Tuesday, May 23, 2017


Last week, Andrew Salmon shared with us his anecdotes and thoughts on writing the Fight Card Sherlock Holmes books and the current collection of his Holmes stories, Queensberry Justice: A Fight Card Sherlock Holmes Omnibus. This week he shares more about one of the most important original characters in his Fight Card Sherlock Holmes stories—Eby Stokes.
Eby Stokes is become an important character in the second and third Fight Card Sherlock Holmes tales. How did the character come to be?
I thought the best way to get Holmes involved in women's boxing was to have him doing a favor for a female fighter whose boxer husband has run out on her under mysterious circumstances. She was originally named Liv Stokes in honor of Elizabeth Stokes, the winner of the first recorded woman's bare knuckle boxing match in 1722. And I was approaching her introduction into the tale when real life tragedy struck.
You based the appearance and illustrated version of Eby Stokes on a particular person. Can you tell us who and why?
A dear friend of my wife's and myself died suddenly. Her name was Linda Gavin and she was like a sister to my wife. Linda was intelligent, compassionate and everyone who knew her thought the world of her. Her sudden passing hit many people very hard. My wife and myself included. Dealing with our grief while attempting to make some progress on the tale, I hit on the idea of honoring Linda's memory by renaming my female boxer. Linda was a staunch advocate for gender equality and a tough, capable, intelligent boxer who could go toe to toe with Holmes was a character she would have appreciated. Thus Liv Stokes became Eby Stokes—Eby being Linda's maiden name. As the book was to be released a few months after Linda's memorial, I dedicated the book to her memory, but also asked artist Mike Fyles if he could shape his depiction of Eby on the cover to match some photos of a young Linda I sent him. Mike's great and agreed immediately.
Where things got spooky was with his depiction. I sent him an image of Linda in her youth (boxing is a young person's game) and Eby Stokes needed to be a young woman. Mike used the photo as his model, but unlike the old photo, Mike placed Eby's hair pulled down in front of her left shoulder. What's spooky about that? Well, in later life, Linda always placed her hair in the same spot before a photo. She would go out of her way to do so. It was something of a joke when posing for photographs—hold on, wait for Linda to arrange her hair. So how did Mike know about her hair? I never told him. The photo didn't show it. And yet there it was. This was yet another indication the character of Eby Stokes was taking on a life all her own. 
This had been evident to me while writing Blood to the Bone as she matched wits with Holmes and Watson and demonstrated her fighting prowess. To see Mike channel Linda into Eby's appearance with no prompting from anyone who knew her was a wonderful moment. The reaction readers have had to her in her first two appearances continue the real life affect Linda had on people. They were drawn to her, felt comfortable with her, and she was always ready to help when and where she could. She has infused the character of Eby Stokes, and I think this has gone a long way to explaining her instant popularity.
What was your vision for Queensberry Justice: The Fight Card Sherlock Holmes Omnibus?
Anyone reading this who owns a copy of the omnibus—you have my vision of the book. I think it came out great! When you first proposed the idea of the omnibus, I was flattered and humbled at the idea of collecting the material in a deluxe format. Discussing the cover art with the brilliant Mike Fyles, I merely asked for something iconic. Not for my own ego, but rather, for the concept, which was completely and utterly original. 
Getting to be the first at something is a high honor and I'm proud of all the work the team did on the three books. So why not put the omnibus out there as a testament? But to Mike. I just said, go iconic and left it in his more than capable hands. Well, you see the result! He comes back with this incredible wraparound cover! Of course we had to make the inside live up to the cover! I think we did. We've got your great foreword, I threw in an introduction, the books and essays themselves, the brand new short stories, the cover and art galleries—I mean, wow! What more can one ask for? We've given the reader not only a nice collection of the original books, but have also invited him or her behind the curtain at Fight Card Central. A truly immersive experience.
There are a number of related articles in the omnibus. What is their theme and purpose?
The articles were great fun to do. The idea was, again, that glimpse behind the curtain at how we got the books done. But also, they allowed for some of the history to be explored. Not just the fictional history concerning how Doyle planted the seeds for Fight Card Sherlock Holmes in the original canon but also the real history of the fight game at that time. I do know that the revelation of Victorian women's bare knuckle boxing caused a mini-explosion when we showcased it in the second book, Blood to the Bone. More than one reader and reviewer thought I had made that up out of whole cloth - a modern retcon of history - and were blown away when the essays accompanying the book revealed women's bare knuckle boxing to be fact, not fiction! I believe this is one of the major achievements of the series outside of just reading enjoyment. And I hope the forgotten history of these tough, capable women will continue to grow through the Fight Card Books and journalistic pursuits. 
You worked closely with illustrator Mike Fyles on the covers of the second and third Fight Card Sherlock Holmes novels and the omnibus. Can you tell us about that collaboration?
Mike Fyles is the best artist in New Pulp. Period. And that's saying something because there are a number of very good artists at work today. Seeing his great work over the years, I used to yearn for a Fyles cover the way the great writers of the 60s yearned for a Robert McGinnis cover. I approached him for a project many years ago, a project I felt was going to be truly special and needed the best in the business to frame it. Then I just crossed my fingers and prayed. He replied favorably and I could breathe again. It was while working on that project (which will be finished soon) that Mike and I just clicked. I would give him as much information on a subject as I could and he would create stunning images which encapsulated all of my hopes for a character or scene. Bringing him in to the Fight Card team for the debut of Eby Stokes in Blood to the Bone just felt right. He's gone on to breathe life into her and Holmes ever since. I work with these characters on the page, painting word pictures, but he adds so much detail, soul and makes them unforgettable once his work is viewed in conjunction with the tales themselves. It's a natural collaboration, we just click, and the results have blown me away. He's great! And I'm honored to work with him. As a side note, my depiction of Dr. Moore Agar is based on Mike. What can I say? He looks like Dr. Agar! Mike and I have many projects ahead of us.
While discussing artists, we shouldn't leave out Carl Yonder who provided the great cover for Work Capitol, the first Fight Card Sherlock Holmes book. I don't know Carl well personally, but I am very familiar with his distinctive work on Pirate Eye and elsewhere. He brought a great feel and tone to the Work Capitol cover. Carl, like me, had to create something completely new and original. We were all in uncharted territory. And he did a great job.
It was such a treat to include the cover and art galleries in the omnibus. The collection was meant to be a captivating showcase for what Fight Card Books achieved and the work of Carl and Mike was crucial to any success the individual books received. The omnibus just wouldn't be complete without them stepping out to take their bows.
You wrote three Sherlock Holmes short stories exclusive to Queensberry Justice. Are they connected to the Fight Card Sherlock Holmes novels? 
By the time we were putting together the omnibus, I was well underway creating the world of Eby Stokes and her important connection to the three Fight Card books. I liked this idea of connectivity and thought it would be fun to connect the three books more so than just having them connected under one cover. This also provided an opportunity to re-visit the Fight Card Sherlock Holmes world one more time. The result was three new short stories sprinkled strategically through the omnibus. The first kicks off the omnibus and expands on the training Holmes received before we encounter him in Work Capitol. The second is for Eby Stokes fans. It is set before she teams up with Holmes and Watson in Blood to the Bone, and has some connection to the goings on in Work Capitol. The third story features Watson in a solo outing and delves deeper into his mindset before the start of A Congression of Pallbearers. Hopefully readers will get the feeling they are reading one long narrative as they work through the omnibus.
While Sherlock may be taking a respite from his fistic pursuits, what is in store for Eby Stokes?
To illustrate how dense I could be, as I came to the end of writing A Congression of Pallbearers, the third and final book in the omnibus, I found myself being saddened at the thought of saying goodbye to some of the characters we'd encountered over the course of the trilogy. I had already decided after the second book and the impact Eby Stokes made on readers to spin her off into her own series. Plus I knew I would continue writing Holmes tales. But for some of the other characters, this was goodbye. 
The closer I got to the end of writing the book, my mind began to muse on the Eby Stokes series and how I'd be faced with filling out her supporting cast and setting up her world until, duh, I realized, why not use the characters I was so reluctant to say goodbye to in the original trilogy in the new series? And so, the Eby Stokes series will be a direct off-shoot of the Fight Card books. 
Queensberry Justice serves, in a way, as the origin story for Eby Stokes. In her first novel, which I will hopefully have out later this year, she'll be presented fully formed and getting down to the Crown's business. Normally so much time has to be put in at the outset to fill in the protagonist's back story, but here the three Fight Card books collected in the omnibus do that on a much broader canvas, making it, in a way, Book One of the Eby Stokes series as well as a fun collection of Holmes tales.
I've got ideas for the first four novels in the Eby Stokes series. I hope readers will enjoy getting closer to Eby. Learning more about her has been fun for the author. I hope it's as much fun for readers. She is one capable individual.
Here's an exclusive tease of the first novel in progress: Eby Stokes is working under Mycroft Holmes at Special Branch, heading up a team of action agents consisting of herself, Dr. Moore Agar (the personal physician of Sherlock Holmes) and Peter Hayden, a dwarf of considerable abilities from Work Capitol. London is overrun with spies, anarchists, and dynamite provocateurs and there's a plot brewing with catastrophic consequences not just for England but the world. 
What has creating the Fight Card Sherlock Holmes novels and the critical acclaim they have received meant to you as a writer?
I've been fortunate to work with some great folks! Ron Fortier and Rob Davis at Airship 27, Tommy Hancock at Pro Se Press, and of course, a certain Mr. Bishop over at Fight Card Books. All of these experiences have been different, but also rewarding. My Holmes tales for Airship 27 were a hit with Sherlockians and mystery fans alike. The two awards my work have garnered, for which I'm eternally grateful, were for Sherlock Holmes tales. When the invitation to create something utterly new in Holmes history was suggested to me, I was so honored to be considered for the task.
Suddenly the pressure to get it right was on my shoulders. Also, there was nowhere for me to hide so to speak. All of my Holmes tales had been part of anthologies with other writers. Now, it was just me handling the writing duties. With the rich legacy of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, I had to step up, center stage, and Get. It. Right. The pressure was on, and I welcomed the work.
Seeing the positive reactions to the individual books and, already, strong reaction to the omnibus, has been a wonderful stepping out for me into the Sherlockian world. The vast army of dedicated Holmes fans are a true test of a writer's abilities. If one can write Holmes and Watson to a level which satisfies these passionate fans, then one knows he or she is on the right track. A writer cannot judge their work. Readers decide if a work is a success or not. The positive reaction has been heart-warming and encouraging for me, and I thank everyone who has given these tales a try. I wrote these tales for readers, and readers have enjoyed them. Mission accomplished. And now I want to continue the same pattern with the Eby Stokes series, more Holmes tales eventually, and other projects. The reaction to Fight Card Sherlock Holmes has shown me there are readers eager to come along for the ride. That's a responsibility I take very seriously and am so grateful for it. I can promise readers they will always get my absolute best effort every time. Hold on tight, it's going to be a wild ride!
A tip of the non-canonical deerstalker to Andrew as he exits the interrogation room to hail a hansom cab and heads back to meet Eby Stokes on the foggy streets of Victorian London...

Fight Card Books added a bold, new chapter to the rich literary tradition of Sherlock Holmes with the publication of the first Fight Card Sherlock Holmes tale, Work Capitol. The book was an instant hit and two more followed. These tales covering the years Holmes spent honing his fighting skills in and out of the boxing ring struck a chord with readers and garnered great reviews. Now, for the first time, ALL three tales: Work Capitol, Blood to the Bone and A Congression of Pallbearers are collected in one action-packed volume. And more!
Three Brand new Fight Card Sherlock Holmes short stories
Foreword by Paul Bishop, the co-creator of Fight Card
New Introduction by Andrew Salmon
Cover Galleries for all 3 books
Sample pages from the handwritten manuscripts
An alternate version of one of the
trilogy's most dramatic scenes


As the creator and editor of the Fight Card series, I was delighted by the notion of a Fight Card Sherlock Holmes tale. I was even more delighted as I knew exactly who I wanted to write such a tale. I was familiar with a number of Andrew Salmon’s Sherlock Holmes pastiches in the Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective series from Airship 27, and admired the way he was able to capture the tone and linguistic rhythm of Doyle’s original stories. Fortunately, Andrew was also familiar with the style and content of the Fight Card books, having reviewed a number of the series entries.
When I put the idea to Andrew his response was instantaneous and positive. He was captured by the concept and wasted no time getting started on the research for what would become the first Fight Card Sherlock Holmes tale, Work Capital (a Victorian term for the death sentence), which was published in December 2013.
Fight Card Sherlock Holmes: Work Capitol met with universal praise from both Fight Card fans and Sherlockians. What could be more natural than for Andrew to begin work on a new tale of Victorian pugilism. 
Fight Card Sherlock Holmes: Blood To The Bone would be more than the second fistic outing for Holmes. It also gave birth to Eby Stokes, a female pugilist to rival The Woman in her effect on Holmes and Watson—and on readers. Blood To The Bone saw publication in December of 2014, establishing a Fight Card Sherlock Holmes for Christmas tradition.
The character of Eby Stokes grabbed hold of Andrew and me and wouldn’t let us go. I insisted Andrew had to write a third Fight Card Sherlock Holmes entry, and Eby Stokes had to be part of it. Fight Card Sherlock Holmes: A Congression Of Pallbearers brought a major change into the career of Eby Stokes as she joins Holmes and Watson to once again protect the sovereignty.
With the publication of Queensberry Justice: The Fight Card Sherlock Holmes Omnibus, Andrew brings together not only his three Fight Card Sherlock Holmes novels, but a plethora of original related articles, three new Fight Card Sherlock Holmes short stories, a cover gallery, and much more. Beautifully produced and chock full of great Sherlockian stories and other ephemera, Queensberry Justice is a fitting culmination to the current iteration of the Fight Card series. I was honored to have been part of the process of organizing, editing, and producing this fantastic piece of Sherlockiana. Featuring a stunning wraparound cover from artist Mike Fyles, Queensberry Justice is everything we envisioned it would be.
With Queensberry Justice: The Fight Card Sherlock Holmes Omnibus now available, Andrew has time to be hit with the bright lights of the interrogation room and tell us about the journey.
What would Scotland Yard’s Victorian Ledger Of Miscreants tell us about Andrew Salmon?
The record would show he was born in Montreal, Canada. He eventually corrected that mistake and moved with his wife to Vancouver, Canada, with the goal of becoming a writer. It would further show he is an omnivorous reader and consumer of pop culture goings on. A dedicated pulp fan, he has been churning out pulp tales as well as Sherlock Holmes yarns for many a year. He's published, or been part of, 30 books to date with many more to come. His work has been nominated for a handful of awards and even won a pair. He is also a dedicated film extra who has appeared in movies such as Watchmen, Fantastic Four, and in TV shows like Fringe, Arrow, The Flash, Timeless, Supernatural, and many others. 
When did you first read a Sherlock Holmes story, and were you hooked right away?
Holmes was very patient with me. I first encountered The Sign of Four in a college class on Detective Fiction. Honestly, I didn't think much of it. This would have been around 1984 or '85. Holmes waited until 2008 to weave his spell. Asked to contribute a tale for Airship 27's first Holmes anthology, I initially said no reluctantly because as you can see, I hadn't put the work in with regards to the dynamic duo of Holmes and Watson. Getting on board, I dove into the canon and was immediately struck by the quality of the tales and the characters. Took a while but Holmes hooked me in the end.
Do you have a favorite Sherlock Holmes story? 
The Empty House and The Three Garridebs are my two favorite Holmes stories. I don't think one can compare one plot to another so I don't use that basis. These two tales, however, have my two favorite Holmes and Watson moments. Seeing Watson's reaction to Holmes suddenly coming back from the dead is great fun and very poignant in The Empty House. Holmes is not one to easily express his emotions and his readiness to murder the man who shot Watson displays the depth of his feelings for his friend. I keep these two moments in mind whenever I write a Holmes/Watson conversation or interaction.
Do you consider yourself a Sherlockian?
Not in the truest sense of the term. Am I a huge fan? No question. But exploring all things Sherlockian, for me, is enjoyed as I plot out a new tale. Holmes is not a hobby for me, he's my job. I guess he's getting me back for those years I ignored him. Ha! 
Have you read many Sherlock tales outside of the original canon?

Unfortunately I can't. While researching a tale for an upcoming anthology with a different take on the characters, I hit the local library for some pastiches with a similar theme. Some of the tales I encountered did not use Watson as narrator and that just doesn't work for me. For this fan, the tale must be told by Watson. Others used Watson, but poorly. Some did a great job. Over the course of reading a few of them, I reached back for my Watson voice—and it was gone! It had become diluted by the other Watsons, both good and bad. This was a scary moment let me tell you. I've had to avoid pastiches ever since, I'm sorry to say. When the day comes I hang up my deerstalker, I'll have mountains of material to read.
Do you have a favorite pastiche?
I don't have a particular favorite for reason outlined in the last question. That said, I've sampled enough of I. A. Watson's (how appropriate is his name?) work and he channels Watson beautifully. His stories are great fun! Aaron Smith also does some great work.
Were you a fan of the Basil Rathbone films?
I did enjoy the films but not as much as some. Any bumbling Watson will turn me off the material. Rathbone was great as Holmes however. They nailed his part of it.
Jeremy Brett, Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Lee Miller, or Robert Downey Jr.?
My Holmes and Watson dream team consists of Jeremy Brett and Jude Law. For me, these are the best Holmes and Watson we've seen to date. I do like Cumberbatch's interpretation, although the show has strayed too far from the source for this fan. Downey Jr., I really enjoy a lot although they have lost the character's fastidiousness and play him as a shabby eccentric rather than a neat one. I haven't seen enough of Johnny Lee to render an opinion. The idea of a female Watson just doesn't work for me. Of the duo, Watson is my favorite—I like him just the way Doyle gave him to us—so such a radical change in presentation is not for me. I should, and will, check out some clips of Johnny Lee in action just to see what he brings to the character.
How did you start writing Sherlock Holmes pastiches?
When pulp publisher, Airship 27, was putting together their first Sherlock Holmes anthology, I was asked to contribute as I had worked closely with them and they were familiar with my work and myself. I originally said no because I had not read the canon at that point and felt I was not qualified to honor the original material. It was only after much thought I realized I couldn't pass up a chance to write the two most popular characters in fiction. So I dove into the canon and have been having a great time ever since.
Had you written Holmes stories prior to those commissioned for the Airship 27 Sherlock Holmes Consulting Detective series?
Not a one. Never even thought about writing one. So imagine my surprise when my first attempt, "The Adventure of the Locked Room", won a Best Short Story Award at the inaugural New Pulp Awards presentation as well as extremely positive reviews from Sherlockians and mystery fans alike! I've been off and running ever since.
What is important to you when writing a Holmes story?
First, nailing Watson's voice. Second, nailing the characters. It's not easy to capture the feel and tone of the original tales and you've got to be careful. I came to it a little ahead of the game because of my lifelong love for Victorian literature. Dickens, for me, is the greatest writer in the English language. I've read everything of his I can get my hands on, including the mountain of his press work, which I'm still gobbling up. I'm also a big Dostoyevsky fan along with Tolstoy, Hardy, Thackeray, Conrad and others. I've been reading them constantly most of my life. I think this helped me absorb Doyle's approach. After much study, the voice came rather easily to me. Plotting tales, setting clues about, getting to know the characters—these were the real challenges and it's also great fun!
I've written other public domain characters over the years. My approach is always that of the ghost writers during the Golden Age of Pulp Fiction. They would step in for Walter Gibson or Lester Dent and write a tale with the idea it could slip into the canon of The Shadow or Doc Savage and no one would notice. I like this way of doing things because, in the end, it's not about the writer, it's about the beloved characters. What Doyle created is incredible and enduring. Who am I, or any Holmes scribe, to come in and mess with it? I've heard from readers and reviewers who have said they didn't feel they were reading pastiche when they read the Fight Card Sherlock Holmes books, they felt as if they were reading Doyle. That takes my breath away! There is no higher honor readers can bestow on a writer of Holmes tales. One reader told me Work Capitol was his favorite Holmes story and he included the canon in his assessment!
Now, I don't believe these statements for a minute, but they do my heart good. If people are reading Queensberry Justice a century from now, I might settle a little more comfortably in my grave. But the fact they believe it is truly humbling. It means we've succeeded in what we set out to do. And it inspires me to keep trying to get better.
What was your first response to the idea of a Fight Card Sherlock Holmes novel?
In the space of a nano-second, it went something like this, I'll do it! Wait, how the hell am I going to do it? Having wanted to be part of the Fight Card lineup since I first stumbled upon it, this was a dream come true. Plus this concept, as far as I've been able to determine, was a first for Sherlock Holmes. No small feat given the long, rich history of the character. Sure, the first Downey Jr. movie gave us Holmes in a fighting pit, but the plot was not about Victorian bare knuckle boxing. This concept was! Exciting stuff!
What did you determine about Holmes as a boxer in order to make his character work in the context of a Fight Card novel?
It would have to be a melding of mind and body. The first Downey film showed us, really, the only way Holmes would behave in a fighting pit or boxing ring. He's all about study and bringing the information to a conclusion. And this is how he'd operate in the ring—study his opponent, test his strength and abilities, plan a strategy to counteract and overcome them. Execute. So this is the approach I used because, as I said, there is no other way Holmes would do it. He'd never be a mindless bruiser throwing fists chaotically around and he'd certainly never be out-thought in the ring. An opponent would get punches in of course—experience always counts for something—but his opponent wouldn't land the same punch twice.
From this and Holmes's lack of experience in the beginning, I saw Holmes as a brilliant counter-puncher. Through study, Holmes could get past his opponent's guard when he was partially exposed in throwing a punch and would know precisely which area to strike at depending on his opponent's body position. Sure, this is Fighting 101, but Holmes could also predict a blow, by studying body language (as seen in the Downey film), before it came and could counter an instant earlier so the counter blow would pack a full wallop. This study of his opponent would also give Holmes uncanny evasion abilities. These I borrowed from Muhammad Ali who could stand toe to toe with his opponent and not a punch would land—he'd even completely drop his guard to fake out the other fighter. The quick, intuitive mind of Holmes, in tune with his natural athletic ability, allows him to evade like Ali. I explained this technique in the first of the three new Sherlock Holmes tales in the omnibus.
Also, as bare knuckle boxing at the time allowed for throws and grappling, the time Holmes put in studying Baritsu would come into play when needed. Ultimately, Holmes was the first MMA artist in fiction and this gives him a distinct advantage when the Queensberry Rules go out the window. To sum up—Holmes is a dangerous man.
What was the research process like for the Fight Card Sherlock Holmes stories?
Very intensive and time consuming. And I loved every minute of it. I'm a research madman! I can't get enough of it. No detail is too small. I had to research the state of boxing in Victorian times from a standpoint of fight techniques, the language of the ring (via newspapers accounts of fights), the rules concerning fighting and the ring dimensions, training practices, diet, etc. From there, I had to interpret all of the above through Watson's eye as narrator as I put together what Holmes knew about pugilistic technique and how he applied it. The same went for women's boxing after I stumbled upon that nugget of forgotten history. Great fun! 
Did the plots for the stories grow out of the research or did you have the plots and then research the details?
I always love to pull plot details right out of the historical record. Stitching together real history into a fictional tapestry makes for fun reading, I think. Learning while being entertained results in knowledge staying in the memory. The first bout of research uncovered the Victorian women's boxing information, and I filed it away for Blood to the Bone. It also uncovered the Kernoozer's Club, which I tucked away for A Congression of Pallbearers. Finding training manuals and newspapers accounts of fights helped me set the scene for Work Capitol, and learning how retired fighters almost always went on to run taverns helped with getting my characters in place. The real fun is when little nuggets of history begin to stitch themselves together into plots. I love burrowing into the past to see what jumps out at me. 
Fight Card Books added a bold, new chapter to the rich literary tradition of Sherlock Holmes with the publication of the first Fight Card Sherlock Holmes tale, Work Capitol. The book was an instant hit and two more followed. These tales covering the years Holmes spent honing his fighting skills in and out of the boxing ring struck a chord with readers and garnered great reviews. Now, for the first time, ALL three tales: Work Capitol, Blood to the Bone and A Congression of Pallbearers are collected in one action-packed volume. And more!
Three Brand new Fight Card Sherlock Holmes short stories
Foreword by Paul Bishop, the co-creator of Fight Card
New Introduction by Andrew Salmon
Cover Galleries for all 3 books
Sample pages from the handwritten manuscripts
An alternate version of one of the
trilogy's most dramatic scenes

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Over a his Blood and Ink blog, my buddy and Fight Card alum Derrick Ferguson recently interviewed my good friend from down under, Fight Card mainstay David Foster (aka: James Hopwood) about a new anthology in which he appears, Hollywood Murder. Derrick was kind enough to let me reprint their interview here...So, for this post, I’m turning Bish’s Beat over to Derrick to kick the Willy Bobo (don’t ask) around with David Foster/James Hopwood...
DERRICK FERGUSON: Who is James Hopwood?
DAVID FOSTER: James Hopwood is my pen name. I have also been Jack Tunney three times. But in the real world I am David James Foster. I assumed a pen name to separate myself from three successful artists, albeit in different disciplines, who have published under the name David Foster. Firstly there is an excellent award winning Australian author; then a world champion woodchopper; and finally a successful musician and music producer. Then there's David Foster Wallace, of course. Adding another David Foster to the marketplace, would not only detract from their achievements—as well as my own—but would create confusion for the reading public.
Where do you live and what do you do to keep the bill collectors, away?
I live in Melbourne, Australia, in a little seaside suburb called Seaford. Near the pier that featured in the original Mad Max with Mel Gibson. Yeah, those bill collectors, can't outrun those guys. I mainly work in graphic design and typesetting—small scale stuff, my illustration skills aren't too crash hot these days. But I get by, no complaints.
Tell us something about your background.
I grew up in rural Australia, about 2.5 hours north of Melbourne on the Murray River. It was a small town called Echuca. They filmed a TV mini—series there in the early 80s called All The Rivers Run, which starred Sigrid Thornton and John Waters. I only mention it, because those who've seen it will have a pretty good idea about my old home town. I got out of there pretty early though, in my late teens, to study art and design. Finally made my way to the big smoke, and have lived here ever since.
How long have you been writing?
I guess I've toyed around with writing since I was in my twenties, but I was one of those guys who kept it all hidden away in a bottom drawer. But the internet changed all that. I corresponded with like—minded people from all around the globe, people who were into the same kind of books and stories as I was, and I thought if they're giving it a go, then I should too. Five years ago, I broke the shackles when I penned a novella for the Fight Card series, called King Of The Outback. The reaction to it was pretty positive, which gave me the confidence to keep going. 
What's your philosophy of writing?
I'm pretty loose with my approach, and I keep changing to suit my circumstances. I write pretty much every day because I enjoy it, but I am not too concerned if I miss a day or even a week. The thing for me is to be at least thinking about my work, and how I will use the time when I do get in front of a computer. I hate sitting in front of a blank screen waiting for inspiration to strike. I am also a big believer in research. Like any writer, I hit road—blocks and snags along the way. But I have found the harder I work researching, the more likely I am to find that nugget that will get the story back on course. That's not to say my stories are based on fact, or some kind of concrete truth, but it's from there I find ideas spring forth. 
How did you get involved with Hollywood Mystery? Whose idea was it?
Pro Se Productions put out an open call a couple of years ago for the anthology, and at the time I was tied up with a few other projects, so I reluctantly let it slide. However, when my schedule opened up, I was surprised to find there were still a spot open and decided to pounce. My idea was for a Thin Man type of story, featuring William Powell and Myrna Loy.
I presented a proposal for a 10,000 word story that featured Myrna Loy being stalked by a taxi driver at the premiere of her latest movie. However, corresponding with Tommy Hancock, Pro Se's Editor-in-chief, I lamented that with such few words, I couldn't really do a traditional 'cozy' ending—you know the type, where all the suspects are gathered in one room, and the detective announces who the killer is. To create that kind of ending, I suggested I'd need more words to define each of the individual suspects. Much to my surprise and delight, Tommy got back to me and said, if I needed more words, take them. So I did, and a new story arose.
The idea for the anthology was Tommy's—he appears to be as much of a fan of classic mystery movies as I am. The other authors on board the project are Mark Squirek, Christofer Nigro, Wayne Carey and Gordon Dymowski. Admittedly, I am biased, but I think we've put together a damn good package.
Judging by the story you wrote for Hollywood MysteryThe Poison Pen—You're quite the fan of William Powell and Myrna Loy and the work they did in the classic Thin Man series. What was the first Thin Man movie you saw and how old were you when he saw it?
I was in my early 20s (about 25+ years ago) when I first caught The Thin Man on late night television, and I loved it. I don't think it was ever released on VHS or DVD in Australia (but am happy to be proven wrong). It was many years later once online shopping became available that I was able to pick up the series from England, and they have remained a regular part of my movie diet ever since (along with the Michael Shayne movies, with Lloyd Nolan).
What's your favorite Thin Man movie and why?
Undoubtedly the first one. While all the movies are good, as the series progressed a little bit of what we'd now call 'political correctness' seeped in. When Nick and Nora Charles had a son, the boozy comedic antics were toned back, and they were gently transformed into more respectable role models—albeit with their flaws and nuances. 
I was impressed by how you captured the style and elegance that was the hallmark of both William Powell and Myrna Loy. How much research into the background of their relationship did you do?
Thanks, Derrick. Of course, I watched all the films in the series repeatedly—and a documentary or two, about Powell and Loy. But I did stay away from Dashiell Hammett's original story. I wanted The Poison Pen to reflect the breezy style of the movies, rather than the source material.
You planning on writing any more stories about Powell & Loy?
I have no plans at the moment, but if there's demand for more, I'd be happy to oblige. 
Do you have any dreams of writing a Thin Man story and/or novel for Pro Se?
That would be fantastic, but I am sure the estate of Dashiell Hammett would have a thing or two to say. Into that mix throw whoever holds the rights to the film series, and I'm guessing it would be a potential minefield. But it is a nice dream. Hey, if a deal can be arranged, sign me up!
You and Paul Bishop collaborated on creating a character: Mace Bullard of the Foreign Legion. How did that work out? How'd you guys come up with the character?
Paul Bishop actually came up with the idea for Mace Bullard for a project he was putting together with Tommy Hancock, called Bishop & Hancock's Pulse Fiction. Pulse Fiction featured a whole swag of new characters, and when I first heard about the project I was interested in an American Indian character who'd washed up on a shore in Africa. But Paul pulled me aside, and said that he wanted me to take a look at Bullard. I hadn't really read any Foreign Legion pulps at that time, but he hooked me up with some Robert Carse Legion tales, which I devoured, and realized it was a genre I could sink my teeth into. Paul had Bullard's backstory all mapped out. All I had to do was plonk him in the middle of an adventure. Paul loved what I came up with, and basically said, Kid, the character's all yours now. Do with him what you will. Of course, I run all my Bullard stories past Paul for approval. So far, it's been a blast.
Where has he appeared so far and what future plans do you have for him?
As hinted at above, he first appeared in Bishop& Hancock's Pulse Fiction: Volume 1, in a tale called Honor of the Legion. He returned in The Pirate King for Airship 27's mammoth Legends of New Pulp Fiction. Hopefully Bullard will re-appear before the end of the year in Sahara Six, a novella length tale, which sees our intrepid hero transferred to the most remote outpost in Morocco. Then, ssshhhh, this is a little secret, I have plans for a novel length story, called Dead Man's Key. It's a little way off at the moment, but it's coming.
What's a typical Day In The Life of James Hopwood like?
Ah, I'm an early riser, so I'll usually have the computer on around 6:00am, and start working on a few projects before breakfast. Then I head to the beach for a spot of snorkling, then return home for my first martini of the day. Sorry, that last sentence is a bare-faced lie—just pretending to live out an Ian Fleming fantasy life. After breakfast I squeeze whatever tasks the day has in store for me, the usual working—stiff drudgery. But it gets me out of the house. However, I carry multiple notepads around with me at all times, and I'm always scribbling notes. At night, if I'm not drawn to the 'idiot box', I'll try to convert some of those scrawled notes into something cohesive. 
These days, I hate to admit I don't read as much as I used to. My work consists of sitting in front of computers for most of the day, and it can strain my eyes. The sad offshoot is I read less. However, I have really taken to audio books, and find they are a great way to close the day. I have been listening to some of the Robert Stark (Donald Westlake) Parker novels lately, and they are fantastic. Currently I am on The Rare Coin Score.
Cheers, Derrick, thanks for your time, and continued support for your fellow writers in the New Pulp community.
Derrick Ferguson is the creator of the pulptastic adventures of the high adventure hero, Dillon as well as The Adventures of Fortune McCall, among many others. He is also the author of the Fight Card novel, Brooklyn Beatdown.