Advice from Dr. Watson, the Man Who Lives (on and off) with the Hero of My Book

In “Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable” I aim at a believable Dr. Watson, and a recognizable “best and wisest” Holmes. I found that handing a character a key to 221B doesn’t make him Holmes, however. Asking another to bring the revolver doesn’t make him Watson. They must be true to themselves in a new, outrageous way.

Poet W. H. Auden wrote, “You shall love your crooked neighbor with your crooked heart.” As a reader, I hope you say to yourself, “That’s Watson’s comfy, crooked heart and that’s Holmes’ (unacknowledged) crooked heart moving him in that story, doing its best by its crooked neighbor.

The Crooked Tree Photo by Ariel Camilo

Invited to share advice from one of the book’s characters….

I tried a mind meld with Doctor John Watson:

1) If you share rooms with a stranger who takes dangerous drugs when he’s bored, adores the queen, and sets up toxic chemistry experiments in the one common room you share, adapt as best you can.

2) If that same fellow claims to be the one and only consulting detective in London (population 6.7 million in 1896), humor him.

3) Agree to help your detective on his cases and write them up. You will share in his success. Some of his glory will be mistaken for yours and you will find yourself meeting attractive, grateful women.

4) If you find yourself marrying any of these women, be sure it’s well known what happened to each of them before you marry again. Otherwise, history–and millions of Sherlockians–will wonder. These people do pay (exaggerated) attention, so be specific to avoid confusion. Ditto for your vague, wandering war wounds.

5) Looking over a detective’s shoulder as he works, you can’t help but feel inspired. You see the good in the man expressed in his work. The truth is, he finds both your dedication to your own profession and your gentle courage as inspiring as you find his genius-driven adventures in detecting.

Sherlock Holmes and the Remaining Improbable by Susanne M. Dutton, available at Propertius Press* and*

The Game is not afoot. The Better-Every-Day world of 1895 is gone, even hard to recall, as WWI ends. Holmes fills out entry papers at the rundown Le Dieppe Clinic and Sanatorium on the Normandy coast. Confronted by a question as to his “treatment goal,” he hesitates, aware that his real goal far exceeds the capacity of any clinic. Like a tiny explosion unaccountably shifting a far-reaching landscape, the detective’s scribbled response churns desperate action and interlocking mystery into the lives of Holmes’ friends and enemies both.



Susanne Dutton is a Philadelphian writing fiction and poetry. She’s the one who hid during high school gym, produced an alternative newspaper and exchanged notes in Tolkien’s Elfish language with her few friends. While earning her B.A. in English, she drove a shabby Ford Falcon with a changing array of homemade bumper strips:  Art for Art’s Sake, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, Free Bosie from the Scorn of History. Later, her interests in myth and depth psychology led to graduate and postgraduate degrees in counseling. 

Nowadays, having outlived her mortgage and her professional counseling life, she aims herself at her desk most days; where she tangles with whatever story she can’t get out of her head.

Born in Des Moines, Iowa, Susanne grew up in the SF Bay Area, has two grown children, and lives with her husband in an old Philadelphia house, built of the stones dug from the ground where it sits. 

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