"Writers shouldn't be afraid of using their imagination," Hugh Ashton says, before launching into a quote from Sherlock Holmes: "When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

Ashton, a Japan-based author of new Holmes material and other novels, takes the sleuth's words very seriously. "I find his character and working practices can be applied to the writer's trade," he says. "Indeed, as long as the plot has some plausibility, it's a good plot. There are some very strange things that happen in real life, after all," he adds, explaining the message he takes from the words of Arthur Conan Doyle's best-known character.

But what relevance can the logic of a 19th-century detective have for aspiring writers hoping to get noticed in the 21st-century publishing industry? After all, the business has transformed in the last couple of decades from a print-and-paper beast that Holmes could have recognized to something altogether more complex and chaotic (think less "Hound of the Baskervilles," more the huge amorphous mass in "Akira").