When The Beekeeper’s Apprentice came out in 1994, it had a preface explaining how Laurie R. King, a woman known for only one previous novel, came to be in possession of a series of memoirs written by the then apprentice and partner, later wife, of Sherlock Holmes. The subsequent three books in the series continued this story-within-a-story in their prefaces, but after that, the narrative ended–either because Laurie King the fiction writer tired of the effort, or because Laurie King the transcriber of the Russell memoirs had come to an end of what she knew about it: you decide which.
Fifteen years later, the explanation of “How Laurie Came to Have the Stories” picked up anew, with a series of fifteen blog posts on Mary Russell’s Myspace page. Those posts are collected here, both as a straightforward download and in the form of a miniature book you can print and assemble (downloads and instructions below).
And since all books are better when they’re illustrated, this one has plenty of room around the outer margins for Illuminations. If you need inspiration, there are numerous sites online showing England’s Sussex (or South Downs) countryside (the Holmes cottage is near Beachy Head) as well as the city of Oxford, May Day, Magdalene College, and the Botanical Gardens.
To get an idea of the journey undertaken by the punt, scroll along the river here, beginning at the Folly Bridge page. Just downstream from Folly Bridge, the two cuts of the Cherwell come into the river (here known as the Isis, rather than Thames) surrounded by trees.
However, please note: if your illustrations show the wrong-headed Cambridge style of punting rather than the correct Oxford style, your entry will be disqualified, if not set afire, and we shall make insulting remarks about your parentage. Oxford punters stand inside the boat at the back, not perched high up on what God and Nature clearly intended to be the boat’s front.
So: print off the four pages of Russell’s MyStory (below), and have at them. When your manuscript is magnificent, scan the four flat pages and send them to us. Alternately, you could mail me your original, but you won’t get it back if you do.
In the spring of 2010, we’ll vote on the best MyStory, and the winner will get an early copy of that year’s Russell and Holmes adventure, The God of the Hive.
But first, here are the four prefaces, to show how the story stood in January, 2009.
To make the Mary Russell MyStory booklet (precision in folding helps):
1. Download and print out the four pages of the MyStory Booklet:
2. Fold each page in half crosswise and lay each on the table, stacking them so you see, working from the bottom up:
pages 1 and 14
then pages 3 and 12
then pages 5 and 10
finally pages 7 and 8
3. Fold all four pages across, right to left–this will put page 15 on top, with the cover at the bottom. Staple twice near the spine fold that results.
4. Open, and read.