Tag Archives: watson is not an idiot

1,000 Cigarettes

Fellow Alliterate John Rateliff has been reading Watson is Not an Idiot, and emailed me on one of the essays in the book. Specifically, in the essay on “The Golden Pince-Nez,” i wrote:

At one point Professor Coram mentioned that he goes through a thousand cigarettes every fortnight. My wife used to work as a smoking cessation coach, so I asked her how much smoking that would be from a current perspective. Assuming twenty cigarettes in a modern pack of cigarettes, Coram would have to smoke just over three and a half packs a day, or nearly four cigarettes every waking hour! Granted, it seems that Mr. Smith was a smoker as well (and therefore may have smoked some of Coram’s cigarettes), but that’s still a hell of a lot of smoking.

John wrote me this in response (quoted with his kind permission):

Just wanted to let you know that I can confirm a point you raised in your book on the Holmes canon (which I’m currently reading and enjoying). At one point you talk about whether it’s even possible for a person to smoke 1,000 cigarettes in a fortnight. My own father smoked three and a half packs (Pall Mall) a day, which works out to about 70 cigarettes per day. Multiplied by 14 days, that makes about 980 — close enough. In Holmes’ day, these [would probably] have not been machine produced but made to order at a tobacconist (Holmes doesn’t strike me as the roll-your-own type).

The most extravagant smoking claim I’ve come across is the one that C. S. Lewis smoked 200 cigarettes a day. That’s clearly hyperbole.

In a follow-up email he mentions that cigarettes were also likely to have been shorter in Holmes’ day — the “king sized” cigarette is a modern invention. I thought it was great to have something I proposed in the book borne out with a personal anecdote like this.

Frankly, I love this kind of correspondence. One of the great things I’ve discovered since putting Watson is Not an Idiot out is hearing from people with their own opinions, perspectives, and research. I think it’s amazing that, over a hundred years later, there’s still energy and enthusiasm for discussing some of the finer points of the canon.

So thank you, John, for taking the time to carry on a long-held tradition.

Watson is Not an Idiot IS NOW LIVE

It’s not live absolutely everywhere, but it’s here! Watson Is Not An Idiot is now available in print and in ebook form in a wide variety of places! I would really appreciate if you could do any of the following:

1) Buy the book! I’m very excited about it, and I believe it’s a great introduction to the Sherlock Holmes canon. You can order it online through a wide variety of outlets (see below), or through many fine bookstores.

2) Leave a review! Once you read it, please leave a review somewhere, and let me know so I can link to it. Reviews on major sites like Amazon are very helpful.

3) Spread the word! Please tell others about the book. Link to this post, to my “Buy My Work” page, or to the online outlet of your choice.

Thank you all in advance!

Back from Gen Con, “Watson” in Kindle, and Firefly RPG news

I am back from Gen Con. As usual it was a crazy, busy, entertaining time, and I am both glad I went and glad I’m home. I was able to firm up a few details of some of the projects I’m working on, which leads to exciting news on two fronts.

First, the Amazon Kindle store has Watson is Not an Idiot available right now in both the US and UK! This is the 1.0 version of the text — I’ll be submitting a revision this week, and I believe the text will be updated to 1.1 soon after automatically. (The print version should reflect the 1.1 version of the text.) Most of the changes are small editing corrections and very minor clarifications, so if you want to dive right in, you won’t be missing too much.

Secondly, the veils of secrecy have been lifted, and I can now mention that I am working on Echoes of War, a collection of episodes for the Firefly RPG! I’m very excited to be working on this beloved property, and getting a chance to run a game of it at Gen Con has just whet my appetite for working on the ‘Verse all the more.

More to come! But now I have to do some more rewriting.

Milverton: An Excerpt from “Watson Is Not An Idiot”

Recently, it was announced that the villain for Sherlock Series 3 will be “Charles Augustus Magnussen.” I find this very exciting, as the basis for the character, Charles Augustus Milverton, is one of my favorite villains in the canon. To celebrate, here’s an excerpt from Watson is Not an Idiot about the story he’s from. Note: contains spoilers for “The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton.”

Right up front, Watson is clear about the fact that he’s concealing the date and the facts to help place this “absolutely unique experience.” Despite the constant disappointments I have in trying to reconcile the dates of the cases, this intentional obfuscation just encourages me to dig more than usual to try to place it.

First off, we’re in the iconic situation of Watson living as a bachelor with Holmes, so we know it’s not during Watson’s marriage or the Great Hiatus. Holmes at one point claims that he’s had to deal with “fifty murderers” in his career at this point, which could indicate it’s right before Watson’s marriage, but that’s no real help. There’s a reference to electric light switches which I thought could be a clue, but they were invented in 1884, so that doesn’t help either.

Turning to history, though, we get more information. There was a real-life blackmailer named Charles Augustus Howell who died in 1890. If we assume that “Milverton” was simply a very clumsy cover for “Howell,” then we have a year – 1890, right before the Great Hiatus. Many Sherlockians (including Baring-Gould) place the case in 1899, for reasons I wasn’t able to uncover. So I flipped a table and moved on.

Aside from whether this case is before or after Holmes matches wits with Professor Moriarty, however, there’s a lot of similar tensions between Holmes and Milverton. Holmes considers Milverton to be “the worst man in London,” a description he usually reserves for Moriarty. But it does seem that Holmes has a particular hatred of blackmailers – he is quite passionate on the subject. It opens up some interesting speculations about Holmes’ past. Was Holmes or someone in his past blackmailed? Regardless, there’s a great battle of wits between Holmes and Milverton, and Milverton turns out to be quite clever and well-prepared. He’s a great villain, perhaps on par with Moriarty himself. In fact, Holmes’ outrage with blackmailers in general and Milverton in specific leads him to take drastic actions. He fakes an engagement to a housemaid to get information, and his comment about a “hated rival” in her affections feels like a flimsy justification for his blatant manipulation. He hates blackmailers, but he’s happy to toy with a woman’s affections in pursuit of his case.

Even worse, he’s willing to break and enter into Milverton’s home, which he also attempts to justify:

“I suppose that you will admit that the action is morally justifiable, though technically criminal. To burgle his house is no more than to forcibly take his pocket-book — an action in which you were prepared to aid me.”

Further, he tries to claim that he’s willing to do it because “a lady is in the most desperate need of his help.” However, he certainly had no problems toying with another woman’s emotions! Because one is a servant and another is a lady, though, some have pointed to this as an example of Holmes’ class bias. I don’t buy it, though. I think the reality is much simpler: it’s all about Holmes’ pride:

“Between ourselves, Watson, it’s a sporting duel between this fellow Milverton and me. He had, as you saw, the best of the first exchanges; but my self-respect and my reputation are concerned to fight it to a finish.”

Watson seems strangely reluctant to have Holmes break the law here, even though he wasn’t at all resistant to breaking into a house in “The Bruce-Partington Plans.” But despite this inconsistency, it leads to a great exchange between Holmes and Watson, possibly one of my favorites:

“Well, I don’t like it; but I suppose it must be,” said I. “When do we start?”

“You are not coming.”

“Then you are not going,” said I. “I give you my word of honor – and I never broke it in my life – that I will take a cab straight to the police-station and give you away unless you let me share this adventure with you.”

“You can’t help me.”

“How do you know that? You can’t tell what may happen. Anyway, my resolution is taken. Other people beside you have self-respect and even reputations.”

Holmes had looked annoyed, but his brow cleared, and he clapped me on the shoulder.

“Well, well, my dear fellow, be it so. We have shared the same room for some years, and it would be amusing if we ended by sharing the same cell.”

There are other interesting bits to learn in this story. Holmes has a particular hobby of opening safes, and thus has a state-of-the-art burgling kit on hand. He can see in the dark, and has “quicker senses” than Watson. Watson is strangely thrilled by the law-breaking, even when he tries to justify it by going on about the “high object of our mission.” Watson seems to understand a lot of Holmes’ ideas from a handshake and a grasp of his wrist; they are very much in sync. Watson also owns tennis shoes, and runs for two miles – looks like his days of his leg injury are long behind him. And it’s implied that Lestrade is learning a lot from Holmes, not taking Holmes’ pat explanation of Watson’s break-in at face value.

There are some problems with the story. There isn’t really a mystery here – Holmes and Watson are really just observers and vigilantes, and we never really learn who the “noble statesmen” whose wife murdered Milverton was. But it is a great story, both in general and as another example of Doyle’s dry wit mixed with grisly situations.

“Watsons Through Time” Roundtable from 221b Con

The incomparable Baker Street Babes podcast has posted their recording of “Watsons Through Time,” a panel I had the pleasure of sitting on at 221bCon. With me were Kristina Manente, Ashley Polasek, and Roane. I’m glad this panel is up, because it gives a lot of the tone that I infused into Watson is Not an Idiot, and it certainly covers some of the material from the book as well. It’s about an hour long and a little hard to hear in spots, but it was a great time, and I hope that comes through in the podcast.


Hillfolk Fate is Not an Idiot

Today has been a day of riches. Or at least sales and comps. 1

First off, I got to look at the digital files for Hillfolk, which I contributed to several months ago. From Robin’s Kickstarter:

Hillfolk, the new game of Iron Age conflict from acclaimed designer Robin D. Laws, introduces to the roleplaying world his DramaSystem rules engine.
You know those magical game sessions where the dice and rules fall away, and the entire group spontaneously enters a collective zone of pure story and character? DramaSystem’s basic structure reproduces that dynamic on demand.

As part of that, Robin included a number of “series pitches” of different backgrounds you can use with the core Hillfolk system. I contributed an old novel idea of mine: “Deadweight,” a noir/professional wrestling mashup about an independent wrestling federation that makes some horrible mistakes behind the curtain and gets involved in crime.

The nice thing about the Hillfolk agreement is that Robin asked for the bare minimum of rights for his project — I still have full rights to everything but RPGs, and even then I can do a lot as long as I reference Hillfolk. As such, I could still theoretically do a Deadweight novel. It’s a classy arrangement, and I would gladly do it again. I understand copies will be available at GenCon, and I highly encourage people to check it out.

Secondly, my collection of microfiction, essays, and miscellany, Slices of Fate, is now 25% from DriveThruFiction until July 28th. Here’s the blurb:

Slices of Fate is a unique collection featuring the works of Eddy Webb. Stories within range from the author’s nod to literary tales as in his piece “A Sheepish Trip to Yorkshire” to his more speculative work such as “The Battlefield.”

Essays include a series on two of Webb’s oldest loves: wrestling and Sherlock Holmes. Combined with several pieces of microfiction, this debut collection is an in-depth representation of Eddy’s work over the course of several years.

“Enthusiastic, creative, honest, intelligent.” – Jason L Blair, from the introduction.

Finally, I got my stack of comp copies of Watson Is Not An Idiot, and they look great. I was a little surprised since they came from Lightning Source, and my brain is so used to getting my White Wolf/Onyx Path books from Lightning Source. I’m really pleased with how they turned out — they’re a bit meatier than I expected (about three times the size of Slices of Fate), and the cover popped a bit more than I expected. Of course, I’m immediately seeing things that I wished I did differently with the book, but I’m just trying to make a note of it and maybe those ideas will spin off into a second book. But it’s still very exciting!

  1. For those that don’t know, “comps” is publishing jargon for “complimentary copies,” or the free copies that writers and freelancers get of the books they’ve worked on.

How to Pre-Order “Watson” in the US

Since the reveal of my cover for Watson is Not an Idiot, a number of people have asked how to pre-order the book in the United States. I asked Steve (my publisher), and here’s what he said.

To ensure the independent bookstores have a chance to compete with the big boys, we set them up first, so the large stores tend to pick it up a few weeks before publication. Any of your friends can get the book early from our shop.

So, if you’re wanting to pre-order, you have a few options.

Right Now, If You Have A Mystery Bookstore: If you have an independent bookstore near you, you can go there and see if you can pre-order Watson is Not an Idiot.

Right Now, Online: If you prefer to order online, you can go to the MX Publishing USA website to pre-order: Watson Is Not An Idiot

Wait a Bit: The book launches in late October, and I’ll be collecting all the links on my “Buy My Work” page. This includes Kindle links as they go live (which, I expect, will be available for pre-order in early October).


I asked MX Publishing about whether Watson will be in the iBook store, and here’s the response I got.

Oh yes you will. On 30+ stores in iBooks in fact. You’ll also be on Kindle, Nook and Kobo (plus a bunch of library systems too). The ebook verisons I hope will come out before the paperbacks.