Thursday, January 14, 2016

Nikola Tesla Versus Sherlock Holmes

In my first novel, A Predatory Mind, I included a backstory about an interaction between the famed inventor Nikola Tesla and the multi-murderer, Dr. Henry H. Holmes. After completing the book, I realized that Tesla and Holmes were the most interesting aspect of the novel and I decided to write a sequel* devoted entirely to a deadly battle of wits between the two with the conceit being that Holmes had escaped his May, 1896 hanging.

Manhattan in its gilded age became the backdrop.

I decided Tesla needed an ally. After playing with the idea of Mark Twain, a friend of the inventor, I happened upon another direction. Arthur Conan Doyle had visited New York in the mid-1890s (although not in 1896). Wouldn't it be perfect to have Conan Doyle battle an evil Holmes? As I explored the possibilities I had a revelation: Tesla was Sherlock Holmes. Physically, they are virtual twins. Mentally, they were geniuses of the highest order. In personality, both were imperious and cerebral and had little interest in worldly distractions such as money or women or the matters which we mere mortals call life.

For those not familiar with the life and life-work of Tesla, I have provided a basic introduction here.

*A Predator's Game. Rook's Page Publishing.

A composite photo/illustration of Sherlock Holmes and Nikola Tesla. Sherlock Holmes from The Adventure of the Man with the Twisted Lip, Illustrator, Sidney Paget. 1891, Strand Magazine. Nikola Tesla photo: Napoleon Sarony, 1890s.

Let's look at their descriptions.

"Birth" Year.
Sherlock Holmes. 1854 (age 60 in 1914, from His Last Bow).
Nikola Tesla: 1856.

Year Coming to Prominence.
Sherlock Holmes. 1887, publication of his first adventure.
Nikola Tesla: 1886, first patent. 1888, electric motor.

Color of Eyes.
Sherlock Holmes. ". . .he emerged that morning with a long foolscap document in his hand and a twinkle of amusement in his austere gray eyes." The Adventure of the Three Garridebs, 1924.
Nikola Tesla. "Although many of his ancestors were dark eyed, his eyes were a gray-blue." Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla by John J. O'Neill, page 15, 1943.

Height and Weight.
Sherlock Holmes. "In height he was rather over six feet, and so excessively lean that he seemed to be considerably taller." A Study in Scarlet, 1887.
Nikola Tesla. "He is very thin, is more than six feet tall and weighs less than a hundred and forty pounds."
Arthur Brisbane, New York World, Tesla interview, July 22, 1894.

Tesla's Height, Controversy.
You will find sources that state Tesla was six-foot-six and others that place him at six-foot-two. Perhaps the confusion came from the first major biography written after his death.

"When he attained full growth he was exactly two meters, or six-feet-two and one-quarter inches tall." Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla by John J. O'Neill, page 16, 1943.

Two meters is six-foot-six and one-half inches. 140 pounds is more compatible with six-foot-two and those photos of Tesla with others present suggest that he is taller, but not exceptionally so.

Here it is hard to find quotes that emphasize the parallels. As can be seen in Sidney Paget's illustrations and Tesla's photos, their faces are similar in that they have thin noses with a bit of a crook, tall foreheads, and triangular faces. The descriptions of Sherlock and Tesla both take poetic license.

Sherlock Holmes. ", . . his thin, hawk-like nose gave his whole expression an air of alertness and decision. His chin, too, had the prominence and squareness which mark the man of determination." A Study in Scarlet.

Nikola Tesla. "His face oval, broad at the temples, and strong at the lips and chin." Julian Hawthorne as quoted in Tesla: Man Out of Time by Margaret Cheney, page 17, Simon & Schuster, 2011.

Sherlock Holmes. ". . .a nervous clasping and unclasping of his long thin hands." The Five Orange Pips, 1891.

Nikola Tesla. "His hands however, and particularly his thumbs, seemed unusually long." Prodigal Genius: The Life of Nikola Tesla by John J. O'Neill, page 16, 1943.

Composite photo/illustration. Sherlock Holmes from the The Adventure of Silver Blaze, Illustrator, Sidney Paget, 1892, Strand Magazine. Nikola Tesla, unknown photographer. Originally published in "Tesla's Important Advances" in Electrical Review, May 20, 1896, p. 263.
Nikola Tesla, Arthur Conan Doyle and Henry H. Holmes are all characters in my thriller, A Predator's Game.

A Predator's Game is available in soft-cover and ebook editions through Amazon and other online retailers.

Back page blurb .

Manhattan, 1896.

When the author Arthur Conan Doyle meets Nikola Tesla he finds a tall, thin genius with a photographic memory and a keen eye, and recognizes in the eccentric inventor the embodiment of his creation, Sherlock. Together, they team up to take on an "evil Holmes." Multi-murderer Dr. Henry H. Holmes has escaped execution and is unleashing a reign of terror upon the metropolis. Set in the late nineteenth century in a world of modern marvels, danger and invention, Conan Doyle and Tesla engage the madman in a deadly game of wits.

Martin Hill Ortiz, also writing under the name, Martin Hill, is the author of A Predatory Mind. Its sequel, set in 1890s Manhattan and titled A Predator's Game, will be available from Rook's Page Publishing, March 30, 2016. It features Nikola Tesla as detective.
His recent mystery, Never Kill A Friend, is available from Ransom Note Press. His epic poem, Two Mistakes, recently won second place in the Margaret Reid/Tom Howard Poetry Competition. He can be contacted at

 Cover material, A Predator's Game.


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