As an NBA rookie for the Milwaukee Bucks, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was given a set of Sherlock Holmes stories to read on his first road trip with the team. He found himself enthralled by the detective’s powers of observation, taking cues from the character to “exploit weaknesses in [his] opponents” on the court. Now 46 years later, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer and bestselling author has imagined the origins of Sherlock’s older brother in a new novel.
Co-authored with Anna Waterhouse, Mycroft Holmes finds Mycroft engaged and working for the British Secretary of State for War. When his fiancée Georgiana hears news of spirits enticing children to their deaths in her childhood home of Trinidad, she panics and travels to the Caribbean. Mycroft convinces his best friend Cyrus, a man of African descent also raised in Trinidad, to journey to the island nation as well, catalyzing a mysterious chain of events.
To celebrate the release of Mycroft Holmes, out tomorrow from Titan Books, Abdul-Jabbar gave Paste the scoop on writing the novel, exploring Trinidadian folklore and Mycroft’s next adventure.
Paste: What sparked your imagination to write Mycroft Holmes?
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: I’ve been a long-time reader of Sherlock Holmes, ever since my rookie year in the NBA with the Milwaukee Bucks. Someone gave me a two-volume set, and I was hooked. But all along, I wondered about Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft. We know from Sherlock that [Mycroft] was not just in the British government, but that, at times, he was the British government. It got me wondering what this man, of whom nearly nothing is written, actually did. Where he began. His origin story, in terms of his career. Did he have friends? Was his heart ever broken? What turned him into a recluse? That sort of thing.
Paste: You previously co-wrote the documentary On the Shoulders of Giants with Anna Waterhouse. What made you want to team up again to write this novel?
Abdul-Jabbar: I recognized a fellow introvert perfectionist when I saw one. My manager, Deborah Morales, hired her to help us with Giants. It went on to win some awards, because we just wouldn’t let go until we were satisfied with it. I knew we would do the same with this novel. And because the subject matter means a lot to me, I wanted to be sure we got it right the first time. I think we did.
Paste: Who is your favorite character in the novel?
Abdul-Jabbar: I’m partial to Inspector Lestrade. I like the way Sherlock constantly torments him. It’s the difference between what a detective is and what we would want him to be. Sherlock is definitely a few steps up.
Paste: You incorporate folklore surrounding the douen (spirits of children possessing backward-facing feet) and the lougarou (monsters who drain a person’s blood) in the novel. What made you want to include them in the story?
Abdul-Jabbar: My people are from Trinidad. My grandmother, Venus, was a consummate storyteller who scared the snot out of us as kids. We loved it. The lougarou were part of her repertoire. From there, we discovered the douen, which are the rest of that particular story.
Paste: Which Sherlock Holmes story by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is your favorite?
Abdul-Jabbar: Has to be The Red-Headed League.
Paste: Can readers expect more adventures featuring Mycroft Holmes in the future?
Abdul-Jabbar: Hoping so. We’re in talks about it. We’ve gotten terrific reviews so far, but it doesn’t go on sale ‘til tomorrow, so the rest is up to the readers!