Last month, Old Firehouse Books welcomed mystery author William Kirby to the store to celebrate the paperback release of his novel, Vienna. Kirby was gracious enough to do a short interview giving insight into his book as well as his own inspiration as a writer.
Copies of Vienna are available in store. Feel free to stop by in person, call to place a hold, or order online. There are signed copies available while supplies last!
Vienna is a retelling of the Sherlock Holmes story The Adventure of the Six Napoleons. What drew you to a retelling of Sherlock Holmes? And why this story in particular?
My father gave me a hardback edition of the complete Sherlock Holmes when I was in (wait for it!) elementary school. I was immediately hooked. The Six Napoleons has long been considered one of Sherlock’s weakest tales, but I always enjoyed its freewheeling spirit. Vienna presented a chance to have fun with it. Replace Napoleon busts with manikins and see where it goes.
What are your thoughts on some of the other Sherlock Holmes adaptations that are out today?
There is one relatively recent Sherlock Holmes adaption that rises far above the rest: Jeremy Brett’s portrayal of Holmes on the BBC series has become the standard by which all other Holmes are measured. While I love both Robert Downey Jr.’s and Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayals of the great detective, they simply are no match for Brett.
Are there any authors you try to emulate in your writing?
I grew up with Kurt Vonnegut, William Golding, and Hunter S. Thompson. These days, I read everyone from Neil Gaiman to Susan Casey. (Honestly, pick up Casey’s The Wave and read it. Superb!) But Vonnegut is still the writer with the biggest impact on my own work. He was a master of imagery and phrasing.
Although your roots are in science fiction, Vienna is a mystery novel. What do you see as the key differences between these genres?
With mash-ups being all the rage these days, traditional differences between genres is vanishing. Great science fiction mysteries have been around for some time. (George Alec Effinger’s When Gravity Fails (1987) comes to mind.) In the broadest strokes, mystery requires careful plotting, whereas science fiction can be a bit looser. A glance at any number of science fiction movies these days will show enough plot holes to sink and armada of mysteries. In exchange, science fiction allows a joyful freedom of storyline that traditional mysteries might lack.
If you could have dinner with any famous author, who would you eat with and why?
J.R.R. Tolkien. My contribution would be to sit silently and listen to anything he’d say about world building in writing. No one has ever done it better—I’m not certain anyone ever will. Plus (bonus!) after reading his passages on pubs, ales, and wines, I suspect he’d have known a good local pub. In writing circles, this is known as the highest form of professionalism.