What follows contains no euphemisms. What follows talks about erections, damp knickers, and arousal.
Because what follows is the brief tale of how Improbable Press, perhaps the world’s tiniest publishing company specialising in Sherlock Holmes erotic and romantic fiction, began, and how it means to go on.
Wet panties and all.
How often have I said to you that…
I believe in words. Silence can be eloquent but words clarify, inspire, and my, oh my, they motivate.
Sometimes more than we realise.
Picture a book party, if you will. It’s a small celebration, held in a London pub last year. Fifteen or so people attended, each joining me to celebrate the publication of my first book, Sherlock Holmes and John Watson: The Day They Met.
That book has fifty short stories in it, each one reimagining how two lonely men find each other, forge a friendship, and go on to have perfectly platonic adventures.
Best friends five eva!
Right. Well. A publisher friend also attended that party and he and I got to talking about fan fiction. After awhile I said that someday I’d love to write books about these mystery-solving men, books in which they continue to have their breathless adventures, but books were they’re also very much in lust and in love.
Now this publisher enjoys all the faces of Sherlock Holmes. He likes the imperious modern man who swoops round London texting like a tweener, likes the detached detective of the Conan Doyle canon, he enjoys the hyperbolic fighter of evil bogeymen, I think he even likes that tattooed guy who lives in New York. He confessed, however, that he didn’t quite ‘get’ how people could see Holmes and Watson as lovers.
I said, “You don’t have to.”
And that’s when the talk of erections and damp knickers started, because that’s when I began to talk about the magic of reader interpretation, the beauty of desire, and how these two mix to see Holmes and Watson as friends and lovers.
“Besides, what gets me wet doesn’t have to make you hard for it to be valid. Desire just is and there are thousands who do see Sherlock Holmes and John Watson as lovers, hundreds of thousands of people who do get it—and who want to see the boys getting it too, as often as possible.”
…when you have eliminated the impossible…
That’s where the motivation of words kicked, because a month after that book party I got an impossible little email from my friend the publisher.
Want to help start a publishing company, the email said, specialising in Sherlock Holmes romance and erotica books?
I was in a shop with a friend at the time. She was trying on glitter boots. I’ve no idea why. While she strutted around in stacked heels, I blinked at my phone and started swearing like a mother fucking sailor, then giggling like a drunk one. Sure, I replied, sure, let’s start a publishing company. Let’s do this thing.
So we did.
Improbable Press tiny. Five-strong tiny, it’s comprised of three Brits, an American, and one Aussie, and we’ve put out two books in our first four months.
The Night They Met contains nineteen variations on how I think these legendary characters might have first met and fallen in love. From a macabre Victorian party to an empty house during the Blitz to a near-future Hong Kong, these stories are my conviction that these two men must always fall into one another’s orbit, that they are inevitable.
The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, by novelist Narrelle M. Harris, is a full-steam-ahead canon-era adventure through Victorian London, Bohemian Melbourne, and the Australian outback. In it John and Sherlock tackle a dangerous world of adders, gold fever, gruesome red leeches, and the uncertainties of their own hearts—and win.
Improbable’s plans for the rest of the year include an anthology, my novel The Six Secret Loves of Sherlock Holmes, and the eagerly-awaited All the Difference, a contemporary mystery romance by Verity Burns. We’ve got lots of plans and are, like any good detective, curious to find what brilliant impossibilities may pop up in the meantime.
…whatever remains, however improbable…
Improbable’s books are doing well—thank you!—so clearly lots of people ‘get it,’ but there are those who think it’s improbable that John Watson and Sherlock Holmes would ever be lovers.
I hope those people go forth and believe that thing with verve and creative passion, I hope they go ahead and write great stories, stories where they reinterpret John Watson and Sherlock Holmes in their very own way, just as hundreds of writers have done before them.
In the vast sea of reimaginings, some of those writers have hewn close to Conan Doyle’s style, while others have veered quite improbably from canon. These writers make Mycroft Holmes a serial killer hunted by his own brother; have Sherlock Holmes meet Frankenstein; or refashion Irene Adler into a duplicitous and dupable sex worker.
Interpretations not to everyone’s taste, but lots of people ‘get’ them, and that’s good enough.
Then there are the writers who see the thread of a love story in the Sherlock Holmes tales. They see two men who live a life of breathless adventure and risk, two brave and sometimes broken creatures who would sacrifice life and liberty one for the other. They see men who are strong, soft, weak, bold, and brave enough to make love and lust part of their endless adventure.
The truth is, every Sherlock Holmes parody or pastiche is improbable because every single story steps away from what was and imagines what could be.
Every single one of us reads between Arthur Conan Doyle’s lines.
Who’s to say which one is the more improbable?
…must be the truth?
The truth is, interpreting Sherlock Holmes as falling for John Watson started long, long before Improbable Press, of course.
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes is coy but clear about the detective’s desire for his doctor. Of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows one reviewer said the film skips gay subtext completely and just goes right for the gay text. And the BBC’s TV blockbuster Sherlock so openly flirts with its romantic subtext between the leads that the characters within the programme remark on it.
Ah, but what follows after the flirting?
Improbable Press wants to show the after, every sweaty, sweet, sexy moment of it. Narrelle, Verity, myself, and others, we want to write canon-era, contemporary, and everything in between, we want to write about romance and rutting, mysteries and murder, we want to tell rollicking stories of a consulting detective and his doctor changing the world and each other.
Now that, maybe that’s improbable.
But my oh my it’s the truth.