Questionable Minds has been in the works a long time.
I started it in the late 1990s. I knew at the time I wanted it to include some characters from Victorian fiction along with my own creations. A part of me was annoyed when Alan Moore did it League of Extraordinary Gentlemen — would editors just assumed I’d ripped LXG off?
Probably note. Unlike Moore, most of my core cast are original characters. And plenty of other creators have borrowed from Victorian fiction since then, from TV’s The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne to Viola Carr’s Electric Empire books. The advantage of taking so long to sell QM (and ultimately, of course, accepting it hadn’t sold and moving on to self-publishing) is that if my use of fiction doesn’t stand out, it doesn’t scream Knock Off either.
Another plus: Sherlock Holmes is out of copyright. He doesn’t appear in the book, but plenty of his supporting cast do, and I no longer have to file serial number off.
Moriarty casts a large shadow over the setting. While Simon doesn’t know this, Prof. Moriarty is the Guv’nor, the mysterious overlord of London crime. Moriarty’s off-stage but his right hand Colonel Moran plays a large role — my protagonist, Sir Simon Taggart, knows him socially. Jonathan Clay, the schemer of “The Red-Headed League” also has a role.
Dr. Henry Jekyll plays another role. As far as anyone in my alt.timeline knows, Edward Hyde blackmailed the respectable medical researcher over some youthful indiscretion; Jekyll’s lawyer Poole found evidence of Hyde’s crimes and forced the man to flee to the continent. Since then Jekyll has devoted himself to good works, helping London sex workers start new lives. I assume most readers will realize this official history may not be entirely accurate …
Like Moriarty, Sax Rohmer’s Fu Manchu is very active behind the scenes. In the novels, his primary goal was to overthrow Western imperialism and restore China to independence and great-power status, so I’ve gone with that as his motivation. The Rohmer books are still racist and Fu Manchu is embodies the Yellow Peril villain but I hope my use of him won’t be offensive. If it is, I’ll accept the criticism.
Madam Sara, a creation of LT Meade and Robert Eustace plays one of Simon’s allies. Yes, she’s a murderer and a poisoner, but she has valuable connections in the underworld and the mentalist (as psychics are called) community. Nevertheless, Simon suspects that some day they’ll wind up working against each other — but not in this book. I do recommend the original stories.
Several other characters don’t play a role in the book, but I do mention them in passing. Inspector Lestrade. Anne Perry’s Inspector Pitt. Loveday Brooke, a professional woman PI created by Catherine Pirkis. Simon’s lover Janet mentions being trained in lockpicking by the Artful Dodger. There’s probably a couple of others I’m not thinking of right now.
Next week (probably), a history of psychic powers in Questionable Minds.
#SFWApro. Cover by Sam Collins.