What can I say about David Moore, that giant among men? He knows his way around a pub and a book launch, for certain. So much so that, after a launch sometime in the distant past at Forbidden Planet he, after a few pints, thought it would be big and clever to ask me to write a story “anywhere in time or space except Victorian London” about Holmes and Watson.
I’m a fan, and I was all excited and rushed home and told my partner, and then waited.
Mostly during the waiting I thought “I really shouldn’t have told anyone. David probably thought I was James Smythe - the other tall writer, but the one with talent and craft. It was surely not happening. He must’ve been drunk. Other sightings of Moore at London literary events showed no evidence of the anthology or his kind offer.
Until months and months time later when I got an email inquiring as to whether I’d any idea where and when. Publishing: It does not move at any sort of speed, not even that of molasses.
I had, indeed, thought about my setting for Holmes and Watson and I thought I’d look at something medieval, in the Inquisition, and see if I could get up an earlier, more rational Holmes, but I’d been listening to some old punk bands - New York Dolls and Patti Smith and the Talking Heads - and so I said “Maybe 70s New York, the birth of punk” as well.
David was happy with whatever I’d do but said he was more keen on the 70s punk thing.
As happens when you dig into the early days of punk, you keep bumping into Lou Reed, John Cale, and Mo Tucker. They’re everywhere, and they lead you back to the Factory.
The Factory is this critical time and place in American history. Whether you’re a fan of Warhol’s or not, this coming together of culture, of exploration and change that’s very, very different in New York compared to San Francisco and the Summer of Love or much of what’s thought of as the 60s - the American war in Viet Nam, race riots, and the first wave of feminism.
I tried to imagine who these characters would be - despite the action in the story, I don’t tend to be someone who builds relationships between the two - but in this particular time and place, with the experimentation and the drugs going around, I thought that it actually made serious sense.
Valerie Solanas is famous, of course for two things: the S.C.U.M. Manifesto and for shooting Andy Warhol. The manifesto is brilliant and witty and incisive - absolutely worth a read - as is Solanas’ play Up your ass that Andy refused to produce. The shooting is blamed on madness, but I thought that there had to be more to it, and thus, a mystery was born.
As we know, there’s only one person for a mystery: That’s Sherlock bloody Holmes. Erudite. Educated. Here part of the American upper classes that sound - almost - English. Having dropped out of his life and spending it in search of something different, something meaningful, something diverting.
The moral of this story, if there is one, is to make sure you spend as much time drinking pints with David Moore, that giant of men.
Glen Mehn (glen.mehn.net) was born and raised in New Orleans, and has since lived in San rancisco, North Carolina, Oxford, Uganda, Zambia, and now lives in London. He’s previously been published by Random House Struik and Jurassic London, and is currently working on his first hopefully publishable novel.
When not writing, Glen designs innovation programmes that use technology for social good for the Social Innovation Camp and is head of programme at Bethnal Green Ventures. Glen holds a BA in English Literature and Sociology from the University of New Orleans and an MBA from the niversity of Oxford.
Glen has been a bookseller, line cook, lighting and set designer, house painter, IT director, carbon finance consultant, soldier, dishwasher, and innovation programme designer. One day, he might be a writer. He lives in Brixton, which is where you live if you move from New Orleans to London. He moved country five times in two years once, and happy to stick around for a while.
Glen Mehn is the author of Half There/All There in the Two Hundred and Twenty-One Baker Streets anthology, out now from Abaddon Books!