It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Sherlock Holmes. I wrote the four Baker Street Irregulars books, I’m a member of the Sherlock Holmes Society council, one of my closest US friends is Leslie Klinger, he of the New Annotated Sherlock Holmes and I’m working on several Holmes / Conan Doyle related things at the moment. One thing that hasn’t been spoken of much however is my love of Dorian Gray.
I first read the Picture of Dorian Gray when I was in my early teens and fell in love with Oscar Wilde’s style of writing. At a time where I was filling my head with Conan Doyle’s stern and fastidious detective, this was a palette cleanser, all things of Victorian London unseen in the former’s stories. The supernatural twist kept me reading and I too was one of the many people that asked ‘what if he’d lived?‘ I thought Stuart Townsend did a suitably accurate Gray in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and that Ben Barnes took and used the best bits of Gray’s character in his movie. (And don’t even get me started on the brilliant BBC adaptation in 1976 that had Spooks actor Peter Firth as Dorian and future Sherlock Holmes Jeremy Brett as Basil)
And now Alexander Vlahos (the new Mordred in Merlin) answers that question in Big Finish’s The Confessions of Dorian Gray.
I’d been talking to Scott Handcock about doing a Christmas special on the two stories merging together for months, even before it was greenlit – the thought of Holmes meeting Gray was too good an opportunity to waste. After all, Holmes owe his survival to Gray in a roundabout way – Conan Doyle, after the commercial failiure of A Study in Scarlet wasn’t writing any more Holmes but, after a dinner meeting in the Langham Hotel with Wilde and Joseph Stoddart of Lippincott’s Magazine he agreed to write a sequel – this renewed interest in Holmes and made him the success he is today, while at the same dinner Wilde agreed to write a new book too – you’ve guessed it, the Picture of Dorian Gray. But more importantly, at the time of Dorian Gray’s biggest crime, the death of Basil Hallward, Sherlock would have been a consulting detective for the police. Could he and Watson have been involved?
The decision to make it 1912 was an easy one. I wanted Holmes to be older, more the ‘beardy beekeeper’ than the fit young detective to show the contrast in physicality between the two leads, even though age wise they’re similar. The ghosts of the past that appear are also aimed at reminding of the past, with Sibyl Vane, Alan Campbell and Professor James Moriarty all making appearances. I won’t say how or why though, or even if they’re really ghosts at all – you’ll have to listen to the story at Christmas to see that. I even manage a cameo from Billy the Page for Sherlockian enthusiasts.
The Ghosts of Christmas Past has been a labour of love for me. A chance to write one of the ultimate Victorian gothic / detective crossovers, and have characters I grew up loving speaking my lines. Add to that the excellent talents of Alexander Vlahos as Dorian Gray and Nicholas Briggs as Sherlock Holmes, and it’s a Christmas present and a half.
And you can find out more about it here.