The Hard Interchange railway, 1870s

William Sutton – What I’ve Written For Holmes Fest 2017

William Sutton
William Sutton, internationally published author and storyteller at Holmes Fest 2017.

What I’ve written for Holmes Fest 2017

The story is called “Lawless and the  Pompey Piglets.” I wrote this brief mystery for Portsmouth Fairy Tales [for Grown-Ups]. It features the hero of my novels, Victorian detective, Sergeant Campbell Lawless (known as Watchman because he was formerly a watchmaker’s apprentice).

In Holmesian vein, he is reluctantly drawn out of London by a plaintive letter from Rana Cawnpoor, a young lady sadly entrapped in the fleshpits of Spice Island, her innocence exploited and her honour besmirched. Can he rescue her and her friends, the Flea and the Ladybird?

Tickets for Holmes Fest 2017 available here
Wednesday 28th June, 6.30pm, The Square Tower, Portsmouth
Price: £7.50

About William

William Sutton is a novelist, musician and Latin teacher. He has written for The Times, for radio and stage, appeared at festivals from Edinburgh to Eton College, acted in the longest play in the world, and played cricket for Brazil. He writes about language, music and futurology, plays bass for chansonnier Philip Jeays and cricket for Authors CC XI.

He is involved in Portsmouth’s DarkFest, in which he compères Day of the Dead at the Square Tower, and Portsmouth Bookfest, including Valentine’s Day Massacre.

He teaches classics. He has written for radio, stage, The Times, The Author, and magazines around the world. He plays bass in the bands of songwriter Jamie West and chansonnier Philip Jeays. He played cricket for Brazil, and occasionally opens for The Authors Cricket Club.

Historical mystery Lawless and the Flowers of Sin was one of the Mail on Sunday’s Books of 2016. Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square (Titan Books) unearths the stink beneath the cobblestones, while Lawless and the House of Electricity comes out later this year.

“Extravagant and thoroughly enjoyable” Allan Massie, The Scotsman
“An extraordinary novel.” Morning Star

The Hard Interchange railway, 1870s
The Common Hard Dockyard Railway – 1870s

William’s books

More about William

william-sutton.co.uk
twitter.com/WilliamGeorgeQ
facebook.com/WilliamGeorgeQ
pinterest.com/wgq42/lawless-and-the-house-of-electricity
soundcloud.com/william-george-sutton/sets/watchman

Line-up for Portsmouth’s Holmes Fest 2017 Announced

Conan Doyle revisiting the site of his surgery, No 1 Bush Villas, Elm Grove, in 1911 – by then a corset shop! (courtesy of the Conan Doyle Encyclopedia https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/)

 

10 brilliantly talented storytellers will be joined by musicians, a projectionist and a duellist on Wednesday 28th June at the Square Tower to celebrate Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in Portsmouth.

The writers who will be regaling us with their stories include internationally published authors of Victorian crime fiction, local authors with a knack for spinning the perfect yarn and song writers, too.

The story tellers are:

  • William George Sutton – creator of the Campbell Lawless series of crime novels
  • Diana Bretherick – doctor of criminology and author of City of Devils and The Devil’s Daughters
  • Tony Noon – experienced storyteller well-known for his appearances at the Square Tower’s Day of the Dead event
  • Justin MacCormack – prolific author across genres, with a wicked sense of humour and a sense of the creepy
  • Christine Lawrence – author of Caught In The Web, with a unique brand of story-telling
  • Alan Morris – joyous performer who loves to dress up in Victorian gear and regale us with something unexpected
  • Zella Compton – playwright, short story writer, News columnist and children’s novelist
  • Charlotte Comley – organiser of Lovedean Writers’ Group and one of the funniest, wryest and most brilliant tale tellers in the south.
  • Amanda Garrie – smooth deliverer of intriguing tales.

Find out more about the musicians and the duellists, soon.

Tickets are selling – snaffle your seats at Holmes Fest now!

 

Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light – Introduction

Below is the opening chapter of my latest book, Conan Doyle and the Mysterious World of Light.

Introduction

“How could Arthur Conan Doyle, the man who invented the ultra-rationalist Sherlock Holmes, also believe in séances, mediums – and even fairies?”

That question had for some time been on my mind. Friends I spoke to about it expressed opinions such as “it’s totally schizophrenic” or “he must have lost his marbles when he got older.” With that second statement there often came a supplementary question: “Was he still writing Holmes stories when he believed in this stuff?”

They always looked surprised when I told them he was.

That was the starting point for my journey into the world of Light, a magazine I found in the Arthur Conan Doyle Archives Lancelyn Green Bequest held in Portsmouth Central Library.

Surveying the vast array of Conan Doyle documents they hold there, I wondered how to limit my investigations. Spiritualism is a massive subject, and I don’t pretend to be an expert. I wanted to understand Conan Doyle. I wanted to trace his thinking so that I could track his steps through the Spiritualist world he moved in. Who was he talking with? What was the mood of the time? It was this opportunity the magazine Light provided.

I also decided to read around the subject. As part of my research into the fascinating case of Conan Doyle’s beliefs, I read Daniel Stashower’s detailed Conan Doyle, Teller of Tales and Kevin I Jones’s excellent Conan Doyle And The Spirits. Considering them, I realised they represented the two classes of thinker who stand at either end of the Spiritualist argument: the rationalist and the mystic.

I’d previously read all the Sherlock Holmes stories, a large proportion of his horror tales and historical romances. I was deeply impressed by the sheer energy in Conan Doyle, his wide-ranging imagination and his mastery of language. I got that he had done much psychical research and I understood from Jones and Stashower some of the narrative of his deepening belief in ghosts and spirits.

But something was missing.

I decided to add to my reading by surveying Conan Doyle’s original Spiritualist works on the subject, The New Revelation, The Vital Message and The Case for Spirit Photography, among others.

They are fascinating as works that stand alone, but again they didn’t really answer how Conan Doyle came to be the leading Spiritualist of his age.

So, was Conan Doyle “schizophrenic”, as my friends had put it? I felt it was the wrong question. It revealed little about Conan Doyle and betrayed plenty about the materialist attitudes of my friends.

I wanted to understand the process and logic of Doyle’s beliefs. And I wanted to capture some of the voices of the time and explore the preoccupations of those involved in the vast field of spirit phenomena at the start of the 20th Century. I wanted those voices to speak to me, to tell me with a direct voice how their world and their beliefs had been built. And I wanted to hear from Conan Doyle, from his correspondents and critics directly how he fitted into that world.

As I read the magazine, I realised that is exactly what Light afforded.

I have attempted in this book to be guided by Conan Doyle’s voice and preoccupations as revealed in Light, and use the magazine to introduce me to the spirit of the times. The writings of Conan Doyle published in Light uncover some of the many currents of thinking about Spiritualism during and after The Great War. They trace how Conan Doyle came to be the de facto leader of a world movement into which he threw his extraordinary energies with the ardent fervour of the evangelist.

But Conan Doyle did not exist in isolation. I quote other voices from the world in which he moved. I’ve selected letters and articles in such a way as to paint a picture of the era and its people. The devout and passionate Rev. F. Fielding-Ould; the measured voice of the editor of Light, David Gow; the obdurate and piously narrow-minded voice of Father Bernard Vaughan; the fantastically intolerant Joseph McCabe – all combine to paint a picture of the period.

I am not entirely uncritical. At times, I criticise or analyse Conan Doyle’s thinking and I do comment on it as I try to piece together his thoughts. That said, I am not in any way making a case for or against Spiritualism, but tracing the development of Doyle’s attitudes to show that they made perfect sense to him as a human being at that time, even if there are times when I think he was mistaken.

What I’m saying is I hope I don’t get in the way.

I have learned so much from writing this book, and have come to a much clearer – and I have to say – more sympathetic view of the men and women who drove the massive movement of Spiritualism in the early years of the 20th Century.

I think I’ve done it while being entertaining.

I hope you agree and that you enjoy reading it as much as I did writing it.

Thanks!

Matt Wingett, Southsea, March 2015