Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Bill Peschel: The Casebook of Twain and Holmes

The Casebook of Twain and Holmes by Bill Peschel

Part One: Something for Readers

While writing the seven stories in “The Casebook of Twain and Holmes,” I read a lot of works by and about Samuel Clemens. I read his speeches, his travel books, his memoirs, his sketches, and his short stories. There were also several books about him by his friends and even the family’s maid. From them I drew the pieces that I put together to form the man in the stories.

Here are a few of those personal pieces:

1. Mark Twain was his penname. The flesh-and-blood man was Sam Clemens, and his personality was very different from the humorist.

2. Clemens loved to tell stories. There was nothing he liked better than to sit with friend and talk about whatever came across their collective minds. He also had what appeared to be a bottomless fund of stories to draw upon.

3. When dining with his family, his interest in telling a story was so intense that he would get up and walk around the table, as if he needed to be in motion all the time.

4. He was not above stretching the truth until it was unrecognizable. One favorite story was of the Mark Twain imposter who toured Australia. When he fell ill, the state’s governor-general visited the fraud, and when he died, he was given a grand funeral. No such person existed, a fact confirmed by checking the database of Australian newspapers online.

5. Sam loved to smoke cigars, up to three dozen in a day. If a cigar wasn’t available, a corncob pipe would do. “I never regarded myself as an excessive smoker,” he told a reporter. “I never smoke when I am asleep, and I do not smoke more than one cigar at a time.”

6. He rarely read novels. He preferred nonfiction. He rarely read novels, and those he did seemed to infuriate him. Of Jane Austen: “I want to dig her up and hit her over the skull with her own shin-bone.” Of James Fenimore Cooper: “Cooper hadn’t any more invention than a horse; and I don’t mean a high-class horse, either; I mean a clothes-horse.” Of Oliver Goldsmith’s “The Vicar of Wakefield”:  “A singular book. Not a sincere line in it, and not a character that invites respect; a book which is one long waste-pipe discharge of goody-goody puerilities and dreary moralities; a book which is full of pathos which revolts, and humor which grieves the heart.” And Rudyard Kipling: “[He] did measureless harm; more real and lasting harm, perhaps, than any other individual that ever wrote.”

7. Reports of his volcanic temper are accurate. One morning, in the bathroom next to his bedroom, he became upset at the buttons popping off his freshly laundered shirts, and flung each one out the window of his Hartford home. He grew so enraged that he followed them with the rest of his shirts, then the collars, all the while cussing a blue streak.

Part Two: Something for Writers

The thing I learned about Mark Twain from reading his works is that his style was original. I never got the impression that he spoke boiler-plate English. He didn’t use a phrase that had been engraved on the readers’ minds so often that another iteration of it would leave an impression. Nor has time turned his phrases rote. People may quote him, but they do not imitate him.

Twain also saw his profession as a trade, not an art. He was a worker, and pen and paper were his tools. This can be seen in the writing advice he left behind. They emphasize the practical side of the writing profession, as seen in these quotes:

“Let us guess that whenever we read a sentence & like it, we unconsciously store it away in our model-chamber; & it goes, with the myriad of its fellows, to the building, brick by brick, of the eventual edifice which we call our style.”

“Read it aloud. I may be wrong, still it is my conviction that one cannot get out of finely wrought literature all that is in it by reading it mutely.”

Part Three: Book Blurb and Buy Links

Beloved Humorist. Best-Selling Author. ... Consulting Detective.

Now it can be told: Mark Twain’s adventures with Sherlock Holmes, Watson, Mycroft, and Irene Adler.

As part of his autobiography, Samuel Clemens dictated seven stories that he later ordered burned. Discovered at a Pennsylvania farm auction and edited by Pulitzer-Prize winning editor, Bill Peschel, they uncover the Mark Twain nobody knew: who interfered in a marriage proposal, organized a boxing scam, and went grave-robbing. A Twain who also caroused with a young John H. Watson in San Francisco’s Chinatown; needed Holmes’ help with a blackmail plot; tangled with Mycroft Holmes and kidnappers in Morocco; and ran up against Irene Adler and a vengeful German officer in Heidelberg.

Most of these stories — four featuring Holmes, and one each with Watson, Mycroft Holmes, and Irene Adler — appeared in the 223B Casebook series collecting Sherlockian parodies and pastiches. These tales are now available in this exclusive complete edition from the Peschel Press.

Part Four: Short bio and media links

Bill Peschel is a former journalist who shares a Pulitzer Prize with the staff of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. He lives with his family and animal menagerie in Hershey, where the air really does smell like chocolate.

The author of “Writers Gone Wild” (Penguin), he publishes through Peschel Press the 223B Casebook Series of Sherlockian parodies and pastiches and annotated editions of Dorothy L. Sayers’ “Whose Body?” and Agatha Christie’s “The Mysterious Affair at Styles” and “The Secret Adversary.” An interest in Victorian crime led to the republication of three books on the William Palmer poisoning case.

Bill Peschel’s Links


  1. He was vicious in his assessment of other novelists.

  2. Hi Susan - interesting to read Peschel's take on Twain and Holmes ... I'm sure it'd make an interesting read - thanks for the highlight - cheers Hilary

  3. Hello Susan a most interesting post to read. Thanks.


  4. I never knew much about Twain or Clemens. Can't honestly say I was a fan of his books although it is many years since I read any.

  5. haha sure had a temper indeed. Waltzing around a table while telling a story isn't a bad way to go.

  6. He was certainly fascinating, i think i would have liked to sit in on some of his conversations.

    These new stories sound worth a look, thanks.

  7. I always liked Mark Twain's sense of humor best; he wrote about serious issues in several of his stories, yet he was able to inject humor in them in a way that made it look natural, rather than forced or out of place. I didn't know he had a bad temper, though; that's interesting.