Interview with Steven Doyle

Gazette 221B : Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your Sherlockian journey ?

Steven Doyle : I’m Steven Doyle, and I have a long, and very busy Sherlockian journey. It started when I was 14 years old. For Christmas, I got facsimile copies of The Adventures and The Memoirs for Christmas, and I was instantly in love with them. I remember getting The Seven-Per-Cent Solution (in paperback) and the Pinnacle paperback edition of The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes by Vincent Starrett shortly after that. I was totally hooked. From there,  I read the entire Canon, and anything else I could get my hands on. Around this time…15 years old or so…I discovered there were Sherlockian clubs like the Baker Street Irregulars, and also local and regional Sherlock Holmes clubs known as “scion societies.” There was one in the city I lived. I lived in South Bend, Indiana (where the University of Notre Dame is), and there was a group there called The Solitary Cyclists of South Bend. I became their youngest member. As I went into high school and college, my active pursuit of Holmes activities was put on hold, but it was  then in college it came back to life, and I’ve been a Sherlockian ever since. I began publishing a quarterly Sherlockian journal, which ran from 1986 to 1996 called The Sherlock Holmes Review. Once SHR ran its course, my friend and co-publisher Mark Gagen and I founded Wessex Press, a small press dedicated to Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, and his world. Shortly after it was founded, we acquired Gasogene Press, Ltd., and renamed it Gasogene Books, making it an imprint of Wessex Press. We have gone on to become the premier publisher of Sherlock Holmes books in the world. I also had the privilege of being a member of The Baker Street Irregulars. Being a Sherlockian has afforded me great opportunities to travel, meet amazing people, and experience things, I never thought possible…all because of Sherlock Holmes!

© Wessex Press, LLC

Gazette 221B : Can you tell us the story of the Sherlock Holmes review from 1986 to 1996 ?

Steven Doyle : The Sherlock Holmes Review started small. I got the idea of producing it from watching my wife edit a small literary journal while in graduate school. I was a video producer working for the Indiana University Medical Center in its communications department, and had grown a bit bored with some of the other journals being published at the time. Being a video producer I think visually…and was inspired by the design of The Strand Magazine, which was way ahead of its peers in visual design. So, I teamed up with a co-worker who was a graphic designer who had an interest in small press. He taught me about the mechanics of designing and laying out a publication, and I had the grand vision and the knowledge of Sherlock Holmes. We only printed 100 copies of our first issue, but it sold out within a couple of weeks. Our second issue had 200 copies and it sold out even faster. For our third issue, which was coming out in December of 1987, we combined numbers three and four into a double issue, and this was the one that put us over the top. It had exclusive interviews with Jeremy Brett and Peter Cushing…two great Sherlockian actors! It also had great scholarship and book reviews and lots of other material, and really defined the spirit of the publication. Over the next ten years, we had terrific interviews, with prominent Sherlockians and writers, another interview with Jeremy Brett, and an interview with Michael Cox, creator and executive producer of Granada’s Sherlock Holmes series. Over the decade, we sponsored five Sherlockian conferences, and kept expanding and improving the publications design and style. Despite our distribution peaking at around 1500 copies in the mid 1990s, the magazine had gotten so expensive to produce that we decided it was time to end it.

Gazette 221B : Why was it called “ahead of its time” ?

Steven Doyle : I believe it was called “ahead of its time” for several reasons. First, it didn’t look at all like its better-known competitors, who were very traditional in style, and a bit boring in content. Secondly, SHR had no rules, and wasn’t bound by a publishing history and legacy. Thus we were free to publish anything we wanted…classic scholarship, interviews, pop culture, anything at all. And finally, we had a youthful attitude that showed up in the way we interviewed people, and reviewed books. Before too long, other publications began to show influences from The Sherlock Holmes Review…

Gazette 221B : What was, in your memory, the greatest success of this magazine ?

Steven Doyle : There are a number of things, and people who aren’t so closely associated with it might have other ideas, but to me, what I am most proud of, is raising the bar on Sherlockian publishing in general. At the time this first came out, publications like The Baker Street Irregulars and The Sherlock Holmes Journal were very conservative in their efforts. Once SHR came in, and raised the standard for what could be done, everyone had to improve. We did the same thing with book publishing following SHR. Basically, we showed that Sherlockian publishing shouldn’t be amateurish..

Gazette 221B : Getting interviews from Peter Cushing or Jeremy Brett must have been particularly exciting. Can you tell us how it happened ?

Steven Doyle : These interviews are what many people remember most all these years later. I have never been a person who feels like something is impossible. I believe just about anything is possible if the will to do it is there. When I wanted to start a Sherlockian journal, even though I had never done anything like that before, and I just did it. Why couldn’t I do it? Once started, I had the same philosophy with content. I asked myself, “What would I want to see in this?” At the time, the Granada series was in high gear, and so I naturally thought of an interview with Jeremy Brett. Here in America, the show was being aired on PBS, and the flagship station which was the American co-producer was WGBH in Boston. A woman named Rebecca Eaton was listed as a producer, and so I got her phone number and caller her. I introduced myself as “the publisher of The Sherlock Holmes Review,” and tried to sound very official. She was very generous and gave me the phone number of the publicity department of Granada studios in Manchester, England. I called there, and spoke to a man named Peter Grey, who set up my interview with Jeremy. I ended up doing a phone interview with him by calling him at home in his Clapham Common flat, and what ensued was one of the longest, most comprehensive interviews he ever gave about Sherlock Holmes. A few years later, when he had come to America to do publicity for PBS, I landed another interview with him, this time in person, in Chicago. He was a very nice and generous man. The interview with Peter Cushing was done in a similar way. Somehow (I don’t exactly remember now) I got his agent’s number, and it also resulted in a phone interview. It was quite an amazing experience!.

Gazette 221B : How did the idea to resume the publication come to your mind ?

Steven Doyle : The idea to resurrect SHR started when I began to see that a new generation was discovering it. On Facebook, for instance, I started to see people posting pictures of old copies they had found, and were asking: “What is this? I didn’t know about this.” And they a lot of people would respond praising it and saying how they wished it hadn’t ended. I also myself found a super-rare copy of the first issue in a tiny little used bookstore in rural Indiana one day, and took it as a sign that it should come back.

Gazette 221B : What will be your exact role in this new publication ?

Steven Doyle : I will be publisher and editor. I solicit manuscripts and read submissions. I am primarily in charge of what goes in it and how it looks

Gazette 221B : Will you work alone or will there be a permanent team around you ?

Steven Doyle : My publishing partner from Wessex Press will be helping me design and execute the volume. Beyond that, I have a handful of people who will be helping with book reviews, and other things like that.

Gazette 221B : The Sherlockian landscape has changed a lot since 1996! What do you expect from this rebirth ?

Steven Doyle : Well, it will be different because instead of coming out four times a year, it will return as an annual, appearing every January. This means it will be bigger than a previous issue of SHR, but it will have all the same features as before. I know it is a different era, but I believe classic Sherlockian content is timeless, and I hope to reintroduce newer generations to what that is like..

Gazette 221B : With the proliferation of new adaptations in general – and more specifically successful franchises like Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes, BBC’s Sherlock or CBS’ Elementary – do you think they will have a different impact on the angle of the magazine ?

Robert Doherty

Steven Doyle : SHR has always been sensitive to pop culture incarnations of Sherlock Holmes. We are huge fans of dramatic representations of Sherlock Holmes, and so yes, there will be coverage of these recent efforts. In fact, there is a long interview with Robert Doherty (creator and executive producer of Elementary) in the new issue of Sherlock Holmes Review coming this January

Gazette 221B : What will be the selection criteria for the published articles?

Steven Doyle : It is simple! I have to like the submission. That’s it!

Gazette 221B : Have you already received many submissions?

Steven Doyle : Yes, we just accepted the final submission today.

Gazette 221B : How will it differ from other Sherlockian publications ?

Steven Doyle : I believe that, just as with the original incarnation all those years ago, no one else is covering the same mix of topics the same way we will be doing it. But I will have to let you tell me how it is different!

Gazette 221B : What can we wish you before the launch of the first issue ?

Steven Doyle : Wish is good luck and good Sherlockian fortune! And that lightening can strike twice!

Read the interview in french