The 60% Solution
More Talk, Less Hock: The David Cranmer Q&A

Holmes Again, Holmes Again, Jiggity Jig

I've been revisiting a series by a favorite author of mine recently. It had been a while since I'd read it, so it's been interesting to return to the books and see if they stand up. I'm happy to report that they do.

The "Holmes on the Range" series is actually good!

Or World's Greatest Sleuth! and On the Wrong Track are, anyway. I haven't gotten to The Black Dove and The Crack in the Lens yet. But I have high hopes. 

I'm going through novels #2-#5 in the series to (A) get them ready for re-publishing and (B) get myself ready to write novel #6. What I've learned (or simply remembered) so far:

  • They don't suck! Huzzah!
  • They are dense. Wow, I packed a lot in. Historical research, Sherlockian references, clues, red herrings, subplots, side characters, word play...yowza. It's reminding me that... 
  • They were really, really hard to write. My tarot mysteries and kids books and zombie comedies all had their challenges, but the "Holmes on the Range" novels were a special kind of painful. Not only did they have the most complex plots and require the most research, they're written in an idiosyncratic style that is (hopefully) easy to read yet a complete pain in the ass to write. I'm remembering now how difficult it was to come up with all those chapter subheads, for instance. Few things are more agonizing than staring at a computer screen while muttering to yourself "Be funny. Be clever. Be funny. Be clever..."
  • They stopped too soon. I had so many plans for these characters. So many ideas for more adventures. So many brain cells I hadn't fried yet trying to be funny and clever. So it's exciting -- if a little daunting -- to be getting back to Big Red and Old Red at last.  

Holmes by the numbersIt's not just the original novels I'm revisiting as I rev up to revive the series, by the way. I've also been checking back in with all the things that inspired the series in the first place. I've been reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rex Stout and Agatha Christie. I've been watching Jeremy Brett as Sherlock Holmes and Peter Ustinov as Hercule Poirot and The Thin Man and Westerns and The (original!) Avengers.

Oh, and one more thing: I've been spending time with my old buddy Columbo. And I've been having a ton of fun. 

Here's hoping the fun continues even after the brain cells start frying again.

Repeat after me: Be funny. Be clever. Be funny. Be clever... 



Steve, my friend, the mark of an excellent writer is that you make these challenges look effortless. Your skillful writing puts you in rare company. I have enjoyed everything else you've put out in these intervening years, but I'm so glad you're jumping back into the Holmes boys' stories! They are my first loves. Here's hoping the effort expended continues to be balanced by the sense of satisfaction of a beloved job done superbly. Here's to Big Red and Old Red!

Jonathan Turner

Amen to all of the above. The HotR books combine a ton of craft with a ton of imagination. Either one is hard. The combination is, um, more hard. I suppose that's why a lot of authors settle for doing one or the other, and also why the standouts--including your various inspirations--do in fact stand out.

Steve Hockensmith

Thanks, Diva! It'll be interesting to see how I feel about the new novel once it's done. I remember being so exhausted after finishing some of the original books I couldn't tell if they were good or bad...which is all the more reason I'm pleased to discover now that they don't stink!

Thanks for your kind words, too, Jonathan! As half of my beta-reading team, you'll be one of the first to find out if I've still got the ol' Hockensmith touch!


While I enjoy the Tarot mysteries, and Cadaver and Chief, and collections (I have not read the kid science books yet)I've been hoping for a new Holmes on the Range.

Very excited about what future adventures may unfold.

Good luck.

Matthew Szewczyk

The news of new books has been very exciting! Somewhere I have a notebook with notes from my reading of the books, an unofficial annotated edition if you will. A reader could tell you put a lot of effort into the research and each book brought new surprises. It may be time to reread the series myself, it has been years since I have enjoyed them and I wonder if I will remember all the twists!

Steve Hockensmith

I like to think my books are memorable, but hopefully they're just un-memorable enough for readers like you to read and enjoy them again...after, I selfishly hope, buying them again!

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