Former NBA star pens Sherlock inspired novel

Hannah Finnerty and Hannah Finnerty

Most associate 7-foot-2-inch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar with his glowing NBA career with the Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks. An All-Star and a Hall-of-Famer, Abdul-Jabbar graced the court with his presence throughout the 60s and 70s. He has long since stepped out of the paint and has more recently found himself in the silent shelves of libraries where he is beginning to make a name for himself as an author with his September 2015 novel “Mycroft Holmes.”

While a novel written by the NBA’s all-time leading scorer may seem relatively unorthodox, Abdul-Jabbar attributes his success on the court to the skills the Holmes brothers use. Abdul-Jabbar “adapted Holmes’s powers of observation to the game in order to gain an edge over his opponents.” A Holmesian through and through, Abdul-Jabbar grew up reading Conan Doyle’s stories about the brothers, analyzing Sherlock’s independent genius and Mycroft’s allied and collaborative genius.

Created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 1800s, the fantastic and often times unimaginable tales of Sherlock Holmes have made a comeback with televisions shows such as BBC’s “Sherlock” and CBS’ “Elementary”. While these works focus on Sherlock, Mycroft, the older brother and lesser known of the two, gets the spotlight in “Mycroft Holmes.”

The story follows a young Mycroft Holmes and Cyrus Douglas, an African American tobacco trader who befriends Holmes, from the comforts of London to Douglas’s home near the Port of Spain on the coast of Trinidad, a world much different than modern Europe.

A south Caribbean island known for its mixture of African, Creole, Indian, Chinese and European cultures, The people of Trinidad believe their children are dying at the hands of the “lougarou,” a French adaptation of the werewolf, and the “douen,” the wandering souls of Trinidadian children that have yet to be baptized, recognized only by their small backwards feet.

While Holmes and Douglas head to Trinidad to investigate these mysterious deaths, the discoveries and experiences they make lead them to disturbing truths about the island and the residents, not to mention the corrupt politics.

Uncovering these secrets also leads Holmes and Douglas into several brawls, shootings, chases, and attempted poisonings. However, the challenges the two friends face are not limited to physical abuse. Douglas and Holmes are in a constant struggle for racial equality, as their friendship and respect for one other was largely common and was rarely accepted.

This theme of racial inequality adds yet another dimension to the plot that seems simple towards the beginning but develops into a complex work of art. A page turner to say the least, the chapters are short and hold the reader’s attention, as does the quick-moving plot and dynamic characters.

More or less, “Mycroft Holmes” is a long, glorified piece of fan fiction, one that you will lose track of time reading. Certain elements seem incredibly improbable, similar to most fan fiction, yet historical accuracies are present which make for a novel you cannot put down. Abdul-Jabbar and co-author Anna Waterhouse have put together a beautiful piece of Holmesian canon where elements of mystery, horror, and historical fiction mesh effortlessly together.

The themes of race and slavery tie current social issues with the historic stories of Conan Doyle that many have grown to love. The aspect of racial inequality transforms “Mycroft Holmes” from a simple fan fiction into a powerful but subtle call to recognize the racial issues prevalent in society today.