“Judge Blair modified the contempt penalty imposed on Louise to time already served. Detective John Reeves, eager to inform her that she was free, was surprised when she insisted on serving the entire seven-day sentence. He hesitantly asked if she would mind him calling on her, once matters settled, but she did not respond. He reproached himself for such an untimely and selfish intrusion, and vowed to never again disturb her, to spend his time instead searching for the man with the dent in his forehead.”

–From Brimstone by John Allen

John Allen was born in Long Beach, CA. An engineer “by education, training, and experience,” he describes himself as “a recovering engineer.” He left engineering to become the junior partner in Allen & Allen Semiotics Inc., a corporation that his wife, Lynn, launched for their diversified home business. Their projects include designing databases for mid-sized companies. John Allen holds a BS from the United States Air Force Academy, an MS from the University of Southern California, and an MA from the University of California, Riverside.

Book Description:

Author John Allen has a theory about the creator of Sherlock Holmes:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not create Holmes. It was Doyle’s wife, Louise Hawkins Conan Doyle, who gave birth to the beloved sleuth.

Allen has put his beliefs to the test, writing and publishing the first of a projected 12-novel series of Holmes mysteries titled BRIMSTONE. His detective is Louise Hawkins Conan Doyle, and Allen names her as the author of the tale he presents, set in 1879 Bristol, England.

In a previous book, SHADOW WOMAN, Allen set out to prove that Louise was the true creator of Sherlock Holmes. The inspiration for his startling and controversial theory of authorship was a 1980s essay by Martin Gardner called “The Irrelevance of Arthur Conan Doyle.” Gardner claimed that Arthur was “too gullible and to easily duped to have created Sherlock Holmes.”

Allen determined that Gardner was correct, but Gardner identified no alternative author. Allen continues, “So I decided to give it a try. I came to suspect Louise as the actual author, but I lacked the knowledge and tools to make a solid case.”

Then the Internet came along, giving Allen a valuable research tool. He became convinced that Louise did in fact create Sherlock Holmes. Allen presented his case in SHADOW WOMAN, which was published in 2017. To further advance Louise as Holmes’s creator, to give her the credit he believes she is due, he is now featuring her in a series of mystery novels, the first of which is BRIMSTONE.

As if Allen hadn’t set the bar too high already, he has added a subtext to BRIMSTONE that explores contemporary wrongful convictions through his Victorian thrillers.

BRIMSTONE brims with appeal to multiple audiences, from lovers of detective stories to those interested in justice for the wrongfully convicted. Sherlock Holmes would be proud.

Interview:

Welcome to Blogger News Network, John. What’s inside the mind of a mystery author?

Front and center in my thoughts, of course, is telling a compelling story. In that regard, I suspect I’m no different than my colleagues. Beyond that, however, I suspect my thoughts are unique in substantial fashion.

I’m fairly confident that I’m the only author writing a mystery series that features the woman who actually created Sherlock Holmes, presenting to the public in Brimstone even before she met the man who would take credit for her groundbreaking mystery writing. And I’m equally confident that none of my colleagues are basing Victorian mysteries on actual wrongful convictions from today’s America.

My thoughts, therefore, are frequently upon how Louise Conan Doyle might have investigated the wrongful convictions that I have investigated. Alternatively, my thoughts are on how I might have investigated my cases had I been a woman in Victoria England. Either way, the thoughts can literally cause me to lose sleep.

What is so great about being an author?

I’ve written five non-fictional books, four on wrongful convictions and one on Louise’s authorship of Sherlock Holmes. (That last book, by the way, is called Shadow Woman: The True Creator of Sherlock Holmes, and it is available on Amazon.) Brimstone is my first work of non-fiction, and the first book of twelve planned for the Louise Conan Doyle Mystery Series. Each book in the series combines my insight into the Holmes authorship issue with my insight into the sordid world of wrongful convictions.

I find that I prefer writing fiction, particularly when the story takes control of me, rather than vice versa. Those are the magical times when my writing is at its best, when even I am surprised to read what I’m writing, when the characters use my fingers to convert their thoughts and dreams to pixels on my screen. That is just one great aspect about being an author.

When do you hate it?

As I just noted, I frequently find writing non-fiction to be a slog. The writing becomes something that I need to do rather than something I want to do. That’s when I most dislike writing.

What is a regular writing day like for you?

On an idealized day, my fingers are on the keyboard by 8, and they are busy writing of Louise solving mysteries in Victorian England until noon. During lunch, I’ll research or watch a documentary, except on Wednesdays, which is date day with Lynn, my wife of 22 years. After lunch, I research and write to free innocent people, most of that writing never being made public. Lynn and I spend the evenings together, giving each other our attention. Approaching midnight, my thoughts are back to my writing. I fall asleep with plot twist or legal theories rattling around in my head, and I sometimes wake up with encouraging new thoughts.

That’s an idealized day. Real life, though, manages to intrude so frequently and in such unexpected fashion that no day is typical.

How do you handle negative reviews?

Since I spent many years arguing, on my Skeptical Juror blog, that specific convicted murderers are actually innocent, it should come as no surprise that I have been subjected to harsh criticism. I know that my work is controversial and disruptive, and I know that it will engender negative reviews and comments. The more unhinged the comment or review, the easier it is to laugh it off. The more thoughtful and insightful the review, the more likely it is to cause me to think about my work, to try harder to get things right.

How do you handle positive reviews?

Being human, I much prefer the positive reviews to the negative. After the initial flush of satisfaction, which may last longer than I’d like to admit, I get back to work.

What is the usual response when you tell a new acquaintance that you’re an author?

I find that the new acquaintance is not as impressed as one might hope, more honestly as I might hope. Even if provided a copy of an impressive non-fictional book, any excitement seems feigned. However, having recently published my first fictional work, people seem sincerely excited about Brimstone, and seem sincerely thrilled if handed a print copy.

The difference in behavior is discernable and remarkable. I guess it’s not surprising that people, in general, prefer a diversion from reality rather that another harsh glare of it.

What do you do on those days you don’t feel like writing? Do you force it or take a break?

I have a hypothesis that writers don’t actually like to write. They like everything else that goes with being a writer: the prestige, the allure, the interview as they sit in a wingback chair, smoking a pipe, an impressive library at their back, an Irish Setter at their feet. The sole evidence for my hypothesis is that nearly every writer has some scheme to force herself or himself to write. Nearly every one of them has some thought on how to, using an indelicate term of art, get ass in seat. For me, I find it best to have a scheduled time for AIS. That’s the hardest part. By my first carriage return, I’m in the groove.

It’s rare when I don’t want to dive into my Louise writing. It’s much more common that circumstances prevent me from doing so.

Any writing quirks?

I like to have a nice cool glass of diet Mt. Dew, on the rocks, at the ready, on my left hand side, in the same beat up, battered, plastic glass I’ve so long used. Does that count as a quirk?

What would you do if people around you didn’t take your writing seriously or see it as a hobby?

Since I believe in what I’m trying to accomplish, to bring long overdue credit to Louise Conan Doyle and free innocent people from prison, I would continue to write with the hope and expectation that some day my work will take hold.

Some authors seem to have a love-hate relationship to writing. Can you relate?

Yes, assuming love-hate is used in the metaphorical rather than literal sense. I much prefer fiction to non-fiction. With respect to my non-fiction writing, I like that I’m trying to set right a terrible wrong, but I dislike the circumstances that force me to write of such matters. With respect to Louise Conan Doyle, it is more of a love-love relationship, in the metaphorical sense. I have become quite fond of her. I hold her in exceptionally high regard for her achievements and her character, and I am feel honored to bring her to the public consciousness.

Do you think success as an author must be linked to money?

If, through my writing, I can stop the execution of an innocent person, or free an innocent person from prison, or keep an innocent person from being convicted, then I am successful, even if no one in the general public has read a single word I’ve written, even if I’ve not earned a penny.

With the Louise Conan Doyle Mystery Series, on the other hand, I have recruited Louise to help me bring attention to a few of the wrongful convictions. For the two of us, Louise and I working together, success means public attention, and that means sales, and that is linked to money. The money would, of course, be wonderful, but it is far from the end all.

What has writing taught you?

Everyone is capable of both wonderful and horrible acts.

Leave us with some words of wisdom.

Each of us should carefully consider the possibility that we might be wrong.

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