Sherlock Holmes inspires Stortford Scribblers member's first foray into fiction
A Sherlock Holmes devotee has written his debut novel in the style of Arthur Conan Doyle.
Neville Twitchell, who was born in Bishop's Stortford, adopted the pen name Simon Trelawney for his first foray into fiction.
The 68-year-old began writing Sherlock Holmes and the Ciphered List during the Covid-19 lockdown.
However, he said: "I've always been writing it since my schooldays, but only recently have I taken it up more seriously with a view to publication or to reach a wider audience."
His previous books were scholarly tomes. He attended Latton Green primary and Latton Bush comprehensive schools in Harlow before clocking up degrees in psychology in 1976 and history in 1991. An MA in 20th-century history followed in 1996 with a PhD in politics in 2010.
Neville has written two non-fiction books about politics, The Tribune Group: Factional Conflict in the Labour Party 1964-1970 and The Politics of the Rope: The Campaign to Abolish Capital Punishment in Britain 1955-1969, based on his PhD thesis.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote 60 Sherlock Holmes stories, so why did Neville feel the need to add another?
He said: "I'm a great devotee of the Sherlock Holmes canon, which I've been reading on and off since I was a boy, and because, like many people, I felt I could write a good Holmes story myself. I had several ideas for plot lines and took a lot of the characters, tropes and themes from the existing stories.
"I started it during the lockdown in or around May 2020 and submitted the finalised version to my publisher in December 2021, so [it took] about 18 months.
"I did some research on various aspects of late Victorian society and politics, but I was inspired by my love of the Holmesian canon, which I've read many times over the years."
As well as historical accuracy, he tried to emulate Conan Doyle's writing style for the novel.
"It is, after all, a pastiche, which implies some attempt to emulate the style of the originator, not merely borrowing his characters," he said.
"But though I've striven to maintain the high Victorian prose style of Conan Doyle, I have at the same time taken one or two slight liberties in that the novel is somewhat more explicit about sexual matters than Conan Doyle would ever have been - or been permitted to be."
Neville's other passion is chess. He is a member of Bishop's Stortford's club and said there were parallels in writing a mystery and the game in that "I have no idea how it will end until I actually get there".
He is writing another novel, provisionally entitled Board Stiff: Murder at the Chess Club.
"I've written about 75,000 words so it's probably about three-quarters complete.
"I write a lot of other stuff: comedy sketches, short stories, verse, essays on current affairs, travel, literary trends, chess, life in general etc."
He joined the Stortford Scribblers writing group last September after his novel was published and also enjoys rock and 1960s music, films and cycling.
He added: "I'm currently learning the guitar. I spend a lot of time with my cats, Samantha and Tabitha."
* Sherlock Holmes and the Ciphered List by Simon Trelawney is published by Breese Books and is available in paperback from Amazon and on Kindle.