interviews / Q&A's



We are delighted to welcome David Stuart Davies to The Literary Lounge. David is an acclaimed author, playwright, editor and expert on Sherlock Holmes – who also features in several of his crime novels. A member of The Detection Club, established in 1930 by a group of leading crime fiction writers, including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, David’s latest book, Oliver Twist and the Mystery of Throate Manor, is published this month by Urbane Publications.

Welcome, David.


LS: You’ve written a lot on Sherlock Holmes, what made you turn to Oliver Twist? I believe you contributed a short story featuring Oliver and Jack to a collection many years ago?

DSD: Yes, and I was very satisfied with the short story thinking that there was a real possibility of turning the concept of Oliver and the Dodger working as a detective duo into a novel. The idea stayed with me and when I got an idea for a mystery in which to place then, I set to writing The Mystery of Throate Manor. Also I love Dickens’ writing – his ability to blend the bizarre, the grotesque and the comic in a thoroughly engaging and exciting narrative. That was my aim with Throate Manor.


LS: The Oliver of your book is an adult and lawyer. Why the law?

DSD: I didn’t want to make him a police detective – that would be too predictable – but Oliver had to have access to legal matters to allow him some credentials and excuse to investigate crimes.


LS: Jack Dawkins, the Artful Dodger, is Oliver’s clerk. Do other characters from the original book make an appearance?

DSD: Some are referred to briefly early in the novel – but the main participating characters are all my own – based on the kind that Dickens might create.


LS: How is your Oliver different to Dickens’?

DSD: Well, he is no longer a naïve lad. He is 28 now and although he remains sensitive and kind, he is also shrewd and perceptive. No doubt his time with Fagin made him sharp-witted and resilient.


LS: Is London as much a character in your book as it is in Dickens’?

DSD: Elements of the city – but Throate Manor, a character in itself, is in the country – in Surrey. Low dives and strange emporiums in the city feature also.


LS: Are your books location led?

DSD: Location is important but I think I focus on atmosphere and character. I believe I write in a cinematic fashion. I visualise the scene and the characters as I write. I hope I create a movie on the page, as it were.


LS: You are an unabashed Sherlock fan: do you have a similar love of Dickens? Is Oliver Twist your favourite Dickens’ character?

DSD: I love Dickens work – especially his way with words. His ability to shift from humour to terror on the same page is remarkable. My favourite Dickens’ character is Sidney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities – a wonderful anti-hero. Pity he died at the end of the book or he would make an ideal character to create new stories for!


LS: Are you a Dickens purist? Would you ever introduce Oliver to characters from Dickens’ other books?

DSD: I am not a Dickens (or a Doyle) purist but I think I would shy away from having Oliver meet – say – David Copperfield or any other of Dickens’ characters. This smacks a little bit too much like a gimmick.


LS: How much research do you put into a novel like Oliver Twist?

DSD: Very little actual research apart from reading Dickens.


LS: Are you writing/planning other Oliver Twist books?

DSD: Possibly. I need to get an idea for a plot first – but more importantly, I want to see how this book is received.


LS: You are an expert on Sherlock Holmes. What first drew you to him? Do you have a favourite story/book?

DSD: I encountered Holmes on the school library shelves when I was about 12 years old. At the same time, the local TV station were showing the old Basil Rathbone films. The combination of these two events sold me into Sherlockian slavery for life. My favourite book is The Hound of the Baskervilles – a wonderful combination of the detective story and Gothic tale.


LS: Sherlock still lives very much in modern imaginations, not least through series like Sherlock and Elementary. What is it about him, do you think, that appeals to contemporary audiences? Why is he so seemingly timeless?

DSD: He is the ultimate super hero. He has no magical powers. He just uses his brain to achieve his aims. He is also his own man, an aspect of the character that appeals to us all. If only we could be like him. Also, the relationship between Holmes & Watson, one of the greatest bondings in literature, is wonderful. Sherlock Holmes’ sterling characteristics are timeless.


LS: Who is your favourite Sherlock (actor-wise)? Favourite adaptation?

DSD: I am split between Basil Rathbone and Jeremy Brett – both are great in their individual interpretation of the character. I am also fond of Peter Cushing and I like his film version of The Hound of the Baskervilles best.


LS: You’re a member of the revered The Detection Club. Can you explain to readers it’s importance/relevance?

DSD: The Detection Club was formed in 1930 by Dorothy L. Sayers & G. K. Chesterton. It was designed as a dining club for writers of detective fiction to meet and chat, discuss plots, characters etc. Conan Doyle was asked to be the first president but he was too ill to accept – he died that year.

Since its inception most of the great crime writers have been members, including Agatha Christie and Ruth Rendell. One has to be invited to join and so it is a great honour to become a member.


LS: You have written non-fiction and fiction – are your writing processes similar?

DSD: No. Non-fiction is more practical. I need to plan and research in a detailed fashion. Writing fiction, I let my creative juices take over and sometimes I take paths and create characters I never expected. I write my fiction first thing in the morning – very early – when the mind is fresh. I don’t even look at emails before I write. Non-fiction chores are left for later in the day.


LS: Do you write longhand or on a typewriter/computer?

DSD:  I cannot read my handwriting anymore! Years of typing has erased the clarity. I type all my books on computer – using one finger!


LS: If you could give one piece of advice to new writers, what would it be?

DSD: Finish it! When you start a project, quite often you will become disillusioned with your efforts but do carry on. Even if the final version is not very good, you can then set to work and improve it. No writer creates a finished product at the first attempt. Writing is creating, then shaping, then editing, then polishing.


Thank you so much for spending time with us, David, in The Literary Lounge.






Oliver Twist and the Mystery of Throate Manor | Urbane Publications | 14 June 2018 | paperback | £8.99










Acknowledgements: Thank you to David Stuart Davies for giving up his time. Many thanks also to Kelly Lacey of Love Books Group who organised the book tour of which this Q&A forms a part. We hope you’re feeling better. The cover image was supplied by the publisher.


Also of interest: ‘Gunnar Staalesen: The Literary Lounge Q&A’; ‘Ian Ridley: The Literary Shed Q&A;John Fairfax: The Literary Lounge Q&A‘; ‘Our Top 10 opening lines’; Letters from the heart – our Top 20 love letters; ‘”I am half agony … ” The best love letter in literature’; ‘Letters of Note‘; 20 books this summer challenge.


This Q&A is © 2018 by The Literary Shed. All rights reserved. All opinions are our own. We welcome your feedback and comments. If you wish to reproduce this piece, please do contact us to request permission. Thank you so much.