Welcome to 17th Street, a website dedicated to Caleb Carr and the Alienist books. It features the latest Caleb Carr news, a full author biography and interview list, book summaries and timelines for The Alienist and The Angel of Darkness along with synopses Caleb Carr's other work, analyses of the characters from the Alienist books, and information on the real history behind the Alienist books. Navigation for this site is at the top, showing the different sections of the site. Relevant links within the section (if applicable) will show up in the left column.
You may have noticed a drop-off in updates over the past few months on 17th Street. Unfortunately I am currently flat out with offline work and travel commitments which may continue to slow down updates of the website content over the next couple of months. However, I have taken some time out of my schedule this week for a small update that will hopefully make the individual posts in 17th Street’s history blog series and book blog series more accessible.
You can now find the special three-part series overviewing The Alienist’s themes on The Alienist submenu. In addition, links to 17th Street’s multi-part history blogs can now be found under the Alienist History submenu, while a new submenu entitled Related Books containing links to all of 17th Street’s individual book blogs can be found on the main Alienist Books menu.
It is my hope that more updates to the website content will follow in the coming months. In the meantime, I will be keeping 17th Street up to date with all the latest news about the television adaptation of The Alienist as it becomes available. Thank you for your patience.
TNT announced today that as part of an overhaul of the network’s drama offerings, it has made a series commitment to Paramount Television and Anonymous Content’s highly anticipated adaptation of The Alienist. According to Variety, it was a “$5-million-per-episode deal for the eight-part series,” although it was also reported that the exact number of episodes in the series is “still to be determined.”
This exciting news follows the announcement last month that Cary Fukunaga of True Detective fame will be directing and executive producing the series, with Eric Roth and screenwriter Hossein Amini also on board as executive producers. There has been no word on casting as of yet, but you can be sure that any new developments will be posted here on 17th Street as they arise.
The entertainment industry is buzzing with the news today that Cary Fukunaga, Emmy Award winning director of True Detective, will direct and executive produce the eagerly anticipated television drama series inspired by The Alienist, first announced by Paramount Television and Anonymous Content in April/May of last year. Oscar winning writer and producer Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) and Oscar nominated writer and director Hossein Amini (The Wings of the Dove) have also been named as executive producers. It is reported that Hossein Amini has written the pilot, and will go on to write the series.
Paramount Television’s President Amy Powell and Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Rosalie Swedlin were quoted by Variety on this exciting development:
“‘The Alienist‘ is a fascinating and distinctive, fast-paced psychological thriller that is wonderfully evocative of the unrivaled Gilded Age of New York City,” said Paramount Television President Amy Powell. “Cary Fukunaga’s unique vision and ability to render compelling, distinctive and superbly atmospheric direction is the perfect voice for this television series. We are thrilled to have not only Cary’s expert direction, but also the creativity, imagination and storytelling abilities of the supremely talented Eric Roth and Hossein Amini.”
“We are thrilled that Paramount has entrusted us and our brilliant creative dream team — Eric Roth, Hossein Amini, and Cary Fukunaga — to bring this much beloved, bestselling novel to the screen,” said Anonymous Content’s Steve Golin and Rosalie Swedlin, who will also executive produce the series. “The multi-episodic format will enable us to do justice to the complexity of Caleb Carr’s storytelling and his vivid and detailed portrait of late 19th century New York in all its splendor and grittiness.”
As we have already learned in the 17th Street book blog series, one of Caleb Carr’s inspirations while writing the Alienist books were the original Sherlock Holmes novels and short stories. Mr. Carr explained in an interview with Australian newspaper The Age in 2005 that, “Kreizler was invented quite consciously as a character who could solve all the crimes Holmes couldn’t, in which there’s little or no physical evidence and no apparent motive – the product of aberrant criminal psychology.” Beyond Dr. Kreizler, there are references to the original Sherlock Holmes stories within the books as well, such as the inclusion of Filipino pygmy, El Niño, in The Angel of Darkness. Mr. Carr acknowledged in an interview with The Seattle Times in 1997 that El Niño was “a little tip of the hat to Conan Doyle and the pygmy in ‘The Sign of Four.’ A lot of people have told me they consider the pygmy an absurd character. That’s one reason I love this time period. What looks absurd to us now wasn’t absurd then – eccentricity was really appreciated and cultivated.”
In 2005, Mr. Carr took his interest in Sherlock Holmes one step further by accepting a commission from the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to write a further Holmes tale. His final product, The Italian Secretary, took Holmes from the foggy, gas lit streets of late nineteenth century London to the Royal Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, with a mystery that revolved around a double murder that called the great detective’s mind back to the (real life) murder of David Rizzio, private secretary to Mary Queen of Scots. The novel was well-received, with The Guardian describing Mr. Carr’s characterisation as “outstanding,” USA Today complimenting Mr. Carr’s “astute and unerring […] portrayal of Holmes and his techniques,” and Publisher’s Weekly suggesting that the novel would appeal to Holmes fans and scholars due to the “deep knowledge and understanding of Holmesiana” on display in the text.
Following the publication of The Italian Secretary, Mr. Carr was interviewed for Daniel Smith’s 2009 Sherlock Holmes reference text, The Sherlock Holmes Companion: An Elementary Guide, that was updated and reissued in late 2014. Mr. Smith explains in his Introduction to the guide that he chose “individuals whose lives have become entwined with the Holmes legend” as subjects for the “Holmes and Me” interviews that he decided to scatter throughout the text as a means of offering further insight into the “enigma” that is Sherlock Holmes. In the 2014 reissue, Mr. Smith’s interview with Mr. Carr spans three pages of the text and explores questions such as when and how Mr. Carr first became interested in the Sherlock Holmes stories (as a boy of eight years old, it turns out); the particular challenges he faced in writing a new Holmes tale; the revival of Holmes in the twenty-first century and what it says about popular culture; the role Sherlock played in the creation of the Alienist novels; and finally, what Sherlock Holmes—the character—means to him. It’s an interview that is well worth perusing if you are a Caleb Carr reader who also loves Sherlock Holmes, as I am.
The Caleb Carr interview aside, the 2014 reissued guide is a worthy addition to the library of any interested Sherlock Holmes reader. Opening with a social and political chronology of historical events that correspond to the period from Holmes’ first reported case until he went into retirement (i.e., 1879-1903), the majority of this beautifully illustrated 224-page text comprises spoiler-free synopses (each synopsis is one page long) of all four Holmes novels and fifty-six short stories. It also contains brief biographies of Holmes’ creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and notable Holmes illustrator Sidney Paget, analyses of the main characters who appear throughout the stories, and a series of essays that look at specific elements of the literary Holmes (e.g., “Holmes as the Detective-Scientist”) as well as his role in popular culture (e.g., “Holmes on Stage, Screen, and Radio”). Finally, scattered throughout the text are the aforementioned “Holmes and Me” interviews with individuals ranging from writers such as Mr. Carr, to actors such as Edward Hardwicke who played Dr. Watson for the acclaimed Granada TV production alongside Jeremy Brett, to the co-creator of the hit TV series Sherlock, Mark Gatiss.
Also scattered throughout the text are a number of fun insets that are sure to appeal to any readers like myself who love learning about the minutiae of the books we love. One such inset contains a list of Sherlock Holmes’ most significant writings. Another contains the now famous illustrated floor plan of 221B Baker Street that was created by Russell Stutler after a close reading of the canonical stories. And yet another (my personal favourite) contains an illustrated guide to the Holmes/Watson firearm collection—immensely helpful for readers such as myself who don’t know their pistols from their revolvers! The only inset that is missing, in my opinion, is a similar illustrated guide to Sherlock’s collection of pipes, although it is worth mentioning that a discussion of the subject is offered in the short yet informative “Holmes and His Pleasures” essay.
While it is likely that this guide won’t cover any terribly new ground if you already own a number of Sherlock texts, if you would like a comprehensive introductory guide to the original Sherlock Holmes canon then this is an excellent choice. Moreover, for Caleb Carr readers, there is, as I’ve already mentioned, the added bonus of an interesting and informative interview spread. Enjoy!