An interview with Elizabeth Crowens

Award-winning novelist Elizabeth Crowens has kindly stopped by to answer some questions about the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sherlock Holmes and her new novel, Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles, the first of a series being published by Level Best Books. There’s a lot of ground to cover, so let’s get started!

  1. You’ve set Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles in the Golden Age of Hollywood. What time period is that and what about it appeals to you?
    The Golden Age of Hollywood started with the first “talkie” or film with sound, The Jazz
    Singer, starring Al Jolson. It lasted until the early 60s with the decline of the studio contract
    system, when the original film moguls who founded the major studios began dying off or
    retiring, and film were made more by independent producers, often actors who also
    produced their own films, agents, and studio “bean counters” or accountants. No longer
    were a few men in charge of making all the decisions. Some of the world’s greatest films,
    stars, and scripts came from the thirties, forties, and fifties such as the Thin Man films,
    Citizen Kane, and Casablanca. Directors such as Michael Curtiz, Howard Hawks, and Alfred
    Hitchcock came from that era.

2.  What does it mean that Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles is a “soft-boiled” mystery?
It means that it’s not quite cozy but not quite noir. Noir film often symbolizes crime drama
with cynical or with not-so-happy endings. Everyone might lose in the end, or the bad guy
might get away with the crime. Typically, a cozy mystery involves an amateur sleuth or
sleuths. It takes place in a small town where most people know each other, and often the
heroine (usually female but could be male) has a quaint job or business completely
unrelated to law enforcement such as running a bed-and-breakfast, owning a bakeshop,
running a bookstore, or being a librarian. Many times they have a pet who is integral to the
story. There might be a paranormal element like a magical or talking cat, a skeleton who
helps solves crimes as in Leigh Perry’s Family Skeleton Mystery series, or psychic prowess.
Sometimes there might be a romantic element like the heroine dating the local sheriff. Think
Jessica Fletcher in Murder She Wrote.
In a soft-boiled novel, you will have a professional PI or law enforcement individual or even
a lawyer or a judge. These aren’t meddlers who feel a need to get involved. It is their job to
solve the crime. More likely than not, the novel’s setting will be in a large city. However, like
a cozy, the author downplays graphic violence and sex, and the crime will probably be less
grisly, even if murder is involved.

3. You’ve populated this novel with some of the most glittering names in Hollywood, from
Myrna Loy to Dashiell Hammett. Do you have a favorite among your cast? Anyone
especially fun, or difficult, to write?

Believe it or not, one of the most fun but difficult characters to write was William Powell. I
had to watch a lot of his films to be able to create his voice and mannerisms which were
very distinct. He’s also less serious than Basil Rathbone.

4. You’ve worked in Hollywood yourself, so you have a behind-the-scenes knowledge of
this world. Can you describe some of your own experiences?

If you’ve never been on an actual studio lot or a sound stage, it’s difficult to describe. The
same with how a film is made and shot. In Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles, however, I
have to describe what film production would’ve been like in 1940, and there were
differences. Since studio lots are large, unless someone is making a large delivery and needs
a truck, many people get around in golf carts. Back in 1940, if a messenger had to rush film
to an editing room, he’d do it on bicycle. Obviously, technology has also changed over the
years. Back then, you had to use more lights because film stock wasn’t as sensitive to light.
There were techniques such as rear-screen projection to use behind an actor in a moving car
or train. Now, either people shoot with a rig on the car on location, or they use CGI or
computer-generated imagery.

5. Not surprisingly, Sherlock Holmes plays a role in this novel, at least as played by Basil
Rathbone. How long have you been a Sherlock Holmes fan?

I became a Holmes fan rather late in the game compared to others I know. When I wrote my
first novel, Silent Meridian which I began writing in 2012 and published back in 2016, I
decided to make Arthur Conan Doyle a mentor to my protagonist. By choosing Doyle, I had
to become more familiar with the Sherlock Holmes canon of stories which provided a stark
contrast to his ghost stories and personal interests in the paranormal.
When I grew up, Basil Rathbone’s films were the only Sherlock Holmes films I knew. We
didn’t have access to Amazon Prime or the streaming options that people have today. It
wasn’t until I gave a public lecture at the Fashion Institute of Technology that I discovered
that Sherlock Holmes won the Guinness Book of World Records for having more actors
portray him in film, television, and theater than any other character except Dracula, who
was a non-human character.

6. Can you tell us something about your young private detectives Babs Norman and Guy
Brandt? Who would play them in the movies?

Babs Norman and Guy Brandt are former actors who got fed up with the film industry. They
got their licenses and formed their own private investigation agency. Babs is actually the
head of the agency, but often she, as a female PI, isn’t taken seriously and has to have her
partner front for her. Guy is a closeted gay. Society at that time insisted men like him hide
their inclinations. The real person who inspired Babs was an actress in the forties and close
personal friend who, unfortunately, passed away. She had a strong resemblance to Natalie
Portman, but Babs is in her late twenties and Natalie is forty-two. Therefore, I’d pick Emma
Stone. For Guy, I’d pick Zac Efron, especially since he can sing and dance. Casting characters
like Basil Rathbone and William Powell would be trickier.

Elizabeth Crowens has worn many hats in the entertainment industry, contributed stories to
Black Belt, Black Gate, Sherlock Holmes Mystery Magazines, Hell’s Heart, and the Bram Stoker-
nominated A New York State of Fright, and has a popular Caption Contest on Facebook.
Awards include: Leo B. Burstein Scholarship from the MWA-NY Chapter, NYFA grant to publish
New York: Give Me Your Best or Your Worst, Eric Hoffer Award, Glimmer Train Awards
Honorable Mention, two Grand prize, and six First prize Chanticleer Awards. Crowens writes
multi-genre alternate history and historical Hollywood mystery. Hounds of the Hollywood
Baskervilles, which won First Prize in both Chanticleer’s Mark Twain and Murder & Mayhem
Awards and placed as a Finalist in Killer Nashville’s Claymore Awards for Best Humorous
Mystery, was released in March 2024.

Sounds great? Here’s the link to buy Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles.

Thank you, Elizabeth. Anyone have a favorite star from the Golden Age? I would definitely be Team Myrna Loy.


  1. Great interview and I love the cover! Love the description of soft boiled. I don’t know if I ever knew that. Thank you for visiting, Elizabeth!

  2. Of course, I love that cover. We have 2 standard schnauzers. If you need them to star, have your people call their people. : )

  3. Wow! Elizabeth! I’ve just read your book,
    waiting for the next one!
    (And, just went back and read some of Dashiell Hammet’s books & short stories–
    the Maltese Falcon, Thin Man and Dain Curse).
    What a great story line you have—
    Love anything about “Old Hollywood,” Noir, Mystery, sleuths.
    Can’t wait to read more.

  4. Elizabeth does a fantastic job describing a soft-boiled mystery. I get it now (  ; Thank you, Elizabeth Crowens and best of luck with HOUNDS OF HOLLYWOOD BASKERVILLES. And thank you to Miss Demeanors, too! PS: It was a huge hoot to meet Elizabeth in person at THRILLERFEST–she autographed my program making me abundantly happy.

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