Monday, September 12, 2011

The Life and Times of A Criminal Genius

I'm lucky enough to have Michael Charton with me here today on Fresh Pot of Tea. He is the author of Moriarty: The Life and Times of a Criminal Genius. Michael grew in Brooklyn, always loved reading, and began writing in 2006

1. Your book is Moriarty: The Life and Times of a Criminal Genius. What made you write about this subject?

I am an Anglophile and have always been a Sherlock Holmes fan.  Professor Moriarty is only mentioned in detail in two of the stories, otherwise he is the vague “Napoleon of Crime.”  I could have just made Professor Moriarty a common criminal; I wanted to give him a reason.

2. What kind of research did you do for the book?

Mostly about Ireland, Boston Brahmin Irish conflict, Irish-Americans and African Americans, History of New Mexico, and Victorian Britain.

3. Did you discover any fascinating stories while you researched and wrote the manuscript?  The one that comes to mind is about how the Irish went to New Orleans between 1845 and 1860.  They went to Liverpool first and ships came from New Orleans, bringing cotton.  Passengers were taken at low rates, because they were human ballast to weight the ship down, otherwise the ship was returning to New Orleans empty.  The Irish were brought there to dig canals, in hot swampy bayous full of disease and nasty critters.  Slaves weren’t used because they were considered property, an investment, the Irishman was expendable.  Within one generation, though, the Irish were doing well (if they survived

Here is  a short excerpt -  the first chapter and Moriarty’s angry letter to Holmes.

Chapter One:  The Meddlesome Holmes is Closing In.

September 15, 1890:

I am writing down my thoughts, for I am at my wits end!  I have tried to be kind.  I have tried blackmail.  I have tried subtle threats, direct threats, but alas, to no avail!  His Boswell, Dr. Watson, writes missives to praise Holmes, while slandering me.  I can hardly get relief from the courts in my position.  I am a hunted Irishman in the English lair.  A Catholic and the descendant of great Celtic kings, persecuted and hunted like the animal the Sassenach think I am.  I abhor what Holmes has done to me.  The outrages have been building over the years and getting to be more than I can bear.
He calls me the “Napoleon of Crime.”  I take his compliment on that score; however, he does not acknowledge the other things I do.  
The orphanages I set up worldwide.  The organizations I set up to help people scattered worldwide by English evil, cruelty, and An Ghorta Morta.  The Great Hunger, which dispersed many Irishmen, me included from the land of their birth.  
Oh, Mr. Holmes, you don’t know yet how you will pay.  You and all of the so-called Great British Empire.  You will be shown how one man with I daresay a higher intellect than yours shall bring you and your arrogant Empire to its quivering knees.  For you shall be quivering.  Your arrogance will be your undoing.  I shall laugh.  I shall build a better world for all those you have oppressed by spreading the color pink over the atlases of the world.  Oh, Mr. Holmes, you have thwarted and vexed me!  With the Naval Treaty, I could have brought your rotten nation down.  You meddled and snatched it from my hands!  You uncovered my alliances worldwide!  In India, Canada, the United States Australia!  You are dogging my every step.  I tip my hat to your brilliance.  I will best you in the end though.  Your Cocaine addled brain is no match for me.  You may think me a stupid ignorant mick.  I assure you Mr. Holmes; go on thinking me not as brilliant as you think.  Maybe that will be your undoing.  You shall underestimate me.
Your companions I know are no match for me. For example, there is that ignorant buffoon from Yorkshire, Lestrade.  If ever there was a bumbling peeler, he is it!  I realize why you have a need to help the police regularly.  The Welsh idiot Jones is no better!  Inspector Hopkins, I do have respect for.  He helped to thwart me in the bank robbery.  My Red Headed League scheme.  
Now I come to your Boswell.  Dr. John Watson.  As God is my witness, I will fix him.  For he Mr. Sherlock Holmes is your voice to the British masses.  You make my life hard Holmes.  Watson makes it public and makes you a hero.  It would be a shame for Dr. Watson to meet with an accident that might ruin his hands, therefore ending his writing and his medical career and his writing.  I have to admit, I tried blackmailing him, bribing him.  I have to admit Dr. Watson is a proper British gentleman.  That and that alone, makes him an enemy as well.
Your brother Mycroft.  Don’t think for a minute I can’t get to him at his club.  I can and I shall if you do not leave me to my business.  I have been to Sicily and studied the Mafia and its techniques.  Trust me, if you don’t back off, I shall find a way.
The ladies in your life, Irene Adler and Mary Russell.  I will not harm a lady, but there are those of my acquaintance who are women and will not hesitate to do so.
You don’t realize the fire you are playing with Mr. Holmes with no one to put the fire out.  Why not leave the battle and keep the fire from burning in the first place?  
Mr. Holmes.  I am prepared to make you one final deal.  I know you will not take my money.  I have tried that through my associates.  However, I will make this deal with you.  There is no negotiation.  You must accept and move out of the way or be disposed of.  The deal is as follows:
    1. 1. You allow an Irish independence movement to thrive.
    2. 2. The British government uses its vast economic resources to pull the Irish masses out of their poverty.
    3. 3. A timetable is drawn up for Irish independence.
    4. 4. The Gaelic language is promoted and not repressed.
    5. 5. Reparations are made for An Ghorta Morta.  Mr. Holmes, as far as I am concerned, Her Majesty’s Government has blood on its hands; the blood of millions of Irishmen.  
    6. 6. The Catholic Church is designated the official church of Ireland.
    7. 7. You stay out of my affairs completely.  If you want to be a consulting detective, that is fine.  You may not, however, investigate me and Dr. Watson may not write about it if you do.  

All of these are non-negotiable.  I hope this is clear.  I expect an answer forthwith. 
If this goes on, one of us must be destroyed.  There isn’t room in the same mortal world for both of us.  I have men all over the world, ready to do my bidding.  
Who do you think bankrolled the Molly Maguires in Pennsylvania?  Fenians in Canada?  Who helps to raise funds in Boston and New York?  Certain goings on in India?  There are many lonely deaths in the Irish countryside, enemies of my people.  I shall not give you specifics; however, a man of your brilliance gets the idea.  I have connections in many places.  My point, Mr. Holmes?  Think you can flee your beloved London, which I know you don’t like to do?  Think again!  I shall be waiting and plotting.  For your life, take the offer of safety, while you still can.  You have hounded me these long years and you shall not get another chance.  What will it be Mr. Holmes?  You have two weeks to make your decision.  Choose wisely.


Lisa Zhang Wharton said...

I love Sherlock Holmes as well. It is an interesting interview.

Laurie Schnebly Campbell said...

What a great preview! And I had no idea Mary Russell was part of the original series; I thought of her as a Laurie King invention. This book promises all kinds of fascinating new Holmes material...sounds like a real treat. :)