The book column presents the new Holmes novel by the JBU professor

It’s hard to think of a fictional character – no matter how busy or beloved – that has gone through more iterations than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes.

So what made Miguel Rivera, a retired attorney and adjunct professor of criminal justice at John Brown University, think he had a new plot that deserved to be unraveled?

“I’ve had a growing desire to add to the canon for several years now,” he says. “I’m a bit of a purist, so I wanted to write a novel that fits into the canon and is true to the characters, themes and nuances of Holmes’ world.”

He says his novel “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Green Dragon,” which is already in print, and the next book he’s writing “both fit into certain holes in the canon and explain things that Doyle mentioned but didn’t work out. It took me two years to make a plot I thought the plot was good, that it fit into the canon, that it was true to Holmes and his world, so I took the plunge and wrote an outline of the novel.

“It’s a little scary to be honest,” he adds. “Releasing something you’ve spent so much time writing and revising, and with new characters you’ve created and love, is a little scary. In the end, my wife Barbara encouraged me and gave me the confidence to submit the manuscript to a publisher. Barbara was also my editor, spellcheck and cheerleaders. The book is partially dedicated to her.”

“Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Green Dragon” is currently available for purchase on mxpublishing.com and will also be available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com starting February 10th.

Rivera took a few minutes to answer these questions for our Hidden Gems book column:

Q. When and how did you fall in love with reading? Were mysteries your first love?

A. For me, reading is a way of escaping into new worlds and realities. It is a way of learning and experiencing new things. It is the most realistic way to become someone else or to see the world through someone else’s eyes. As soon as I could read, I always had a rigorous appetite for knowledge and the printed word. I was born in 1960 at the height of the space program, so when I started reading, I read about space, the space program, aviation, and then science fiction. In junior high school I discovered Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes when I read The Hound of the Baskervilles. The rest, as they say, is history. I was immediately hooked. No other character resonates with me like Sherlock Holmes. I have read and re-read the stories more times than I can count.

Q. Where did the idea for “The Case of the Green Dragon” come from?

A. Good question. In Doyle’s “The Final Problem”, Professor Moriarty visits Holmes at 221B Baker Street. It is a very brief visit in the early summer of 1891. During the visit, Moriarty mentions that Holmes had disrupted his plans earlier that year, but gives no details and the conversation moves on. I thought it would be wonderful to know how Holmes disrupted Moriarty’s plans. We needed a novel about that reference, and that’s how “The Green Dragon” was born. As I said, it took me two years to come up with what I thought was an original and good plot. The basic plot eventually came to me, but I needed a location – a literary hook – to really capture the story and the place. One night I turned on my computer and the image on the screen was a lighthouse, and for some reason that image crystallized the location for me and really sparked my imagination. A few hours of research later, and I had a location in the northwest of England, a lighthouse, old ruins, etc. A perfect “gothic” place to start a novel and a crime scene.

Q. Did those characters come to life in your head? Meaning, were Holmes and Moriarty wandering around in your head while you were coming up with the concepts and writing? And if so, how was it?

A. Oh yes, and that’s beautiful. My process is such that I have to see the entire chapter in my mind with all the details – location, colors, room details, characters, clothes, smells, lighting, etc., just like a movie set – before I can write. Holmes, Moriarty, Watson, Mrs. Hudson, Miss Rebecca St. John and all the characters and scenes live vividly in my mind. As the characters became more three-dimensional and “lived” in my mind, they began to tell me how they wanted to act, what they wanted to say in certain scenes. I just needed to set the scene, know the basic direction the chapter was going in, fill in the details of the scene in my mind, and then the characters took over and “acted” in the world of that chapter. I wrote and described what they did and said. Sometimes I was surprised by how the characters chose to behave within the scene. It’s really a lot of fun.

Q. Was the visit to England involved in the creation of the novel?

A. The physical visit to England did not take place; however, many hours of research on Tynemouth, England and London were involved. Lots of internet time spent reading and looking at pictures of locations. I have a large map of the city of London from the 1890s and spent a lot of time bent over that map. Every location, town, street, etc. is real and as it was in the 1890s. Tynemouth, where a lot of the action takes place, is a real town in the North East of England, as well as a lighthouse, pier, abbey ruins, etc. Honestly, I feel like I’ve been there — all those locations. The internet is great because it can provide a detailed perspective of a place without physically visiting. The London of Holmes in my novel is accurate, the locations are real, and the street names are real. That was important to me.

Q. How did you get published by such a prestigious publisher?

A. I am very blessed to be published by MX Publishing in London. I spent a lot of time researching publishers and agents. MX Publishing is the world’s largest publisher of Sherlock Holmes books, short stories, novels, etc. I was honestly afraid to send them my manuscript, but they were great to work with. The editor made suggestions and I rewrote twice, and they accepted the manuscript for publication. They treated me very well, were friendly from the start, loyal to the canon, and incredibly supportive of their authors. Due to the time difference, I found out at 3:30 a.m. one morning that my manuscript had been accepted for publication. I woke up my wife, we celebrated with hugs and tears. In the end, it’s about being brave enough to follow your dream and go for it.

Q. What’s next for you and your characters?

A. I’m so glad you asked. I am currently writing a sequel to the novel “The Green Dragon”, which will introduce the characters I created, Miss Rebecca St. John and others, launched into a new conflict with Holmes. Again, this new novel will fit into the canon period and much of the action takes place five years after the events of “The Green Dragon.”

There is a high probability that the second book will be published in the first half of 2024.

Photography “Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Green Dragon” by Miguel Rivera is currently available for purchase on mxpublishing.com and will also be available on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com starting February 10th. (Images courtesy)

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