The Continuity Girl

By Patrick Kincaid

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

Fiction | Film
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Publication date: March 2018

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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.’


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  • Patrick Kincaid avatar

    Patrick Kincaid

    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…’

  • Patrick Kincaid has written 3 private updates. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    9th March 2019 One Night in March - The Continuity Girl, Year One.

    The author explains - Big Comfy Books, Coventry.

    On the night of 9 March 2018, a group of friends and patrons gathered at The Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry’s Fargo Village to help me celebrate the launch of my debut novel, The Continuity Girl.

    A year ago – is that possible? I had been anticipating the moment for more than that, of course. Since at least December 2016, when Unbound…

    2nd January 2019 2018, and all that...

    New Year’s Day, 2016. On a walk in the dreich weather, my wife and I discussed plans for the future. I was more than halfway through my latest novel, and had picked out this interesting publisher called Unbound as offering something that might be worth a try…

    New Years Day, 2017. My Unbound crowdfunding campaign had begun. I was already 32% of the way to my target. It was an amazing start…


    2nd August 2018 Honestly, it’s not the Booker Prize...

    Last year the long list for The Guardian’s Not the Booker included three titles by authors in the Unbound stable, namely Ian Skewis’s A Murder of Crows, Natalie Fergie’s The Sewing Machine and Martine McDonagh’s Narcissism for Beginners. I was still at the editorial stage with my novel, and was in awe of what these three had achieved. Since I’d only finished reading one of them at the time—Martine…

    7th May 2018 World Tour 2018 (continued...)

    Since my last report, The Continuity Girl has been spotted in the following places. 

    Rio Branco, Brazil: 

    Melbourne, Australia: 

    Nelson, New Zealand: 

    Menton, South of France: 

    and Edinburgh, Scotland: 

    This last might be less exotic than some of the other places, but it seems significant. It marks The Continuity…

    31st March 2018 World Tour 2018 (so far...)

    Three weeks since the launch of The Continuity Girl, and it's already better travelled than its author. Here are a few of the places my debut novel has reached. 


    As this reader pointed out, the music was released a year before the one in which the novel is set. But you wouldn't stop listening to a Jeff Beck album after a year, would you? 



    18th March 2018 Nine days in: four bookshops, one cinema, and a couple of Amazon reviews...

    (Photographs courtesy of Alex Breeze and Margaret Jenkins)

    By now, all of you who pledged during the crowdfunding campaign should have a copy of The Continuity Girl, on your tablet or electronic reading device, or as a solid paperback book. For others, the book is available in all the usual online places, and in an increasing number of bookshops. 

    The official launch date was 9…

    2nd December 2017 A first review

    Among the first people to show an interest in The Continuity Girl when it started funding with Unbound was someone who had reason to be wary of it. As I've mentioned a couple of times, the novel is partly set on the banks of Loch Ness in 1969 during the location shoot for Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes. Paul Diamond was there, and not only as an onlooker. His father, IAL Diamond…

    4th November 2017 Of dumbfounded detectives and lovable monsters

    The release of The Continuity Girl seems to have been just about to happen for quite a while now. That must be doubly the case when you aren't receiving updates from the publisher.... Rest assured, there will be definite news about a release date in the next couple of weeks. I've been in discussions about the cover with designer Mark Ecob and with Xander Cansell at Unbound, and hope to have that finalised…

    25th September 2017 'Please grip this fact with your cerebral tentacle...'

    My short story 'The Doll and His Maker' was first published in MX Publishing's Sherlock's Home: The Empty House (2012). This collection, supervised by Steve Emecz and the BBC Sherlock fansite Sherlockology, was published to raise funds for the campaign to save one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's most important properties from what seemed certain destruction. Undershaw was where Doyle wrote some of…

    20th September 2017 The Continuity Girl is nearly here...

    Today I completed the final tweaks to the copy edit of The Continuity Girl and sent the manuscript to my copy editor, Andrew Chapman. It took tremendous self-control not to go on making changes. I once heard David Almond, the acclaimed children's writer, read from his much-loved novel Skellig, and admit afterwards that he'd edited as he'd read. The book was then over 10 years old. 

    All that's left…

    15th August 2017 When Sherlock Holmes fought the Nazis

    There's an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it's God's own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.

    So says Sherlock Holmes at the end of 'The Last Bow', the story in which Conan Doyle brought…

    11th August 2017 1969 and all that...

    There is some consensus that the sixties didn’t begin in 1960. The void in vital pop music that followed the US Army buzz-clipping Elvis Presley’s hard edges away, and the crash of the Beechcraft Bonanza carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, wasn’t filled properly until the emergence of The Beatles as a worldwide force in 1963. The contraceptive pill might have been introduced…

    4th June 2017 From Dr Finlay to Downton Abbey: a short history of Sunday night nostalgia

    20 July 1969. You sit down at 6 pm and turn on your television set…

    No wait, that’s not right. I’ll start again. These details matter. 

    20 July 1969. You have to turn on your television set first, then sit down. You’ve had the set a few years, so it takes time for the tube to warm up and for the image to appear on the convex screen. There’s a distinctive smell—ozone and burning…

    1st June 2017 All's Fair in Love and Monster Hunting; or a Gift to the Three-quarters

    Here's another excerpt, available only to those who have already pledged. The campaign is reaching the end of its initial phase, but the progress has been wonderful and I fully expect to hit the target sometime in the next few weeks. 

    Look out over the next couple of days for a video interview shot at Big Comfy Bookshop in Coventry by my good friend Alex Breeze. In it, I play the part of…

    29th May 2017 Sherlock's Muse, or A Gift to the Thirty-Percenters

    30% in 17 days - that's really remarkable! To thank you and to celebrate, here's a second excerpt from The Continuity Girl, posted as an exclusive for those whose names will appear in the list of patrons in the finished book.

    This time we're in 2014, not 1969. Gemma MacDonald, a London-based Film Studies lecturer, has been tasked with introducing the newly-restored version of The Private Life of…

    14th May 2017 Billy Wilder, Sherlock Holmes, and the 'never-out-of-fashion franchise': an interview with Kim Newman

    Kim Newman is one of those beasts we're encouraged to think of as mythical: a critic who is also an artist. 

    As film critic, Kim is author of a definitive history of modern horror, Nightmare Movies (1988, revised and expanded 2011). But Kim's love of film and TV extends beyond horror, as is evident from the range of his reviews for film journals such as Sight and Sound and Empire, and…

    18th April 2017 Sherlock and the Sexual Revolution: Holmes on screen in the 1960s

    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…

    15th April 2017 A short blog about a single illustration

    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…

    10th April 2017 The man who found Sherlock’s Monster: an interview with Adrian Shine

    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!


    19th March 2017 An Interview with the author of THE CONTINUITY GIRL Part 2

    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…

    15th March 2017 An Interview with the author of THE CONTINUITY GIRL Part 1

    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. 

    26th February 2017 2016 and all that...

    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…

    5th February 2017 Coffee at midnight with Christopher Lee: an interview with Robert McPhee

    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…

    29th January 2017 Difficulties with 'Girls' - some further thoughts on a trend in book titles.

    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…

    22nd December 2016 Lakes and Castles: on location with THE CONTINUITY GIRL. #1 – Loch Meiklie

    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…

    11th December 2016 A novel that sprang to life in a moment of inspiration. After forty years...

    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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