Fox Cigar Merchant where he purchased his piquant Turkish cigarettes,” says Entwistle. Wilde smoked 100 cigarettes a day. I even made a pilgrimage to Undershaw in Surrey, the home Conan Doyle had specially built for his family.”
Entwistle is beginning to plot the third book in The Paranormal Casebook series and has he has ideas for two more books. He’s revising an unsold novel he wrote a few years ago and writing a collection of ghost stories.
Entwistle lives in the Mendip Hills of Northern Somerset, England. He was born in Weston, Ontario, Canada to British parents.
The Revenant of Thraxton Hall: The Paranormal Casebooks of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle by Vaughn Entwistle. Hardcover: 336 pages, Publisher: Minotaur Books (March 25, 2014), Language: English, ISBN-13: 978-1250035004 $ 25.99