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Friday, July 7, 2017

Exclusive Interview with Tim Symonds, Author of Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Einstein's Daughter

Another adventure brings Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson face to face with Albert Einstein
Sherlock Holmes and the Mystery of Einstein's Daughter
Tim Symonds
Genre: Mystery
Publisher: MX Publishing
Publication Date: January 13, 2014
The Dean of a Swiss university persuades Sherlock Holmes to investigate the background of a would-be lecturer. To Dr. Watson it seems a very humdrum commission - but who is the mysterious 'Lieserl'? How does her existence threaten the ambitions of the technical assistant level III in Room 86 at the Federal Patents Office in Berne by the name of Albert Einstein? The assignment plunges Holmes and Watson into unfathomable Serbia to solve one of the intractable mysteries of the 20th Century.
In Tim Symonds' previous detective novels, Sherlock Holmes and the Dead Boer At Scotney Castle and Sherlock Holmes And The Case Of The Bulgarian Codex the author based pivotal historic facts and a principal character on real life. So too in this new mystery.
“Einstein’s Daughter by Tim Symonds takes the reader back to the early years of the 20th Century. It is an enjoyable romp for both Sherlock Holmes fans and for history buffs. The story is based on a true fact of Albert Einstein’s life and it is interwoven with Sherlockian grace. There are many Holmes pastiches, but Symonds manages to find the true voice of Conan Doyle.”
- Yvonne Beltzer

About Tim Symonds

Tim Symonds was born in London, England, and grew up in Somerset, Dorset and the Channel Island of Guernsey, off the coast of Normandy. After spending his late teens farming in the Kenya Highlands and driving bulldozers along the Zambezi River, he moved to California and graduated Phi Beta Kappa from UCLA with an honours degree in Politics.
He lives in the ancient woodland known as the High Weald of Sussex, where the events recounted in Sherlock Holmes and The Dead Boer at Scotney Castle took place. His second novel, Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Bulgarian Codex (MX Publishing 2012), took Holmes and Watson into the very depths of the Balkans in 1900. Holmes and Watson were back in the region – Serbia - in Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter (MX Publishing 2014), and not long afterwards in ‘Stamboul’ investigating a plot against the despotic Sultan, in Sherlock Holmes And The Sword of Osman (MX Publishing 2015).
Visit Tim Symonds's official website:

Exclusive Interview with Tim Symonds

  1. What was your inspiration in coming up with the plot for ‘The Mystery Of Einstein’s Daughter’
    I was on an airplane flying to Crete in the Eastern Mediterranean when the American passenger next to me passed across a copy of Time Magazine. It contained an intriguing feature by Frederic Golden on a girl-child fathered by Albert Einstein during Einstein’s student days in Switzerland. By the time Einstein died a half-century later he had gained the standing almost of a saint. Nobody imagined he had had an illegitimate daughter. Golden summed up the mystery with the words ‘Lieserl’s fate shadows the Einstein legend like some unsolved equation’. She remained the last and greatest mystery attached to Albert Einstein, he wrote.
    Intrigued I began to jot down ideas. Of course Sherlock Holmes would be the only person who could solve this mystery. The real Lieserl was born in Serbia and disappeared there about 21 months later. I had never packed Holmes and Watson off to Serbia but why not do so now? But how to contrive such an investigation? The date was right – Lieserl disappeared around September 1903. Holmes had retired by then to his bee farm but Watson and he were still very much in touch. There was a problem though. How on earth could I contrive a way to get Holmes out of quiet retirement in the South Downs? Then, one day, walking in the woods near my home in Sussex I hit on an idea. Berne University would take up a cunning prompt from Watson. The Rector would flatter the world-famous consulting detective with the offer of an Honorary Doctorate. That would get the pair as far as Switzerland. But how to get them down deep into the Balkans in 1905? A lot more of my walks in the nearby woods that winter and spring until one afternoon the idea sprang out of the trees. Watson would get Holmes to revisit the terrifying experience at the Reichenbach Falls where Holmes had sent the evil Professor Moriarty crashing to a grisly death. It would be at those infamous Falls the trigger would come which sent Holmes and Watson hurrying across the Danube to one of the most intriguing and unknown parts of Europe to solve one of the greatest human mysteries of the 20th Century…
  2. How long did it take you to write this book? What is the amount of research that went into writing it -- i.e. did you need to travel somewhere or interview someone?
    I’ve published five Sherlock Holmes novels, and not incidentally giving good old Watson really decent parts, far from Hollywood adaptations, in particular those where the character of Watson becomes a caricature. My first was ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Dead Boer At Scotney Castle’ and my most recent ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil’ Each takes about a year to write. Each takes a quite staggering amount of research, some of which is retained in the story-line, a lot more hides away in the background or never sees the light of day. However fictional a tale may be, readers like to feel the details are accurate. That raging torrent of a waterfall does tumble down hundreds of feet, that 12,000-foot mountain pass in China really does exist. References to the original Sherlock Holmes stories must definitely be correct. If I said Watson had had his left ear shot off at the terrible Battle of Maiwand rather than Arthur Conan Doyle’s original description where ‘the Jezail bullet which I had brought back in one of my limbs as a relic of my Afghan campaign throbbed with dull persistence’ I would be consigned several layers down in Dante’s Inferno by Doyle’s millions of ardent fans. Travel is no longer a vital requirement to get details correct – the amazing content of search engines at the touch of the keyboard can transport me through space and time, making every day as informative as a college course. For ‘The Mystery Of Einstein’s Daughter’ I even revisited my notes from a Physics 10 course I took at UCLA to be sure I understood the importance of Einstein’s wonderful Relativity theories which he kindly published exactly when Holmes and Watson were down in Serbia seeking answers to the riddle of Lieserl.
    "Converted house where I have written my five Sherlock Holmes novels, tucked away in the depths of Sussex in an area well-known to Arthur Conan Doyle. That ridge beyond the house was set to be the final defence in World War Two against the German Army if Hitler’s forces had landed on England’s south coast and were heading up towards London." - Tim Symonds
  3. Any favorite quote or scene from the book?
    My favourite bit in 'The Mystery Of Einstein's Daughter' is where Watson accompanies Holmes to report back on the suitability of the young Albert Einstein for a post at an eminent Swiss university. They have been checking in deepest Serbia on certain rumours about a mysterious infant known only as 'Lieserl'. Watson knows that Holmes has uncovered some very disquieting things which will scupper any chance Einstein has of employment at such a conservative Swiss university. Now they are back in Berne to inform the Rector. Unknown to Holmes and Watson, in their absence in Serbia, the brilliant young Albert Einstein has just revealed his remarkable theories including E=MC². I wrote:
    'We were waved to a comfortable Shenzhen sofa. Our hosts seated themselves in arm-chairs facing us. The Rector beamed from ear to ear.
    He continued, ‘I presume Professor Sobel here has given you the news? Most remarkable, most remarkable. Who would ever have thought it – except our friend here and me, of course,’ he laughed, tapping his colleague’s shoulder. ‘The implications are immense. Isaac Newton will topple off his plinth. The focal point of physics will fly away from your Cambridge University and alight here at Berne. At our University.’
    It was clear the Rector had put to one side the scarcely-veiled anti-Semitism and aversion to the flamboyant and rebellious young Swabian.
    ‘Now all that remains is for you to give us the results of your investigation. Have you uncovered any skeletons in his cupboard?’ at which query he and the professor broke into loud, almost raucous laughter.
    Holmes placed his fingers together as he always did when poised to deliver his verdict on a matter of consequence.
    I braced myself. I felt sick. ‘Get on with it, Holmes,’ I urged him silently. ‘Tell them the wretched news and let’s clear out of here.’
    My comrade stared in prolonged silence at the two men before us. Their bright smiles began to fade into expressions of concern and bewilderment. Finally Holmes commenced.
    ‘As you say, Dr. Watson and I have returned from conducting a confidential enquiry in the Balkans.’
    Our hosts nodded eagerly.
    ‘We were charged by Professor Eli Sobel here with the investigation of two notes delivered anonymously to you, Sir,’ he said, looking directly at the Rector.
    ‘Yes, yes,’ came a joint response.
    ‘The first note referred to a Swabian by the name of A. Einstein and to a Lieserl. The second note simply stated “Titel”.’
    The two heads nodded vigorously.
    ‘Both notes,’ Holmes went on, ‘were written on cartridge paper in red ink by an anonymous and disturbing hand. My interpretation of the word “Titel” combined with the type of paper and Mileva Einstein’s place of birth led us to spend some weeks in the Kingdom of Serbia.’
    By now I had been brought to a pitch of exasperation. For Heaven’s sake, Holmes, stop footling, I begged under my breath. Tell them.'
  4. What do you enjoy doing on your spare time? Do these activities shape the books or characters that your write?
    There is one vast region of the world and one hobby which have as yet not come into any of my novels and I’m not sure how to bring them in. The first is that when I was sixteen I left my home in the British Channel Island of Guernsey and went to work on a 20,000 acre sheep farm high up on the volcanic grasslands of Mount Kenya. In those days East Africa was truly a natural wonderland. Lions, giraffe, cape buffalo, wild boar and elephants were everywhere. Even taking a land-rover and checking the umpteen miles of fencing designed to safeguard the sheep risked a confrontation with an angry rhinoceros – after it had broken straight through the perimeter fencing. The years I spent in East and Central Africa, from the Serengeti to the Zambezi River, were the most adventurous of my life, just as the time I spent in California at UCLA were the most educational in formal terms. Friends keep telling me I should use my ‘hinterland’ in sub-Saharan Africa, taking something dramatic from real life such as when I was nearly trampled to death by a herd of cow-elephants in the Mount Kenya bamboo forest. So I did so, very briefly, in ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Nine-Dragon Sigil’. Watson is so unnerved by the fraught and dangerous atmosphere of Peking’s Forbidden City he has a nightmare. This is how I described it:
    ‘Suddenly I was in darkest Africa, machete in hand, hacking at vegetation in a jungle so dense I could barely make out the ground four feet in front of me. Beneath my feet maidenhair ferns grew out of the drenched black leaf-mould. At every step heavy drops of water fell from grey beards of lichen above my head. Exhaustion and panic were setting in. I knew I was hours from potable water and a degree of safety. A cow-herd of elephants with calves was dangerously near. I heard a terrifying trumpeting. They had picked up my scent. The ground shook like a cavalry charge at Waterloo. The machete disappeared, to be replaced by a Gew 98 bolt action Mauser. I fired blindly, shot after shot, the internal magazine somehow reloading itself, yet still the cow-herd came surging forward. The sturdy trees I hoped would provide protection transformed themselves into soaring bamboo ten yards high, bending like a crashing wave as the screaming pachyderms swept down on me. I threw myself to the earth, waiting for my doom.
    Instead of rampaging elephants a most hideous creature burst out of the bamboo, bloated in appearance, purplish in colour. It ran at me simian-like on two legs and the knuckles of one hand. It was Stamford, the dresser from Barts Hospital many years ago. Blood seeped from mouth and nose. Only his left eye was sighted, the other socket empty, its eyeball dangling five inches below, still attached to the optic nerve. He hurled himself at me mouthing words in a strange language. In terror I turned the rifle on him, firing from the hip.
    The rat-tat of the Mauser turned into a sharp knocking. A familiar voice said, ‘I hope I’m not inconveniencing you, Watson, but I have a question.’
    I have as yet not worked out how to bring into a novel a hobby which takes me out in all British weathers to fields and woodland, namely searching for buried treasure with a metal-detector though there’s no reason to believe Sherlock Holmes would be unaware of the device. As Wikipedia points out, ‘Alexander Graham Bell developed a device to attempt to locate a bullet lodged in the chest of American President James Garfield in 1881; the metal detector worked correctly but the attempt was unsuccessful because the metal coil spring bed Garfield was lying on confused the detector.’
    The modern metal detectors date back to the 1920s when Holmes and Watson were still very much alive. In my case, spending umpteen hours slowly traversing the ancient fields of Sussex paid off. I dug up a Roman greyware pot placed about a foot underground by someone 1,800 years ago who never came back for it. It contained nearly 3000 3rd Century silver coins. They have been archived and cleaned by the British Museum and are now in the famous Pavilion Museum in Brighton.
  5. If there is one thing you can tell readers on why they should pick up ‘Sherlock Holmes And The Mystery of Einstein’s Daughter’, what would it be?
    To become engaged in what remains a mystery in the great Physicist’s life that may never be solved, even after the riddle of Dark Matter or Black Holes has been settled! Imagine, years after Einstein’s first wife died, the Serbian mathematician Mileva Marić, and years after Einstein himself died in Princeton, a yellowing bundle of letters exchanged by them in their courting days was discovered in the attic of a house in California. Three or four of the letters referred to a ‘Lieserl’ – the name may have just been made up between Mileva and Albert, and not an infant’s real name. After those few references in 1903 a silence the equal of the vacuum of outer space descended. What happened to ‘Lieserl’? When and how did she die? Where is she buried? Investigators by the score have repeatedly gone to villages where Mileva and her family lived, in Titel and especially Novi Sad.
    Incidentally, I’m not the only person in the world who believes that Einstein would not have become Einstein without the mathematical skills let alone the material and psychological support contributed by Mileva. I get my revenge on those who angrily refute that Mileva had any role in formulating the amazing formula E=MC² by having Mileva suggest a mass–energy equivalence in a letter she wrote to him when she was pining for him in Novi Sad and he in Berne. I hope after reading ‘Einstein’s Daughter’ lots of people will get on their bikes (or airplanes) and go to Novi Sad and see if they can uncover this great mystery.
Thank you for your time, and for granting me to host such a wonderful interview. I wish you much success on your latest book.

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