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The Thrilling Detective Website Deconstructs Owen Fitzstephen

Owen Fitzstephen‘s book is called The Big Man’s Daughter, and it doesn’t really have a detective in it, but…

Explaining one of his books is a bit like skiing about soup. This is really just the author playing fast and loose (and possibly avoiding lawsuits from the Dashiell Hammett estate) with The Maltese Falcon (again).

Like, really fast and really loose.

When the best laid scams of her father (a criminal known as “The Big Man,” not “The Fat Man”) to procure a priceless statuette of a bird called the Black Falcon (not the Maltese Falcon) that is said to possess mystical powers, go belly-up, eighteen year-old scam artist Rita Gaspereaux (whose name is not Rhea Gutman) finds herself abandoned and penniless in the merciless criminal underworld of 1922 San Francisco.

Sounds intriguing, even if it’s not exactly the stuff that P.I. dreams are made of.

But then McAlpine, that crafty son of a bitch, slips us a real literary Mickey Finn.

Rita’s only comfort (and possible salvation), it turns out, is a novel about another lost eighteen year-old that she’s become obsessed with. And as this multi-layered mash-up unfolds, Rita begins to discover some strange and disturbing parallels between herself and a certain Dorothy G. from Kansas, the plucky heroine of the book-within-a-book, and the lines between fictional worlds begin to, uh, magically blur.

Damn you, Fitzstephen! You’ve done it again!

It may not be a detective novel, or even a mystery, really, but it’s a heady brew all the same; a ballsy, carefully assembled and psychologically sharp read that tears into the guts of what it’s like to be young, scared and not sure where you’re going. Or where exactly you’ve been.

If you’re a Hammett fan, you’re going to love this.

Starred Review From P.W. for The Big Man’s Daughter – “Exhilarating!”

“This arresting mystery from Fitzstephen (Hammett Unwritten) explores what might have happened to a minor character in Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon. In 1922 San Francisco, cunning 18-year-old Rita Gaspereaux is at loose ends after her con artist father, Cletus, “known to some in the rackets as the Big Man,” dies in a shootout over the possession of a statuette called the Black Falcon. Rita, who’s learned a few tricks from Cletus, believes she’s at last free to take control of her life, but barely a day passes before she’s drawn against her will into a quest to retrieve the fabled bird. Meanwhile, Rita takes solace in fiction, “almost as effective an escape as laudanum,” in particular a novel about an innocent 18-year-old from Kansas, Dorothy G. Extracts from the novel nicely complement Rita’s story. Lies, cons, shifting alliances, kidnapping, and death propel readers toward a strangely hypnotic climax, which is skillfully presaged yet still an exhilarating surprise. Fans of metafictional mysteries will be enthralled.” (May)

Holmes Entangled by Gordon Mc Alpine

A Starred Review from Booklist for Holmes Entangled

Believe it! Sherlock Holmes actually said, “while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.” Thus does he foreshadow quantum mechanics in this pastiche that has the old bloodhound—he’s 73 now—moving through a literary detective novel. It’s to author McAlpine’s credit that he makes what might have been an arch exercise into a joy to read.

The plot finds Jorge Luis Borges coming across a manuscript handwritten by long-deceased Holmes. Suddenly Borges is evading a killer and seeking out a PI for help. Then we dive into the manuscript itself, and Holmes tells us he’s become a college professor with a phony German accent. He’s consulted by a midlist author named Conan Doyle about a problematic seance, and what follows is an engrossing display of Holmesian scholarship, bent on convincing us that Holmes was not the Victorian gentleman the late Watson portrayed.

It’s a fascinating read, smart and entertaining for all that it’s based on those quantum mechanics. That’s right, it’s Holmes confronting alternate universes, and it’s wonderful. — Don Crinklaw

Read more about Holmes Entangled here

Holmes Entangled by Gordon Mc Alpine

Holmes Entangled

From the Edgar®-nominated author of Hammett Unwritten and Woman with a Blue Pencil comes a startling novel told in the voice of Sherlock Holmes. Set in 1920s’ London, Cambridge, and Paris, Holmes’s final adventure leads him through labyrinths of crime and espionage in a mortally dangerous inquiry into the unseen nature of existence itself.

Sherlock Holmes, now in his seventies, retired from investigations and peaceably disguised as a professor at Cambridge, is shaken when a modestly successful author in his late-sixties named Arthur Conan Doyle calls upon him at the university. This Conan Doyle, notable for historical adventure stories, science fiction, and a three-volume history of the Boer War (but no detective tales), somehow knows of the false professor’s true identity and pleads for investigative assistance. Someone is trying to kill Conan Doyle. Who? Why? Good questions, but what intrigues Holmes most is how the “middling scribbler” ascertained Holmes’s identity in the first place, despite the detective’s perfect disguise. Holmes takes the case.

There is danger every step of the way. Great powers want the investigation quashed. But with the assistance of Dr. Watson’s widow, Holmes persists, exploring séances, the esoterica of Edgar Allan Poe, the revolutionary new science of quantum mechanics, and his own long-denied sense of loss and solitude.

Early Critics on Holmes Entangled

Booklist Starred Review

Believe it! Sherlock Holmes actually said, “while the individual man is an insoluble puzzle, in the aggregate he becomes a mathematical certainty.” Thus does he foreshadow quantum mechanics in this pastiche that has the old bloodhound—he’s 73 now—moving through a literary detective novel. It’s to author McAlpine’s credit that he makes what might have been an arch exercise into a joy to read. The plot finds Jorge Luis Borges coming across a manuscript handwritten by long-deceased Holmes. Suddenly Borges is evading a killer, and seeking out a PI for help. Then we dive into the manuscript itself, and Holmes tells us he’s become a college professor with a phony German accent. He’s consulted by a midlist author named Conan Doyle about a problematic seance, and what follows is an engrossing display of Holmesian scholarship, bent on convincing us that Holmes was not the Victorian gentleman the late Watson portrayed. It’s a fascinating read, smart and entertaining for all that it’s based on those quantum mechanics. That’s right, it’s Holmes confronting alternate universes, and it’s wonderful.— Don Crinklaw

“A joy to read from start to finish…a thrilling, believable rendering of our beloved detective in his twilight years. I can’t recommend this novel enough.” — Mitch Cullin, author of A Slight Trick of the Mind, the basis for the film, “Mr. Holmes”.

“In this brilliant imagining by Gordon McAlpine… Prepare to have your mind blown!” — Leslie S. Klinger, editor of the Edgar Award-winning New Annotated Sherlock Holmes

Woman with a Blue Pencil

On the eve of the attack on Pearl Harbor, Sam Sumida, a Japanese American academic, has been thrust into the role of amateur PI, investigating his wife’s murder, which has been largely ignored by the LAPD.  Grief stricken by her loss and disoriented by his ill-prepared change of occupation, Sam discovers that, inexplicably, not only has he become unrecognizable to his former acquaintances, but also all signs of his existence (including even the murder he’s investigating) have been erased.  Unaware that he is a discarded, fictional creation, he resumes his investigation in a world now characterized not only by his own sense of isolation but also by wartime fear.

To make matters worse, Sam finds himself on a collision course with a Korean American PI with jingoistic and anti-Japanese attitudes — the revised, politically and commercially viable character for whom Sumida has been excised.

Behind it all is the ambitious, twenty-year old Nisei author who has made the changes, despite his relocation to a Japanese internment camp.  And looming above is his book editor in New York, who serves as both muse and manipulator to the young author — the woman with the blue pencil, a new kind of femme fatale.

The Big Man's Daughter by Gordon McAlpine

The Big Man’s Daughter (as Owen Fitzstephen)

Holmes Entangled by Gordon Mc Alpine

Holmes Entangled

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Woman with a Blue Pencil

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Hammett Unwritten (as Owen Fitzstephen)

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Joy in Mudville

the-tell-tale-start-15

The Tell Stale Start

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Once Upon a Midnight Eerie

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The Pet and the Pendulum

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Mystery Box

the-persistence-of-memory-15

The Persistence of Memory

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Orange County Noir

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The Way of Baseball