Writer Dan Andriacco: Rex Stout on Sherlock Holmes

Besides being mystery writers and Sherlockians, Kathleen and I are huge Nero Wolfe fans. I was delighted to hear that she is working on a Nero Wolfe trivia book. This is an appropriate task for one who has already written The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book (soon to be reprinted), for the connection between the great detectives is strong.
Rex Stout (1886-1975), creator of Nero Wolfe, was one of the original Baker Street Irregulars. He was never shy about offering his opinions on Sherlock Holmes (or anything else, for that matter). In January 1931, in fact, he discussed Sherlock Holmes until 1:30 a.m. with Winston Churchill, who was making an American tour.
A decade later, according to the late John McAleer’s authorized biography Rex Stout, Stout talked about Arthur Conan Doyle’s technique on a radio program. “The modern detective story puts off its best tricks till the last, but Doyle always put his best tricks first and that’s why they’re still the best ones,” he said.
And he made this unforgettable comment: “It is impossible for any Sherlock Holmes story not to have at least one marvelous scene.”
Years later, in 1963, Stout wrote about Sherlock Holmes for the cover of a record album of Basil Rathbone reading Holmes stories.
“Holmes,” Stout wrote, “is a man, not a puppet. As a man he has many vulnerable spots, like us; he is vain, prejudiced, intolerant; he is a drug addict; he even plays the violin for diversion – one of the most deplorable outrages of self-indulgence.”
But there is much more to him than that:
“He loves truth and justice more than he loves money or comfort or safety or pleasure, or any man or woman. Such as man has never lived, so Sherlock Holmes will never die.” 
Rex Stout was not only a great mystery writer; his comments on Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes show that he was also an insightful mystery reader.
Dan Andriacco is a former newspaper journalist and mystery book reviewer who has been a member of the Tankerville Club, a scion society of The Baker Street Irregulars, since 1981. He is the author of Baker Street Beat: An Eclectic Collection of Sherlockian Scribblings, and two Sebastian McCabe - Jeff Cody mysteries, No Police Like Holmes and the upcoming Holmes Sweet Holmes. Follow his popular blog at bakerstreetbeat.blogspot.com and his tweets @DanAndriacco. Dr. Dan and his wife, Ann, have three grown children and four grandchildren. They live in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA. 

Dan and I have a few things in common. We both like mysteries, we were born in the same year, and we're die-hard Sherlockians. When I discovered his new mystery series a few weeks ago, I contacted him via Facebook. We chatted and that led to exchanging novels. Here's what I learned about fellow Stout/Holmes fan.  
Your Jeff Cody/Sebastian McCabe mysteries feature two mystery writers, one who is both a published author and a Sherlockian and the other who is neither. How did you develop your main characters?
They came to me a long time ago – more than 20 years – and never left me. I’m not sure that I did develop them. I think they just appeared. Even longer ago, back in high school, I wrote an unfinished non-genre novel featuring a character very much like Sebastian McCabe but with a different name. My wife, Ann, suggested the McCabe’s name.  
What was the first Sherlock Holmes story you read? Do you remember the circumstances surrounding your decision to read it? What impression did it leave?
I had a childhood friend who read the stories before I did and we acted out storylines together. I wrote about this in my book Baker Street Beat. Probably the first Holmes story I ever read was A Study in Scarlet – the first half only – because it appeared in a collection called The Boys’ Sherlock Holmes.  I distinctly remember borrowing that out from the library. It took me into a world I never wanted to leave.  
Why do you think Holmes has become one of the most popular fictional characters in history?
That is a great question that prompts many different theories. I favor the idea that Holmes is a very comforting figure because he always has answers, and so his popularity spikes in troubled times. We are certainly in troubled times, both in the United States and around the world, and he is having a huge resurgence in popularity now. Sure, the movie series and the BBC series fuel that resurgence, but what brought about those productions? I think it’s the times in which we live.
Can you give us a synopsis of your next Jeff Cody/ Sebastian McCabe mystery and when it will be released?
Holmes Sweet Holmes, which will be published May 1, involves the murder of an actor/screenwriter/director whose most recent production was a Sherlock Holmes film set in 1920s New Orleans instead of Victorian London. The timing may good: Reaction from Sherlockians to news that a new CBS TV series is moving Holmes to modern-day New York has been one of outrage. Meanwhile, the Jeff Cody – Lynda Teal romance takes a new turn in this book that I hope will keep readers interested. 
Authors today are expected to do much of their own promoting. How do you balance social networking and writing? What promotions work best for you? 
I enjoy blogging and Tweeting. I plan to start a website and a Facebook page just for my writing. But sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all of that. Despite the fact that I’m an introvert, I really enjoy conferences and book signings where I can meet and talk with people who have enjoyed my work. There’s a great satisfaction in knowing that there’s an audience out there. 
Describe your writing process. Do you have a schedule, set goals, etc? 
I’m not a binge writer. I write three pages a day and I try to never take a day off while I’m working on a book. While I was writing the third McCabe - Cody mystery – The 1895 Murder – I wrote on Thanksgiving and Christmas. I finished it in about nine weeks. Of course, that’s just the writing part. Plotting, research, and extensive outlining came first. May outline was eleven single-spaced pages by the time I finished the book. I change the outline all the while I’m writing as new ideas occur to me. Using this routine, I think I can comfortably write two books a year for some time to come.

Do you have favorite authors who have been influential in your writing style?
I read many different writers and it’s hard for me to say which has influenced me most, but others seem to find a hint of Rex Stout in my writing. I’ve read all the Nero Wolfe stories, although I haven’t re-read them in some time.