Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Interview with Mystery Thriller Suspense Author John Allen

John Allen was born in Long Beach, CA. An engineer “by education, training, and experience,” he describes himself as “a recovering engineer.”  He left engineering to become the junior partner in Allen & Allen Semiotics Inc., a corporation that his wife, Lynn, launched for their diversified home business. Their projects include designing databases for mid-sized companies. John Allen holds a BS from the United States Air Force Academy, an MS from the University of Southern California, and an MA from the University of California, Riverside.

You can visit his website at

About the Book:

Author John Allen has a theory about the creator of Sherlock Holmes:

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle did not create Holmes. It was Doyle’s wife, Louise Hawkins Conan Doyle, who gave birth to the beloved sleuth.

Allen has put his beliefs to the test, writing and publishing the first of a projected 12-novel series of Holmes mysteries titled BRIMSTONE. His detective is Louise Hawkins Conan Doyle, and Allen names her as the author of the tale he presents, set in 1879 Bristol, England.

In a previous book, SHADOW WOMAN, Allen set out to prove that Louise was the true creator of Sherlock Holmes. The inspiration for his startling and controversial theory of authorship was a 1980s essay by Martin Gardner called “The Irrelevance of Arthur Conan Doyle.” Gardner claimed that Arthur was “too gullible and to easily duped to have created Sherlock Holmes.”

Allen determined that Gardner was correct, but Gardner identified no alternative author. Allen continues, “So I decided to give it a try. I came to suspect Louise as the actual author, but I lacked the knowledge and tools to make a solid case.”

Then the Internet came along, giving Allen a valuable research tool. He became convinced that Louise did in fact create Sherlock Holmes. Allen presented his case in SHADOW WOMAN, which was published in 2017. To further advance Louise as Holmes’s creator, to give her the credit he believes she is due, he is now featuring her in a series of mystery novels, the first of which is BRIMSTONE.

As if Allen hadn’t set the bar too high already, he has added a subtext to BRIMSTONE that explores contemporary wrongful convictions through his Victorian thrillers.

BRIMSTONE brims with appeal to multiple audiences, from lovers of detective stories to those interested in justice for the wrongfully convicted. Sherlock Holmes would be proud.


I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

For money, I design custom database solutions for large companies companies. As an avocation, I work to help free innocent people from their wrongful imprisonment.

When did you start writing?

After my fourth stint as a juror for a criminal case, I became concerned that we are wrongfully imprisoning many people in this country. That prompted me to start writing my Skeptical Juror blog, which became reasonably well known among those concerned about such issues. I then wrote four non-fiction books on wrongful convictions.

After failing to prevent the execution of someone I am convinced was innocent, I fell into a blue funk. I decided to turn my attentions to something less depressing, something that had interested me for a long time. Specifically, I wrote and had published Shadow Woman: The True Creator of Sherlock Holmes (2017). In that book, I present my case that it was Louise Conan Doyle, Arthur's first wife, who created Sherlock Holmes and wrote the early adventures.

My Louise Conan Doyle Mystery Series is a fictional extension of that non-fictional work. Brimstone is the first book in that series.

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

As part of my investigation into the authorship of the Holmes adventures, I wrote my own stylometric analysis program to help attribute the proper author to various works that Arthur Conan Doyle published under his name. Stylometry analyzes elements of stories to determine who wrote them. When I first ran the program, I was surprised to learn that Louise, Arthur's first wife, wrote the early Holmes adventures and that Jean, Arthur's second wife wrote the later Holmes adventures. Arthur coordinated with Louise on the first Holmes adventure and wrote two short Holmes stories on his own. He also actually wrote most of the non-Holmes works attributed to him, including The Lost World.

Upon reviewing the first results from that stylometric analysis program, I became convinced that my hypothesis was correct. That result provided me sufficient confidence to publish my findings in Shadow Woman and to continue writing about Louise Conan Doyle in a mystery series featuring her.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

I would travel to the Isle of Wight off the south coast of mainland England. Brimstone opens and closes with Louise living in Victorian Bristol, England. By the end of Gambit, the second book in the series, Louise ends up living with her mother on the Isle of Wight. At the beginning of Ember, the third book in the series, Louise will still be living on the Isle of Wight. It's a lovely place, and I would be pleased to visit for any number of reasons.

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

I would work on completing Gambit. I'm currently so distracted by my database and wrongful conviction demands that I have been unable to work on Louise for far too long.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

Though in Ember, the third book in the series, Louise will be living on the Isle of Wight, the mystery will involve one of the first electrified houses in England. That rather stately house will be in some majestic rural area of England that I have yet to select.

Back to your present book, Brimstone, how did you publish it?

Lynn, my wife of 22 years, started our home business, Allen & Allen Semiotics, Inc. I continued my conventional job to maintain a steady income. After she doubled her income for three years straight, she taught me how to design custom databases. I then left my conventional job to assume my role as the junior partner in A&A. When I started writing books, she added publishing to our company's product line. As I developed my writing craft, she developed her publishing craft. Our latest product, Brimstone, is our best work yet. We are quite proud of it.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Though I did not travel in preparation for either Shadow Woman or Brimstone, I did once have the opportunity to visit England. That was certainly educational and enlightening.

My challenge was not just one of location, though. The Louise Conan Doyle Mystery Series is set in Victorian England. To familiarize myself with that time and place, I watched period pieces, read a lot of period books, browsed Victorian era magazines, and referred to lots of old maps.

Why was writing Brimstone so important to you?

The prime directive of any mystery writer is to provide the reader with an intriguing mystery featuring an engaging personality. Beyond that, I hope to that the public will finally recognize Louise for her literary contribution and her brilliance. I also would like the readers to become aware of the problem of wrongful convictions. Each plot in the Louise Conan Doyle Mystery series is based on a real-world wrongful conviction from today's U.S. transported back to Victorian England. In the Author's Note at the end of each book, I explain the relationship.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

My best ideas come while I'm writing. Though I try to plot and plan before I write, the writing seldom proceeds as I plan. The plot and the characters seem to take control of my fingers and cause them to type paragraphs and chapters that surprise even me. These nearly out-of-body writing episodes are my favorite moments in writing.

Any final words?

Brimstone is now available on Amazon in print and Kindle format, and on Barnes and Noble in print and Nook format. We’re working on an Audiobook format as well. And keep an eye out for Gambit, the second book in the series. When you find yourself in the midst of Gambit, assume nothing to be true. Trust no one.

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