So on Friday night I read A Study in Scarlet. It was shorter than I remembered. But then, it’s been a while since I’ve read it. Possibly a very long while. I started to feel these echoes of familiarity as soon as I laid eyes on the inscription on the first page and the feeling did not go away until I put the book down a couple of hours later.
And I was struck by the thought that perhaps the last time I really read any of the original Sherlock Holmes stories was when I was eleven. Because that was the year I wrote my first book. Well, ‘book’ may be rather generous. I just looked at it (really shouldn’t do that, it’s embarrassing) and it’s all of twelve thousand words long. Still. I was eleven. So, book.
Generally, I say I wrote my first book when I was finishing my honours (seventy thousand words, contemporary YA and only moderately shameful, I keep wondering if I should strip mine it for my other books or hold out hope that one day I’ll be able to face rewriting it and bringing it up to scratch). But in the back of my head my first book is the one I wrote in year seven. It was the first story I really finished. The first thing I was proud of. (*Ahem* Yes. Well. We do not speak of it.)
It’s not atrocious for eleven (I say with the rosy glow of narcissism). It’s just clichéd and derivative and predictable. And the dialogue isn’t very good. Which shames me to my very soul. The thing is, despite the massively unimaginative building blocks, there’s some parts of it which are downright peculiar. Not in the way of the story I wrote trading chapters with my sister that was about time-travelling adventurers that seemed to spend an awful lot of time in the amazon with laser pistols and belonged by all rights in the pulp stylings of the fifties, but just… oddly out of place.
I mean, it’s fantasy, okay? Not dragons and magic fantasy, but straight up medieval. I was fascinated with Arthurian legends, Robin Hood, and castles (I could probably still design a decent one on the fly). So, it’s medieval, and there are horses and barons, horrific gender inequality and castles (seriously, very fond of castles). And, because it’s one of my books it starts with someone being hit over the head and includes a number of secret in-jokes about people’s names (yes, even then).
But, despite tripping enthusiastically through fantasy elements as I was, the hero isn’t a knight or a prince or whatever-the-hell. He’s an astronomer. A scientist. A guy who is very observant, and terribly clever and wanders into a situation where he solves a mystery.
And I flipped open the front page of A Study in Scarlet and went, Oh.
Because under ‘Part I’ the text reads: Being a reprint from the reminiscences of JOHN H. WATSON, M.D., late of the Army Medical Department. And while I could not with any confidence tell you the plot of the novel I so carefully penned at eleven, the title is still deeply engraved in my brain: Being the Fourth Part of the Memoirs of the Astronomer Keltorn Arbez (yes, I am very, very bad at titles) .
It’s… remotely possible this is a coincidence. Then again, an awful lot of the inconsistencies in style away from traditional fantasy could be explained if I stopped describing it as a fantasy novel and started calling it Arthurian Robin Hood Sherlock.
So that’s… you know… a thing.