CrimeHQ gets a Q&A with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and you get a chance to win the historical adventure he co-authored, Mycroft Holmes!
CrimeHQ: There's always more research than can fit into one novel. What did you have to leave out and what was your favorite bit of history to include?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: My co-writer, Anna Waterhouse, and I were very specific in our search, so there wasn’t much we had to leave out in terms of the story we were trying to tell. There was, of course, more to tell on just about everything we researched, but it was important to us that the research felt like it was integrated into the plot. The concept of mourning jewelry comes to mind…it’s a very weird custom that was fun to research and that came in handy. But from page one, I have to say that nearly all you’re reading comes from the history books, including the names of the crewmen on the Cambridge/Oxford race, to which cigars were popular in 1870, to the name of the governor of Port of Spain at the time.
CHQ: Sherlockians can be as detail-oriented as any sports statistician. You're a long-time fan and diligent reader of the adventures yourself, but were there any topics or points of canonical contention about which you consulted other Sherlockians?
KAJ: I have the very good fortune of being friends with the ultimate expert on Sherlock Holmes and all things Sherlockiana, and that is Leslie Klinger. (He wrote the two-volume The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes.) I didn’t have to go much further than a phone call.
CHQ: How is Cyrus Douglas different from (or similar to) Dr. John Watson? How does his relationship with Mycroft Holmes and their teamwork compare to “the other guys?”
KAJ: Cyrus Douglas is, in all ways, an equal partner to Mycroft Holmes. He is also the moral and ethical center. What he might lack in sheer mind power (unlike Holmes, he does not have a so-called ‘photographic’ memory), he makes up for in wisdom. Beyond that, Mycroft Holmes is not a sleuth. He is not ‘Detective Junior’ to his brother Sherlock. He is (or will become) a diplomat and a slightly Machiavellian character. Because of this, his interest (and Douglas’s) has a much bigger, worldwide stage. They are going after corruption at very high levels.
CHQ: Mycroft Holmes has been used in various adaptations as almost a tabula rasa, upon whom can be projected whatever's needed. Are there characteristics of Mycroft drawn from the original stories that you were particularly interested in seeing retained and elaborated?
KAJ: We are extremely dedicated to making sure Mycroft Holmes is the man that Arthur Conan Doyle described. But few people in their mid-40 are still who they were in their mid-20s. And the smarter you are, the more you tend to change as you mature. We are hoping to have the chance to show how the Holmes of Mycroft Holmes eventually becomes ACD’s Mycroft Holmes. We’ve laid a bit of groundwork… but we have a few years to get there.
CHQ: By the time Mycroft is older, he's stolid and prefers to stay in one place, while his younger brother exerts himself to remain athletic and maintain his fighting skills. What physical attributes did you need to grant the young Mycroft to make him a suitably robust adventure hero?
KAJ: We decided on young Marlon Brando versus old(er) Marlon Brando. How does a man who is that physically fit (On the Waterfront, A Streetcar Named Desire) become Vito Corleone…and beyond? It’s life. It happens. But, as I said, there are clues in our story that show that his health/psyche are already beginning to be compromised.
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Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is a huge Holmesian—7’2” tall, basketball’s all-time leading scorer, and a U.S. cultural ambassador. He’s written extensively, including What Color is My World (children’s), Brothers in Arms (military history), and On the Shoulders of Giants (black history).