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A comic love story in which the discovery of a long-lost version of a cult movie sheds light on a 45-year-old love affair between a Hollywood filmmaker and a real-life Loch Ness monster hunter

THE CONTINUITY GIRL is centred on the supposed discovery of an uncut print of Billy Wilder’s celebrated film, The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970). It begins in the run up to 2014’s Scottish independence referendum, when Gemma MacDonald, a London-based Film Studies lecturer of Scottish heritage, is tasked with presenting the new print at a festival screening in Inverness. She seeks out April Korzeniowski, the movie’s Californian continuity supervisor (NB—in reality, this role fell to Elaine Schreyeck, whose remarkable career deserves another and quite different book). We then switch to 1969 and learn of the affair that develops between April and a young English scientist, Jim Outhwaite. Jim is a member of the Loch Ness Research Group, and thus a dedicated seeker of evidence for the Loch Ness monster.

But in life, as in a Billy Wilder movie, nothing goes to plan and nobody is quite who they seem. While men are landing on the moon and the 1960s approaches its bitter, gloriously sound-tracked end, fault lines begin to appear between the director and his stars, between Jim and his colleagues (and their wives), and between lovers brought together by extreme circumstances. It’s a long wait for golden time to alight on Urquhart Castle, and when it does, the moment must be snatched before it’s gone…

The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes was a commercial and critical flop in its day, but has since developed a dedicated following. It is a favourite of both Kim Newman and Anne Billson, two film critics who are also Sherlockians, and writers of genre novels with real bite. Mark Gatiss claims the film as an inspiration for Sherlock, the phenomenally successful BBC TV series he co-created with Steven Moffat. And the satirical novelist Jonathan Coe has written extensively of his obsession with the film, most notably in his essay ‘9th and 13th’. It even makes an appearance in his latest novel, Number 11. Of The Continuity Girl, Jonathan says: ‘[Patrick Kincaid’s] book sounds delightful—I am always happy to encourage anything which creates interest in this wonderful film.’

Like April in the novel, Patrick is an Anglo-American. He was born to an English mother in Amarillo, Texas, but moved to the UK when his American father was stationed in Oxfordshire with the USAF in the mid-1970s. Unlike his older brother, Patrick was sent to a local rather than a base school, and very quickly went native. He eventually gained a PhD in English Literature at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon. For the past 14 years, he has taught English to secondary school children in an inner-city comprehensive in Coventry.

Long a fan of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Patrick contributed one of his own, ‘The Doll and His Maker’, to MX Publishing’s SHERLOCK’S HOME: THE EMPTY HOUSE, an anthology of pastiches put together to raise funds for the preservation of one of the author’s former homes. As well as writing fiction, Patrick is a keen poet. He was short-listed for the Bridport Poetry Prize in 2012 and long-listed for the Fish Poetry Prize in 2013.

Excuse me,’ Jim said, ‘do you mind if I borrow your paper?’

‘Not at all, young man,’ said the Watson actor. He picked it up from where he had dropped it by his chair. ‘Be my guest,’ he said, handing it up. ‘You following the moon mission, too?’

He was a thick-set man of about forty, with a real moustache and a receding head of tightly curled hair. His smile was natural and there was a light of genuine interest in his eyes. Jim felt the power of personality in a way he’d never felt it before. ‘I am, yes.’

‘It’s wonderful to have some good news in the papers for a change, isn’t it?’ Now that he wasn’t in character, it was possible to detect something in his voice that was neither English nor Scottish. ‘I suppose you’ve been interested in space since you were a nipper, eh? H.G. Wells and all that…’

Read more...

Sherlock and the Sexual Revolution: Holmes on screen in the 1960s

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

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Photographer unknown. Courtesy Paul Diamond collection. On location for The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Left to right in foreground: I.A.L Diamond, Colin Blakely, Geneviève Page, Robert Stephens, Billy Wilder.

Perhaps the most ’60s thing to happen to Sherlock Holmes was the 1966 poster for James Hill’s 1965 thriller A Study in Terror. Below the say-it-like-it-is tagline, ‘SHERLOCK…

A short blog about a single illustration

Saturday, 15 April 2017

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I love this illustration by the American Holmes illustrator, Frederic Dorr Steele, which I borrowed for a Twitter post. It was created for his first Sherlock Holmes cover, for the edition of Collier's that contained the detective's apparent return from the dead in "The Empy House". The composition is superb: Holmes's left leg and arm (down to the knuckle of his forefinger) push him away from the…

The man who found Sherlock’s Monster: an interview with Adrian Shine

Monday, 10 April 2017

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A year ago, in April 2016, a momentous discovery was made in the depths of Loch Ness. Newspapers displayed a sonar image, collected by a state-of-the-art autonomous submersible, that was unmistakably monstrous—and not only because it was rendered in lurid green, blue and brown striations. There was its thick body, there its slender, curving neck. The mystery of Loch Ness had been solved!

Well…

An Interview with the author of THE CONTINUITY GIRL Part 2

Sunday, 19 March 2017

As promised, here's the second part of the interview that was shot at the Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry by Alex Breeze, with Heather Kincaid asking the questions. 

This time I talk about how I chose my main characters, what inspired the plot, and what the novel has to say (if anything) about those things that are going on in the world just now. 

Thank you for your enthusiastic response to the…

An Interview with the author of THE CONTINUITY GIRL Part 1

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Here, as promised, is the first part of the interview shot by Alex Breeze at Coventry's Big Comfy Bookshop. Questions courtesy of Heather Kincaid. 

2016 and all that...

Sunday, 26 February 2017

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August, 2013. The Heather Centre wasn’t a scheduled stop on our tour of the Highlands. In fact, we only really sought it out to add a punchline to a joke we hadn’t quite formulated. My wife’s name is Heather, you see, and we were on honeymoon. We were in the mood to be easily amused.

The stop did make sense in another way. We had spent the morning at the RSPB reserve at Lake Garten, looking…

Coffee at midnight with Christopher Lee: an interview with Robert McPhee

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Mycroft

A coach clatters towards the ruins of a castle in the near dusk, pulled by four white horses. A couple of liveried men—a coachman and a footman—are at the front, and another stands behind. Two more liveried men trot in their wake, on another pair of white horses. Above the clop of hooves and rattle of wheels we just about recognise the theme from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake—but it’s been Elgarized…

Patrick Kincaid commented on this blog post.

Difficulties with 'Girls' - some further thoughts on a trend in book titles.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

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When I first decided to call my novel The Continuity Girl, it wasn’t to follow a popular formula. There were reasons the title seemed right, some of which I will explain below, and others of which are best left up to you. Then, a few months ago—and just as I was beginning my first revision, so was open to suggestion—I had a crisis about it.

It’s that word ‘girl’. The age of my novel’s title…

Lakes and Castles: on location with THE CONTINUITY GIRL. #1 – Loch Meiklie

Thursday, 22 December 2016

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The way to the bank is thick with birches. There’s hardly any space between the silvery trunks, and its worse nearer the water, where there are also alders to contend with. Then, when I’m within a few feet of the place I’m looking for, I’m stymied by the depth of Loch Meiklie. None of this—not the trees nor the high water—had been here when Holmes, Watson and Madame Valladon were enjoying their picnic…

A novel that sprang to life in a moment of inspiration. After forty years...

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Giant country 1

One of ways I kept my writing going over the past couple of years was by watching, reading and listening to others discuss the way they created things.

It didn't have to be novelists. I was just as happy watching the artist Frank Quitely compose a panel for a comic book, or listening to Adam Buxton and Graham Linehan discuss the discipline of writing comedy, as I was tuning in to a Mariella Frostrup…

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