Behind the Scenes
"And, how did being shot feel like?" my sometimes mentor around Chicago, Philip Marlowe, commented as I towelled myself as best as I could.
"It is at these times I hate Butcher," I growled, motioning to my shirt. I mean, come on, I just lost my home, my lab, and almost every material thing I owned in one lousy book. It was only by good fortune that the Council of Genres let me temporarily stay in The Big Sleep, where Marlowe starred. Being a Cross-Genre Ambassador occasionally rocked; we get priority on temporary lodgings while the next book is being written.
"Cheer up, your induction starts soon," Marlowe soothingly said as he drew out a much battered copy of The Mysterious Affair at Styles.
Soon, we found ourselves at the ballroom of Styles Court, Styles, Essex, where a smattering of characters from various tomes of the classic genre of Mystery, all members of the Union of Literary Detectives, were waiting for us. Throngs of literature's greatest mystery-solving brains milled about the ballroom, where at one end stood a great podium.
"Well," a dapper little Belgian man of middle age or so, with an egg-shaped head and a magnificent pair of black moustaches on it, dressed anal-retentive neatly, announced to us from the podium, banging a wooden mallet on a gavel, the crowd immediately calming down, "It appears that Holmes would be unable to make it right now due to an unexpected reading of A Study in Scarlet, again," there was a collective groan at that, "but Holmes will definitely be coming later." There was a general murmur of doubt at this declaration. "Hence, I, Hercule Poirot, as Vice-Chair of the Union, will start this meeting."
"Item one; will our newest members, Mr Harry Dresden, Mr John Taylor, Mr Robert Langdon, Miss Sookie Stackhouse, please stand up." I stood up and walked to the platform, bowing with the others, to a smattering of applause from the other detectives in the room. I couldn't hold a candle to them in deductive capabilities; it was just that we was considered by them to be the most readable detective of the new generation.
"Thank you, now please take the oath of the Literary Detectives," Poirot droned.
Prompted by Father Brown, we recited:
"I solemnly swear to uphold the terms of service to the union and abide by most rules of the Union of Literary Detectives, to solve the mysteries as written by our authors for the enjoyment of the reader, no matter how ridiculous the solution. Solutions of the mysteries will be properly alluded to, but the answer must not be given out until nearing the end of the story, and justice of a sort, by hook or by crook, will be delivered to the criminal at the end."
"Thank you. We hope that you would raise the quality of detective fiction in the new century," Poirot sniffed. I accepted it; frankly, most of us wouldn't be here if it wasn't required.
"Item number two, the sheer number of cases involving a 'body in the library' plot device is steadily increasing due to an unprecedented amount of murder-mysteries being written. Of course, that means that we must either scale back on murders or demand would exceed supply, or we could involve a few petty crimes, though the latter move would have quite an effect on the genre's readership. Any suggestions?"
"Perhaps we could put on a fantastic show involving international espionage and the like?" Father Brown suggested. "Scale down less on the murders and more on theft or such?"
"Maybe we can consider murders in other areas," Max Carrados, the blind detective, offered. "In the bedroom, in the hallway, in the water closet..."
"I'll raise that to the C of G," Poirot wearily replied, "though I hardly relish that idea. Well, idea gotten, so let's get on with it." He banged the gavel again.
"Item number three, we have here a complaint letter from Dr John Watson that Holmes is apparently in one of those fits..." he broke off here to chuckle at the paper he was holding.
"Fits? Has Holmes been mixing cocaine and opium again?" Miss Jane Marple asked, cocking her head to one side.
"No, not those kinds, my dear," Poirot replied, "but apparently one where the good detective is so concerned with the safety of his narrator, that he attempts to keep Dr Watson imprisoned in Baker Street if not for timely intervention from the Scotland Yard of the Holmes canon. Apparently, they have become more prevalent, thankfully out of sight to Outland readers, ever since The Three Garridebs. Well, if we ever meet him, tell Holmes that if he tries that again I would apply to the Council for a Generic to take Dr Watson's place and Dr Watson would room in with ce cher Hastings, understood?"
"Yes, Poirot," as a general murmur went about wondering how placing Dr Watson with Captain Hastings could keep the hands-down winner of 'greatest detective', 'most insane detective', and 'most civilized lunatic' in line.
"Excellent. Now, let us see...ah, yes, number four, is Mr Wolfe present?"
"No, he's tending to his orchids," Miss Marple chimed in as Archie Goodman stood up as representative.
"Too bad, we will have to leave that to the next meeting." Archie sat back down and began a conversation with the samurai seated next to him.
"Number six, a recent move by the Council of Genres to create a resting spot for nursery characters has resulted in the decommissioning of one of our books and the main protagonist has been delegated as Ambassador between the Oral Tradition and Mystery, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt, formerly Jack Sprat, who would eat no fat. The notes being passed around by the dear Chevalier Dupin right now details everything about the new book, The Big Over Easy. I, Miss Marple, and Rapunzel have been given minor guest roles in the new book."
There was a general murmur of assent as we perused our notes, most of us ignoring the dirty look Poirot shot towards Jack Spratt, who looked decidedly green. Poirot banged the gavel again.
"Do be quiet, we are almost finished. Thank you. Item seven, Father Brown, I am sorry to inform you that due to the recent advent of a certain Outland project, Project Gutenberg, the works of G.K. Chesterton will still be in circulation and thus, your request to renounce the priesthood has been rejected yet again," Father Brown frowned before nodding to show that he got the message, while Miss Marple shot a fleeting worried look at him.
"Item eight, Edwin Drood, the poor victim of an unknown murderer in the unfinished but much-read last book by Dickens, has finally requested compensation from the Council and thus, the latest series by Simon R. Green will star him as the protagonist. This is merely a formality that I am informing all of you that any and all, barring permission or orders from the Great Panjandrum herself, should steer clear of the Nightside series or any book by Green; they're pretty much insane." even John Taylor, star of the Nightside novels, fully agreed with this, which by all accounts should be an indication of exactly how insane.
"Sometimes I just think they dumped the entire twenty-second sub-basement into a book series and published the thing," I heard Marlowe mutter near me. Frankly, I agreed with him.
"Item nine, The Council of Genres has been considering breaking Thriller up into smaller genres, Adventure, Spy, and Thriller, but frankly I really can't say how this will affect us yet, so, please be prepared for a genre shift in the future. I am addressing you, Mr Langdon." Poirot sternly told the star of Angels and Demons, The Da Vinci Code, andthe most recent The Lost Symbol, who now looked quite guilty.
"And in three, two, one..." I heard Poirot mutter under his breath.
The door of the ballroom, which we were all in, burst open to admit a tall, lean man with that look associated with starving artists and crazies, dressed in what looked like a grey waistcoat and top hat, his grey eyes flashing with fury as he advanced upon Poirot, who remained, quite amazingly, calm.
"You little Belgian, where's Watson?" Sherlock Holmes yelled, and damn, the Great Detective had a really loud voice for someone who looks like he hadn't eaten in days.
"Oh, for once you've finally decided to turn up," Poirot said in a bored voice as he shuffled around his notes on the podium. "Excellent, now we can get through to the last item on the list. The 924th BookWorld Awards has included a new category: 'Greatest Detective of All Time', in a bid to attract new readers to the mystery genre, what with the extended readership brought about by Project Gutenberg. We of the Mystery genre are participating in it, with the winner to receive one allowed Internal Plot Adjustment from the Council of Genres as a prize. Participation is optional."
The volume of surrounding white noise increased as we discussed the implications of winning the title.
"Well then, will you all please submit your nominations for the category into the hat outside as you leave. In three weeks, nominations will close and we will begin the elimination rounds. The last detective remaining will win the title and its great prize. Well then, let's go," And Poirot banged his gavel again, signalling the end of the meeting.
I may extend this to a full series if I get enough good reviews. Please review well!
This is told from the view of Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden, created by Jim Butcher
Philip Marlowe is created by Raymond Chandler
Hercule Poirot and Jane Marple are created by Agatha Christie, the Queen of Crime
Robert Langdon is by Dan Brown
Sookie Stackhouse is by Charlaine Harris
John Taylor, the Nightside novels, by Simon R. Green
Edwin Drood, from The Mystery of Edwin Drood and the Secret History series by Charles Dickens and Simon R. Green respectively
Nero Wolfe, Archie Goodman by Rex Stout
Chevalier Dupin by Edgar Allan Poe
The setting of Styles Court, Styles, Essex, is featured in The Mysterious Affair of Styles by Agatha Christie
Great Panjandrum, C of G, Council of Genres, BookWorld and subsequent associations, DI Jack Spratt, The Big Over Easy, by Jasper Fforde