For the literary detective, the most complex problem is what to do in those long hours and days between cases.
Holmes, that supposedly great thinker, turns to the needle and the bow. In so doing he transforms himself from a man of decisive action into a man of utter inaction. He is to be seen slumped on the sofa, unconscious to the world or, alternatively, to be heard sawing away on his violin.
When that Herculean detective, M. Hercule Poirot, retires he moves to a small house in King’s Abbot, complete with its flower beds and vegetable plot. The marrows, we know, cause him such distress that they are sent over the fence into the garden of that most dangerous of neighbours, Dr Sheppard.
As for myself, the literary critical detective, I have spent my time between cases looking back at myself, reflecting on my own life and ambitions. I have reconsidered the thought processes in which I once set so much store. In so doing I have never been too far away from the literary. I have, on certain evenings, played the role of my own chronicler. I have become my own Hastings, my own Watson, and have sought to turn my own life into a fiction. Pen and paper in hand, I have scribbled myself into a different existence, a dreamy half-life of words and memories. These short exercises in distraction have, to my great delight, found favour amongst my associates. Both Thistleton and Bowler have been kind enough to say a few words of encouragement.
But now my mental energies are returning once again. The fog of my stupor is lifting. There is a new case, one that requires me to be at my sharpest. It is also one for which my literary-autobiographical efforts will have been a kind of apprenticeship. For if I am now to discover the solution to the mystery, or at least a solution to the mystery, I will have to turn to fiction. I will have to adopt a new form of discourse, one that is at once critical and poetic.
And so I shall draw the curtains, light the candles on my desk and shut the door. I shall sharpen my pencil, pick up my notebook and turn to the first blank page. And I shall begin the work.